The Fallen Chronicles: Episode 27


paper[] Aurelia parked her battered Buick LeSabre across from a run down, brick cottage, one of dozens that once made up the campus of Manteno State Hospital. Over the previous decade, urban planners converted dozens of these buildings into businesses, boarded them up, or torn them down—save this one. Aurelia agreed to meet the rest of the Fallen there, but a previous commitment delayed her for about thirty minutes.

The Fallen’s dark blue Toyota Corolla sat along the curb, empty. “Jerks,” Aurelia grumbled. Her friends had decided to begin the investigation without her. She slammed her LeSabre’s door and scanned the area with a hawkish gaze. The breeze remained chilly, but the sun warmed her skin. Down the block, children laughed and played in a subdivision built over part of the old hospital.

“Hello? Where are you guys?” she yelled. There was no reply.

Aurelia sighed and strolled toward the ‘H’ shaped building. A wide porch accentuated the front of the one-story building. White pillars held up the porch’s roof, and plywood covered the windows.

If they aren’t going to come out here, Aurelia reasoned, I’ll just have to go in after them.

Chains secured the front doors, but Aurelia’s curiosity led her onto the porch anyway. With a uniquely sensitive mind, she could imagine the more docile patients waiting for visitors. A deep sadness permeated the air, and the building itself moved with the breeze. Aurelia could not sense how many souls wandered the grounds, but she could feel their presence.

She followed the building’s wall until it opened into a small courtyard. A corridor, which connected two rectangular sections, sat about fifteen yards ahead. Locked chains sealed the doors on either section and large blocks of cement added to the security, but broken windows along the corridor allowed for easy access. There was no sign of Mike, Greg, Emmet, or Davin anywhere.

Cursing under her breath, Aurelia stomped over to the corridor, intending to enter the building there. As she gained a foothold on the windowsill with her boot, however, she noticed some movement out of the corner of her eye. The motion came from a window located at ground level on the section to her left. It allowed light to spill into the hospital’s basement. Aura paused and stared at the spot. Nothing stirred, but she felt a tingle run up her spine.

Morgan Cottage at Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, Illinois. Photo by the author.

Morgan Cottage at Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, Illinois. Photo by the author.

Hesitating, she turned and walked toward the window. When she was halfway across the courtyard, she thought she saw a flash of light in the basement through the pealing window frame. “Hah!” she cried. “Bastards!” She rushed over and used a metal railing to swing down into the windowsill. Thick grease came off on her hands, and she frowned.

“Gross,” she said. She wiped her hands on some old, dried leaves and peered through the window into the basement. “Hello?” she yelled. Her voice echoed. She wrinkled her brow and slid, feet first, through the window. She dropped a yard to the floor. Landing without any difficulty, she dug into the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt and removed a small flashlight.

The beam revealed an empty, rectangular room. Small piles of debris littered the floor, but there were no furniture or markings to show the room’s former purpose. As her flashlight fell on a narrow hallway, Aurelia remembered that Mike had rambled about tunnels linking all the buildings.

A heavy thud suddenly echoed from somewhere beyond the beam’s range, and Aurelia jumped despite years of chance meetings with the unusual. She quickly looked around to make sure no one had seen. In the back of her mind, she was beginning to believe her friends were playing a prank.

Or, at least, she hoped. Her run in with the spirit outside Ramsey Cemetery still bothered her. It felt odd and menacing. She felt that now—a gnawing sense that something other than human souls stalked these corridors. Even the dead fled from this unknown presence.

A musty smell, like old newspapers, wafted past Aurelia’s prominent nose. She sniffed defiantly and marched down the dark hallway, deep into the bowels of Manteno State Hospital. Condensation dripped from the pipes overhead, and old bulbs sat lifeless in their sockets in the ceiling.

She was getting close to the source of her gnawing dread, but her flashlight revealed nothing but dirt and cobwebs. Curiosity drove her forward. If her friends jumped out at the last moment, she thought with amusement, she would quickly make them sorry.

Before she could finish her thought, she felt a rush of ice-cold air that nearly knocked her down. She took a wide stance and braced herself as if she was entering a storm without an umbrella. Her flashlight flickered, but the battery held. Not that its narrow beam did any good—the shadows in the corridor solidified and absorbed what precious little light it emitted.

Wasting no time, Aurelia thrust out her hands and cried, “Eko, eko, Azarak! Eko, eko, Zomelak! Bazabi lacha bachabe! Lamac cahi achababe!

Morgan Cottage at Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, Illinois. Photo by the author.

Morgan Cottage at Manteno State Hospital in Manteno, Illinois. Photo by the author.

The shadows retreated for a moment, but returned in full force. A gust of wind burst through the tunnel and Aurelia fell to the ground. Her rear-end planted itself among the grime and broken bits of cement. Suddenly, a bright light lit up the hallway directly in the path of the shadows. The luminescent glow burned away the darkness, and the howling wind fell to a whisper. Just like that, the light was gone, and the corridor returned to normal. The whole incident lasted only a few seconds.

That’s twice something has saved me, Aurelia thought. A coincidence? She grudgingly thanked whatever it was, pulled herself up, and dusted off her black skirt. Just then, she heard footsteps coming from around the bend in the hallway and she readied herself for another strange encounter. This time, the shadows would not catch her off guard.

Moments later, Mike, Greg, Emmet, and Davin appeared around the corner. They made a collective sigh of relief when they saw Aurelia.

Aurelia marched over to the group, pushed Davin out of the way, and punched Mike in the face. Mike swore while Greg and Emmet laughed. Their laughter quickly died when Aurelia spun toward them with a menacing glare.

“Where the hell were you?” she yelled. “Something almost killed me!”

“We didn’t know where you were,” Mike protested while checking his nose for blood. “We waited forever and you never showed up.”

I told you I was going to be late,” Aurelia hissed.

“What happened?” Davin asked. “What do you mean something almost killed you?”

“Something attacked me down here,” Aurelia explained. “Luckily, I fought it off.”

“What attacked you?” Greg asked with a grin. “A rat? A gaggle of goblins?”

“A dark spirit,” Aurelia replied. “I can’t explain it.”

Emmet snorted. “So this ‘dark spirit’ just happened to disappear before we got here? Where did it go? What did it look like?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wait a minute,” Mike said while bending his glasses back into their proper shape. “Tell us exactly what happened.”

Aurelia explained everything that happened since she arrived, leaving out the part about a mysterious light saving her.

“We should be more careful,” Mike said. “I have a bad feeling. Aura overpowered this spirit, but next time she might not be so lucky. Next time, it might target one of us.”

“Speak for yourself,” Emmet replied. “I’m not afraid of the invisible. I’m not gonna jump at shadows.”

Mike sighed. “Well, let’s finish exploring, but let’s stick together, shall we?” he said as he removed a camera from his trench coat pocket. “I want to map these tunnels. I know the developers tore down many buildings, but maybe we’ll find something down here.”

“Or something will find us,” Greg chuckled.

Aurelia grit her teeth and joined her friends as the Fallen disappeared into the darkness.

[New episode every Friday…]

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. This page is copyright, 2016. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work.

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