Ashes to Ashes Page 36


I turned around and faced the void of the unknown.

“Hello,” I cried out softly. “I’m here. Whatever you want with me, please, just show yourself.”

I sucked air into my lungs and waited for a voice to set me free, for a shape to show itself.

Nothing happened.

Except there was a noise, in the far corner of the room. The slick, sharp sound of metal on metal. I thought back to when I was peering into the room the other day and I couldn’t see anything in my mind’s eye except the three operating tables in the middle of the room.

I also remembered Oldman saying that the body chute opened up somewhere in the room. It was a long shot, and a fucking terrifying one, but if I could get to the chute and somehow get in it, it was at least a way out.

I swallowed hard, willing my eyes to adjust to the dark, but with the room having no windows and receiving no light from the outside, nothing happened. Everything in front of my eyes was just black on black on black.

I stepped away from the door and walked forward, taking slow, careful steps, my hands straight out in front of me in case I ran into something.

I walked in as much of a straight line as possible, trying to pull the layout of the room from my memory. I wished I had paid more attention at the time, but the truth was, even with Dex and Rebecca and Oldman at my side, I had been scared as hell. I would have done anything to have them at my side again.

And then there had been Dex, running away from me, the Dex who was never him at all. His doppelgänger. I could only hope that neither the real Dex nor Rebecca would run into the doubles of themselves—apparently if you do, you’re supposed to die.

And I hope I don’t run into myself, I thought, trying to imagine how surreal that was. Of course, in some ways it had happened before. Back in Red Fox, the skinwalkers took the shape of me, trying to lure Dex in with a kiss. That was as fucking trippy as it could get, not to mention aggravating, since Dex’s first kiss with me wasn’t with me.

The thought of him though, the thought of New Mexico and how far we’d come since that episode, gave me a new kind of strength. I’d been through so much already. We’d both fought against death and won. Now it was the last shoot of our last episode, and all I needed was just to come out of it alive. Fuck having the best episode—I just wanted to keep living my life.

I walked forward, determined to make it out.

I didn’t make it far.

I walked straight into something cold and hard. I gasped from the pain, having hit my hands at an odd angle, and immediately felt along the chilled, slick surface, hoping it was a wall.

It wasn’t. It was the corner of the body cooler. I nearly walked myself right into the morgue. I shuddered, my heart racing, my legs threatening to give out on me. I had to keep going; I had to get out of there.

I walked more carefully now, feeling my way along the edge of the cooler, when I felt something banging against it from the inside, a dull metal thud. I shrieked, taking a step back, the blackness disorienting. There was someone inside the body coolers. For a second I thought it could have been Dex, for a second I thought maybe I should make my way back to the doors and fumble through the dark to open one of the drawers.

But all it took was to hear silence—silence punctuated by a click and the slow, metal groan of one of the body cooler doors opening by itself—to know it wasn’t Dex in there.

I waited, frozen on the spot, until I heard a dull slap. The sound of bare feet hitting the ground.

Someone coming out of the body cooler.

Someone dead.

I turned, and in my panic I started to run. I ran away from the sound, but only made it a few feet until I collided with the wall, biting my tongue as my head banged against it.

The world swirled in colors behind my lids then the colors were erased by a dull red.

I opened my eyes to see a light in the room, to see everything coming into focus.

The big, eye-shaped light above the operating table was turned on.

Beneath it was one of the tables, the one with the narrow moat around the edge.

The moat was red with a shiny river of blood. The young body on the table was pale as ice, its chest carved open like a turkey, flaps of skin out to the sides.

Standing in the shadows, a few feet behind the table, was a doctor. His eyes were cold and lifeless, and focused on me, his mouth and nose covered by a blood splattered mask. In his bloody, gloved hands he held a dull scalpel.

I didn’t know if I could scream, if I should scream. I just stared at the sight, my eyes darting between the lifeless, massacred body on the table and the sadistic doctor standing above it, that sharp scalpel wielded in his hands like a weapon.

I heard the creak of one of the body cooler doors opening again and my eyes slid over to it just in time to see a young, naked boy stepping out of it, his chest exposed, balloons stuck inside him, expanding and deflating with each and every breath. When my eyes finally saw the big picture, saw what was really there in the room, I let out a pitiful cry.

The wall opposite me by the door I’d come through was lined with children. They were all naked or half-dressed, all of them sliced open for me to see. Their hearts pumped slowly, their lungs wheezed, the blood spilled out of them and onto the floor, creating a stream of blood that was slowly flowing toward me, pulsing with each ragged breath they all took.

When I looked back at the doctor, he was gone. In his place was the bad thing, standing upright on two legs and hunched over the patient, his/her heart dripping from the bad thing’s razor-toothed mouth. The patient on the bed, a girl, slowly turned her head to look at me. Her mouth moved.

“Help me.”

But I had to help myself.

I had to.

If it was the last thing I did.

Somehow I broke free of the terror, looking away just as the bad thing’s white eyes sought me across the room. Using the light of the operating lamp, I ran my hand down the wall as I scurried alongside it, desperately searching for the door of the body chute.

I was almost at the far corner when I saw a small handle. I put my hands around it and tried to pull it open with all of my strength just as I heard a clatter behind me. It was probably a mistake to turn around and see what it was. But I did. It was the bad thing crawling across the room toward me, the dead, carved open children following it and coming for me with dead eyes and snapping mouths.

If I let the fear take over, I would have died right there and then. No question. Fear wanted me prisoner, for my limbs and organs and mind to just give up and give in.

But I couldn’t.

I wouldn’t.

I jerked the door toward me and it opened, assaulting me with a heavy gust of stale air. Wasting no time, I jumped inside, a sloping concrete incline leading from the room into the tunnel and quickly pulled the door shut behind me. It was pitch black inside the tunnel but it didn’t matter, I couldn’t think about it. I started running down the smooth walkway of the chute, my feet echoing as I ran. I didn’t get far before I saw the fuzzy grains of light appearing around me and heard the sound of the door opening. I paused and looked behind me.

The door to the room of blood was opening, light spilling inside the passage and the shape of the doctor stepping into the tunnel. He shut the door behind him.

Everything went black again.

I was sealed in the tunnel with him.

I sucked in my breath, surviving only on instincts now, and I ran. I ran as fast as I could, occasionally tripping down the steps that were alongside the path, or bumping into the cold walls. I kept running despite the fact I had no idea where I was in the chute, no way to get out, no light to see by. I kept running because I could hear the quick footsteps of the doctor coming after me, hear his coat flapping as he hurried.

He was Shawna’s father. I knew that now. Was he trying to appease her, to make amends for supposedly failing her, by trying to take my lungs? Was he really the bad thing now, something that would feed off the hate and fear in me?

Either way, I couldn’t get caught. I had to keep going. I had to keep running.

Eventually though, when I felt I’d been going forever, the sound in the tunnel changed. The footsteps behind me had dropped off and the sound of my own body, of my stride, of my breath, became dull, almost muffled. By the time I was trying to figure out where I was, if I’d possibly run as far as the post office, I ran straight into something hard.

I cried out, nearly falling over, more from surprise than from pain. What the hell was this? I stuck my hands out and ran it up and down the barrier.

It wasn’t really a wall; it felt more like a bunch of wood planks nailed together.

I heard a noise behind me, a scraping sound, and I knew that this was far from over. The sound continued, coming closer, like nails dragging across a rough surface.

The bad thing crawling on the cement ceiling.

And I was stuck. Trapped. It couldn’t end like this.

Suddenly, a pair of tiny, cold hands grabbed my wrists and yanked me forward.

I cried out again, only this time I heard something in response.

“You’re so close, so close, Perry.”

It was Elliot. He tried pulling me further in, my arms disappearing through some of the barrier, the rest of me pushed up against it. It took me a while to realize that the whole thing wasn’t solid. It must have been the thing that Oldman had been talking about when that teen went missing and they had to block off the tunnel in some way.

“Keep trying,” Elliot yelled.

It was then I noticed the air around me had grown grainy and grey with the gradual increase of light. I still couldn’t make out anything, but I knew that I had to start prying the boards away, that freedom lay on the other side.

I was so close, as Elliot said.

I began grabbing every edge I could find, pulling the planks toward me until they either gave away with the flying clank of nails hitting the ground or snapped in two, and more dull light began to fill the tunnel. I kept at it, my fingers raw and bleeding, all too conscious of the malevolence that was quickly closing in on me.

Finally, with Elliot’s hand yanking me forward, I found the small opening I had created and dragged my body through it, landing on the other side of the wooden wall in a heap. Elliot’s hands were at my arms, trying to get me to my feet. By the time I got up, I saw him running into the distance, toward the grey light, his silhouette disappearing.

I ran after him, my lungs filling with fresher air with every step I took, the light overtaking my eyes with hope until finally I burst out of the tunnel and into a dirty, abandoned room covered with empty shelves and mounds of dust, the late afternoon light coming in through the intact windows that shuddered with each blast of wind. I’d never been so happy to see daylight before, never been so happy to be inside an abandoned building.

Knowing I still wasn’t one hundred percent safe, I closed the heavy door to the tunnel behind me, marveling as it camouflaged into the wood stylings of the wall, then turned back around, looking for the door out and looking for Elliot.

But while I could see the door in the corner, looking rusted beyond repair, I couldn’t see Elliot anywhere.

I took a few steps forward into the middle of the room. I had to get out of there. I had to go back to the school and see if Dex and Rebecca were alright. I had to do all of that. But while I was crossing over to the door, I nearly stepped down into a hole.

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