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I’ve always had a big heart. Usually it’s a good thing, but sometimes, it gets me into trouble. You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. My name’s Travis, and let me tell you an experience I had while I was a graduate at Colorado State University. Now, I could tell you it’s real and please believe me and all that bull, but I won’t, mostly because I lack the evidence to prove that this even happened. But that’s beside the point. It all started when I was looking for volunteer work. At CSU, one of the requirements of graduation is that each student must compete at least 25 hours of community service. I, stupidly, like all the other lazy college students, had blown this off until the last few months before graduation. I was desperate to get the hours over with.
I looked at some newspaper ads to see if there was any place that needed a helping hand. I eventually found a help wanted ad from a retirement home on the outskirts of Denver. It wasn’t a long drive away, and they even offered pay for those who volunteered. The thought of spending 25 hours with a bunch of senile old folks was a little unnerving, but as I said, my big heart won out.
I sent an email to the place with my resume and an explanation of my situation, and I was surprised when they immediately accepted me. A woman named Stephanie sent me a message back with info, the locale of the place, the residents etc. She said that the home would agree to sign my forms and verify my 25 hours, and even pay me $9.50 per hour worked, if I agreed to live there for the duration of 2 weeks.
I wasn’t going to pass an opportunity like this. I packed my things, shoved them into the backseat of my car, and drove out to the little housing network at the address Stephanie had sent. I soon arrived, and was greeted with a petit looking brown house. It had an iron gate around it, and a clean white sign with black letters that read, “Denver assisted living center”. There was an unkempt lawn, and two glass slide open doors, at the front. I got out my car and brought my luggage from the back and quickly walked to the front doors. They slid open and revealed a young looking woman at a front desk. She had ramen noodle-like hair, with a face that was like a snowman. She was wearing a lavender nurse’s outfit, with floral patterns speckled around it. She smiled as I walked in, and spoke to me.
“Well, you must be Travis. Here, let me take your bags.” She snatched my bags and left through a door that was behind her. While she was gone, I took a quick look around the lobby. The place had green carpets, and two wooden chairs set parallel to a similar-looking wood table with various books on it. The walls were tan, and each one had a picture of a cowboy posing with horses. Beyond that, there was a door that was beside the front desk. It was clearly made of metal, painted white with a handle that had a digital code pad above it. The woman returned smiling, and leaving her front desk. “Hi, I didn’t get to introduce myself. My name’s Stephanie.” She said walking up to me.
“Oh, so you’re the one who sent me the info. Haha”
“Yes. Well, I’m so glad that you came here to volunteer! Not a lot of people are willing to devote time to these people. I just want you to know we really appreciate it.”She gave me a deep smile and looked into my eyes.
“Come. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve got to teach you before you can start.” She lead me to the metal door and typed in a four digit number. The door clicked open and we walked inside. “We just installed that last month,”she commented, turning to me, “we’ve been having a lot of people try to escape from the nursing home lately. So, we got the security to install that to keep the tenants here safe.”
She walked a head of me, and I followed her down a long, twisting hallway with the same carpet and windowless walls as in the lobby. I was extremely shocked at how long the hallway was. We kept walking and walking until I was certain we had got lost. Then, Stephanie came upon a hallway with several doors along the way. If one didn’t know better, they’d think they were walking through a hotel. Stephanie began to describe the home as we were walking. “We house around 250 people, each one having their own room. Some, those with disabilities, are kept in wards down through here,” she pointed towards a fork in the hallway that lead to 3 different ways. Each had signs. “The one on the left is the Alzheimer’s ward, the center, for the senile, and the last one is for the dying.” She said.
She turned from the fork and continued walking down until we reached a dead end with double doors that said, “living room”. Stephanie paused for a moment and faced me. “This is where the tenants spend most of their days. Here, they watch TV, and are brought meals from the kitchens. After 7:00 o’clock, they are sent to their rooms.” She went on about the daily routine, and a few other details on the way the tenants lived. “So are you ready to meet them?” She asked excitedly.
“Yeah, I suppose. Will they like me?” I answered.
“Of course they will. Come on” She opened the door and came into the room with a burst of obviously fake enthusiasm. We entered a gigantic room filled with furniture and coffee tables. There was a large flat screen and several old beaten up loveseats. And one each available seat, sat 100 or so old folks, each with various looks. Almost all of them had white hair and smooth wrinkled faces, with sunken in eyes and expressions of depression on their faces. They sat orderly, next to one another, as if placed there on purpose. There were many, who had wheelchairs and were sitting in various locals near the TV. There were various workers in the same apparel as Stephanie, leaning against the wall, watching them. Stephanie spoke in a loud voice for all to hear.
“Ok everybody, we have a guest here today. He will be staying with us for a few weeks helping us take of you. His name is Travis. So everybody say hi.” She said turning to meet all the faces of the people. No one replied. They stared blankly at us not moving a muscle. The TV gently droned a PBS program in the background. Stephanie looked at me and smiled, laughing awkwardly. “They’ll get used to you. Let me show you where you’ll be staying.” She lead me to the other side of the room to a wall with another digital locked door that had the sign “employees only” on it. She punched in the code, and we walked in, and a similar hotel-like hallway was seen. She guided me to my room, #706 and told me to get comfortable. I walked inside and she closed the door behind me. My room was cramped, with no windows. It did however, have two rooms. One room was a bedroom and kitchen . There was a bed on one wall, facing a small TV set, with a phone and clock on top of it. On the opposite wall there was a mini fridge, a sink, and a microwave all on a plastic counter. There were simple cupboards above that. The second room was an extremely small all white bathroom, with a modest tub, a toilet and full length mirror that covered the entire wall it faced. The whole place had a suffocating vibe to it, like the air was too thick. I decided I was just tired, and I put my bags on the bed, and laid next to them. I nodded off, and slept.
The next day I was awoken by a knock at my door. “Hey it’s me, Stephanie.” I groggily lifted my head and saw the time was 7:30 am. I got out of bed and went out into the hall. There, Stephanie met me and handed me a paper that was my schedule for the week. I would first work the living room, then the kitchen, then finally the mental wards. All in a 2 week plan.
The job was simple enough. First, I would get up in the mornings, And I would help the other staff members wake the tenants and move them to the living room. Then I had to go to the kitchens at the back of the employee hallway, and bring the people their food. Then, I would spend a few hours ministering to the needs of the old folks.
They were all extremely silent and never spoke. It didn’t bother me though, all I had to do was stand around, and get payed for it. It was like that for 3 days. Getting up, moving them into the living room, getting food for each meal, and then at the end of the day, bringing them back to their rooms.
However, I began to notice some very odd things about the tenants. Many were blanked eyed and drooling. They never spoke or moved, or anything. Their eyes were bloodshot and crusted with yellow mucus and their skin was dry and cracked. I didn’t question anything and went on doing my job. On the forth day, something very different happened. One of the old ladies in a wheelchair, after she had eaten her meal began to scoot toward the door, to weak to roll herself. Her body was a skeleton, the veins bulging like sick rivers of green filth on her hands. I could see her muscles stretch weakly as she scooted. Her neck cocked out at a weird angle and she began to mutter. “I have to leave,”she said, repeating over and over again “I have to leave…”
One of the employees saw her and rushed to her. “Mrs.Higgins, you can’t leave.” The man said sternly. She began to fit like a toddler, stretching herself feebly against the employee’s strength. “No! You're going to stay here!” He said grunting against her force. Mrs. Higgins began to become hysterical, screaming and wailing “let me out! Let me out! Bonny don’t let them take me!!!” She clawed at the air, her eyes wildly opening, looking as though they were about to pop out of her head. The employee seized her wheelchair and with the help of a co-worker shoved her though he employee hallway. They opened a room, and left her in there, screaming. They walked nonchalantly back into the living room, the woman’s screams echoing behind them. “Why'd you do that?” I asked, bewildered. “It’s a type of ‘time out’ we use here. They eventually calm down. Some tenants can’t take the fact they have to stay here.” One of the men answered. They returned to their posts and the day went on like usual.
Another event happened soon after, were The employees weren't exactly nice to their tenants. A woman came to an employee, and complained of a headache. “Please,” she pleaded, “give me an aspirin.” They ignored her, and pretended she wasn’t there. She continued to plead and got more and more desperate. Then they took her and lead her to the same room as the wheelchair woman. They locked her inside, while she wailed in agony. Then they left and acted like nothing happened.
The next thing came a few hours later. I tooled one of the old men on the couch to his room, 108, and he kept looking at me and smiling. He was overweight, bald, and had black eyes. His face was like a baby, shaved and his lips were scabbed and caked with God knows what crud. His mouth was purple with age, and he gave me a simple, open mouthed smile, showing me his toothless scabbed mouth.
I opened his door, and wheeled him in. As I was turning to leave, he called after me. “Wait,” He said. I turned and looked at him. “Yes? What is it?” I asked gently. He just sat there, smiling at me. I began to become very uncomfortable. He looked me in the eyes, and he began to very quietly giggle. My heart began beat, and something told me I needed to leave. But I was glued to the spot. He began to laugh harder, and from his mouth, drool pooled. I could see his tongue swimming beneath the spit. His laugh was loud now, and he wheezed with every breath. The pool of spit became a pool ad blood, and it overflowed and ran down his chin, soaking into his skin. He was now guffawing an evil laugh that made me want to die. His eyes began to bleed, and the rivers of blood, running down his cheeks and chin, and falling into his shirt were met with new streams.
I at this point, fled the room, frantic and calling for help. Several people met me in the hall, and I collapsed on the floor telling my ordeal. “He-he started laughing….Oh…he was bleeding everywhere…” Stephanie was among the group and knelt down to my level, and told me to go to my room. I was helped by a few persons. All the while, I could hear the old man’s laugh, chasing my down the hall.
The next day, I was told the old man had a rare blood disease, and that I didn’t need to worry. “The disease causes random spurts of blood to pool in areas of the body. We cleaned him up, and took care of him. I’m sorry you went through that.” Stephanie said, sitting next to me on the bed, her hand on my shoulder. I calmed down, and went to my new duties in the kitchen. It ever by very fast, and was the easiest job of all. All we did was cook frozen food in a large industrial microwave and hand it on plates to employees.
Soon, the last few days came, and I was glad to soon be finally rid of the place. “You’ll be working the mental wards today.” Stephanie said, and she lead me up the hall to the fork I saw my first day. We went to the Alzheimer’s ward. “Are you ready? This isn’t always easy, and I won’t lie to you, this is my least favorite area to work in.” She opened the ward doors and I was met with 13 people. The room was smaller than the living room, with the same basic structure. Except this time, the people actually moved. There was one man snoozing on the couch, another sitting staring blankly at a wall. One woman looked like a dried corpse and was rocking back and forth. One more was in a corner, refusing to be seen. The rest sat like the normal tenants in the living room. I was then told by Stephanie I would be doing this room alone. “Don’t worry, they’re easy to handle.” She assured me with a smile. After a few minutes of explanation, she left the room.
I stood there looking at the mumbling group. Suddenly, the person in the corner looked back at me. It was a woman, with a black Afro, crying, with large, eyes, red from her emotion. “You. You’re new.” She said quietly “Yes….Yes I am.” I said back. “You don’t know about this place, do you,” she said tears cascading down her wrinkles. “We are all suffering. We, we aren’t Alzheimer’s patients. We are the ones who are still sane.” “What?”
“We. We are the ones who can fight back. They keep us here. And they feed us poisons. They want us TO DIE.” The woman became more and more rash as she talked.
“Our children, they didn’t LOVE US. THEY SENT US HERE TO DIE!” Her face became angry.
” They don’t tell you what they do to the people they shove into rooms, DO THEY? They leave them there to starve. And then they act like they died naturally. They don’t care. They just want us to suffer. And YOU!” She pointed at me. My head shot up. “YOURE HELPING THEM!!! YOU MAKE US SUFFER!!!” She began to scream. All of the people in the room looked at me. Their eyes looked, but they didn’t see. They began to walk towards me, and my breath choked in my lungs. I backed up to the door and began yelling for Stephanie, prying the door open, looking back frantically at the mass.”STEPHANIE! STEPHANIE!” She came bursting in with a syringe. She went each person and stabbed them with it. Each fell like a rag doll onto the floor, sedated.
The woman in the corner began to scream bloody murder. She was quickly stabbed in the arm, and then her screams faded into silence.
“Sometimes they get that way,” Stephanie said, panting, her voice hoarse. She turned to me. “What did she tell you?”
“She just babbled incoherent non-sense,” I lied, still shocked by what happened.
“Maybe you should go rest in your room for the rest of the day.” She said, concerned look on her face.
I didn’t have to be told twice. I walked down the cold hallways to my room. I opened the door, locked it, and fell on my bed, staring at the ceiling. Why did she say all of that? Were the people here really hurting the tenants? I wasn’t able to understand these things. I sat in silence for a few moments, listening to the absence of sound, hearing my blood flow though my head and ears. And then I heard it. It was faint at first. Then it got louder. It was a gentle banging sound on the wall. *Thump. Thump. Thump.* it got louder with each successive hit. I sat upright quickly, adrenaline flooding my senses. I heard scratching and voices. And Wheezing. My body was on edge like a thousand needles piercing my skin. My breathing caught in my throat like a steel trap every time I inhaled. The wheezing got louder and I heard hoarse voices in the wall. “Let us out. Let us out”.
And then it stopped. Just like that. It was gone. I got up, trembling. I felt like I was one of the tenants with Parkinson’s. I walked to the bathroom to rinse my face. May be I had imagined all of it. I took cold water and gently splashed my face. I turned, and looked at my reflection in the wall long mirror. I stared at myself, trying to calm down. In the corner of the mirror, I saw a white blob. I squinted at it, and It was seen to be a woman. Right behind me. I started to hyperventilate. No one could’ve gotten in my room. I decided I was seeing things. But…I couldn’t bring myself to turn. The mirror showed me that the woman was now in the tub. She stood there glaring at me. She was all white. Her face was as white as bone, and her eyes yellow with jaundice. I started to smell rotting flesh. I heard flies flying around near my ear though I couldn’t see any. Against my will, I slowly, reluctantly, turned my head towards her. She wasn’t just a thing in the mirror. She stood in the tub. Her breath came out as the wheezing I heard earlier. She stepped forward, and walked all the way to me. She was so close I could see the putrid wrinkles lining her whole face and smell the death about her.
She stood there, doing absolutely nothing. My muscles stood stuff like wood, as I stood there. Then, she screamed in a voice that deafened. “WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!!!!????” Her teeth were razor sharp and her eyes became black as night. I covered my ears as she screeched. I ran out the bathroom, my eardrums aching and her following me and screaming. She began to bleed from her pores. “LOOK WHAT YOUVE DONE!!! ITS ALL YOUR FAULT!!!” She screeched. Then, she was gone. I could still smell her.
The flies were flying now, even more than before. They buzzed near my ears, I could feel then crawling on my skin, their little legs, tickling and gently stabbing my skin. I smelled death, like a blanket in the air, covering my nose in swaths of horrendous odor. I became nauseated, and fell to my knees. From my viewpoint, I could see under my bed. I saw brown hair. I didn’t want to, but I went over to it. The smell was twice as bad there. I retched, and the whispers in my ears became deafening. Before I could undo the covers, a brown hand, undid for me.
Under the bed lay a mummy of a man. He had skin that looked like jerky, stretched and dry. His face was sunken in and his mouth was agape. He had no eyes, and his hair was stringy and hung like rope. I backed up, stumbling, tears in my eyes at the horror I was beholding. “Why? Why? Whhhhhhyyyyy?” The man wheezed. Then, an alarm went of in the room. *beep beep beep beep* I couldn’t have asked for a better excuse to leave my room. I dashed into the hall, to see Stephanie running towards me. I decided to forget about my experience, and asked her, “What’s going on?”
“They’re all gone!” She said with a clearly shocked look on her face. “They’ve all disappeared! All of them. The tenants. We’ve got the building on lock down. Help us find them!” We ran down the hall, to the living room. It was completely empty. We went down the halls to the other rooms, opening the rooms and finding them all empty. The other employees were hysterical. “The lights, they went off and they… they were gone!” One woman said. As she said that, the hall lights flickered making the place look like a night club. Then I heard screaming. Threw the walls, the old people came through, blasting the walls with their fists. They splintered and they walked through. They attacked employees and bit them in their necks, and screamed and wheezed. The woman from the Alzheimer’s room came up to me, her eyes black. “RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN!” A group of the old ones surrounded Stephanie, and they took her skin, and they ripped it like corn shucks, revealing her veins, muscles and bones. She screamed, ”GET OFF ME! Get off me!” A sickening squishing noise ensued as they dug into her gut. I headed the Alzheimer’s woman’s warning. And ran. I ran down the hall, faster than I’ve ever ran before. The lights finally failed and the place became pitch black. I could hear the screams and the tearing of flesh. I heard bones crunch and the splattering of blood. I groped around and continued to run. Then I slammed right into a metal wall. It was the door to the lobby! I flung it open and crawled to the streets, not caring what I left behind. I looked behind me and the white woman from my room stood there, stared at me, and mouthed “Don’t come back.” I went through the double doors, screaming. I got in my car, and I sped off, and I never looked back.