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It was clear from the moment we stepped in the building that there was something very wrong with the place, since the cold air permeated inside despite it being a hot summer day. I felt goosebumps prickle my skin.
For a while we kept walking around, going up from floor to floor, until we reached the in-patient ward. There was a nursing station on the same floor and as soon as my friend A saw it she remarked,
"I just saw someone there."
That was the beginning of it all. We began to feel scared but we had come to test our courage and none of us felt like turning back to go home yet. We decided to divide up in twos and continued with the exploration.
I paired up with A and we chose to explore around the nursing station. We were just messing around with the stuff there when A, looking pale and shaking, tapped me on the shoulder and said,
"I saw a shadow following B just as she went in one of the rooms at the end of the corridor." And immediately after that she asked me,
"Did you hurt your shoulder?"
Puzzled, I looked at my right shoulder and some muddy water was smeared all over my white T-shirt.
Because it was one of my favourite T-shirts I got annoyed and answered A in a sharp tone:
"Hey, you did this when you tapped me on the shoulder just now!" A looked surprised and said,
"What? I never tapped you on your shoulder!"
I got scared and shouted angrily at A saying,
"Stop pulling my leg at a time like this!" But A answered straight-faced,
"What are you talking about? I swear I never touched you." Beginning to feel scared for real, I suggested that we call B and C, quit the game and go home.
A too seemed scared and said even going anywhere near the room into which B and C had disappeared was out of question; and so we figured we could just call out their names from where we stood.
But no matter how many times we called we didn't get their answers back. I was also reluctant to go near the place after what I heard from A about "the shadow" following after B. Also my right shoulder felt strangely heavy and painful.
Then A asked me,
"Shall we try her mobile?" And she tried calling B. A moment later we heard a ringing tone coming not from the corridor where B was supposed to be, but from the corridor opposite of it.
It caught us totally off guard and that alone was bizarre enough but to our horror the person who answered the call was a stranger, and unmistakably a man. I heard A start pleading into the phone, asking again and again to let her talk to B.
In the end A gave up with pleading and hung up. She said to me,
"Maybe we should just go home by ourselves..."
It was then that A told me about the strange man who just answered her.
We were almost out of our wits as we rushed down the stairs at full speed. Once we were safely out of the hospital and back inside the car again, we began to feel more relaxed, and I said to A
"Do you think we should call C?" And this time I tried C's mobile.
Immediately I heard C's voice at the other end of the line:
"Hey, where's B? She just disappeared. Are you two together? Don't tell me I'm the only one left behind! No way!"
She sounded unexpectedly cheerful and we breathed a sigh of relief. We told her to get out of the building and come over to us as soon as she could, and then we tried calling B again but there was still no answer.
We pulled our car up in front of the hospital gate and waited for C. Sometime later C appeared, walking unsteadily on her feet.
"I looked everywhere but there's no sign of B! I tried her mobile but she wouldn't pick up. I think something is up. What shall we do?" C spoke excitedly as she came closer to the car.
We got her into the car and she told us what had happened to them in the hospital. According to C, just as the pair entered one of the rooms at the end of the corridor, B somehow started poking at C's back repeatedly, forcing her to look back over her shoulder. But when C turned around B had already disappeared. C guessed that B had lost her nerve and gone back to where A and I were.
And after receiving our call, C started looking for B on her own. She then heard a man's voice from the lavatory and being a brave girl she opened and checked every cubicle in there but could find no one.
She kept yelling B's name but got no answer and so she decided to come out, not knowing what else to do.
We were discussing about what steps we might take next, when we saw B come dashing towards the car, wailing.
It was such a relief and we opened the door to let her in but she wouldn't get in and only stood there, crying and raving.
"Just what were you thinking? All of you, ignoring me like that! Do you know how many times I called you? And you were planning to go home without me!" Having shouted thus she suddenly fell down on the spot. We were in a total panic as we called the ambulance.
B was carried to the hospital where she died of a stroke. They said it was too late, but that seemed strange considering that she was only 26 and that she was treated immediately after she fell. The paramedics also asked me
"What happened to your shoulder?" That made me examine my right shoulder again. Then I realized that what I thought was dirty water was actually some sort of darkened blood. And I also noticed that C' back was covered with numerous similarly bloody hand prints.
About a year after the incident C died of leukemia, and still a half year passed before A too died in a car accident; and now I am the only one who is still alive.
I just had a stroke this May which had left me paralyzed on my right side, and I am still in the hospital for rehabilitation. But my mind is at rest. Before I was admitted into the hospital I was nearly driven mad with fear but I feel strangely at ease now that I am actually inside the hospital.
I wonder if hospitals are protected by some unseen force. It's very strange.
I no longer have to be plagued by those nightmares I used to have when I was at home. I am no longer tormented by the shadow I used to see when I looked in the mirror. Now even the idea of staying in the hospital forever seems like an appealing one to me.
I feel sorry for the other three, but I think I will survive.