The hospital had been condemned, that much I knew. They had told me there might be a few rats inside, eating away at the leftovers from the clean-up a few years back. Other than that, they had told me, the place was clear. And foolishly, I had believed them.
My name is Jake Canon, an estate agent of sorts. My job is to get inside run-down and abandoned buildings, search the place for any unwanted occupants and then report my findings on how well the interior has held up since its closure. It was a job that paid well. Up until that night, however, I had never actually had any serious problems, other than the time part of the supporting wall collapsed and I had to make a swift exit before the whole apartment complex came crashing down around me.
I had searched the whole hospital in four hours, which wasn't bad seeing as there were six floors, each lined with locked or damaged doors which required banging down. The only room I hadn't checked was the operating theatre on third. The door was open but I had been too busy with a broken latch on the other side of the hallway to pay it much mind. I had remembered I'd not checked it as I was about ready to leave. To this day I wish I still hadn't remembered.
The room was dark and on more than one occasion I tripped over something that had been left on the floor. A quick scan of the room with my flashlight showed up nothing worth getting concerned about. That was when I saw the bed.
The operating theatre had mostly been cleared, with the overhead lights used for surgeries and the metal table gone. The single bed in the middle of the room looked so out of place I didn't approach it at first. I shone the flashlight in the direction of the bed and saw it was streaked with dried blood. I had seen so much during my job over the years that this sight did little to unnerve me. The purplish hand hanging lazily out the side, however, curdled my blood.
I flicked the light switch on the wall. Nothing. I wasn't expecting anything but it still filled me with an unusual dread I seldom felt while working. I walked over to the bed and pulled back the sheets. If there was a corpse here, which was looking almost certain, I would need to call it in. The face appeared slowly, its lip catching on the sheet as I withdrew it down towards the torso. I aimed the flashlight over the face and almost gagged at the foul smell and hideous contortion of the face beneath.
The corpses eyes were staring out, locked in a hard gaze. The jaw had been snapped, jutterred teeth hanging out at odd angles. The neck was riddled with small reddish holes and bruises. Finally I pulled the sheet completely free to look at the body. It was a man, in his thirties at a guess. He seemed to have died in excruciating pain, and the gaping hole in his abdomen confirmed my suspicions.
At some point the corpse must have indicated it wasn't quite as dead as I had assumed. I had turned my back to the body in order to make a call to Ted Rester, my boss, and explain the situation. He seemed about as bothered as anyone sitting behind a desk miles away usually did. "I'll call an ambulance," I told him and hung up. When I turned around the body was sitting upright, legs over the bed, as though it had just awoken from a deep sleep.
"Are you OK?" I asked. I took a step forward. That was the moment I will always record as the worst in my entire life. As the man turned his head, something large and loose flopped out of his stomach and slapped to the tiled floor with a sickening thud. The flashlight picked it out in the darkness to reveal old and rotted intestines. I didn't think; I ran as fast as I could, down the stairs, not looking back for fear that thing on the bed might be following. When I reached the lobby where the reception desk used to be I dared to face the stairwell. Loud footsteps were coming, and they were gaining speed.
The corpse galloped down the final flight of stairs and stopped to face me. The door was only a few feet away so I ran for it, sobbing under each difficult breath. The thing under the sheet also took off, but it wasn't as quick as me. I darted out into the silent street, into the lashing rain, and turned back towards the hospital. The corpse stood just outside, watching. Waiting.
I never called it in. Instead I told my boss the building was condemned and needed destroying. He asked me why I'd mentioned a dead body if there wasn't one, to which I replied, 'I was wrong.'
The hospital was reopened three years later following a second search that turned up neither a dead body nor a reanimated corpse. The room where that corpse had been was used as a nursery. I never went there, even when I got seriously ill and became bedridden. I write this now from the confines of my house, in my bed with the covers up to my neck. I don't go outside anymore. I like this room.
I feel safe here. Secure. The scratching sounds outside hardly register a jump out of me now. Neither do those piercing dead eyes every time I look out the window down towards the creature staring up at me. One day it will find a way inside.
By then, of course, I probably won't care.