A Shadowlander's Tale: The Lingering Shadows Within
Written by Kathryn K Williams
I awoke to find myself surround by towering stark white curtain pulled around a ridged metal hospital bed. I quickly sat up and clenched at my chest to find myself in a pale blue hospital gown. Anxiety filled my heart as memories of being back in that mental hospital entered my mind. Hastily I checked my wrists to find no bounds held me in place and no bandaged covered my arms, only a medical bracelet was attached to my right arm bearing my name. A tube stuck out of my left arm to an IV bag and my leg was neatly bandaged with a metal splint to hold the bone in place, but other then that there was no sign of the old hospital that I had spent so much time at as a child. I glanced down at my leg and winced at the sight before me. I could see blood seeping through the bindings, however I felt absolutely no pain what so ever. I figured they had given me something to deaden the pain, no matter how much they gave me there should have been a slight bit of pain.
I was not sure how long I was out for, but it could not have been that long. I searched the room for any sign of a clock, however the curtain blocked my view of the rest of the room so all I could see was the tiny night table next to my bed and the lamp attached to the wall above my head. I suspected that I was sharing the room with some other patients, considering the fact that I was not that special to gain my own room. I glanced down at the gown they had covered me in and I wondered where my clothes had gotten too. I needed to help search for Beth and I could not stay in this place for long.
I rolled off the bed and used the IV pole for balance as I hobbled around the bed. I found a blue house coat hanging on a hook next to the bed and carefully pulled it on, then turned to investigate my surroundings. Just as I was about to pull the curtain back I heard the sounds of a small child's laughter, then a small shadow darted around the curtain. I felt my body freeze in place as fear filled my heart, I could not understand why I would be so frightened, it was only a child after all, but something told me to back away from that curtain. As I did the shadow of a small hand appeared before me and ran along the white material. It slowly moved passed me and then abruptly stopped, almost as if it sensed my presence. I clenched the housecoat tight around my neck and bid a silent prayer. Then I realized that there was no one to hear my prayers and shook my head at the helpless feeling that swam its way through my mind. Suddenly the shadow disappeared, as if something else had attracted its attention and I heard the sound of tiny feet running out of the room.
Quickly I vanquished my fears and pulled the curtain back to find no one there. I glanced around a couple of time to see that curtains had been drawn around every bed. I figured there were maybe three beds per side, but it was hard to say with those curtains waving in a soft breeze that emitted from an open window at the end of the room. A window that showed me it was still nightfall outside, so maybe I'd only been out for a few hours, or maybe the sun had fallen on yet another day. I had no time to worry about such things and prepared to leave the room when I felt something unusual under my bear foot.
I glanced down to see that there was a small square piece of paper laying upon the ground under the heel of my foot, or what I figured was paper. I bent over, with great difficulty I can tell you, and picked up the paper. It turned out to be a photograph and as I turned it over I observed that it was a picture of my niece. A photo that could only have been taken long before the little girl went missing. She was sitting in a high back chair, clad in a hospital gown and there were many strange looking wires coming from her head. The worst part had to be the expression upon her face. Her cheeks were tear streaked and she appeared to be crying out to someone as she struggled with her restraints. The mere sight of the photo sent a wave of sadness through me. What were they doing to her? Why didn't my sister tell me about any of this? More over how could such a photo appear here of all places?
I don't know why I thought my sister would tell me anything about this. I'd not seen her for years before her appearance at my office. She was shaken and I could see anger in her eyes. An anger that she quickly set upon me. Everyone know about my nightmares as a child and everyone thought I was just insane. My sister refused to have anything to do with me after my release from the hospital, stating that I would spread my disease to her child. I'm not sure if she meant my gayness or my sleeping troubles, but it turned out that the sleeping problems were to appear even without me being around. My sister demanded me to find her child, that it was my fault for her little girl having so many issues. I'd only seen the girl in photos for the most part and something about the look in the girl's eyes called out to me. There was a depth of sadness under those long blonde bangs that seeped out of every photo. In one photo particularly I could see a shadowy figure linger behind the child and that was enough for me to take on my annoying sister's case.
I gazed at the photo in my hand once again. I should have known my sister would have taken her child to this place, just as my parents had. I felt sorry for the child and wished I could take her into my arms and whisk her away from that place the held her captive. Then a thought occurred to me. What is she was still at that hospital? I had not thought of looking there because my sister insisted that she had not taken the child to see any doctors. She turned out to be as much a liar as my dear mother.
The giggles of a child tore me from my thoughts with a start. This time my curiosity over came my fears and moved as rapidly as I could to the door of my room, placing the photo protectively in the house coat pocket. The bright light of the hallway hurt my eyes and I squinted against it as I searched for any sign of who could have dropped this photo. Then I spotted a small girl in a long white nightgown and long blonde hair dart into one of the rooms to my left. Clenching tight to my IV pole, and using a railing that ran along the hallway walls, I carefully moved towards the room that the child disappeared into. I took note of the small black plaque on the door with its white letters, "W6-A4" it read. Something about that number seemed oddly familiar and scratched at the surface of my mind. Not being able to recall what the numbers meant I decided to forgo it for now and push on forwards.
I found the door to room "W6-A4" wide open as if someone were inviting me to enter. Cautiously peeking into the room, for the most part it was bare of anything, aside from a large wooden bed in the centre of the room. Uncertainty filled my heart, but the need to learn more about where this photo came from and the fact that there might be a clue to my nieces disappearance made me force my legs to enter the room.
As I moved into the room I could tell that the bed was made of a polished red oak, not the type of bed you would find in a hospital that was for certain. The head board was large and curved along the top with elaborate carvings along its surface. Four rounded bed posts rose up around the bed to about breast height at each of the corners. I admired the smooth surface of the wood as I set my hand upon one of the balled tips. Whoever made this bed payed close attention to their craft and I could feel that they put their heart and soul into making this bed. Finally I moved my attention from the frame to the centre of the bed. There was thin white sheet draped over the bed and I could see something moving underneath its surface. The figure seemed to be squirming against the cloth as if it held them in place. An open window caused the sheets to flutter about in a surreal manner and for a moment I thought I could see a hand peek out from under the sheet, hanging over the edge of the mattress.
I stepped around the bed, unsure what it was doing in there, but unable to turn away. Something about the movements of those sheets mesmerized me and I could not pull my eyes away from it. I approached the side of the bed and tried to gather the strength to peek under that sheet when I noticed a small pool of blood began to form at the edges of the bed and drip down the sides of the sheets. My fears were suddenly replaced with a need to help whomever was beneath that cloth and I shook away the transfixed feeling that has entrapped my mind. Without further hesitation I reached out and pulled the sheet off in one swift movement. I was startled to find the bed was completely empty aside from four large blood stains, two near the foot of the bed and two more at either side.
Curiously, I inspected the stains and lightly dabbed my pinky finger in the centre to find it was still fresh, warm even. Upon placing my finger under my nose and sniffed at the substance. As my nostrils filled with a sweet coppery scent it verified, for me at least, that it truly was blood. The very fact that the blood had not entirely soaked into the bed and had not even begun to harden told me that whomever this bed belonged to had not been gone very long ago. I'd say about thirty minutes or so tops, but I could be wrong about that. I was not a expert on crime scene investigation but I have read my fair share over the years to know that blood would not be pooled up on the bed like this if it had been longer then a few hours.
Anxiously, I glanced down at the bottom of the bed to find restraints had been attached to the underside of the bed's frame. The sight of which caused me to think back to the days of my night terrors and how my own parents would strap me down to the bed in an attempt to stop me from flailing about and a shudder filled me as I recalled the way the bindings would bite into my flesh. Whomever this bed was meant for the maker did not wish for them to escape during their sleep. Could this bed have been made for a sleepwalker? The thought that someone would strap their child down at night was unsettling to me. Again I recalled the way the leather would cut into my wrists and my eyes returned to the blood. Could mere restraints cause that much blood? I was not certain, but I felt a need to seek whomever this bed belonged to and get them medical attention.
I was about to move away from the bed when my eyes noticed something odd about the restraints and I rushed around the bed to check out the other side, paying close attention to the foot shackles as I passed the foot of the bed. Each were leather with large metal buckles fastened tightly in place. This was what I found unusual. If the person escaped then why were the restraints still fastened? I knelt next to the other arm shackle to find that it too was still secure. How was it possible for someone to free themselves without unbuckling at least one of their restraints.
As I pondered this I spotted a smeared bloody hand print upon the white tile floor below the dangling restraint and something white laying near it. I carefully picked up the object to discover it was a fingernail, not a clipping but an full nail, maybe that of a child. I hastily dropped the nail back to the ground as a wave of uneasy filled my stomach. Why would there be a finger nail laying upon the ground? My eye drifted to a set of marks around the hand print, four long claw marks as if someone had been trying to grip the ground as they were pulled under the bed and that was when I noticed it. Something under the bed stirred and a pair of dark eyes stared out from the shadows at me. I froze in place as I gazed into those deep eyes, eye of some kind of monster that only existed within a child's nightmares. I was far from a child any longer so why would I be seeing this thing? More so why was the mere sight of this creature causing my heart to race with fright.
I fled from the beast, if you could call it flight, it was more like I scrambled upon the floor in an attempt to gain some distance between myself and that bed. I tried to get to my feet, but forgot that my leg was in a splint and could not get it to work for me. The beast snarled at me and I could see a large clawed hand slip out from under the bed and move towards me. I let out a childishly horrified scream as it reached out towards me. I turned and scrambled out of the room, slamming the door quickly behind myself, cutting my IV off in the door. I pulled the needle from my arm, ignoring the small spirt of blood that ran down my arm, and crawled back to my room when a nurse came running down the hall towards me.
"Miss. Bakerson!?!" The nurse called out, startled by my presence in the hall.
I ignored the woman as I continued my way down the hall. I wanted out of that place and away from whatever was in that room.
The nurse grabbed me by the arm and forced me up against the wall, "Miss, Bakerson!!" She shouted at me this time, like I was some kind of child, "What are you doing out here? What are you running from?" She exclaimed, her eyes fell on the blood that had formed on my hospital gown and stared in bewilderment, "What happened to you?
I shakily pointed at the door, "S... shadows..." was about all I could muster. I really did feel like a child again and I hated it. Where was all the collectiveness that I'd gained over the pasted five years? What happened to that bold Private Eye? Where was she? I called out inside of my head, but there was no answer.
Another nurse, a younger one this time, came running down the hall towards us and I shrank against the wall. The first nurse turned to the young woman and pointed at the door I'd just exited, "I'll handle this. You check in there. Something really shook this woman up something furious."
The younger nurse nodded and opened the door to the room. The moment she gazed beyond that door I could see the colour drain from her skin and she placed a hand to her quivering mouth.
"What is wrong?" The first nurse called out, but got no response, "You stay right here." She commanded of me as she let me go and rushed over to the other nurses side. The second she looked into the room she quickly turned away with a hand over her mouth. She shook her head as if she were trying to force the image out of her head. Then she quickly moved away from the door, "We have to find Doctor Jakes." She stated as she rushed to the front desk and picked up the phone.
Suddenly the intercom overhead sprung to life as the nurse's voice rang out over them, "Dr. Jakes to ward 6. Dr. Jakes to ward 6."
Ward 6? My mind raced and I glanced around to find a sign above the nurses station. "Psychiatric In Patient Ward 6" It read. What was I doing back here in the psycho ward? I only broke my leg, didn't I? I struggled to get to my feet and frantically rubbed at the sides of my head. This had to be all a dream. There was no way I could be back here. It was impossible. There was no reason to send me here.
The nurse rushed back to me, with a quick glance into that room again, then stopped in front of me, "Miss. Bakers, What happened in there?" She inquired sternly. For the first time I actually got a look at the woman and remembered her from my days in Ward 6 all those years ago. Mrs. Helder was her name and she had a nasty reputation for being strict and cold. I recalled her once telling me how she wished that she was allowed to go back to the old days of using shock therapy, because it would teach us a few manners. The sight of this old wrinkled woman set a fire within my mind. I never hated human in my life, but this woman was not human in my eyes. She was a vicious demon that gained pleasure from children's sorrow and pain. I hated her with every part of my being and the mere sight of her withered old face made me feel like reaching out and strangling the women.
I raised my head and glared at the woman, "What am I doing here?" I inquired with as much calm as I could muster, trying hard to hide my frustration and anger of the situation .
The nurse seemed startled by my question and I thought I saw her take a step back from me, "Don't you remember?" She asked lightly, as if she were talking to a hostile patient or something along those lines.
I shook my head, "I remember going to the club and trying to help Beth and then I hurt my leg on the back stairs and I was brought here." I explained simply.
The nurse let out a displeased sigh, "Maybe you should wait here until Dr. Jakes arrives." She suggested, gesturing to a chair across from my room.
"I don't want to speak to that man ever again." I snarled at the nurse. I was losing it and I could feel it. I hated losing my temper, but I hated it more when people, like this nurse, danced around a topic instead of being straight forward with me, "Tell me what the hell I'm doing here?" I demanded, taking a step towards the woman.
She raised her hands up in defence, "You were admitted after breaking your leg." She stated frantically, "You kept going on and on about some girl disappearing and that you are a detective so they sent you up here for observation."
"My friend did disappear." I shouted, appalled by the way I was being treated, "She vanished while I was at a club. One second she was there and the next she had disappeared. Just like so many of the children in this hell hole!!" I exclaimed.
Suddenly a doctor came running down the hall with his white doctor's coat fluttering around him. I turned to face the man and greeted him with a snarl which made him stop shortly in front of me, "Why hello Brenda. I'm glad to see you are well."
"Well, I'm not glad to see you." I hissed. He was a greying old man that looked innocent enough, that dissolved the moment you got the know the man. His face always held a long expression as if he were incapable of smiling. He watched me carefully through his thick rimmed black glasses that sat upon his fat nose. The very sight of the doctor infuriated me more then seeing Nurse Helder again. This man suggested to my parents that I should be admitted to this hospital back when I was fifteen and I've despised him ever since. I was supposed to only spend a week and ended up staying for over a year. He kept coming up with excuses as to why I was not allowed to leave and seeing him again sickened me.
"I see you are the same old fireball of energy." He observed with his usual chuckle, a sound which I loathe intensely and still haunted me in my nightmares, "Do you not remember why you are here?" He inquired curiously.
"I had an accident and broke my leg." I stated coldly, "Is there anything wrong with that?"
"Hmmm..." He opened a folder in his hands and looked over some papers, "It says here that you claim to be a detective, is that right?" He inquired with a raised eyebrow. He always raised that eyebrow when he was being cynical or talking down to people.
I rolled my eyes in disbelief, "Of course it is. After leaving here I made sure to never end up here again."
"What school did you attend?" He quizzed.
"It was..." I suddenly froze. My mind felt as if it suddenly drew a blank. I knew I'd attended a detective school, it was not the best one, but it taught me the basics and allowed me to open my own business. I'd worked so hard to gain the respect of the town's people and never look back at my past. So why couldn't I remember the name of the school.
"You can't remember can you?" He inquired with a smirk.
I felt a rage build up inside of me and I reached out for the man, "You prick!" I screamed out, my hand circled around the collar of his shirt, "What have you done to me? I was living my life the way I wanted and then you ruined it as always. I'm not insane, you are!!" I screamed into his face like a madman. I guess at that time I really did seem insane, but I remember going to work everyday and reading over each of those cases one by one. I am not a liar. They must have done something to me. They must have.
Suddenly I felt something prick me in the rear and the world started to become blurry. My arms weakened and I sunk into his arms like a puppet with its strings cut. I heard him say something, but his voice was gurgled and sounded as if I were hearing through water. This could not be happening to me again. I was finally getting somewhere in life. It can't be all a lie... what about Liz? Was she part of my imaginary world as well? The questions circled in my mind as I drifted into a deep sleep.
To be continued
Note: The world of the shadowlands, Its stories, Characters and ideas are a copyright of Kathryn K Williams.
This story is based upon my manga of the same name. If you wish visit my site and see some of the art based on this series at http://www.KatAndNekoManga.ca
Also if you spot any typos or other errors please contact me at Kathryn@KatAndNekoManga.ca