Happy Bird-Day

Submitted for Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that ends with a twist.... view prompt

I slid over a patch of musty papers as I rapidly turned another corner, nearly sending me crashing into the third-story window to my left. I regained my footing without losing much speed, though. And good thing I did, too, because whatever bird-demon-creature was behind me was right on my heels, and I was barely making any headway getting away from him.


The longer I ran though, the farther I got from it. Slowly, I built a distance between us.


Finally, I skidded to a halt and dashed through an open door to the side of the hallway. I pressed myself against the wall behind the door and did my best to calm my heavy breathing. It was lucky I was a marathon runner and not a sprinter. The bird-creature’s thunderous footsteps passed by the open doorway. I drew in a sharp breath and did my best to hold it. The creature was emitting a low growl as it made its way along the corridor. I heard it stop around halfway down. Looking for me. But I was gone. I heard it slowly walk away and turn another corner.


The breath I’d been holding finally escaped my mouth in one giant sigh as I slumped onto the ground. 

Geez… What had even gotten me to this point? I thought back to just about an hour ago when life was normal and there were no scary bird-creatures chasing me…


...


I stood outside the abandoned mental facility, proud of myself for finally working up the nerve to visit it. I’d always been fascinated with the ghastly and macabre, but from a distance. I’d never experienced anything up close. You’d think I would have by now with this place right in my town, but I’d always been scared. I’d read what crazy things could happen in abandoned buildings, especially abandoned buildings like this one.


This haunt, in particular, was an old mental institution that shut down a couple of decades ago. So many tortured souls must’ve died in there… Thrilling!


I took my bolt cutters to the fence around the side of the building. I’d made sure to wear gloves so nobody could get my fingerprints off anything. It was almost as good as a real-life professional heist!


As soon as I finished cutting a hole large enough to crawl through I dropped the bolt cutters and my backpack into the brush and squeezed myself through.


The bolt cutters made themselves handy again pretty quickly. They sliced right through the large, rusty padlock on the front doors. I burst them open with a dramatic flair. If ghosts were going to get me, I might as well go out with style.


If I thought the building looked large from the outside, oh boy was I mistaken. The inside looked absolutely massive. The beautiful lobby stretched up the whole three stories of the facility and had a large staircase straight up the center of the back wall, which split off in both directions at about 1/2 of the floor’s height up. 


I decided on the stairs over the two corridors to my left and right, of course. I bounded up them two at a time, with no set goal in mind. I was just here to explore!


I turned on my flashlight as I entered a windowless corridor off to my right. A breeze- or a draft, I guess- blew from it, calling me. I shone my flashlight carefully through each open door, leaving the closed ones be. The walls were covered in random spots of graffiti, some of it that I don’t care to repeat the wording of. I wonder how the artists got in… The front doors didn’t look like they’d been opened in years, with all the rust built up on the lock. How old must this graffiti be?


CLANG! a sound echoed down the hall.


I jumped. Like in the air. Probably about a foot or so, and spun around.


I rushed back down the hallway but skidded to a halt as one of the doors caught my attention. It had my name on it! How had I not noticed it on my way down the hall? 


Wait. I touched the paint gently with my fingertip. Yup, it was fresh. I wiped the paint off on my old jeans and grasped the door handle.


It turned… Slowly… Almost as if my hand was acting on its own. My heart was pounding itself out of my chest. I pushed the door ajar, then felt a tap on my shoulder.


I yelped and spun around, but there was no one there… 


I pushed the door the rest of the way open.


The room was a small office with no windows, and perched on the desk was a… creature. It had a bird’s head and beak, and it was covered mostly in patchy feathers and decorated in wooden jewelry. In its hand was a short, ornate staff.


A chill ran through my spine as the bird-creature emitted an ear-splitting screech and took a flying leap off the desk towards me. 


I stumbled backward and took off running down the hallway, heading deeper into the labyrinth of corridors. 


...


So… That pretty much catches us up to where we are now. Me running from this demonic bird-creature.


I finally caught my breath and weakly stood to my feet. A quick peek out of my hiding place revealed the hall to be, in fact, empty. I was partially expecting the bird-creature to be waiting for me right outside of the door, but I was safe… For now.


I wandered the halls for what felt like hours. I checked my watch. 5:45 am. It had been about an hour since I got in. I finally found my way back to the main staircase.


I rounded the corner of the stairs, finding the front doors open welcomingly. I was down the stairs and nearly to the door when-


BAM!


The double doors slammed shut. I rushed the last few steps to the doors and tried to open them, but I could hear the sound of a chain being fitted to the door handle. I gave the door a couple of solid kicks, which were met only with childish giggling from the other side. I had to find another way out… Of a mental institution…


I heard the heavy thud of the bird-creature’s footsteps on the stairs. It peered its creepy face around the corner, craning its neck like, well, a confused bird.


The creature sped down the stairs after me. I took off running down the corridor to my left. 


I reached the cafeteria at the other end of the hallway, leaving a decent distance between me and the bird-creature. I pushed through the- luckily- unlocked door to the kitchen and headed towards the nearest one that looked like an exit. Locked.


I tried the next door. Locked.


They were all locked.


My flashlight died, leaving the room nearly pitch-dark. 


I tried to navigate back to the door I’d come in, but I heard the knob begin to jiggle. The sound of feathered fingers struggling at a knob…


I dove behind a counter and waited.


A shaft of light shone through the door, casting a silhouette of the bird-creature against the wall. 


In the narrow beam of light, I could see a walk-in freezer. I crawled over to it and slowly pulled the door shut.


I sat against the door, hoping that the bird-creature would pass. 


It didn’t… 


BAM!


The pounding of a fist on the door.


BAM! BAM! BAM!


I let out a quiet sob.


BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM!!!


The pounding sped up as more fists joined in on the door to the freezer.


I could hear whispers forming in the air, growing louder.


“Surprise. Surprise. Surprise,” the whispers said, repeating themselves over and over. Surprise?


The pounding stopped.


“Surprise,” the whispering chorus all said in unison, nearly to the volume of a normal speaking voice.


A bright light shone into my eyes, blinding me…



“SURPRISE JIMMY!” a cacophony of voices screamed. As my eyes adjusted to the harsh light, I saw a small group of my friends huddled in the freezer.


My jaw dropped. I suddenly remembered why I’d built up the courage to come in here. It was my 18th birthday. And I figured adults shouldn’t be scared of things like ghosts… 


The freezer door opened, revealing the bird-creature without his mask. My friend Brayden, accompanied by his two daughters, the naughty door-shutters, and their mother.


“Uncle Jimmy!” they both cried and piled onto me. I hugged them back, still a bit in shock.


I turned to face my other friends in the freezer, then collapsed to the ground in tears.


I finally managed to stop crying. “That was…” I began to say, but then trailed off.


“A-mazing! Let’s go again!” I cried out, bursting into laughter.


Brayden sighed and dropped his bird mask to the floor, “No way man, you’ve got me beat.”


“But how’d my flashlight die.”


“Remote control!” my friend Stephen piped up, “I rigged it up, sorry for touching your favorite flashlight…”


I let out a chuckle, “It’s fine… But… How did you know? Like, to set this all up?”


“Well, it was pretty obvious,” Suzy interjected as three others started to speak, but she was the loudest. “You never shut up about wanting to visit this place!”


At this I let out a hearty laugh, “You got me there…” I managed to say through the laughter.


We sent a group down the road to get the army of minivans they’d used to cart all the people there. They slowly drove up to the front entrance, an almost beautiful scene underneath the rising sun.


The party all piled into the minivans and headed to my house, where they’d tasked my girlfriend with setting up the rest of the party. The fun part, not the scary part.


“But, wait…” I told to Stephen, who was driving my van out of the parking lot, then asked, “How did you tap me on the shoulder?”


“Do what?” he asked, obviously confused.


“I- er- nevermind. Nerves, I guess…” I trailed off, glancing back towards the mental institution.


It radiated an ominous energy.



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