Locked

Submitted into Contest #206 in response to: Set your story in an eerie, surreal setting.... view prompt

13 comments

Horror Suspense Thriller

**Caution: Curses Ahead, as well as implied malice (severity imagination dependent)**



“Jesus fuck…” she thought, as she wrestled with the rusted lock on the oversized metal door. 

“Can’t they get a new lock? Would that be so terribly difficult?” Dana thought as she jammed the key into the hole. A dim light the color of sulfur struggled to shine above her. 

With a click and a clink, she managed to tug the lock open. She pulled it from the chains that wrapped through the door handles, pushing them aside. Her fingers had a light dusting of red orange from the lock, and she thought twice before slipping it in her uniform pocket. 

One week here, and already she gets the shit job of bringing files to the locked basement in the hospital’s hospice wing, the oldest section of the hospital where typically the oldest patients are sent. 

She didn’t even want to do this stupid ass Candy Striper volunteer bullshit. If it weren’t for her mother forcing her to do it, she’d be home sampling whatever trash liquor her father bought that week. 

But here she is. Stack of files lodged in her armpit, pink stripes all down her back. Like a damn feminine zebra. 

Earlier this evening, she was assigned the job of pharmacy runner. That’s the only thing making this nightly charade worth it. She goes to the pharmacy window, checks the row of “out” baskets, and delivers the medications to the nursing floors. She checks the labels. She pockets the Xanax and Valium. Not all of it, of course. It’s not like they count each pill when it’s dropped off. They just assume the pharmacy got it right, and you can’t even notice a few missing. A few pills from each, and nobody is the wiser. Seems they should keep better track of this shit, but what does she know, she’s just a kid. A sweet looking 15 year old with honey blonde curls, hydrangea blue eyes, and enough charm to fool anyone in her path. Those suckers. 

But now the task at hand. Or, in this case, in armpit. She shifts the files to her hands and gets rust prints on the manilla covers. There’s a thumbprint covering a patient’s name, but she can still read the writing. “Barbara Monroe 1932 - 1994” was printed in black pen on the little tab. Must have passed away this week. 

She pulls on the heavy gray door, and it releases a high pitched squeak in protest. The hinges are as rusted as the lock. 

Once through the door, Dana can’t see a thing. She tries to let the yellowed hall light shine in enough to see a light switch. She takes a step forward and feels something slowly move across her head. With a startled gasp, she grabs at it to tear it away, and inadvertently releases a blast of light from a single bulb above her head. A pull string for the only light she can find. And not a moment too soon, as she was inches from a staircase leading down into a cold darkness. Frigid air hit her face as she moved closer, and her arms filled with goosebumps. 

In one pocket, the rusted lock weighed against her leg. In the other, the pills she stole weighed against her mind. She felt for them, decided four would be fine, and swallowed them down. And now down she went. 

Her hand found an icy metal railing, and she slowly took the first steps down into the basement where the files were kept. Also kept in the cold basement were rows of recently passed bodies. Because as Dr. Werner had told her, “They won’t be looking at the confidential files down there.” She politely faked a laugh and sucrose smile at his joke, then took the stack from him to set out on her mission. 

In her mind, she counted the steps down.

   She was running low on light by step 12, and looked above her for more outdated light sources. Just when she could barely see anymore, the floor evened and the steps stopped. Before her was another door, black this time. Or was it just the dark that made it appear so? Her hands were sweating as she grabbed the doorknob and hoped it would be locked. She held tightly to the files, not wanting to drop them, and gave the knob a slow expectant turn. She thought she heard…no, it was nothing. Was it? She glanced behind her and up the staircase. She waited and listened. Nothing. Just her imagination. Maybe one more pill would help. She swallowed another, opened the door, and stepped into a dark room. She half expected icicles to be hanging from the ceiling as she switched on a light, found (too) easily near the outside of the door. 

A row of white sheets covered bodies laid to her right. A row of gray filing cabinets stood to her left. A small buzzing filled the room, escaping from the two bare lightbulbs screwed into the ceiling. One flickered, then went out. 

“Great. Next they’ll probably have me come down here to change the bulbs.” Dana thought as she shuffled her white sneakered feet toward the files. 

She squinted in the dim light to try to read the labels on the cabinets, faded from the years. Her eyes focused, and her ears alerted her to a sound in the hallway. A sound of…footsteps? She turned her head and bolted upright, staring at the small window separating life (hers) and death (theirs) in the room, from the hallway outside the door. 

“Hello? Is someone there?” she called out. 

Silence. 

She waited and listened, finally looking back to the cabinets. She was going to file her papers and get the fuck out of there. Nobody specifically “told” her to file them alphabetically, so she didn’t. She shoved the files in, slammed the cabinet door, and froze. 

A hand was on her back. 

Then, she was on the floor. 


****


Was it minutes or hours later when Dana woke up? She felt groggy, her head was aching, and her right arm was covered in scratches. What the hell happened? She rolled to her side, the buzzing light seemed to buzz louder. 

Sitting up, she held her head, and looked at her arm. Were they from an animal? A person? She vaguely recalled hearing something in the hallway. Was it someone looking for her? 

She heard a rustling near the bodies prostrate in front of her. The end of a sheet swayed in what seemed to be a breeze, or someone moving past. There was no breeze down here, no windows, no fresh air. Maybe she imagined it? 

“Hello? Is someone in here?” she called out to the dank room, voice shaking. 

No answer. 

Struggling to her feet, she felt her pocket for more pills. They were all gone. Had she taken them all? Had someone else taken them from her? She felt her other pocket. Where was the lock? It was gone. She definitely had put it in her pocket. Fuck. 

She moved as fast as she could to the black door and found it locked. Did it lock by itself once you entered the room? She tried the door again, and began to bang on it. 

“Hey! Open the door! I’m down here! Hey!” she shouted at it. 

Would anyone come looking for her? Her job tonight was pharmacy runner, so only Dr. Werner knew she had come down to the basement to bring the files. Dr. Werner. He’d come to find her, wouldn’t he? She thought back to when he asked her for the “favor”. He had glanced around…was he making sure they were alone? Nobody else had heard. 

Dana walked back to the filing cabinets. She opened the drawer and pulled out the rust stained folders she had carelessly shoved in earlier. She opened the first one. Empty. Her stomach dropped. She opened the second. Empty. Her heart began to race. She opened the third one. Inside was a single sheet of paper. Typed in the middle of the page were the words “You don’t fool me, Dana…”  

Dana sank to the floor. What the hell was going on. Her heart was pounding. The last remaining light in the room turned off. Darkness. Shit. 


 *****

Dr. Werner slipped the lock into the chains on the oversized gray door. With a clink and a click, he gave a tug making sure it was secure. He placed the rusty lock’s only key in his lab coat pocket, smiled, and licked his lips. Mmmm. He had a new “patient” that he was very much looking forward to taking care of. She’ll make a great..addition…to his caseload below. 

July 13, 2023 15:04

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13 comments

Graham Kinross
23:59 Nov 21, 2023

The ending where anything could happen is powerful because we can all put our own nightmares on it. Grim indeed.

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Zorah Starr
00:23 Jul 20, 2023

Wow! I love your use of description and character voice. You did a great job building up Dana’s growing anxiety. I think my only ‘issue’ is the mix of past and present tense. It confused me a bit in certain places. But, I’m not an editor, so this could just be a me thing. Other than that, I throughly enjoyed this! I was hooked from the beginning.

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Marty B
17:27 Jul 17, 2023

I thought you had great imagery, I could *see* the dark hospital basement with the weak lighting and got the shivers! Poor Dana!

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Nina H
19:02 Jul 17, 2023

Thanks for reading my story, Marty! Yes, she doesn’t even know what’s coming!! I’m in the fence about continuing that story or just burying it right there.

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Michał Przywara
20:31 Jul 14, 2023

That's a fun horror :) Definitely a creepy setting, and we're not sure where it's all heading. It could have gone a couple different places - I thought perhaps she'd come upon something Gruesome like a corpse, or perhaps she'd run into the undead. The idea of a wild animal also was a possibility. The actual end is more mundane, and in many ways, more horrifying. Poor kid. Dana's a bit of a train wreck, but poor kid. Thanks for sharing!

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Nina H
22:43 Jul 14, 2023

“Fun horror” is kind of oxymoronic isn’t it? 😂 Definitely not my genre or comfort zone. Your ideas of what you thought “might” happen were likely more horrific than what I actually wrote! And that’s why I added the disclaimer at the beginning about implied malice and needing some imagination. It can take on a much more frightening read depending on what the reader brings to the table. But, that said, these prompts are great for getting out of comfort zones and writing to grow. And I certainly appreciate any feedback anyone is willing to of...

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Michał Przywara
01:15 Jul 15, 2023

Yeah, you're right about the comfort zone thing. Some weeks there are some real no-idea-whatsoever prompts, but that adds to the challenge and definitely results in some nice stories :)

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Kevin Logue
21:42 Jul 13, 2023

Marvelous Nina. You kept the tension and creepiness building. How takes five Xanax to do paper work, teenager these days, am I right? Ha. "In one pocket, the rusted lock weighed against her leg. In the other, the pills she stole weighed against her mind." I enjoyed this paragraph. I have a love for dual, and triple sentences, I'm sure there is a proper literature term for it. Great job Nina.

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Nina H
00:25 Jul 14, 2023

Thanks so much Kevin! Maybe the literary device would be parallelism in structure? Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

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Mary Bendickson
17:53 Jul 13, 2023

Horror personified.

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Nina H
18:02 Jul 13, 2023

Maybe the most frightening 😬😱

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Unknown User
20:57 Jul 23, 2023

<removed by user>

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Nina H
21:27 Jul 23, 2023

Hey Joe! Thanks so much! That means a lot :)

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