The Hospital

The Winner of the 2021 Harrowing Horrors Writing Contest

Jessie B-H

Every day at three P.M., on the dot. That’s when they’d inject her with the clear liquid encased in a syringe. She’d gotten used to the feeling of the needle plunging into her left arm—almost as if she didn’t feel the pain at all. They’d walk into her room every day with their stark white coats and stethoscopes, drugging her with something unpronounceable. There were some other things those “doctors” would give her too; colorful pills that she’d now pretend to take. She was sick, they’d said. Some sort of terrible, highly infectious disease. 

She didn’t believe a word of it. 

The clock read two fifty-nine P.M. She had positioned herself next to the door, listening intently for the familiar click-clack of the nurse’s heels. She readied herself with a breath as she heard the fiddling of the lock, steeling her expression like iron. The door creaked open. She hooked her arm around her neck and plastered her hand over her mouth. Her other hand reached for the syringe, and she jabbed it into the nurse’s arm, watching the liquid sink down with a hidden delight. She would know what it felt like now.

The nurse collapsed to the floor, and the woman unclipped the set of keys attached to her waist. She’d seen the key to her room hundreds of times—long, skinny, and black, like it was opening the door to death. 

A moment later, she stepped out into the hallway. Doors were lining the entirety of it, all the same design and color; blue and unmarked, with gray borders. The walls and floor were pale and white as if something had sucked the color out of them. Lights of the same tone were stretched across the ceiling in rectangular blocks. They had an oppressive feeling. Like they were observing her. Probing at her with unseen hands. She gripped the keys tighter. 

The woman made her way across cautiously. Her feet were bare, the floor like a cold press on her soles. She halted. Voices. She whipped her head around, strands of scraggly brown hair following behind. They were hushed whispers, slowly becoming more coherent with every passing second. She quickly grabbed the handle closest to her and shook the door. It didn’t budge. The set of keys; they had to have one that opened it. She tried each one clumsily, her fingers sweating and slipping through the holes of the objects. One finally fit the lock. 

She pressed her back against the door. The voices had stopped. But the room she was in now was nothing better; she was breathing in some sort of foul odor. Her stomach churned at the smell. It was nauseating, like mold and rotten food. She felt around for the light switch and flicked it on. Surrounding her were numerous tables with something on them that was covered with thick white wrapping. She had a grim feeling of what was under them. With a steady hand, she peeled back the corner of one of the wrappings. A decaying body lay under it, their skin sunken back against the skull and their mouth and eyes wide open, as if they had seen their worst nightmare. The woman threw the cover back on and fumbled back, her breath choked in her throat. She scanned the room once more as the realization set in like a hundred pound weight: they were all bodies. Human bodies. 

She flung the door open and crouched against the wall, clutching her stomach weakly. A morgue, she told herself as she forced down her vomit. It was a morgue. 

A pair of footsteps crept up from behind. She turned, and her face blanched. A doctor stood in front of her, peering down at her with eyes that hung low and heavy. 

“What are you doing out here?” he asked in a monotone voice.

She backed away. “Don’t come any closer.”

He didn’t. Instead, he plucked a syringe from the pocket of his lab coat. The same one that had the clear liquid. 

“You saw them,” he stated, tilting his head. “You weren’t supposed to, you know.”

The woman tried to straighten herself, shaking her head no. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The man didn’t answer. He thrust the syringe in her direction. She shrieked, barely managing to dodge it as it slit her shoulder. A pain that felt like white-hot knives in her skin spread throughout her arm. He tried to yank her forward, and she slashed his face with the sharpest key she had. The man let out a pained yell, reeling backward. She held onto her shoulder and breathed through her teeth. Bare feet shuffled across the dismal hallway. 

She spotted an elevator around the corner and jammed her finger against the button until it opened. The light inside was a vivid yellow, encompassing her at all sides. Suffocating her. Her heart thumped against her ribcage, booming and extreme like a heavy metal drummer, drowning out the sound of the elevator door as it opened again. Ahead of her, a glaring red exit sign hung straight across the door. She heaved herself up and staggered toward it, her feet sloshing through the trail of blood seeping through her fingers. 

She trudged her uninjured arm up to the door’s handle, and shook it. It didn’t open. She shook it again. And again. She tried every key in the set until her hands gave out, cursing her luck. Then a light shone from the end of the hallway. 

The elevator had slid open, and the doctor was let out with the bloody syringe gripped in his hand. The woman uttered a shrill scream, the type that crawled its way up from her gut. She had to do something, anything—so she punched through the glass window on the exit door, ignoring the shards that sliced into her knuckles. Wriggling through the hole, she landed on a patch of overgrown grass and darted through the forest with blood-stained footsteps.