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A story about a group of people trapped in a hospital.

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Lockdown Chapter 19




            Tim and Mrs. Hickory were in a forest. They were walking with Jane towards a castle because some nice little squirrel had told Jane it was a good idea. They didn’t remember the hospital or how they knew each other. They just knew that they must have been good friends because they got along so well. The forest was just beautiful too. It was filled with lush evergreen trees and there were no briars or brambles or any scary animals. And Tim discovered that he could always hear the river nearby; it flowed parallel with the path to the castle. So, there was no way they could even get lost in this forest. Tim was having a wonderful time.


            The group was nearing the edge of the forest when they heard a loud thump. The squirrel who was following them, scurried off to hide. Tim, Jane and Mrs. Hickory walked toward the sound. It was in the direction they were already heading. It wasn’t long before they saw some brush moving on the side of the path. They drew nearer and discovered a woman lying there, moving her arms and legs slowly. Tim thought she was trying to get up.


            “Hey, are you alright?” Tim asked. “Need some help?”


            “No. I’m fine.” The woman in the brush struggled harder.


            “You don’t look fine to me, Lady.” Tim replied.


            The woman said something Tim couldn’t understand and then she managed to lift herself onto all fours. Tim, Jane and Mrs. Hickory stepped backwards as the woman in the brush caught her breath and got on one knee. Then used her recovering strength to stand on her feet.


            “See, I’m fine. Wait…Tim? Mrs. Hickory? And is that…Jane? What are you guys doing here?” The woman in the brush inquired.


            “We’re going to the castle but first we have to get through The Peaceful Forest; that’s what I’m calling it anyway.” Jane said.


            “A nice little squirrel told Jane to go to this castle and then she found us so we all decided to follow her. The Peaceful Forest is so pretty isn’t it?” Tim added.


            “How do you know our names?” Mrs. Hickory demanded. “We never told you.”


            “Yes, you did. At the hospital.” The woman answered.


            “What hospital?” Tim, Jane and Mrs. Hickory asked simultaneously. The squirrel came out from the trees, running and short of breath.


            “We have to go. Come on, hurry!” The squirrel said and sprinted towards the edge of the forest and the castle beyond. Tim, Jane and Mrs. Hickory followed suit. The woman in the brush, whose name was Ria, stood still for a moment. She looked at the dark castle and knew she had made it back. This time, she was going to make it to the castle and nothing was going to stand in her way, especially not those three idiots and their dumb squirrel. But for now, she would play nice with them. Who knows what existed in this world, it would be wise to stick with a group. She ran towards the castle after them. Back in the forest there was another thump, but no one was around to hear it except for the trees and one lonely deer.


Lockdown Chapter 18



"Ria! Ria!" I shouted. After waking up and not finding her in the cafeteria, I had looked around for Ria only to find her in her son's room. I said her name a few times and even nudged her shoulder trying to wake her up. When she made no response I began to fear that she too had succumbed to whatever was plaguing the people in this hospital. I shouted one last time and finally she began to stir.

"Ria, thank God." I said embracing her. "I thought it happened to you too. I don't know what I'd do if I was alone here."

"Don't worry, I'm fine." She didn't return my embrace but looked at me quizically, "Why hasn't it happened to us?" I stared into her eyes, her beautiful dark brown eyes, and found I had no answer.Why didn't it happen to us? It didn't make any sense at all, but in this world, not much does. As I was thinking, Ria laid her head back down and began muttering something. I leaned in closer to hear her.

"I have to go there. I have to get back. I have to go there, I have to. I need to, I need to go back," These sounded like the ravings of a crazy person to me.

"Ria, what the hell are you talking about? Go back where?"

"Oh, **** it. How am I supposed to sleep when you won't shut the **** UP?!" I stood up, shocked at her sudden outburst. She had always been quite and reserved the entire time we were in here. I stood silently watching as she made her way around the room, tearing through shelves and rummaging frantically through drawers.

"What are you doing? What are you looking for?" I asked in a polite and calm tone. I had read somewhere that when dealing with the mentally unstable, one should always speak in a calm and reassuring tone. Without warning, Ria ran out of the small exam room. I followed her and it was all I could do to keep pace with her. She was twenty paces ahead of me the whole way. She finally stopped and when I caught up, she was rummaging through the pharmacy, raiding it like some strung-out junkie looking for a fix.

"Ria, what the hell are you--"

"Found it!" She exclaimed and laughed. She was holding a vial of something. I couldn't tell what it was from the other side of the desk. I don't even know if she could hear me through the glass. Then she slipped a syringe from her pocket, already fitted with a needle. A bad feeling and a sickening suspicion filled my gut then and I knew I had to help her. I darted towards the door as she was filling the syringe with the substance in the vial. I tried to push the handle down but it wouldn't budge. She had locked the door from inside. I shoved into the door with my left shoulder. The shockwave carried over to the rest of my body and sent a jolt of pain into my right arm. I didn't care, I tried it again. This time the door swung open.

Ria was lying motionless on the floor. I ran to her and held her head.

"What are you doing? What did you do?" I pleaded."

"I'm...sorry. I have to go...back..." She closed her eyes and her entire body went limp in my hands. I looked around for the vial; it had fallen out of her hand and rolled to the edge of the desk. I picked it up and read the label: Doxylamine 250mg. That was an ingredient in some sleeping medications I remembered. I did a story on the effects of sleeping pills on the body a few years ago. Most medications were only around twenty to fifty milligrams. She had used the entire vial. All 250 milligrams, save for one or two drops. Ria was not waking up anytime soon.

“****…” I muttered aloud. What do I do now? Ria was most likely going to die without medical attention. So I screamed.

“HEELLLLP!! I NEED A DOCTOR!!” Then I remembered that the only doctor I had seen the entire time I was here was Haxon. He had to be hiding around here somewhere.

“HAXON! I KNOW YOU’RE HERE! SHE’S GOING TO DIE IF YOU DON’T HELP HER! DO YOU REALLY WANT THAT?!” Still nothing. No sign of life anywhere. I was alone now. Every one of the other patients in the waiting room have become lifeless husks and everyone that wasn’t in the waiting room had disappeared. I was the only survivor of whatever the hell was happening. Fear and panic began to creep inside the back of my mind. I knew it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to this thing too. That was when I heard the door to the pharmacy open. I looked toward the sound and there stood Dr. Haxon, grey hair, white coat, he even had a stethoscope around his neck.

“You gotta help her,” I pleaded. He moved toward me, syringe in hand. “Is that going to help her?” I asked. I hoped.

“No,” Dr. Haxon said and looked at me, “This is for you.” Then he lunged toward me and before I could even register what was happening, I felt a prick on the back of my neck. The next thing I saw as my vision started to fade and I slunk to the floor is Dr. Haxon standing over me with a look of mild disappointment on his face. Then everything faded to black.


Lockdown (Ria)


That night was the longest night of Ria Santos's life. Surpassing the night she lost her virginity by about three minutes. What did I just do? She repeated to herself for what must have been the billionth time. Ria was ashamed, lost and lonely. She was pretending to sleep on the hardest, flattest lunch room table on the planet. It was dark but the faint glow from the flickering fluorescents was enough to light the way.

Ria couldn't stand to be in this room any longer so she got up to go check on her son. The hospital seemed a lot different now that it was empty and barely lit. By the time Ria was halfway down the hall, she was already shaking with fear. She had seen way too many horror films and knew what usually happened in them when a young woman was traipsing down a poorly lit hallway. But those were just movies, she kept reminding herself.

At last, she reached the room they had placed Eddie's unconscious body in. The door was open; they had seen no reason to shut it. Ria slipped through the crack without touching the wall or the door. She stood there and looked at her son, tears welling in her eyes before silently walking over to the chair in the corner. It was light so she carried it over to the bed where her son was laying and placed the chair beside him. She sat and held his hand.

"Eddie, my poor beautiful baby, I promise I will save you. *Vamos a ir a casa y tomar un helado. Incluso podemos obtener su favorita, torta de fresa. Oh, Eddie, mi hijo." Ria began weeping as she put her head down on the bed beside her unconscious son's body and fell asleep.

She dreamed she was in a forest. It was evening and as the sun set, the shadows of the trees grew longer. As Ria looked around she saw she was surrounded by these gigantic trees and their eerie shadows. She began to breathe faster and harder. As the fear overwhelmed her, she noticed a shadow of a man run off into the forest. Without thinking she ran after the shadow. Running over pine needles, leaping over roots and dodging trunks, she followed the shadow of this man until she saw where he was leading her. The light at the edge of the forest grew brighter as the shadow and Ria ran closer to it. The shadow stopped when it reached the last line of trees. Standing in the shade of one of the sentinels, he turned around, lifted one hand and waved goodbye. Then the shadow stepped into the light and disappeared. Ria had no choice but to follow.

When she emerged from the forest, she came upon an expansive valley with a winding dirt path which lead to a distant castle. The castle was huge and foreboding with large spires on every side. The setting sun behind the mountains shrouded the castle in blackness. But something was drawing her towards the strange castle. Whether it was an evil magnetism or her own curiosity, she could not say but Ria knew she had to reach this castle. It was as if her life and the life of her son depended on it.

*(If anyone who knows Spanish better than me wants to correct that sentence please do so. I'm 94% sure it's completely wrong. It's supposed to say something like "We can go home and get ice cream. Even your favorite, strawberry shortcake.")


Lockdown Chapter 16


My heart was pounding as Ria’s scream stopped. It was only because of the power outage, she wasn’t succumbing to whatever got Eddie, Tim, Old Lady Hickory and Jane. I was relieved until something grabbed my arm. I flinched away.

“Sorry, it’s just me.” Ria said shakily. I threw my arms around her; my last vestige of sanity in this nightmare. We stayed like this, holding each other for about thirty seconds, though it felt much shorter. A humming sound started and slowly some of the lights began to come back on. They flickered for a while at first and then stayed on. There were only about four of the fluorescent tubes on in the entire cafeteria, working at half wattage. It cast a strange ambience in the hospital.

I remembered I was still holding on to Ria, so I broke away. After all, I still had a wife at home. If she knew I held another woman in the dark for that long, even in a situation like this, she wouldn’t trust me again for six months. Ria and I looked around.

“The generator must have kicked on.” I said.

“Yeah, thank god.” Ria sighed. She sat down. I could still hear the humming of the generator and the faint buzz of the lights. Some of them were flickering, giving the whole room an eerie feeling. I looked at Ria and sat down on the other side of the table.

“What do we do now?” She asked.

“I don’t know.” I replied.

“We’ve searched the entire hospital and we still have no idea what’s going on. I just wish we could find something.” Ria folded her arms on the table and rested her head on them.

“I may have found something.” I said. Ria looked up a bit. “In the Chief’s office, there was a stack of papers, plans to remodel the hospital. Attached to one of the documents was a sticky note that said ‘Dr. Haxon-secret door.’”

“Secret door?” Ria sat upright. “There’s a secret door somewhere in the hospital?”

“I guess. And Dr. Haxon has something to do with it.”

“Well that's a clue, isn't it? If we find this secret door, I bet we can find out what's going on.” Ria’s energy had returned it seemed.

“Hold on, don’t get too excited. We have no idea where this door might be or even how to find it.”

“So we find out how. Pull on some books, find a loose brick in the wall, something.”

“It’s not that easy, Ria. This isn't some mystery novel. With no idea where to start, we could be touching the walls for a month and never find anything. We have to find out where it is first or find Dr. Haxon.”

“Okay.” She said, then she climbed up on the table and laid down on her back right in front of me. My eyes traced the outline of her body before I even realized what I was doing. “We can do all that tomorrow, I’m feeling a little tired.”

“That’s probably a good idea.” I said, standing up. I started to walk over to the next table, but Ria stopped me by grabbing my wrist.

“Come up here with me.” She said. I turned around, we looked in each other’s eyes and got lost. I climbed up on the table and on top of Ria. We stared at each other for a second, our faces just inches apart, then our lips touched. I kissed her the way I used to kiss Gwen, when we were still dating and her father hated my guts. Ria kissed me like she probably kissed Eddie’s father. Our tongues found each other and my hand found her left breast. I cupped it in my right hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Her left hand went up my shirt and her right hand went the other way. When she touched me, I thought of the first time Gwen had touched me. She was so awkward and nervous. It was her first time being intimate with a man. She wasn’t a virgin but her other times were not very romantic, she told me. I thought of the way she had handled me as if it was made of glass and she might break it. I pushed myself off of Ria and laid beside her on the table.

“I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m married.” I said between breaths. Ria stared at the ceiling.

“I know…I just thought, y’know, what if what happened to Eddie and Tim and everyone happens to us too...and what if we don't come back? I'm scared and I feel so alone.. I just want to get out of here!"

“I know. And you will get out. We all will. I don’t care how or when but we’re getting out. And when we do, I’ll still be married and you will still be the girl at the pharmacy.”

“But what if we don’t? What if we’re stuck in here for the rest of our lives? What if we die? What then?”

“If that happens... if we are trapped in here forever, then…at least we’ll have each other.” After that, we slept.


Lockdown Chapter 15



We went back to the hall where Mrs. Hickory was and placed Eddie in the room next to hers. Ria sat by his side sobbing silently in a chair. There was nothing I could do for her except let her be alone with her son, so I decided to use this moment to go back to the kitchen and find myself something to eat. After a few minutes of browsing, I settled with some chicken noodle soup and fruit cocktail.

I was sitting in the cafeteria on one of the uncomfortable round stools, halfway through the can of fruit when I heard Ria walk in. I looked up briefly then returned my gaze to the fruit which was looking less appetizing by the second. She sat two seats away to my left and placed her elbows on the table and her head in her hands. I continued eating. She looked over at me.

“I knew you would get hungry.” She said, placing a can of beans between us on the table. “I didn’t know what you liked.”

“Thanks, but you didn’t have to do that.”

“I wasn’t sure we would be coming back, so I picked it up… just in case.”

“I’ll have to save it for later. I don’t think I can eat another bite right now.” Ria grabbed the can of beans and placed them in a small, white, cloth bag I hadn’t seen before. She must have noticed me noticing it because she explained where she had found it without my asking.

“I found this bag in Eddie’s room; I put all of the supplies we picked up in there too.”

“Good thinking.” I said as she produced the can of vegetable soup she had obtained earlier. I stood up, “Just going to go throw these cans away.” She nodded and pulled the lid off the can of vegetable soup. I glanced around for a couple seconds trying to spot a garbage can. The only one I saw was all the way on the other side of the cafeteria. As I walked, I tried to think of something to say to her to comfort her, reassure her or simply make conversation. I came up short on all three. Looking at the tables with the trays of uneaten food still occupying them, it dawned on me how ridiculous it was that I was even bothering to throw away my cans. We haven’t been trapped long enough to resort to anarchy, I told myself.

When I got back, I sat one stool closer to her than I was before. There was still a whole seat between us. A chair that represented every barrier that I couldn’t cross and every barrier she couldn’t as well, if she even wanted to. I thought of Gwen and felt ashamed for even thinking of trying to get closer to Ria. I tried to force myself to think of other things. My arm in its sling was hurting so I held it close to me cradled in my other arm. Focusing on the pain was almost enough to distract me but not quite. Despite everything that was going on, all I could think about was how to help Ria deal with what was happening to her son. I tried to put myself in her shoes, but I couldn’t. It was too painful to think about. We have no idea what this thing is. What is happening that causes them to scream like that and just fall unconscious? What are they seeing? Will they even wake up? I couldn’t imagine what she must be going through. Maybe there is no right way to help someone in a situation like that. While I was thinking, Ria had finished eating. She stood up and said, “I’m going to the restroom. The trash can there is closer and I have to, well…never mind.” Then she walked away.

And I was alone. I never knew what to do when I was alone like this. I really wanted to explore the chief’s office but it seemed rude to just leave without telling the only other conscious person here where I was going. I didn’t want her to have to worry about anything else. I also didn’t want to rudely interrupt her in the bathroom, so I couldn’t tell her. I needed to stay close in case she was attacked or…something else. I decided to walk around the cafeteria, reading all of the posters and flyers on the walls. Among them were many health tips and notes on cafeteria etiquette, reminders about events the hospital was hosting and the schedule for meals. Nothing interesting at all, but it passed the time.

The first thunderclap sounded while I was standing by the sink in the kitchen. It had been raining periodically and gray skied all day so this was no surprise. I vaguely remembered the morning weather predicting a slight chance of thunderstorms in the area. I looked toward the windows on the far wall, but saw only steel. It had been quite a while since Ria left so I assumed she went to be with Eddie for a little longer. I decided to take this opportunity to investigate the office of the Chief of Staff. She’ll be alright.

The time between the thunderclaps was rapidly dwindling as I made my way to the door with the handle instead of a knob. There was a keyhole but luckily and mysteriously, the door was unlocked. I opened the door slowly and fumbled along the wall for a light switch. I found two of them and flicked them both on. The energy efficient fluorescent bulb came on instantly. The other switch seemed to do nothing.

The office didn’t appear especially interesting. There was a large bookshelf on the wall to my left, a smaller one behind the mahogany desk in front of me. These shelves were filled with medical texts as befitting a hospital. To my right, I saw a fake plant in the corner, a skeleton and a model of the human torso’s internal organs; still nothing strange. There were posters much like the ones in the cafeteria and beside the desk on the right wall were the Chief’s degrees and awards. Two chairs were in front of the desk for visitors to sit in. One of these appeared to have been pushed away suddenly as if the person who sat in it had to leave rapidly. I walked around to the other side of the desk and saw that the high-backed Chief’s chair appeared much the same way. I moved the chair up to the desk and sat down. On the desk was a computer monitor, keyboard and mouse, two stacks of paper (one slightly higher than the other), stapler, pens, other mundane office supplies, a nameplate (Dr. Laurence Marconi) and a couple of family pictures.

The Chief had a beautiful wife and two young children, a boy and a girl. They were standing in front of a large oak tree and they looked like the happiest people in the world. I hoped the Chief and his family were safe so they could be happy like that again. The journalist side of me wished he were here so I could ask him a few questions. The other photo was of the chief and his wife on their wedding day. Someone had captured the moment they sealed their vows in extremely high resolution. The shot looked professional and the décor extravagant, which suggested the chief was loaded. Outside, I could hear the storm getting worse. Rain was pelting the roof of the hospital and the thunder was growing louder.

I quickly turned my focus to the stack of papers, shuffling through them rapidly hoping to find some clue or indication of what was going on here. The papers were predominantly dossiers of the doctors employed by the hospital, the dates and subjects for the next meetings and other less interesting things. I almost put the papers down but somewhere in the middle of the taller left stack, I saw plans for building renovations. It appeared the hospital was planning to expand. There was a yellow post-it note attached to the page. Written on it in red ink were the words “Dr. Haxon-secret door.”

What the hell did that mean? Was there a secret door in the hospital? What did Dr. Haxon have to do with it? Could it have some connection to what’s happening to everybody? It seemed instead of finding answers in the Chief’s office, I had just found more questions. I put the papers back where they were and turned to the computer monitor. It was off so I pushed the power button and turned it on. The computer itself was already on so I didn’t have to sit through the agonizingly slow startup process. When the monitor lit up, I was met with a password prompt. “****!” I said aloud, frustrated. I was hoping it would already be logged in. I was no hacker and I had no way of guessing the password so I shut the monitor off and left the room.

I walked back to the cafeteria hoping Ria would be there. To my surprise, she was. She was standing near the door looking at one of the pictures on the wall. She noticed me walk in and looked up.

“Hey.” She said with a faint smile.

“Hey.” I replied. Then there was a loud boom and the lights went out, leaving us enveloped in darkness. Ria screamed.


Lockdown (Dr. Haxon)

Dr. Haxon 1

Dr. Haxon was in Exam Room A when the alarm started blaring and the hospital locked down. Sweat was pouring off of his head, the only visible part of his skin. The rest was covered by blue scrubs and a white lab coat. A patient was sitting on the bed beside him, holding his head in his hands. They seemed to be discussing something. When the alarm sounded, Dr. Haxon was prepared. He knew it was going to happen soon and he had taken the necessary precautions. The hospital staff had been trained for emergency lockdowns and they had different alarms for specific dangers. That particular alarm meant a threat inside the building. In those instances, staff was supposed to retreat to a sealed safe room until the threat passed. But Dr. Haxon had other plans. He told the man with the headache to follow him and retreated to his underground laboratory. The noise from the alarm was muffled there because the lab was isolated from the rest of the hospital and not connected to the alarm system. It could only be accessed via a secret door in one of the patient rooms, which lead to a staircase and a hallway. He had the lab built shortly after he started working at St. John's in 1999. The Chief of Staff supported the idea, if it meant the doctor would be able to perform more efficiently. However, being under a watchful eye, Dr. Haxon could not do the research and experiments that he would have liked due to the code of ethics and not being able to obtain approval from the FDA or the CDC. But, in 2003, the hospital was forced to change managers and staff. There was a situation which required most of the employees to be laid off. During the confusion of re-organizing and remodeling, all records of the lab's existence mysteriously vanished, so the new staff was not aware of Dr. Haxon's secret laboratory. That was exactly how he wanted it.

Dr. George Haxon was a quiet man and a loner. He simply did not get along with most other people. He put on a façade for his patients to calm them. He would ask them questions about their jobs and lives but he did not really care about them. Dr. Haxon did not obtain a doctorate in medicine to help the general public, but one specific person: his mother.

George was a young boy when he began to notice his mother’s illness. She seemed to always be tired and got sick easily. She couldn’t keep her food down and sometimes was too weak to even get out of bed and go to the bathroom. George, his father and his sister alternated turns cleaning after her and attending her. Throughout it all, she simply refused to go to a hospital and no matter how hard George’s father tried to convince her to go, she would not. For some reason, George’s father couldn’t bring himself to forcefully take her to the hospital. George wanted so many times to do just that, but he knew he would just end up crashing the car. George felt utterly useless. He did all he could to help but it never seemed like enough.

As her condition worsened, George’s father one day gave up. He stopped taking care of her, leaving the job to the two children, now teenagers. He sat in his chair in the living room, drinking various alcoholic beverages and watching television all day, every day. When the kids tried to talk to him, he would become aggressive and shout at them. Sometimes he slapped them and that always p***ed George off. The years passed like this until George was a senior in high school. During that time, there were many moments when he considered killing his father and even his mother to end her misery, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. He found it much easier to just ignore his father. Then one day, as the two siblings came home from school, they found their father lying dead on the floor in a puddle of blood, a .44 Magnum revolver lying next to him.

Their mother’s illness was so bad, that it had begun affecting her mind. She began exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. All she knew was pain and misery. After George graduated high school, he couldn’t take it anymore. He and his sister agreed to admit their mother into a local hospital. The doctors couldn’t determine the nature or cause of her illness and since her condition was so bad, she would most likely die. The hospital transferred her to a better facility about a hundred miles away. George left her in the care of the professionals and his sister and moved far away. All he wanted was to move on and forget about all of it, even going so far as changing his last name to Haxon, in effort to disconnect himself from his family. He went to college and paid his expenses by working in a gas station. Still, he could not take his mind off of his mother. Her illness became his obsession. As hard as he tried to forget about it, he could not. So, for eight years, he studied medicine and chemistry in efforts to learn enough to be able to diagnose his mother’s affliction and find out how to cure it. He knew she was probably dead, but still she haunted every hour of his existence, waking and non-waking. He received his doctorates in medicine and chemistry; due to his expertise and skill, he quickly became quite successful. He was hired at a very reputable facility where he became their chief physician. To this day, Dr. Haxon has never lost a patient or misdiagnosed. But the money that comes with success changed him.

He began spending frivolously on things he didn’t even need or want, just to distract him from thoughts of his mother. He got married, but his wife found him to be an “insufferable jerk” and divorced him, taking most of his money and assets. George barely cared. His wife was just another distraction to him. They had no children. With his wife gone and most of his other distractions with her, George found more time to work. Soon, he made all of his money back, re-purchased all of his distractions and eventually discovered that he had twice the fortune and fame he did before he was married.

In his lab, Dr. Haxon began splicing strains of bacteria and viruses and testing their reactions in various different combinations, then with different chemicals. All of this, to find out what killed his mother, how and why. His experiments continued throughout his entire employment at St. John’s. He even began using human hosts for his new experiments. One of these hosts came in for an appointment right before the hospital locked down, complaining of a headache, and was now standing beside Dr. Haxon in his secret laboratory.


Lockdown Chapter 14


Beyond the kitchen doors, we found ourselves in another hallway. I closed my eyes and sighed due to mild frustration. Ria looked annoyed as well. Eddie still looked scared.

"Another hallway." Ria said, stating the obvious.

"Yeah," I agreed, "Well, let's start checking the doors," I glanced left and then right, "It doesn't look like there are very many of them."

"That's good."

"I'll take the left, you take the right?" I suggested. She nodded her approval. So, I started walking left. If push comes to shove, Ria is going to have to start picking these locks. I tried a knob. The knob refused to turn. I walked a few steps farther. I tried another knob. Same thing. Another. Ditto. At the end of the hall, was another set of double doors like the ones from the kitchen. They would almost surely open, I knew it. However, when I got to the fourth door, the last one before the double doors, I noticed a couple of things. The first thing was it had a handle instead of a knob; The ones you have to push down on to open. The second thing was the sign on the door: CHIEF OF STAFF

Interesting. If there are any clues to what's going on, they're probably in there. I gripped the handle and pushed down. The handle actually moved! Then, Eddie screamed. The same, ear-shattering, banshee sound that Tim emitted. I started running to the other end of the hall as Ria started screaming too. I thought the same thing was happening to her until I heard her saying something.

"Eddie! No! Mijo! Can you hear me? Please, don't..." She started to cry. Eddie stopped screaming and fell limp in his mother's arms, the horrified look frozen on his youthful face. I arrived, but there was nothing I could do to help. I watched as Ria held her son, who was the same age as my son. I watched as she knelt on the floor with him, rocking back and forth and crying. It took all my power not to cry as I thought of the same thing happening to my own son if this virus or whatever it was got out. For the first time, I was glad we were locked in here.

I walked over to her and put my hand on her shoulder. I wanted to hug her tightly and tell her everything was going to be fine. I wanted to wipe her tears away and hold her until we got out of here, like I would have done if she were Gwen. But she wasn't Gwen and I didn't know if everything was going to be fine.

"W-we have to g-go back and put him in a bed...I can't leave him here in a chair." Ria said through her sobs.

"Okay, that's alright. We can go back. Whatever you want. I'm so sorry. I promise, we will get out of here and find out what's causing this. Just stay strong, Ria. Everything is going to be...fine."

On the way back, I checked on Tim. His pulse was still strong, but he was still unconscious. Whatever this was, I had never heard of it before. It seemed like these people were seeing something so shocking that it puts them in a coma. What the hell could cause something like that? I had no idea, but I had every intention to put my skills as a former investigative reporter to work figuring it out.


Lockdown Chapter 13


"Tim!" I shouted. I ran over to him and shook him. He wouldn't get up. I yelled at him some more and even slapped his creepy pale face. "Wake up, damn it! We need you..." It was no use. He was gone. Just like the others. Dead but not dead. Alive but not alive. Now with our muscle out of the equation, we were in quite a pickle. Ria probably wasn't strong enough to do things like breaking doors. I couldn't do much with my broken arm (which was hurting more and more by the minute) and Eddie was just a kid.

I was so worked up that I barely noticed when Ria came and sat by me. She put her hand on my shoulder. Eddie was standing in front of us, staring at Tim as if he'd seen a ghost. The poor kid's probably going to be traumatized after this.

"I can get us through the door." Ria said.


"I can't break it down, but...I think I can pick the lock"

"And you're telling me this now?" I must admit, I was a little angry that she waited this long to tell me she knew how to pick locks. I was also a bit shocked that she could do it in the first place. Even I couldn't do it and what a useful skill that could be in my line of work. If you just gotta get in somewhere to get that big scoop, you might need to unlock a few doors.

"At first, I was scared to tell anybody because I didn't know if I could trust you guys and then Tim was having so much fun with the doors, I just couldn't..." Ria explained.

"It's okay, I understand. Now go do your stuff. I'll put some chairs together for him to lie on."

Before I turned around, I saw Ria pull something metallic out of her bag and kneel in front of the door. I didn't watch her work, instead opting to make Tim more comfortable. When I faced her again, she was standing in front of the open door, hands on hips with a proud smile on her face.

"See." She gloated.

"Very good. Now, let's go. You gotta teach me how to do that some time." I said, stepping through the door.

On the other side of the door was the cafeteria. No one was there, like the rest of the hospital. There were still a few trays of food on the tables. Most of it untouched. They must have just begun eating when the lockdown occurred. Breakfast was a biscuit and eggs with a side of gravy and bacon and a choice of milk or orange juice. All of it probably that fake soy crap, except the juice, of course. It appeared most had chosen OJ.

"Too bad this stuff has been sitting out for hours. But there should be more food in the kitchen." I said while already making my way towards the kitchen on the far side of the cafeteria. Ria and Eddie followed suit. It didn't take us long to find the pantry. It was quite large and filled with all kinds of canned foods and ingredients.

“We should probably stick to canned foods; non-perishables in case electricity goes out and anything unsealed could be contaminated.” I warned them.

"We should have brought a bag or something." Ria said.

"We can find one and come back. For now, just take a few things that you can carry and we'll go."

Ria grabbed a can of vegetable soup. Eddie was eyeing some spaghetti-o's.

"Do you want anything, Lance?" Ria asked as Eddie picked up the spaghetti-o's.

"No, I can manage until we come back." Honestly, I was starving.

"Okay. Then I think we're ready."

We left the kitchen the same way we went in and found the double doors to whatever lay beyond the cafeteria beside the kitchen door. I pushed on it with my good arm and to my surprise, it opened.


Lockdown Chapter 12


Where do we go now? What do we do? We've searched almost everywhere we could and found absolutely nothing. The hospital was empty. So where did everybody go? And how did Haxon disappear? These were questions I didn't have the answer to. I started to retrace our steps, thinking it may help me figure out what we needed to do next.

We started in the waiting room. Haxon went through the side door with Headache Guy. Cue the alarm and the lockdown. Jane disappears. We waited for a long time. I checked the doors in both waiting rooms and the bathrooms. Both waiting rooms. That's it! How did I forget? We can go back to the mirror waiting room and break through that door. Easy. Nothing can go wrong.

"Tim, do you feel like busting another door?" I asked.

"Sure, I guess. It's kind of the only option we have."

"You've been thinking about it too?" I really thought I was the only one. I thought they were just blindly following whatever I told them. I was glad to know I was wrong.

"It's all I can think about." Tim said. Ria nodded in agreement.

And so we left Old Lady Hickory in her room and continued our mission. Now it was down to Tim, Ria, Eddie and myself. Eddie was just a kid so I know all this was probably weighing heavy on him but he never showed any signs of being tired. He just followed along quietly. It was almost disturbing.

"Here we are." I said when we arrived at the door. Tim cracked his knuckles and started stretching. "Oh, would you just do it already?" I said, hiding my aggravation under a joking tone.

"I'm just trying to be careful. What if I get a cramp and end up hurting myself?"

"You gotta be kidding me." I was annoyed but I let him do it anyway. I caught Ria smiling at us. I guess she found it amusing. If my arm weren’t broken, I would have knocked down the door myself. But I wouldn't even be in this mess if I hadn't broken it.

After an unnecessary amount of time, Tim was finally ready. He backed up about six feet, leaned forward a bit, charged, slammed into the door and fell backwards to the floor. The door didn't budge. Ria and Eddie laughed. It made me smile, but I was more annoyed than amused. If Tim couldn't get this door open, then we were done. Our questions would never be answered.

Tim stood up, rubbing his shoulder. "I'll try again." He said and slammed into the door again. The door still didn't give. "Again." He said.

"Tim, it's okay. You tried." Ria said after the fourth attempt.

"No, I have to get us out of here. We have to find Dr. Haxon." Tim said, running into the door for the fifth time.

"Tim, that's enough." I said. He looked at me. His face was determined and a bit scared but the realization finally set in and he sat down in a chair beside the door, exhausted. Ria and I did the same. Eddie sat by his mother facing the door.

"This sucks. I know I can break it down; All I have to do is hit it harder or faster." He was breathing heavily. When I looked at him, his eyes were closed tightly. Tim was obviously trying very hard to remove that door. He wanted to get out of here just as much as the rest of us, if not more. Or maybe he just wanted to make himself seem useful. He probably didn't know it then, but he was the most useful person in the group. I started to say something encouraging like that to him, but when I looked over again, Tim was asleep. I looked over at Ria who was sitting two chairs to my left. She had noticed him too. She smiled and shrugged. I smiled back. And then he screamed.

It was the most unholy scream I had ever heard in my life. Tim Hickory screamed so loud and so long, I thought his lungs were going to jump out of his mouth. And when he finally stopped, his face was frozen in that horrific look of agony and terror. And he was as white as a ghost. The same thing that had happened to Jane and Mrs. Hickory had just happened to the most important member of our group. We were trapped.


Lockdown Chapter 11



"Granny!" Tim shouted as Old Lady Hickory fell to the floor. He lunged to catch her and was just in time to stop her head from smacking onto the tiles. "Oh god, Grandma...are you okay? Can you hear me?"

"Tim," I began solemnly, "I don't think she can-"

"Shut up!" Tim yelled at me. "Don't touch her!" He screamed at Ria when she tried to check the old lady's pulse. Tim was just sitting in the floor, holding his grandmother's head in his lap, crying and rocking back and forth, muttering "It's gonna be okay. Nothing's wrong with you. You just got sleepy, that's all."

"Tim, we really need to see if she's okay." I said calmly. Mrs. Hickory's face looked just like Jane's. All the color was drained out, her mouth was open in what looked like a scream of agony, eyes open wide, and the pupils were completely closed.

Tim touched his fingers to her neck. "She has a pulse." He said dejectedly. "Help me." So I helped him lift her up onto the exam table like we did with Jane. And like with Jane, there was nothing else we could do, so we continued our search for clues.

Somehow, Dr. Haxon had disappeared. I knew I saw him go into that room but he wasn't there. So how in the hell did he do it? I couldn't figure it out. Tim stayed behind with his grandmother while Ria, Eddie and I checked the rest of the rooms in the hallway. No one said a word. When we got to the end, there was a five-inch sheet of steel where a window used to overlook the road and the rest of the city beyond. On the wall adjacent to this was the door to the waiting room we saw Haxon and the headache guy go in.

"What now?" Ria asked.

"Other side." I replied.

"I wanna go home." Eddie whined.

"I know; Mommy wants to go home too." Ria hugged him and did her best to comfort him but the kid looked like he was about to start crying. He managed to hold it back in the end. We walked back to get Tim. He didn't want to leave his grandma so I grabbed a couple more chairs from the other room and the four of us took a break.

We sat in silence for a while. I'm not sure how long, but it was 4:55 when Tim broke the silence. "So, Lance, how long have you had anger problems?" That was a subject I wanted to avoid. "I'd rather not talk about it." I replied. "And how do you know about it anyway?"

"It's pretty obvious. Why won't you talk about it?"

"It's not a happy story. Let's just leave it at that."

"Fine." Tim said, disappointed.

More silence. I hated it. The awkward feeling of wanting to say something but having nothing to say. The nervousness of not knowing how people will react if you tell them something but wanting to do it anyway. It was driving me crazy. p***ing me off.

"It started about a year after my son was born. Well, I guess I've always had problems with it but it didn't get bad until then. I was 23. In my fifth year of college. My wife and I were struggling with bills and the baby. I guess I just couldn't handle the stress anymore. I started shouting a lot. One day, I got so mad; I raised my fist at Gwen...That was when I realized I had a problem. I went to a bar, looking for help at the bottom of a bottle. I was walking home half drunk and p***ed off at myself when some punk kid ran into me on a skateboard. That was all it took for me to completely lose my ****. I jumped on him and just beat the hell out of him. I was about to hit him with his skateboard when someone from the bar whacked me in the back of the head with something. I don't know what it was but I was seeing stars until the cops showed up and took me to jail. I ended up having to pay the guy's hospital bill and take anger management classes. I learned later that the guy almost didn't make it. I punched him so hard that it actually caused internal hemorrhaging and a few broken bones in my hand. A year goes by, I learned a lot from my anger management and I got better. My family was happy. I was happy until this morning. And I think maybe it's the stress of being in this damned place that's causing me to lash out at you guys. By the way, I truly apologize for that. I will try to keep it under control."

When I was done, Ria put her hand on my shoulder as some kind of comforting gesture. I appreciated it but I never did understand little things like that. Nobody said anything for a while after that. Eddie was asleep. Tim finally let go of Mrs. Hickory's hand and everyone was waiting for my orders. But I had nothing to give them.


Lockdown (Gwen)



Death rides a pale horse. For some reason I couldn't figure out, this phrase kept repeating itself in my head. If only I had known, what it meant then. Maybe everything and everyone could have been saved.

I was driving Jake to school that morning when the rain started. I didn't even notice the clouds in the sky until then. But Jake did. He had brought his umbrella with him.

"I hope Dad's okay." He said.

"It's just a little rain, honey. I'm sure your daddy will be fine. Now, is there anything special you want me to pick up while I'm at the store?"

"Ice cream!" Jake shouted. The boy loved his ice cream. We tried not to spoil him but I think its okay as long as you don't overdo it. Kids deserve to eat sweets and have fun once in a while and nobody likes being the mean parent.

"Okay, which flavor would you like? I'm thinking chocolate. Do you want chocolate?"

"Yeah!" Chocolate was Jake's favorite and mine. I enjoyed a little ice cream every now and then almost as much as he did.

"Bye bye Jakey, have fun at school. Love you." I told him as he got out of the car.

"Bye Mommy, I love you too." Jake opened his umbrella and started walking towards the school. I began driving to my next destination: the local grocery store, where I would first hear the news. I was standing in the checkout line with the ice cream, milk and a few other things in my cart when I overheard the women in front of me saying something about a lockdown at a hospital. I felt sorry for the people trapped in there like any normal person would, but I never thought one of those people could be my husband. Death rides a pale horse.

I paid for the groceries, put everything in the backseat of the car and began driving home. When the sound of nothing but the rain became unbearable, I turned on the radio. They were right in the middle of the breaking news report about the hospital.

"Local police and investigators are not sure what exactly prompted this lockdown at St. John's Hospital but they have made a list of patients and staff who are trapped inside. You can view this list by going to our website: www dot--" I don't like listening to sad stories so I tuned in to our classic rock station. Ozzy Osbourne was on. I didn't know the song but I knew his voice. I had just made it into the garage when I noticed Lance's car was gone. At that moment on the radio, I heard "Mr. Crowley, won't you ride my white horse?" I froze with my fingers touching the keys. The next line "Mr. Crowley, it's symbolic of course" struck me even more. I turned it off before I heard anymore. It was too weird. I mean, what are the odds that the day I can't get that phrase out of my head, I turn on the radio and hear almost the exact line in a thirty-year-old song. A song I had never heard before. It felt too surreal for me. I'm one of those types who tries to avoid strange and potentially dangerous situations. It's gotten me this far, so I'd say it's working pretty well. I shrugged the whole thing off as a freaky coincidence and brought the groceries inside.

While putting some cans of soup in the cupboard, I thought about Lance. Where was he? He didn't have to go in to the office today. It was his day off. And he would have told me if he was planning to go somewhere. Did he at least get that Frisbee down for Jake? I grabbed my umbrella, walked outside, and backed up a few steps so I could see the roof of the garage. I did not see the Frisbee. Feeling a little satisfied, I started to turn and go back inside when I noticed the ladder on the ground. At first, I grew frustrated that my husband would so carelessly leave it lying there. I started to go pick it up when I thought of what I said to him before I left. "Don't fall and hurt yourself." Death rides a pale horse.

I raced back inside and grabbed my keys. Knowing that was the closest hospital for miles and it had to be that one but praying it wasn't. I got in my car and started driving towards St. John's Hospital. All the while hoping and praying "Please be okay, Lance. Please be okay." It's symbolic of course.


Lockdown Chapter 10


Finally, the time had come. After discussing our plan, waiting for nightfall seemed like a bad idea. The hospital's lights were still on but if the power shut off for some reason, none of us had flashlights or even cell phones. A fact I still found hard to believe. So it was decided: at four o' clock, we get the **** out of this place. We grew more and more restless as the hour approached. Passing the time with idle chatter about what we were going to do when we get out. I knew what I was going to do. This story has to go in the paper one way or another. Written and edited by Lance Carter. What I didn't know at the time is this whole event was a lot deeper than a few people trapped in a hospital waiting room. Oh no, it was much bigger than that. Everyone else had the same plan: go hug their family and never take freedom for granted again, all that bull****. They weren't looking at the big picture. I was. I knew something big was going on. I didn't know what exactly but this was no accident. And these doors are not standing in my way anymore.

It was decided that we break into Jane's receptionist area first. So we did. I let Tim do the honors. His face had the biggest grin I've ever seen as the chair crashed through the pane of glass. Once he was in, he unlocked the door and we all got to work. Checking the phones, reading files, trying to guess the password on the computer. All for nothing. The phones didn't work, the files were useless and no one could guess the password. Locking the computers must have been part of the lockdown system.

After a few failed attempts kicking the door to the hallway from the reception area, Tim knocked it down by ramming into it shoulder first. He and the door fell to the floor. I heard Ria yelp when they went down. Tim got up rubbing his shoulder. First order of business was to find where they keep the slings and other medical supplies. Luckily, for us, the doors to the some of the outpatient rooms were unlocked. In the first one, we found a sling for my arm. Thank God too because I could barely hold it up anymore. The pain was almost unbearable. Once I had that settled as comfortably as it was going to get, and Ria grabbed a first aid kit and some other supplies that she stuffed in her tiny purse, we moved on. We checked all the rooms we came across and found nothing. I noticed something strange as we were searching: it seemed like there were no other patients. No other people at all in the place except us. There was only silence but in the air lingered something else. An unmistakable feeling of dread and absolute terror. The uneasy atmosphere continued to increase in severity as we opened door after door and still we found no one. Nothing to give us any idea of what was going on. And then we found something.

Tim and his grandmother were on one side of the hallway, checking rooms while Ria, Eddie and I were on the other side. As we reached the first turn, there was one more room to check. It was the janitor's closet. I opened the door. A broom and the body of Jane the receptionist collapsed to the floor. I heard Ria scream. It was a bloodcurdling shriek like the ones in the horror movies when the killer is about to take his next victim. Tim and Mrs. Hickory quickly joined us. I shielded Eddie's eyes. Ria latched onto me. The old lady looked away, hand on her chest. Tim just stared. Jane's face was frozen with a look of shock and horror. Her skin was pale. I started to drag her lifeless body out of the closet when I felt it. A pulse. It was faint but I was sure I felt it.

I pressed my fingers to her wrist. Yes, there it was. Jane's heart was still pumping blood.

"She's alive." I said, relieved as I turned to face the others. "Her heart's still beating." I helped Tim move her to one of the empty rooms and put her on the exam table.

"What's wrong with her?" Tim asked.

"I don't know." I said. "She's alive, that's all that matters." But I knew that wasn't true. We decided to leave her there until we found a doctor. So without further ado, we continued our search.

We turned the corner and there standing by an open door, was a gray-haired doctor.

"That's Dr. Haxon!" Tim shouted. The doctor ran into the room and shut the door behind him. I ran to the door, opened it. Nothing. No doctor, just a normal looking hospital room.

"What the hell?" I asked the empty room. The room didn't reply. We entered the room and began searching. And that was when Old Lady Hickory fell to the floor. Her skin was pale. A look of abject horror was frozen on her face.


Lockdown Chapter 9


As soon as the clock struck 10:15 AM, I cleared my throat, partially to get everyone's attention and also because it had gotten dry while I was in my happy place (which wasn't so happy anymore). We had only been trapped in this place for just over two hours, but it seemed like more than that. A lot more. When they were alert, I started to deliver my message.

"I don't want to let you guys down but, I think we should wait a bit longer before we start damaging the place. I mean, the lockdown could be lifted at any moment and I don't really want to pay for any damages that may occur. I think we should wait at least a day before kicking doors down or whatever. I know you were all looking forward to it; so was I. But I think we should be smart about this and maybe, if we're lucky, we won't have to break anything." Message delivered.

"I agree, Lance. We shouldn't be too hasty." Ria said. Then Tim stated his opinion.

"I think we should just do it. It's obvious this thing is real. No one is going to save us. They have us trapped in here like animals and I say we show them that we are people and we can't be caged up like this." Tim had a good point but I still believed it was too soon and after having Ria agree with me, there was no way I was changing my mind.

"I think it's too early to make that assumption, Tim. You're just being pessimistic." I said, hoping he would see reason. I should have known he wouldn't go down that easy.

"I am not being pess... pessimistic. I'm stating the facts. If we ever had a chance of getting out of here, it would have already happened."

"But, it's only been two hours." Ria said a look of amused apprehension on her face. Perhaps she thought it was funny watching Tim overreacting and both of us clearly getting angrier by the second.

"Two hours will soon be two years if we don't act now instead of doing NOTHING!" Tim shouted.

"Hey! Lower your voice, damn it! It's only been two fuh-(Ria and Eddie)...freaking hours, Tim. You're jumping to conclusions way too soon. I've waited longer than this in line at the grocery store. Now, we are not breaking any doors or windows until tomorrow. And that's that. End of discussion." I think that may have worked.

"We have to get out of here." Mrs. Hickory said again. In the same, creepy way of before. I started to think that was the only thing she knew how to say but I found out that wasn't the case when she said this: "My... son."

"What are you talking about, Granny? You don't have a son. Just a daughter: my mom." Tim looked confused.

" get out...of...he-here." Mrs. Hickory repeated. Her face was as white as a sheet. She wore an expression of total fear. It was easy to see that she was genuinely terrified of what might happen in this place. Or maybe she knew what was going to happen the whole time. The words became more foreboding with each syllable. I never heard of a few simple words being so terrifying until that day. More terrifying than the words "I love you" spoken by a girlfriend or boyfriend when you're not sure if you return the feeling or not. In that moment, a thousand possible responses can enter your mind at the same time and they all sound wrong. And by the time you figure out what to say, the hesitation has already let them know, the feeling isn't mutual.

"Tonight. We get out of here tonight." I decided to slightly alter our plans. I didn't know what the old woman was talking about but she looked like she knew. And I wanted to heed her warning. I think we all did.

To say Old Lady Hickory single-handedly changed my mind would not be entirely false. But adding to the effect of her cryptic words were the reactions on my "cell-mates" faces. They all looked just as terrified as I felt. The air had a sudden chill even for a hospital and we all knew in that instant that Tim was telling the truth a minute ago. No one was going to save us. If we wanted out, we had to find our own way out. If we wanted to see our families and friends again, we had to make it happen. If I ever wanted to see Jake and Gwen again, I had to step up and take responsibility for whatever may happen. I had to get out of that dungeon. And no forces of hell, or heaven, or man, or beast was going to stop me. I wondered if my wife and son even knew where I was then. Jake would have been in school so he wouldn't have a clue. Gwen was probably shopping still. I hoped that when she got home, she would see the ladder still lying on the ground and the missing car and connect the dots. I envisioned a multitude of different possible outcomes but my mind kept circling back to one thought: Will I ever see them again?


Lockdown Chapter 8


It took a bit longer this time, but when I was finally back in the clearing, my thoughts began flowing naturally. Like the spring I was sitting beside, my mind was unobstructed and free. First, I thought of how stupid it was to get mad at something so petty. Eventually my mind's chain of thoughts became less like a stream and more like a waterfall. So I tried to calm it by focusing on the air and the noises of the small animals in the trees. While watching the brightly colored fish swimming in the stream, my mind began to slow down. Until I was almost completely devoid of thought. And then the deer came back. The same white-tailed buck from before. Two things I noticed about the buck this time. The first was the velvet on its antlers was gone, which means time must flow differently in here. The second was I did not create this deer. Everything else; the spring, the rock, the fish, the trees, the birds I created with my mind. But this deer was not mine. How did it get here without my willing it into existence?

The deer began to walk slowly towards me from the woods. It neared closer and closer and I just stared at it motionless from atop my sitting rock. It stopped just out of my reach and looked right into my eyes. Peered into my soul. And then it spoke.

"Run." The deer said as it gazed into my very being. It had a man's voice. Which I guess makes sense since it was a buck.

I couldn't speak. I remained motionless trying to figure out what the hell was going on. The deer continued staring into me and then spoke again.

"There are things here that you cannot understand. You must leave. This place no longer belongs to you. It belongs to The One." The buck turned its head to its right, across the stream, pointing. I looked in the same direction. What I saw amazed and terrified me. Off in the distance, past the woods was a tall building. Almost a castle but not quite. It was black and stretched beyond the clouds. That is the part that amazed me. What terrified me was the fact that I did not create this castle either. It was just there. Like the deer. How can things I didn't think of appear inside my head?

"How is this possi-" I started but when I turned my head, the deer had disappeared. It had accomplished its task and moved on, I presumed. Maybe to invade other people's minds and warn them.

"What the **** is going on?" I said aloud. Nothing replied except the wind. The wind that I had created. At least I still had some control over my own special place. Satisfied with this but still contemplating what had just happened, I allowed myself to return to the real world.

Everyone was awake with the exception of Old Lady Hickory. I looked at the clock and saw that almost thirty minutes had passed since we took this break. Since I went to my special place. I decided to wait a little bit longer before busting doors and windows. So I could either think about what just happened in the clearing with the deer and talk to the others. I was determined to save these people and it would be a lot easier if they liked me and trusted me. But can I even trust myself?


Lockdown Chapter 7


Mrs. Hickory's chilling words resonated in the sterile air of the hospital's hallway. There was a long period of silence as we all made our way back to the mirrored waiting room. We all knew nothing we said would matter. The silence gave me time to think about what to do next. I'm sure everyone else was thinking of the same subject. We have to do something. We have to get out of here, just like the old lady said. But how? How, damn it?! All the doors are locked. The staff is gone. There is five ******** inches of steel covering all of the exits! How do we get out of this place? What if I never see Gwen or Jake again? Or what if the danger is outside of the hospital? What if my wife and son are in danger and not me? How can I protect them from inside this damn cage?!

"Hey, man are you okay?" Tim must have seen me getting upset. My face was flushed red from anger.

"I'm fine. Just trying to figure out what to do." I managed to keep my anger inside this time. Instead of lashing out at someone who had nothing to do with this. I wasn't going to let that happen again.

"Yeah, same here. I think we might have to start kicking some doors down. You know, I've always wanted to do that."

"I think you're right."

"What? Really? We're really going to kick the doors down?" Tim sounded genuinely excited. Judging by the look on everyone's faces, I'd say they were too.

"Damn right, we are." The excitement lifted everyone's spirits including mine. I was no longer angry. Now I was determined to break out of this medical prison and see my family again. It was going to take more than a few inches of steel and some locked doors to keep me in here like some animal. "I'm bustin' out of this joint! Who's with me?" Everyone laughed and cheered except Mrs. Hickory, who remained silent and stone-faced.

It was at that moment when I truly felt like a leader. These people were relying on me to get them out of here. Me, a one armed newspaper editor was going to lead them to freedom or safety or anywhere but here. (And what a great piece this will make once I get out of here!) But first, we needed to find some medical supplies: A sling for me; whatever Mrs. Hickory was here for; and some basic first-aid supplies just in case. Maybe while we're at it, we could even find a computer or a phone or someth-

I planted the palm of my hand on my forehead with an audible smack. In spite of our situation, I could not hold back the laughter. How the hell could we be so stupid? Everyone has a cell phone! Why had no one thought of it? All eyes were on me again. This time they were filled with amusement and confusion. What's so funny? Their faces said.

I tried to stifle my hysterics and said as calmly as I could, "Does anyone have a cell phone?" After the question was out, I lost it again. But no one else was laughing. Their looks of amusement had turned to embarrassment.

"I'm sorry; I left it in my car because I didn't expect to be here very long. I barely use it anyway." Ria said.

"I see. That's okay, what about you, Tim?"

"I don't have one." Tim said matter of factly.

"You don't have one? Does your grandma have one?"


"I can understand that. But why, does a young man like yourself, in the twenty first century, not have a cell phone?" I wasn't laughing anymore. In fact, I was starting to get angry again. I just couldn't believe it.

"I just don't like them. Never could figure them out. Especially the newer ones. They're just a hassle. I don't want to mess with them."

"Don't wanna mess with 'em...that makes absolutely no ******* sense!" I felt myself getting angrier and angrier. I couldn't see Ria's shocked expression because of my outburst. I didn't see her move Eddie close to her and cover his ears. All I saw was that a man, who appeared much younger than me, did not have a cell phone. It made no sense to me. This was our way out. We wouldn't have to bust any doors. We wouldn't have had to wait two hours in this damn hospital, if someone had a damn cell phone!

"Well, where's yours?" Tim asked me with a hint of aggression in his tone.

"Oh, I must have forgotten to grab it when I was falling off the ******* ladder!" My voice had risen to a shout. "Or-or maybe, I forgot it as I was driving myself to this dungeon with one arm! I left it at home! Damn it!"

Ria's hand touched my shoulder. Calming me down and assuring me that everything will be alright. There was nothing but warmth in her touch or maybe it just felt that way because I was so cold. I hated myself. I let my anger go and scared the people around me. Probably hurt Tim's feelings. I told myself it could have been worse. At least it wasn't like last time. Nevertheless, I hung my head in shame.

"I'm sorry, guys. I'm sorry." I said.

"It's okay. You're under a lot of stress, we all are." Ria was the only one who replied to my apology. Then there was silence as we made it back to the waiting room and everyone sat down. Here we would take a break for a while. A long break. A chance to cool down and rethink the whole situation. Maybe take a nap. I started to go back to my special place. The anger had faded but I decided it would be the best thing to do. I was right.


Lockdown Chapter 6


"Should we split up?" Tim asked. It was a good question. We had just stopped at a fork in the hallway. I didn't even know the place was big enough to have forks. None of the doors behind us had opened.

"I think we should split up. Saves time." Tim answered his own question.

"No, we stick together." I said.

"If we split up we can search the place a lot quicker, meet back here in no time."

"If we stay together, we have a better chance of surviving whatever the hell is going on. Haven't you seen any horror movies? Splitting up never works."

"You do have a point but to tell you the truth, I think this is all a bunch of bullsh- (Tim glances at Eddie and Ria)...crap." At least the man has some respect. Maybe I was wrong about him.

"They wouldn't just lock a hospital down for no reason, not when there are still patients inside." Ria said. I heard her accent for the first time now, just barely noticeable but it was there.

"Maybe it's some kind of drill." Tim suggested.

"No. It's not a drill. A drill wouldn't last over an hour without anyone telling us." I was about to add on to this when Ria said it for me.

"And people don't disappear and never come back." It seems I wasn't the only one who noticed Jane's sudden disappearance.

"Maybe there is a place the staff has to go in situations like this." Tim said. The thought had crossed my mind before but I didn't believe it.

"Or whatever this is got her." I probably scared everyone but I just said what they were all thinking.

There was a moment of silence that I broke. "No point in standing around, let's go."

We didn't split up. To decide which path to take first, we flipped a coin. It was a quarter from Tim's pocket. Heads we go left. Tails we go right. To the left was the radiology, operating and intensive care rooms. On the right, we had the nursery and maternity ward. the coin landed with George Washington's face up. So we started left. Trying to open every door we saw. All were locked. At the end of the hall, there was a large wall of steel. Behind it was the rear emergency exit. The hall wasn't very long but we were starting to lose hope and my arm was killing me. I had to find a sling or just make one myself. If someone had a jacket with them, it would have been easy but it was April and the weather was nice so no need for extra layers.

We had no better luck on the right side of the fork. It was completely empty or everyone was hiding, even the babies. Old Lady Hickory was clearly getting tired from all this walking. Her breathing got heavier and heavier. And the pace was a little slower than I would have liked but I wasn't about to make the woman have another heart attack. So we took a short break near the exit. I thought it would be a good chance to get to know one another. Tim was talking to his grandmother so I decided to talk to Ria.

"So, Ria what are you in for?" I inquired. She smiled again.

"Eddie thought it would be fun to use kitchen knives as swords for his dolls. Luckily, it didn't go in very far but he did need stitches. Today he was supposed to get the stitches removed."

"They're not dolls, Mama." Eddie was embarrassed.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Action figures." I got the feeling Ria had been through this particular conversation before.

"He's right, they're not dolls. Dolls are for girls, right Eddie?" Eddie said nothing, just smiled.

"Grandma's ready, we can go back now." I didn't even notice Tim had come over here.

"Okay, let's go." I said.

When we got back to the fork, we had to take another break. I wish there had been a chair for Mrs. Hickory to sit on but the nearest one was a long way back and Tim said she didn't need one. For some reason, Mrs. Hickory was very silent. I don't think I had heard her say one word since we've been here. I began to wonder why she didn't speak when she said something everybody heard.

"We have to get out of here."


Lockdown Chapter 5


I tried the men's first. It was unlocked. Inside there was nothing out of the ordinary. Although it was a bit cleaner than most men's restrooms I remember. I guess the custodians did their job in this place. After a brief moment of hesitation, I tried the women's. I thought about getting Ms. Santos or even Old Lady Hickory to go in for me. Even in a situation like this, I felt awkward going into the women's restroom. I decided against getting assistance. Best just to do it and get it over with. This door was also unlocked. And this room also had nothing out of the ordinary inside. I walked out, let the door close behind me and drank some water out of the fountain. It tasted fresh and cold. Now, the only thing left to do was walk down the hallway, trying every door I saw. Should I have gone alone? I don't think so. Things probably would have turned out even worse if I had done that. So I picked the other option. I went back to get everybody.

"The only doors that open are the bathrooms but there's a hallway past them that probably leads to more doors. So, if you don't mind, I could use some help. Plus, I think it's better if we all stick together. You know, in case something happens."

Tim was the first to reply to my report. "Good. I'm sick and tired of waiting around."

"What about your grandmother? Can she walk?" I asked.

"Yeah, she should be fine." Tim assured me.

"What about you, Ms. Santos? Do you want to come?"

"Yes, and please, call me Ria."

"Okay, Ria. My name is Lance. Follow me."

"I'm Tim. Nice to meet ya." Tim said to Ria. She just nodded at him.

I led them to the hallway. Along the way, I showed them the doors that wouldn't open. I jokingly asked if anyone knew how to pick locks and unfortunately, no one did. Or maybe they just didn't want to tell me. Ria's son, who I learned was named Eddie, had to use the bathroom so we waited in the mirrored waiting room for a while. It was still awkward and quiet between us. Although we had all been introduced, it was like we hadn't just spent the last hour and a half in the same room. When Eddie was finished, we began our investigation. Nobody had a clue that the following events would redefine the rest of our lives. This day marked the beginning of something that we would never forget. As hard as we might try, some things can never be forgotten.


Lockdown Chapter 4


All I did was stand up and every eye in the room focused on me. It's just one of those things that happen. It's human nature. If someone is walking down the road and they see something move in the corner of their eye, they look. Simple human curiosity. So let them look, I thought. I have to do something, besides my left leg had begun to fall asleep.

"I'm going to look around." I said. I wasn't even sure anyone had heard me. And why had no one thought of giving the place a once over? Maybe they were all as reluctant as I was. After all, who knows what is really going on behind all these doors? I started to walk left towards the door Dr. Haxon and the killer headache guy went through right before all this started, when I was interrupted.

"I'm coming too." It was Tim. Of course.

"No. You stay here; guard the women and the boy."

"Guard them from what?"

"I don't know! They don't just trigger these lockdowns for nothing. Something is going on. Something bad. And you need to stay with them to protect them from whatever this is."

"Well, why can't you do it?"

"Because you have two arms."

"What difference does that make?"

"It's easier to fend off a murderer with two arms."

That was enough to shut him up. He slowly sat down. I looked at everybody once again. They all looked surprised and a little bit nervous after the whole 'murderer' comment. I walked to the door. Grasped the knob and twisted. 'Tried to twist' would be a more accurate description.

"It's locked." I told them. No reply. Just blank looks of hope mixed with fear and what might have been relief.

"I'll see if I can find some more doors." A nod of approval from Tim. Nothing from Mrs. Hickory. The little boy was awake. We probably woke him up with our raised voices. He was sitting on the floor asking his mother when they can go home.

Ms. Santos was informing her son about what was happening. "The nice man is going to find a way out of here and then we can go home." As I walked past them, towards the reception desk and the glass window behind which Jane had disappeared, Ms. Santos looked up and smiled at me. It was the most beautiful thing I saw that day. So full of hope and radiance. In that instant, her beauty rivaled that of Mother Nature herself. I smiled back. It was automatic, uncontrollable. It was the only thing I could do to reassure them.

I walked on. Past the empty receptionist's desk was another small waiting room. It was empty. The room was almost a mirrored image of the waiting room on the other side. Two big differences were: this room had an extra door and a hallway. Some smaller things I noticed as well: the stereotypical hospital paintings of waterfalls and rolling hills were different; this room had at least two extra chairs; and I'm pretty sure, the fake trees were a different species. After spending an hour in a waiting room, how could I not notice such trivial details?

I tried the first door. The door Haxon would have went in, had he been on this side of the hospital. It was also locked. The other door led to the receptionist area. Beyond the pane of glass. I gazed through the glass. I couldn't see anything suspicious. Just sheets of stacked paper, a computer, a bottle of water, and other miscellaneous items one would expect to see on a desk. I tried the knob. It didn't turn. I guess when a place locks down, they really mean it. Now there was only the hallway. I took a few steps down the hallway when I saw the door to the restrooms on either side of the water fountain.


Lockdown Chapter 3

You gotta be kidding me. Am I really hearing this? Lockdown? Is this some kind of sick joke? Are they trying to scare the hell out of everyone? April Fool's Day was two weeks ago. Halloween is six months away. I looked around to make sure it was real. There were thick metal shutters on all of the windows. The glass exit doors were no longer visible. Instead, I saw steel. This was no joke. There was a red emergency light flashing above our heads. Thankfully, the ringing had stopped but not before leaving everyone a little more deaf than they were before. To my surprise, no one was panicking. Ms. Santos was holding her son close to her (how I envied him). Old Lady Hickory looked asleep. How anyone could sleep through all the noise a minute ago, I can't explain. Hickory's grandson was looking around as clueless as I was at this moment.

I looked through the glass window. Jane, the receptionist was gone. She must have retreated to the 'Staff Only Crisis Shelter' where they store the 'Staff Only Glass Windows'. Or maybe something else had happened. Maybe the reason the hospital is now under lockdown has something to do with Jane's disappearance. I quickly removed the thought from my mind. No use scaring myself to death over mere speculation. It's a good thing the glass window was closed. Maybe it can't get out. I looked around again. Ms. Santos was obviously scared. Her son was crying. Mrs. Hickory's grandson was looking at me as if I had the answers. How should I know what to do in a situation like this? I looked back at the empty chair behind the glass window. Half expecting Jane to be back. She wasn't coming back. Somehow, I just knew that.

I looked down at the floor and tried to come up with some answers. Why is the hospital in lockdown? Where did Jane go? What the hell are we supposed to do now? Why don't they shut off this stupid f---- light?

"Excuse me, sir." A tiny voice said above me. I looked up slowly. It was the grandson.

"What?" I asked him trying to contain my anger.

"My name is Tim Hickory. Is-Is this **** for real?"

"Nice to meetcha, Tim. I'm Lance. What a s---storm we landed in, huh? Unfortunately, I believe it is real."

"So what are we supposed to do? Are they gonna let us out?"

"I don't know, Tim. I don't make a habit of getting caught in lockdowns."

"Do you really think this is a good time to be cracking jokes? We have to get out of here!" Tim was starting to get a little agitated. This would eventually make me get a little agitated. This was something I wanted to avoid.

"You know they say 'Laughter is the best medicine.'" No response from Tim.

"Okay seriously kid, calm down. Go back to your seat, sit down and be patient. I'm sure they'll lift it in a few minutes."

"You really think so?" Tim asked in a very curious childlike voice.

"Yeah sure. Whatever." What the hell is wrong with this guy?

First, he seems normal enough, then he gets an attitude and now he's like a little kid. That's almost enough mood swings to build a playground.

Tim went back to his seat. I had just met the guy and I already knew I wouldn't like him. He seemed like one of those types that takes life way too seriously. They usually don't mix well with people like me. Plus, something was wrong with him. We all stayed in our seats and waited. And waited. About an hour later, the red light had stopped but the steel was still covering all exits and it was evident that we were going to be here for a while.

The next time I looked around, Ms. Santos' son had fallen asleep. Mrs. Hickory was wide-awake. I guess they were on alternating shifts. Mrs. Hickory was asking Tim what was going on. She looked to be quite confused. By this time, my arm was starting to throb in pain, letting me know it was time to do something. So instead of sitting around waiting for something to happen, I decided to try a few ideas I had thought of. I wasn't trying to be a hero. Sometimes bad things happen and someone has to do something about it. In this case, someone turned out to be me.


Lockdown Chapter 2

I entered the hospital and approached the receptionist. A young girl with her blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. She looked busy. When she pulled the glass panel back, I quickly glanced at her nametag.

"Hello, Jane. I just broke my arm; I would like to see a doctor."

"Of course, sir." Jane replied. Surprised at how calm I was. "Umm...just have a seat; I'll be with you in a minute."

"Thanks." I said as she picked up the phone and began dialing.

On the left side of the room, there were some chairs and a table with some magazines and a bible. There was a fake tree in the corner by a water fountain. Classic hospital waiting room setup. I found a few empty chairs next to Jane's desk. I don't like sitting beside strangers (especially hospital strangers) which is why I sat in the farthest seat away from the other patients.

There weren't many people in the waiting room. I did a quick head count and came up with seven including myself. About five chairs to my left, there was the old lady, Mrs. Hickory, who lived a little farther down the road I live on. She had heart problems. The old lady had about three heart attacks a year, it seemed. They usually weren't major but a few times, she came close to Death's door. Mrs. Hickory was here with a man who I had never met before. He looked to be about 30. I guessed he was her grandson.

On the other side of the room, directly in front of me was a Hispanic woman close to my age. She was very attractive. She had long black hair and wore a thin yellow tank top. If I weren’t married, I probably would have tried to get her number. This woman looked healthy enough but the little boy she was with, (who was probably no older than Jake) had a bandage wrapped around his hand, so I assumed that was why they were here. I remembered seeing her at the drug store in town where Gwen and I get our medicine. I couldn't remember her name, if she even told me what it was before. I also didn't remember hearing about a kid.

The other person I knew was Dr. Haxon, who was standing by a door to my left and talking to a man who looked about 40 years old. The man was rubbing his head and making painful expressions. I couldn't hear everything they said but I caught the words "head" and "die" from the man in pain, so he must have had a really bad headache. When Jake was three, he tripped and hit his head on our coffee table. Dr. Haxon was the one who patched him up. Needless to say, we got rid of the coffee table until Jake got old enough to watch where he was going. Dr. Haxon took the man into the room and shut the door. Now there were five of us.

The waiting room was surprisingly quite. There was the occasional sniff from Mrs. Hickory's grandson accompanied by some whispers from the drug store lady and her son. I said nothing to anyone.

About a minute after my observations were complete, Jane slid the glass panel back again.

"Dr. McCoy is almost finished with his current patient. He will see your son shortly, Ms. Santos."

"Okay, thank you." Ms. Santos replied.

The glass window slid shut again. Jane picked up a phone and began talking to someone. I wondered why they even need a glass window like that. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that if someone came in with a nasty contractible illness, the glass would probably be a sure way of keeping it out. How nice. While the other patients are catching the illness, the hospital staff would be just fine. Why don't we get a glass window? We could all catch something but Jane would be just fine. There's a kid in here for Pete's sake! What if some guy came in and infected us all!? Where the hell is my glass window!?

I forced myself to calm down. I was getting angry again. I thought I had this under control. Twelve months of anger management and constant medication wasn't cheap. I tried to remember what the therapist told me five years ago. What was his name? Take deep breaths. Think happy thoughts. Ronald? Richard? No. Peaceful thoughts.

I went to my special, happy place. The special place I created in my mind for times like this. It was a clearing in a deep evergreen forest. The sun was shining through the break in the canopy. I was sitting on a large gray rock about two feet high. The top was flat and perfect for sitting. I stared at the little stream flowing beside the rock. Tiny blue fish swam along the current. A white tailed deer stood on the other side of the stream. It stared at me staring at it. Its antlers were still covered in velvet. It was almost close enough to touch. I reached out to it with my arm. My right arm. My finger was two inches away from its nose when I heard a faint ringing in my ear.

The ringing got louder and louder. The white-tailed buck darted away. The birds in the trees flew in the same direction. East. Still the ringing got louder. My special clearing began fading into black. I heard the sound of metal rattling and clanging. I opened my eyes. The ringing was real. The rattling was real. A voice came over the loudspeaker.

"Attention all patients and staff. The hospital is being forced to lockdown. Please do not panic. The situation is under control. I repeat: Do not panic. The situation is under control."


Lockdown Chapter 1

Day 1

It was just a normal day. The same kind of day I'd had for the last six years. Get up; shower, brush teeth, all the other boring morning activities. Then I sit in my favorite chair and watch the local news and weather before I have to get to work. Yep, just a normal guy. Maybe even a little cliché.

The little jingle just started playing on the TV and the announcer came on with his usual introduction, "And now, your local news and weather on Channel 4, the states number one news network." As if, it's some kind of competition. I just want to see the damn weather. I don't care who's number one or number two. That's when my son, Jake strolled lazily down the stairs into the living room, already dressed for school. He even remembered his backpack today.

"Dad, when are you going to get my Frisbee off the roof?" Jake inquired.

"I'll do it later, Jake. Right after I check the weather."

"Oh come on, Lance. It'll only take two seconds." My wife, Gwen (who was in the kitchen behind me) chimed in.

"Okay, okay, I'll get my ladder."

"Good, I'm taking Jake to school, then I'm going to the store to pick up a few things. See ya when I get back."

"Have fun."

We walked to the garage together because that's where the ladder and the car were. Big surprise.

"Don't fall and hurt yourself." Gwen warned as she stepped into the car.

"Don't worry, I'll be fine."

And with a final wave, they were gone. Time to start climbing. With my ladder in hand, I made my way out of the garage door around to the side of the garage where the Frisbee had landed three days ago. I looked up at the sky just as the rain began to fall. Just perfect. The garage roof was lower than the rest of the house, of course. Thank God. My ladder would not have been tall enough if the flying disc had landed on the roof of our white, two-story cape cod home. I set up the still new-looking ladder I bought a year ago and began climbing. As I neared the top, I noticed I had set the ladder a little too far to the right. I wasn't about to climb back down so I stretched my arm as far as it could go but I still could not reach the Frisbee. At that point, I attempted the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life. Clutching the gutter, I began leaning the ladder to the left. My fingers were on the blue plastic circle when my shoe slipped on the rain soaked rung of the ladder. I quickly grabbed the top of the ladder (another stupid idea) and I knew it was going to hurt as I fell and the ladder landed beside me.

I didn't feel anything for about thirty seconds as I was staring at the warning label of the ladder. If I weren’t in shock, I would have found the warnings hilariously stupid. "Do not stand on top step. Do not use near electrical currents. Do not move, shift or extend ladder when in use." I probably should have read the last one, before I got on the damn thing.

I stayed on the ground for about one minute but it seemed like ten or twenty. I didn't want to move because I knew if I did, something was going to hurt. About thirty more seconds later, I forced myself to move my fingers and toes. Slowly at first, then faster. I felt a sharp pain dart through my right arm as I tried to move the fingers on that hand. I knew something was wrong but I didn't want to believe it. I slowly stood up and when I looked at my arm, I knew it was broken.

At first, I tried to deny it. I kept telling myself "It's not broken; you're just looking at it the wrong way or something." I knew the truth; I just didn't want to accept it. My arm can't be broken. I need it. It's my right arm, my writing arm, my typing throwing arm. I have stories to write for the paper, I can't have a broken arm. No more of that. No more after school games with Jake for a while either. That thought reminded me of the whole reason I was out here. I looked around on the ground and right there, about two feet above where my head was a minute ago, was the Frisbee. The accursed blue flying disc with the one white stripe along its diameter. Mission accomplished. But not without a price.

Now what was I going to do about my arm. I didn't know a thing about first aid for broken bones. I was a newspaper editor; I wasn't paid to know that kind of sh**. The only options I had were: A; Wait until Gwen came back so she could drive me to the hospital. That wasn't going to work because she had plans to go shopping that day. She probably wouldn't be back until about 12:00. I would have called her but she lost her cell phone two days ago and refused to buy a new one. B; Call an ambulance. I had too much pride for that. Plus my cell was all the way in the house and I wasn't up to the task of walking that far. Besides the hospital was pretty close. The other option I had was C; drive myself to the hospital with one arm.

Once I got into my car and started the engine, I realized this was going to be easier than I thought. People drive with one hand all the time. But there arms usually aren't broken, they're texting or lazy. As it turned out, it really wasn't that difficult. I found a way to rest my arm so it didn't hurt as much. So long as I avoided the potholes, I was okay. I made it to the hospital, which was about a five-minute drive. As I found an empty spot in the parking lot of the hospital, I remembered what Gwen said to me right before she left. "Don't fall and hurt yourself."

"Don't worry, I'll be fine." I told her. If I wasn't such an idiot, maybe I would have been fine. But there I was, in front of St. John's Hospital, with a broken arm. "Well, no use sitting here complaining about it." I said aloud to myself. I managed to get out and lock the door with no trouble. When I reached the double glass sliding doors to the hospital, I hesitated. I wish I had hesitated for five more minutes. Life is full of mistakes.

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