Sharon’s Note: So, I used to work in an abandoned pacemaker factory. We were trying to turn it into office space. It was a creepy as it sounds. A lot of the atmosphere for this story came from those buildings, but one thing I decided to leave out was the spiders. Now I like spiders, but this was a lot of them. Soooo many spiders. Warning: There was no point to this note other than to let the author share a shudder moment.
Of course the elevator didn’t work. We trudged down the narrow cement steps with me hugging the wall because there was no railing. I risked one glance over the side, and saw only darkness in the square of empty space that was the center of the stairwell because I didn’t want to risk my light. Kathy wasn’t bothered in the slightest, and even glanced back occasionally to laugh at me. It didn’t seem that far down, although I lost count of how many times we went around.
There were two doors at the bottom. One said ‘MO GUE’, the metal ‘R’ was laying on the floor, and the other proclaimed that it was elevator shaft access, and there was no admittance. It had a new latch and padlock on it, just like the closet next to McBride’s office. This one at least made sense. It was probably a death trap in there, and I didn’t think I was imagining the scrambling of rats coming faintly through the door. The air almost burned my lungs as my breath steamed.
“No wonder they kept the bodies down here. It’s freezing. You wouldn’t even need air conditioning.” I blew a column of steam into the air as I tucked my empty hand under my armpit. God, what I wouldn’t do for a jacket. I wasn’t dressed for this.
“Welcome to construction made before electricity. It all came down to planning.” Kathy’s breath wasn’t steaming at all.
Pieces slammed into place. Didn’t need a flashlight. Knew the place so well. No breath. Didn’t live here. But . . . She had touched me? Words escaped my mouth through the panic. “Are you a ghost?”
She raised an eyebrow, then looked at the plumes of steam I was rapidly expelling and sighed. “Right. The breath thing. I didn’t think of that. Yeah, I’m a ghost, but don’t run, okay? I’m not trying to hurt you. Just the opposite in fact.”
My back hit the wall and I squeaked. I hadn’t realized I was backing away from her. “What? What do you want with me then? Why did you bring me down to the morgue?”
Kathy rubbed her forehead. Could the dead have headaches? “Because it’s the safest place in the hospital. Most of the staff and the real crazies never come down here. McBride avoided this place even when he was alive because of his son.”
“Why are you helping me?” My eyes kept searching for some sign of death, but she looked so normal.
She wrapped her arms around her middle. “Because I don’t want you to end up like me. I was telling the truth when I said I first came here on a dare. My mom worked in the new building when it was open, so I stole her key. The idea was that I was supposed to steal McBride’s name plate for proof. Well, the good doctor didn’t take very kindly to that, and . . . I’ve been here ever since.”
My heart twisted at the pain in her voice. “What did he do to you?”
Kathy shook herself and put her arms back down at her side. “He killed me. Beyond that, it’s a little personal.”
“Sorry, but how long have you been here?” I was split between fear and fascination. This was a real ghost.
“It was ‘ninety-five when I came in here. You do the math.” She turned to open the door to the morgue. “Come on, we need to get you inside. I don’t think McBride saw you leave his office, but I know he was lurking. He’s going to see your stuff and know someone is here.”
I might as well follow her. Kathy was a ghost, and I didn’t know anything about her, but if she was real, then McBride was almost definitely real, and he was a certified monster. I pushed away from the wall, then hesitated. “What about McBride’s son? Is he haunting down here?”
She rolled her eyes. “Technically, yes, but besides being cripplingly shy, Ernie is a sweetheart. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, except his father, but that is completely understandable.”
My head tilted to one side. “Really? His name is Ernie?”
“What were you expecting? Igor?” Kathy laughed. “If you want to get technical, his name is Ernest Farmer, which if you ask me, is a horrible name for a kid. Come on, if you’re nice, I’ll try to coax him out where you can see him, and you can ask for his life story. It’s fascinating.”
Getting to interview the bastard son of Kirk McBride was too much bait. I followed her into the morgue.