The night was early. Fear had already begun to spread through the hospital ward. Jack was as calm as ever. Some of his fellow inmates paced nervously in the main hall.
Jack strolled across the room toward the water fountain. He passed by a young patient, Evan, who was rocking back and forth on a sofa. He was muttering something to himself in a hurried whisper.
“What’s the matter with you, boy?” Jack asked, as paused along the way. “You look like you’re about to split in half.”
With terror in his face, the young man looked up at Jack. He pulled his moppy hair away from his face with both of his hands in one strenuous motion.
“I feel like he’s coming tonight,”, Evan said. “He is going to come tonight and take another one of us.” Evan looked back down at his lap. His mess of hair flopped back down over his face.
“Who’s coming?”. Jack smiled. There had been two murders over the previous ten days. Jack knew this had rattled the ward. There are many things that can bring a mental hospital to a panic state. Two strange, grizzly, and unsolved killings is one of them.
“It’s… the b.. Boogyman.”, Evan said, trembling now as he spoke.
Jack gave a hearty laugh. Evan looked up at him, confused and insulted.
“Well, what would you call him?” Evan asked, “He broke in here twice, maybe more times. Gus is the only one that’s seen ’em. And what Gus saw was… “
“Yeah?”, asked Jack. “Whatd Gus see?”, he was still smiling.
“Well, you’ve heard”, Evan said. “A ghost, or maybe a demon. But whatever it was, it ain’t no human”.
“Yeah, I heard what Gus saw,” Jack said. “Look, lad, “ Jack continued, “A place like this can get to your head, and.. You know that you’re in here because of your head. Heck, we all are! Ain’t it possible that all this is in everyone’s head?”
Evan didn’t reply. He gazed across the hall and started to whisper to himself, still rocking.
Jack left him and reached the water fountain. Looking up from it, he took in the whole situation in a sweeping glance. There were patients that shuffled, medicated, about the hall. There were some that stood by the windows, looking out nervously. Some sat on sofas, on chairs, even a few sat on the floor and on the tables. They pondered over puzzles, cards, dominos, and picture books. The rumors that passed throughout the hospital affected them all, sedated or not. They were rumors of the boogyman, the demon, the vampire.
Jack moved back towards the most crowded area of the hall. As he did, there was a flicker of the lights and then they went out. For a hushed and terrified moment, there was only darkness and silence in the ward. The battery-powered auxiliary lights came on and cast a hazy glow upon the central hall. And there, standing in the center of the hall, was a tall and dark figure. He appeared to be made of shadow, not like a ghost, not like a person, but as if a shadow had been liberated from the floor or a wall.
The room erupted in panic. The patients rushed away from the center of the room. It was like the way water splashes away from a large rock that crashes into a pond. All were scrambling away and screaming, except for one man, Jack, who stood where he was, curiously eyeing the dark specter.
Since the doors of the ward were locked, there was no measure of escape from the hall. Everyone fleeing the monster could only cling to the walls, yanking the door handles and screaming for help.
Amid the roar of confusion and terror, the figure looked around him and then turned two red eyes toward Jack. He tilted his head, as if curious, then started to walk towards him.
As he moved, he became more… solid, more human. He was a tall man, lean and wearing a hooded jacket that hung past his knees. He wore dark clothing and heavy boots, and he strode towards Jack with long steps. Jack smiled as he approached, stricken with curiosity.
The stranger stood in front Jack. And pulled the hood back over his head revealing a pale, taut face and long, coal-black hair. His eyes were a dull red now. His mouth was wide across his ashen face.
“Who are you?”, asked Jack.
“Who are you?”, asked the stranger. His voice was harsh and rough, like gravel.
“Well…. I’m Jack!” Jack said and thrust his hand out.
“Victor”, said the stranger, leaning back a bit. “I am Victor.” He accepted Jacks handshake, reaching out with a bone-white hand with sharp nails at the end of long fingers. His grip was firm and cold.
“How did you come to be in here?”, Victor asked.
Jack shrugged his shoulders.
“You mean, why am I a patient in a mental hospital?” Jack asked and chuckled. “I don’t know, I get around, I guess.” Victors wide mouth turned up at the corner of one side in a grim smile.
“I cannot help but take note of the fact that you do not seem to be afraid of me,” Victor said. “Indeed, you don’t seem put off in the least by my appearance.”
“I’m taking notice of a few things myself,” Jack replied, looking Victor up and down.
“Such as… your eyes don’t blink.” He paused, “And..”
“And what?” Victor inquired.
“Aaaand your not breathing,” Jack said, “’cept when ya talk”.
Victors half smile grew, revealing sharp fangs protruding from both upper and lower lips.
The hospital hall had taken on a panicked quiet. The patients had stopped crying out for help. They huddled together around the walls of the edge of the room, clustered by the doors, watching Jack and Victor in the center of the hall.
“How would you like to come work for me?” Victor asked. Both were ignoring the crowd around the walls.
“Sure, beats being here, I’d wager,” Jack replied. “But, what whadja come here for?”
Victor’s grin grew even more.
“Of course.” He said, and looked about the room.
“Which of these wretched souls is Thomas Morley?”, Victor asked. “He is in here because he murdered three people.”
“Yeah, he’s a nasty one,” Jack said, “That’s him over there.” Jack pointed towards a large, balding man who was pressing himself against the door.
Victor started walking toward him, moving faster and faster. As he moved, his appearance blurred, becoming shadowy as before. Suddenly he appeared before Thomas, and stood, like a block of stone in front of him.Victor grabbed both of his shoulders. Thomas was immobile, staring at Victor in terror. Victors eyes flashed a burning red.
“Hello Tom.” Victor said. He tilted his head back and stretched his mouth open. As he did, sharp teeth were growing out longer. Tom let out a howling scream. His eyes were wide. Sweat was beading on his forehead. His entire body trembled violently.
Victor yanked the rigid body of Thomas toward him. He then tore a mass of flesh from Thomas’s shoulder close to his neck. Blood spurted out of the wound as if he had bitten into a garden hose. He spit the bite he had taken onto the floor and then buried his mouth into the wound.
The other patients scurried away, moving backwards. They were unable to take their eyes off of the horror transpiring before them.
Thomas’s head bobbed back and forth and his feet, now held just off the ground, were twitching. He was still held immobile as Victor drank him. The howling scream trailed off. His body went limp.Victor dropped him. He fell to the floor like a bag of sticks, dead. His head lolled over to one side showing a massive wound in his neck and shoulder, but most of the blood was gone. When Victor turned around, Jack was standing beside him.
“Whoa” Jack said, observing pile of person that once was Thomas. He was shaking his head. “What a mess! Do you do that often?”, Jack asked, and looked back up at Victor.
“We need to be on our way.”, Victor said. His ghastly white face was now splashed with blood around his mouth and dripped off of his chin.
“I can’t leave with you the way that I came in.” He continued, looking around. He stepped up to the front door and took a firm grip of the handle. With a single motion, he ripped the heavy metal door from its position, tearing off it’s hinges, and tossed it aside.
“Let’s go.” He said, looking back at Jack. And strode through the door.
“Cool.”, Said Jack. He stepped up to the door and turned around, looking at all of the patients who were still huddled together around the edge of the room. Some had crawled behind sofas and tables, some could only stand and stare. All were trembling.
“Later.” Jack said to all of them, and made a simple and dismissive kind of salute to them as he turned to leave.
Jack walked out of the hall and out of the building. As Jack often had done, he departed from one way of life to find another. And so, without ceremony, without care, he followed the vampire out into the night.