Cole found himself at the door. It was propped open. He looked up and down the hall. All quiet. He could see a desk light on in the nurses’ station. Shadows danced on the wall behind it. The night nurse was doing paperwork or something.
Cole limped in that direction. Without his gown, he was only dressed in his underwear, and he recalled with some amusement when he’d snuck out that way to check out a series of strange noises in the asylum. He ended up in Dutch with the head nurse.
The nurses’ station had a small ledge in front which would probably be waist level for an adult. It came to the lower portion of Cole’s rib cage. Above the ledge were windows; the center ones slid on rollers so they could be opened or closed. At the moment they were open. Cole leaned in.
“Excuse me,” he said to the nurse. Her back was turned, and she was rifling in a file drawer. “I might’ve hurt my ankle.”
“Mm-hm. I was wondering if you injured yourself. I heard that crash.”
The nurse’s voice was strange. Deep and hollow as if she was talking down a cardboard tube. Why hadn’t she investigated if she heard? Shouldn’t nurses do that?
The nurse finished whatever she was doing in the file drawer. Both hands flew out of the folders. Her right hand shoved the outside face of the drawer with a dramatic flourish. The metal runners clanged swiftly, and the entire drawer closed with a decisive metallic bang.
The nurse spun like a dancer on stage and faced Cole.
The face under the white cap was no longer human. Dark black hair hung straggly from under the cap, and remnants of facial hair grew from decomposing skin. The eyes sank deep into caved-in cheeks, portals of runny yellow mucus.
“Hi, Cole. Good to see you, buddy,” the dead nurse said.
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