PRINT LENGTH (PAPERBACK FORMAT): 34 pages
AVAILABLE FORMATS: EBOOK
“No place ever got its name for no reason…just like one’s street name, see. Name’s ‘Strange’? Then, that’s what you’re.”
Amelia ‘Strange’ Crane, Kinaya Court, Opening Statement, August 1991.
There are all sorts of signs along the road to Cursed Hill, the smallest of the villages up on Mount Fearful, and the only one that is still occupied since that cursed night in 1975. That night, the mine workers left. The mine didn’t shut down, but the workers…they just gathered their families and left, and the villages emptied.
The signs on the road warn the visitor of hail, bears and wolves. Then there’s the one that says: ‘Welcome to Cursed Hill’. That one also has the word ‘Danger’ on it. It used to have some pictures under that word, but they worn off a long time ago and those who know what they were, don’t want to tell.
That’s the place where Amelia Crane grew up in, same place where Sarah Lombard went missing on her fifteenth birthday. The dogs found her the next day. She was floating on the cold waters of the Cursed Hill Lake, blood trickling down her wrists.
Sarah never told anyone what had happened during those hours she was missing. Don’t believe she said a word since. Weeks later, Sarah’s mother got the call. She stood tall over the heavy black phone on the side table in the hall of her home and listened.
“I’m very much afraid Mrs. Lombard that your daughter’s injuries were self-inflicted. I recommend immediate incarceration at the Cursed Hill sanatorium,” the doctor said.
“For how long?” Mrs. Lombard said, calm as a comatose patient.
Now, like any good Cursed Hill native, Mrs. Lombard knew her daughter wouldn’t ever think of ‘doing the deed’, for she had taught that child well. Sarah knew all about the punishment. And burning in hell isn’t one of those things you forget. No, Sarah would speak again, and when she did, the truth would be revealed and her soul saved.
Sarah never did, not even when they strapped her down tight on that flee-infected mattress at the sanatorium; probably because she couldn’t feel much. See, she was drugged for a good twelve months. That’s right, twelve months. Then, one rainy afternoon, Sarah woke up in that same filthy bed, leather straps around her wrists. It was her sixteenth birthday.
They say she was fighting herself free when the nurse came in…
“How are you today, Sarah?” the nurse said, rolling in a wheelchair.
Sarah looked at the woman’s scratched forearms and then at her pale face. It was an unusual shade of paleness; the kind that the flesh slowly turns into when it hasn’t seen any other light than the cold, florescent white of a morgue. “Where are you taking me?” she said.
“It’s Monday, Sarah. The storm may have cut the power, but that doesn’t mean you should miss your session.” The nurse clasped Sarah’s arm with both hands and helped her sit on the wheelchair. “I’m Mary, and I’ll be taking you to Dr. Aston.”
Wheeling Sarah across the sanatorium’s grand hall, Mary nodded at the guard sitting behind the reception desk. He, in turn, rearranged his feet on the metal desk and raised his cup. The scent of coffee coming out of the cup was so strong that hovered in the large hall as if the very coffee beans it came from were being roasted under the guard’s desk. Sarah stopped staring at her feet and looked about the room. She glanced over her shoulder and when she saw the guard she began screaming. She tried to stand up, but fell face down.
Mary kneeled by her side. “Calm down, Sarah,” she said, fighting to keep Sarah still to the ground.
Sarah kicked and screamed, pushing Mary away. Mary fell back and Sarah scrambled forward. She loosened the straps around her feet and stood up. Just then Mary leapt forward and grabbed her foot. Sarah kicked her hard on the face and when she was free of Mary’s grasp she made a run for it.
The guard ran over and squatted next to Mary. “Are you OK?” he said.
“I’m fine, Nigel, just get her.”
Sarah was half-way through the front double door when Nigel dived forward managing to grab her ankle.
Mary strolled over to them and secured the wheelchair next to Sarah. “Help me strap her down,” she said as she lifted Sarah up into the wheelchair.
Nigel scrambled off the floor and leaned down to strap Sarah’s feet.
“I should have strapped her hands too,” Mary said as she fastened the straps around Sarah’s wrists. “I don’t know what I was thinking. At some point, they all freak out and they all try to run.”
“Do you need any help?” Nigel said, hovering over at one side.
“No, should be fine now. Thanks.”
“OK,” Nigel said. “I’ll be at my desk if you need me.”
Mary wheeled Sarah at the other end of the room, stopping at the top of a swirling marble staircase. “I’m afraid you’ll have to walk now, Sarah,” she said, removing the straps. “So, don’t try anything. ‘Cause if you do, I’ll have to drug you again. And we don’t want that, do we?”
Sarah stood up and took the first step down. Minutes later, she was in another room, a small, dark room below ground, lying naked in a bathtub. A gray-haired man sat at one edge of the tub, placing wires on her head.
“Where’s Mary?” Sarah said, her lips trembling from the cold.
“Mary’s gone till we’re done, Sarah. I’m Dr. Aston. I’m here to help you get better.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve been doing this for years. It’ll be painless and quick.”
Dr. Aston got up, turned on the faucets and waited till the tub was full. Then he walked over to the machines lined up against the wall, he flipped on a few switches and got out of the room.
Sarah could almost see electricity sparking from one end of the cord to the one attached to her head for the third time since Dr. Aston had left her boil all alone. The fourth time, the door opened just a crack. She saw a hand fumbling at the wall; she heard the click of the light switch, and then the little spark of light in the bulb faded out and darkness took over the room.
Sarah began convulsing again. The power moved from her head, through her body, to her toes and then up again for the fifth time. She couldn’t tell when, but the spasms stopped and she stayed floating in the water, tense as a corpse. She lay still in the cold water, her heart thumping in her chest, until she heard footsteps.
“Dr. Aston?” she said.
When her voice’s echo died down, the room got dead silent. She splashed around, making her first attempt to get out of that liquid grave, but just as she was about to lift herself up someone grabbed her out of nowhere, clasping his hands around her neck. Her head hit against the bottom of the tub. She struggled to get free, fighting until her last breath was nothing but immersing bubbles.
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