I'm fine in the fire
I feed on the friction
I'm right where I should be
Don't try and fix me"
-"Fix Me" by 10 Years
The drive in the back of the police car felt like it lasted forever, but it finally came to a stop at our destination. I was happy in one sense, because I would soon be relieved of the tight metal shackles around my wrists that were cutting into my skin. Upon seeing the sign reading Research Psychiatric Behavioral Center, the happiness I had left flew out the window.
It could have been jail though.
The policeman parked his squad car and got out. I saw him say something into the microphone piece pinned to his uniform before he opened my door and allowed me to get out of the car.
I felt completely numb inside as the policeman escorted me inside the facility, my body running on nothing but autopilot. Once inside the outer doors, a security guard buzzed us in so we could enter without setting off any alarms. I said my name and information twice, first to the female security guard, and then to a caseworker, who led me through a metal detector. Of course it went off because of the cuffs, but the shock of it still jarred me to a stop.
“Don’t worry about it,” the caseworker said, beckoning me through the detector.
I looked back at the cop in desperation. “These are cutting off my circulation, can you please adjust them?”
He walked over to me and poked a finger between the cuffs and my hand. “They are procedurally correct,” he said simply, which meant they were supposed to be that tight.
The caseworker led me, with the officer in tow, to another pair of heavy double doors. She punched a code into the keypad flanking the door before pushing it open. Through those doors, I first saw a desk to my very left, then a sterile wall in front of me, with several blue plastic chairs placed again it.
Some of the chairs were occupied with various people that I assumed to be other inpatients. One man had a thin hospital blanket pulled up over his head; another lay on the floor as if passed out, which he very well could have been. A woman sitting down the hall stared at me unwaveringly. I squirmed under her gaze.
I was used to visiting places like this, not being an admitted patient. It scared the hell out of me and made me feel like I was under a microscope for everyone’s scrutiny. Whoever cared to chance a guess at my current state based on appearance alone would have thought I had snapped and tried to beat someone to a bloody pulp. Far from it actually, but seeing me with my black hair in my face, body framed in a black trench coat, and sporting handcuffs would have suspected otherwise. I wanted to shrink into my coat and magically disappear.
“What’s your name?” the nurse behind the desk asked me. This had to be the 50th time I was asked that since the police placed me in handcuffs.
“Aalise Collins,” I replied, being sure to spell out my first name so they didn’t put down “Alice” instead.
After I relinquished all my important identifying information to the nurse, who recorded it down to paper for filing, I was told to sit down. I claimed a chair near the desk, since the officer had yet to remove the cuffs from my hands. He was busy speaking with the caseworker, most likely about my incident.
While I waited, the double doors I was brought through opened and a young man was escorted into the facility by the security guard. He was handcuffed as well, but behind the back, unlike me.
I couldn’t help taking him into my sights for being in a nearly similar situation as me.
I knew I looked a little dark, but this guy really had the typical troubled, riff-raft, appearance written all over him. He was probably a few years older than me, give or take, with scraggly sandy colored hair attempting to hide his features. I could see them all though, from his rebellious smirk to his piercing grey eyes. Dressed in a beat up black leather jacket and wearing tough-guy attitude had him looking like a modern-day James Dean, but as he came closer to stand in front of the desk, I realized he was no James Dean. His height and muscles placed me well into the pip-squeak category.
James Dean was a push over compared to this guy.
“Let me deal with him and then I’ll get you out of those cuffs,” my escorting police officer assured me.
A deep, gravely voice issued from the tall man in cuffs and I looked up. “Sorry, sweetheart,” he said, a dark smirk gracing his face. He then winked at me. The way he did it had me thinking he wanted to get a rise out of me more than expressing that he thought I was pretty.
I merely pretended I didn’t see that action.
“What’s your name?” The nurse asked him.
“Moxley Hayes, but you can just jot down Mox on your little piece of paper there.” He then blatantly turned his back to the desk, giving the nurse zero visual attention as he then answered the rest of the questions as if he knew them by heart.
He was twenty-eight, just six years older than me.
Just as Mox was about to answer why he was there, I heard a scream next to me that had my blood running cold. My eyes shot from Mox to the sounds of distress, capturing still frames of a scene that happened so fast it seemed unreal.
The man who had been lying on the floor was attacking the man who had the blanket covering him. The attacker was biting the other man, and not just something that was immediately recoverable; he was biting a huge chunk out of his neck and eating it. Blood spurted from the wound as the man slowly faded.
The shock of what was happening hit me hard and I leaped out of my seat in order to get some distance.
I had been admitted to a certified nut house.
The facility erupted in chaos as the officer moved to grab the attacker off his victim. Soon more nurses and orderlies were swarming in to subdue the man. Nothing seemed to work in prying the attacker from his grip on his prey. I chanced a look at Mox, who appeared calm with his back still against the desk, a mere foot from the scene.
My whole then body then jerked when the officer pumped a lead round into the chest of the unruly patient. I was on the verge of a panic attack.
Instead of falling down dead, the attacker’s body simply jerked from the gunshot. His attention turned to the officer, his teeth gnashing.
Again a shot echoed through the hall, but the man would just not die. Another scream rang out as the assailant grabbed the officer’s outstretched arm and bit like a rabid pit bull.
“Oh shit!” I cried, my body on autopilot again as I continued to back away. I felt like I could do nothing else being that I was still helplessly cuffed. I could only be a spectator to the scene before me.
The orderlies again tried to remove the crazed patient from atop the officer where he had managed to partially consume his new victim’s face. They finally removed the attacker, but not without him biting most of them. The police officer now lay dead on the floor.
One of the bitten orderlies grabbed the fallen officer’s gun and shot the patient until he somehow managed a headshot. Only then was the maniac put down like a sack of potatoes.
Everything then went almost quiet to the point that all I could hear then was my panting breaths and my heartbeat in my throat.
“What’s going on? I asked no one in particular.
“I’d say the dude was fucked up on some massive drugs,” Mox answered as if it were perfectly normal. He was still calm, but he had a look of concentration leaking onto his face.
Well that explained it, maybe PCP.
Both of our assumptions were soon shattered when the man that was first attacked came alive and suddenly bit the orderly with the gun in the side. A scream I had somehow kept hidden before rose up from my throat and bounced off the walls.
This was pure, unaltered insanity. I felt like I was in the middle of a horrible nightmare.
The orderly dropped the gun from the sheer amount of pain he was surely feeling and it was lost among shuffling feet. More screams and gurgled growls broke out from the scene as the officer also rose back to life and viciously mauled the arms of a nurse down to the bone.
This was no drug. Where was the backup help for when this stuff went down? Had anything like this ever went down here?
Somewhere a few decibels above the riotous noise and writhing bodies of the attackers and the attacked, my ears picked up muffled gunshots and shouting from outside the building.
Mox muttered a “Fuck this shit,” and then I heard a metallic sound clang to the floor, summoning my attention back to him. Mox was free of his handcuffs and soundlessly making his way passed the small sea of bodies towards the double doors.
“Help!” I called out to him, desperation hitting me harder than a ton of bricks.
Mox glanced back at me from his position at the keypad and I lifted my cuffed hands for him to see. I didn’t know how he did it but he managed to Houdini his way out of his cuffs and I needed him help me.
He quickly turned back to punching in numbers, acting as if I didn’t exist.
“MOXLEY!” I screamed the first word the came out of my mouth.
It surprised me, as well as him how readily I used his who name, as if I wasn’t a stranger. He stared at me for a long moment before he cursed and made his way back.
I wanted to cry out for joy, but it died inside of me. While I was focused on getting help from Mox, the officer that had brought me here had noticed me. He gurgled dumbly and grabbed my cuffed wrists. The once dead man of the law was still as strong as he was when he was alive, and the cuffs only made me easier to get at.
Time seemed to slow down enough that I became hyperaware of the unspeakable being wanting to bite me to pieces. My eyes could make out chips in the teeth inside the gaping maw, flecked with blood and bits of human flesh. Saliva spittle flicked against my exposed skin. He was so close.
There was a loud boom and the teeth were on my skin; I closed my eyes waited for the inevitable pain.
I opened my eyes and gawked at the head weighing heavily against my hands, finding a bullet hole in the back. My whole body shook and I hastily shoved the dead weight away from me. Another shot burst at my eardrums and I looked over to see Mox shooting another of the eaters in the head. Everyone else was either now a cannibalistic creep or dead, and from what I saw earlier I didn’t trust the dead to stay dead anymore once they were bitten.
Mox pointed the handgun at one of the last lingering eaters with a perfect form, but the only sound was the trigger pulling.
“Shit,” he cursed and tucked the empty gun in his waistband. He then gave the eater a devastating right hook to the face, thoroughly knocking it backwards. He beckoned at me, “C’mon, sweetheart, I don’t have all day,” He drawled, “Oh and while you’re at it, grab the cop’s clip for me.”
“Are you kidding me?” I yelled, gesturing at him with my handcuffs.
“You asked me for my help, girly,” he answered, punching the same eater to keep it at bay.
Between him and me were three eaters looming for us, and two of them were more interested in me than him. I silently cursed him for being an ass, but he was my only chance at getting out of this alive.
I looked down at the officer at my feet and hastily struggled to roll him over. I didn’t know where the ammo clip was or what it looked like so I decided to take off the entire belt.
“They’re closin’ in,” Mox announced, then punched away his foe again. It staggered to the side, but doggedly stumbled for him again.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to shove the dead officer onto his back. By now my hands were shaky with fear as I fumbled with the belt’s buckle. My fingers slipped a few times due to my sweaty hands. Finding enough purchase to complete a normally simple task felt impossible. The sound of the belt unbuckling was the beautiful sound at the moment. I stumbled to my feet, belt in hand, only to find the eaters only a few feet from me.
The two eaters reached for me, and at that moment I panicked. My body took over for me at the last second, and I ducked under the outstretched arms to dash over to Mox’s side. He actually looked, pleased; or maybe it was amused. I didn’t care which it was.
“Good job, sweetheart,” he said as the third eater reached for him once more.
This time Mox swiftly moved behind it and wrapped his arms around it in a headlock. I could only watch in awe as he forcefully twisted the eater’s neck. He kept twisting, the bone snapping and popping like bubble wrap, until there was a definite snap. The eater then went limp in Mox’s arms, save for its still snapping jaws.
“Y-You could have done that earlier?” I asked incredulously.
“I’d never done that on someone before…so I didn’t know it then, but I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Something in me shivered at his confession.
He let the incapacitated eater crumple to the ground, then he grabbed my hand, and in a quick motion he flicked open a cuff. I couldn’t see how he had accomplished that; his movements were so fast. Everything about this man was as much as a mystery to me as the ominous appearance of the eaters. Mox was nice enough to remove the other cuff from my hand, but strangely he kept the steel bracelets.
Mox then turned back to his task of entering the code in the keypad. The door clicked minutely and he shoved it open.
“How did you-“ I started to ask, but he cut me off.
“I watched the dumb security guard punch it in, memorized it. Now stop with the fucking questions.”
His words were reverberated in my head as I looked over the trashed security area beyond the doors. There was blood and broken furniture strewn all about. The key locked doors that lead outside were propped open by a motionless arm. Mox lead the way by stealthily opening the door, making sure to check that the arm wasn’t attached to a threat.
“Just a severed arm,” he chuckled and continued on to the last set of doors.
I wanted to ask so many more questions, but I remembered what I was told not to do, so instead I shadowed Mox closely.
I wasn’t ready for the scene of the outside world when the doors opened. I nearly ran back inside the facility, but I was struck dumb upon seeing the litter of dead bodies on the pavement; hovering over some of them were more eaters, picking meat from bone and feasting on internal organs. My stomach heaved from the thick scent of death.
Mox went ahead of me, his hands buckling the plundered police belt around his waist. He pulled the handgun clip from its place on the belt and reloaded the gun like a pro. A few eaters heard the clip slip home and stood to attention, but Mox just ignored them and went around to the bodies of the security guards, picking up what few things from their utility belts that he seemed to find a use for before the fallen rose.
I was still too numb by the situation to process it all properly or to move from the spot I was rooted to. I could only look on in a daze.
Mox gave the area one last cursory sweep of the eyes before looking over his shoulder at me. His mouth parted into that dark smirk of his.
“Well nice knowin’ ya sweetheart, I had a real fucking blast.”
He winked at me and gave a half-hearted wave before he turned his back on me like it was the easiest thing in the world.
My heart skipped a beat and I woke up to the world again.
“N-No you can’t leave me.”