“Well?!”, the old man with the cane asked, “Are you going to answer me, or keep staring at each other like a bunch of idiots?” The teens stood there for a moment with a bewildered expression on their face. Was the man real, or another spirit? And if he was real, how did he manage to catch up with them? There was only way they were going to find out. Jenny slowly stepped up to the old man to answer for them.
“I’m sorry, we’re lost. We don’t know how to find our way back…”
“Well, then you shouldn’t have come in here in the first place!”, the old man exclaimed, “That still doesn’t answer my question!”
“Hey man”, Darrel chimed in, “You don’t have to keep shouting at us!”
“Oh, well excuse me then!”, the old man replied, “I thought I was dealing with a bunch of trespassers. I see you’re just a bunch of lost tourists! Well you better get un-lost, and fast!”
“Please, mister!”, Chris yelled nervously, stuttering at the man, “We weren’t trying to do anything to your hospital. W-We just wanted to p-p-prove there… there wasn’t anything to be scared of in here…”
“Oh, I see…”, the old man replied mockingly, “Just a bunch of dumb kids on Halloween trying to prove they’re the bravest kids in town by comin’ in the spooky old hospital on the outskirts of town… Well, I hope this little stunt’s been worth the trip to juvie!”
“Whoa, slow down old timer”, Maya said, “We thought this place was abandoned. Just who do you think you are trying to kick us out?”
“I’m the Groundskeeper”, the old man replied, “And this place might be closed, but that doesn’t mean someone still doesn’t own the property. And that someone is ME! Now all of you, get the Hell OUT of my hospital. Right. NOW!” He started to swing his cane at the kids when Jenny spoke up.
“WAIT! Please…”, she stood in front of the man and started to tear up, “We’re lost. We didn’t mean to come this far up, but all these strange things kept happening, and we’re just… we’re too scared to go back the way we came…”
The Groundskeeper paused for a moment as he examined the expression on her face. He then slowly lowered his cane before taking a step back from the teens.
“So what have you seen then?”, he asked in a calmer tone.
“Stuff that would give Stephen King nightmares”, Darrel replied.
“Evil doctors, viscous nurses, mangled patients…”, Chris added, “Plus I went on an elevator ride through Hell and saw some weird guy on the top floor…”
The Groundskeeper suddenly turned to Chris, “What were you doing on the top floor?…” Chris stared back at him, clearly confused. The Groundskeeper stepped up to Chris, “I said, what were you doing up there?!”
“Step off, Pops!”, Darrel interjected, getting between the two, “He wasn’t trying to get up there. But whatever is up there is dead-set on making sure we get up there.”
The Groundskeeper scowled at Darrel, “Well, if that’s the case, I suppose I should just walk away and leave you all for dead. Because that’s all that’s waiting for you up there: Death!” The Groundskeeper stepped away from the teens again before adding, “If you kids wanna make it out of here alive, you better follow me out. Otherwise, you can let this place lead you up to the top floor, like lambs to the slaughter…”
The teens looked between each other for a moment, trying to decide between themselves if they should follow him.
“Well, c’mon already, we don’t have all night!”
The teens all nodded, and followed the man back towards the stairwell.
As they approached the door out, the Groundskeeper started to speak, “You kids are damn lucky I decided to come here tonight. This damn place has tried to mess with me in the past, but it knows if anything happens to me, there won’t be anything to stop every land developer in the state from plowing it to the ground and turning it into a mall. So just stick close to me, and we’ll get you back home in time for your mommas to change you into your PJs and put ya to bed…” The teens tried to shrug off his callous tone as they made their way to the door. The Groundskeeper reached out to pull open the door, but what was waiting behind the door wasn’t the same stairwell; instead, there was a new flight of stairs, one that lead up to the next floor.
“No… no no no!”, the Groundskeeper exclaimed, “Don’t you dare do this to me! What possible worth could these kids be to you?!”
“Doesn’t look like we’ve got much of a choice in it now, Pops”, Darrel said.
“Exactly”, Jenny said, making her way to the front of the group, “Looks like the only way out is up…”
“No, you can’t”, the Groundskeeper said, “You don’t know what’s up there!”
“Maybe not”, Maya said, “But we can’t just stay here until the hospital changes it’s mind. Come on guys, let’s leave Willie here to yell at himself…”
The teens all agreed, and made their way past the Groundskeeper to the stairs.
“Dammit, wait!”, the Groundskeeper yelled out as the teens made their way up the stairs, “You don’t know what this means! You’re in serious danger!….” The Groundskeeper continued to protest, even as the teens disappeared from sight. Reluctantly, the Groundskeeper soon followed, shuffling up the stairs with his cane to the twelfth floor.
The teens didn’t have to go far to see what was waiting for them on this floor; just in front of them stood the entrance to the hospital morgue. The Groundskeeper came up the stairs as the teens waited to enter the morgue.
“So, are we doing this guys?”, Jenny asked to the group.
“Ready when you are”, Maya replied.
“You kids don’t wanna go in there”, the Groundskeeper warned, “Trust me on this…”
“Can’t be any worse than what we’ve already been through”, Darrel replied, “So either get in line or get out of the way, Pops, ‘cuz we’re headin’ in”.
The Groundskeeper let out a long groan, “Alright… I’ll go with you. But when I say run, you better start running…”
The others agreed, and the group walked into the morgue.
Inside the morgue, things seemed quiet and still. The room was relatively clean, practically sterile compared to the rest of the hospital. At the center of the room was an examination table, which was empty and surprisingly clean. Body lockers lined left and back walls of the room, most of which were still in good condition. And on the opposite side of the room, there was another door that led out. The group started to carefully make their way through the confined space, splitting off as they made their way around the table. Darrel and Jenny walked along the left wall, making their way past the lockers with the Groundskeeper following right behind. As they made their way past, Jenny started to notice the tags on the lockers. Though they all looked old and faded, something seemed out of place. After examining several in a row, she finally realized why:
“Guys, this isn’t right”, she said out loud, “The dates on all these tags… they’re from after the hospital closed, aren’t they?” she turned towards the Groundskeeper, directing her question to him.
The Groundskeeper stood there flustered, sandwiched between the table and the lockers. He answered frankly, “Yes. That’s why I need to get you kids out of here, before--” Just as he was about to explain, one of the lockers behind him swung open, and a tray with a body slid out from the wall. They all turned to examine the desiccated corpse lying on the slab, when they noticed something odd right away: the corpse was wearing a wide-collared shirt and bell-bottom pants, clearly an outfit from the '70s. The teens finally reasoned out what it meant, when Darrel finally asked the question on all their minds:
“Hey Pops, we aren’t the first ‘kids’ to make it in here, are we?”
The Groundskeeper let out a reluctant sigh, “No, I’m afraid not. This is why I was trying to get you to leave…”
“Alright, Mister”, Jenny said, looking back to the old man, “You’ve got alot of explaining to do”.
“Fine, I will”, the Groundskeeper replied, “But after we get out of here. And the sooner, the better…”
Just as they were about to start moving again, the desiccated corpse began to turn to face the group. It unhinged it’s jaw, and began to scream at the group. As it screamed, the other lockers around it started to rattle.
“Let’s get the Hell outta here!”, Darrel exclaimed as he attempted to run away from lockers. All around the group, random lockers would fly open, with other corpses in more contemporary outfits screaming at the group. As they rounded the table and made for the exit, four lockers in a row suddenly swung open, revealing empty slabs. The Groundskeeper suddenly came up from behind the teens and grabbed them all, shoving them through the door as more corpses started popping out of their lockers. The group was rushed down a darkened corridor away from the morgue, the sounds of the screams echoing around them until they finally found their way to the next stairwell, and made their way up to the thirteenth floor…