Pale Thing in the Hospital

Something dripped rhythmically against my forehead, something cold and pungent. I tried to sit up, but there was a weight on my stomach, and the effort made my head throb and spin. With a moan I lay my aching skull back on the pillow, back beneath the steady drip. Whatever it was, it reeked.

The pressure on my stomach grew heavier; it was becoming difficult to breathe. I tried shifting my position, but found I could not move. Something was sitting on me!

This horrifying revelation made my head spin again, and in spite of the blinding pain it invoked, I struggled against whatever it was, managing somehow to throw it off. There was a wet thump as my oppressor tumbled off the hospital bed onto the floor, and as I took great gulps of air, I peered over to see what it was.

My stare was met by a pair of empty, bruised sockets, nearly swolen shut by pudgy skin. A hollow blowing sound emanated from the ragged hole where a nose should have been, accompanied by a noxious stench. Beneath that I found the source of that unbearable dripping which had awoken me: a worn and ragged maw from which dangled raw strings of bloody flesh.

The pale thing rose from the floor in a most unnatural fashion, pulled upright like a demented marionette. With a rattling gasp, it reached for me with skeletal hands. I felt defiled at its touch, so cold and slimy, and with a cry of horror I threw the creature aside and leapt out of bed, not sparing a thought for the pain that wracked my injured body. I ran out into the hallway, momentarily unsettled by how dark it was. Shouldn’t the lights be on? I wondered. And where are the nurses? The hospital seemed deserted as I ran through, although it had been busy enough only hours before.

I reached the end of the hall and paused to catch my breath. Looking back I could see, bobbing up and down as it shambled forward, the pale face of my pursuer, ghastly and luminous in the dark. At this distance, it was little more than an indistinct shape, but I could still feel its touch—those cold palms and long, slender fingers that dripped with something unspeakable. I felt drenched in the stuff, and its rotten odor filled my sinuses, seeped down my throat and into my stomach. I wanted to vomit.

Help, I thought. I need help. Where is everyone?

The thing was halfway down the hall now, getting closer with each second. I decided my best option was to get out of the hospital, which was apparently empty, and get help from outside. I darted down another corridor—although “darted“ was perhaps too lively a term for my unsteady limp—making for the elevator. I pounded on the button, glancing quickly over my shoulder as I listened to the wet shuffling of the creature rounding the corner.

“Come on,” I groaned, slapping my hand frustratedly against the doors. I could smell the stench of the thing’s breath, hear the drip of blood from its abhorrent mouth…

With a cheerful ding, the elevator doors slid open, and I stumbled inside. I lay panting on the elevator floor, my heart still racing as I descended. What’s going on? I wondered as I caught my breath. Where is everyone? What is that thing?

I gasped in pain suddenly, and my hand flew reflexively to my side, which was wrapped tightly in a mass of stained bandages. I could not remember how I had sustained that injury—a mild frustration most likely explained by the gauze that was coiled around my head. Everything from the past few days—the nurses as they busied themselves over my wounds, the doctor as he hummed thoughtfully over a set of x-rays—was clear as day in my memory, but before that…nothing. And now this madness, this monster! The adreneline that fueled my escape had numbed me up to this point, but now the danger, horror, and utter weirdness of my situation elicited a soft cry of terror from my lips.

As if commanded by my fear-stricken voice, the elevator doors slid open.

Suddenly I was looking into those lifeless sockets again—those bruised, blind holes that still managed to find me. How did it get down here so fast? My panic was so great that my lungs seized up, paralyzed, as once more those slippery hands took hold of me. Rancid breath tickled my throat as the thing leaned over me, probing my skin with its rotten teeth.

Before those loathesome jaws could clamp down, I kicked out, striking the creature just below the kneecap. There was a sickening crack, and the thing’s knee bent backwards at a grotesque angle. Jagged bone penetrated the sickly flesh, and my attacker collapsed.

Not pausing to dwell on the grisly image, I scrambled over the monster’s twitching body, grimacing as my hands and knees sank a bit in the bloated mass. I could see the glass double doors just down the hall, the lights from passing traffic promising escape. Just a few more seconds of exertion, and I would be free. I could breathe fresh air untainted by rotten odors, be rescued by one of the many people that swarmed outside—

My progress was suddenly halted by a strong, wet tug on my ankle. My pursuer, in spite of its mangled leg, dragged me back away from my sanctuary, back into its clammy embrace, and pinned me to the floor. Once again that black, dripping maw yawned over the softness of my throat and bit down. The teeth were not sharp. As they ground against my skin I thrashed uselessly, and a warm stickiness told me that the wound in my side had opened up from the effort. My head throbbed painfully, and what little light there was in the hospital lobby waxed and waned. I’m going to faint, I thought—I hoped. But no. Sharp pain. A faint splashing sound. Moist chewing. And I was fully conscious until the end.

James Colton

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