The Morphogenic engine’s main control room. Their first meeting. Waylon didn’t know it then, but it was the most sane he would ever see Eddie for a long time.
The man up against the thick plastic-glass, begging for his help and for him to stop them from doing their experiments on him, was not the same man he would later meet in the Vocational Block. He was unstable, yes, but not insane. But the engine would change that.
Waylon wasn’t sure why Eddie singled him out in that moment. Maybe it was his attire; amongst security personnel and scientists dressed in suits, he stood out in Converse, jeans and a tan cardigan over a plain white turtleneck. Maybe it was the look in his eyes, the look that said he didn’t want to be there any more than the patients did. Whatever the reason, the occurrence shook him, only fueling his motivation to alert the outside world of the horrid things happening at Mount Massive Asylum.
But Murkoff knew everything.
Before he knew what was happening, he was being exposed to the engine himself. The Rorschach images, the buzzing in his head, the vibrations in his muscles and tendons. Even when he closed his eyes, he could still see the fluid images flashing behind his eyelids.
Something went wrong. He didn’t know at the time – something about a patient named Billy Hope and the Walrider. It was frightening, how quickly everything went to shit – the darkness, which he would have to get used to, the yelling of patients as they rampaged around the asylum, and the metallic scent of blood – something else he would be forced to grow used to.
The vents. They were his safest place. Most of the patients couldn’t fit in the small tunnels. For once, his short, lean frame could be used to his advantage.
The hospital section of the asylum was dark, so dark. A camcorder, stolen from a stand in the room he woke up in, was his only guidance as he approached the furnaces, some still burning, flames licking at the stone walls. With a shudder, he crept toward the door, moving as quietly as he could in bare feet.
When the boor burst open and the bearded man pounced, Waylon struggled to keep the bloody surgical saw away from his neck. This was the same man he’d seen in the kitchen, plucking organs from a dead body like fruit from a tree and slurping them down.
Luckily, this man wasn’t large and bulking like the most of the patients. Waylon was almost, if not as strong as him, and the cannibal soon gave up the intention of decapitating him, instead pushing him into one of the still-burning furnaces with a gruff, “Stay there… and cook.”
The heat was unbearable on his exposed soles. Scrambling to the back of the furnace, he found the bricks were unstable and crumbling. Shoving a fist and forearm against them, they budged slightly. Again. One fell out. Again. Two fell out. Ramming his shoulder into the wall, he let out a cry of surprise as he fell through, clutching the camcorder to his chest to keep it safe.
More dark hallways. More blood. More breathless steps as he avoided the cannibal. He lost track of how many beds he hid under, how many doors were broken down in pursuit of him, and how many times he thought, for sure, he was going to die. But finally, finally, he made it to the Recreational Area. Fog concealed picnic tables and fences until he was nearly on top of them. Evidently, the outdoors were off-limits for the cannibal, as he wasn’t chased into the foggy night. After avoiding the hostile inmates on a basketball court and climbing a ladder to an empty guard post, Waylon locked himself inside one of the small rooms and curled up against a metal desk.
Oh, how he wanted to go home. He wanted to take a long, hot shower and lie in his own bed and dream peacefully. He shut his eyes, but sleep wouldn’t come to him in his heightened state of adrenaline.
What was his original mission? ‘To get out of this place. Alive.’ If he hid up in the tiny post, he would starve to death, or worse; be found. There was no search party, no posse coming to save him. He had to save himself.
Standing on weary legs, he opened the door and continued along the shingled roof until he found another place to climb down. To his surprise, the doors nearby were open. Unsure of his bearings, he entered the building. The sign on the wall said enough.
The single word was both terrifying and exhilarating. Obviously, the higher risk of stumbling across more violent, dangerous patients was frightening, and he turned each corner with dread. But, the radio was in this section of the asylum. If he could just find it, he could have more Swat teams on the way than Murkoff could handle.
Maybe the Gods were looking down on him, or maybe it was just pure luck, but it didn’t take him long to find the room. Disregarding the broken down security door, he lunged for the radio, picking up the receiver with a trembling hand and turning the dial.
“Leadville 911, what’s your emergency?”
The breath that Waylon had taken to respond was knocked out of him by a sudden blow as a hand grabbed the receiver and shoved him aside. He stumbled, tripping over his own feet, and fell back against the wall as he watched Jeremy Blaire slam the receiver against the counter again and again, rendering it useless. He clambered to his hands and knees, crawling toward the door, but a baton stopped him in his tracks as it collided with his jaw, knocking him backwards once more. Blaire leaped on top of him, bracing the baton against Waylon’s throat.
“Waylon Park. You couldn’t just keep your mouth shut. You couldn’t just play along! Well, you’re done talking now.”
As the blond struggled against his attacker, hands flailing, fingers poised to claw at eyes, loud banging and screaming reached his ringing ears. Blaire’s grip loosened as he looked in the direction of the sound.
The suited man released him and stood, backing away as the stars faded from Waylon’s eyes. Blaire pointed the baton at him.
“Do me a favor and die here, Park.”
Blaire disappeared, leaving Waylon to climb to his feet. He quickly fell back into a crouch though, as something broke through the door. Something big. Back against the wall, broken window directly over his head, he listened to the sound of heavy, grunting breathing and leaden footsteps accompanied by the rattling of chains in the other room. The door was gone, window shattered. Was he going to die, here, when he was so close to refuge only seconds ago? Tears gathered in his eyes as helplessness overwhelmed him, but the moment passed as the breathing and chains faded, leaving only the sound of his own pounding heart.
He had to get past that… thing. Where would he go now? The radio had been his only hope; he had no Plan B, but he knew he couldn’t stay here and wait for it to come back.
Low and slow seemed the logical way to go about it; save what energy he had left for a burst of speed, should he need it… though he hoped he wouldn’t. Creeping from the room, he hid under a desk as the rattling of chains approached once more. Peeking through the gap in the wood, he got a better look at the variant.
He wished he hadn’t.
Enormous stature aside, his face was horrifying enough on its own. His nose was completely gone, as it seemed his lips were too. Some sort of clamps were hooked on each side of his mouth, permanently exposing his teeth in a wide, unfriendly snarl. He was covered in blood, but then, everyone seemed to be.
Even more anxious to leave the area, Waylon followed the giant down the hallway, glaring lights making him nervous. He kept his distance, ready to turn on his heel, should the beast change direction and spot him. Luckily, he ducked into a room, giving Waylon the opportunity to sneak past. Darkness enveloping him once more, he thought it safe enough to stand and continue down the corridor.
The telltale roar from behind him made his blood run cold.
In a panicked frenzy, he ran. Vaulting over fallen beds, bouncing off dirty walls like a bumper car, he lost track of how many corners he dashed around, causing him to lose his sense of direction. All he could hear over the blood pounding in his ears were the heavy footsteps of pursuit. He could feel the hot, sticky breath on the nape of his neck as he approached a pile of debris, much too tall for either of them to climb and too massive to move, but… there was a thin crack between a bed frame and bookshelf that he thought he might be able to squeeze through.
Waylon slammed into the metal of the frame, the pain in his shoulder disregarded as he turned sideways. He side-stepped quickly, only turning back to look as he sandwiched himself in the middle of the blockade. A large, scarred hand swiped at him, centimeters from his nose. Frozen in place, he watched as the arm retracted and the giant growled a few words.
“I’m coming. You won’t have to kill yourself.”
Trembling, Waylon watched him leave – though, his shoulders did not slump in defeat. The determination in his mannerisms coupled with his words convinced Waylon that he hadn’t given up; he was merely going to find another way around.
After a brief moment of waiting as to ensure his heart wouldn’t burst in his chest, Waylon freed himself of the barricade and continued on. He hadn’t gone far when a female voice spoke over the broadcast system, startling him.
“Attention Murkoff personnel, an emergency evacuation is in progress. Please proceed immediately through the Administrative Block to exit. Patients and the restrained are advised to remain calmly in their room until help arrives. Thank you for your cooperation.”
‘Until help arrives? What bullshit,’ Waylon reflected, even allowing a bitter smirk to cross his lips as he moved along. Still, it was his only chance. ‘Plan B, here I come.’
Fresh blood painted the wall beside him as he passed. Trying to work out the layout of the building in his head, he had a vague idea of where the Administrative Block was from here. Turning another corner, he paused in the doorway, watching a man dressed in some kind of religious robe finger-paint on the wall in blood. Down t-, it said, obviously unfinished.
“Another poor soul.” His whimsical voice startled Waylon, and he crept closer. Was this man a Father? “Don’t be afraid. You’re doing His work, whether you know it or not.” Perplexed, Waylon approached a hole in the concrete floor, slipping through it. He was definitely a few floors above the Admin. block.
Down the hall, a man shouted obscenities. Waylon chose to go the opposite direction. It was dark. He made his way through rooms slowly, allowing the nightvision of his camcorder and an outstretched hand to guide him.
In the middle of another dark hallway, someone barged through a door behind him. He broke into a run, not even looking back. The heavy footsteps were familiar enough. Dodging beds and wheelchairs, he sprinted down the corridor. Another barricade blocked his way, and he panicked as he skidded to a stop. There was no squeezing through this one; it was packed tight. A raindrop hit his cheek.
He turned, noticing the open window for the first time. Dropping his camcorder to let it hang around his neck, he used both hands to vault out the window and onto the roof.
Outside, it was raining lightly. The fog was gone, allowing him at least some visibility in the dark with the nightvision. Climbing down, he landed on the concrete of the ramp leading to unmarked double doors. He tried one. It wasn’t locked, but something was blocking it from the inside. Edging around the side of the building, he found one of the windows to be open. Inside was what looked like a tool shed. He jumped inside, glancing around. A document lay on the ground. Stooping to pick it up, he was startled by an inmate, curled up in the dark corner. Waylon took the paper. The man didn’t seem dangerous. Waylon lifted the document to his face.
To his surprise, it was a poem; a chant of four lines, repeating over and over:
Above the knees, below the navel
Sliced and sewn on Gluskin’s table
To make a place to push inside
The Groom will make himself a bride.
To Waylon, it seemed like another method of mutilation. He didn’t dwell on it for too long, nor did he have the courage to ask the man in the corner if he’d written the words.
Gluskin. The name sounded familiar. He couldn’t place it. He climbed back through the window and continued on.
Through a door, over a broken fence and through a half-flooded pipe, Waylon found himself in the doorway of another gate. On his left, a lit barbwire fence missing a door, complete darkness beyond it. Straight in front of him, a large archway with doors that looked as if they provided another way back into the building. And to his right, a high electric fence, still sparking and topped off with more wire. Waylon went straight, figuring it was the best way to get to the Administrative Block.
Inside the archway, it was dark. Waylon climbed the stairs, spotting a document, and approached the doors. He tried one, and it was locked. Movement inside froze his hand on the knob. A man – tall, from what Waylon could tell – was walking by. The sound of the door must have alerted him, for he stopped and looked Waylon’s way. The blond froze, able to catch a glimpse of a dark vest over a white shirt and black hair atop his head, the sides shaved – or perhaps the engine had caused it to fall out. After a moment, the man moved on, out of sight, and Waylon let out the breath he’d been holding the entire time. He picked up the paper, eyes skimming over it.
Kill us. Burn the building. Worse than death here. Kill us. Kill us.
Waylon wrinkled his nose. ‘How pleasant.’ With one last glance at the doors, Waylon returned to the four-way divide. The electric fence was impermeable, unless he wanted to get burnt to a crisp. He went right.
Past the fence and darkness was what looked like another shed. He descended the stairs and followed the corridor left to a few fuse boxes. A green light shone above a lever with a lightning bolt. ‘Bingo.’ Waylon pushed it down, satisfied at the now-red light. Assured the electric fence would be passable now, he hurried back the way he’d come.
As expected, the giant structure’s light was off, sparks no longer flying from the metal fence. Two more steps toward it, however, and he was stunned by the sound of the thing powering up again. ‘What the hell?’ He stood there for a moment, then turned on his heel. ‘Somebody’s fucking with me.’
Sure enough, the green light was on again, lever back in the upward position. Brows furrowed in annoyance, he pulled it down again and turned around.
An inmate stood behind him, taking a swing that Waylon narrowly dodged. “I want to share something with you!” he declared angrily. Waylon didn’t wait around to hear it, taking off down the hallway. The sound of feet slapping against concrete told him the man had begun pursuit.
Slamming the door to the shed in his face to slow him down, Waylon beelined to the electric fence. The power looked like it was off, but he didn’t bother grabbing a twig and throwing it at the metal frame. He grabbed the knob firmly.
Turning to close the door, he saw the man approaching once more. Breathless, he ran, blood pumping in his ears, and ducked inside an open door.
A few long corridors and sprints across grassy areas later, Waylon climbed what seemed like an endless spiral of stairs within a tall tower. One of the platforms had given away, but the gap was small enough for Waylon to leap across. Once he reached the top, he climbed out a window and walked along the side of the building.
Another broken platform halted his progression, and he hesitated. The gap was larger than the last, but the other side was a few feet lower. He had nowhere else to go. With a running start, he leaped across.
Both hands slammed against the wooden plank as he struggled for a better grip. The wood was slippery, and he heard the cracking and splintering above. Reaching for more leverage, the rotten planks cracked a final time, and he fell.
It was a straight plummet down, thirty feet or so. He landed on his side, the blow knocking the breath out of him. Rolling onto his back, he blinked as flakes of wood fell onto his face and bare arms. Everything was ringing. Sucking in a painful breath, he clambered to his hand and knees, gathering himself for a moment before standing.
“… don’t need any sisters. Maybe some girls that ain’t blood.”
A voice was murmuring – or maybe the fall had him hallucinating. Taking a few steps forward, he felt along his side, carefully pressing against each bone. They were sore, bruised maybe, but not broken, and Waylon was thankful. A broken rib would severely slow him down and make him easy prey.
“We have worser problems.”
“Grow some hair on your pecker Timmy, then we can talk about girls.”
“If we had a visitor. If we did. He could be our goat.”
Waylon lost track of how many voices; three, four? Were they following him? Glancing behind him – through his camcorder – he made sure there was no movement before continuing on.
This place was like a maze; some sort of storage area. Bookshelves, tables, chairs and metal containers – used for what, he didn’t know – littered the way, making forward progression slow as he ducked and squeezed from room to room. Doors were locked or blocked, but there were spaces behind the walls that he could navigate.
“A gift for the Groom.”
The voice sounded close now; perhaps closer than before. Waylon moved into the dreary light of a cracked window, using his nightvision to look further into the room. Two eyes reflected back. He ducked behind a fallen table.
It didn’t take him long to spot the rope above the man’s head and piece it together. Feeling foolish, he cautiously approached the hanging man, nudging his leg. He swung lightly, suspended from the rafters above. He looked like a security guard, and he hadn’t been dead long. A can rattled on the floorboards nearby, and Waylon hurried to squeeze between two empty shelves. As he eased through, a man popped up in the space between two books. Waylon cursed under his breath.
“Quiet!” the man hissed. His face and head were quite deformed – from the engine, Waylon realized, or from mutilation… self or otherwise. “If they c-catch us, they’ll give us to him. The man downstairs. The man… very bad. Very, very bad. Oh God…” He disappeared, and when Waylon emerged from the shelves, he was nowhere in sight.
The man downstairs? Waylon had no idea what he meant, but he could only imagine that whomever was lurking down there was akin to the cannibal or the big guy with the teeth, or… perhaps even worse.
“Rats! Rats in the walls!”
The sudden outburst of yelling and hands slamming into the wall he was moving behind startled him. “Kill the rats! He’s here, inside the walls!” The man ran away, out of sight, and Waylon picked up his pace. ‘They know. I gotta get out of here.’
Clambering over a broken wall from atop a sturdy shelf, he landed on the other side. The door across the room flew open, slamming into the wall. He ran. Hopping over another wall, he tried to distinguish the footsteps he heard. How many were chasing him? One? Two? More? He winced at the pain in his side as he landed on a wooden crate and tried the first door. Locked. Stairs. They were his only option.
“Here comes the bride.”
“Fucking idiot delivered his own self to Gluskin’s hell.”
Gluskin. The name sounded painfully familiar once again. Waylon couldn’t remember. Maybe it was the engine, displacing things in his head. He couldn’t even remember Lisa’s face anymore.
“Here comes your bride, Mr. Gluskin.”
As Waylon descended the stairs into a dark abyss, he recalled the deformed variant’s words.
The man downstairs.