Chopin in the Asylum: Horror Flash Fiction by cam
Asylum for the Insane
She caught me in the underground tunnels that connect the buildings of the shuttered, asylum complex. I'm an amateur photographer and have wanted to explore that labyrinth, so I grabbed my Nikon, donned a head lamp and delved into the underbelly of the former State Hospital. I meandered through crisscrossing passages, and occasionally stopped to photograph a door hanging from one rusty hinge, a row of hospital gurneys for black and white.
At each intersection I scraped an arrow on the dusty floor pointing in the direction from which I’d come. A dead end turned me back, and I came to where my arrow had been brushed out. I peered into the darkness and the darkness struck back. I awoke in this room with one end of a chain wrapped around my ankle and the other around cast iron plumbing. The knot on the back of my head and the ache inside explained the bare bones of what had happened.
Building 50 stands in a state of decay on the grounds of the closed Asylum for the insane, a monument to declining state budgets. I worked here as a music therapist during the 1970s in my mid twenties. I had a box of music cassettes and a portable player with my name written on a strip of bright blue tape on the side. I’d go into patients’ rooms and have them lie on their beds to listen to classical music. I was partial to Chopin. Before the place was closed by the State, several female patients complained that I had been sexually assaulting them. I hired my own lawyer.
Frederic Chopin-Marcha Funebre
In the basement of building 50, I hear classical music, Marcha Funebre by Chopin. The music makes me uncomfortable. The rusty door scrapes the floor, and she crosses to where I’m chained. A cassette player comes to rest on a dusty table, and I see my name on a piece of faded blue tape. Day after day new things, or rather old things from my past, are added to the table. The items disturb the fragile inner peace I've managed to build over the years.
Today I snapped when an enraged panic hijacked my consciousness. I tried to break the chain or pull the cast iron plumbing out of the wall. When my arms wore out, I pulled with my leg, Jerking, twisting, screaming, crying, a crazy man trapped in the basement of an abandoned asylum for crazy people, passing out from pain and exhaustion. When I awoke, I examined the leg that lay on the damp, dirty floor. It had to be someone else's, not my own. The chain had ripped into the flesh and muscle so far I could see tendons and bone.
Her name was Margaret, one of the women who accused me of sexual assault. Maggy, as everyone called her, had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but I just thought of her as a crazy bitch. Pretty, but crazy. She’d scream and curse whenever I walked into her room, so I’d have orderlies strap her to the bed. After they left, I’d put on Chopin and get down to business.
Always that same damned Chopin piece. This time she’s got two men with her who look like vagrants. I try to scoot away, but the chain causes me blinding pain. She pulls something from inside her tattered, floor length coat, and I slide to the wall in spite of the chain grinding against bone. The vagrants grab my arms, and she steps forward giving me the best view I’ve had of her face. My god. It’s not possible. And she has a knife.
It’s Maggy. Decrepit, ugly where beauty used to be, but it’s Maggy. The two men hold me, and with the knife, she traces around my ears, eyes, throat, down to my chest, belly and lower. I whimper as they leave, though she hadn’t so much as scratched me. A cafeteria tray is on the floor with a fried chicken breast, some chips, a biscuit and a glass of water. I had to chase the rats away or there would have been nothing left for me.
Each time she comes, my heart sinks into a black pool of hopeless fear. Will this madness end the next time that rust eaten door grinds its slow arc across gritty concrete? And how will it end? Oh, that I could lie here with chains biting bone, infection creeping, and die before that bent and twisted form returns.
My mind is slipping as a result of not sleeping. The pain won’t allow it. Besides, if I fall asleep, how will I keep the rats away from my leg?
Soothing, classical music draws me out of lethargy. Chopin? Someone’s here, but with vision darkened by pain, fatigue and loss of blood, I can’t tell who. They seem familiar. The chain falls away, and I attempt to say thank you, using a throat so parched, only a scratchy croak leaks out. Yes, leave the chain on the floor. The rats can have a treat of dried chunks of meat and blood.
I’m on an old hospital gurney, and Maggy is standing beside me. My mind conjures the memory of a judge, a jury, attorneys. Maggy is there, looking pretty in a dress rather than the asylum uniform. We’re sitting across the aisle from each other when somebody in the Jury box stands and proclaims, “Not guilty.” Maggy is screaming guilty, guilty as they wrestle her out of the courtroom.
They’re taking my pants off to treat my leg. The two men strap my arms to the table. Yes, that’s good, I might fight while their operating. Maggy is looking at me, a rotten toothed smile spreading across her wrinkled face. I try to thank her for helping me, but the knife reappears, and she laughs the only laugh I’ve ever heard from her. I’d heard screaming, and not just in the courtroom. I remember muffled screams in building 50….
Still smiling, she reaches between my legs, grabs and pulls. I let out a weak cry. Still pulling, she leans toward my face looking down into my cloudy eyes. In her guttural voice she draws the word out slowly, even as the blade slices through.