I’ve either spontaneously gone blind or I’m encapsulated by complete and utter darkness. Not a single speck of light is being given the opportunity to reach my retinas as I feel my vision straining under immense pressure, yearning to espy colors one more time. My mind cannot recall how long I have been cemented in this situation. It could have been weeks, days, hours. Whatever the length, I can feel the insanity knocking at the door of my conscious.
Minute after minute walks by as I count each individual second. The ascending heat begins to sink into the depths of my body, yet the subconscious counting continues. When I reach 1140 seconds, a muffled sound makes itself known just beyond the void of darkness. My auditory senses struggle to listen over the sounds of my breathing, entering and exiting my constricted lungs.
For infinite moments, the resonance does not reappear. I begin to question if my unhinged mind is starting to create false hope. Yet that’s when I hear it again. Rather than being a mere whisper, the noise is close – very close as a matter of fact. The click of metal sliding on metal comes from right beside me, causing cringe-infested shivers to snake to the base of my spine. Gut wrenching light bursts against the side of my face encircling my entire being and forcing my eyelids to snap shut in quick pain.
Before my vision can recover, calloused hands wrap around my biceps, yanking me from my enclosure. I’m roughly placed on to my numb feet, pieces of gravel lying beneath the bottoms of my scuffed sneakers. I struggle to maintain my balance as I sway side to side, my eyes continuing to attempt to open. After a few seconds of rapid blinking, my irises focus and come into contact with the outside world. I stand on rocky, cracked pavement that comes in from the east. The drive is lined with dark trees that dance and shake from the brisk, drizzled wind that cascades from the dismal heavens.
The grasp around my arms returns, this time more aggressive. “Come on. We’re already late,” orders the owner of the clutched hand.
My sore body is rotated around and dragged away from the car trunk that had once restricted me. The weather that beat at the trees now turns and nips that the exposed skin on my arms, legs, and face. The shorts and t-shirt that I was thankful to wear in the heated car unfortunately provides minimal protection for my shaking body.
I observe the building that I am being lead towards, its towering, beige exterior drawing closer and closer. Cookie-cutter windows line the walls, the partnering curtains drawn to block off the outside world from whatever lies within.
The sound of an electric, moving object catches my attention as we are a few hundred yards off. My eyes follow as other young individuals are being lead toward the building. Some walk by their own strength, while others are dragged or held up like myself. Each pass under an overhang holding up a large sign inscribed with “Gateway Vista.” As the individuals draw close, the automatic doors glide open, permitting their entrance. When it comes my turn, my pace becomes lethargic and slow. My reflection voidly stares back at me in the newly cleaned glass of the door windows. It finally disappears as the doors once again open, allowing the stale breath of the inside world be released into the fresh outdoors.
I reluctantly step through the threshold, warmth greeting me instantly. The airy whoosh of the closing doors behind me indicate my unfortunate consumption. The room that we have entered is tidy, yet almost completely empty. Its dull toned wallpaper and diminishing carpet cause weariness to crawl and settle into the core of my bones. A varnished, wooden desk is neatly positioned in the dark corner, papers strewn in disorganized piles on top.
A sharp nudge to my shoulder informs me to keep moving, my aching legs pleading to rest. My weight causes the floor to creak as small clouds of dust particles are kicked up into the thick atmosphere. As we near the corner, quiet whispers and mumbles emerge from multiple entities. A crowd of girls around my age are standing in a large mass, eyeing me as I am told to join them.
I stand off to the side, feeling no need to associate myself with the others. I observe the others, their furrowed brows and quick glances in different directions reveal that they’re anxious for what is to come. I, too, can feel the butterflies crashing against the lining of my stomach, the ultimate product of the unknown. What are they planning on doing with us? What have we done to deserve this treatment?
My thoughts are interrupted by a petite woman dressed in a bland uniform and carrying a clipboard. Her inky, sleek hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail that sits high on her head. Her scintillating gaze glooms over the crowd, once or twice making direct contact with me, causing my eyes to involuntarily drop to the clouded carpet. My hands wring together at the thought of catching her unwanted attention.
“Ladies, I would like to personally thank you for coming today…not that you had a choice.” The woman thoughtfully smiles to herself before letting out a short laugh. “We, here at Gateway Vista, have a lot planned out for you. The residents haven’t had victims— I mean visitors, in a very long time. I’m sure they will be extremely excited to see you.”
Desperate glances are thrown around by the girls in the crowd. Vast confusion emits from the mass of bodies like a billowing fog, I myself contributing. What kinds of people would these “residents” have to be to insist on kidnapping a group of girls? The worst of thoughts begin to be displayed within my brain, my stress gradually growing a larger lump in my throat.
We are instructed to stand in a line, one stranger on each side of me. The woman strutting before us, numbering each girl either ‘one’ or ‘two.’ I’m placed into group two which already possesses a handful of girls. We collect in a corner of the room, a plastic plant blanketed in an inch of dust accompanying us. Not one word was spoken – it was complete and utterly silent. Our bodies seemed to be patiently awaiting further instruction.
“Follow me ladies,” ushered the uniformed woman, quickly turning and pretentiously walking down the long, narrow corridor. Our legs moved on autopilot, going against a mind essentially saying no. The dim hallway echoed the patting of our feet against the matted carpet that lined the aged floor. Heads swivel from side to side, stealing glances at each door and separate hallways that we come in contact with.
Finally, we reach another room almost identical to the one in which we came from. A sudden ding springs from our left as two gold doors open to reveal a small cubicle.
“We are feeling quite generous today, so we are allowing you to ride the elevators to where we are going,” says the woman, turning from the elevators to display a strained smile.
Group one is the first to board and disappear as the gold doors slide shut, my obscured reflection once again revisits. The woman presses a circular button on the wall that sits just above its twin. One of the buttons wears an arrow positioned towards the ceiling, while the other faces the floor. The arrow facing towards the sky radiates with an orange glow. Within a few seconds, the ding reverberates and the gold doors welcome us inside.
The elevator looks as though it could only contain five or so people, yet, like cattle, the eleven of us are crammed into the small space. A sharp elbow is involuntarily jabbed into my ribs as our already slender bodies struggle to fit. The heat of our nervous bodies strangles us as we draw higher and higher into the building. Finally, the container shakes and halts, the gold doors opening. Our bodies splash out in waves, desperate to escape the claustrophobia rich area.
Group one trudges down the hallway, toward their upcoming fates. Few throw longing glances over their shoulders as they vanish behind the gloomy corner.
“The first group is off to do their ‘activity,’” she fingers the air before continuing. “Now it’s your turn. Your activity involves having one-on-one time with the residents…it’s everyone’s favorite…”
What does that even mean? The ever present butterflies begin to conform to sparks, burning up my insides. Soft, questioning mumbles break out from within the group. I steal a glance at the girl next to me. Her cheeks were bright red, her inner anxiety starting to break through her exterior.
“Well, let’s get going,” says the woman excitedly, waving her arm to beckon us with her.
We venture the opposite direction from which the other group went. As we continue to walk, it seems as though the hallway is eternal. The temperature gradually become cooler, goosebumps threatening to protrude from my skin. Lights hanging from the defective ceiling start to dim and flicker, shadows bounding off faces, limbs, and walls.
The uniformed woman suddenly halts as plain, wooden doors begin to line the walls on either side. As I gaze down the hallway, the doors continue farther than the eye can see.
“Each of you lovely ladies have been assigned to a room and a resident. All I can say is be cautious with what you say. You never know what reaction you will receive,” the woman warns, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
A scoff comes from over my shoulder. A girl with curled chestnut hair pushes through the group to the front, her shoulder slamming into mine as she passes me. The woman tilts her head and curiously smiles as the girl approaches her.
“Why are you doing this? Why us? Who are you and who are these ‘residents?’” The girl throws her long arms in the air in frustration. Her loud, interrogating voice echoes through the corridors and ringing in my ears. Girls surrounding me nod their heads in agreement.
Eery silence falls upon the entire space. The woman stares at the confident girl with a demented smile. Her body is like statue, cold and unmoving. A bad feeling starts to creep from the shadows.
Before anyone can reaction, the once confident girl is grabbed, a door is opened, and she’s thrown in. The crash of the closing door shakes the floor under our feet, yet there’s more shaking in my body from fear. The woman stands facing the door, her hand remaining on the doorknob. She releases a breathy sigh before shaking her head and turning to face us. A radiant smile returns to her cheeks.
“Alright. Now that that’s over. Let’s continue. As I previously stated, each of you is assigned to a room and resident. That happened to be her’s. Let’s get you settled into your’s now.”
Out of sheer fear, we hesitantly follow. One after one, girls disappear behind closed doors. No sounds emit after.
I am the last in the group to be taken to “my room.” I trail after the woman as she briskly walks down the lonely hallway. Her pace slows as we reach the last door in the corridor. My shaking hands play with the hem of my shirt as the woman opens the door. Light pokes out from a lamp set in the corner of the dark room. The woman places a hand in the small of my back, shooing me inside.
“Good luck,” she whispers. “Red’s a bit grouchy today.” The door lightly shuts, separating us and leaving me with a longing feeling.
I slowly turn, once again encompassed by darkness.
*Please note: Even though this is a piece of literature written about a nursing home, its merely for personal entertainment and class participation. I loved the opportunity to volunteer at the local nursing home and meet the residents living there. I simply wanted to try something new and writing a flash fiction happened to be part of it. Hope you enjoyed.