A/N: Halloween is one of my most beloved holidays. Ghosts also happen to be my favorite paranormal phenomenon. So there you are, my reason for writing this short story.
Isola Di Poveglia
"Prologue: A Brief History"
Five miles away from the jewel of Italy, sits a lone emerald in Venice's lagoon. The emerald has a name: Poveglia. It sits abandoned unlike it's Venetian neighbor that receives tourists to its romantic and aquatic canals and their differences didn't cease there. Poveglia did not bask in Venice's romantic air nor did it share the city's bright lights, colors or gaily mood during Carnival. The major difference between these two destinations was that Poveglia never seemed to have a positive chapter in its history book.
He would have asked where his captors were rowing him to if he had the strength to speak. Nausea and pain ached though his traumatized body. Every wave that bounced the boat was agonizing. Every gust of wind that hit made his teeth grind against each other. Every drop of saltwater that sprayed from the oars and hit the swelling pus-filled sacks on his skin burned like fire. The rope bounding his wrists bit at his sores, cutting them. He hung his head, the sack over his head itching against his sensitive face. It was all torture— there was no surface on his body left untouched by pain.
Why was this happening to him? What had he done to deserve the Lord's wrath? He was a devout believer and an honest man...
A horrid stench filled his nostrils; it was an awful smell that suffocated him. As it seemed to grow stronger, he shuddered. Along with the plague, a rumor had also swept the city. People infected were to be taken to an island and burned in the pits in order to rid the city of the stench of bodies.
The boat lurched forward and stopped. He heard his captors shuffle around the boat and step out. He heard their feet against the sand before he was yanked out. He cried out as the sores on his body opened and bleed pus and crimson by the uncaring gentleness of the men who kidnapped him. They each grabbed an arm with a sterile grasp and began to drag him as he stumbled across the ground, noticing something very odd about the soil.
The hood was yanked off his face and he finally was able to see where they had taken him. Festered skin matching his own covered the island before him; dead and staring up at him with grey glossy eyes that should have belonged on an Athenian statue. Ash from the fire pit snowed upon him, he shivered, realizing what the ash was. He took in the horrid place, looking at each bloated, withered and skeletal body that explained the reason for his abduction.
He was here to die.
His face turned to his kidnappers and met the bird-like Medico Della Peste; the Plague Doctor's mask. Desperation and fear fell from his eyes as he stared at the long black clothed men.
The green eyes behind the mask flickered briefly with pity but quickly hardened. He turned to the other one, the eyes under the wide brim hat disappearing from view as the other Plague Doctor looked over his body, inspecting him.
His answer was a quick jerk of his beaked face and towards the fire they dragged him.
December 14, 1928
The Head Doctor of Poveglia's Psychiatric Hospital preoccupied himself by writing down personal notes and medical observations in his most private of journals. His eyes would periodically flicker to the locked door of his quarters before he continued to scribble.
Soft feminine steps on stone alerted him that one of the nurses was coming.
"You may come in," he called before a knock could even be issued.
His eyes behind his moon-shaped spectacles glanced up at the door when there was a pause.
The nurse turned the knob and let herself in. The Doctor gently placed his pen on his desk and closed his book with the flick of his hand, displaying his annoyance for being interrupted, especially by the nosy head nurse.
She carefully closed the door, as if her action would be judged and criticized; it was fear, he had seen it before from her.
He leaned back in his seat and threw a hand towards the empty chair. "Take a seat," he said.
"If it is alright doctor, I would prefer to remain standing— this will not take long," she politely refused.
His eyebrows rose curtly, waiting for her to say her reason for being in his office.
"Eva Galetti has passed," she informed him solemnly. "She was found dead in the seclusion cell."
"Wandered in there?" he questioned.
"Yes," she nodded.
"Unfortunate," he mused, his sarcastic sentimentality overwhelming. "How did she pass?"
"She suffocated herself…."
"The spirit didn't murder her?" he asked, his professional demeanor hiding his mocking tone. She still sensed it.
"Sir..." the Head Nurse began before she stopped, unsure wither she should continue to hold her tongue or speak her mind; both options led to a subject she did not want to converse with him about.
"I apologize," he said, "I do recall you saying to me that this is a topic not to be laughed at. However I cannot help it. Spirits are no scapegoat for mental instability or an excuse for throwing chairs at the orderly."
The Head Nurse's mind returned to that terrifying scene of madness. Eva, her black hair wild and tangled and her eyes filled with fright, defending herself and throwing anything around her at anyone. She never spoke a word throughout the episode; just remained hauntingly silent.
The Head Nurse swallowed the lump in her throat before daring to return back to the conversation. "But sir, all the patients have been experiencing the phenomenon," she said. "Surely this cannot be just coincidence?"
"Perhaps," he shrugged. "Or perhaps, this is just another mystery of the human brain and it's mental health that we have not yet solved—"
"That you intend to find out?" she responded quickly. Her eyes widened with panic when she realized what tumbled out of her mouth.
The Doctor's face fell into a hard frown at her disdainful tone. His fingers tapped against the wood of his desk for the moment, contemplating what to say in response. His head turned to the side and then back to her, noticing that she was refusing to meet his look.
"It was Eva enjoyed visiting the Bell Tower, yes? Some of the others have told me that she was often found up there as well as other places that she wasn't authorized to visit. Have you ever been up to the Bell Tower?"
She shook her head, knowing it wasn't wise to deny him an answer, even if his intent was to upset her. It was just safer not to ignore him.
"Yes, of course you haven't— you have a fear of heights," he said biting his bottom lip. "However, a small fear shouldn't stop you. Did you know that the tower is the only structure visible from every part of the island?"
"I have guessed that," she whispered.
"You can see everyone that comes and goes. It's quiet— solitary even at times," he continued. "You can do anything you wish up there and not a single soul on the island would know."
The Head Nurse furrowed her eyebrows, finding it ironic that he had said 'soul' and was still doubtful of the shadows on the island.
He was playing with her. He had been well aware of her spying on him long before he had been shoving his patients into the laboratoriums and what was left of them into fires of the Crematorium. His most heinous and ambitious experiments were performed in the Bell Tower and away from the eyes of the already hesitant staff. He knew she had been up there checking up on the patients under his observation, he had seen her enter and exit on several occasions.
But it had to be done. He had needed to discover how the mental brain worked and what an opportunity!
"The view is beautiful. I would really recommend seeing it before you leave," the Doctor's eyes narrowed. "In fact why don't you do it now?"
"What?" she asked, confusion on her face.
"I do not appreciate being followed or having my name whispered among the staff and be referred to as a monster— that is the title you have bestowed upon me, isn't it? I will not tolerate it. How I run my hospital will no longer be of any concern of yours— as it shouldn't have been. I am performing delicate observations on patients who are well beyond recovery. I am not mercilessly murdering them—"
"But you are," she countered. Her throat became dry as she worked up enough courage to finally release what she had been suppressing for so long.
"You... place them in quarantine and I know what you do to them in there, Doctor... their screams are all I need to paint a picture. Then you use barbaric tools to open them up. I've seen you're assistant wash off the blood on your hammer and chisel. You know exactly what you are doing Doctor, and what is even more disturbing is that... I think you enjoy it."
Tears of terror lined her eyes, her voice trembling as she continued. "Y-You enjoy it far too much that you have to hide your obsession in the Bell Tower, but you cannot hide it from the eyes of God... and I pray that he sends you to Hell for what you have done here!"
She flinched when he suddenly rose to his feet, his chair knocked over by his uncontrollable rage. She knew that she had trespassed into dangerous territory when she had challenged him, but at least she had finally been able to speak what she had been holding back for seven years, and that allowed her to stand her ground against the murderous doctor.
"Get out! LEAVE!" he yelled. "You're FINISHED!"
"One more thing," she calmly interrupted, inhaling and exhaling deeply, "something else that I have kept hidden. I too have seen the shadows. I have felt them watch over me when I slept and touch my face. I have heard their footsteps and listened to their whispers. They will show themselves to you too... and I hope that in the perilous struggle between them that you lose."
"GET OUT!" he roared.
She closed the door behind her curtly. For a moment he stood there, silent and fuming as he glared at the door. Keeping his eyes on the door, he picked up his chair and sat down, opening his journal. He slammed it close again when there was a knock at the door. He rose from his chair, but after a moment he chose to ignore it. Only when it came a second time did he march over to answer it. He opened the door, to be greeted by nobody. With a pestered scowl he slammed it, nearly knocking it off its hinges.
He climbed up the tower stairs hand by hand, his old legs tired from running away from the invisible antagonist still pursuing him. A set of nails raked across his back, not hard enough to break the skin like the other cuts on his body but enough to pump adrenaline through his veins and spark him to run up the stairs faster. His dull nails scratched against the wooden floorboards as he climbed his way up the stairs, continually feeling non-living eyes probing his back every step of the way.
One of the nurses ran to the window when she heard a scream outside. She poked her head out and her jaw dropped in horror. Other members of the staff and orderly joined her. As they gawked at the body lying on the ground below she ran down the halls of the hospital and to the doctor outside.
She ran to his side, the sight of the doctor's blood pooling from his head making her stomach churn. Startling, he was still alive despite the long fall from the Bell Tower. He writhed and groaned in pain, clutching the nurse's coat in a death grip as she came to kneel by his side.
The two physicians knew his condition was fatal, but she still offered words of encouragement to try and steer his attention away from his agony. Her eyes flashed up for the briefest moment and she screamed.|Looming above them was a fine mist, the outline of a man vaguely visible within it.
As it moved towards them she shrieked and jerked away at the Doctor's grip on her coat; refusing to let her leave. She scratched and clawed and twisted, doing everything possible to get him to let go. Only when she sank her teeth into his wrist did he release her. She crawled away backwards, watching as the shadow entered the Doctor's body.
His pained groans quickly turned to gasps of air, his bloody hands reached for his throat as his body began to spasm. Her shaky hand covered her mouth as she watched the scene in utter shock; unable to do anything but stare. Frightened tears spilled from her eyes and over her hand, as she witnessed the Doctor wheeze out his dying breaths.
The island has long since been abandoned. Untouched by the unwilling natives that knew well enough not to explore the cursed island five miles away. Unfortunately for two Decepticons, who knew nothing about the island nor cared to know, would find themselves stranded for the night.
Stranded on the island often called by the locals as the 'Island of No Return'...
A/N: Having done research on this island- yes, Poveglia does exist— I have found its history to be quite disturbing and therefore I approach this with the utmost respect.
Most of these 'facts' are taken from the shows 'The Scariest Places on Earth and Ghost Adventures.' Black Plague victims were taken to that island and dumped. The Head Surgeon and Eva did exist. The conversation with the Head Nurse (My 'OC') was my way of explaining the experiments he performed (yes, he did cut people's head's open). He was supposedly chased by something up the Bell Tower although it is unknown if he fell or was pushed. And lastly, there was a nurse that saw a mist enter his body as he lay dying.
I thank you for taking a look at this and I hope you'll stick around for the next one.
Next Chapter: Welcome to Poveglia Casseticons!