I do not own anything Twilight. It all belongs to SM. No copyright infringement is intended. However, characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details of this story are mine. No copying or reproduction without my permission.
"Bella, come on, it'll be fun," Alice pleaded. Her computer chair actually hobbled from side to side as she bounced against the seat cushion, earnestly awaiting my reply.
I shook my head. "Alice, I don't think so. It's not safe." She sighed in frustration, her brow furrowed while her green eyes shifted off me in an effort to hide her disappointment. "Besides, I thought you asked me over this weekend because you insisted I needed a makeover."
Her eyes met mine again, chagrin visible in her expression. "Well, yeah, you do, but that's for tomorrow night." Her voice softened, lip pouting as she made another attempt to sway my decision. "We never do anything exciting, Bella. Never. Summer break just started and I'd like to do something different, something other than the usual trips to Port Angeles. Rosalie called me and told me they had a group going tonight, and she asked if we'd like to come along. Rosalie Hale, Bella." Her eyes widened for emphasis, as if speaking Rosalie's name was a privilege. "Do you know what that means being asked to join her group?"
"I don't care, Alice." I defiantly crossed my arms at my chest. "Knowing Rosalie, we're probably meant to be fall guys for something illegal she has planned." I received a nice firm glare for my defamation of 'the blonde one'. "I don't get the interest in the place, I really don't. All those stories, they're just rumors. There are no ghosts haunting the place, no man running around killing people and it's certainly not a gateway leading to another world. You do realize that's all silly innuendo started by other teenagers just to get a rise out of people, don't you? It's nothing more than an old, dilapidated hospital that's barely standing on its foundation. And did I mention it's not safe?"
She rolled her eyes, shaking her head enough that the short black tendrils slightly bounced. "Yeah, you already mentioned that. I just… I wanted to do something exciting for once," she whined. "If we don't find anything, then we don't find anything, but can we please go, Bella, even if it's only an hour? Please?" I ran my hand roughly down my face, which signified I was giving in to the pixie and she knew this. It was nearly impossible to deny Alice Cullen anything. My hand had barely cleared my face before she shrieked in excitement, hurdling her little body in my direction and knocking me flat on my back against her mattress. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Bella."
"Alice… can't breathe," I gasped.
"Oh, I'm sorry." She sat up quickly, giggling.
"Okay, here's the deal," I began, holding my hands defensively in front of me to keep her from lunging at me again. "We'll go for an hour, but if I fall and break something, you're paying my doctor bill."
"Deal," she squealed, and it was easily spoken on her part, considering her father was a doctor. Her eyes traveled over me, obviously scrutinizing my attire. She shook her head then grabbed my hand, pulling me up off the bed. "You need to change."
"There's nothing wrong with my outfit," I scoffed. "And I'm not getting dressed up to go rummage around a dirty, old building, especially with people I don't care to impress."
Unfortunately, as much as I spoke against the need to change, Alice wasn't about to yield so hip hugging jeans replaced my slacks, a form-fitting t-shirt took the place of my baggy sweater and tennis shoes now covered my feet in place of flats. According to Alice, I looked hot while maintaining comfort. According to me, I was overexposed while personifying someone I really wasn't.
Once we finished changing and Alice had perfected her hair and makeup, then Barbie dolled me, she called Rosalie to let her know we decided to come along. The conversation barely lasted a few moments, and I could only make out bits and pieces of what was said, but it was enough to send Alice into a near manic coma. Of course I didn't have to wait long to find out why. "Oh, my God, I can't believe Jasper Hale is going. Can you believe that, Bella? I can't believe that." Jasper was Rosalie's twin brother and the object of Alice's affection.
Here we were, starting our freshman year of college in a few months, and she still acted juvenile over Jasper. "No, I can't believe that," I mumbled. I could actually hear the perpetual blinking of her eyelids as she stared down at me in annoyance over my less than agreeable enthusiasm. "What?" I shrugged. "You've liked the guy since sophomore year of high school, and it's obvious he's crushing on you too, yet you do nothing about it."
"He's not crushing on me," she stated incredulously. "He barely notices me."
"Trust me," I hmphed. "He definitely notices you."
"Tyler Crowley, Mike Newton and Jessica Stanley are coming. She said Emmett was going too."
"Good for him," I stated flatly.
"You really don't like the idea of your brother dating Rosalie, do you?" she asked.
"I don't have an opinion either way," I told her. I clearly did, but I attempted to react indifferent. It wasn't that I hated Rosalie, because I didn't hate anyone, it was simply that she wasn't the easiest person to get along with; in fact, she could be downright cruel if she wanted to be.
Her eyebrow lifted in dubiety. "Right."
"So, is everyone meeting up there?" I asked, changing the subject.
Alice nodded. "Yeah, it's only ten minutes away from here, so we can just walk there. They're probably on their way now, so we should get heading if we want to arrive around the same time."
We made our way downstairs, running into Mr. Cullen, Alice's dad, as we approached the front door. He glanced up from the medical book he carried within his hands, smiling warmly at us both. "Where are you ladies headed?"
"We're going out with some friends, Dad, but we won't be out too late," Alice told him. Growing up, I often wondered if Alice had been adopted because she looked nothing like her parents, other than having Mrs. Cullen's eyes. Alice was very petite, obviously not taking after either parent in height, and she had black hair, where as Mrs. Cullen's hair was more caramel brown and Mr. Cullen's was light blonde.
"Well, alright," he started. "Just be careful. I probably won't be here when you get back. The hospital is understaffed tonight, so I offered to go in, but your mother will be back within the hour."
"Okay, Dad, we will." Alice gave him a quick peck on the cheek, I gave him a small smile, then we were out the door.
Just as we arrived at the old building, Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper were pulling up in one vehicle while Tyler, Mike and Jessica arrived in another. "How exciting is this shit?" Tyler boomed as he climbed out of the driver's seat to his car.
"Dude, I've been excited about this all week." I'd recognize that voice anywhere, and it belonged to none other than Mike Newton, who was actually climbing out of the passenger side of Tyler's car through the window. Apparently, Tyler's enthusiasm was infectious, so I was expecting a fistpump between the two at any given moment.
Tyler pulled the driver's seat forward, and Jessica Stanley climbed out, face awash with disgust as her eyes scanned the area. "This is gross. I can't believe you guys actually talked me into coming here."
"Well, if you're such a baby, Jess, you can stay in the car while us big kids go inside," Mike laughed. She promptly flipped him off, leaving him and Tyler to their laughter while she headed over to Rosalie's car.
"This should be interesting," I whispered to Alice. She shot me a warning glare, then gripped my arm, pulling me toward the others.
We'd just approached Rose's car when she began to hand out flashlights and dictate how the evening was to go. "We're gonna split up in groups. There are eight of us, so we can either do groups of four or groups of two. It's your call. Now, there is one way and one way only to get inside and that's through the back. We have to move some boulders out of the way, but that shouldn't be a problem for you strong boys." She flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder while locking her eyes directly on Emmett, and her tongue swiped suggestively along her bottom lip as she batted her eyes at him. To him, that was attractive, but to me, well, it appeared like a mating ritual attempt gone all epileptic. I may have even gagged a little. "Once we're inside, we'll split off into groups and each group will take a floor to search. We all have cell phones, so if you run into any problems, then make sure you text. If you see anything, make sure you text. We'll meet back at the entrance in two hours and decide if we'd like to investigate longer." I very nearly boycotted the two-hour time limit, but quickly decided against it. There were too many eager bodies around here, and the eagerness wasn't about searching buildings.
Everyone pretty much agreed on groups of two, and I was all for the 'groups of two' idea, but I had actually factored Alice in as part of my group. Unfortunately for me, I ended up with Jessica Stanley while Alice practically fused herself to Jasper's loins when he asked her to partner up. I realized it could have been much worse, though. I could have spent the evening with Mike Newton, who I knew without a doubt would have been walking behind me and staring at my ass the entire way. At least the awkward with Jessica Stanley was manageable. And, of course, once we got inside the old hospital, we were given the basement floor.
"So, Bella," she started, the awkward of being paired with me evident in her tone. We had never been what you'd call friends in school. Truthfully, we'd been nothing more than acquaintances. She was part of Rosalie's flock, and their clique didn't associate with underclassmen, even those who were one grade level under like I was. "How are things?"
"Good," I managed to say. I kept focus ahead of me, observing my surroundings with keen eyes. And really, at this point, there wasn't much to see other than busted up cement that had once been part of the floor, scattered trash and furniture and medical equipment debris.
"That's good," she answered. She took in a deep breath, then exhaled fully, making her clamorous breathing echo through the hall. "Quite a place, huh? It's so dark, and that smell is awful. How could someone handle inhaling that smell all the time?"
"Well, considering the place is abandoned, I'd say no one has to." My statement may have appeared snarky, but it wasn't intentional.
"I know that," she huffed, pausing her steps. "I was just making conversation, Bella."
I sighed, pivoting my body to face her. "I'm sorry, Jess. I didn't mean it the way it sounded. I really didn't. I'm just not real thrilled about being here, you know? I mean, Alice had to talk me into it. I know why everyone came. They wanna be the one to prove that the rumors are true, at least the part about finding ghosts, but for all they know the stories could be based off some homeless man living here because he has no other place in the world to go. As sad as that may be, living in a place like this..." I gestured with my hands. "It's quite possibly all he has."
"It's okay," she said as we began moving again. "I really didn't want to come either, but Tyler and Rose insisted."
"Do you always do what Rosalie asks?" I questioned.
She laughed nervously. "Yeah, pretty much." It was in that moment I saw her differently, saw a girl who only wanted to belong, but to do so she felt she needed to mold herself to be what others wanted her to be. And because of that, I couldn't help but wonder when it was that she'd truly lost herself.
We continued searching the basement floor, briefly talking as we walked through rooms that had once held life. There were still some old beds with torn, ratty mattresses that covered them, but most rooms had what appeared to be metal slates or operating tables. We had found one with a sleep deprivation tank, but one room in particular seemed barbaric. There was a chair stationed in the center of the room, cuffs attached along the arms. It almost looked like an electric chair, and it was surrounded by metal tables that still held surgical equipment, though they appeared rusted. It was obvious these weren't patient rooms - they were used for 'therapy'. "That's so gross." Jess was reiterating my thoughts exactly.
I nodded, though I knew she couldn't see me - it was instinct. "I don't want to know what they used this stuff for. I mean, I can imagine, but I'd really rather I didn't."
"Hey, what's that room over there?" Jess was shining her flashlight toward the far corner of the room over a wooden door.
I shrugged. "I don't know. I guess it could be a closet. We're here so we may as well check it out."
When we reached the door, it took us both to open it. We instantaneously flashed our lights inside the room, finding what appeared to be a coed bathroom. "Okay, that's strange. Why would there be a coed bathroom down here?"
"Everything about this place is strange." I could actually hear the shiver in Jess's tone.
I stepped forward, flashing my light into the numerous shower stalls. "Yeah, "I whispered. "I keep thinking about all the people that must have been down here and what could have possibly happened to them. Seeing that chair in the other room, it still gives me chills. These people were here because they needed help, they had nowhere else to turn, and I have this terrible feeling that something awful happened to some of them. It makes me sick thinking about it."
I'd barely finished my sentence when what sounded like something hitting the floor, making a thudding sound, came from the back of the room. "Bella, what was that?"
"I don't-" Another thud interrupted me. I turned around briskly, barely catching Jess's form as she moved through the door. I quickly trailed behind her, nearly losing my footing several times as I stumbled out of the room after her. "Jess!" I yelled.
I finally caught up to her when we neared the other end of the hall. "What the hell was that? We have to get a hold of the others." Jess was the only one who had a cell on her at the moment, so she reached into her sweatshirt to grab hers, and what started out as rational movements quickly became frenzied. "My phone," she cried. "I must have lost it back there when I ran. I have to have my phone, Bella. I have to get it back. I can't leave without it."
"Okay, as crazy as this may sound, we'll just run in there, grab your phone and run back out. What we heard, it was probably rats or some other animal that made this place a home. Plus, you barely stepped away from the door, so it has to be near there, right?" I asked.
It wasn't until I lifted my flashlight, beaming the light over her face, that she even answered me. "I can't go back in there."
"Jess, we need to get your phone. You said so yourself that you can't leave without it." I stepped toward her, reaching for her arm and feeling her whole body shaking in fear as I touched her. "Hey, are you okay?"
She shook her head. "I can't go back in there, Bella. I'm just too scared."
And this was the moment I became one with stupidity, which for me was normal in problematic situations. "Okay, what if…. well, what if you stay right here and wait for me while I go and get your phone? Can you stay here and wait for me?"
"Yeah," she nodded vehemently. "I can wait."
I swallowed thickly against the lump of fear building in my throat. "I'll be right back," I said hoarsely.
I took a few steps forward when Jess called out to me. "Thank you, Bella."
"Yeah, yeah," I grumbled, but I didn't take the time to turn around and address her. The quicker I made it to that room and found Jess's cell, the quicker we'd be off this floor and near the others. More steps forward, hearing no sound other than my fluctuant breathing.
I paused when I cleared the first room and neared the door of the large bathroom, urging my emotions to become sedate. I inhaled one last deep breath, then rounded the corner into the room, flashing the light desperately over the damaged floor in search of Jess's cell.
I became more frantic the more expanse of the floor my light drifted over with no cell phone in sight. I took a few steps forward, feeling the tears trickle against the corner of my eyes because the fear was now eating at my insides. I was ready to give up because I felt rocked by terror when my light reflected over something shiny. I flashed the light back in the direction of the shiny object, finding Jess's cell. I breathed out loudly in triumph, launching myself near it and bent over to pick it up. And just as I gripped the phone in my hands, the air became thick and chilling – goosebumps literally attacked my body without mercy. I lifted up so slowly, mainly because I felt so paralyzed by whatever entered that room, and altered the atmosphere.
And when I was finally standing upright, I eased the hand that held the flashlight up in front of me. There was a body standing just a few feet away, and though I knew there was someone there, it wasn't actually real to me until I stopped at his face. But really, all I could focus on was the ominous green eyes that held mine. He stepped toward me, and I tried to scream, but the sound was caught in the back of my throat.
I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't look away. The fear became so biting that it felt as if I were being swallowed whole by it. But when he gripped my arm, something instinctual kicked in, something that aimed to preserve my life. I threw myself backward to get away, but in doing so my foot caught on some broken tiling along the floor. The last thing I recalled before complete blackness was the way the light shimmered over his face as I fell, reflecting the deep green in his eyes, the same eyes that left me immobilized with fear.