#1876

The facility has been closed for years; the only ones who seek shelter in its halls now are drifters and runaway teens. Tanim stands outside the sagging front gate and stares up at the weathered edifice, trying to imagine what it looked like before the weeds and graffiti took over. Stripped of its junky decoration in his mind, the place still isn’t impressive. It looks like every other low-budget, government-run institutional building meant to convey competence but not compassion. He isn’t surprised it was left to rot when its funding dried up – no amount of remodeling or landscaping could hide the building’s first and truest intention.

Tanim slips through an opening where the fence has been torn from its post and emerges onto a short walkway, the lawn to either side riddled by tall weeds and piles of trash. Even the cement itself has cracked from years of weathering and determined plant roots, and he must watch his step carefully as he makes his way to the front doors. A “No Trespassing” sign and a loop of chain around the door handles bear evidence to the half-hearted attempt to deter intruders, but a few minutes’ searching brings Tanim to a side door hanging wide on its rusted hinges.

Inside, dead leaves and syringes crunch beneath his shoes. Tanim peers through broken windows and into darkened rooms, but each is empty and reveals little about its former purpose. No inch of wall remains untouched by graffiti, and as he walks he can’t help but read the most legible of it. “State-assisted suicide” reads one line. “Don’t go down the rabbit hole,” says another. “The dead do not rest here” and “In the basement” seem to have been written by the same hand, as has “The Devil made me do it”. Freshest on the wall, someone has scribbled codes that seem to indicate Bible passages. At the dead end of a twisting hallway, Tanim finds the phrase, “yet I was not alone, for The Angel watches always”. 

Despite the creepy aura, nothing remotely eventful happens and Tanim emerges back into the afternoon sunlight unscathed. On the sidewalk, he glances back for a last look at the hospital. All that can be read of its old sign are a few faded letters, but he manages to just make out the name “St. Anthony”. Later, when he imagines how the place must have looked in Daren’s youth, he sees it with the graffiti superimposed on the stark white walls.

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