Of course they would put it on the top shelf. I was already precariously balancing near the edge of the chair but I gritted my teeth and moved closer to a sure a fall. It had to be a test. One of those ‘let’s see if the new guy can handle grunt work’ kind of tests, but it’s regular newbie haze if you ask me.
The chair wobbled dangerously in protest. It threw me off but when I opened my eyes and saw the box of gloves cradled to my chest, a sore butt was worth it. They couldn’t say I didn’t get the stupid thing.
I hated them all after I found out there were a whole bunch in a separate storage closet, five feet off the ground. No step ladder or wobbly chair or overextending required. And did I get praised for my tenacity? Of course not. First I was lectured on wasting supplies. The floor’s head nurse didn’t even order the gloves; my sabotaging co-workers did for the sole purpose of messing with me, the intern. I was more like a lowly paid volunteer than an intern but it didn’t matter. I was still being picked on.
Then I was laughed out of the Rec room after trying to stupidly get them to understand it wasn’t funny. For one, I had a sore tail bone. Two, I could have seriously hurt myself for the sake of some laughs. Then there was three, I could have lost the gig. Wheeling around carts of meds and pushing pills weren’t my style but it was experience. I wasn’t allowed hard drugs till I was hired so I made do.
Between my ass hat coworkers, the strict eye of the head nurse, and the dull work load, days at Pilgrim were intensely boring. Sighing, I flicked the butt of my cigarette into the bushes that lines the equally boring gray and red brick walls of the building. When my parents pimped the job to me, I should have asked more questions.
I jumped at the dissonant clang of bells. I rushed in and skidded to a stop. There, in the hall, stood a girl twirling round and round. Her grin was broad and warm. Her arms stretched out and above her, slicing through the air as she turned in tight circles, her feet narrowly missing each other. But she wasn’t the insane part. The orderlies were frozen.
She stopped and mid twirl and looked at me. I gulped. I didn’t want to be some statue.
“Say it, say it!” She sang at the top of her lungs. She started towards me. I tried to move but my feet wouldn’t budge. Panicked, I went for my phone. My job description did not include paranormal crazy.
“Say it.” Her hands gripped my arm in such a vice grip that I dropped my only lifeline. “If you don’t, you’ll be locked in here forever.”
Her eyes narrowed darkly as her grip tightened. “You’re never going to leave here.”
Gulping again, I looked at her hands. She wore a short sleeve gown like the other patients. She also had faint markings on her arm. I leaned down against my better judgment to look closer. Scars; she was one of those patients.
“Ra…punzel?” My fingers tingled from the lack of circulation but I swallowed hard and tried again. “Rapunzel.”
“Yes, yes, say it!” She released my arm and twirled in place.
Still at a loss, I stared at her. What else was there? I tried to bolt but my lower body was stuck. I was her captive and she knew it. That left me no other option; I had to figure out what she was going on about.
“No,” she growled, eyes narrowing again, “no more than twice.”
Twice, twice, no more than twice. What was she on? No, she wasn’t normal. Maybe the rumors about Pilgrim being haunted were true. She was proof enough for me. All the twirling and talk of never escaping….And then I remembered it.
“Let down your hair?” It had been years since I had to read the stupid thing to my little sister but I was semi sure that was it.
My fear of being wrong simmered down when the girl started yelling I was right. She pranced over to me, grabbed my hands, and ran with me tripping behind her to the steal double doors.
With one final pull, she sent me flying through them. They opened magically, narrowly avoiding me colliding into them, and they stayed open long enough for me to see the girl grin once more and a blaze to start behind her.
The doors slammed shut, snapping me out of my daze, and I scrambled to them. “W-wait!” Tugging did nothing. I tried shouting more but that was as fruitful as my tugging was. I ran to a window. Sure, I had coworkers as jerks but I wasn’t going to let them just….I paused. What could she do?
Reaching the window, I stepped back in horror. There was nothing there. No girl, no orderlies, no patients wandering around, nothing. The things I could see were covered in layers of dust and cobwebs. Even the windows were gray from years of neglect.
I sunk to my knees. Was I the ghost story or was it?
I had a really hard time with this prompt. I think it was the direction I wanted to take it to but that’s still a poor excuse for leaving you with nothing for days on end. Anyway, I finished it. I’m not happy with how it turned out or the ending but it could be worse; I could still be trying to write it instead of whining about it.
` Maura D.