‘Hey Buddy, make sure you don’t spill any beer in my car.’ Garth said as he steered the beat-up old Lincoln onto the dirt road that was hardly visible in the dark of the fall night.
‘Don’t worry man, I’ve just about polished this bottle off anyway.’ Buddy drained the last mouthful of Budweiser and tossed the dead soldier into the back seat before leaning forward and retrieving another bottle from the open backpack at his feet. He twisted off the cap and raised the beer to his mouth, taking several enthusiastic swallows. ‘You want another?’
‘Nah I’m fine, don’t wanna get done for DUI if we get pulled over.’
‘Uh huh.’
‘I’ll grab another when we get there man.’
‘Uh huh. You haven’t been there before right?’ Buddy asked fiddling with the shitty tape deck that was sticking halfway out of the dash.
‘Nope, I know a couple of guys that have though. Jimmy Matheson and Trent Richards, among others. They took a couple of girls up there a few months back, hoped that they would get all scared and shit, thought it would make it easier to get them outta their Levis.’
‘Did it work?’
‘Hell I don’t know Buddy. What I do know though, is that they got freaked the fuck out. Apparently the place is creepy as hell. They heard phantom voices and all that shit, Jimmy said something grabbed him too, like by his neck and threw him against a wall. Obviously a stoner like Jimmy’s word isn’t the most believable, but still. I’ve heard similar shit.’
‘Pretty cool how it’s named after that loony bin in Batman huh?’
‘Yeah man, pretty fucking cool. Maybe we’ll see the Joker.’ Garth laughed, clearly amused at what he thought was a dazzling display of intellect.
‘Yeah maybe. Fuck I love this Metallica song, Master of Mother Fuckin’ Puppets!’
‘Master of Mother Fuckin’ Muppets in you case asshole.’
‘Hey fuck you. At least I’m not a goddamn virgin.’
‘Ow. That was low Buddy. Real low.’
‘Sorry. I forgot that you stick it to your sister most nights. My bad.’
Garth screwed his face up and tightened his grip on the steering wheel. ‘I swear to God, I’m gonna fucking kill you when we stop.’
‘Bring it Garthfield, fuckin’ bring it. Nah, I’m just teasing. The flashlight’s in the back right?’ Buddy asked taking another generous swig of beer.
‘I hope so. Guess we’re kinda screwed otherwise. I’m pretty sure the place doesn’t have running electricity.’
‘Safe to say man. You sure you don’t want a beer? I mean we’re off the goddamn main road, chances of getting pulled over are pretty fucking slim.’
‘Nah, we should just about be there, I can wait. You gotta spare smoke though?’
‘Sure do.’ Buddy said, taking a tattered soft pack of Lucky Strikes from his jacket pocket. He shook a couple out and handed one to Garth.
‘Aren’t you even gonna light it for me? Jesus Buddy.’
‘Alright, calm down man. Jeez.’ He snatched the bent cigarette from his friend, then lit both with a red plastic lighter.
‘Here we go your majesty.’
‘Thanks man.’
‘No problem.’
Buddy tilted his head back and exhaled a lungful of smoke towards the roof of the car.
‘Hey I think this is it man.’
Buddy leaned forward and peered through the dirty windshield. ‘I think you’re right bud.’
                The Lincoln’s headlight’s beamed through the low hanging branches of sycamores and illuminated the building in question in a murky shade of yellow. The place was huge. Three stories high, with rows and rows of barred windows. The grounds surrounding the abandoned asylum were choked with weeds and knee-high grass, and a shell of a burnt out mini van lay forlornly on its side.
                ‘Shit.’ Buddy sighed as they neared the building amusingly nicknamed ‘Arkham’. The place had become the stuff of urban legends and campfire ghost stories throughout the years since its closure sometime in the late 60’s. Tales of spectral-like figures and ghastly manifestations had echoed through the suburbs of nearby Huntington, Massachusetts, possessing the alcohol-fuelled brains of teenage residents and drawing them to the ruins like moths to dancing flames. The only reason that Garth Enders and Buddy Bukowski hadn’t ventured out there until the current Friday night was the simple fact that neither of them had owned a car up until then. Garth had got the Lincoln as an early birthday present from his stepdad the previous Monday. The two boys didn’t really hang out with anybody, they had been friends since junior high, and didn’t seem to need the company of anybody else. They had never been invited when anyone else had taken their cars out there.
                Garth parked the car in one of the few patches of gravel that wasn’t totally taken over by weeds, and killed the engine.
                ‘I’ll take that beer now man.’
                Buddy took a bottle from his backpack and handed it to Garth.
                ‘Thanks,’ he said as he opened the car door and pitched the butt of his cigarette out into the night.
                ‘I’ll get the flashlight.’ Buddy finished off the remnants of his beer and dropped the bottle at his feet, replacing it with a fresh one. He zipped up the backpack, opened the door and got out. He found the Maglite on the backseat and slipped it into his jacket pocket.
                There was just enough moonlight to see by. Buddy and Garth made their way towards the looming building in silence. The doors of the main entrance had been boarded off with sheets of plywood, but one of them had been pried part way off, leaving enough space to squeeze through. Buddy went first, he was a big guy, not overweight, but stocky. He took the flashlight from his jacket pocket and switched it on, pulling the loose piece of wood aside and shining the light in.
                ‘Well, here goes.’ He forced his way through the gap.
                The chill of the fall air seemed to hang heavier inside the abandoned hospital. It tasted of damp and of dust; they could taste it on their tongues and feel the difference in their lungs, even though both of them were relatively heavy smokers. The place smelt a cross between a forgotten basement and the back of an old woman’s closet.
                The lobby was mostly empty; a few empty beer bottles littered the floor and a waterstained mattress was slumped in a corner. An open door lay ahead of them, Buddy shone the flashlight at it, revealing a dour corridor. To the left of the door stood a staircase that obviously led to the upper floors, sporting missing boards and railing that was broken in several places. The lobby’s walls displayed spraypainted messages such as COREY HENDERSON MUST DIE and LEAVE THIS PLACE, which were probably meant to freak people out, but didn’t quite do the trick. An antique-looking elevator was situated on the right; the caged door looking like it had gotten stuck halfway through closing.
                ‘Motherfucker!’ Garth cursed.
                ‘I stood on a fucking used condom!’
                ‘Oh dude! Gross! Ha-ha.’
                ‘Goddamn! Can I have a fucking cigarette?’
                ‘Yeah sure thing man.’ Buddy handed Garth a Lucky Strike and the lighter.
                ‘So do you wanna check out upstairs or the ground floor?’
                ‘We should check out upstairs man, and I’m guessing the elevator don’t work.’
                Garth and Buddy tentatively ascended the stairs, taking care not to plant a foot on a missing or rotten board. On the first landing a closed door with 1F painted on it welcomed them. The handle turned freely in Buddy’s grasp but it opened with an abrasive creak.
                ‘Who the hell would bother closing the goddamn door after they went through it? There’s no way that we’re the first people to go through here since the place closed, no way in hell.’ Buddy laughed.
                ‘Yeah, beats me man.’
                They stepped into a long corridor lined with numerous doors with small porthole type windows, some were open, some closed.
                ‘Man, this is kinda creepy,’ Garth whispered.
                ‘Pussy,’ Buddy sneered, but he didn’t sound too confident either. The place definitely had a haunted feel about it.
                They started down the corridor, shining the flashlight into the rooms, which they soon realized were cells of previous patients. Buddy and Garth went into some, didn’t go into others. Some still had crooked metal beds in them; some had deep scratches on the inside of the doors where some crazy had raked his or her nails against the wood in some of sort of delusional frenzy. And some were just plain fucked up.
                One cell seemed to have reddish-brown stains splattered across the walls, which looked suspiciously like old dried-up blood. A tatty child’s stuffed animal sat lonely on the middle of the floor, beside a dusty Ouija board surrounded by the stubs of melted black candles. The little toy dog seemed more than a little out of place.
                ‘This is crazy,’ Garth muttered.
                ‘Yeah man, it sure is. Goths I bet.’
                They headed out of the room and continued on to the next one, which turned out to be locked. The porthole was blacked out by something, probably paint, for what reason - the boys didn’t know.
The next room was stranger still. Its walls were covered in a fevered scrawl, numbers and letters seemed to take advantage of every inch of space available. Most of it was illegible; the numbers didn’t seem to add up to anything significant but the letters did form something semi-coherent: SHEWONTLETMELEVE. Even taking into account the fact that the person (whoever it was) that was the author of this work couldn’t spell terribly well, it was still deeply unsettling. But that wasn’t the worst of it, not even close. The worst thing by far was the shadow in the corner of the room.
The shadow didn’t belong to anyone, but was clearly that of a man crouched on his haunches.
Buddy shone the flashlight directly at it, putting it down to a trick of light or something. The shadow didn’t falter. Which was impossible right? The incandescent beam just seemed to stop dead a millimeter or so before reaching it.
‘What the fuck?’ Buddy muttered.
‘Buddy, Buddy, that’s not possible man!’ Garth’s voice was starting to grow into a high pitched wail, sounding like his balls had gone back in time to before they had dropped.
‘Yeah you’re right Garth, let’s the fuck outta here man.’
The boys turned and bolted out of the room and back down the corridor. As they ran they heard a scream rise from somewhere behind them.
‘Holy fuck! Did you hear that?’
‘Yeah I did. I need a fucking beer.’
                They reached the door to the shambles of a staircase, and Buddy went to wrench it open. It wouldn’t give. The door was stuck tight.
                ‘What the hell?’ Buddy cursed and kicked the door. ‘It’s fuckin’ jammed.’
                ‘What? Try harder, come on Buddy, hurry up!’
                ‘The fuck you think I’m doing Garth?’ Buddy responded, ‘Here take this,’ he handed his friend the flashlight, and after walking back as far as he could, took a running lunge at the door, trying to barge it open with his shoulder.
                ‘Aaargh!’ He collapsed to the floor in a pile.
‘Buddy, are you okay man?’
‘Yeah, just my fuckin’ shoulder. We gotta find another way out, let’s go back the other way.’
‘But that room?’
‘You got a better idea?’
Garth hadn’t, so he swallowed nervously and helped Buddy to his feet with hands that were beginning to tremble.
‘I hope the beer didn’t break, Should’a thought of that.’
‘Dude! Fuck the beer, I just want outta here!’
The pair lurched to their feet and ran in the direction they had just came from. They didn’t know if it ended in another staircase or a dead end. Hopefully there at least a laundry chute they could slide down, if even worked outside of the movies.
The tortured screams had started up again from the cell. The distraught voice shrieked and wailed, sounding like its owners throat was being torn wide open.
‘Fuck this shit, fuck this shit, fuck this shit, fuck, fuck , fuck,’ Garth repeated like some kind of explicit mantra.
As they neared the end of the corridor, Buddy saw a strange light ahead; it seemed to be coming towards them. He grabbed Garth by the arm and skidded to the stop.
‘Garth, wait, what the fuck is that?’
‘I, I d-d-don’t know man,’ he stammered.
As the white light approached it seemed to take a spectral-like shape. A shape of a woman.  The boys were frozen where they stood. The flashlight dropped from Garth’s sweaty grip.
It was a nurse.
Welcome to the hospital boys. I hope you will enjoy you’re stay here. If you don’t right away, you will in time. We have a lot of time. We always do.
She stepped closer and smiled.
Both Buddy and Garth started to feel faint, dizzy, though strangely calm. Their vision started to blur and they could feel themselves slowly sink to their knees.

Buddy woke, and sat upright. He was in some sort of bed, in a small room with walls that were painted a shade of off-white. A single caged bulb upon the ceiling lit the room. The door was closed and a small porthole-like window was set in its middle.
                ‘What the fuck?’ He tried to get up out of bed and found that he was cuffed by thick straps of brown leather. He thrashed about in a panic, which proved futile. He was strapped down securely.
                ‘Hey! Hey! What the fuck! Let me the fuck out of here! Garth! Can you hear me man?’
                No reply. Nothing.
                ‘LET ME THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!’ He screamed.
                A voice came from what sounded like the room next to him.
‘She won’t let me leave…’ It said.
‘She won’t let me leave…’