The old hospital had stood abandoned atop the hill since the 70's. It had changed ownership multiple times, each successive owner announcing to the papers that they had grand plans for the building. One wanted to turn it into a hotel, one was going to make it a museum, one even wanted to tear it down and turn it into a giant statue. None of the plans ever materialized, and the hospital just continued to rot away.
The building had become a sort of urban legend, a building whispered about around camp fires, the subject of many nightmares. They said that it was built at the turn of the century, in response to some unnamed epidemic. They said the hospital could hold 500 patients comfortably. Despite the massiveness of the epidemic, the hospital was never full. The death rate was said to be astronomical, creating empty rooms as fast as they could fill them. When all was said and done, people claimed that there were almost 70,000 deaths in that building.
Not all of those deaths were patients.
The environment was not one of hope. The patients that came to the hospital were basically given a death sentence, most never left the hospital again alive. The pitiful cries of despair, and horrible hacking coughs filled the air with a symphony of misery. This made it a very difficult place to work, and the suicide rate among the staff was high. It was rare for an entire month to go by without at least one death amongst the staff. In fact they tended to happen in clusters of two or three in a week’s time. Friends would follow friends into the dark embrace of death. By the time the hospital closed its doors, no one was allowed on the roof by themselves, for fear that they too, would take a dive to the pavement below.
The most popular story was of a young nurse, who had an affair with one of the doctors. When she learned she was pregnant, the shame of her actions, along with the madness of the hospital itself, drove her to hang herself one night. They didn't find her body until the next morning, swinging there in the fifth floor showers.
Between the lack of hope, and the disease itself, several patients went insane, and had to be locked up and restrained. Stories even told of one patient who lost his mind, and managed to kill 15 patients and 4 nurses before he was finally subdued. The tales never told what happened to the patient.
Fortunately, a cure was found for the disease, and by the early 60's the hospital was closed. It was briefly reopened in '69 as a retirement home, but the residents complained of odd noises, and the death rate was abnormally high. By the summer of '70, the lack of residents forced the building to close again. As the years went on, the building was mostly forgotten, except by thrill-seeking teenagers and the occasional vagrant.
Missing person reports in the area skyrocketed. Most of these missing persons cases went unsolved. Occasionally a body would be found near the old hospital, battered and broken by the foundation, another suicide of a despondent teenager. Stories began circulating that the spirits did not like being disturbed, and that any who violated their domain, would join them for eternity.
Maeve Redmond thought the stories were nothing more than a load of bullshit.
The missing people were likely just runaways, desperate to escape the humdrum of life in this little burg. No foul play, no need for supernatural boogeymen. Sure, there may have been a lot of deaths in that hospital, but there couldn't have been anywhere near as many as the stories claimed. There was no record of that many deaths, Maeve had checked. The most she could find in any single month was about 17, which put the death total death count well under 10,000.
The persistence of the stories started as a sort of joke in Maeve's eyes, but as she grew older, and the stories become more grisly, and far-fetched they become a source of great irritation. Maeve was a firm believer in the rational world. Ghosts, spirits, poltergeists... These things were not rational ideas; they were the stuff of campfire stories, and Hollywood fantasy. She saw people’s beliefs in such crap as a personal insult to the logical world.
When another missing persons report got the office whispering about the ghosts at the old hospital, Maeve had finally had enough. That weekend, armed with her trusty Handycam, Maeve set out for the hospital under the cover of night, determined to prove that the hospital was not some malicious pit with ill intent. It was just an old building, with a bad reputation.
Over the years, the hospital had become the target of vandals, so when the current owners had come into possession of the property several years back, the first thing they did was erect a massive fence around the building. Coils of barbed wire glinted in the moonlight, in what was thought to be a fairly effective deterrent to vandals and other miscreants. Determination, and the undying pursuit of a nice adrenaline rush, guaranteed that no fence would ever be sufficient to stop the trespassers
Friday night, she drove to an apartment complex that had grown over the last decade at the foot of the hill. There was no way to get her car all the way up to the building that was one thing she had gleaned from all of the water cooler gossip. She had heard that her best bet was to sneak up through the woods,
and slip through a small gap left in the fence by some previous trespassers.
It was a long trip up the hill. She stuck to the woods, slipping occasionally on wet, fallen leaves. The darkness was a hindrance, but it was a necessity. Twice she had to duck behind large trees to avoid security patrols driving up and down the driveway that lead up to the back of the building, their flashlights piercing the air so close to her face that both times she was sure she was caught.
When she finally made it to the fence, it towered over her, a seemingly impenetrable barrier. However, just as she had heard, there was a well hidden gap in some bushes not too far from the road. Apparently some intrepid vandal had seen the way the bushes grew around the fence, and had used it to conceal his entryway. If you didn't know to look, you would never find where the links in the chain link fence had been cut.
From the bushes she watched as another security patrol went past. Growing up in this area she never would have guessed the security would be this heavy at an abandoned hospital. Perhaps, the vandalism had been more extreme than she had thought.
When the patrol was out of sight, she took a moment to gaze up at the massive hospital. Five stories stood before her, red brick, atop a gray foundation. Not a single pane of glass remained in the seemingly endless array of windows. The land from the fence to the wall was completely barren, not a single tree or bush to hide behind. Once she left cover, she would be exposed until she made it inside the building.
As soon as the next security patrol passed, she darted across the land, running straight for the fire escape. The fire escape wasn't part of the original building, and had been added on when the building was reopened as a nursing home. Fortunately this meant that while it might be a little rickety, it was still mostly stable. Climbing up as quickly as she could, she only barely managed to climb in the second story window before the security patrol managed another pass.
This close to the windows, there was no way she could use her flashlight. So, relying on the small amount of moonlight that came through the windows, Maeve began her slow trek through the hospital. From the corner of her eye she caught faint glimpses of years of graffiti. Vulgar phrases and crude depictions of various body parts mixed with quotes from Shakespeare and menacing threats.
Maeve paid the majority of the graffiti no mind, choosing to ignore the superstitious nonsense that some of it focused on. Occasionally a piece would catch her eye. There was some real talent behind some of those images, and she couldn't help but take a moment to capture them on her Handycam.
As she recorded one particularly detailed piece that looked like a man screaming, that cleverly used a hole in the wall as the man's mouth, she heard a scraping noise in the hallway. She lowered the camera, and scrambled through the hole in the wall, afraid of getting caught by a roving security guard.
On the other side of the wall, the room was black as pitch. Apparently, it was far enough away from a window, that not even ambient moonlight could pierce the darkness. She huddled near the hole, watching for the tell-tale shine of a flashlight, but it never came. She watched, waiting for whoever made the noise to show themselves.
She remained there, hunched over, afraid to move for what seemed like hours. Finally, she assumed whatever had made the noise was gone, and tentatively turned on her flashlight. She shone the beam around the room, the light falling on scattered debris, and what looked like a long-abandoned hobo camp. With the fear of being caught no longer ramping her adrenaline up, she started to notice the smells, and hastily made her way out of the room before she could identify the source of those smells.
She stowed the flashlight in her backpack, and once more began roaming the halls. The stories she had heard from her coworkers had all said that the weirdest stuff had happened up on the 5th floor, so she made her way toward the stairwell, this time ignoring the strange scraping noises she heard, assuming now that it was some wild animal trapped in the walls, or possibly just the wind blowing debris. Either way, it was nothing to worry about.
The stairwell was even worse off than the rooms, and she made sure to catch every inch of it on the Handycam. Broken glass littered the stairs, and what looked like discarded needles stuck out from a pile of splintered boards in the corner of a landing. Scorch marks covered one wall, and in places it looked like someone had taken a sledgehammer and just began pounding on the walls.
The graffiti on the walls became cruder, and more disjointed as she climbed. Where once she had seen Shakespearean quotes mixed in with the vulgarities, now even the vulgarities were disjointed, and made almost no sense.
“Watching... Faces. Voices. Fucking my head.” was scrawled in sharpie on the landing between the 4th and 5th floor. Surrounding those words was a series of stylized faces, elongated, black forms with only the barest indication of eyes and a mouth. There must have been hundreds of these faces. Some looked positively menacing, others looked almost forlorn. For the life of her, Maeve could not find two that looked alike.
She followed the faces up the steps, each step making them more twisted, and less human. By the fourth step, the faces had started losing their mouths. By the time she reached the door to the fifth floor, they were no longer faces but just undulating shadowy forms. Some looked like candle flames, others looked like elongated footballs.
The floor to the 5th floor was closed, and she could see a deep gouge in the wood, almost like someone had taken an ax, and tried to cut their way out. The door opened easily enough, with only a slight creaking of poorly maintained hinges, and she found herself on the fabled 5th floor. There weren't very many rooms up here. Some showers, a bathroom, and what might have been a nurse's station appeared to be it. The majority of the level was given over to the roof. On one side, a decrepit swing set shivered in a gentle breeze. The other side of the roof had a gaping hole, where it had collapsed years ago.
Maeve looked around for a good spot to set up, and chose a spot against one of the windows, where she'd be able to see most of the floor. She opened her backpack, and pulled out her blanket, a few bottles of water, and her mini tripod, and began setting up. She placed the bottles of water inside an old electrical box, which had long ago been stripped of any wiring. She wanted to make sure she wouldn't leave evidence behind should security come this way. Sitting down in front of her mini tripod, Maeve wrapped the blanket around herself, and began what she had come here to do.
“My name is Maeve Redmond. I’m recording today from the fifth floor of the Westerbrook Hospital. The time is currently 11:35 PM, on October 25th, 2013. I have decided to partake in today’s… extra-legal activities, to prove once and for all that there are no spirits, ghosts, or boogeymen roaming the halls of old Westerbrook.”
She cleared her throat, and looked around the room.
“Preceding this statement, you will have seen multiple examples of the graffiti that mark the walls of this once proud building, indicating many others have managed to make it this far in without falling prey to some spooky poltergeist. This video log will help to dispel the rumors once and for all, and might finally help to facilitate the renovation and restoration of this magnificent piece of our cultural heritage.
“At this point, I have been in the building since about 9:30PM. I unfortunately did not obtain an exact time, due to my efforts to avoid detection. As of yet, I have experienced nothing that could even remotely be considered “paranormal”. The spookiest event thus far was when I stepped into an abandoned hobo camp. The smells coming from the camp, while not in the slightest bit paranormal were fairly frightening.”
She stopped talking briefly, to grab one of her concealed bottles of water. The first one was already warm to the touch, apparently the chill October air was not enough to keep this one cold. She sighed, and tossed it into her bag. When she grabbed the other one, she gasped and immediately dropped it. It hit the floor with a sound akin to a rock hitting concrete. The contents of the bottle were frozen solid.
“That was…odd.” She looked down at the bottle, as it rolled to the center of the room. “Apparently, I brought a frozen water bottle with me.”
Shaking her head, she continued. “The stories about Westerbrook are littered with blatant falsehoods and gross exaggerations. They have been used to terrify people for decades. It's time to set the record straight and dispel the stories spread by the fear-mongers. It is time for rational thought to shine a light on things. Westerbrook was never...”
She saw something out of the corner of her eye, the shape of a woman standing in the doorway to her right. The woman was dressed all in white, and looked to be facing out at the night sky. Maeve turned to face the woman, excuses for her trespassing already forming on her lips, only to see the woman raise a single finger to her lips as her shape dissipated into the air with a low “shhhhh”.
Maeve got to her feet, and walked over to where she had seen the shape. Looking in vain for whatever had caused the strange vision. Her search ended, when she heard the water bottle begin rolling again. She wheeled around to see the bottle spinning around on the floor, faster and faster, until it was spinning around on its tip.
Maeve backed toward a window, suddenly beginning to think that her trip up here was a mistake. She gasped in horror as a black shape appeared from behind the nurse's station. The shape glided across the room in a motion that seemed preternaturally fluid. It looked similar to a tall, impossibly thin man. One could easily spot the shape of a head, and arms, and even legs. However, the inky black form lacked a face. Truth be told, it looked like nothing more than a shadow. Maeve watched it gliding toward her, and pressed her back even harder against the wall between the windows.
She refused to believe what her eyes were seeing. It defied all logic, and she knew it had to be some kind of delusion. Her mind rebelled, and once she got over the initial shock, her courage once more asserted itself, and she stepped toward the shadowy form.
“This must be some sort of delusion, brought on by a lack of sleep or stress or something.” She reached out, positive that she was seeing nothing more than her own shadow.
“Join... us...” The voice coming from the shadow was low and crackly, like dried leaves being stepped on. Despite the unusual nature of the sound, there was no denying what she had heard. The sound sent a shiver down her spine.
She stopped mid-stride, and looked at where the shapes eyes should be. “What am I even looking at here? It can't be real...” She took a step back, and didn't even notice that the water bottle had rolled behind her. She had a split second to notice the world reeling around her, before she fell, her head crashing violently against the floor.
Her vision blurred, as she lay there, her ears ringing from the impact. Blackness crept in, the moonlight dappled area slowly fading, as Maeve struggled to maintain consciousness. She fought to roll onto her side, propping her up on an elbow, and looking up at where the shape had been. Now, there was nothing. She blinked back tears of pain, as she worked her way back into a sitting position.
She sat there for a moment, as the world spun around her, hugging her knees. Normalcy returned slowly, and even once it felt like the world had righted itself on its axis, she kept her eyes tightly shut. Her mind kept insisting that everything she had seen was a delusion, but the growing knot on the back of her head said otherwise.
Finally, she let out a sigh, and reached for the tripod, that she had apparently knocked over when she fell. She set it up once more, and continued recording. “It would seem that my over-active imagination has gotten the best of me up here. Whether it is sleep deprivation, or something far more serious, I have seen things, and heard things that...”
She paused mid-sentence and grabbed her little Handycam. She quickly sped through the footage she had taped, until she saw herself getting up on the tiny screen. She heard herself on the camera, attributing this to sleep deprivation, and then listened closely. The voice like crunching leaves did not show up in the audio.
Again, she set up the camera, and began recording. “I'm sorry about that. I wanted to confirm that it was nothing but a hallucination. I suppose it is easy for a large empty building like this to play with your mind. I'm beginning, at the very least, to understand why some of the stories that come out of this place seem to persist.”
She shook her head slowly, and looked back into the camera. “With my mind playing tricks on me, perhaps it is best that I call off my quest to prove there is no such thing as ghosts. I'll try again next week, perhaps? Or maybe I'll just learn to accept that people will have their superstitions no matter what I say or do.”
Maeve turned off the camera, and began packing up. She was annoyed to have come all this way to have her mind go soft like this, but she knew that she would do no good sitting around while she was seeing things. Besides which, the pain from the back of her head was getting worse, and she thought it might be a good idea to have it looked at, or at the very least take some kind of medication to make the pain and swelling go down.
As she zipped up her backpack, she felt a cold breath on the back of her neck. She whirled around to look out the open window, the hairs on her neck and arm standing on end. Nothing hovered outside the window; her mind conjured no images of ghostly specters; just the stars in the sky and a half moon to keep them company.
Wrapping the blanket tightly around her, and armed with her flashlight, she headed back toward the stairs, only to find the door shut, and sealed. She tugged at the handle, praying that it would open and she'd be able to get home. Each tug sent ripples of pain through her skull. The pain intensified, and soon, the room was spinning again, forcing Maeve to her knees. She propped her head against the door, and waited for the latest wave of vertigo to pass.
“What's wrong with me today?” She asked in a low voice, as she tried to shake her head. “This isn't like me. Not like me at all.”
She gave a couple more half-hearted tugs at the door, before releasing the handle, and getting slowly to her feet. She refused to believe that she was stuck up here, and if this door wasn't going to work, she'd find another. She briefly pondered the gaping hole on the one side of the roof, but didn't want to even consider the possibility of getting stuck down there.
The only other path she could think of, was to try the fire escape, but to get there she'd have to make her way around the big hole.
The path around the hole was narrow, maybe 6 inches of the collapsed roof remained. There was also a three foot tall ledge that ran around the entire roof. Maeve looked down into the hole, before placing a wary foot on the roof around the hole. She took a several steps back, as the roof crumbled beneath her. Her heart pounded in her chest, as she tried to catch her breath.
Hesitantly she climbed up onto the ledge, and started her way across to the other side of the hole, crawling slowly, too afraid of the fall to risk walking. Looking over the ledge, she stared down at the ground 5 stories below, and quickly looked away. Looking back toward her goal, she nearly fell when she saw the shadowy figure once more before her, its arms outstretched toward her.
Gritting her teeth she continued forward. “Just my mind playing tricks on me. Hallucinations can't hurt me. The fire escape is just ahead. Keep your head down, and keep moving.”
She kept her eyes firmly on the ledge in front of her, and kept moving. A sudden wind ripped the blanket away, and she watched as it fluttered through the air, slowly descending toward the ground below. She saw an approaching security patrol, and for the first time since she broke in, she almost hoped they looked up and saw her. Sure, she may get in trouble for trespassing, but at least she would be able to get out of the building. She followed the blanket's descent, and her heart sank, as the blanket fell behind the truck, only a short distance from the hole in the fence that had lead to this nightmare.
“Hey! I'm up here!” She screamed, her voice nearly lost in the wind. “Someone look up here! ...Please look up.”
She watched as the security patrol drove past, and hung her head. Forward to the fire escape was her only hope of getting out of here, so she once more began her trek across the ledge. The stone was cold, and rough beneath her hands. She was halfway across the hole before she noticed that her hands were bleeding. A quick look behind her revealed bloody trails where she had been dragging her hands across the rough ledge. Taking a deep breath she continued forward, making every effort to not drag her hands.
It took several more minutes, and many bloody hand prints to reach the other side. Maeve practically fell off the ledge in her efforts to get off of it as fast as possible. Even this close to the gaping chasm, it felt like this section of the roof was the most stable thing in the world. She scrambled to her feet, to head toward the fire escape, and was once more stopped in her tracks by that mysterious black shape.
“What do you want?” She shouted at the shape. Hallucination or not, it was beginning to get on her nerves. It just stood there, one arm reaching toward her. “If you're just going to try and scare me, it's not going to work. So, just get the hell out of my way. I'm done with this place.”
The shape stood there, blocking her path to the fire escape. She shook her head, and walked forward, ignoring the shape. Her footfalls fell heavily on the ceiling, each step reminding her of how the roof had caved in only a few feet behind her. She approached the fire escape, the shape continued to loom, unmoving.
It wasn't until she tried to walk through it, that it did anything.
As she tried to shoulder past it, it reached out, and grabbed her. It's hands were cold, and chilled her to the bone. She shivered, as she tried to wiggle loose from its grasp. Fear mounted, as the shape she had assumed was some hallucination, held her.
“Join....us” It whispered again, its voice sending another chill down her spine. This close she could feel it's breath on her ear, and smell the stench of death.
She pulled, trying to get away, screaming at the top of her lungs. The shape's grip was like a vice, no matter how much she twisted and pulled, it didn't seem to give at all. “Let go of me!”
With a final wrench, she managed to pull herself free. Stumbling backwards, she teetered on the edge of the hole, her breath caught in her chest as she tried to regain balance. After a heart-stopping moment where she was sure she was going to fall, she managed to stay upright. She looked down at her feet, and took a few steps forward away from the ledge. A loud shriek drew her attention away from her feet. She looked up and barely had time to register the shape flying at her, before it slammed into her driving her backward and down into the darkness of the 4th floor.
The pain was excruciating, as the mangled bits of masonry, and metal slammed into her back. She let out a scream of pain, as one of the rusted pieces of metal drove itself straight through her arm. The blackness erupted into strange constellations of white light, as the pain wracked her body.
She whimpered in pain, unable to catch her breath, and fairly sure at least a couple of her ribs were broken. She tried to roll to the side, but only managed to pull on the rusted bar that pierced her arm, eliciting a new eruption of pain. She turned to look at her arm, and stared at the large piece of metal that stuck up perfectly between the bones of her forearm. It stuck up nearly a foot from her arm, an orange spike with bloody streaks down its length.
Biting down on her lip, and gripping her arm with her opposite hand, she pulled up, biting harder to keep from screaming as her arm inched its way up the spike. Blood oozed it's way down the spike and she bit harder as the pain intensified. Blinking back tears of pain, she managed to pull her arm free. With nothing to staunch the bleeding, the blood flowed freely, coursing down her arm, and dripping from her fingertips. She reached into her backpack, and pulled out the one remaining bottle of water out, and feeling the shattered remains of her Handycam in the process.
She twisted off the cap, and took a few swigs of the warm water, before pouring the rest over the wound in her arm. She quickly undid her belt, and used it as a makeshift tourniquet, doing whatever she could to avoid bleeding out. She really wished that blanket hadn't blown away.
Throwing caution to the wind, she pulled out her flashlight. She was shocked that it hadn't shared the fate of the Handycam. The beam pierced the blackness of the hallway she found herself in, and revealed that the way forward to the fire escape had been blocked by the debris. She pondered attempting to climb the debris back up to the roof, but did not want to run into the shape again. Instead, she turned, and headed back toward the stairwell, hoping this level wouldn't be jammed like the floor above.
The hallway, like all the others she had seen, was thick with graffiti. Profanities and vulgarities in at least three different languages greeted her at every turn. She offered up a few choice words of her own, as she walked along. In places the floor had collapsed, just like the roof. Apparently years of neglect and poor upkeep had left their mark. She found herself ducking into rooms, and crawling through holes in the wall, to make her way forward
Coming out of a room, after a particularly tight squeeze, she looked down the hall toward the stairs, to see what looked like a man with a dog standing near the door to the stairwell. The man was dressed in rags, and it was obvious to Maeve, even from this distance, that he was probably homeless. However, just seeing another person was enough to make Maeve smile.
“Hey, Mister” she shouted, waving her good arm in the air, as she sped up. “I fell through the roof, and need to get to the hospital. Do you think you could help me get...?”
The words caught in her throat as she got close enough to get a good look at the man. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw that the man was translucent. When he turned to look her way, his face was non-existent, just a smooth patch of semi-transparent flesh. Like the woman on the 5th floor, he placed a single finger in front of where his lips would have been, before he turned away, walked into an open doorway, and was gone.
Several minutes passed before Maeve finally took another step. When she finally got to the top of the stairs, she couldn't help herself, and she looked into the room the man and his dog had walked through. The room was not a room at all, but rather an open elevator shaft. Shining her light down, Maeve saw the skeletal remains of what looked to be a man and a dog. It was too far to be sure, but she thought that the body might have been wearing the same clothes as the man she had seen. Perhaps he had had the misfortune of seeking shelter one night in this hospital, and had chosen the wrong door.
Maeve shook her head sadly, and turned back to the door to the stairwell. She was almost afraid to try it at first. She didn't know how much more she could take having the hope of escape ripped from her grasp. She took a deep breath and gave the handle a pull. She was surprised when it came open with a loud screeching of rusted hinges.
She practically ran the entire way down, racing past the graffiti, and the rubble. She ignored the splintered hand rail, and just cradled her wounded arm to her chest. Twice, she nearly took a tumble, but managed to keep her balance as she rounded another corner. As she reached the bottom, she didn't even slow down, as she barreled into the exit, lowering her shoulder to take the brunt of the impact.
Bursting out into the night, she jumped up and let out a whoop of joy! She'd made it, that damnable building had tried to stop her, but failed miserably.
“You see that you stupid building? I made it!” She shouted at the building, her voice ringing with just a hint of madness. “You thought you had me, but here I am!”
She turned and started making her way toward the hole in the fence, not giving a damn if the security guards caught her. At this point fines for trespassing just did not seem all that important. She started whistling as she walked along, stopping just briefly to grab the blanket, and stuff it into her backpack.
Her happy whistling stopped when she looked up, and saw the shape looming by the hole, once more blocking her path to freedom. The sound of crunching leaves, and the sickly sweet smell of decay wafted through the air, “Join... us.”
“Fuck you!” Her voice cracked. “I played your damn game; I got out of your stupid fucking hospital! I won! Now let me go.”
The shape glided closer, its outstretched arm inching its way toward her. “Join...us.”
She remembered that there was a main gate, and turned to head in that direction, figuring there was no point sneaking around anymore. She turned away from the gliding shape, only to see two more shapes gliding toward her. Their arms reaching toward her, as they joined in with their own crackling leaf voices, “Join… us.”
She wheeled around, and started to head the other way, only to be greeted by a mob of black shadow people. All of their voices combined into an ominous sound. Like a mob walking through the woods on a crisp fall evening. “Join…us. Join… us.”
Everywhere she turned, another shape greeted her. They surrounded her. Their black cold hands clawed at her. She began to swing her flashlight at them, but her blows went right through them. Incorporeal forms not even slowing at the blows from the flashlight, the light of its beam swallowed by their inky bodies.
She let loose a shrill scream that pierced the night, as their hands grabbed at her. Their touch seemed to suck the warmth right out of her. She wriggled in their grasp, looking for any path out from the sea of shadows that surrounded her. The pressure of them all crushing her, driving the air from her lungs. Blackness filled her vision, as her last scream died on her lips.