The Black Candle

            Russel's family was over-reactive, he was not a violent drunk. Nor did he feel it was right of them to commit him to Such A Place. The cot.. or bed was uncomfortable, the mattress too thin, and he felt he would have to sit up in the pitch black space to save himself from back pain.
            He remembered the tranquility of pain-killers, and Enough Beers.. as he stared at "It."
            It was, to his surprise, at the end of his shuffle of positions on the cot: a black candle on a rickety wooden shelf, in contrast to the tinted-indigo wall, made out by the moonlight of the barred window. The candle: the hell-hound on a Southern Porch, chained by inaction, and waiting for a new-- New Master. A cruel bitch took Russel's dog, the former, probably put it to sleep.
            His nostalgia came in, brushing his fingers through the animal's messy coat in the Summer heat, having it lick his fingers after he cooked and grilled; loving eyes that took in more drama than he knew how to stop. His life was like a train full of rattling glass and aluminum, and he was nailed--
            There was a loud crash in the darkness. The sound startled Russel out of his memories. With one hand on his knee he got up and started for the candle. He felt around for anything else on the shelf and found one lighter; it was not right. He was holed up in near-silence, told by a vindictive two that he would be put in Such A Place.
            And yet, fire was an allowance.
            He lit the thick-wicked, black-magic candle, the biting roll of metal under his thumb. The lighter was mostly dying sparks afterwards, its fluid seemed predestined for a sole purpose; Russel tried and tried to salvage the first flame, then tossed it, he had his glowing hell-hound, shadow in glass, pouring light from its head into the dull confines of the room.
            Showing the man that the door was ajar.
            He would've ventured closer if he hadn't heard breathing on the hot air. It was gentle enough to be feminine, and far too close to the door.
            Russel's voice quivered, "I'm going to shut--"
            The door flung open, a woman whose red face seemed whittled away appeared on all fours. She had few teeth and her limbs appeared in contortion. She was wearing some sort of white uniform and smelled of sweat.
            Russel held the candle with a tremor that lasted as long as he jumped back to the wall where his cot was. A tremor that infected his heartbeat like an inevitable earthquake. In his retreat the frail woman stood with a great hunch, she shut and locked the door.
            Her voice box sounded like a thousand cigarettes had went through it, "You have the only candle."
            "So?" Russel asked, brow furrowed, eyes wide against a mist of sweat and humidity.
            "They splashed my face the last time I went alone."
            "Where are we?"
            "Park Street, the asylum." Like smoke as sound.
            "Who did that to you?" Russel asked, the flicker of cruelty against the ignorance of night.
            "I'll go get them." And with that she opened the door, her limbs made cracking sounds, and she flew like a race-car rag-doll straight into the dry-wall. There was this horrible shifting afterwards in the wall outside, the point of entry barely discernible by the one-eyed gaze of The Black Candle.
            Following the shifting was this pained, raspy moaning which came half-circle. Necrotic arms busted through the wall behind the cot, grabbing at Russel's arms. He jerked his whole body as hard as he could without dropping his light. His heart flew out of his chest like a bouncy ball with too much momentum. The bed itself moved as he sprung for the door.
            When Russel got into the hallway the shuffling stopped. Cheery wallpaper greeted light blue walls as if to say some might never see the daytime sky in its fervency. Addiction was far different than madness, but hatred changed the rules.
            Russel tip-toed quietly. He didn't want the silence and he didn't want its interruption. His whole being was alert, like an antelope assuming the presence of lions. His flickering inch of flame was his hope, and yet how it could easily guide him into divine rejection!
            The next woman Russel would come upon stood with a man on her left, both lavishly dressed and holding hands; they faced the wall of a room close to his, no door, their bodies stationary. Russel was reluctant to make his presence known. However, the candle-light gave him away. And so, he spoke in a quiet, direct tone, "Excuse me?"
            The man began laughing and pulled the woman in close, he was at first interested in her head. In the dim flicker of light it appeared that his jaw expanded, followed by his neck, the woman's neck closer to the man's face than what was supposed to be physically possible. The cot in front missing its mattress, a rusted witness of cannibalism.
            Russel shook and walked with a brisk pace, afraid to run, afraid to walk too slow. He beat himself up for not slamming the door before remembering it wasn't there. He kept many glimpses behind him but saw nothing-- heard nothing.
            That was when the lights came on. When Russel found himself standing in front of the cafeteria like he had blacked-out and came to standing. The wide open space gave way to more crashing, coming from an 8-or-9-year-old boy sitting on the tiled floor in rags, banging on pots and pans like a drummer.
            "You need to get out of here." Russel said to the normal-looking boy, feeling like a fool holding his candle in the bright light; the boy was not responsive, lost in his war drums, pulled from underneath a visible counter-top covered in strange flesh and flies.
            The lights turned off again, back to black and candle-light, but the drumming Didn't Stop. Russel's voice was low and agitated, "Stop that."
            A dim glimpse at the floor around the boy found insects of all types and sizes, crawling and covering inch by inch in a grotesque quilt-work. Russel tip-toed around them, crushing them anyways, shaking off the ones that were making their way up his pale legs; crawling towards the candle-light, the hell-hound's heart.
            The boy kept drumming in the dark like an animated mountain as the insects covered his smiling face. Russel got out of the cafeteria, some bugs following, exploring the clinical hallway. The man stopped at the sound of more shifting in the walls, something faceless was probably tearing through the rafters.. coming for the candle.
            Russel ran to the nearest room, an office for employees. He shut and locked the door, it had two locks. When he turned around his back slammed against the door at the sight of an old security guard sitting in a rocking chair, not much left of thinning hair, one eye, a mouth-open corpse in a circle filled with sepia.
            Russel moved towards the corpse at the new jostle of his heart, as someone started banging on the door with a feverish madness, shaking the door frame. Russel pulled a desk out and forced it against the door, it made the security guard twirl in his chair, but he didn't fall and it looked as though his arm moved. Soon after Russel felt Some Things crawling in his clothing and shook the insects out.
            The security guard's dark blue sleeve had definitely moved, his bony hand was on the ledge of an open window to keep himself balanced, and his mouth was now shut. He stared stationary at Russel with his one eye, one that looked more glass than human, maybe from rot. Russel stood there in a staring contest with the corpse, trying to pace his heart, not too close to the body nor the door.
            The breeze coming from the window was strong, and it knocked out the flame, put it to sleep. All that was left was the moonlight, pouring above the free and crooked trees.. the rising smoke of the glowing wick, like souls escaping from hell.
            The dead man's head propped up, and his mandible moved, "How did you get out of your room?"

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