~ Chapter Six ~
That bitch, Cybil Bennett
It was alive and it was coming for them. Anything that had just happened to her, including the conversation with Harper was pushed aside as she saw the black smoke moving towards them and fast. When Claire saw it start to seep underneath the bathroom door, she moved, fast. Flying out into the mall as the older man towed her still holding her hand in a death grip she realized she’d moved not a second too soon. It was almost on top of them.
“It’s coming!” She yelled as she pushed herself to run even faster, ignoring the pain in her knee, there wasn’t time to think about that and she didn’t look back, just moving faster than she ever had before. She had no doubt that if it caught up with them that it wouldn’t end well. As they were running amidst all of the chaos of the others screaming and the pounding of their feet on the tiles along the seemingly endless corridor ahead Claire was sure that she could hear it whispering, making awful sounds that almost seemed to form words but of course there was no time to stop and think about that until they were safe.
She saw the others up ahead and heard Harper yell, “Exit right ahead!”, making her move faster as the sounds from that thing got louder and finally she stood there with the others, now taking a second to look behind her while he unlocked the padlock on the door in front of them. All she could see down the hall she’d come from was black, moving ever quicker and … was it growling now?!
“Hurry, please hurry! Who has the fucking key?!” She struggled to keep from becoming hysterical, again, but a moment later the door was opened and they all tumbled out onto the roof of the building.
They were away from the smoke, or whatever the hell it was for the moment, but what she saw now was precarious, at best, and she realized that whatever the smoke was, that it would still be coming, and she didn’t have too long to make the decision that stood before her.
Stepping away from the door, she saw that there were other buildings near the one they were standing on. She moved towards the edge of the roof, cringing now that the adrenaline was beginning to subside and her knee was now throbbing, more than ever. There was a helipad on the next roof. Clearly, it was a hospital. She could see red crosses above the roof access door, it was close enough to be able to see that, and the only way across were some not so safe looking planks. Looking over the edge, she shuddered involuntarily.
Long way down, Claire bear.
She squeezed her eyes closed and shook her head to banish the sudden intrusive thought – voice – and then she noticed the ladder leading down right by her feet. She squinted, but realized that was futile; all she could see was the fog, ever present down below, but then she made out something else, a star, one of those old fashioned looking sheriff’s signs. A police station! There would be weapons down there, and a radio. If the radio worked they could call for help.
While she had been standing there making her own decision she saw that two of the women had already started across the planks to the hospital, and the other redhead, Maria was standing nearby, seemingly deciding her own path by flipping a coin. Was she crying?
“Wait!” Claire called out to the pair but they were already too far from the building already. They’d wait on the other side, she decided, and they could all stop and take a headcount, check everyone out for injuries before they split up again to search this newly accessible area down below.
“Hey, are you okay?” Claire turned to the redheaded woman but she’d started to move across the plank also. She hugged herself and sighed loudly. How had she ended up on the rooftop alone?
“Well, looks like we’re all meeting at the bottom, “she muttered to herself, “although somehow I missed the memo.”
She looked around then for Harper and Darren. She’d seen the two of them together near the ladder that was leading down off the building before she’d become distracted by the women crossing by plank to the opposite building and now they were nowhere to be seen. Where would they go? She certainly wasn’t happy about going down into the fog alone, and she didn’t feel happy about separating from the others, but it did make more sense to try and get two buildings covered at the same time in smaller groups.
“Damn it, “she cursed under her breath. They should not have split up already without a decent regrouping and a check of everyone’s physical (and psychological) status. She paused for just a minute, taking mental notes for when they did all meet up somewhere at the bottom. Slightly odd but very attractive asian girl, Sayuki had gone across to the other roof with one of the other women, a very busty nurse who she thought she’d heard referred to as Beth, and that redhead, Maria had followed them across, too. Harper and Darren were no longer with her, so she could only assume that they had gone down the ladder to the police station or towards it, together.
There was nothing to do now except get on with it. She had to face any fears she had, or swallow them temporarily and get down that ladder. What was it that Harper had said back in the bathroom? That if she weren’t strong enough then she would die. He was so matter of fact about it. The comment and the tone it was made in had hurt a little, as did his disappearance now, she wasn’t going to lie to herself about that, but really, had she expected him care? Did it matter whether he did or not?
Oh, it matters. Don’t even deny it doesn’t.
“Well, I’ll show him, “she muttered to herself, and looked at the ladder by her feet once more.
You will show them all, Claire.
On reaching the bottom, Claire took a moment to sit on a low brick wall. Her jeans felt tight around her knee, which ached so badly now she almost feared staying still too long or the thing would seize up. She thought about pulling her jeans up to have a look at how bad the bruising was, but the pants were very fitting to start with, she’d have to drop them to take a closer look next time she was near a bathroom. Still, she grimaced.
“This hurts like a bitch, “she finally said, looking at Harper and Darren. “Just give me a minute, please?”
She looked in the direction Harper gestured, then, and saw the sign that he pointed out. Silent Hill police department. He’d been right, he knew it before she did. She had gotten to her destination after all, too.
As she sat there nursing her throbbing leg, Harper surprised her then by asking with noticeable concern in his voice if she was okay and if she could walk.
“It’s swollen, but I can walk. I’m sure it’s just a really nasty bruise, from back at the bus. Nothing some anti inflammatories won’t fix once we’re out of …” she let that sentence trail off. Once they were out of here, she’d get herself all fixed up and tuck herself up in her safe little bed and forget any of this had ever happened. Yeah right.
As if to prove her point, she stood up slowly, wincing and biting down on her lip as a whimper threatened to escape her lips, and as stupid as it probably was, she didn’t want to show weakness, she’d done plenty of that back in the mall with her mini-meltdown, most of which the others had witnessed and Harper himself when she’d tried to convince him of the woman she saw in the mirror. He probably already thought she was nuts, no need to throw completely physically useless into the mix. Still, she was annoyed at herself for having hurt herself in the first place. It had been stupid, clumsy and careless, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it. Although, she did still have the painkillers in her pocket. She supposed she could take those, but would they make her sleepy or less aware of her surroundings and current reality? There was the fear of that, and that alone was enough to make her leave them where they were for now. She’d save them until and if the pain got completely unbearable.
She felt a pang of guilt remembering that she had had them on her when the others had been hurt down in the gun store and she’d meant to give them to somebody more needing of them, but … well, things had happened, and by the time she snapped out of her mental breakdown, everybody had scattered again.
They really needed to stop doing that. It was clear that this was no ordinary day and there was something very wrong with this town. How were they supposed to get out of the place in one piece if they kept splitting up?
The three other women had gone across to the hospital and hopefully they would find medicine and other supplies. Maybe even a radio if the police station they were headed into didn’t have one.
She shivered then and wished she had brought a jacket. The constant fog and gloom was actually very cold and oppressive and she wanted to get indoors now. She thought she heard sounds in the distance, and whether they were imagined or real, indoors was a better option than out.
Putting on a brave face, she smiled as brightly as she could and pushed forward, down the alley and around the corner to the glass doors of the police station. She cupped her hands around her face and peered inside, but it was far too gloomy to see anything beyond random vague shapes, furniture and such, she figured. The entire building was dark. Well, it wasn’t like she had actually expected the place to be lit up and a friendly officer sitting behind the front desk all ready to rescue them, was it? She stepped back waiting for the other two to catch up, not wanting to go inside alone.
She’d hesitated a moment too long, but the fact that Harper had pushed through the doors and gone inside the police station first didn’t disappoint her in any way. She’d been relieved. It wasn’t like she could or should have said, “Oh hey, after you. You know, just in case there’s something in there waiting to tear our arms and legs off, and it will see you first.” Yeah, no, being that pathetic really wasn’t a good look, but still, she had to be honest with herself, she had been hoping one of the two of them had gone on ahead of her.
Jeez, Claire, you need to harden the fuck up.
“Shut up, “Claire hissed as the voice reared it’s head again, and she was rewarded with silence. It wouldn’t stay quiet long though, she knew that now. Whoever the voice belonged to, it had made itself a permanent fixture inside her head since the incident in the bathroom when she had actually seen the owner of the voice in the mirror. She was no closer to figuring out who it was though. And in fact, that was the one thing that she was certain of, that as crazy as she had believed it to be, the voice and in fact the woman in the mirror were not a figment of her imagination. She was there, here, and she was real.
Darren trailed in behind her and the door swung closed after them. She turned around for a moment and looked at the door, snapping the turn lock closed. Maybe that was a good idea, maybe not. But she just felt better knowing that they were locked in, and while they were inside taking a look around, at least nothing could come through an unlocked door, that was just inviting trouble wasn’t it?
She was still shivering once inside, the cold from out there and the fog seemed to have seeped it’s way into her very bones, it made her aware of her bruised knee in the ever present throb that was there now, alternating with stabs of pain, whether she was walking around on it or static. But still, inside the cold was shut out for now. It wasn’t warm inside the police station, but the damn chill of the fog was locked out.
She flicked the light switch on the wall beside the door but the fluorescents didn’t flicker on as she had hoped they would, but it could have been worse. At least there was still light out, and although that wasn’t ideal inside, at least it wasn’t dark. That thought made her stiffen. Oh god, it was going to get dark, it had to be soon too, surely. Her eyes ran over the walls of the main office, and there was a clock, but of course it wasn’t working either. It was just a regular clock, but had a digital display set into the bottom of the clock face also, and the time appeared to have been stopped at 3.33. 3.33am or pm, she didn’t know, not that it mattered. What did matter was that it was going to be dark soon. She felt the first stirrings of panic, but started concentrating her breathing to stave off the panic which she knew if she let it loose would result in either the mother of all anxiety attacks or another meltdown reminiscent of the one she’d already had back in the mall.
Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. She repeated the words over and over in her head until she felt herself feel a little better. She had closed her eyes as she did it so that the others weren’t a distraction. They would probably be aware of what she was doing, but she didn’t care for the moment. Priority number one was to stay calm at all costs. Daylight was running out and she wanted to search these offices for anything that might help them out later on. Hell, a torch would be a good start. Still, maybe if worst came to worst they might find some kind of radio that actually functioned and hole up in the station for the night. Safest place in the world to be when you were stuck in a ghost town where screaming birds flew overhead, the police station, right? Right? An audible laugh escaped her lips and she bit that back before it could turn to hysteria also.
Riiiight, Claire. An empty dust-covered police station is going to make you feel so much better once it gets dark and you can’t see what’s coming for you, only hear it.
“Shut up, “she muttered for the second time in as many minutes.
Listen up Claire bear. You need to start remembering, or I’m going to take over and make you remember.
Claire squeezed her already closed eyes even tighter and raised her hands to the sides of her head, applying pressure to her temples, instead willing it to go away. After all, telling the voice to be quiet was futile, but what did it mean, take over .. make her remember?
“Hey…” Harper’s voice snapped her out of her little moment and she fixed her attention on him. He exhaled, to both Claire and Darren, “any of these names sound familiar to you?”
She focused on what he was talking about, the names on the doors of the closed offices. She wandered around slowly, careful not to put too much weight on her injured leg, limping only a little, at least trying to keep up the facade that she was fine, and managing. Just for appearances. She got the distinct feeling that the needier she appeared to be the more that Harper withdrew, or would. She still had something to prove, and it was that she could manage, with or without him. Who was she kidding? What she really wanted to do was fling herself into his arms, bury her face against his coat, sob like a child and confess all of her weaknesses and fears in the hopes that he would want to take care of her. She wanted him to promise that they would both get out of this alive, and that he would do anything to make sure that that happened. She’d never had that assurance from anybody before, and she wouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to do that but she couldn’t let him know. He’d think her more pathetic than he probably already did. There was clearly an age difference.
A significant age difference.
He probably looked at her as no more than an inexperienced needy child. Yes, that made the most sense at least. He’d stuck around because the others had gone their own way and it made more sense to go in the same direction. Splitting up and searching two buildings at once covered more ground, and the numbers were evenly split. It made sense, it was strategic. She was fooling herself if she thought it had anything to do with wants or obligation or even emotions.
Harden the fuck up, Claire.
Again, the voice, the same words as before, and she couldn’t disagree with it.
He’d asked if any of the names on the doors seemed familiar and she read each one as she walked by them. Cartland, Coleridge, Sewell, Schreiber. No. Holloway, no.
“Yeah, “she said, “This one. That bitch, Cybil Bennett. It’s all her fault, why I’m here.”
Claire’s eyes widened and she clapped her hands to her mouth. She was talking for her now?
I told you, Claire bear. I told you that I was going to have to start remembering for you.