Joanna hurried along the corridor, getting as far away from A & E as she could. She had only followed Stephen because she felt nervous sitting in the room on her own… and was terrified when she saw the police questioning him. How had they found her so fast?
Everything seemed to be going wrong, in spectacular style.
She walked with her head bowed, hoping no one spotted her. How could she explain something that she didn’t understand herself?
Unsure where she was headed, she just wanted to find somewhere to hide and think, though god knows, she’d done enough of that already without any answers.
At a junction, she stared left, then right, her eyes going wide when she saw Lincoln. Even though he had his back to her, she still recognised him. If the missing limb didn’t give it away, the shadowy corona did.
She watched him walk away; knew that if she was ever to get to the bottom of this, she had to follow him.
Trailing in his wake, each step she took felt leaden. Every bone in her body seemed to ache, and her subconscious screamed at her to turn around and run. But she couldn’t. Nina had died because of her, and if she wanted to prove her innocence, she needed cold, hard facts.
Finding herself in a quiet section of the hospital, she watched Lincoln open a door and disappear through. When she reached the door, she found the word ‘basement’ stencilled on it. After checking that no one was around, she pressed her ear to the wood, listening for any sounds, then satisfied that the coast was clear, and ignoring the ‘private’ sign, she opened the door and descended the small flight of steps into a long corridor.
Pipes and conduits lined the ceiling, along with a series of metal-shaded light bulbs. Thicker pipes ran along the unpainted brick walls. The air smelled damp, and in the distance, something hummed with electrical discord.
Her footfalls echoed from the walls, offering surreal accompaniment, somehow accentuating how alone she felt.
Who could she turn to now? Where could she go?
She heard what sounded like gushing steam up ahead, and then she heard a babble of voices.
Joanna froze in her tracks. She cocked her head to listen, but couldn’t make out the conversation as she was too far away and the sound of steam and electrical discord masked the words.
Her heart pounded. If Lincoln found her here, she wouldn’t be able to escape.
She began to shake uncontrollably. What was he doing down here? And who was he talking to?
Common sense told her to flee, but she knew that if she did, then she might never get to the bottom of all this.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she tiptoed on. Up ahead, she saw a figure leaning against the wall and she almost jumped out of her skin in fear. She backed up, trying to melt into the brickwork. Hyperventilating, she sucked breath through her mouth rather than her nose, each inhalation and exhalation sounding much too loud. Eyes narrowed to combat her defective vision, she peered at the figure, who didn’t move a muscle.
More shouting originated from somewhere up ahead. Joanna tried to make out the words, but Lincoln was talking too fast, ranting, and drowning out the other speakers.
A light flickered as though in response to Lincoln’s obvious rage, the bulb plinking loudly, and in the glimmer she saw that what she thought was a figure, was actually a central heating pipe.
Her blurry vision had exaggerated the shadows and pipes that disappeared into the ground, and constructed a figure from them, connecting pieces of a puzzle of shadow and forming it into something that didn’t exist, like the play of perspective in an illustration by M.C. Escher. Chastising herself, she pressed on.
Up ahead, she noticed a gap, indicating a doorway or corridor that branched off. The sound of voices originated from the gap.
Nervous, she inched forwards, trying to be as quiet as possible. At the back of her mind, she feared that someone would walk out and see her.
With no idea of the amount of people around the corner, she hesitated before peering around the edge of the brickwork, looking back along the corridor first to make sure she had a clear exit if she needed to run.
Satisfied she could flee if necessary, Joanna peeked around the corner.
Lincoln stood behind an electrical panel in the middle of a large room filled with machinery and tanks that gurgled, probably connected to the hospital’s heating system. A nurse stood before him, head bowed, a figure on either side holding her arms. A shadowy hue surrounded all the figures, yet although connected to the physical bodies, they seemed separate, as though two entities shared the same space, a shadow form holding aloft a corporeal being.
“You really thought you could wrestle control from me?” Lincoln bellowed, his words making the nurse flinch as though under physical attack.
“You misinterpreted me,” the nurse replied. “I didn’t mean it like it sounded.
“Do you take me for a fool?”
“No, of course not.”
“After all these years, we finally find a way through, and straight away you want to cause dissension among the ranks, usurping my authority. Without me, you’re nothing.”
The nurse looked up, straightening herself despite the hold of the person on either side. “And without us, you’re a one-armed man who can’t even control his own destiny.”
Lincoln reached forward, grabbed the nurse around the throat, and actually lifted her off the ground, causing those holding her on either side to release their grip.
The nurse flailed within Lincoln’s grasp, scratching at the fingers around her throat, legs kicking in the air.
Lincoln grinned. “That which I’ve given, I can also take away.”
He chanted something unintelligible, then raised his own limb and plunged it into the nurse’s body, drawing out a squirming black figure like a cancer that wrapped itself around his wrist.
The nurse slumped and Lincoln let her body go. It hit the concrete with a hard slap, lying lifeless. He squeezed, and the black shape within his grasp broke apart and disintegrated like ghostly dust.
A figure stepped from the shadows surrounding the machinery. “If you carry on like that, you’ll have no army left to lead.”
Joanna gasped. Blinked. Shook her head in disbelief.