The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
A Safer Place
by Terrie Leigh Relf
Catarina paused at the top of the dark stairwell to catch her breath. She gripped the banister and began to descend the stairs, fighting the urge to turn around. She paused at the next landing, turned her head slightly to listen, her breath a slight echo within the deepening darkness.
Was there another entrance to the hospital’s supposedly abandoned basement? Catarina couldn’t remember, as it had been nearly a year since she’d been down here, nearly a year since her last attempt to escape was thwarted. Dr. Solaza and his team had kept her in solitary for weeks after that . . . and then, the experiments resumed. Her head still felt a bit fuzzy, as they usually kept her sedated and under observation.
Catarina took the last step, turned left into the cloying darkness. It only took a few moments for her eyes to adjust, and she quickened her pace. If the new orderly, Max, had been telling the truth, this hallway would lead to a place where she could hide. “You’ll be safer there until I can take you away from here,” Max had said, pressing his forehead against hers.
There would be a place to sleep, a bathroom and shower, enough food and water for a few days. What other choice did she have?
There were several doors down this corridor, just a few feet ahead, though; wan light seeped from under a door. She listened, eyes closed, extended her inner sight.
The room was definitely empty.
She took a deep breath, exhaled, and then pushed the handle. Once inside, Catarina scanned the small room. Max had been true to his word. She locked the door, and walked over to a table where there was a case of water. She unscrewed the top of a bottle, titled it back. Even though she wasn’t hungry, Catarina opened a pack of trail mix. After eating a few handfuls and drinking another bottle of water, Catarina sat down on an old office chair.
Now all she had to do was wait.
* * *
Catarina awakened to footsteps coming toward the room. She held her breath, expecting Max to come through the door, but whomever it was passed and continued down the corridor. A few minutes later, there were more footsteps, these louder than the last as they passed by the door.
How many people was that? Three? Five? Where were they all going? Was this room still safe? Had it ever been?
Catarina tried the door. It was locked.
Had Max betrayed her? Could she have inadvertently locked the door?
Scanning the room for a place to hide, Catarina saw another door at the back of the room. Utility closet? Exit to another corridor?
She tested the knob, and opened the door into a dark stairwell. Grabbing a few bottles of water and another bag of trail mix, Catarina opened the door again and began to ascend the stairs, one step after another, pausing every few steps to listen. When she reached the top landing, it opened up into an operating amphitheater’s viewing room. As she looked down, bright lights assaulted her vision, but she blinked a few times, looked down again.
There, on the operating table was Max. Unconscious.
“So nice of you to join us, Catarina,” Dr. Solaz said with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. The rest of his team was there.
Catarina stepped toward the intercom, turned it on. “What are you doing to him?”
“Well, that depends on you. Come down here, and we’ll forgive your little escapade and allow Max to leave.”
Catarina nodded, rage burning through her body. She managed one of her most pleasant smiles, said, “Which door do I take?”
“The one on the left. You’re doing the right thing, Catarina.”
She opened the door, took the stairs into the operating amphitheater. With each step, her rage increased. With each step, she felt the change quicken in the very marrow of her bones. By the time she shoved open the door and strode to the amphitheater, Dr. Solaz and his team backed up against the wall, their faces paling. Max was still unconscious, which was good. He had no idea what she was, and what she could become.
Catarina took a long look at Dr. Solaz, then at each of his team. Most of these individuals had inflicted some type of horror on her or the others that lived at the lab.
She raised her head, sniffed, tasting their fear on her tongue. Closing her eyes, Catarina called out to the beast that lived within her, the beast that she had promised not to release, the beast that now would be fed.
When Catarina shifted back to her human form, blood and gore clung to the amphitheater walls. Max was sitting up on the table now, a broad smile crinkling his dark eyes.
“I was wondering when you’d let the beast out.” Max slid off the table. “Now let’s get you cleaned up and get out of here.”
“What about everyone else?”
“I have the feeling that once they discover Dr. Solaz and his team are gone, they’ll have no problem escaping—and finding a safer place.”
Fiction © Copyright Terrie Leigh Relf
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Terrie Leigh Relf:
For thousands of Earth years, the Transgalactic Consortium has had a quiet interest in this planet and its inhabitants, the Haurans. While the Sisterhood of the Blood Moon works together with the Consortium and Haurans to maintain balance in the universe, the Blood Moon is fast approaching. The power of this moon reveals untold secrets . . . including a sacred covenant with the Mora Spiders. There is an ancient pact that needs to be honored—but at what cost and for whose purpose? The world may come to an end. But will there be a chance for a new beginning?