Hannah was running when the Asylum went dark. She threw herself against a wall. Shouts and cries surrounded her. She had no idea what happened to the nurse. They’d run in opposite directions when Security appeared.
Catching her breath, she felt along the wall and discovered another door. Might as well, she whispered. By now picking a lock took no time at all. This door opened easily. Hannah didn’t wait for anyone to come out.
No one answered. Dim moonlight cast a few shadows. The bed was empty. Hannah didn’t know she was in the room belonging to the boy who’d gone up to the roof. She simply felt relief at finding an unoccupied room. She could take a moment to think.
She sat on the bed. Too late she realized the door remained open. “Meredith?” Hannah called out.
“You unlocked my door. Why?” said the old voice.
The old woman had followed her. “I thought you’d want out,” Hannah whispered.
The old woman pushed the door shut. It dragged across the carpet and clicked shut. Hadn’t the old woman claimed to have a knife?
“You’ve let several of us out,” the old woman said. “Why?”
“Why shouldn’t I? Are you dangerous?” Hannah strove to sound brave, and she wished she could see in the dark.
The old woman snorted. “Are you dangerous?” she asked.
“Maybe,” Hannah said.
The old woman sighed. “I shall hope.”
Hannah and the old woman shared the dark. They heard each other breathe. Shouts and bangs came from outside the room.
“Did I see that Nurse Death helping you let people out?” the old woman asked.
“What of it? Wait. What did you call her?”
“You heard me.”
“Why’d you call her that?” Hannah listened as best she could to the old woman’s movements, but the darkness confused her senses. She adjusted the bag hanging from her shoulders.
“She brings a lot of different medications in those needles of hers. You’d be surprised.” This time when the old woman answered, her voice was much closer to where Hannah sat.
“Nurses don’t kill patients,” Hannah answered. The old woman was crazy. She was a patient, for crying out loud. Nothing she said could be trusted.
“Patients sometimes kill nurses. She probably thinks it’s only fair.”
Hannah didn’t know what to say. She held tight to her lockpick. The old woman had a knife, but she was probably slow and weak. “I don’t care about the Nurse,” she finally settled on saying.
The lights burst back on. Hannah and the old woman blinked in the onslaught of light. The old woman stood two steps away. The knife her hand was at her side. “It’s been a while since I’ve used this knife and I’m not ready to use it.” The old woman smiled slyly. “Yet.”
Hannah leapt to her feet and the bag hit her hip. “You don’t scare me.”
The old woman’s grin broadened. “Don’t make a liar out of yourself. Go to the door and check for the guards.”
Hannah walked over to the door, but she couldn’t resist saying, “I’m not a liar.”
“I think lying isn’t an unknown art to you.”
Something thudded against the door, and they both gave barely perceptible jumps. Hannah cast a quick threatening glance at the old woman and knelt at the door. She peered under it to see what if anything in the hall could be seen. She saw nothing but the weave of red carpet.
“Careful,” the old woman said, “They know how to wait for prey.”
But Hannah had gotten this far. She wasn’t going to stay in the room with the old woman another minute. “We’ll be fine. They don’t know I’m in here.” She opened the door.
The security agent had her by the throat before she realized he was there. She grabbed his wrist. She kicked. He pinned her to the wall. The bag swung. The agent said nothing, and she couldn’t speak.
His stare frightened her more than his grip, and she slapped him to get him to speak if not to break his stare. She tried to kick him again, but a heavy feeling weighed down her legs. Moving was becoming more difficult while he stared. Her throat hurt. Her vision darkened.
A strange gagging sound escaped from him. He let her go.
Hannah fell forward, and he fell alongside her. She screamed and pushed and kicked. He offered no resistance. It took a few more kicks for her to realize he wasn’t moving at all. “What…”
The old woman stood there next to the guard’s body.
“What happened?” Hannah asked her. Her eyes refocused.
“I was more ready than I thought.” The old woman held her knife. Specks of blood dotted her hand. “You mustn’t let them touch you.”
“But I fought another one earlier.”
The old woman shook her head. “There’s the first tier of guards, dimwitted and strong. Then there’s the elite. The Agents. You have no chance of fighting back.”
Hannah slowly looked back at the guard. A stain grew in the carpet underneath his body. “You killed him?”
“I saved you,” the old woman replied, and she took note of the bag hanging from Hannah’s shoulder. “What’s that you’ve got?”
“Something that’s mine and not yours,” Hannah replied.
“Fair enough. I’m sure I’ll know when the time is right.” The old woman reached out a hand to help Hannah back to her feet. “Well, child. I hope you can run.”