Halloween. It's a time for treats, costumes, parties, and tricks. This time of year represents not only a change of seasons but a change for teenagers as well. Every year, around this time, a group of costume wearing trick-or-treaters grows up. Those that developed a love for the season crave more than a candy-filled pillowcase, they want to experience the darker side of the holiday. The spirits that are said to traverse the earth for this short period of time become these teens' most sought-after treat. Still children at heart, they heed not the warnings that accompany Halloween and stumble blindly into a tradition they never really understood.
Gina and Emma are twins. At 17-years-old they have grown tired of dressing up and running door to door for candy that will inevitably make them fat.
"OMG, I can't wait to meet up with the guys!" Gina announces while finishing up her makeup.
"I know, right? Mason's going to love this," her sister replies while adjusting her boobs in the sexy little red riding hood costume she just had to have.
Gina tightens the blue bows in her hair. They match her Dorthy costume almost perfectly. The dress would be cute if not for the fact it barely covers her panties, but that's why she picked it. Scandal is the new cute. The girls were raised knowing "it's your body, your choice" as well as "no means no, it doesn't matter how I'm dressed." Gina pulls up her thigh high stockings and admires the woman before her. If her boyfriend Mark plays his cards right, no may mean yes tonight.
"Come on," Emma whines. "I don't want to have to explain to Mason that your need for makeup made us late, again. It's gonna be dark, and I doubt Mark's gonna be looking at your face."
The two girls giggle as they hurry out the front door. The plan is to meet up with their oldest friend, Connie, and her boyfriend, Noah, at the old abandoned insane asylum on the edge of town. Mark and Mason are going to show up as soon as they can. Both had gotten stuck taking their siblings around trick-or-treating. It should be 8 o'clock soon, and all the little kiddies will run indoors to escape the ominous bleak night.
Connie had come up with this evening's entertainment. She's been one with the darkness for the last two years. Ever since she stood by her grandma's bedside and watched as the woman took her last breath Connie's been obsessed with the other side. When their friend approached them with a trip to Asylum 42 the sisters had shot her down.
"No way," Gina had said. "That place is haunted for real, and I wouldn't be caught dead in there."
Emma had been a little more open to the idea. "If Mason wants to go, I'll do it."
Connie had gone to work and convinced Mason and Mark to go, dragging her friends along against their better judgment. Her boyfriend Noah hadn't needed convincing. Connie likes him enough, but his lap dog behavior is starting to wear thin. All the same, as Emma and Gina squeeze through a hole in the fence they can see Connie and Noah standing on the grand stairs leading up to the front double doors.
"I thought we agreed to wear costumes?" Emma remarks as they approach the others.
Connie has on all black. Her short leather skirt with silver embellishments barely moves as Connie hops off the cement railing that frames in the top of the steps. She holds out her arms and embraces her friends.
"I am in costume, see?" she says, pointing to bright red lips that have been lined in black. The dark corset and leather biker jacket make up her daily wear, but she added a chain that's hanging from her choker down to her exposed navel. Her military-style boots scrape against some stones as she backs up, pulling her coat close to her.
"The guys need to hurry up before we freeze to death," Gina says while rubbing the goosebumps on her arms.
"I have something that will help with that," Noah says while pulling out a bottle of rum.
The friends pass it around, attempting to find some warmth within the pint of brown liquid.
"You started without us!" Mark screams while running up the steps.
The girls gasp and jump, letting out nervous giggles as Mark and Mason join them at the entrance of the building. The two of them finish off the rum as the brick tomb looms above them. A slight breeze stirs years worth of dead leaves around them and the building moans into the night.
"I'm already creeped out," Gina says while staring at the towering structure.
"Oh no," Connie replies while wrapping her arm around her friend. "No one gets to chicken out, not tonight. Let's go."
The six teens approach the wood doors and come to a stop just before the entrance. Gina won't admit it, but she hopes the doors are locked and they can all go home without actually having to go inside. Her hopes are dashed as Connie pushes against the wood causing the doors to eerily creek open before them. Connie turns around with a Cheshire grin and leads the way into the abode. Their senses are attacked by must and mold as they gather in the welcome center. Dust carpets the ground, covering up chipped tiles that had once been a crowning jewel of the building. No one speaks as another gust of wind swoops through the structure, causing creaks and groans within the dilapidated walls. They all move together toward a semicircle desk that sits before them. Once a point of impeccable cleanliness, it now plays host to cobwebs and random debris.
Connie hops up on the desk. "This is too cool." Her tone suddenly changes as she attempts to freak out her friends. "So, before we split up into groups we should talk about the building. Asylum 42 was given its name because it's the 42nd asylum in the state."
"Oooohhhh, scary," Mason interrupts while pulling Emma close to his chest.
The rest of them quietly chuckle as Mason's voice echoes back.
"Shut-up," Connie snaps. "The dead deserve respect, and this building's full of em. It was built in the 1800s and used as a TB hospital before it was converted to an asylum. Hundreds of people died here, and it housed some of the worst offenders of violent mental illness in the state. So show some respect, will ya? Six checking in," Connie says while hitting a rusty service bell sitting next to her on the counter.
There's no tone in response, only the sound of rusty metal as the button crunches down and sticks in place. Connie gives a shrug and lets Noah help her off her perch.
"Okay, we will now split up into three groups. Emma and Mason, you get to take the third floor. I would send you to the fourth floor, but it collapsed onto the third-floor ages ago. The third floor was home to the operating room. They did all kinds of interesting things up there to try and rehabilitate the mentally ill. I found records of electroshock, many experiments using bleach and acid, as well as full frontal lobotomies."
Emma shivers and tries to snuggle in closer to Mason. Had she been smarter she would have worn her sweatsuit and running shoes, but growing up means leaving comfort at home.
Connie turns to Gina and Mark, the two lovebirds are standing at the bottom of a large stairwell sharing Mark's letterman jacket. "You two get to go to the second floor."
"Let me guess," Mark replies. "They kept all the violent serial killers on the second floor."
"No," Connie sighs while rolling her eyes. "The second floor is where the patient rooms are. They also have the men's and women's shower rooms up there and the ice baths."
"The what?" Gina asks.
"Ice baths," Connie says while darkening her tone again. "Any time a patient was getting too feisty they would dunk them into a tub full of ice water."
Gina turns and buries her head into Mark’s chest. "Don't worry, my love," he whispers. "I'll protect you."
"Noah and I will be on the first floor. That way I can make sure none of you run out of here screaming. The cafeteria, visiting center, craft room, and storage are all located down here. Everyone gets two hours to explore and we can meet back here at the desk."
The friends split up. Noah and Connie take off down a hallway to their left and the other four head up the staircase. Emma tries to fight back her fears as they slowly ascend the steps. Her heart is racing and she doesn't even want to look around. It's a good thing the guys remembered to bring flashlights, the girls wouldn't have had anywhere to put them. Their heavy steps are the only sound around them as they hit the first landing that leads to the second floor. Mark starts through the void that used to occupy a door, but Gina stops him before he can pull her through.
"Maybe we should stick together," she says while turning to her sister. "I would hate to get lost or hurt without someone around to help."
"You'll be fine," Emma replies. "Mark will be with you the whole time, and the building's shaped like a giant V. I don't think it's possible to get lost."
Emma can tell her words have done little to comfort her sister, but she really wants to be alone with Mason. She spends so much time with Gina and she wants to be her own person tonight, not just a twin. "I tell you what. Once we're done upstairs, we will come down here and find you two."
"Promise?" Gina asks.
Emma just nods and hurries up the steps after Mason. He holds out his hand and she takes it, scared to be in the building but thrilled to finally be alone with him. They climb another two flights and find their way onto the third floor. Emma wonders if they should have stuck together, but the thought is fleeting as Mason scoops her up and presses his lips into hers.
On the first floor, Connie and Noah have made their way into the cafeteria. The old picnic-style tables are still lined up, but cobwebs and dirt are covering their once clean surfaces. Food trays sit empty and stained around the room as if the occupants up and left in the middle of a meal. The walls have been tagged with graffiti and Connie tries to imagine what it must have looked like before time and neglect became its only keepers.
They walk to the back of the room and are about to leave when the sound of a tray hitting the ground causes them to freeze. Connie grabs a hold of Noah and tries to stifle a scream.
"What was that?" Noah asks, clearly shaken.
"It sounded like one of the trays got thrown," Connie replies. As they stand there, too afraid to move, a stench manifests around them. "Ugh, what the hell is that smell?"
Connie covers her nose and coughs.
"I think I'm gonna puke, let's go," she says while pushing Noah out the door.
They make it back out to the hallway and Noah has to jog to catch up with Connie as she flees the strong reek of decay. She hurries along and ducks through a door to her left. Unplugging her nose she's relieved to find the smell has dissipated.
"Where are we?" Noah asks after getting a good look around.
"I'm not sure what this is," Connie replies.
The room is filled with rusty old hospital beds and privacy curtains. Dusty sheets that have been half eaten by moths are still draped over each mattress, and Connie's surprised to find arm and leg restraints attached to some of the bed frames.
She's suddenly struck with an idea, "Noah, come over here and look at this."
"Damn," Noah remarks as he takes one of the restraints in his hand. "This place went hardcore with its patients."
"I want you to tie me up," she says while sliding onto the squeaky mattress.
Noah lets out a slight laugh as he starts shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other. "I don't know, this place is kind of gross don't you think? I mean, you want to do it here?"
"Do it," Connie orders in her most seductive tone.
Her heart races as Noah obeys. He starts with her arms and fastens them down with the ties. He tries to do it loosely, but Connie urges him to tighten them. Noah straps her down to the bed with a chest tie and Connie gets even more excited, talking dirty and forcing her hips up into the air. Noah moves to her legs and tries to pull the straps up to the middle of the bed.
"I think they're too short," he tells her, "can you spread your legs a little more? Like, move them closer to the edge of the mattress?"
"Not in this skirt. I guess you're going to have to push it up," Connie replies softly while lifting her bottom off the bed.
Noah hesitates, but he also knows she will start screaming at him if he doesn't comply. He carefully slides the leather strap she calls a skirt up around her waist, revealing the black thong panties she has on underneath. Once he's done, Connie moves her legs to adjacent sides of the mattress and groans as Noah ties them down. He looks up and admires what he's able to see before him. The flashlight only illuminates so much of the room, leaving the darker corners a mystery. Connie lets out a few more gasps and sighs as he slides out of his pants and straddles her in the bed. The antique springs screech in protest and Noah fears they may give out and spill them both onto a dirty floor.
Before they’re able to do much of anything Connie suddenly starts to gag.
"Oh God, that smell!" she shrieks. "The one from the other room. It's back!"
The rum she consumed earlier in the evening threatens to come back up. As she closes her eyes to try and fight back the urge to vomit, a sickening pop followed by the sound of ripping causes her to open them again.
"Noah?" she asks. "What's wrong?"
She starts hyperventilating as she realizes what she's looking at. Noah peers down at her from around the bar sticking out of his chest. He tries to speak but only manages to gurgle up blood, spraying it all over Connie's face and chest. She starts moving her hips frantically, causing his body to slump to the floor below. What she sees then causes her to draw in a deep breath in spite of the smell. Standing at the foot of the bed is a wretched looking woman. Connie tries to scream, but the chain hanging from her choker suddenly wraps around her neck. The acidic rum decides to bubble up and she chokes on it as it runs out of her mouth and down her cheeks.
As the woman slides closer to Connie she can make out a hospital gown and patient identification band. The figure's hair is unkempt and wild and her nails are crusty, long, and yellow. Connie wants to cry, but she's afraid to take her eyes off the specter. She can't be sure of what she's seeing, but it's not a living person. The woman's eyes have been dug out of their sockets and her jaw is being held in place by her semitransparent skin. The mouth's unhinged appearance reveals only three large teeth located within, and the stench from earlier appears to be radiating from this open orifice. Pain shoots through her head and Connie wishes she could scream as the ghastly woman digs her jagged yellow nails into her eyes, ripping them from their sockets. The teen is one of the lucky few. She's dead before the creature disembowels her.
On the third floor, Emma and Mason make their way down the crumbling structure's hallway. Parts of the walls are missing, having given way when the fourth floor collapsed. Bricks litter the floor like fallen soldiers on a battlefield and Mason leads the way around them. Emma had been happy to get away from her sister, but now she's having second thoughts. After his hungry kiss, Mason had taken her hand and insisted they move farther into the building.
"I just want to find somewhere private, ya know? Somewhere your sister won't be able to interrupt us," he had said with a wink.
Emma couldn't argue. Her sister is constantly barging in on them while they're trying to make out. So she let him take her and lead her away from the only exit into the forbidding asylum. Now they're dancing around brick landmines making their way toward a set of swinging doors at the end of the eerie hall. Mason's walking so fast Emma momentarily forgets where she's stepping and lands right on some rubble, sprawling her out on the brick-laden surface.
"Shit, are you okay?" Mason asks while hurrying to her side.
"Yes," she replies in a huff, "but I think I tore my costume."
"Let me see," Mason says while sliding his hands up her legs.
It's not the ideal moment to be feeling her up, but Emma can't help but relish in his touch. He makes it up to her thigh and Emma winces. She must have scraped it on something.
"Do you want me to stop?" Mason asks while observing her flinch.
She shakes her head and pulls him toward her, wanting to taste him again. No sooner do their lips touch when Mason pulls away, startled by the doors at the end of the hall flying open and crashing into the walls. Emma can see two figures marching toward them. They look like nurses, but not the kind you see today in scrubs. The kind you would see 50 years ago, with the cloth caps and nursing aprons.
"Stay away from us!" Mason yells, but the women continue their steady approach.
"When you get the chance, I want you to run," he says to Emma without taking his eyes off the two women.
"I'm not leaving you here," she whispers sternly.
"Stop arguing with me, I need you to be safe," he says before standing up and walking toward the nurses. "If we're trespassing or something we're more than happy to leave. Just say the word."
The assailants speed up and then disappear right before running into Mason. He turns around and can't hide the shock and awe on his face. "Did you just see that?"
"Let's go!" Emma replies while jumping up.
The two don't make it more than ten feet before Emma falls on more rubble. The exit feels like it's miles away and she panics while trying to get back up.
"Let me carry you," Mason says as he helps her.
Before he's able to lift her up he's grabbed and restrained from either side. At first glance there isn't anybody there, but as he's pulled back toward the double doors the apparitions begin to solidify. The nurses from earlier have each taken an arm and are dragging him kicking and screaming through the doors, leaving Emma alone and frozen in fear on the filthy floor. She doesn't know what to do. Every part of her wants to get up and run, go find help from her friends on the floors below them. What can she do? Mason's flashlight is sitting on the ground just ahead of her and Emma scoops it up as she makes her way toward the doors.
As she gets closer she can make out what's left of a sign. If it's accurate the Treatment Room is somewhere beyond this point. Emma can hear Mason screaming and decides she has no other choice but to enter. She slips inside, not wanting to draw attention to herself. There’s a charge in the air that causes the tiny hairs on her arms and neck to stand on end. The wall in front of her has a glass viewing window and she hurries over to it and tries to peer through. A fear of being found keeps her from clicking on the flashlight, but the room's so dark she may have to chance it. Before she can do anything a loud click and pop are heard, followed by a dim glow that brightens the space beyond.
Mason’s screaming and Emma can see why. He's strapped down on a table with some kind of brown cap fixed to his head. There are wires dangling from the headgear that appear to lead to a large machine propped on a table next to him. Whatever the device is it's causing Mason a great deal of pain as he seizes against his restraints. The strong order of burning hair assaults her senses. Emma wants to rush to his aid, but she can see he's not alone. In the dim glow she can make out the two nurses that took him from the hall as well as a third figure. It's a man in a long white gown. He has a cloth cap on and a doctor's mask over his face. This individual is working a large dial located on the front of the machine. The louder Mason screams the more the figure cranks it. Everything goes dark again and she can hear Mason pleading from in the room.
"Please, don't. Emma, please run," he pants.
She can't fight the urge to see him and needs to make sure he's okay. He begins to scream and she pulls up the flashlight, shining it right on the table where he's laying. Another scream fills the room and it takes Emma a minute to realize it’s her own. She can’t move or look away as she watches the doctor hammer a large metal pick into Mason's eye and up into his brain. With each tap blood bubbles and squirts onto the doctor's white uniform. Mason stops moving and the doctor turns and looks at Emma. She can't fight it anymore and takes off running. Out through the swinging doors and down the hallway of bricks. She runs out of fear, but also because she thinks she’s being chased. She can feel the nurses licking at her heels as she scurries toward the exit. Emma almost trips as she flies through the opening that takes her to the stairs. She doesn't remember the first flight, nor does she remember the next, but as she comes upon the threshold to the second floor she cries out for her sister.
It suddenly dawns on her that if Mason could be taken away and killed, so could everyone else. Emma shakes her head and focuses on finding her sister. Gina's in here somewhere and still alive, she can feel it. The hall to her right is blocked by bedroom furniture that must have been left behind when the building closed. There are dressers, bed frames, nightstands, desks, and chairs piled up making it impossible to pass. She decides to head down the other hall in hopes to track down Gina.
Emma walks slowly and curses her flashlight as it begins to die. Now she needs to hurry and actually call out for her sister. All the doors along the hall are open and she can see some of the rooms still have residents' belongings in them. She reaches the end of the hall and manages to read a sign for baths in the failing glow of her flashlight. She considers turning around when a sudden sob from the room beyond causes her to push forward.
"Gina?" she whispers as she rounds a corner.
The room is filled with moonlight as the front and side walls have fallen away and exposed the open space. Emma hears another sob and tries to follow the sound. She doesn't want to call out again for fear it will draw unwanted attention. She moves slowly through the dark, keeping a watchful eye for any more spirits. Something moves on the other side of the room and Emma approaches with caution. Her heart jumps as she recognizes her sister's figure sitting on the floor next to an old claw-foot tub. Rushing over she can hardly fight back tears, but she stops just short of her sister and stares in disbelief.
Mark is naked and faced down in the overflowing porcelain bathtub. His left-hand hangs over the edge and his fingers are already turning blue. Gina sits on the floor holding his hand, sobbing. The sight breaks her heart, but Emma knows they need to find Connie and Noah and get out of this place. She doesn't ask Gina anything as she helps her up to her feet and begins to lead her toward the exit.
"The hallway's going to be dark, so you need to trust me and just run until we reach the end," Emma instructs.
Gina doesn't answer. She just gives another sob and nods her head. Before the girls are able to make a run for it the sound of dripping water comes from somewhere behind them. Emma tries to take off, but Gina pulls her hand away and gasps.
"Mark!" she yells. "I knew you weren't dead. I told you I wouldn't leave you!"
Emma turns to find Mark, risen from the dead, making his way across the room toward them. Each step falls wet upon the floor and Emma can clearly see he's been dead for a while. Water runs from his hands, dripping as he makes his way closer. Gina tries to run to him, but Emma stops her.
"It's not Mark, at least not the Mark you know and love. We have to go, Gina!" Emma yells while pulling her sister out of the room.
It's like dragging a wet blanket, but Emma keeps a tight grasp on her sister as she tugs her down the stairs. She wants to look for Connie and Noah, but it's likely to end up killing them if they do. She pulls Gina along, sobbing and fighting her all the way. As they make it to the last flight of stairs the sound of the bell on the welcome counter starts to ring. Emma's first thought is that Connie and Noah are ringing for them, but then she remembers the bell was broken. She counts six dings and everything falls silent. She doesn’t want to go on, but the familiar sound of dripping moves onto the staircase above them.
She grabs Gina tightly and flies down the steps and out the front doors. The sounds of laughter and screams follow them as Emma runs down the side of the building toward the parking lot. She doesn't stop 'til they reach the end of the structure, needing to pull fresh air into her burning lungs.
"I think we're safe," she says between gasps.
Gina crumples to the ground and Emma staggers back slightly. Bending forward, she grabs her knees and takes a few deep breaths. As her heart stops pounding in her ears, she suddenly hears a whoosh of air above her. Emma looks up in time to see one of the porcelain claw-foot tubs falling from the second floor. She's knocked to the ground with a sickening thud as the vessel comes to a stop, slicing her through right above the navel. She tries to pull herself away, but she only manages to drag her torso a few feet before collapsing onto her sister's lap.
Gina can't believe it, first Mark and now Emma. She brushes back her sister's hair to expose a look of surprise frozen on her pale face.
“No,” she whispers as she pulls the top half of Emma into her arms. Sitting there for what feels like forever there isn’t anything she can do but cradle her sister’s remains and cry. The sudden flat tone of Emma’s voice cuts her off mid-sob.
“You’re messing up your makeup,” she says while reaching up and brushing Gina’s hair aside with blood-stained fingers.
Gina looks down into her sister’s black eyes and smiles. She knows something isn’t right, but it brings her a surge of joy to hear Emma’s voice again.
Emma rolls off her lap and props herself onto her hands. Her innards spill out onto the ground and one of her rib cages shifts out from under a flap of jagged flesh.
"Come on Gina, the party's just started," she says while gesturing back toward the building.
Following her sister's motion, Gina can see her other friends standing by the doorway, waiting for her.
"No one gets to run out on us tonight," Connie yells.
Gina gets to her feet and follows Emma back toward the entrance. Her walk turns into a run as she spots Mark standing on the steps with his arms reaching out for her. His naked body has started to bloat, but she doesn't care.
"Happy Halloween," she announces as she follows the others back into Asylum 42.