Timothy Wilkie

The November Selected Writer is Timothy Wilkie

Feel free to email Timothy at:



by Timothy Wilkie

“I’m surprised you came back to see me,” said the skinny man in the grey suit-coat and blue jeans. I looked at his face. His wire frames seemed to cling to the very tip of his nose. I was tempted to push them up for him.

“I’ve never worked with this kind of population before,” I told the Director.

He looked up at me and smiled. “It should be familiar to you, considering your job history,” he said, rising from his chair. “We babysit these clients and keep them off the street.”

As we climbed the stairs, he continued, “Listen to me. I know you’ve applied here before. And we’ve thought about you a lot.”

When we got to the first landing there was a grey metal fire door with a small diamond shaped window in the center of it. He took his ID card and slipped it into a slot next to the door it clicked. “Be careful because often times they’ll wait by the door so they can rush out. If that should happen, there’s an orange panic button on the wall. Hit it immediately and that alerts security downstairs.”

“Is there security on this floor?” I asked. He didn’t answer.

He opened the door and we stepped inside.

The halls were empty, not a soul in sight, and even with the lights on, the place seemed dark and musty. The walls were painted a solid institutional grey and the carpets were a faded orange pumpkin color. It was cheap industrial carpet worn almost through to the nap. The basic design of the floor was one big loop leading back to the door we had just entered. There were no decorations on the wall, just that plain grey flat paint.

Suddenly alarms pierced the silence and red and yellow emergency lights placed high up on the walls began to flash. “What!” I exclaimed.

“Stay here!” he ordered.

“What!” I repeated. “You can’t leave me here!”    

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Just stay here.”

And with that, he ran off.

Where did he go? I thought as I shivered in the hallway. I could see all the way down to the end of the hall despite the flashing lights and it seemed he had just vanished.

Meanwhile the sirens kept going off and the emergency lights kept flashing. But to my extreme alarm, I realized that the other lights on the floor were growing dimmer. Please god, I thought, at least keep the emergency power on.

I had never been told what kind of clients this institution was housing. I had worked at a mental hospital once, but this Director hadn’t yet explained who—or what— was housed here. He seemed afraid of his “clients,” and since I didn’t know what I was up against, the fear of the unknown gripped me in an icy vice.

The main lights had all but gone out and everything seemed to be in an impressionistic mode. It was a dark hallway with flashing red and yellow lights creating this strobe effect that was very reminiscent of an accident on the highway late at night. 

Suddenly a woman burst out of one of the rooms. She scrambled down the hall towards me. She ran a few steps and then went down on one knee. She was dressed in a nurse’s uniform minus the cap and she kept looking behind her like she was being chased.

“What’s going on?” I screamed. “Do you work here?”

Between flashes of light, she flew out of the darkness, her hands ripping at the fabric of my clothes as if she wanted to climb inside me. “I’m a nurse!” she explained. “I’m Mary Ann.”

I gasped and tried to hold her, to quiet her. A door slammed shut at the end of the hall. “They’re coming,” she whispered. “We have to hide!”

I tried to loosen the death grip she had on me. “Where’s the Director?”

She tilted her face up towards mine her eyes were as big as saucers all whites with pin-prick pupils, black as coal. “They got him,” she whispered like it was some kind of secret. “They dragged him into one of the rooms.”

As if on cue, a high pitched scream careened out of the darkness followed immediately by total silence. The alarms had stopped but the emergency lights were still flashing red and yellow.

There was this loud whir, whir, burp, click. “We’re in total lock-down mode now,” she sobbed. “We’re trapped.”

I grabbed her hands. They felt cold to the touch. Her mouth was set firm in a way that thinned her lips and a little bit of spittle drooled out the corner. “Look,” I said, “You’re a nurse here. You must know what to do.”             

And then two orderlies in white coats came dashing down the hall towards us. The woman grabbed me tighter and coward in even closer.

“Help us!” I cried. But the two orderlies kept on running. “Hey!” I screamed after them, uselessly, as they ignored me.

I turned back to Mary Ann. “Come on, tell me! What do we do?”

In that instant her eyes seemed to focus on me for the very first time. “The violent ones,” she whispered.

“What violent ones?” Cautiously I stepped around her, trying to see down the hall. It was just a long, curving corridor.

She grabbed my hand, “I’ll show you.”

“Is it safe?”

“Nothing is safe. But maybe that’s the way out.”

I allowed myself to be led a few steps down the hall. The whole place smelled strongly of disinfectant. The nurse stopped in front of a grey door with a large wire enforced glass window.

I peered in through the window. Sitting on a rubber mat on the floor was a young girl abound fifteen. When she saw me, she jumped to her feet like a big cat and pressed her face against the wire-enforced window. She pressed against it so hard that it distorted her features making her look like some kind of monster. She stepped back and banged her head against the glass. She did it again and again until blood came out her nose and smeared across the surface.

Mary Ann pulled me back. “She thinks she still locked in but she isn’t.”

“Somebody will be up here to get us out, right?” I asked.


“What do you mean, no? What kind of place is this?”

She finally seemed calm. “If we go code orange, they’ll wait for back up. These rent-a-cops can’t handle a complete melt down. The power is out and the outside doors are the only thing between the crazies and the outside world.”

Suddenly she seemed to notice me for the first time. “Who the hell are you, anyway? Aren’t you one of the guards?”      

“I’m Nick. I was supposed to start work here on Monday as a recreation aide.”

She seemed to deflate in front of me. “Recreation! You’re useless!”

Then she took my arm, and in no rush, she strolled down the darkened hallway like we were lovers in the park. “No matter what you see or hear, act normal,” she hissed. She pulled herself closer to me so that are bodies were touching. “Let’s get far away from that door. They’ll be drawn to it like beast to a watering hole as soon as they figure out their not locked in anymore.”

There was a chugging sound and something started up. The lights came on and then went off again almost immediately, making it seem darker then it was before. There was complete silence, a tense silence as though waiting for the next shoe to fall.

A cry broke the stillness and with it came a flurry of motion at the end of the hallway, someone walking and the sounds of a cowbell. The clanging noise seemed to pass through my lips and bounce off my teeth. Mary Ann explained, “Someone has Ms. Miller’s cowbell. She’s the charge nurse…she wakes up the residents with it, and they hate it.”

“I thought you were the charge nurse?”

“I’m the med nurse,” she said. “Do you want to know the truth of it? That bell harkens any hell that follows. You must act normal so we don’t attract attention.”

“What is normal in this place?”


“You sound like Alice in Wonderland.”

The silence was filled with the sounds of the tormented and their tormentors, shrieks of laughter and howls of pain and anguish. An unintelligible string of words was silenced abruptly by a sharp crack and a slew of curses brought the sound of a dull thud like someone being kicked.

A young man stepped out of one of the rooms. His hospital gown was covered in blood and he was hacking at his arm with a piece of broken glass. He stopped suddenly and looked at us, “I have spiders in my veins,” he said and then went right on hacking at his arm, blood splattering everywhere.

Whatever response I had meant to say caught in my throat and I started to cough, choking on my own spit. It scraped the inside of my throat like I had swallowed glass myself and every breath I drew burned like fire.

Suddenly the nurse started to scream. I slapped a hand over her mouth but it was too late. The young man turned his attention to her.

He lunged at her with the glass. I grabbed him from behind and pulled him out of reach of her and slammed him against the wall. The young man slid down the wall and sat on the floor with his arms wrapped tight around his knees. “They’re making a nest in my brain,” he whispered.

A large man in a white jacket appeared right behind Mary Ann and grabbed the young man off the floor. “Time for your brain washing,” the orderly said as he dragged him away kicking and screaming down the hall. “This time we’re using Tide.” 

The nurse rose somewhat unsteadily, mumbling something I couldn’t quite understand. Complete silence filled the emotional chasm in between us and then an incoherent shriek from out of the darkness snapped us out of ourselves and back to the nightmare that was unwinding all around us.

“Follow me,” she said.

“Oh no, not this time. I’m staying here, waiting for the Director.”

More men ran by in white coats. The screams and chaos now seemed to have reached a new pitch. As we waited it just seemed to get worse.

“There’s a phone and an intercom at the nursing desk,” Mary Ann said. “We can’t just stay here. We need to reach that phone.”

I wavered. “Well, maybe.”

“We must go quickly!”

We rounded the corner to a gruesome scene; the flashing lights couldn’t hide the carnage. A man only half conscious with his head caved in was lying on the floor in front of the door and a TV lay smashed to pieces on the rug beside him.

“That’s Tony,” she whispered. “He’s one of the killers.”

“Let’s get him up,” I said.

 “No time if we want to get to that phone.”

“We can’t just leave him here!”

“I told you he’s one of the killers! And if we don’t reach that phone, he’s dead anyway.”

I hesitated. “Why aren’t the authorities coming? What is this place?”

“You’re not authorized to know what this facility is.”

I couldn’t control my fury. “I’m in danger! That authorizes me!”

She whirled towards me. “Even I don’t know. It’s some sort of medical testing unit; top secret. There are killers here. Now, let’s get to that phone.”

“Help me!” the man on the floor pleaded.

In the blinding flashes of red and yellow lights, I could not tell if his eyes were still open or not as I jerked my foot away. My reality had somehow melted together with this nightmare and my vision of this hell hole had narrowed down to one thing and that was my own survival.

As horrible as I knew it was, I was no hero.

Mary Ann’s arms were extended in front of her to guide her through the darkness. There was a sharp contrast between the flashing lights and what lay beyond which was total and complete darkness. Caught up in this unformulated nightmare, I followed after her.

A voice right next to me but concealed from my sight said. “Have you forsaken your faith, little man?” Mary And grabbed my arm and pulled me towards her. “Leave him alone, Preacher,” she hissed like a cornered alley cat.

“You know what happens to people who lose their faith. I send them right to hell,” the odd man said.

“You sent seven—or was it eight—people to hell, Preacher, that’s why you’re in here, isn’t it?” she said, then told him to get out of the way.

Instead, the odd man looked at her. “You yourself know how low humanity can sink.”

The rest of the hallway was dark and empty even the emergency lights were running down. Then  we were at the nurse’s desk. Someone rose up slowly from behind it. The man was unsteady on his feet and in the emergency lighting I could see that it was the Director.

Mary Ann suddenly laughed. The Director’s face contorted, rage twisting his timid features into a twisted sneer. His eyes grew wide with recognition. He started to say something but before he could she came across with a right cross that knocked him out cold. 

“What are you doing?” I cried.      

She looked at me and giggled. “I’m making a nest for the little birds that live in my mouth.”

Suddenly all the lights came on and a group of huge orderlies and security guards came down the corridor with a plump middle-aged nurse carrying a cowbell. They immediately started securing the area while the nurse rang the cowbell and said. “Now everybody back to their rooms.”

Two large orderlies hurried around the desk where we were standing. One of them grabbed Nurse Mary Ann and sedated her with a needle big enough for a horse and she dropped like a stone. “This is the one who murdered her family. Thinks she’s a nurse. Get her back to her room.”

The other orderly came at me, needle held in front of him. “Hey Nickie-Boy,” he told me, “still think you’re applying for a job here? You’ve been thinking that for twenty years. Now let me help you get back to your other inmate friends.”

Timothy Wilkie is a writer living in Kingston, New York. He has two grown sons, Justin and Blake. He performs music on the side and creates art to keep busy.