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The two figures standing outside the Emilia Correctional Facility for the Mentally Challenged knew the place well.
They stood in the courtyard just to the right of the main gates, out of sight of the two guards that blocked their path inside. A tall statue depicting the Glorious Peacemaker concealed them from view, casting part of the shaded grove in a still, almost peaceful shadow.
One of the two trespassers–for they were trespassing–peered out from behind the smooth, marble pedestal, his fingers tingling from the cool sensation it brought. For many years, he’d toiled in a hot, dusty yard with nothing but sand and brutal waves of wind to keep him company, even in the longest hours. He remembered the first day on the Job well; he’d been ten. He was seventeen now, but not even close to free. The boy pulled on gloves over his calloused, scarred palms, palms that no one his age should have, and fastened them on tight. He would need the dexterity the gloves would bring soon.
The second trespasser was quite tall and thus had to stay hidden further in the shadows, in case a wary guard decided to shine a light around the edges of the statue. His features were hidden in shadow, but one could see (if one looked) that his eyes sparkled whenever the beam of a passing searchlight glanced over his face. Unlike his companion, this boy’s hands were smooth and lacked any scars, but he too had not lived an easy life. Or perhaps, he’d lived a normal life for people like him.
A sudden, metallic footstep from on the other side of the statue sent the first boy scurrying back into the shadows. A Night Terror poked its sleek, shining head around the pedestal and growled, its teeth clicking and buzzing together like the sound of a chainsaw. It dropped its nose to the ground and inhaled loudly, its chest rising in an unusual, cresting heave. Not the breath of a human or an animal. “Quiet,” the second boy whispered sharply to the first, as if that wasn’t obvious already. They crouched down behind the wire-laced fence and hid amongst a series of shrubbery that concealed them from view. The second boy inched back, his chest pressed against the dirt, and did his best not to disturb the leaves of a low-hanging bush that was rustling ominously.
The Night Terror clacked its jaws together, sniffing around the base of the statue, then worked its way towards the fence, behind which hid the two intruders. One of the guards at the door, pointed his flashlight over in curiosity, but stayed in front of the door. Even guards didn’t like to mess with the Night Terrors, even though they were on the same side.
After a tense few moments, the Night Terror raised its head again and loped back off down the drive and away from the asylum. It stopped at the gate, raised its head, and let out what might’ve been considered as a howl if it had not sounded like stripping gears. The two boys shuddered as the sound echoed across the empty city street before being returned back by two other Terrors standing next to a tree, ripping off bark with their powerful claws. The three guard dogs capered off down the drive and into the night, leaving the courtyard of the asylum deserted, save the two guards and the trespassing boys.
“That was close.”
“Don’t jinx it, Rogue.”
The two teenagers slowly crawled out from the bushes, slithering under the bottom wire of the protective fence before crouching down at the base of the statue. The guards were distracted by a call that was coming in over their radios and one of them was now pacing down the drive, hiding his face with one hand. When he pulled it away, the boys could see that he was red all over and sweating. “I bet it’s the boss giving him a beat down,” the second boy said, pushing a lock of black hair behind one ear and crouching down.
“Or his wife,” Rogue said with a stifled cackle. “No, but in all seriousness, this could be our chance.” After a moment of silence, he shook his companion’s shoulder lightly to snap him out of his daze. “Come on. Hollow!”
“Okay, okay, hold on. I think I see another way in.” Suddenly, Hollow grabbed Rogue’s wrist and pulled him out from behind the statue and to the right. Closer to the asylum.
“Hey, what the-” Rogue began to protest in a half-whisper, but Hollow shushed him. They skulked along the shadowy edge of the wire fence towards the side gate, boots scraping slightly against the gravel pavement. “What are we doing??”
“Here I thought you’d be the one doing this,” hissed his companion, forcing both of them into a crouch by the side gate. He pulled out a length of white cloth and flung it into the air, then retreated into the shadows with Rogue.
As soon as the cloth draped itself over the fencepost, an alarm split through the air from a speaker mounted to one, cracked wall of the Emilian Correctional Facility. The guard who was on his radio nearly dropped it as they sprinted towards the side gate, clubs drawn and flashlights at the ready.
“What was that?”
“Just a cloth. Probably blew in on the wind.” One of the guards held up a finger and felt the breeze blowing into the side gate. “Pull it off, John.”
The guard who’d been on the radio reached up one lanky arm and pulled off the cloth, ripping it in the process. Rogue and Hollow pulled their shirt collars over their noses and huddled against the wire fence, just a few feet away from the guards. “What is this? It’s sticky.”
“Lemme look.” The burlier, shorter guard who had stayed at the door rudely yanked the fabric from his friend and held it up to the light of a searchlight beam. “Well, huh. There’s some sort of chemical.” He pressed it against his nose and inhaled sharply. John reached out and took a sniff of the end. “Doesn’t smell like anything I know–”
In one, clunky motion, both guards’ eyes rolled back and they fell to the ground, unconscious. Not too bright, are they? Rogue chuckled as he emerged from the shadows alongside Hollow. “Hurry, the cooldown is almost over.”
The two of them grabbed onto the bars of the fence and Hollow pulled himself up and over the spikes. His feet hit the ground hard and he winced as Rogue joined him on the other side of the fence. “What next, grand leader?” Rogue ran a hand through his hair and looked around nervously.
“Over here.” Hollow sprinted over to a garbage compactor attached to the side of the asylum. It reeked of gore and trash.
Rogue paused and stared at his companion for a moment before leaning against the lid of the compactor. It wasn’t running at the moment and was just a chute into the darkness. “You’re kidding.”
“There’s no other way in.” Hollow wheeled on him somewhat aggressively. “You want to rescue Trace? I know I do.”
“Geez, well you didn’t have to be so loud about it.” Rogue sat on the edge of the trash compactor and swung one leg over. “You sure this thing isn’t going to activate when we go down?”
“That’s why you’re going first,” Hollow muttered under his breath.
“Wait, what??” Rogue howled as the other gave him a shove down the garbage chute. His hands flew up in the air and he soon disappeared out of sight, his voice nothing more than an echo off the sides of the chute. “Holloooooow!!”
The person in question hopped up so his feet teetered precariously on the edge of the smelly precipice. If he closed his eyes, Hollow could hear the screams of his former asylum mates. It had been horrible. He shuddered at the thought. I’m over that now. Just because I’m heading back doesn’t mean things will change. Still…hands all over him, gripping, tugging him back into the dank, chlorine-scented recesses of the cell, the voices repeating their terrible, looping refrain of Where are you going now?
You won’t miss me where I’m going. And Trace and Rogue will be with me too, Hollow thought darkly, tucking his knees into his chest and rolling down the chute into blackness.