Free Fiction: Cherry Hill By CM Lucas

One last beam of sunlight peeks out from the horizon and reflects off the curves of a spotless Dodge Ram as it hurdles along a dusty service road.                                                                                        

“Where the hell is… Ah! There she is,” says the man as he scratches his salt & pepper beard and attempts to steer while adjusting the collar of his security uniform. His name is Clive Queenan, and he’s running a bit late. Hunching over the steering wheel while adjusting his legs, Clive squint’s as he reaches his destination atop Cherry Hill.

As Clive pulls into the parking lot, he exits his truck, stretches out, and glances at Cherry Hill Psychiatric Hospital. An imposing structure; its cracked bricks glow red in the setting sunlight; its glass-less windows creak while dangling shingles bob in the breeze. Long, slender branches from maple trees surround the building like elongated fingers.

“Christ, this place looks like it went to hell and back,” Clive says, glancing up as his hand rests atop his brow, blocking out the setting sun. 

Clive makes his way to the front door. Flaking paint floats to the ground as he grips the doorknob and enters the dilapidated building.

“Hello?” Clive says, pulling out his cell to check for any missed calls.

“Service sucks out here,” Clive says.

“Hm. Where is this dude?” Clive asks, looking about the foyer. The missing floor tiles and cobweb-draped ceiling are accompanied by an undisturbed layer of dust. 

This place is a tomb… A goddamn creepy tomb, Clive thinks, leaving a trail of footprints in the floor dust.

“Quite the shit pit, am I right?” the booming voice echoes through the foyer and bounces in Clive’s ears as he twists around and peers up at the man standing atop the staircase. The man smiles as he limps down the stairs. The smallest beam of light from the retreating sun peeks through the glass-less windows and reflects off the man’s hairless head. 

“Shit!” Clive says, clutching his chest.

“I scare ya there, buddy?” asks the man as he adjusts his glasses.

“I’m good. You must be, Darren. Sorry I’m late,” Clive says. The man reaches the foyer and hobbles over to Clive with a smirk on his crimson mustached face.

“What the hell’d you do to wind up watchin’ this toilet bowl?” asks the man as he peers up and extends his hand toward Clive for a handshake.

“I volunteered. Double time and a half to watch this place,” Clive says, glancing down, shaking the man’s hand vigorously.

“Skip. Everybody calls me Skip… no clue why, but It seems to suit me,” Skip says.

“Gotta love nicknames, huh? I’m Clive,” Clive says, looking about the area. Skip furrows his brow.

“Clive? You don’t run into too many Clives in Cherry Hill,” Skip says with a smirk on his face.

“No doubt. My mother’s from England. Every time I got my ass kicked in school because of my name, I always remembered to thank her,” Clive says, chuckling. Clive follows Skip as the duo walk through the foyer.

“So, what’d they tell ya about this place?” asks Skip, adjusting his glasses.

“Not much. Just that this place gets ransacked almost nightly,” Clive says, fiddling with his belt.  “Kids trying to hot wire the bulldozers and excavators. All that good stuff.” Clive continues, “not sure why they need two guards for this type of thing, but hey, double-time and a half, who cares,” Clive says as the duo enter a lengthy corridor. Clive glances at the hallway’s calcium and lime-covered concrete walls. The sun-bleached doors and glass-less windows seemingly stretch to infinity.

“When’s this place set to be torn down?” asks Clive as the pair head down the corridor. Skip snickers.

“What? What’s so funny?” asks Clive.

“They tell ya anything else?” asks Skip. Clive furrows his brow.

“No. Like what?” asks Clive.

“Place is supposed to be haunted,” Skip says. Clive stops. Skip twists around to face Clive.

“What do you mean? We’re talking little spooky friends, here?” Clive asks, flashing a smirk.

“Hey, that’s what they say,” Skip says, glancing up at Clive. Skip continues, “Look, I don’t believe in all that ghost tripe. I only believe what I see with these peepers of mine, ya know?” 

“I hear ya. I read about the shit that went on here before it closed down. Way scarier than poltergeists and all that, huh?” Clive says as the pair exit the corridor and enter the basement. Skip hits the light switch and the duo make their way down the creaking stairs.

“Alright, you’re down here. Other than those lil’ bastards tryin’ to take joyrides in the bulldozers, we also find these shits down here screwin’ and smokin’ up,” Skip says.

“I’m watching out for that? Sweet,” Clive says sarcastically.

“The perks, right?” Skip says. “I’ll be up on block A watchin’ paint crack. Have fun,” Skip says, heading upstairs.

“Hey, Skip! Around what time should I-” Clive is interrupted by the slamming of the basement door. 

“Alright, then,” Clive says, sitting down on a small stool. As Clive plays around with his cell, he hears a shuffling in the darkness. Peering up, Clive pays it no mind. The shuffling returns with increased volume. 

“What the hell is that?” Clive asks. Pointing his cell toward the darkness.

“Don’t be that guy, Queenan. Get your shit together,” Clive says. The shuffling, now sounding like erratic footsteps, draws closer. The sound of metal dragging along the ground now accompanying the shuffling.

“Skip?” Clive says softly. A loud crash brings Clive to his feet.

“You’re a funny lil’ bastard, Skippy,” Clive says. Venturing up the stairs, Clive attempts to open the door, only to find it locked. 

“Hey, Ha-ha! Joke’s over. Come on, open the-” the shuffling gets louder. Clive begins to pound on the door.

“Skip… Skip! Open the goddamn door!” Clive says as the noises get louder. 

“Skip!” Clive yells, pounding on the door. He begins to slam into the door as the noises get closer. Clive presses up against the door; he fumbles for his cell and points it down the staircase. The light from the cell illuminates a rat scurrying up the stairs grasping a soup can in its mouth.

“… Fuck me,” Clive says, chuckling. Clive wipes away perspiration from his brow and sinks to the top step as the door opens.

“Fucking hell, Skip. Sorry about that. Wait till I-” Clive stops as he peers up to face Skip.

“… Who are you?” asks Clive.

“I’m Darren. Sorry, I’m so late. I tried to call you, but the reception up here is the shits,” Darren continues, “are you alright? You sounded like you were freaking out down here. What happened?” asks Darren. Clive furrows his brow while staring at Darren.

“Darren? You’re Darren? … Where’s Skip? And why-” Clive asks before Darren interrupts.

“Skip? Who the hell’s Skip?” asks Darren.

“I…,” Clive pauses. 

“Look, man, I get it. No need to be embarrassed or whatever,  the place is fucking spooky. It’s supposedly haunted too,” Darren says,  “Oooo!… Sorry, man. I, uh, I’m not much of a believer in that silly shit, you know?” 

End.

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