No joke, it was like the beginning of a horror film.
Getting lost in Springfield hospital, previously named Springfield Lunatic Asylum, was pretty scary.
I had a service meeting with one of the advisors based at the main building. Basically I was there to discuss one of the drugs that the pharmaceutical company that I work for manufactures. I won’t go into what drug, but I will say that it has nothing to do with psychotherapy. The healthcare professional just happens to have an office base at the Asylum, sorry, Hospital.
Springfield is a medium security hospital. Some patients are able fo roam freely around the site, while others are locked within buildings for safety reasons.
When I drove through the gates my first thoughts were: “where am I supposed to park, there’s bloody permit badges everywhere.”
So I drove all the way through the site and parked on the public road outside the hospital. I paid for parking and proceeded back through the gates on foot.
I have to say, Security didn’t even but an eyelid at me as I walked past them.
What building was I supposed to…?
I flicked through my appointment diary and found it.
Great. Just the perfect day to be wearing heels.
I clipped down a narrow pathway looking for signs to the building. They were sort of in chronological order, but it was hard to tell with all of the dead ends and winding pathways.
I followed the signs. Buildings 10-20 straight ahead.
I walked for what seemed like hours (amazingly it was only 20mins) when I reached Building 14, the office building. HCP was waiting for me at the entrance.
He used a series of magnetic keys through lots of sets of doors before we reached his office.
I must say the offices were very nice a cosy. Aside from the extremely high ceilings. And the long thin windows. And the weird smell.
The meeting went very well. I had a cup of tea and we spoke at length about the drug etc.
When I finally left, the sky was turning darker. I smiled my goodbye and set off down the path. I was feeling pretty happy with myself for fulfilling all of my objectives, until I reached a fork in the road.
The sign at the fork merely pointed out which buildings were the surrounding ones. There was no indication of the Way Out.
Which was fine. I mean, all I had to do was find Building 1, right?
Only, the sign pointed out Buildings 20-23 and Buildings 25-28.
So where was Building 24? Actually, forget Building 24 what happened to the Building’s going down in order? I should have at least reached Building 10.
Unless I was walking the wrong way.
I glanced about me. The site was deserted and suddenly extremely eerie.
The best thing to do would be to turn around, head back to the office building and start again.
I wasn’t nervous. I mean, that story about the escaped patient that stabbed that girl to death in 2005 was a total one-off.
Actually, no it wasn’t! I suddenly started remembering the other stories. Springfield Hospital Makes Another Fatal Error, Springfield Discharges Violent Patient Early, Security At Springfield Called Into Question.
I began walking faster.
I passed an old-looking church. I’m sure I hadn’t passed that before?
Where the hell are the Way Out signs?! I wanted to yell. Then I snorted an ironic laugh.
Elise, don’t be an idiot. They’re not going to sign post the Way Out if patients escaped in the past are they? Use your head.
I walked for hours. I found myself circling the same buildings. Or else they looked the same. Pathways disappeared and reappeared in a totally different direction.
Then I suddenly found myself at a very old large building. I squinted my eyes looking for the number.
“It’s the old building.” A scratchy voice said behind me. I turned and smiled politely at the middle-aged man “No one in there.”
It was getting really dark. Dusk was turning to night.
My parking ticket had probably expired. I may as well have parked in the carpark by Building 14 and paid the £90 clamp fee. I’ll probably have to pay that now anyway, I thought with irritation.
“Hi. Do you know where the Way- I mean, I’m looking for Building 1.” Better not mention the Way Out. I had no idea whether or not the guy was a patient. I didn’t want to ask out right. That would be rude.
“Building 1, huh?” The guy nodded thoughtfully. “You’re a long way from Building 1.” He stared at me intently.
I gave a quick chuckle. “Just my luck! Can you point me in the right direction?”
Hi eyes wandered down to my shoes. I followed his gaze.
“The wrong day to wear heels.” I smiled, feeling a little panicked.
He said nothing.
“So, Building 1…” I prompted again.
“They boarded up this building years ago.” He said gesturing at the metal boards on the ground floor windows. The other windows had old metal cages around them.
“Yeah, it’s nice.” I said hurriedly. “I really need to get to Building 1.” I paused. “I’m meeting someone there.”
“At Building 1?” The man asked searchingly.
“Yes, so if you could point me towards the right path I’ll be on my way.”
He slowly shook his head. “I’d better walk you there. It’s a bit complicated to find.”
This is the part in the movie when the stupid woman smiles and says “thanks” and follows the guy. She gets knifed to death 20 yards away from the exit. Then the film title fades up and the movie begins.
I smiled at the guy and said “Thanks.” He nodded and we silently walked towards a path.
I reached for my phone and dialed Solicitor.
“Welcome to the o2 messaging service. I’m sorry but the person you’ve called is not available”
Damn! I hung up and dialled another number.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Stoner! Hi, I was just calling to say that, um, I’m just walking through the hospital.”
“You know that meeting I had at Springfield was, uh, it went well!” I stammered.
“Springfield Mental Hospital?”
“You’re at Springfield?”
“And you’re talking weird because… you’ve been sectioned?” Stoner asked drily
I glanced at the man beside me “No, don’t be silly.” I laughed “I’m just walking to the car. I got a bit lost so this nice man offered to help.”
“I’m not sure. Probably around dinner time?”
“Elise, do not hang up on me.” Stoner whispered. “Hold on to your phone and pretend the conversation is over.”
“Ok, see you soon.” I said brightly, and pretended to hang up.
I smiled at the man “Thanks for helping me. I forgot to ask your name”
“Jim.” The man said gruffly. “I’m Jim.”
“I’m Elise.” I held out my hand. “Nice to meet you Jim.”
We crossed onto the wet grass. Each heel sinking, with each step.
“So, what do you do?” I asked cautiously.
“Nothing. I do nothing.” He stared straight ahead with an odd look.
“So. What are you doing, um, you know strolling around?” I asked.
The sun had completely set. The buildings suddenly looked scary and confining.
“You want my coat?” The man asked, unbuttoning his anorak.
“No. I’m fine.”
He shrugged. “It’s bad manners not to ask.”
I nodded “Chivalry is a rare thing nowadays. How much further?”
We walked in awkward silence.
“So, what are you doing here?” I asked again. I couldn’t help it! I’m a nosy person.
“I’m visiting.” He said pulling out a visitors card from his pocket. He glanced at me. “You?”
“Meeting.” I told him.
“You a therapist?”
“I didn’t think so.”
Excuse me? What’s that supposed to mean?
“You’re wearing heels.” He shrugged. “They normally wear comfortable shoes. Makes it easy to walk. Run. That kind of thing.”
“Oh.” I started to feel a little bit more comfortable. “So who are you visiting?”
“Oh, no, no one. I lied”
Ok. No longer feeling comfortable.
“So why are you here?”
He gave me a sheepish smile. “Because I live here.”
crap, crap, crap
I knew it! I knew I’d be the opening credits girl. Why couldn’t I be the main actress. The one that does all the research into the sordid past and survives?!
“Building 1 is over there.” He pointed. I saw the Way Out in the distance. “Good luck.”
“Thanks.” I squawked. And jogged off.
As I passed Security I knocked on the window. “Jim, that guy back there, has a visitors pass and he lives here.” I told them out right.
Ok, so it may have sounded like I blurted out a random statement.
“Sorry, I had a meeting here earlier. This guy, Jim, he showed me the way back here because I got lost. He has a visitors pass.”
The security guy nodded. “And where’s yours?”
“You never gave me one.”
“Ok so you don’t have to sign out then. You can go.”
Go? Of course I can go. The bloody gate is wide open!
They didn’t stop me on the way in. The probably wouldn’t have on the way out if I hadn’t knocked on the window.
And Jim’s armed with a visitors pass.
He was a pretty sweet guy. He’ll probably just roam around and help other lost people. Offer his coat to cold women. That kind of thing.
“The patient’s have bands on.” The security guy explained, reading my mind.
“Oh. Good. That’s good.”
“You scared the hell out of me, whispering like that.” I complained holding my phone receiver to my ear.
“Me? You scared me! You called me, remember.” He laughed “I swear I half expected to hear you screaming.”
“Jim’s ok.” I said, defending the guy that scared me. “Place isn’t too bad. Must be just bad press.”
“Yep, bad press and a few dead people.”