Chapter 9: Welcome to Angel Falls

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My breath caught and I think my heart stopped for a beat. "What?"

Her smile was bright. "It's okay. I know all about them." I still couldn't move. "I suspect there's probably a lot of spirits here, considering the kind of place it is and its terrible history."

"Terrible history?"

"Yes. All of the older institutes have a shameful past. The things they used to do to patients, thinking they were helping them..." She shuddered.

I thought of Mr J. The electroconvulsive treatment that went wrong. There had been a power surge while they were giving him the treatment. That was in the forties. It was hard to fathom that he'd been here all that time.

I dragged my thoughts away from that and started walking with Holly. With three ghosts in tow.

I said my goodbyes to the patients that I knew, and mouthed a silent goodbye to Nellie. Mrs Dawson would soon be going back to her nursing home now that things had settled down for her, and Nellie would go with her. She was a good kid. She wasn't going to cross over until Mrs Dawson was gone from this world, which probably wasn't going to be for a few more years yet.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I also couldn't wait to get out that front door and breathe. Yes, I wasn't going to be completely free, but it would be a lot better than being in here.

I saw Dr Calthorpe before I left and he thanked me quietly. Janice looked like she was actually sulking. Surely it wasn't because she liked taunting me that much that she would miss me? I didn't have time to worry about that now. I ignored her as we headed out to the staff car park.

Holly and I got into her little red Ford and the others somehow slipped into the back seat. It still unnerved me when they passed through solid objects.

We were quiet as she pulled out of the lot and I wished I had a rear-view mirror on my side so I could keep an eye on them.

As we approached the end of the tree-lined road, Johnny cursed. I stopped breathing. I knew what that meant. I couldn't help it; I had to see for myself. I turned around in my seat. Johnny was sitting alone.

Damn.

"Maddie? Are you okay? Did you forget something?"

"Uh, no. I just thought I saw a kangaroo in that paddock back there."

She smiled. "You'll probably see a lot of them where we're going."

I couldn't help smiling too. It was great to see them at a zoo, but there was something about seeing them in the wild that gave me a little thrill.

We talked about a lot of different things on the way and that helped to relieve some of my anxiety.

Apparently, she'd driven another girl out there about eight months before. "Her name is Kellie and she has been doing well since she got there. She landed herself a job in a local burger joint and is feeling a lot better about herself and her situation."

I could hear the pride in Holly's voice. She must have been very fond of her.

I nodded absently, but I wasn't sure that this place would be good for me. I wished she was driving me home instead.

"Don't look so worried. They'll look after you, you'll see."

She smiled warmly as she stopped at an intersection.

The place sounded great, and I would have been looking forward to it if that's what I wanted to do, but I had a life and I wanted to get back to it, not make a new one in some random town in the middle of the bush. But there was nothing I could do. I had to stay at Waratah Estate until I was cleared by the doctors.

My mind wandered and my emotions were all over the place. Mum hadn't come out to see me before I left. She'd spoken to me on the phone last night and apologised, saying she was busy with work, but it still stung. I thought she'd make more of an effort to say goodbye in person before her only child was shipped off to Woop Woop — especially when she hadn't been able to visit since last weekend.

I squeezed my eyes shut. I wouldn't cry. She promised she'd try to come out on Sunday. I could wait two days.

I can do this.

Then my mind went back to Mr J and Mrs C. Then it switched gears when movement caught my eye. Johnny ran a hand through his hair and stared out the window. It seemed he didn't have any restrictions on where he could go.

Why was he able to go with me, but the others couldn't? It wasn't fair. He was the one I didn't want along for the ride.

We drove past a sign saying Welcome to Angel Falls and a minute or two later, the town appeared from out of the bush. I found that it was bigger than I'd expected — there were shops and a town hall and a school, and there were definitely more houses than I thought there'd be. That was actually a relief.

We drove right through town and headed along a winding road that ran next to a river. A few hairpin bends later and we were crossing a bridge and my breath caught as a huge waterfall came into sight.

"Wow... that's just beautiful."

"I knew you'd like it," Holly said, and there was a smile in her voice. "It's not too far out of town, so you'll be able to come here often."

The road wound around the mountain and soon we were parked on a viewing platform with a spectacular view of the waterfall.

"Welcome to Angel Falls. The waterfall that the town was named after."

We stepped out of the car and the smell of the water and damp earth and trees and flowers filled me with a sense of peace. It was heavenly — as long as I didn't go near the edge where I could see how high it was.

We soaked in the view and the sounds of birds and rushing water, then headed back to the car. This would be a perfect spot to visit to relax and unwind. Now all I needed was a car.

But that wasn't going to happen.

Once we headed back over the bridge and back through town, I was feeling a bit better about it all, but still longed for home.

As we rounded a bend Holly let out a squeak and the car lurched forward, tyres screeching. My breath caught as we slid to a stop just inches from a man who was standing in the middle of the road.

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Author's Note: OMG! My heart would be in my throat.

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