A series of faces file past me, one right after the other, in a line that never ends. Men. Women. Children. Eyes unblinking, mouths shut. Careful to move soundlessly so as not to be heard.
It's always the same. The people never change, only circle the same course, over and over again. And sometimes they disappear never to return.
I don't know how or why we're here. There's little memory of the before — it comes in unexpected flashes I'm never able to grasp, choking me with a need I can't seem to place. All that's left is the after. The now. And the melancholy and confusion that's swallowed us the way night swallows day.
There are times when we're able to glide through these halls, now crumbling with age, unafraid of stepping too hard or whispering too loud. But moments like this, when The Others are here, we keep silent for fear of The Light.
If They hear us, It will come.
I can't always see Them but I know when They're near, Their voices slicing through the shadows like the jagged edge of a knife.
"Is anyone out there?" They call, cones of soft yellow trailing over peeling walls, down mold-dotted hallways once bright and pristine. "If you can hear my voice, give us a sign of your presence."
There's a murmur far down the line.
One of us have responded. Out of fear? Out of the madness that has consumed them from walking these same dank corridors? Of the sheer curiosity of what will happen in The Light?
"Hello! We hear you!" The Others respond, Their tones tinged with awe. "You don't have to stay here. You can cross over. We want to help you find The Light."
As if on cue, an illuminated tunnel shines upon us like a beacon, blinding me. My arm raises to shield my eyes, panic devouring the hollow of my chest.
"This hospital closed a long time ago," They tell us. "There's nothing left for you here. It's time to leave. Your loved ones are waiting for you on the other side."
I can make out their words but the meaning doesn't register.
A male figure I've passed by many times before rises above the crowd, allowing the brilliant glow to gobble him up. The unending line of faces pause, watching as the silhouette ascends and disappears from sight. Another one gone. We turn away and silently shuffle forward, continuing our unbroken routine.
"Would you like to talk to us?" They ask. "We want to help you move on. There's no reason to be afraid."
Our pale lips pinch together tightly, our feet barely making contact with the floor. An unspoken promise to keep this meager but familiar existence safe. To fool The Others into thinking we're not actually here. To not force us into The Light, where some go and never return.
They finally leave us but promise to come back, Their words echoing down the halls like a threat.
And the series of faces file past me, forlorn and translucent, in a line that never ends.