The Ghosts of Northgate

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  • Dedicated to Keyworth Buddy Birch

[Original flash fiction prompt courtesy of Stephen Hise and Indies Unlimited, viewable at]

Prompt: Northgate Sanitarium was an extension of the state prison system. The facility specialized in  experimental treatment of the criminally insane. Some horrible stuff went on there.

Abandoned in the 1950s, the old building has been linked by rumor to a few recent disappearances.

I had just gotten my first job as a journalist, working for the Northgate Observer. I thought it would make a good story to spend the night in the old sanitarium.


Man oh man was that old building creepy. Cobwebs, warped, stained floor boards that creaked when I stepped on them…and the hum. I don’t know where it was coming from, but it was like the building was alive – like it had its own energy. As I delved further away from the street, I started to think that this was a mistake.

The sound of a door slamming stopped me in my tracks. My heart raced. I wanted to swallow but couldn’t; my throat was too tight. That tension spread down into my shoulders. I knew I had to look. Like I was going to catch them off-guard, I turned really fast. Nothing but empty hall. I heard the floor moan in the opposite direction. When I twirled to face it, my flashlight’s beam fell upon a shadow, dashing across the hall.

My guts told me to drop everything and run like hell. My brain told me there had to be a logical explanation. At least, that sounded good. I was not going to be a sissy. I was not going to chicken out. I headed in the direction of the shadow.

I could now see a set of double doors ahead. As I readied myself to proceed through them, a hand covered my mouth from behind. Another hand grabbed my flashlight. Hands…all over me…I didn’t know how many. They picked me up and dragged me into a dark room.

“Keep quiet,” a woman whispered.

“What are you going to do to me?” I whispered back.

A man with a Russian accent quietly answered, “Save your life.”

I thought I smelled gasoline, then everything went black.

The vibration of my cell phone startled me awake. I had a text message. “Get to the Sanitarium,” from Unknown. Since, oddly enough, I was already in my car, I drove two blocks to find the Sanitarium parking lot – that had been empty when I scouted it earlier – was now filled with SWAT trucks and paddywagons. As usual, I flashed my press badge to Officer Jenkins.

“That was fast, Jill,” he said. “You’re the first reporter on scene. You won’t believe this - a Federal drug task force just took down a major meth operation in the basement of this old place.”

The humming…or had that been a dream? Had I ever even been in the building, or had I fallen asleep in the car?

But then…I heard it. “They didn’t know what kicked their ass.” That Russian voice. I wheeled towards it in time to see a woman shaking her head.

“They didn’t know what hit them,” she corrected. “And we kicked their asses.”

“You Americans use too many words. My way is more efficient.”

“I can’t argue that.”

They headed away from the excitement, looking like two warriors silhouetted against the flashing lights.  My brain was trying to wrap itself around this night when I realized they were going to walk right past me. As they did, I whispered, “Thank you.”

My phone vibrated. Unknown, again. The text read, “You’re welcome.”

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