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An Old Man’s Tale By Jeff Fields McCormack

As you seat yourself at one of the polished oak swivel chairs that surround the coffee store’s front table, the old man asks you what you want. “The usual Mr. Smith. Cappuccino with extra caramel sauce,” you respond. Your friend next to you whispers, “I wonder what he’s going to tell us about tonight.” You tell him you aren’t sure. Mr. Smith comes back out, a rather burly man of fifty, and hands you your drink before seating himself at his maple rocker he has positioned in the center of the room. “Now, I am sure you all are familiar with the old, rundown insane asylum just up the road a ways.” You and your friends nod knowingly. “It opened its doors to the criminally insane way back in 1893. They closed it down in 177 because of how many people were getting killed. Most of them electrocuted. Some even killed in their cells by other inmates. Now, supposedly it’s haunted by the ghosts of all of the people who died.” Of course, you and your friends don’t believe this.


So while the old man goes to refill his coffee, you decide to sneak off through the back door. Now, it was heavily raining and thundering,” A pe’fect sto’m” your friend Mark said in his best New Yorker impersonation. You decided to ride your bikes up there to get out of the storm the quickest. You can hear the pitter patter of the rain hitting the roof of the old asylum growing steadily louder the closer you get to the building. As you approach the building, a large strike of lightning strikes, illuminating the whole building. “Man, that’s spooky!” you whisper to Joel, your voice quivering. Joel is your other friend who accompanied you. They both agree, rather spooked themselves. You walk up to the wrought-iron fence, hearing the crunch of the leaves as you step on them. Finally you get to the gate, and the wind blows it open, making a loud screeching noise as it blows back on its rusty hinges. You walk on over to the door, and hit the door knocker against the thick oak door. “Nobody’s home, idiot.” Mark calls over your shoulder. The door swings open, as if on request. You think it is a little odd, but however you proceed


anyways. You’re friends keep telling you not to go in, that it is haunted, but they keep on walking. Finally they decide to accompany you, knowing you will not be persuaded to leave. As you peer upwards looking towards the sky, you see a rusty chicken weather vain. The sight gives your stomach a sickly feeling, but they proceed to follow you anyway. You peer into the first room. You see multiple halls branching off of this one and a set of spiral stairs off to the left. A rotting, wooden sign hangs beside the staircase. It reads, “Criminally Insane” and then has an arrow pointed to the staircase. The sign appears to be written in blood, although you pretend to take no notice, hoping to avoid such morbid thoughts. Your heart is practically choking you in your throat at this time. It smells dank and musty, and feels humid. You ask your friends which way they want to go, and they both say up the stairs. You look at it, a little reluctant, but follow them anyways. Mark leads, bragging about how brave he is. Then as he turns around to brag again, he trips and lands on his face hard. He gets up color flushing to his face (you can tell even


in the dim light), and keeps on walking, no longer bragging. As you reach the last few steps, you see a large wood door at the top landing, where the stairs end. “Kind of reminds you of a dungeon door in a movie, doesn’t it?” Joel asks. You and Mark agree it does, shivering slightly at such forlorn thoughts. Joel opens the massive wooden door, and it makes a hideous creaking sound as it moves. The sound of you and your friend’s footsteps echo as you enter the room. You hear a small buzzing sound in the room. As you peer on into the room, you see a skinny, old man atop an electric chair. The chair glows a sickly yellow. The chair is on, and what few white hairs he has are on end. “Please, help me!” he wails to you. Then a man in a black robe stalks out of the darkness, strides over behind the chair, and flips a switch which makes a loud slam as it hits the metal back of the chair. There is a loud ZAP, and the room is silent. You utter a horrified gasp, noticing that you can see your breath for the first time, though it is the middle of April. Then the man in the black robe turns quickly, his robe swirling around him, though there is no breeze in the room.


He stares at you with eyes that are as fiery as burning hot embers. He points a long, scrawny bone finger at Mark, then points to the chair. To your horror Mark rises up five feet off the ground and lands in the chair with a plop. The man in black comes over to Mark and straps him to the chair. Mark is pleading to the man to stop, to let him go, but the man seems to not acknowledge what Mark is saying. The man stride behind the chair, laughs a maniacal laugh, and then throws the switch. Mark starts to jerk around in the chair, harder and harder by the second. A large, black, burn mark appears on the side of his right leg just before he goes still. At this time, you and Joel turn and run out the door as fast as you can. The man turns around, and begins to chase you. Joel loses his left tennis shoe as the two of you are running down the stairs. The man seems to glide down the stairs more like a shadow than a person. Just as you reach the bottom, the man reaches out and grabs you by the neck. You feel a hot, electric pressure run through your body. You barely jerk out of his grip before the man points at the door and it slams shut. Joel runs ahead of you to the front


door to get out when he exclaims, “It won’t open!” making your blood run cold. You tell him to keep trying, though secretly you don’t think it will do any good. He finally pries the door open with a nearby piece of wood lying on the ground. As you both sprint as fast as you can toward the gate, you notice the gate is locked. You tell him to climb and you both do so. From there you get to your bikes, only to find the tires slashed by some sharp object. You grab your bike, him doing the same, and run as fast as you can down the road to the coffee shop. You can just see the lights coming from the top of the hill as you hear your friend Mark screaming out in pain. You then hear a deep, malevolent, male voice say “Keep on running, kiddos. Keep on running. I know where to find you!” When you reach the parking lot, you slam your bike down and run inside, Joel following alongside you. Then you wake up and realize that you had fallen asleep and it all was only a dream. The old man is still sitting in his rocking chair telling his story. You can still hear the creaking of his chair. But you feel a burning pain in the back of your neck where he grabbed you. And as you peer over at your


friends you notice something is different about them. Where is Joel’s left shoe? And what is that black spot on Mark’s leg? You wonder. So was it a dream, or was it real?


An Old Man's Tale