Brian awoke in an instant, awareness following only a second afterward. His recent memories—the horrid face, the grotesque parody of rain, the psychic attack on his person—came back to him in the duration of a heartbeat, with the latter sensation providing an assurance that he still lived. All of this coalesced in his mind simultaneous with the new knowledge being fed it by his senses: the clean smell of the air tinged with some strange, almost sweet fragrance, the feeling of cold on his skin, the utter silence.
The strangest sensory input came from vision as Brian opened his eyes and sat up.
His room looked to have suffered the brunt of a winter storm, albeit one contained by the walls and door. These were coated with ice like the walls of some walk-in freezer. The light overhead blinked through a plastic panel etched with frost; icicles dangled from the ceiling panels. His mattress, bedside table, and the carpeted floor were covered with a dusting of snow. Snow! A few flakes still flitted through the air. Not a trace of the bloody rain could be seen, not a stain or blemish anywhere in the room, save the spot on the wall where Brian had watched the demonic countenance form. Here the wall had burned through to a few inches’ depth, the cavity now filled with ice. The whole room looked to have been washed clean by the bizarre, frigid storm.
Brian got to his feet, his breath becoming puffs of steam in the chill air. Dumbstruck, he walked over to the door and knocked. The door swung inward on its hinges and a rush of warm air filled the room. Stepping out into the hallway, Brian almost tripped over the body of a heavy-set orderly where he lay sprawled on the floor, face-up. Brian remembered the man’s name. Archie.
He saw that there were others. Nearby lay a nurse, collapsed into an almost comical posture next to a spilled bottle of pills. Down the hall lay a security guard, around the corner another pair of nurses. Are they all dead, Brian wondered? And what of the patients?
“Hey!” Brian called out. “Anybody!” No one answered.
Brian dropped his head, then tensed. A single thought flared in his mind. Dave. His heart pounding, he took a step towards Dave’s room. Before he had taken the second, Archie snored.
Stopping, Brian knelt beside the big man. He noticed now what he had missed before: the subtle rising and falling of Archie’s wide chest. Brian checked for a pulse just to be certain. He smiled. Archie was asleep.
“Hey!” Brian shook him. “Wake up, man. No laying down on the job.”
Archie snorted and rolled over. Brian tried again, but the orderly wouldn’t awaken. Neither would the nurse who lay close by. Brian checked the security guard, who also slept. Then he went back to Archie and tugged the keyring from Archie’s belt.
The third key he tried opened Dave’s door. Brian found the old man just inside the doorway—blocking it, in fact—and sleeping like the rest.
“Dave!” Brian knelt, shook him. To his surprise, the old man’s eyes snapped open.
“Now what?” Dave slurred.
“Shit, man!” Brian helped him sit up. “I was afraid you’d be just like the others.”
“Other what?” Dave asked.
“Everybody. They’re all out cold. At least all the ones I’ve seen.”
Dave’s eyes widened. “We gotta get you out of here, Champ! I can’t explain right now, but you’re in danger!”
“I was in danger,” Brian said. “But I guess I survived it. Whatever ‘it’ was.”
“What happened?” Dave asked, standing with a grunt.
“I don’t know if it was a physical manifestation or not,” Brian said. “It could have been some hallucination. But the attack was real enough.”
“Sort of like when I tied up with that vampire,” Brian said. “Only a lot worse. I thought I was gonna die.”
“Did you see it?”
“The thing that attacked you?”
“Only its face,” Brian said. “Or at least a face. I don’t think the thing, whatever it was, would have had a real face. And again, I might have hallucinated that part.”
“But you got away.”
“I guess. I don’t know. I don’t remember.”
“You can’t remember anything?”
“I remember being attacked, and then I woke up in the snow.”
“It snowed in my room.”
“Yeah,” Brian said. “And now everybody’s asleep. And I can’t wake them up.”
Dave swayed, trying to comprehend all he’d just heard.
“You okay?” Brian asked.
“Spiffy,” Dave said, shaking his head. “Snow,” he muttered.