Pete Bingsley (Slade) was a reporter with a need to uncover truth, however uncomfortable. His only reason for going to the sanatorium on North Island was that his editor singled him out one afternoon and told him to stay away from North Island. Given that sort of direct order, he had to take a look.
Alan Lancer (Simon) was a lawyer working for Mr. Randolph, a media tycoon. His wife, Carla Randolph, was institutionalized on North Island. Lancer was to verify she was being well treated and make sure Mr. Randolph was getting his money’s worth.
Welcome to North Island
Ebeneezer Waite sailed them to the island in his old boat; it seemed too small to handle the Atlantic swells, but they arrived at the island all right and tied up at the dock. Waite had some things to do for boat maintenance and unloading supplies, but he gave them flashlights (in case they needed them later; it was late afternoon) and sent them up the staircase carved into the rock of the island.
They mounted the stairs and faced the Sanatorium. It seemed odd there was no one to greet them. All the lights were on. As they approached, Lancer got a whiff of existential dread, but Bingsley spotted a more tangible threat. A crazy man leaped out of the bushes and attacked them, somewhat clumsily, throwing them both to the ground and racing away.
Responding to the racket, a plump grandmotherly figure who introduced herself as Blanche welcomed them and escorted them inside the magnificent foyer, explaining that Mr. Hawkins must have got loose from “art time” and was running around. He’d find his way back when he got hungry; there was tapioca pudding for supper, and everyone loves tapioca.
Blanche had a wristband, but she explained everyone did, and the computer could find them anywhere on the island. A very posh and expensive setup here.
They were escorted to the dining room and asked to wait, but Bingsley pressed on to the kitchen. After six o’clock, even a Continental supper would be in the process of preparation, but there was no one in the kitchen or pantry. Blanche insisted they would be having cold cuts. Lancer asked her a few questions, and she got chilly and withdrawn, asking him questions in turn about why he came to the island. She left them to their own devices, and withdrew.
We’re All Mad Here
They crossed the foyer and found a library, with a languid young woman smoking cigarettes. She told them they didn’t want to go into the adjacent room, but they did, and found a nurse dragged behind the couch with scissors stuffed in her eye socket, quite dead. They traded a bit of cryptic banter with the strange woman, then decided it was high time to contact the mainland and get some security going on here.
Where could they look for a proper phone? They headed out to the buildings they saw on the way in, and found Ebeneezer’s cluttered cabin. He had a short wave, but the frequencies were all blocked, some weird chewing static noise. Lancer took his flare gun, and they checked another cabin, finding Melba Conners’ living space. She had a laptop, but the internet connection was down. They could see her Facebook pictures, so they would recognize her and her cat Cicero.
They headed for the generator shed when an explosion caught their attention; the boat! Lancer ran over and saw the boat listing and burning and sinking. Great. Meanwhile, Bingsley found the out building with the power generator was unlocked. It had the satellite uplink and servers, but the whole setup had been smashed with a fire axe (which had been dropped just outside the building.) He collected the axe, and also realized the generators were low on gas and would have shut off at 1 a.m. They refilled the generators, getting another 12 hours.
The only outbuilding left was the prefab barn with the mowing equipment and tools and such. It was partly open. As they approached, a figure lunged at them out of the darkness screaming insults; Lancer fired the flare gun into the building, and it landed next to a fuel tank, which subsequently exploded. In the process of trying to subdue Hawkins with the fire axe, he might have gotten terribly injured a little bit. They left him on the ground, possibly dead, and returned to the house.
The Trail of Corruption
They circled around the library wing, unsettled as the young woman in the library seemed able to see them in the dark and the rain. They headed down the wall, glad of their flashlights, and found the back door.
It seemed some life-draining corruption had burst through the door and carved a trail off into the night. The mummified remains of the cat Cicero were in the swathe. They followed it inside to the laundry room, and found the half-drained shuddering remains of Melba; when touched, she let out a shriek and died. (One of the inmates leaned out of his room and told them to shut up, then closed the door again.)
They followed the trail down the stairs, noting how the walls and floor had been seared as though by some kind of acid. Once in the basement, they checked the rooms as they went.
One room had abstract paintings; for a moment Bingsley saw Egyptian pyramids in one of the pictures; a strange effect. They found a vacant restraint room, as well as a room with emergency supplies. Lancer picked up a ham radio, backpack, and a couple hand radios. Hawkins’ room looked trashed by a tantrum.
Then they found the room where the corruption first arrived. A big circle had been drawn on the wall in blood, with strange symbols all around it. The wall sagged as though partly melted and refrozen, and the symbols had been scratched out. A quivering man crouched in the corners, the tips of his fingers torn off by the violence of his scratching at the symbols to obliterate them. He babbled some nonsense about how hungry it was, and it was good other people were here, and it wasn’t his fault it was real, and whatever; Lancer tried to subdue him, but angered him instead, so Bingsley used a liquor bottle he had lifted from Ebeneezer’s cabin to knock the crazed man senseless.
Next to that awful room was a trim and tidy bunk for the orderly. Judging by his pictures, clothes, and workout gear, he was a really big guy, very strong. There were stairs leading back up to the foyer, and they took them. Once up there, they saw into the library, where the strange woman was beckoning to someone out in the rain and the dark through the window. The guests waited to see who she was summoning, and a lightning strike revealed Johnson, the orderly, twenty feet from the front door. He was missing his shirt, and he looked disturbed.
They retreated immediately down the stairs, then reversed when they heard a thin scream. They got back to the foyer in time to see J0hnson retreating into the night with the library woman tucked under his arm. They didn’t dare pursue.
Instead they headed upstairs, where they quickly found Dr. Brewer’s office. He was pinned to his desk with kitchen knives, ritualistically hollowed and slain. Fighting down the bile at the sight, they rifled the room some, and found it served as a panic room. Locking it down, they also found emergency equipment capable of cutting through the static. They called the Coast Guard and asked to be rescued; two cutters would go check it out, and a helicopter was coming for them, 15 minutes out.
They found the surveillance station in the office, monitoring cameras and microphones around the sanatorium. A feed from the road by the woods picked up the desperate mortal screaming of the woman the orderly dragged off, for over ten minutes before what could only be death silenced her horrible cries.
Then the chopper showed up on the cameras, so they risked a mad dash outside to the circle drive. On the way they saw Blanche, standing at the balcony watching them; later! They made it onto the helicopter, and were lifted off the island to tell their story to the cops.
Lancer found silence could be quite lucrative, and he simply kept his mouth shut and got a professional and financial boost.
Bingsley found paranoia a more comforting route. He wrote up all the detail he could muster, and mailed it to a dead drop with instructions to send a copy back to the newspaper where he worked, to some friends, and possibly other instructions. Then he wrote a sanitized (but still shocking) version to buck against the expensive cover-up that pretended nothing happened on the island. His editor invited him to go on a walk through the office, but pinned him to the wall in the supply room and said some very unkind things to him. The story was not printed.
No one may ever know what happened on North Island that fateful night…