Vanessa Carrion works at Clearwater Institution for the Criminal and Mentally Insane. And when a young killer named Harry arrives, strange things begin to happen. It is up to Vanessa and her ragtag team of misfits to figure out the chilling puzzle. A puzzle that is enough to make any sane person go mad.


10. Mask

“We're all mad here.”

― Lewis Carroll

"Emma's cell is down the hall here; you sure you're ok?" Dylan begins to search my eyes for any signs of distress. "You look pale." Dylan cups my chin in his warm palm and softly pats it. "Yeah, this place just gives me the creeps." Dylan nods his head in agreement and takes my hand in his. "Wait until you see where they have Emma. And have you seen the water, it's clear. I wonder how in the hell that happened." I open my mouth to speak but quickly shut it as I hear the sloshing of our feet.

Evan wasn't lying when he told me section C was a confusing maze. The closer we get to Emma's cell, the dimmer the lighting gets and the lower the water becomes. The hall seems to get even longer and the air drops in temperature. I'm so fixated on the warmth of Dylan's hands, I almost trip when I hear the loud clanging of a cell we pass by. I tug on Dylan to stop him from walking and I peer through the thin bars.

The person slowly brings their head up revealing a white theater mask shielding their face. I wave my hand in front of the person until I notice the mask has black slits painted on it for eyes and the expression of the mouth is a dramatic frown. The only thing that seems to show anything is the nose area with two holes for what I'm assuming to be for breathing. "Yeah, told you it was going to get creepier." The person begins to tug on the mask before letting their hands fall to their sides showing me that there's no way of getting it off. Dylan now pulls on my arm and I watch in awe at the sight passing me by. Every cell we pass by has someone in it with a mask covering their face, all with sad expressions. Some try to get our attention but some just sit crisscrossed there, not even showing any signs of life. What a sad feeling that must be, to not have any fight left in you.

I bump into Dylan's back as he abruptly stops and begins to tap a code in the key pad. "I tried calling her but she didn't respond. You can tell it's her by her hair though." The cell makes a buzz before automatically opening. "Fancy." Dylan looks at the gate for a second before walking into the room. Emma's cell is no different from the others I've seen, white padding on anything that could cause any harm. Emma is sitting in the dead center of the room, her hair cascading down her shoulders and back. They changed her into the neon green jumper Evan had on a few nights ago. "Em?"

Dylan's soft voice snaps me into the present and I realize I haven't even taken a step into the cell. "God she's bleeding Vanessa." I walk over to Emma and sit down in front of her. I take my sleeve and wipe away the blood that has began to trickle down her face. She doesn't even blink as I move my wrist away from her pale and cracked skin. Dylan lifts up her arm and it falls to her lap lifelessly. "They had to have given her something to make her calm down." I pull down on the skin under her bottom eyelid and see where her eyes are redder than normal.

"Well now what?" I look behind Emma's shoulder just in time to see a figure moving across past the cell. "Holy shit." I focus my eyes back to Emma's face and gag when I see her. It looks as if fresh tears of black ink are coming from her brown eyes. The scarier part is she doesn't move, doesn't blink doesn't even exhale. "We need to go get someone, something isn't right here." Suddenly, Emma makes a choking sound and and the same black substance begins to flow from her mouth. Emma's eyes roll back in her head and she opens her mouth wider to let the liquid flow freely. I watch in horror as the liquid makes soft dripping noises as it hits the padding. "Now."

"That won't be a good or helpful idea." Me and Dylan snap our gaze to the only other maskless face besides Emma and our own in this section. "Thank you for your suggestion but we're going to get help." Dylan helps me to my feet and I look to see that Emma's nose is now leaking a vivid red liquid.

"They find out you're friends with her she's a goner for sure. It's a mental thing, it'll stop soon I promise. " "No ma'am I'm pretty sure it's a medical thing." The woman lets out a dry chuckle at Dylan's urgency. "You must be Dylan." Dylan freezes mid step. The woman lets out another dry chuckle, this time putting her decaying teeth on display. Her red hair burns bright in the dimness of the place. Her left eye is sewn shut with thick black yarn but her right eye gleams in amusement at us. "Don't look so shocked boy, Iliana tried to have a conversation with your friend but all she kept repeating was Dylan, Zayn, Vanessa. And some other boys name but I can't remember the name."

"Did you say Iliana?" I can feel Dylan's gaze boring into my head but he makes no signs of stopping me as I walk closer to the woman's cell. Her hands are thin enough to slip through the bars and I'm sure her finger nails are long enough to puncture my throat.

"Yes, I surely did." The woman raises her eyebrows in understanding. "I knew she had to be back floating around for some reason. The waters clear again isn't it?" I nod my head and the woman sighs. "Excuse me, but who the hell is Iliana?" The woman's single eye focuses on Dylan and she runs her tongue over her two front teeth. "They say you have to have a certain amount of insanity in you to even catch a glimpse of her, let alone hold a conversation with her." The woman's eyes flicker down to the key resting on my chest and she begins to grin. "You all are trying to crack it aren't you?" I shrug my shoulders because saying no is just a waste of time at this point. "If that's the key I think it is, then it opens a file cabinet." My mommy had one like it, it opened a blue cabinet.

"Dyl, Dylan that's it. This is for the file cabinet in my moms office." I turn around to Dylan's skeptic facial expression and I roll my eyes. "We have nothing to loose to try it out anyway." "Well then we better hurry up." I turn back around to see the woman picking a mask up off of the floor. The same mask the rest of the patients are wearing. "I'm glad that I could be of some help. Watch your back for any and everything." The woman goes to put the mask back on but Dylan stops her with her voice. "Wait, you didn't tell us your name." The woman smiles sadly and let's out a breathy whisper, a whisper that I can't even hear.

"Well how'd you get your mask off?" The woman looks at me and then at the white shield in her hands.

"They tried to make me insane when I got here, too bad I was already at the point of no return." With that she places the mask snug on her face and begins to back away from us, until her back hits the padded wall with a thud.

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