Altered Hospital


The Altered Hospital is here, but you cannot see it.

The ruined hospital towered over me. It had not seen many people in decades, having already been in poor condition when my grandfather took his picture of it. After all these years, the hospital looked even more decrepit. However, it was all facade; this hospital was like a dirty shell hiding a white pearl. I had come here early, but time had passed, and the setting sun was lighting the structure in shades of yellow and orange. I knew that my wait would soon be over.

I stepped next to the door and looked at my clock. It would only be a minute until the beginning of the next cycle. Right at the onset, there would be a short window during which I could enter the Altered Hospital. If I timed it wrong, I would have to return here after another two weeks. This had already happened once, and I'd hate to have it happen again. I'd love to not be here again two weeks from now.

Anticipation rushed through my veins as I realized I had only a few seconds left. I grabbed the door handle, ready to try my luck once again. Right at the end of this cycle, I closed my eyes and slammed myself through the door—hopeful, but unsure of if I had made it through.

My worries were alleviated when I opened my eyes. Instead of the barren ruins, I was now in a clinical and well-lit hospital. This was the Altered Hospital, a place beyond reality. I looked behind me, through the open doorway. Unsurprisingly, it did not offer a way out anymore. Beyond the door was a white void rather than the outside.

Confronted with multiple options, I continued my exploration into the main hallway extending from the lobby. There was some fog in the air, but not enough to make seeing troublesome. According to my grandfather, a bit of fog was usual for large Altered places, but this was my first experience with it. Apart from the fog, the hallway looked relatively normal for the time. It was in pristine condition, with a polished floor reflecting the white light of the lamps.

Two weeks ago, I also tried to enter this Altered place. However, I failed that time. I ended up in this same hallway, but it was desolate. The roof had partially collapsed, with bits of it scattered on the floor. As the lamps had stopped working ages ago, the hallway was dark, being lit only by the natural light coming through the doorway. Essentially, the clean hallway I was now standing in was what this ruined hallway had looked like decades ago.

I continued my walk along the hallway. On both of my sides, I saw seemingly endless rows of hospital doors. For curiosity's sake, I tried opening one, only to find out that it was locked. I tried my luck a few more times, but none of the doors seemed to open. Defeated, I continued my walk along the hallway; I had nowhere else to go. I felt fatigued, numb, and even somewhat trapped by the walls around me. However, I persevered and strode forward for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, the hallway ended. It split into two; one going left and one going right. The right side seemed similar to the hallway I had just come from. However, after only a dozen feet, it ran into a wall of fog, which completely covered the way forward. Thus, I was left with only a single choice, the left hallway. It was smaller than the right one but had less fog. I reluctantly began following it, hoping that it would prove shorter than the first hallway.

I felt even more trapped. It was as if the walls were closing on me. The fog became slightly more intense, now making the end of the hallway faint. It felt that the closer I got, the further away it was. However, although the lights began to dim above me, everything was still as clean and polished as it had been when I entered this realm. In the hallway of the ruined hospital, everything had been broken, but my mind was clear. Things were the other way here.

Suddenly, I collided with the door at the end of the hallway. It had come sooner than I could've ever expected. I thought about turning back, but I knew that I was in no true danger. At least not yet. Nervously, I opened the door in front of me. Shockingly, the hallway didn't continue on the other side.

The door opened into a dark, foggy void. Right in front of me, I saw a large hospital bed, floating in mid-air. It looked completely stable, so I leaned softly against it. Deep in the distance, the previous hallway continued; however, the fog made it difficult to make out most of the details. Slowly, I put all my weight against the hospital bed and jumped in. If my assumption was correct, I would soon be on the other side.

As soon as I was laying fully on the bed, it began moving. It departed from its previous position and started approaching the lit hallway in the distance. Every moment, I was further and further away from where I had been, and closer to the lit hallway. Halfway, the bed began to shake violently. I desperately held on, although the blanket kept sliding from my hands.

Finally, the hospital bed arrived on the other side. It stopped just before entering the hallway, but it was no problem for me to climb off. This hallway was surprisingly short and had a lot less fog than the ones before it. It ended in a large door that was ajar.

I walked up to the door and slipped through it. As expected, I arrived in a small hospital room. It had a small window, but I could only see white through it. The hospital room had a small bed, with an elderly man laying on it. He looked tired and breathed heavily. When I looked at his face, I noticed that he was staring at me.

"Sorry, but who are you? You're the first person I've seen in… well, I don't even know how long it has been," he stated in a creaky voice.
"I'm Andrew Sallow. It's nice to meet you."
"Sallow? When I was young, I had a neighbor with the same surname. Must've been a relative of yours."
"Perhaps. It's been a long time since then. Actually, hmm… may I ask you—how long have you been here?"
"Longer than I can count. And I'll be here until they come."
"Sir, who are they?"
"Oh, sorry. I'm referring to all of them—my sister, my children, my grandchild…"
"I see. And you've been here, waiting for them?"
"You could say so."
"Sir, why?"
"They said they would come. They said they'd come to see me. Why are they not here? What's taking so long?" the old man cried aloud.
"Sir, what year is it?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Trust me, this is important."
"Well, let me think. Surely, it must be early 1931 by now, right? It truly has been an awfully long time…"
"Sir, it's 1999."
"No, it can't be. Surely not. That would mean… no, I refuse to believe you."
"I am speaking the truth. Sir, look outside the window."
"It's just pure white like it always has been. Nothing unusual."
"Sir, are you sure?"
The old man paused for a while and pondered his surroundings. Finally, he uttered: "Young man, where am I?"
"This is a place outside time, a place outside reality itself. It's a figment of your mind that refuses to accept the truth."
"The truth? What truth? I know no truth," the old man uttered in a passionate tone.
"I'm sorry, but you do know it."
Suddenly, the old man looked more frail and elderly than ever. He looked at me deep into the eyes, and said: "They are not coming, right?"
"I'm so sorry…"
"It's nothing. I should've guessed by now."
"Well, at least you're free."
"I guess so. I'm finally free of all this waiting. Truly, free of worries. But, tell me, young man, why did they not come?"
"I can't know for sure, but I think it's likely that they did. It was just too late by then. You passed away."
"I hope that it is the truth, that they did come eventually. But I must still accept that in the end, I was a lonely man, who had nothing."
"Well, your life was not defined by the final moments. You still had a family, and you loved it so much you couldn't let go."
"I presume you're right. They were very dear to me…" the old man uttered, staring at his own hand. It was slowly disappearing.
"Sir, it seems like our time has come to an end."
The old man gave me a long look and then finally spoke again. "Thank you, Mr. Sally. Farewell!"
"Goodbye!" I shouted as the world faded to white.

I blinked, and I was no longer in the Altered Hospital. I was back in the real world, standing in the doorway, but facing the opposite direction. It was night already, and the moon shone in the sky, giving the ruins a ghostly feeling. However, there was no ghostly world here anymore. It was all just ruins, as it should be.

Quietly, I made my exit and began my long track back home.

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