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They stopped at the perimeter to check their equipment. Heavy boots, padded gloves and clothes in case of discarded syringes, respirators in case of asbestos, helmets in case of collapsing ceilings, and most importantly, climbing ropes.

They went in the usual way, through the east wing. It was furthest away from the road and offered the most privacy. Jeff led them through the now-familiar corridors and wards, sometimes stopping to document changes in the scenery.

“Here we go,” he said, stopping near the edge. The stairway down to the basements had been made of wood, and had crumbled away since the hospital was abandoned. That was the only thing that had stopped them from exploring the basements before.

Bailey nodded behind his mask and swung his rucksack off his back, taking out the ropes and pulleys.

“The walls and ceilings are too brittle here. I’ll stay up here and lower you down,” he said as he checked lines and harnesses.

“You sure, mate?” Lisa put her head on one side. “First time we’ve explored new ground in months and you’re volunteering to miss it?”

Bailey laughed. “You find somebody heavier than me to be an anchor, I’ll be happy to go. But there’s no chance any of you lot can lower me down and pull me back up without breaking your backs. Right, we’re set. Off you go. Jeff first, I reckon.”

He lowered Jeff down, then Lisa. She waved as she descended out of sight.

She twisted the light on her helmet on. “Think he’ll be OK up there waiting?”

Jeff nodded. “We’ll just make this a quick foray, see if we can find an alternate entrance for next time. Don’t want Bailey to miss everything, do we?”

They walked carefully through the main corridor, empty and strewn with abandoned papers and rusting equipment. Lisa trailed her rope behind her, marking out their return route and with an occasional little tug telling Bailey that they were OK.

“Didn’t realise they had wards down here, too,” Lisa whispered.

Jeff nodded. “I think these were the psych wards. Where they kept the dangerous psychopaths. Stay close- they might have left a couple behind…”

Lisa elbowed him. “Not funny, Jeff. Not funny at all.”

They reached the end of the corridor and opened the door. They were in a large, open room. There were chairs and tables around, and at the far end a smaller room with a sturdy glass screen, now smashed.

“Common room for the psychos,” Jeff muttered. They walked into the middle of the room and looked around.

“Why would they design this whole floor without any windows at all,” Lisa wondered. “Surely they could at least have put little windows at the top of the walls?”

Jeff shrugged. “Maybe they thought the people down here didn’t deserve any li-”

He stopped suddenly, putting his finger up to his lips and gesturing at Lisa to stay still. “Did you hear that?”

She frowned. There was a faint sound somewhere near, but she couldn’t quite place the direction it came from. “Another urbex team?” she suggested quietly.

Jeff looked around nervously. “I don’t know of anyone else who’s been here already. Who could get straight into the basements on the first run?”

He turned to face Lisa. Her face behind the mask had gone pale and she was staring back at the doorway. “What’s wrong?”

She tugged on the rope and the cut end slithered through the door.

“We’re definitely not alone,” she whispered.

© Kari Fay