This week marks the eighth year of publication for Dreamwalker: The Second Plain, and in honor of it’s release I’ve lowered the price to 99¢ (for Kindle only) from today until the end of the month (8/26-8/31). The book is separated into sections that each carries a song title that has inspired me in one way or the other. Throughout the week, I’ll be posting excerpts, so you can get a glimpse of the Second Plain.

Somethings Going On – Chapter 1

“Only storage in the attic,” Janet said flatly, squinting across the room. She took a breath, and a cold smile stretched her mouth. “When they added the elevator in the 60s they didn’t want to lose any floor space, so they built the shaft outside, taking a window from each floor. It wasn’t possible to extend the elevator to the attic since it doesn’t have the floor space or the same window placement. So it’s just not possible to do anything up there.” Janet turned from the doors, looking at the dry fountain in the courtyard in the center of the hospital and continued, “The residents are not allowed in the courtyard or balconies, just employees. Each floor has a small balcony.”

Curious, Marcie opened the French doors to the courtyard. Two walls were glass; the one with the door where she stood, and the one opposite giving her a clear view of the front door. The other two were river rock as the fireplaces in the common room. Along the stone walls, barberry plants grew, and Marcie thought it strange, they were blooming this late in the year.

“The fountain hasn’t worked for some time.” Janet dictated. “We haven’t found a repairman able to fix it.”

Marcie nodded, closing the doors. Turning, she noticed a man sitting in the dining room gaze, his fixed on the distant horizon.

“This is the kitchen,” Janet interjected, quickly distracting her. “The cooking staff does not allow us to use it, not even to store a sandwich. This is the dining room. All residents must be here at 6:30, 12:00, and 5:30, with the exception, of course, of Mr. Ristle. When they are finished eating they take their dishes to the kitchen and clean up the dining area.”

“Should the residents be doing all of this labor? Isn’t there some law about that?”

“Oh, well, hee, hee, it is part of their therapy. We believe everyone needs to remain active.” A strange smirk formed, causing Janet’s face to appear demonic. She leaned against the second river rock fireplace on the main floor, observing the man sitting near the window. Placing her hand on the small of Marcie’s back, she led her toward the stairs near the front door.

“Who’s he?” Marcie asked.

“He’s a John Doe, and has been here as long as I can remember,” Janet said slyly. “I started around eight years ago. He was here then. Where you see him now, is where you will see him most of the time. He never speaks, just sits there, staring out the window.”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Don’t know. No one knows,” she answered quickly. “He can walk, eat, and do his bodily functions on his own. He’s not much of a bother to anyone.” A laugh erupted in her throat as she went on, “He always has a slack face and stares. Every once in a while he will make a little groaning noise, and then it’s back to slack jaw.”

“Is he over medicated?”

“No!” Janet answered in a shrill, staccato syllable. For a Moment, Janet was solemn, then began again in her upbeat tone. “Don’t worry about a patient who isn’t assigned to you. He’s just another nut job. I think most of them are faking, so they don’t have to deal with the real world. Why are you so interested anyway?”

“No reason. Curious, I guess.”

“There’s a lot to be curious about here. So much, you will forget all about him. You’re on the second floor,” she said, slightly pushing Marcie up the first step.

Marcie turned to look at him one more time. He turned his head slightly, giving her a clear view of his face. His amber eyes bore into her. Startled, she hurried to be out of his vision.

“We haven’t changed much of the original architecture, but we had to update the electrical soon after I started.” Janet droned as she daintily climbed the stairs. “Even though the government doesn’t fund us, we still have to keep up to code. This is your floor. There are twelve rooms per floor with two residents in each room, and a lavatory.”

Marcie’s gaze noticed that the world had gone unchanged outside when she glanced through the window to the left as she reached the landing. The dry bluffs rested on top of the layers of dust to the northeast, and a few small buildings stood between them and the hospital. Condensation nestled in the corner of the window ledge sparkled like stars in the morning sun. She wondered if the man sitting at the window below could see the desolation of the barren land surrounding them. She turned her gaze to her right, finding an identical fireplace as the ones on the main floor.

“Edith, this is Marcie. She’s replacing Nancy.” Janet paused, glaring at the window. “It’ll be sad to see her go. She’s been here so long.”

“Too long, if you ask me. That lazy b—”

“Edith, will you please show Marcie around,” Janet said, cutting her off. “I have something I need to check on.”

“Whatever,” she snorted as Janet walked briskly down the stairs. “You’re fat,” Edith stated, looking Marcie over with her ever-critical eyes. “I hope you’re not lazy too.”

“Excuse me?”

“There’s nothing worse than a fat, lazy nurse who doesn’t do anything but sit on her ass, reading her gossip rags.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Marcie said with a coy wink, taking Edith off guard. “The last place I worked it seemed like I was the only one there.”

“Good.” Edith chuckled. “This is the nursing station if that’s what you want to call it. There’s a small fridge and microwave underneath the counter. I’m sure the gracious Janet told you not to go into the kitchen.”

“Yeah.”

“I only have a few rules I expect you to keep. If you leave your food in the fridge, I will either eat it or throw it out. If you spill something, clean it up. Do you understand?”

“Sure. And I do expect the same of you,” Marcie replied, a spark in her eye igniting.

They stared at each other for a Moment, then Edith laughed. “Aren’t you scared of me?”

“Should I be?”

“Of course.” The older woman giggled. “No, not really. I like to try to scare the newbies to see if I get a rise out of them or if they run to tell your majesty.”

“Gracious and your majesty. I take it you don’t care much for Janet.”

“BINGO! Ever since she started, she’s acted as if she is the queen of the world with her big hair and sunken cheeks.” She glanced at the stairs, then said, “Come on, I’ll show you the floor.”

Marcie hadn’t noticed the window behind the nurse’s station, looking across the open air to a small balcony. Opposite the counter were two open doors leading into rooms.

“The residents in these rooms need the most attention. They probably should be on the third floor, but no room. They are usually restless at night, and are sure to keep you busier than the others.” Edith stopped at the end of the hall. “The supply closet is around the corner here,” she said, taking a key from the pocket of her smock. “You have to jiggle it a little bit, then turn.” The door swung inside, revealing the perfectly organized shelf. “I’ll give you Nancy’s key when you start your regular shift.”

Closing the door, Edith turned in a strange silence. A frown furrowed her brow. Her eyes quickly dashed to the wall clock as though she were expecting something. Marcie watched the woman with concern when the sound exploded from above.

“OINK! OINK! WEEEEE!”

Startled, Marcie scanned the hallway. Her hand reached for Edith looking for comfort. As abruptly as the disturbance filled the air, silence returned.

“Do we raise pigs, too?” Marcie asked, blinking rapidly.

“No, it’s Mr. Ristle from upstairs. He thinks he’s a pig.”

“Oh, he’s the one who’s bedridden. Janet mentioned him.”

“Bedridden, is that what she told you? I guess it’s true. But it’s more like strapped in bed.”

“What?”

“As I said, he thinks he’s a pig. He ruts around and craps everywhere if he isn’t. They think it’s best if he stays in one place. And I can’t say I disagree.”

“Gotcha.”

“On the bright side, Mr. Ristle doesn’t share his room. They originally assigned Slack-jaw to his room, but he always ended up in the attic curled up by the window overlooking the courtyard, or in a different room. So they put a bed in the attic for him. He was probably tired of the constant snorting.”

“Slack-jaw?”

“Haven’t you seen him yet? Can’t miss him. He sits in the dining room staring outside.”

“Oh, him. Yeah, I saw him earlier. What’s his story?”

“Don’t know. They keep everything very secret. If you’re not assigned to a floor, you aren’t given the information.”

“What are you doing Edith?” A shrill voice, causing Marcie and Edith’s skin to contract, came from behind them.

Turning, they found Janet at the end of the hall with her hands on her hips. A ridged scowl etched into her face, pinching her penciled eyebrows together.

“You know the rules. No gossiping about the residents.”

“Yes, your maj… ma’am.”

“Have you shown Marcie around the floor?”

“Just finished.”

“Good. It’s almost lunch. Did you bring anything to eat, dear?” She asked, turning to Marcie, the tone of her voice returning to the saccharine Marcie had heard when she had arrived.

“No, I didn’t.”

“You can join me at my table,” she said with a sing-song voice, walking back to the stairs. “The food is always tasty.”

Marcie glanced at Edith, who made gagging faces, shaking her head ‘no.’ A timid smile washed over Marcie’s face as she bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from laughing.

What are you waiting for? Get your copy of Dreamwalker: The Second Plain on Kindle for 99¢ today!

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