Chapter Eight: Ghosts and Demons
_____ took a few steps into the front lobby of the mental hospital, stopping where the light from outside ended. “Sure is dark in here,” she commented.
“Sì,” agreed Lovino. He walked past _____ into the darkness.
“Relax, ragazza.” A small light appeared that emanated from an object in Lovino’s hand. “I brought a flashlight. I figured we’d need one.”
_____ rolled her eyes, then looked at the small flashlight in the Italian’s hand. “It’s so tiny,” she said, giggling slightly.
Lovino raised an eyebrow, then made a smirk that would rival Gilbert’s. “To make room for something else in my pants.”
_____’s eyes widened, and her entire face quickly turned bright red. “Dude! Was that really necessary?!”
Lovino laughed––an action he did so infrequently, and even _____ could tell. His laughter was loud and uncontrollable for a moment, but he soon calmed himself. “Sorry, ragazza. I only said that to see your reaction.”
_____ put her hands on her hips. “So then, there isn’t anything down there to make room for?”
Now it was Lovino’s turn to grow red. “N-No! I-I mean––Yes, there’s something there to make room for, but––Gah! Forget it!” He spun around, his back to her, and crossed his arms. “I hate you.”
_____ grinned, patting his shoulder as she passed him. “Love you, too, Lovi.”
A short silence followed, and Lovino kept his eyes on the floor, then sighed gruffly. “Please don’t call me that, ragazza,” he said.
“Hm?” She looked at him with furrowed brows. “Why not?”
He rubbed his arm. “My grandpa used to call me that.”
_____ recalled her conversation with Feliciano about his grandfather. “But Feliciano likes when I call him Feli because your granddad called him that. Why don’t you. . . ?” She stopped herself when it dawned on her. “You didn’t like your granddad, did you?”
“It’s not that I didn’t like him. It was just that. . .he didn’t really like me. Not like he liked fratello.” He made a small, humorless laugh. “He loved Feliciano. Everyone loved Feliciano––and they still love him. But. . .they never even give me a second glance. Feliciano has always been the favorite. No matter how good I am at something, he always manages to be better than me. He was the better cook, the better speaker, the better artist––and, man, did Grandpa love his art. He was so proud of fratello. . .that he didn’t even acknowledge me. And it’s like that with our parents, too. Just like that.” He clenched his fists. “I. . .I hate it. . .”
_____ stared at Lovino for a moment, taking in his hurt features. She stepped toward him and took his hand. “C’mon, Lovino. Let’s go and see if we can find any ‘ghosts’ in here.”
Lovino made a small smile, acknowledging _____’s attempt to cheer him up, and followed her down the winding halls of the old asylum. The halls seemed to go on endlessly, until Lovino became impatient and opened a side door. “Let’s go in here, ragazza,” he said as he stood in the doorway.
_____ looked back at him. “Okay.” She walked past him, grabbing his flashlight as she did, and went into the dark room. She shone the flashlight on the walls of the room to look at her surroundings, then stepped back and handed the flashlight back to Lovino. “Clear.”
“Sì. I knew that.” He nudged her as he entered the room, shining the flashlight on the walls as well.
_____ raised an eyebrow. “Then why are you rechecking to see if anything’s in here?”
Lovino glared at her. “Just. . .for safety measures.”
“Mm-hm.” She froze when she heard a muffled scream from across the hospital. She grabbed Lovino’s sleeve. “Did you hear that. . . ?”
“Sì,” he answered warily. Then he smirked at her. “What are you so worried about, ragazza? Scared the ghosts are going to get you?”
_____ groaned as she walked out of the room. “Lovino Vargas, for the umpteenth time, there is no such thing as––”
Another scream echoed through the building, causing the two to jump. After a long, silent moment, _____ lowered her shoulders and forced her body to relax. She smoothed down her shirt and hair and took a step into the hallway. “I’m out.”
She started down the hall quickly and quietly––only to be stopped by a hand grabbing her arm. She yelped and whirled around to smack the person. She glared at him. “Lovino!”
Lovino chuckled. “Oh, ragazza.” He patted her head. “You are scared.”
_____ maintained her glare. “That wasn’t funny.”
“Mi dispiace, ragazza. Come on.” He slipped his fingers down her arm to her hand, clasping it in his. “Let’s go check out where that scream came from.”
“Are you crazy?” She attempted to pull him back as he started down the hall in the opposite direction, but did not succeed.
Lovino suddenly stopped. “Unless you’re too scared.”
“Would you shut up about that?!” _____ passed him, pulling him along in the direction he had been going. “C’mon, a-hole. Let’s go be retards and check out the scream.”
The pair walked down the halls and corridors to the other side of the abandoned hospital until they reached the part of the wing they suspected the screams came from. They opened a door in the hallway and quietly went through, shining the flashlight across the walls and floor. They heard one more scream, only this time it was closer. _____ turned her head and heard the scream coming from a room nearby. She and Lovino stepped softly toward the closed door and stood staring at it for a long moment.
Suddenly the door burst open as another scream came from the room, causing _____ to scream as well and lose her balance. She fell backwards on the wooden floor as a body ran into her. She sat up and opened her eyes, seeing a dark figure staring back at her. She was about to scream again until she recognized the familiar amber eyes of the figure and an expression of frustration covered her face. “Dammit, Feli!”
Feliciano blinked at _____, then smiled wide and wrapped his arms around her. “Sorella! It’s you!”
“Yeah, it’s me. Now get off.”
Feliciano scrambled off of her and stood up.
_____ picked herself up as well. “What’re you doing here? And where’s Ludwig?”
They looked in the doorway of the room to see Ludwig walking out. An obvious frown of disapproval was on his face. He sighed heavily in exasperation. “Damn Italian. He practically had a panic attack every time we turned a corner in this damn place.”
Feliciano whimpered. “I couldn’t help it! This place is haunted!”
“It is not haunted, Feli,” _____ chided. “This used to be an insane asylum to people that most likely weren’t even crazy with an a-hole of a doctor that tortured the people. While that, and the people left to die on the island from the plague, was terrible, there is nothing left. There are no ghosts haunting this island. It’s all in your imagination.”
“Ja, just keep telling yourself that, Fräu.”
The four turned to look down the hallway, seeing Gilbert and Kiku walking toward them. Gilbert put his hands on his hips. “This place is haunted. I know, I heard screaming in here a few minutes ago.”
“That was fratello,” said Lovino.
Gilbert blinked. “Oh. . .Well, I did see a couple of bones on the way here.”
_____ rolled her eyes. “Oh my, that’s so interesting. So did we, and Luddy and Feli probably did, too. That doesn’t prove anything, Gil. All it proves is that you’re way too gullible.” She passed him and Kiku.
“Non-believer!” Gilbert shouted after her.
_____ rolled her eyes again as she checked her watch. “Hey, guys,” she called back to the boys. “We should be heading back to the meeting spot. If we leave now, those gondola dudes will get there around the time we will.”
Gilbert groaned. “But I don’t want to go yet! I haven’t seen a real live ghost yet!”
“That’s an oxymoron, Gil,” she said, pulling him by the arm. “And if you’re waiting till you see a ghost, you’ll be waiting forever. Now come on.”
The six of them slowly, and reluctantly, began to walk back to the meeting spot. It was much more difficult to navigate now that it was completely dark out. Ludwig used Lovino’s small flashlight (without his permission) to find his way through the heavy vegetation.
An hour and a half later, the group finally reached the meeting spot, marked by Feliciano’s neglected picnic basket. They sat waiting for the men for almost an hour, but they did not come back.
_____ began to get impatient, glancing at her watch for the umpteenth time. “Lovino, it’s almost nine. Where are they?”
Lovino looked out to the lagoon in front of them, his brows furrowed. “They should’ve been here by now.”
“You think?” said Gilbert, an edge evident in his voice. “I should be going out now to drink und mingle with the ladies. But nooo!”
“Look, I told them to come back at eight tonight, alright?!” Lovino snapped. “How the hell was I supposed to know they wouldn’t listen to such simple instructions?! I mean, seriously! ‘Come back at eight’! How the hell hard is that to figure out?!”
_____ blinked. “Wait. . .did you say eight A.M. or P.M.?”
Lovino blinked, a bit dumfounded, but then found himself in thought. His eyes quickly widened when he apparently remembered something. “Oh, shit. . .”
Ludwig rose from his seat on the ground. “You told them to come back tomorrow?!”
Lovino ignored him, still thinking. His expression contorted into one of frustration.
Gilbert lifted his head, glaring at the Italian. “Was?! You mean we’re not leaving this island until tomorrow?!”
Noticing that Lovino was already too angry with himself to answer, _____ took it upon herself to give the news. “Okay, guys. Looks like we’re stuck here until tomorrow morning. What we need to do is set up camp. I’d say just to go to sleep in a little while.”
“But what about food, sorella?” Feliciano whined.
“Ja,” added Gilbert, “I’m starving.”
“If you’re hungry, see if there is any food left from lunch. If not, tough luck. I recommend not eating anything from the island.” _____ moved her head to look at her surroundings. “I don’t trust anything that comes up on this godforsaken rock.”
After the announcement, Kiku and Ludwig began setting up a camp while Feliciano and Gilbert looked through everyone’s backpacks for food. They had already seen that the picnic basket was empty, and they were even more disappointed to find that there was no more food in the backpacks. _____ was about to help Ludwig and Kiku until she noticed Lovino still sitting on the ground. She stepped toward him and sat down beside him.
He had his face downcast and his shoulders hunched. He sighed quietly and looked up at the city-lit horizon. “Dammit, ragazza. I can’t believe I did something so. . .so stupid.” He rubbed his face. “And in my own language! Dio mio!”
_____ smiled apologetically at him and patted his back softly. “It’s okay, Lovino. I mess up my own language sometimes. Most of the time, actually.”
“Yeah, you do,” he remarked, a small smile tugging at his lips.
_____ looked at him, dejection still obvious on his face. “Hey. It’s okay.” She sighed. “I don’t really know what else to say or do except––” She lifted her hand and smacked him in the back of the head.
“Ow!” Lovino glared at her as he rubbed his head. “What the hell was that for?!”
She smirked. “You said to smack your brother in the head if he freaked out. I thought it’d work for you, too. Oh, yeah. One more thing: Man up!”
Lovino blinked at _____, then smiled. He pushed her head playfully. “Grazie, ragazza,” he chuckled.
It was dawn, and everyone in the group was still fast asleep.
All except one.
_____ opened her eyes, waking up, and sat up quietly. She rubbed her eyes and looked out at the foggy lagoon in front of her. The sun had already risen, but she had just missed it by a few minutes. She blinked as she noticed a familiar figure near the shoreline. She stood up and walked over to him, trying not to make any noise.
“How long have you been up?” she asked suddenly.
Ludwig jumped slightly when she spoke, turning around sharply and looking at her. “Ah, Fräu. You’re awake.”
“Yeah. It’s kinda hard to sleep on the ground. Especially when there’s probably a few skeletons right under the dirt you’re on.” She stepped beside him. “How long have you been awake?”
He was silent for a moment, then answered, “All night.”
“What?” _____ looked at him, astonished at the fact that he could still be functioning. “Did you at least try to go to sleep?”
Ludwig sighed. “Nein.”
“Well, why not?”
“I wanted to look out for the men taking us back,” he replied. “In case they came while we were asleep.”
_____ raised her eyebrows, then her expression softened. “You didn’t have to do that, y’know,” she said, her voice low so as not to wake the others. “They probably would’ve woken us up if we were asleep when they got here.”
“I know.” Ludwig looked out at the lagoon again. “But, just in case.”
_____ sighed slowly, softly, then glanced at her watch. “Well, it’s six-thirty right now. We have an hour and a half before they’re supposed to get here. Why don’t you get some sleep while I keep watch?”
He looked at her. “Are you sure, Fräu?”
“Yeah. I got enough sleep to last me a while. And an hour or so of sleep isn’t gonna kill you.” She patted his back, motioning him to where the others were sleeping. “Go ahead,” she whispered. “Just knock yourself out. Literally.”
Ludwig sighed and accepted the offer, lying down where _____ had originally been sleeping, while _____ sat down where Ludwig had originally been standing. Ludwig fell asleep only a few minutes after he settled down. _____ glanced back at him, half-smiling.
“Poor guy,” she said quietly to herself. “He does what he can, doesn’t he?” She looked up at the sky. “He’s honest and hard-working. He’s tough, but he’s gentle when he needs to be. I think you’d like him, too.” She chuckled. “Then again, I think you’d like all of them. You never really had a problem talking to new people like I do.” She sighed, dipping her index finger into the lagoon. “Of course, you’ve never had to be stranded on an abandoned––not to mention creepy as hell––island with anyone.” She smiled. “But they were great entertainment.”
As promised (or, rather, what they assumed was as promised), the men returned with the gondolas at eight in the morning. The heavy fog had lifted, and the others had risen. The sun shone brightly in the sky, thankfully lighting up the island so it didn’t quite look so terrible. They all rode back to the mainland, Lovino and Kiku in one boat, Gilbert and Feliciano in another, and Ludwig and _____ in the third one. They headed back to the college campus to their dorm house. And the first thing they did when they reached it was that they crawled in their beds and got some well-needed shut-eye.