Saturday, 22 December 2012

UrbEx part II

It was raining gently; the sky was a dark grey promising heavier rain to come.  Geraldinium ignored it and concentrated on the high walls surrounding the hospital.  Traffic was quiet on the road that ran around it, but there was still a car coming by every minute or so, making it difficult to scale a nine-foot high wall unseen.  She carried on walking, paying close attention to the wall, looking for footholds or handholds, or even a convenient tree or post-box that she could use to gain some height.  She wondered briefly if she should have brought the orphan-girl along to use as a step up, but then dismissed the idea.  Far better to have made the orphan-girl bring a step-ladder along and then take it away again.
She stopped at last at a green-painted, slightly rusted junction box, the kind the telecoms companies used to route cables and wires to provide internet and phone connections to the street.  It seemed a little out of place on this side of the road, but it gave her four feet off the ground, and that would be enough for her to get her hands to the top of the wall.  She looked around: there were actually three cars coming, two from one direction and the third from the other.  She frowned and glared at the traffic until it went past, oblivious to her anger.  Then she leapt athletically up onto the junction box, discovering at that moment that the top wasn’t flat but was angled.  Clearly the engineers didn’t want people standing on it.  Ignoring that, she jumped at the wall and grabbed the top of it easily, then flexed her arms and shoulders and pulled herself up.  Swinging her hips, she pulled her legs over, and let herself drop over the other side, pleased that no cars had gone past while she was climbing the wall, and a second later let out a hiss of breath as she hit the ground.  She looked up: the wall was nearly eleven feet high on this side.  Perhaps the landscapers had dug the ground out to make the wall more of a challenge.
As she climbed a wet, slippery slope to a lawn that approached the hospital she realised that that was exactly what had happened.  The lawn was, if anything, more slippery still, and there were patches that had succumbed to the invasion of clover and other ground cover which shed water from its leaves onto her feet and made her shoes wetter still.  As she slipped and slid her way across, she looked over at the hospital, and suddenly realised that she was clearly visible to anyone inside.  Was there security in this place?  She didn’t recall reading about any, but she wasn’t being cautious enough.  Without another thought she dropped to the ground, and slithered along like a snake instead.
The hospital was a pre-war construction, faced with a yellow-brown stone and ornamented with towers at either end and a clock-tower above the main hall in the middle.  The clock-tower was built in three stages, with the main hall building being the first, then an octagonal room above that being the second.  The third stage was the actual tower surmounted by a clock and stretched fifteen feet up in its own right.  Looking up at it, and blinking every few seconds as another cold raindrop landed in her eye, Geraldinium wondered if there was art to be made from that view.  She felt for her camera, and took a few shots, the digital clicking sounding loud despite the patter of the rain.  Then she looked at the doors to the main hall.  They were closed, and looked locked.
Geraldinium stood up again now that she was near the building, and checked around her.  There was no-one in sight, and by hugging the walls she could stay relatively hidden.  Her clothes, now wet through, stuck to her and were cold, but she decided that she could ignore that in the interests of finding something for her next exhibition piece.  She tried the main doors without much hope, and was rewarded with the dull clunk of a lock preventing the door knobs from turning.  She shrugged and started walking around the walls, her shoes squelching now with each step.
The windows on the ground floor had already been panelled over with sheet steel so there was no way in that way, though Geraldinium did notice that what she’d first thought was graffiti was in fact the signatures of previous UrbExers.  She snapped a picture of that too, a half-thought in her mind about connecting each name with a room in the hospital and creating a fictional life of people in there after the hospital closed.  About a third of the way round she found a stone urn, a planter now empty of everything save for smears of moss, standing a little way away from the building, and scratches on the paving flags nearby that suggested it had been moved at some point.  She almost walked past, then she looked up.  A little above her a first-floor window was very slightly open; if she’d not been stood in the right place she wouldn’t even have noticed it.  She wiped the rain off her face, and dragged the planter over.
The window was easier to get through than the wall had been to get over, and Geraldinium remembered to bend her knees this time as she dropped over the windowsill.  The floor was a far more reasonable foot and a half below the window.  She straightened and looked about.  She was in a corridor that stretched away into the distance in both directions, reminding her of her attic studio only shorter and smaller.  The walls were a mint-green colour that she remembered from her childhood, and she felt disoriented for a moment until she realised that she was expecting to smell disinfectant and instead she had only the damp, impersonal smell of wet concrete and undertones of mildew.  She took a step, and started giggling, the sudden euphoria of knowing that she’d successfully broken into this abandoned hospital and was now stepping where only a small army of UrbExers had stepped before her.

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