When I approached the Hospital, I realized how odd it was that a hospital was in the middle of a forest. The woods opened and a gravel road began a mile from the entrance. I carefully approached the gate and took cover behind rocks and shrubbery that was about 20 yards away.
The Hospital was enormous and encased by a 20 foot tall concrete wall with coils of razor wire on top. The wall was covered with graffiti and old, torn political posters. The wall stretched as far as I could see, and by my best estimation the campus had to be 40-50 acres. The whole area looked abandoned: small trees and shrubs had begun to grow through the pavement of the parking area inside the wall, pieces of trash and paper rolled in the wind like tumbleweeds, cars were stripped and gutted and left to rust everywhere within the wall, and the hospital itself had boarded windows and barricaded doors. It was an eerie and surreal sight. It reminded me of a post-apocalyptic movie, except its reality stared back at me.
“How am I supposed to get in?” I asked myself.
I thought for a few minutes and decided I needed to take a look at the gate’s lock. I sneaked as quietly as I could to the large iron gate. It was reinforced and tightly locked. It wasn’t going to be possible for me to climb over it because it was lined with razor wire as well.
“Maybe I can dig under it.”
I clawed at the ground directly under the gate, and about an inch down, my fingernails scraped against something hard. I brushed the dust aside and realized that there was a steel slab buried under the gate and wall. There was no way I could get under the gate.
I sighed and leaned against the concrete, took off my pack, and searched through it for something that may help. I came across my notebook and flipped it open. For some reason the first page flashed in my eyes. I looked at what I wrote. “Remember Andy.”
“Remember Andy? Remember Andy. Andy… Andy… hmmm… remember… Ohhhh… are you kidding me? Why didn’t I see this earlier?”
I quickly packed everything and ran back to the tree line. I needed to find a single oak tree. I continued to search by following tree line alongside the wall. Soon, I came upon a single oak tree that was growing in between the open space that separated the wall and the tree line.
“There.” I said.
Rocks and large chunks of concrete were piled along the base of the tree, but I had assumed this already because of what was written in my notebook. Again, I removed my pack and started pulling the rocks and concrete away because I was looking for a particular rock. After about 15 minutes of excavating, I came upon a piece of black volcanic ash.
“Thank you Mr. Dufresne.” I said.
I removed the rock, and, as I expected, under it was a tin. In it there was a note that said:
If you’re reading this, then you made it to the Hospital. I was hoping you read my message I left for you on the stump. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you and finds you well. I hope to see you once again on the other side. And, if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further.
You need to get into that hospital, but the Watcher isn’t going to make it easy for you. Luckily, you’ve got friends to help you; such as me. I will try to help you where I can, but I’m limited to what I can do. Marcus, I’m no warrior, but there are others that are. Find these people. Trust me… this place… this world that the Watcher has made is dangerous. You’ll never make it out alive if you don’t put your faith and trust in others. I hope you heed my advice, friend.
Now… about that wall. This oak tree is actually hollow. I left a present in there for you. Once you get it out, there is a place on the wall that you need to know about. Do you remember the place I wanted to live once we got out of here? I hope you do. Find it on the wall. When you see it, you’ll know what to do.
I hope to see you soon
Your friend, Andy
I sat silently for a moment and folded the note and placed it in my notebook.
“Thank you, Andy. I owe you one.”
I unlatched the axe from my pack. With renewed vigor, I hacked and chopped the oak tree. My mind was racing and thinking on what Andy would have place in the hollow for me. I had finally chopped a massive hole in the oak that was large enough to stick in my head and arm. I shown my flashlight in the dark crevice and saw something wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag. I set the flashlight down and grabbed the bag. It was heavy. I lurched and pulled, and then I finally muscled it out. I ripped the plastic open and saw a bright yellow handle. As I ripped further, I realized Andy had given me a maul.
I smiled as I held the hammer and said, “Yep. This will get me through that wall.”
I'll admit I was giddy when I rushed over to the wall and started mindlessly whacking it. However, after about 20 or 30 swings I realized that the concrete wall was a little tougher than I thought. I had only managed to chip and crack the surface.
Out of breath, I threw the hammer to the ground and leaned against the concrete. I huffed and gasped for air and glanced to my left. A loose poster hung by three corners on the wall. In fury, I ripped it down, crumbled it, and threw it. I sat again against the wall and curiously stared at the crumbled piece of paper. Something was scratching at my mind, and I forced myself up and picked up the piece of crumbled paper.
When I opened it, the poster was a flyer for tourism to Paris with an Eiffel Tower on it.
“Wait… where did Andy want to go?”
I look up from the poster and looked at the wall. It was littered with all sorts of posters of every kind. I ran to the wall and started to tear through the posters. Everything’s bigger in Texas. Only you can prevent forest fires. Uncle Sam wants you. Heil Hitler. We’ve landed on the moon. Pearl Harbor attacked. The Soviet threat is real. The English are coming. Remember the Alamo. Louisiana – Sportsman’s paradise. London. Mount Rushmore. Rolling Stones – Tonight. Thriller in Manila. Holyfield vs Tyson. Twilight – midnight showing. Kennedy shot. California. Australia. Mexico. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Freddy vs Jason. Wait…
I paused a moment and said, “Zihuatanejo, Mexico.”
I walked over to the Mexico poster and poked my finger through it. I ripped the poster down and saw a hole carved through the wall that was about a foot wide. The wall was about 2 feet thick; however, I noticed that it was seriously damaged and cracked in this spot.
I ran and grabbed the maul and started to hammer the hole. Huge pieces of concrete started to crumble from the wall, and after about an hour, I was able to knock a large enough hole in the wall to walk through.
Once on the other side, I surveyed the local area for some way to gain entrance into the main building. I looked again at my map, and I noticed that Watcher had done a very good job of cartography. He had also given me directions as to where he wanted me first. He had circled a building and labeled it “1” and drew an arrow to a small place behind the building and labeled it “2”. I wasn't sure what it meant, but I was intelligent enough to figure out what he wanted me to do. I remembered his warning, and I wasn't about to go against it.
With the addition of the maul, my equipment, pack, and weapons were becoming a difficult burden. I hoped to find a safe-haven where I could rest and reevaluate what I needed, but until then, I decided to keep everything and trudge forward. After all, I never knew what Watcher had in store for me next and what I might need.
As I was following the map, I decided to take shortcut through an alley. I carefully navigated my way through, and right before I exited, I heard strange sounds. There were sounds I knew. They were sounds of fighting – screaming – metal clashing. I peered around the corner and saw a group of men – a dozen or so attacking another man. I could tell that the group had to be vagrants or bandits. The single man was holding his own, but then I saw five more bandits coming to aid their friends. This was bad. I didn't know what to do. The poor man didn't have a chance against that many, although, he sure was putting up a great fight. I decided that I had to do something. I put down my pack in the alley and armed myself with my swords.
I rushed into the battle, and with a couple of swings, three bandits dropped to the ground dead. I had no idea I could fight like this. It wasn't me thinking; it was me reacting. The fighting lasted another 20 seconds before all 17 bandits were lying dead in the street.
The man turned to me and said, “Thank you, stranger. I knew God would protect me. I just didn't think he would send me someone else.”
I nodded at him. He was a black man, and he was older; maybe in his early 50s. He had sunglasses, and scruff for a beard with white hairs randomly placed throughout it. He was dressed in nomadic garb and carried a pack on his back. He had a strong build and a good presence about him. After he wiped the blood from his blade, he reached out to shake my hand.
I wiped the blood from my blades, sheathed them, and shook his hand. He said, “Name's Eli.”
“Nice to meet you, Marcus.”
He paused for a moment and said, “Mind telling me why you did that... no, better yet, mind telling me why you're here?”
I sighed and said, “I don't know. And, that's a long story.”
“I've got time.”
I chuckled at Eli and said, “I don't. I have to be somewhere... quickly.”
“Somewhere in this hospital. Why are you here?”
While Eli was looting the bandits, he looked up and me and said, “Don't know. I'm just doing God's work. I go where he tells me to go. I do what he tells me to do.”
I smiled at him and said, “How's that working out for you?”
Eli said, “Pretty well, son. He sent me to you. Guess you're something pretty important, it seems.”
“Wait, wait, wait. Sent YOU to ME? I believe you've got it wrong.”
Eli walked to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You sure? If seems you need me to help you find whatever you're looking for.”
I perched my lips to one side in thought and said, “I guess you're right. Give me a sec, I need to get my pack.”
Eli continued to search through the dead bandits for anything of value. After I gathered my pack and reequipped my weapons, I walked over to him and handed him the notebook. He looked at it for a second and said, “Marcus, we need to go to the welcome center. Prepare yourself.”
Eli smirked and said, “You'll see.”