Housekeeping was easy work. That was Ed William's understanding anyway. You show up, grab your list, grab your cart, and get cleaning. It was the kind of job that didn't require any kind of compulsory education, for the most part.
Ed was a bit of an underachiever, though he never liked to admit it. He graduated barely meeting the average, and college wasn't even on his radar. So, when the local hospital posted an opening for a new overnight housekeeper, he leapt at the opportunity. Decent pay, benefits, and no boss present to breathe down his neck when he started slacking.
The interview process was simple. A quick shave and a clean polo shirt gave him the image of someone far more reliable. The interviewer was matter of fact and quick. The overnight housekeeper before him had quit with no prior notice, so they wanted the spot filled quickly. He would have been hired on the spot, were it not for the state required background check.
After two weeks of training, the background check came back clean. He was officially on the payroll. He was given the old housekeepers cart and allowed to begin working.
The first night proved to be exactly what he expected. His responsibilities were to clean the main family clinic, as well as a few old storerooms in the basement. The work was easy enough, and just the right level of mindless that he could listen to music while he performed his tasks. While he found opportunities to slack off, he found himself consistently busy. Enough to not be bored.
The second night was when things started to feel odd.
The hospital itself was old. How old exactly was currently up in the air, but it had to at least go back to the civil war. The bricked walls that adorned a portion of the first floor were chipped and discolored, and the carpets hadn't been changed since the late nineties at the earliest. Even when the lights were on, they flickered and buzzed the way only old things did. It felt like his elementary school. Which was to say it felt like something from a lifetime ago.
There were talks of the hospital adding new additions, but at that point they'd probably have to tear the whole thing apart and replace it. It seemed like the right gust of wind could knock the whole thing down.
The basement was where the age truly showed. The dimly lit halls had an orange glow, which matched with the discolored concrete floor. The odd combination of muted colors gave the image of something uncared for. The halls were lined with pipes that snaked overhead, past the workshop at the end of the hall and into the boiler room.
Ed found himself walking these dark halls. He prayed silently that the lights overhead didn't shut off. There were no windows down there, and the backup generator only covered a portion of the basement. If the power failed, he would be in the dark for as long as it took him to fish out his cellphone.
The thought of the dark sent a shiver up his spine. The pitch-black absence of light, within which anything could be hiding. He knew, deep down, that such a fear wasn't truly warranted. There simply wasn't anyone there that would be hiding in the dark. The emergency room and medical staff stayed in their respective areas, and the rest of the hospital was locked up for the night. Anyone skulking around down there would have had to come down during the day.
A knock behind him made him stop in his tracks. His breath hitched in his throat as he turned his head to look down the long empty hallway. It had likely been a sound from the boiler. Or maybe the chiller. Or whatever other old contraptions the maintenance guys kept running down there. Ed knew this but couldn't help hitching his pants a little higher at his waist.
He didn't consider himself a scaredy cat, not since elementary school. Creepy places were just creepy. There was no helping that. No matter how many times he looked over his shoulder, there was no imposing figure standing at the end of the hall, and he had to keep reminding himself that there never would be.
"Just get this over with…" He grumbled, pushing his cart deeper into the depths of the basement. He only had a couple things to clean down here, and if he was lucky, they wouldn't even need to be dusted. He took a left around the corner, passed the out-of-service rest rooms, before arriving at his destination.
'Purchasing' read on the door's placard. Though it may as well have just said 'storage'. The real purchasing had been moved to another part of the basement years ago. This room was mostly for storing old junk that would only very occasionally see use.
Ed parked his cart next to the door and opened the small compartment in the front to retrieve his keyring. It took him a minute to sort through and find the master key. He had tried to file the correct one in his mind several times by this point, but never quite seemed to remember.
He propped open the door with a small wooden block from his cart, and peered in. The dim light of the hallway only penetrated so far in, leaving only a stained section of tile floor visible. He had cleaned this room once already the previous day and was equally as unenthused then.
At this time of night, this room was probably the farthest point from any other living person in the hospital. Or non-living, should one want to count the morgue on the other end of the basement.
He reached over and flipped the light switch, only to feel his heart sink when the light struggled to come alive. It tried to shine, but instead flickered and died. A few more desperate flips of the switch confirmed what he already knew. He made a mental note to write a reminder for the maintenance crew in the morning. He considered leaving the room as it was but shook the thought quickly. He just got the job, best not to risk it by slacking too early.
He reached into his pocket and produced his cellphone. He turned on the flashlight and slowly walked into the storeroom. He started on the left, running the light over shelves, boxes, old CPR dolls. There were even Christmas decorations tucked in one corner that probably weren't touched since the late eighties. He ran his hand across the top shelf, checking for dust. He had come through yesterday, so he didn't find much.
He was about to call this room clean, when he decided to cast the light toward the center rack near the back of the room
He let out a yelp and dropped his phone. He scrambled to the ground to grab it, his hands moving so fast they threatened to overshoot the small rectangle. His heart pounded in his chest as he quickly shone the light back where he was looking, and his anxiety rose sharply.
Sitting on the shelf was a head, staring emotionlessly toward the entrance to the storeroom. He almost panicked. Almost flew out of the room screaming. He almost did a lot of things, but his nerves settled upon further inspection.
The head was that of a young girl, maybe early twenties. She had a ponytail and bangs. She looked like someone out of a movie from the fifties. The head was eerily realistic. The pours on its skin, the individual hairs, even the muscles in the neck that extended down into a flat stump. It was the picture of a human being, and one needlessly expensive CPR doll, Ed thought.
He let out a sigh as he calmed his own nerves and turned his flashlight off. He shouldn't be trying to have a heart attack. Not on his second day. He pocketed the phone and made his way to the hall. He was ready to get to work upstairs, where things felt a little less lonely. Maybe he'd even find time for a nap, or maybe…
"Hey." He froze in the doorway. The hairs on his neck stood completely on end. He ventured a glance to his left, and to his right. There wasn't anyone down the halls. No, the voice had come from behind him, from the storeroom. It was a female voice. He heard it; he was sure he did. He remained in place, unable to move. He listened closely. Had someone been in there and he just didn't notice? Or was it the…
"Hey." He spun on his feet. Looking back into the impenetrable dark of the room. "Hey." The voice repeated. It was coming from the back, where the head had been.
"Who's there?" Ed called out. His voice was shaky, but he wasn't present enough to notice. He could feel eyes on him, peering out from the shadows and locking onto his silhouette in the doorframe.
"Come here." The voice had no inflection. No emotion behind it. Perfect monotone. With shaking hand, Ed grabbed the keys and kicked the block holding the door. It slammed shut, echoing through the empty basement. He waited for a moment; his hands planted firmly on the smooth metal door. He could feel sweat forming on his forehead. He caught his breath in his throat and forced himself to calm down. He had to be hallucinating. It was the new job; he wasn't used to overnight shifts. His sleep schedule was throwing him off. Yeah, that was it.
"Hey, come here." He clenched his teeth as the voice came again, muffled by the door that now separated him from it. He backed away, tossing the keys back into his cart and beginning his walk back to the elevator. Even as he rounded the corner, he could swear he still heard it, calling for him to come closer. He didn't dare look back, even with the storeroom's door being locked. He told himself he was crazy. That he was simply experiencing some sort of auditory hallucination. 'The clinic needs cleaned, just focus on that' he thought, pushing his cart onto the small staff elevator.
As the elevator doors closed, he reached into the compartment on his cart and grabbed his list. He noticed his hand shaking and held it for a moment. He took the list and checked off everything that was in the basement. He wasn't going to go back down there tonight.
As the elevator doors opened, he pushed the cart over to the clinic entrance, but he didn't go in right away. Instead, he started down the less dilapidated halls of the first floor, toward the emergency room. Maybe they needed something cleaned. A patient was discharged, or a drink was spilled. That's what he told himself as he approached. Truthfully, he simply wanted to be around people for a few minutes. He wasn't going to mention what he saw down there. A talking head? They would call him mad.
By next week his sleep schedule had adapted to the new job. He no longer almost fell asleep when the sun was coming up, and he had managed to work out a routine to his work. More importantly, he hadn't seen the head since that harrowing night. It wasn't there when he worked up the courage to check the room again, and the maintenance workers had replaced the incandescent bulbs, so there was no worry of someone creeping in the dark.
He had successfully chalked the whole thing up to nerves, or sleep deprivation, or whatever else could make someone hallucinate a disembodied voice.
He whistled along to the music playing in his ear. One earbud in, so that he could still hear the walkie-talkie if someone called for him. He had just checked the storage room in question. No talking head meant he was happy to do a little twirl as he made his way down the bleak hallway.
The odd sounds of the hospital sang out around him, but by this point they weren't a bother to him. He was in such a good mood, in fact, that now felt like a perfectly good time to take a break. He kept the tune going as he sashayed his way to the workshop at the end of the hall.
It was a cozy little workspace. A desk on each wall and an assortment of tools above each. They even had relatively modern computers set up. It didn't feel like part of the basement, with its non-flickering lights and proper air conditioning. That made it an ideal place to slow down for a minute and just relax.
He sat himself at the desk closest to the door. If the crotchety maintenance man saw him, he'd probably give him grief for taking his seat, but that was as far as it would go. People here didn't hold conversations for very long, which was just fine.
Ed pulled his phone from his pocket and paused the music. He then started the time-honored tradition of aimlessly scrolling through his news feed for twenty minutes. Not a lot happened at one in the morning, at least not locally. Eventually he'd get bored and return to his duties, but he still made sure to do this at least four to five times a night, for good measure.
"Hey." His thumb stopped. That was unmistakable. It was here, behind him. "Hey." It spoke again. He looked to his right. On the desk, a computer monitor stood, its screen on. Slowly, he reached his hand forward and pressed the power button.
The screen turned off, and in the reflection, clear as could be, was the head. It was sitting on the opposite desk. Its eyes stared forward, unblinking, into the back of Ed's head.
"Come here." He saw its mouth move and shot his hand forward to turn the screen back on. The wallpaper reappeared, blocking the head from view. "I can see you. Come here." The voice carried across the room with the same monotone as the week before. "Please."
He stood up, so fast that the chair he was in rolled a good distance away. Without turning his head, he raced out the open door beside him, toward the elevator. He hammered on the button, begging for the doors to open faster.
"Hey." The head called out. It didn't raise its voice, no matter how far he got. It attempted to speak again, but the ding of the elevator drowned it out as it arrived. He pressed the button for the first floor, refusing to look out for fear that the head will have gotten closer. Only after the elevator began to rise did he realize he was shaking.
Once the doors opened, he ran out, bumping into a lab technician trying to enter. He offered an apology and rushed past them, toward the clinic.
"You alright guy?" The grey-haired man called after him, but he didn't get a response. Ed rushed over to the nurse's station and sat himself down. His heart was racing again, and his breathing was ragged. He would venture to guess he was also white as a sheet.
He placed his head in his hands as his mind began searching for an answer. Sleep-deprived? No. Ate a bad lunch? Nope. Swamp gas? Not in this county. Nobody else was reporting talking heads, but nobody else worked in the basement at night. The only other person who did that quit nearly a month ago.
He raised his head. That was it. The previous third shift employee. He had to have left something. He had to have seen the head.
Ed rose from his seat and jogged over to his cart, which he had left near the first exam room. He opened the front compartment and began sifting through things.
The previous employee had left several different scraps. The main things were the clipboard and keys, but below them had been an assortment of papers. Some were memos for different things going on at the hospital, some were surprisingly detailed illustrations done on torn notebook paper.
Ed had been told to just toss out everything in there, but he just kept putting it off till later. He was grateful that he did.
As he went deeper, he started to find memos dating back months, new codes to doors with keypads. Reminders to clean the bathrooms over by the doctors' offices, illustrations of different people with varying degrees of quality. It was mostly junk, as Ed had initially expected. Until he found the scrap of paper at the bottom.
Lying alone in the open compartment was a scratchy drawing of the head. Its eyes were just as lifeless in illustration. His breath slowed as he picked up the sketch. It was a three-fourths profile, and the detail wasn't poorly done. Whoever drew this had to sit and stare at the head for a good while.
The overhead light shone through the paper, revealing what appeared to be writing on the other side. Ed flipped it over.
'Don't talk to the head. It will follow you. It won't stop.' Was written on the back. The handwriting wasn't scratchy or uneven. The writer was calm when they did this.
Ed racked his brain for a moment. This head was real, and apparently, it was following him.
"But why? I haven't…" He trailed off. He was sure he hadn't spoken to it, but then he remembered.
'Who's there?' He had said those words directly to the head, through the darkness. He had spoken to it, and now it was following him. The worst part was the note didn't say what happened if you did what the head asked.
"Maybe I can convince Dave to take the basement off my list." He huffed, plopping the papers back down and closing the compartment. He still didn't believe it. Truthfully, he was still mulling over the swamp gas possibility.
"Hey." He shot a glance down the exam room hallway and a pit formed in his stomach. People would sometimes stroll into the clinic to grab something, but this wasn't that. He almost didn't spot it right away. The head was halfway down the hall. It was partially inside one of the rooms, but one eye was exposed, and trained right on him. He could see now that the eyes were a bright, imposing blue.
"What do you want?" He asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Come here." He turned and ran, back out the door to the clinic. As he passed the elevator, the same lab tech was coming back from wherever he had gone on the second floor.
"Seriously, where's the fire?" He asked. Ed ignored him once again. He ran till he rounded the corner at the end of the hall. The ER was just ahead, and he could see the few on-staff nurses walking around through the glass doors.
He remained there for a while, watching them work. There would be complaints, but he was not going back in there. Not tonight.
The head wasn't consistent. There was no pattern to memorize. No time of night to avoid certain areas. The head only seemed to follow two rules. It would only appear when he was alone, and it would only appear on the hospital grounds. Beyond that, it could appear a hundred times a night, in the deepest cracks of the ancient hospital, or it could not appear at all.
He contemplated quitting. Packing up and finding a new job, even if he would miss rent that month. He decided, of course, that would be foolish.
The head was following him now, and he couldn't do anything about it. Well, that wasn't entirely true. There was one option open to him that he could try. Something he flat out refused to do.
"Come here." He paused his mopping and looked back out toward the clinic waiting area. Sat on one of the chairs by a stack of magazines was the head. Its eyes bore into him, as they always had. In the dim light, the head's eyes seemed to glow. It was like when you saw a cat at night. "Hey, come here."
"Fat chance." He sighed. He returned to his mopping, choosing to ignore the grim phantom. The head only ever asked for one thing. For Ed to approach it. 'What a silly idea' he thought. Something as otherworldly as a disembodied head had to be bad news. As long as he ignored its request, it could do no more than badger him.
"Please come here."
"Not gonna happen."
"Hey." This back and forth had become a routine. The head wasn't much for conversation, and Ed had a history of hardheadedness that stretched back to his earliest days in elementary school.
Were he ever hit with a hallowed 'double dog dare', he would often find himself a new scrape along his legs. Once he had even broken his ankle when dared to leap from the top of the jungle gym. If he had even a fraction of that tenacity still in him, dealing with this specter may become little more than a nuisance.
"Why don't you go piss off somewhere else?"
"Well geez, sorry Ed." He spun his head back toward the entrance to the clinic. Andy, the lab tech, had entered carrying a small basket of lab tools, of which Ed could never discern the purpose of.
"Oh, sorry man. I wasn't talking to you." Ed scratched at the base of his neck, his cheeks slightly flush.
"Chatting with your mysterious 'head' again?" Andy jeered, a playful grin on his face. Ed shot a cursory glance to the waiting room. The head had vanished, as it always had whenever company was around.
"I didn't tell you that so you could mock me." Ed rolled his eyes and returned to mopping the floor behind him. Andy gave him a firm pat on the shoulder as he walked past, and into the utility room. He would be in there for a bit, doing whatever it was that lab technicians did in the middle of the night. Something that required more than a high school diploma, no doubt.
"Hey." Ed rolled his eyes. He didn't even bother looking back. The head would be on a chair, or under the desk in the nurse's station, or behind the potted plant in the corner. It didn't matter. He had work to do.
Something changed in the following weeks. Where he used to be able to go days, maybe even a week without encountering the head, he was now seeing it almost every night. He didn't know what to make of this, so he resolved to just do his job in spite of it.
Ed threw open the door with a huff. Before him was a concrete ramp, leading up from the basement to the back parking lot. The ambulances were kept in a large garage on the far side, going right from the ramp took you to the ER entrance. Ed was going to neither, as he hefted the large garbage bag over his shoulder. It was around four in the morning, which meant it was time to take out the garbage.
He made his way up the cracked and worn ramp. His footsteps were hollow as his tattered shoes came down in sequence. The bag, filled mostly with the miscellaneous latex gloves and food wrappers, weighed on his shoulder. The entire waste product of a clinic, all together in one bag, primed for the dumpster.
The dumpster itself wasn't that far. Turning right off the ramp took you right too it. He plopped the hefty bag in front of the great metal box and threw the lid open.
"Dammit." He sighed. The trash hadn't been collected that week. Sometimes that happened with the waste disposal company, though he could never place what the hold-up was.
Not wanting to lug the bag back into the basement, he shrugged and tossed the menagerie of garbage atop the already full-to-brim dumpster. He threw the lids over top, only for one to rest on top of the clinic's garbage bag. That would be fine, so long as nobody else added anything. Satisfied, he turned to walk back down the ramp.
"Hey." He came to a familiar standstill. He had made note that he hadn't seen the head yet today and was waiting patiently for when it would show. To his surprise, however, it wasn't sitting in the basement hall, through the double doors. He expected that one. He had to go back inside through the ER entrance a couple of times because of it. No, this time the voice was calling from somewhere unexpected.
He spun on his heels, looking back toward the dumpster.
"Hey." The lips moved under white polyethylene. The eyes stared into him, though they were obstructed by the elastic material holding the clinic's accumulated filth together.
The head was in the garbage. Inside the bag. That wasn't the part that freaked him out. No, the part that bothered him so, was the fact that for the first time, the head was outside the hospital.
"Come here." Its voice was deafened a little, but it wasn't hard to make out.
"Leave me alone." He spat. Venom heavy on his voice. What if it started following him out farther? How far could it go? What if even it didn't know? These questions plagued his hurried mind as he stormed back down the ramp.
To say his mental state was going unaffected would have been a bold-faced lie. Nobody he dared tell about the head would believe him. He was either lying or insane. Any time he tried to photograph it; the head simply wouldn't show up. He was being stalked and harassed by a talking head that seemed to only know seven or so words.
The thought of quitting crossed his mind again. This job had been good to him, but he wasn't sure how much more of this he could take. That morning, when he arrived at home, he would begin searching for other open positions. He promised himself.
Weeks passed and he was still at the hospital. He had looked for other jobs, as he had intended, but nothing seemed good enough. They were all day shifts, minimum wage, part-time. The town he lived in was small, so it was no surprise most other high paying positions were already filled or required more education than he currently possessed.
It was lunchtime, though it was more accurate to say it was breakfast. Most people didn't have lunch at three o'clock.
He kicked his legs up on the table at the nurse's station. The nurses would be angry, were they present, but Ed intended to wipe the station down before anyone arrived. He plunged his hand into the small bag of potato chips he had purchased from the cafeteria vending machine. He had made a habit of going to the nearby fast-food place whenever he was hungry, but that soon proved too expensive to do every night.
"Hey." He glanced over on the far side of the desk. The head was sitting on the end.
"Hey." He greeted.
"No." He spoke while chewing. He knew conversing was pointless, but at this point he couldn't help himself.
He ate another chip, waiting for the head to continue its tirade of beckoning. Surprisingly, it never came. He looked back up. The head was still there, but it wasn't saying anything. When it didn't speak, it sat so perfectly still that one would be crazy to think of it as anything other than a prop.
"Anyone home?" He asked. He waved his hand in its direction. The head's mouth opened slightly, as if to speak, but closed again. Ed felt an eyebrow raise as he bit down on another chip. He wanted to say it seemed sad, or angry, but its stoic face made any guess pointless. Its sudden refusal to speak was another first. "What's wrong? Hungry?" He joked, holding up a chip.
With a flick of his wrist, he tossed a chip across the desk. The snack landed just to the right of the head, producing a soft 'clack' as it landed. He giggled as he looked down for a moment to grab himself another chip. An unmistakable crunching sound filled his ears. He looked back up in astonishment.
The head remained, but the chip was gone.
"Did you really just…" He trailed off, not finishing the question. He couldn't trust his own eyes most of the time, but he could have sworn he saw the faintest hint of a smile on the head's lips. He rubbed his eyes to refocus, but when he looked again, the head was gone.
It didn't appear again that night.
The head kept up its nightly visits. By now it had been months, and Ed had formed some sort of odd one-sided comradery with it. He would clock in. The head would appear to him at some random location. He would issue it a greeting. It would ask for him to approach. He'd ignore it. Maybe feed it a chip. The routine was set in stone.
It was to the point now that, were he to not see the head, he would begin to worry. As if something bad could have happened to it since the previous night. He realized how silly the thought was. The head was a supernatural entity, or something along those lines. Nothing was going to happen to it. Not unless an exorcist or something showed up.
That being said, the head still had to follow some odd rules. He had found that it could appear outside the hospital just fine, but it could never go beyond the property line. He sometimes saw it stare at him from his rear-view mirror as he drove away in the morning.
In addition, it also had the previously established rules. It could only appear when Ed was alone, and it only ever asked for him to approach it. Even with their limited rapport, he couldn't bring himself to oblige. That was curse stuff. He'd seen movies. He knew that couldn't have been good news.
Still, his terror having long subsided gave room for curiosity. Who was the head? Was she anyone? Or a demon? Why is she just a head? The only thing he could say for sure was that her haircut looked old.
He sat in the basement workshop, in front of one of the computers. He hadn't seen the head yet that night, but he could still feel its eyes on him. He guessed it was embarrassed by him growing more curious. If it could feel such a way.
The local library had an extensive archive of old newspapers and was gracious enough to have the whole catalog available on their website. He didn't even need to sign up for a free trial.
He began by searching for anything from the early to mid-nineteen-hundreds. He had spent all his break time looking through obituaries and sifting through any appropriate headlines. This town was small enough that the death of a young girl would make the front page. No matter when it happened.
He left the computer and returned several times over the night, careful to do his job while he studied the old papers. The night was coming to an end. Soon the maintenance staff would arrive, and he would need to get off the computer. He about gave up the search when a curious headline crossed his screen.
'LOCAL WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN HOME'
His tired eyes opened slightly as he read it. He checked the date. Nineteen fifty-six. His guess was close.
Not wanting to get ahead of himself, he began reading the article.
'Local woman, Sarah J. Harlow (24) was found dead in her home Thursday night. Police have ruled out foul play and have instead labeled the gruesome scene an accident. Her body was discovered by close friend Brandon Clemens, when he chose to pay her a surprise visit…'
So far it was checking out. The head kind of looked like a Sarah.
'… the circumstances of the accident are hazy, but investigators say it had to do with a gas main exploding and knocking the young woman over. It is speculated that her head struck the dining room table. The term used to describe the cause of death was Atlanto-occipital dislocation, or Internal Decapitation. Death was not instantaneous. She was rushed to the local hospital but passed away before regaining consciousness. No next of kin has been identified.'
That was where it ended. A sad end with no closure. An accident like that, it could happen to anyone. Nothing malicious, nobody trying to do harm, just plain old happenstance.
A photo was included on the paper, confirming what he had guessed. It was her. The head was Sarah.
The sound of footsteps pulled him away from the image on screen. He glanced at his phone. It was six o'clock. He closed the tabs and logged off the computer. He was done with it anyway.
The head hadn't shown. He realized that as he was clocking out. He still had an hour of work left when the maintenance crew arrived, but the head didn't show up. It had been a while since that happened, but he put it out of his mind as he approached the parking lot. The sun was just beginning to peek over the trees.
He approached his rusted-out four-door and dug out his keys. He struggled for a moment, trying to shimmy the key into the lock.
"Hey." He stopped just as the key was inserted. He looked forward, into his car. There she was, in the passenger seat.
"Really?" He sighed, opening the door. She never tried to appear in the car. That was new.
"Come here." The words he had been hearing since he got the job were as clear as ever.
"Your name was Sarah, wasn't it?" He asked. Her eyes twitched slightly at her name being spoken. It had probably been a long time since she last heard it.
"Come here, please." She spoke again. Ed looked back over the empty parking lot. It would fill up with cars as the day began in earnest, but for the time being it was practically deserted.
He looked to the ground and tapped his foot against his tire. He ran a hand down the front of his face. After a moment he offered a soft shrug.
"Fine." He climbed into the driver seat and pulled the door shut. "I'm here." He looked down at Sarah, expecting the worst. If she really were some kind of demon, or boogeyman, then she had him.
To his surprise, however, she frowned.
"Thank you." She spoke, her voice a tiny bit higher than it had ever been. Shortly, her face began to move. The once still eyebrows scrunched together. The eyes half closed as tears began to well up. For the first time he could make out real emotion. "That's all I wanted." She had broken out into sobs as she spoke the words. They were pained, happy sobs. Like she had wanted to let them out years ago but hadn't been allowed.
"It's alright." He spoke softly. He reached out and placed his hand on her head. She felt real enough. "I'm sorry you had to go like that." She had died alone, far away from anyone she cared about. He couldn't imagine how sad she had to have been, but her tears told him enough. He retracted his hand to rub his own eyes. He felt tears threatening to spill, to his surprise.
When he opened his eyes again, she was gone. The seat next to him was still damp from her tears. He knew, deep down, that she was really gone this time. He was happy for her. She had to have been there for over fifty years, begging anyone who would listen to be close to her. He was happy, but behind it was a tinge of sadness. Working overnight was going to get lonely without something to scare him.
He looked back up at the hospital. The early morning sun was just then washing over the old brick, stained by years of weathering and negligence. He felt the sadness diminish a little. A hospital this old, it had to have more than one ghost. If it did, he would meet them eventually. He would gladly keep spinning his wheels here until he did. Besides.
Housekeeping was easy work.