Before you can reply, you have to shield your eyes from a brief flash of sunlight. Through the window behind Harold, you can see the edge of the sun dip below the horizon — slowly boiling away the last of its light for this day. In this fading light the silhouette that Harold casts seems odd to you, for some reason, but you can’t put your finger on it.
Mistrusting his intent, you don’t immediately extend your hand to Harold. You do, at least, give him your name.
“I’m called Vlad. What do you want?”
Harold smiles and spreads his hands disarmingly. “It’s okay, Vlad. I’m just the welcome wagon — it is always my pleasure to welcome newcomers to our little corner of Hell.”
“Hell?” You reply with a wry grin, “Just a moment ago you said it was Purgatory.”
“Ah yes, well that was a moment ago. The sun was still up then.” Your grin is not returned.
His words hang in the air ominously for a few seconds, and then Harold’s face lights up a bit more. “Would you like a tour, friend? There’s not much to see here in the common room, but you’ll see the rest of it when they take you to your cell for the night.”
It occurs to you that you might be able to gain some advantage, here. After all, no war is won without knowing the ley of the land. You stand up a little straighter and offer your host a conciliatory half-smile.
Pleased at your assent, he points around the room clockwise, starting with the corner opposite the one you are currently standing in. “I’ll just give you the highlights.”
He gestures to a pair sitting quietly, watching small (apparently broken) black and white television. “Over here we have Carl and Amy. Carl’s in here for stabbing his mother to death. Amy is here for drowning her children. They get along well, those two.” He chuckles and leans over to whisper in your ear, “At least when they’re medicated to the gills, they do.”
“Over there,” he continues, leading you to a table across the room where four men are playing various board games “we have Dibbs, Jack, Susan, and Benziah. They’re in here for various things. Dibbs is in here for slicing up some hookers’ faces, Jack killed a man who he claims ‘was possessed by a demon from another dimension’, Susan put a shotgun to her own face, pulled the trigger, and missed… mostly, and Benziah’s in here for being a little …overzeallous. He set fire to some homeless guys that he said were irredeemable sinners. Man used to be a preacher, too.”
Harold shakes his head, “It’s a damn shame. Now he’s traded in his flock for that swarm of bugs he keeps on him at all times — calls them ‘His pretty ones.'” Harold makes a face, “Disgusting!”
“And what about him?” You point to the man in the corner nearby (the one lying in his own filth). “What’s he here for?”
“Oh Sam?” Harold chuckles. “Sam used to work here. Sad motherfucker got put on the night shift, back when they used to have one. Poor bastard lost his marbles when the door opened that night. He just kept screaming. Some people just lose it, y’know?”
You’re about to ask what Harold means by “The Door” when a horrifying scream from across the room cuts through your question. You look across the room to see Jack, standing over a screaming Dibbs with blood on his hands. Jack slowly turns to stare at you, and you can barely hear him as he quietly mutters:
“I had to do it. I had to. The eye was infected. A demon eye… such evil! But now you’ve seen. You’ve seen, and you’re infected, too!” With a horrifying yell, Jack runs at you full bore — bloodied hands reaching for your face… reaching for your eyes.
Note: To fix some problems I’ve made it so you now need to be logged in to vote. If you don’t have an account you can register here. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Vlad was chosen with 22 votes. Next in line was Arianna with 19. There were a total of 56 votes.
I’m trying a new poll type. Depending on how this next one goes, I might change it so you have to log on to vote, but we’ll see how it goes.
Regular updates to Ward 32 will be posted every Monday and Thursday from now on. Polling will end at noon (should be noon PST) on those days.