COME FORWARD

This chapter: Part one of the Derby Gaol-based section. It was meant to be one chapter, but it's growing out of control as usual. You get the good stuff in Chapter 8. :P If you've seen Girl, Interrupted, that's sort of what the visuals are meant to be like. One of the snippets of conversation is also based on a caption competition on the MHgeek LJ community - if anyone spots it, I'll be very impressed! This'll get angsty later, but until then... enjoy Yvelyn's snarkiness. :D

Chapter 7

I don't like hospitals. I've never liked them. I think it's that smell they have, that weird antiseptic-disinfectant-overcooked food smell, and the way everything's so white and eerie when they're empty, and the way they just fill with too much sound when they're busy and you can't hear yourself think. Horrible places. Which is why I try to avoid getting injured or severely ill, and frequently hope none of my relatives end up in one.

Unfortunately, being the sadist that he is, Mark decided to go ahead with this particular location, which I was all for ignoring. It's a bloody hospital. And not just any normal bloody hospital. It's an old, abandoned, spooky, derelict, haunted bloody hospital. I don't even know how he found out about it. A friend of a friend of a second cousin twice removed, or something. Mark went ahead and sorted everything out without me because he knew I wouldn't like it, and even though I will admit that some of the things that happened here to lead to its closure are very interesting, I'm still not sure if I'm going to forgive him for it.

The most active bit – and the bit, naturally, that we're going to be focussing on – used to be the mental wing. Somehow, that just makes it even worse, probably because Tom's taken great delight in regaling us all the way up here with stories of the old, archaic practices. All I can think of now is people catatonic and lobotomised in padded cells, or deranged lunatics screaming their heads off.

Thanks a lot, Thomas. Remind me never to offer to drive him anywhere again.

So, of course, I'm being a complete wuss about this and I'm nervous before we're even inside the building. It looks like it used to be privatised if the grounds are any indication. It's far from the main residential areas and surrounded by gardens. The gates are padlocked, but the local authority has kindly come along to open them… and beaten a hasty retreat, leaving me with the keys to lock us in once Alec's arrived.

It's a very foreboding place. Windows all boarded up on the ground floor and partially broken upstairs, and another huge padlock on the front doors. It has the appearance of once being bright white, but it's decidedly grubby-looking now, and the trailing ivy up the walls only seems to add to the eeriness. I feel like I'm walking right into a horror movie cliché.

And if the appearance of the building itself wasn't bad enough, I know for a fact that it's got one of those spooky underground passages to the mental wing and two 'quiet rooms' where patients would be put to calm them down. Or not, as the case may be. I think they're even padded, if the thought wasn't bad enough already. The floor plan shows the place to be enormous, a lot bigger than it seems from the outside. I'm really not looking forward to this, not one iota.

And to make matters even worse, it looks like it might start raining at any moment, so we'll have to get all the external shots done quickly. We form a swift plan of action: Fred braves the building with Tom and Stewart, to set up baseline experiments and film some additional footage, while Cathi gets some coffee served up and Mel goes over the script one final time. Honestly, the sooner this one's over and done with, the better.


Well, they finally got me inside. I think it might've been more of a struggle had rain not called off play earlier than anticipated, not five minutes into filming. Tom, equipped with a map, has found us a suitable couple of rooms to relax in – the old reception area, one of the kitchens, and a small staff room, all in the same vicinity. It's light and airy in reception especially, as one of the places the public would have seen, but it's still a spooky building, not helped in the slightest by the torrential rain against the windows.

Seems like quite a storm is brewing. I hope Alec finds the place all right, and that this bad weather wears off by the morning. The last thing I want is to spend any more time here than is absolutely necessary.

The heating for the building is long since broken, though the electrics, thankfully, have been turned back on for the brief time we're here, so we're currently trying to warm the place up with electric heaters. It's taken a while, but it's finally starting to get a bit more cosy. Just as I'm getting comfortable with a nice, warm coffee, however…

"Come on. We should probably finish off the rest of the preliminary filming before Alec gets here."

That means going into the belly of the building. "Do I have to?" Mark gives me his "don't-ask-stupid-questions" expression. "Oh, all right. Can I at least take my coffee with me? It might calm me down a bit."

"I suppose so."

"Who else is coming?"

Mark does a mental head count. "Me, Stu, Matt, and Tom. Safety in numbers."

That makes me feel marginally better. Or would do, if Tom and Stu weren't as nervous as I am. Nevertheless, it'll be better to see the place all lit up before we have to wander around in the darkness.


Even with a small group of us, as Thomas leads the way to the underground passage where we'll be doing the lit walkaround later, and where we're about to film the introduction, it's not a pleasant place to be. There's one way in and one way out, through doors at either end, and the lights are placed too far apart to provide any decent illumination. The sooner this is over and done with, the better.

It takes me seven attempts to get the scripted sections done because I keep stumbling over my words. The slightest little noise is exaggerated in this tunnel and obviously, it's making me very jumpy. I can tell Mark's getting annoyed: not specifically at me, but because he is, first and foremost when shooting, a director, and I'm being a pain to work with. He finally gives up on a far-from-perfect take and decides to edit it together from the bits I managed to do right. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. I try not to let the disastrous outcome add to my general sense of foreboding about the place.

Crackle-bleep. "Anyone there?" Bleep.

The static of the walkie-talkie we brought with us, clipped to the back of my jeans and under my coat, makes me jump practically out of my skin.

"Jesus…" Reaching for the offending piece of equipment, I answer it. "This is Yvelyn. What's up?" Bleep.

Bleep. "Alec's just arrived." Bleep.

"Okay. Thanks." Bleep.

Good, that gives me an excuse to go back to the reception area and do the meet-and-greet. I wonder if it's too late to pull a sicky to get out of this?

Back at base, Alec arrives looking his usual jolly self, full of anticipation and excitement about the coming evening as he chats with the rest of the crew. For once, however, his enthusiasm is not infectious, and before I'm even completely through the door, he can tell I'm not happy. The questioning concern is written all over his face, but he doesn't say anything just yet. I'm in for a grilling later.

Stopping mid-conversation, he greets Mark with a handshake and me with open arms.

"Cheer up, Yvvy," he says, before he lets me go again. "It might never happen."

"Don't you believe it…" I mutter.

Mark simultaneously checks his watch and the daylight level outside, and says, "I wish I could stop to chat, Alec, but we're rather strapped for time, especially since someone kept messing her lines up."

"Oh, hush. If you're going to be like that about it, take someone else to do the ghost mock-up." Well, it's as good an excuse to get out of it as any.

"All right. You two stay here and I'll take everyone else to the other wing. You might as well meet me halfway, to be honest. I'll radio through when we're ready."

"Okay. Where?"

"Top end of that big corridor?"

I give a nod of confirmation. It's better than meeting in the middle of it at its spookiest point. Mark nods back and indicates for Mel, Cathi, Thomas, Stewart and Matt to go with him, leaving me and Alec on our own in reception with only a radio and the hot drinks flasks for company. The rest of the crew are milling around somewhere, I'm sure, setting things up for later. I lost track of Fred's whereabouts about an hour ago, but he's bound to turn up when he's needed.

It's nice to be able to sit down and have a chat that doesn't completely comprise work-talk. It's been a while since we were last filming and I haven't met up with him in the interim, so at least we'll have a chance to catch up on each other's busy lifestyles.

"Drink, Alec?" I ask, heading for the flasks.

"Tea, please, love."

I know how he likes his tea, so I don't bother asking. "Nobody brought any biscuits, I'm afraid."

"Oh, I'll live."

One tea and one black coffee later, and I settle down for a good natter. He updates me on what he's been doing lately, and tells me about some of the more strange clients that both he and Wendy have had to do readings for – mostly, these days, they encounter fans of the show who are more interested in that than their own futures, and this one's no exception.

In turn, I inform him that we're rather behind schedule with our filming due to a location mix-up – someone cancelled on us at short notice and threw everything off-kilter – which accounts for Mark's stress levels being so much higher than usual. I purposely neglect to mention why I'm so jumpy, since I know that deep down, no matter how reluctant I am to share things, he'll probably tickle it out of me if he has to. Not that he's ever had to resort to that. Yet.

My attempts to avoid the subject of my odd mood by talking about work, however, fail completely. "How are you?" he asks, deliberately emphasising the final word.

"I'm good."

"Pull the other one. I can tell when you're not."

Conceding defeat, and figuring it might prepare him for my inevitable uselessness later tonight, I decide to tell him. "This place. It's horrible. That's not coming from any sixth sense or anything, it's just… horrible. And Thomas hasn't been helping, with all his stories." Of course, I can't say any more than that or it would negate Alec's reason for being here. "That's why Mark's in a bad mood," I explain. "I've been so jumpy all day I've been messing my lines up all over the place. So I apologise in advance for the fact that I'll probably be very, very silly later."

He gives me a warm, somewhat fond smile. "Don't worry. You'll have me and Fred with you. We'll hold your hands."

"I don't think Fred has that many hands. What with his EMF-meter, and him scribbling down everything you say…"

"Well, I'll hold your hand, then."

Something inside me melts at that, and I can't think of anything to say back. He's always so damnably nice about everything. I know I've got to be the most annoying person on the planet sometimes when I'm screaming all over the place – I think Fred's even said as much to me once, when I nearly gave him a heart attack by shrieking down his ear – and Alec just tolerates it. Even Mark gets irritated by it sometimes, even though, mostly, he just laughs at me. And rightly so, in my opinion.

Alec doesn't say anything else, so my silence was obviously the wrong response. But what do you say to something like that? 'Thank you'? It wouldn't be enough, not for the continual reminder of how close we've become – all of us, not just Alec and I – and least of all for putting up with me for this long. Maybe he thinks he's upset me, or that he's over-stepped the line. Stupid, really, as he's been nothing but courteous for as long as I've known him.

I'm reminded of Mark's apparent jealousy the other night after Alec called me, and suddenly it doesn't seem quite so incomprehensible. With the exception of our last location, I've been turning to Alec more often lately, because he's better equipped – spiritually speaking – to deal with things, and because Mark's usually in some other part of the building. And because when I'm scared out of my wits, I tend to head for the largest bloke I can find, which is usually Alec or Fred.

Quite frankly, if Mark's misconstruing that as anything but a close friendship – one which everyone shares, I might add – then… well I suppose it's sweet, but that doesn't negate the fact that he's mistaken. I think we need to sit down and discuss it.

Crackle-bleep. "Yvelyn?" Bleep.

Talk of the Devil; he's just radioed through.

Bleep. "Still here, Mark. You ready for us?" Bleep.

Bleep. "Yeah." Bleep. There's a slight pause as Alec and I collect ourselves and I make sure both of our radio mics are still attached, and then Mark adds. Bleep. "And try to calm down. It's not so bad when you get used to it." Bleep.

Bleep. "That's easy for you to say. I'll see you in a bit." Bleep.


Descending a set of rickety, gloomy stairs that lead down to the basement and the underground tunnel, my sense of impending doom only heightens, even with Alec following steadily behind me and the growing, familiar hum of voices from below. Knowing the rest of the crew is down there waiting for us doesn't help in the slightest. I do not like this building, and that's all there is to it.

The team are well and truly prepared when I get down there, Fred with his clipboard, Tom looking particularly excited about what Alec might pick up, Stewart readying his camera, and Matt hoisting the boom mic into a more comfortable position for carrying. A smaller group are back upstairs keeping an eye on things, as usual.

"Ready, then?" says Mark.

"As I'll ever be…" And we begin our first, lit walkaround. I position myself in such a way as there's someone on all sides of me: Alec to my left, Fred behind me, Tom slightly behind and to my right, and the rest of the crew in front of me, heading backwards down the tunnel. We head a few metres in relative silence, giving Alec some time to get his bearings and pick up on anything that might make itself apparent.

It doesn't take him very long. He tilts his head, concentrating, frowning a little. "Jim, can you… one at a time, please. Tell them for me." Directed at me and Fred, he translates that for us. "There's lots of voices here. Lots of voices. I'm having a bit of difficulty in separating them."

A part of me – the part that's not scared witless – finds that quite gloriously ironic, given the area we're heading towards. The amount of times people've accused him of being schizophrenic… "Take your time, Alec." It's not like I'm desperate to get out of here, or anything…

"Aha," he says. "That's better. More of a low murmur." He clears his throat. "There's not very much sense here," he begins. "But I'll do what I can. I'm picking up on a man, first and foremost. He seems quite young, late twenties. He's very troubled."

He's not the only one who's tr-… no, come on, Yvelyn, do your job. "Why's that?"

A pause. "He's here against his will. He said they gave him the test and brought him here."

"What sort of a test was it?" asks Fred.

"I'll ask… He doesn't know, but from what I'm picking up on, I feel it must have been some kind of, um, assessment. Connecting words and pictures."

"What, like word association? Inkblots?"

He gives a nod, confirming Fred's suspicions. Whoever he's picking up on must be a patient of the mental ward, wandering the corridor, and it's likely, therefore, that there'll be a record of him that Tom can check up on later. So, as obvious as my next question is, it's important. "What's his name?"

Mentally, he asks the question. "Sounds like… Ad… Ad… Adam. I can't get much else out of him, though. I think if I try he might get, um, agitated. Not in such a way as to cause us harm, but the messages will be even more garbled than they already are."

A surname may not be forthcoming, then, but there might be enough to go on. "You said there were lots of voices, Alec?" He nods. "Could you try and identify another one? Is there anyone else prominent?"

And so it continues. Alec picks up on a couple more spirits, one female and another male. The female is equally incoherent and very disturbed, but seems to apparently know more about her own situation than 'Adam' did. The male claims to be a doctor who worked at the hospital, though Alec suspects that this is also some kind of delusion residual from the spirit's mind when he was alive.

It's all fascinating stuff. Picking up on spirits is one thing, but this is something quite different. The sheer amount of voices is bizarre enough, and from what Alec's relaying back to us, they all seem to be patients. It must be interesting to listen in on their world, though I don't envy Alec the task of sifting through the noise to get snippets of information.

Time passes quickly, with everyone getting wrapped up in the stories coming through, both new and clarified by Thomas. It's only upon glimpsing my watch that I realise nearly an hour's gone by already, and we've got a long way to go yet.

I clear my throat. "I hate to interrupt you mid-flow, Alec… but we need to move on, I think."

Mark checks his watch as well. "You're right, there. Brilliant stuff, Alec. I don't know how we're going to condense this down for the final edit."

Alec nods. "They're all very eager to communicate. I don't think they were listened to in their physical bodies very much."

Makes sense, I suppose. "Is there anywhere in particular you're being led to?"

"You're going to hate me for this…" He points, arm extended, straight ahead and down the ominous-looking corridor. "I don't know where this leads," he says, "but they're all adamant we should go further on."

I gesture for him to lead the way. After some rearrangement of cameras and equipment, we all head further down the passageway towards who-knows-what. I put on a brave face. I have to think now about what the audience will want and what will make good television, rather than my own hold-ups about this location. My next suggestion, however, surprises even myself. "How about we turn the lights off?"

Everyone stares at me. The group comes to a stop. We're at a crossroads, of a sort; another tunnel of similar length and width crosses this one, leading to another part of the building. There's no lights in the other tunnel, as it's inaccessible, and the wire fences blocking it off are dimly visible in our own light.

"Well?" I push, wondering where this sudden streak of insanity came from.

Mark snaps out of his surprised expression. "Uh, yeah. Yeah. Good idea." The only switches for the lights are at either end of the corridor, so he radios up to someone to ask that they be turned off. Distantly, there's the sound of stairs being descended, a brief warning over Mark's radio, and then, in quick succession and with a rhythmic 'phnk', the lights go out.

"Christ almighty…"

I've been to plenty of dark locations. But there's dark… and then there's dark.

I couldn't have picked a worse spot for everyone to stand. The interlocking corridor has become a horizontal well, extended who knows how far into inky blackness. There's no natural light whatsoever, and in the slightly stunned silence that follows, the only sound to my own ears is my ridiculously accelerated heartbeat.

"Sorry, everyone," I hear myself saying. "Bit of a bad plan, really…"

"The camera can't even focus…" mutters Stewart from somewhere in front of me.

Some shuffling, and then Fred produces a torch from somewhere about his person. It doesn't do much to illuminate us, but it's more comforting than seeing nothing at all. He lights up his clipboard, ever dedicated to taking notes. "That any better?" he asks.

"A bit. I've at least got Yvelyn and Alec in shot now."

"Are we good to go?" I imagine Mark nods, as there's a slight rustle from his direction. "Right. All those with torches, lead the way."

A couple more flicker on, one of them temporarily blinding me before being directed down the corridor. With a deep breath, we head forwards into impending doom.

To be continued…

A/N: Ooooh. Those who know the show will know exactly what happens next. But I'm going to keep people in suspense anyway, because I'm evil. It used to be the case that reviews got chapters here quicker, but that no longer applies due to lack of time... but nevertheless, reviews are nice things to have. You all want to give me nice things... don't you?