I finally found the exit.

The facility was a labyrinth, a seemingly unending collection of locked doors and twisting corridors. It had been much more difficult to find the reception area than I expected. But then, when I came in, someone from the drug trial had given me the grand tour. I didn’t know I’d have to find my own way out. Alone. In the dark.

The red EXIT sign above the door was the only light in the room. The power in the building was off, and it had been for … hours, days? It was difficult to tell.


When I had awakened, the power was out. Without air-conditioning, my room was sweltering hot. I came to on the floor. My bed, dresser, and nightstand were stacked against the door.

I moved the furniture and pulled the handle of the door. Locked from the outside. But if someone locked me in here, why had I tried to prevent anyone from getting in? I gave up and tried the windows. But, of course, they were barred.

Then I remembered the bathroom. When I first came to the institute, they warned me about the bathroom. A problem with the pipes, they’d said. The maintenance guy had fixed the leak, but the tile had been ripped out, the back wall exposed. It wouldn’t take much to punch through it.

In the bathroom, I discovered tile and plaster littering the floor. The wall had been subject to more than pipe repairs. Had it been this bad before? It looked like the maintenance person had ripped out half the wall.

I could see through to the adjoining room. Pushing through the hole, I found myself in another bathroom, a mirror image of mine. So, too, was the bedroom. One dresser. One nightstand. One twin bed. But this bed included leather restraints. The bed—the room—was unoccupied. The door, unlike mine, was unobstructed. I entered the hall.

With no windows, the halls were dark. Only a bit of light trickling in from the open room allowed me to see.

I detected a faint smell of smoke, as if a nearby fire had been put out recently. Not the smell of burnt popcorn in a microwave. A whiff of ozone. More like fried electronics. I looked around and found a discarded fire extinguisher.

Making my way along the hall toward my room, I discovered the reason I had been unable to open my door. The handle had been smashed, bent beyond repair. I moved on, looking for one of the researchers running the study.


Dr. White had recommended me for the drug trial. “It’s no cure, Kenneth.” She didn’t want to get my hopes up. “But it might help control some of your symptoms.”

I had understood the risk. I would be part of a double-blind study, and I’d have no idea which group I would be in. I might receive the new drug, but I might not. I was eager to participate anyway.

She had checked me in to the two-week study on the fifteenth. I was supposed to stay in the facility until the end of the month.


That was only been six—seven—days ago? The study couldn’t be finished.

But I couldn’t find anyone. No doctors, no nurses, no staff, no patients. Did they evacuate the building?

I moved down the corridor, trying every door. A few were unlocked. I propped them open with chairs or nightstands, whatever I could find. The light helped me find my way.

Nearing the common room, I discovered a smear along the walls. It looked like paint, still fresh and drippy. But it wasn’t paint. It smelled of copper and stained my hands. I hadn’t meant to touch it.

After some trial and error, I found the large double doors that led to the common room. I pushed on the doors, but something resisted. Maybe someone had blocked them they way I had blocked the door my room.

I tried pulling on them instead. Not easy without any knobs or handles. But I managed to get my fingers in the crack between the doors and pull. They opened.

A body, one of the few researchers I met, fell at my feet. Three more bodies were stacked up behind him. No wonder I hadn’t been able to push open the door.

I stepped over the bodies into the common area. The room was dark, but a translucent skylight high above allowed some light in. The smell of smoke was heavier in here. Blood smeared the floor and walls. Bodies—broken, twisted, and eviscerated—littered the floor and furniture. It looked as if a pack of hungry wolves had been set loose.

Overcome, I fell to the blood-smeared couch and dropped my head into my hands. What had happened here? Who had done this? Had one of the volunteers attacked the researchers? If so, where were they now? And what had become of the other personnel? The staff? The other volunteers?


They had told us we could hang out, play games, or watch television in the common room. But only at certain times. Most of the time we either had to stay in our rooms or spend time in the testing labs.

My first day, I had been given a long battery of tests, both physical and psychological. That probably sounded worse than it was. I spent all day in a recliner, having my body poked and prodded while answering an array of questions about my medical history. In the end, they gave me three pills of various colors and told me I was in group A.

“When group A is active, you’ll be allowed in the common area. That’s where all the volunteers will await evaluation.” The researcher was reciting a spiel to me that he had probably given a dozen times to the other members of my group.

“How often will I take these pills?”

“As often as we give them to you.”

“What if I have a reaction? What do I do?”

“Any reaction to the medication will be noted in your daily assessment.” He was looking at his clipboard. I could see him scribbling notes, but I didn’t know what it meant.

“Okay. So where do I go now?”

“When group A is not active, you will stay in your room. We have to keep you separated. It’s part of the study.”

Group A didn’t get a lot of time in the common room.

At first, everything had seemed normal. But after day two, everything changed. That night, I heard horrible sounds: howls and screams from demons, and the weeping of angels. The moonlight bathed my room in shadows. Figures in black slithered along my floor and walls. Beasts came and went through my window. I stayed still, hidden beneath my covers, and waited for the morning light.


Beyond the common room, I could see the testing labs. Smoke filled the room, but without any power the ventilation must have shut down. I didn’t dare open the door, for fear of being overcome by fumes. I moved past the testing lab to another door, marked “Authorized Personnel Only.”

During my initial tour, they told me the majority of these offices were research labs. One by one, I opened doors only to find more death, more carnage. Bodies ripped apart, blood and excrement smeared on the cold tile. Test equipment and computers smashed beyond repair. Broken glass everywhere. But no sign of the beast.


After day two, my only contact with a human being had been the orderly who brought me my meals. He walked in, set down a food tray on the nightstand, and left without a word. At first, I thought it was all part of the study. But then I started to worry that something had gone wrong with one of the volunteers.

By day three—or was it four?—they’d stopped feeding me. My door was locked. I couldn’t get out if I wanted to.

I’d demanded to speak to one of the researchers running the study. Nothing. I screamed at my door, trying to get someone to open it. Nothing. I pounded as hard as I could, scratching at the inside of the door, pulling at the handle. Someone yelled, “Settle down in there!”


The stench in the cafeteria was overwhelming. I thought at first it was spoiled meat from the kitchen. With the power off, the meat had surely gotten rancid.

Then I saw the volunteers. Some I recognized from my group. Others I didn’t. It seemed they were all herded in here for safety, but they were led to their deaths like lambs to the slaughter.

The floor was slick with blood, but I had no desire to walk among the dead. From the serving area, I could see them well enough. But they couldn’t see me. Their eyes had been clawed out.


Instead of bringing me my breakfast, an orderly had slipped a small paper cup through a panel in the door. He told me take my medication and everything would be all right. I told him that I wanted to speak to Dr. White, because she needed to know what was happening.

“It’s no cure, Kenneth.” Her words came back to me. Had she been trying to tell me something?

I didn’t take the pills. I didn’t know what the drugs would do to me. I was afraid. I heard the scratching of the beast in the hallways.

I must have been asleep when the beast went on its killing spree. Or maybe it was more than one. So much carnage, I couldn’t imagine a single creature—even a very strong one—could have killed all those people.


In each room, I tried the windows—always barred—and looked for an exit. After walking through two dozen labs and offices, I came to a door marked PRIVATE. The door, slightly ajar, pushed open without any resistance.

In the small office, I found Dr. White, sitting at her desk. Her neck was ripped wide open. Blood had run down her body, pooling on the desk and the floor. Even in death, her hand clutched her phone. Had she been trying to call for help when she was killed? Had she tried using it as a weapon?

A file folder on her desk gave me one clue as to what had happened. The label read “Group A: Control.”


“It’s no cure, Kenneth.” Dr. White had said to me at the start of the trial. “It might help control some of your symptoms. That’s if you get it. But you might be in the control group.”

“What does that mean?”

“The control group doesn’t get the medication. They don’t get any medication. And that could mean your symptoms might get worse.”

“I’ve made a lot of progress. I don’t want to go back to the way I was.”

“The choice is yours. You don’t have to do this.”

“I want to. I want to get better. I want the monsters to go away.”


I pushed open the door beneath the red EXIT sign. The evening air was hot and thick. Heavy in my lungs, but clean and clear of smoke.

Looking back at the facility, I expected to see some sign of the chaos and carnage I had survived. But nothing seemed out of place. The dark windows stared at me like the missing eyes of the volunteers.

Light streamed through the trees, orange, like fire. The sun was setting. Soon the darkness would come and the beast would escape. I could hear it, scratching its claws along a wall somewhere, trying to get out.

Monsters are real. Just ask Dr. White.

You don’t have to take my word for it.

Kevin Wohler is a copywriter and novelist living in Lawrence, Kansas. During the day, he works at a digital marketing agency in the Kansas City area. When time remains, he likes to tell stories of the weird and bizarre. And sometimes, he writes them down for others to read.

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