Monthly Archives: October 2014

Hobo Haunts

I have been living a “housed’ life for almost 2 years now, as opposed to my homeless life 4 years before that. Now, I am a contributing member of society and I have the same worries and anxieties that many people who live housed lives have. Fear of a cold hearted co-worker has replaced fear of a cold night.

Yes. Life on the streets is different, but no less challenging.

I have been able to remember that there are places that I used to go and relax and I sometimes use these places to get away. I play homeless for a few hours and enjoy peace that people who are in the “work-buy-brag” loop seldom feel. Thank God I was homeless once.

Homeless citizens prepare for winter

MSUM Advocate

By Zana Pommier

You’ve probably walked past a person in ripped clothing, holding a sign and asking for money. Maybe you looked the other way, or maybe you dropped them a dollar or two. Either way, you probably didn’t think of it much afterwards.
But what if the entire homeless population of Fargo-Moorhead approached you, asking for your help?
What if that group consisted of hundreds of people?
The fact is that while you’re spending an evening inside watching Netflix, approximately 760 people in the same community as you are wondering where their next meal is coming from.
Several area shelters and churches help give homeless people a place to stay, including the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, which houses 10 male adults at one time.
“Many of the guys that come here are sleeping in their vehicles if they have one, doubled up with family and friends, or…

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Anonymous artist Skid Robot paints imaginary homes and landscapes to the wishes of those living on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, in hopes it will bring attention to these oft-forgotten members of society by surrounding them with the things so many of us take for granted | Cube Breaker

More Spooky Tales From Brain Sections

This is an extended excerpt from Brain Sections.  Adult Content. Copyright © 2012

To contact author by email:

They watched as the car made its way up a side road and toward the rear of the asylum. It parked on the west lawn next to the white washed building with a chimney.

“That must be the crematoria.” Nadine felt antsy sitting in the car, but had to wait to see what was going to go down.

After a few minutes, a white van appeared at the entrance; it traced the path of Woodruff’s car and pulled up next to it. Woodruff and Vic got out and talked to the driver. A few moments later, Carter came out of the van and started to shout at Vic. Doctor Woodruff, turned on Vic at this moment, and ordered the driver to subdue him. As Vic struggled with the burly driver, Jesse started up his car and sped toward the crematoria. The turf on the lawn was mangled under the speeding tires and everyone inside grabbed a hold of something to keep upright.

Doctor Woodruff, shocked to see the approaching car, ran toward Brightbrook’s main buildings and disappeared. The driver let go of Vic and did a half step in Woodruff’s direction, but then decided to play hero and confront the two men and the woman in the approaching car. Jesse jolted the car to a stop and flew out of the driver’s seat, running toward the van driver. One flying punch knocked him to the ground. Jesse and Teddy got on top of the driver to keep him from getting away.

Nadine ran up to Carter and pled with him, “You have to go with Vic. Ralph is back in town and he wants blackmail money. Witenganz might get rid of you guys to cover things up.”

“Who the hell are you?” Carter asked.

Gina got out of the van before Nadine could answer and said, “If that’s so, man, we got to leave, Carter! The games over.”

Ramon slowly got out of the van and said, “Look. They’re cutting us off.” Everyone, including the driver who had his head pressed into the ground, looked toward the entrance gate. A large truck was being pulled up to block the entrance.

“We’re trapped,” Gina said.

“Not really,” Vic said, “We can hide in the asylum.” He ran toward the Day Room entrance and the others followed. The driver wisely decided to remain on the ground, faking an injury.

“Smash in the door!” Carter shouted.

Vic knew that anyone chasing them would have a hell of a time finding him and the others in this twisted maze of a building. Jesse heaved his body toward the large wooden door, which put up a fight but termites and age made it finally break into fragments. They ran through the main hall, tripping over debris that covered the floor as they went. When they got to the central part of the building, Vic spotted a stairway going down to the basement; he knew it lead to the cafeteria and kitchen. He didn’t want to go down into the cafeteria; the staff might still be socializing down there after the breakfast service had ended, but they could chance raiding the kitchen. Roland, the cafeteria chef, would be taking his break to watch his favorite soaps on TV around this time, and the area would be empty.

Vic thought this would be a good way to get some knives for self-defense, and grab some food, in case they needed to hide out down in the tunnels for a while.

“Why don’t we just stay put and call the cops?” Nadine asked.

“Yeah, we can call the cops, but if the doc claims we’re mental patients trying to escape, we’re screwed,” Carter replied.

Vic hadn’t thought of that, but then he said, “I’ll call Wanda and she can call the cops.” Thinking that having a third party to vouch for their sanity may help them when the cops arrived.

Vic nervously dialed Wanda’s number. After a few rings, Wanda answered the phone, “Hello.” Vic could tell by the sound of her voice that she was hung over.

“Uh, Wanda. It’s Vic.” He was unsure how to start the explanation. “We, uh… Teddy and I… are in some trouble up at Brightbrook. We tried to get Carter, Ramon, and Gina out this morning, but some things went wrong and now we are hiding out in the building. We need you to call the cops for us, and can you come over yourself?”

“Vic,” she moaned, “why do you always get yourself into these messes?” He could hear her crawling out of bed and stumbling across the bedroom floor.

“Sorry, Babe. I didn’t know who else to contact,” Vic apologized.

“I’ll call the cops right now, but it’s going to take me about a half hour to get up there myself. Where are you in the building?”

“Right now we are near the kitchen located in the basement, in some old storage rooms.” Vic tried to keep his voice low, in case Roland had left his soaps during a commercial break to forage for snacks nearby. After Wanda hung up, Vic asked Jesse and Carter to help him raid the kitchen for supplies and weapons, just in case this thing was going to last longer than expected.

“How long do you think we are going to have to be down here?” Gina asked.

“I don’t know. It may be a while,” Vic said.

“This place gives me the creeps,” Gina said with a shudder.

“It gets creepier down in the tunnels,” Teddy said.

“How do you know?” Carter asked.

“Because, I’ve heard things about stuff down there in the tunnels… ghosts of dead patients and skeletons of people who got lost down there,” Teddy paused, “and, of course, the zombies could still be hanging around.” He glanced over his shoulder for emphasis.

“You’re full of shit,” Carter replied.

-Chapter 39-

Vic, Jesse, and Carter stopped at the entrance to the kitchen and looked around. The way seemed clear, so Vic told the others to wait as he scooted inside and walked over to the butcher block counter. He pulled three knives out of the knife block and silently snuck back to the two waiting men. They each took a knife and stuck them down in their belts. They then went through the pantry shelves and the refrigerator and got some supplies. Roland must have had the psychic ability to detect the emptying of his stockpile and ambled into the kitchen around this time. Vic and the others quickly hid behind a corner. After picking a donut out of a large plastic storage container and pouring himself a cup of coffee, Roland made his way back to the break room. He slipped out of his Birkenstocks and back into his soap opera.

When they got back to where the others were hiding, Nadine told Vic that Gina decided to go get some of her stuff at the crematoria and Ramon followed after her. Vic couldn’t believe it.

“After we come up here to save those people, they jump back into the frying pan?” Jesse said disgusted.

“Well, are we all going to risk our necks to save them again? I vote no,” Teddy spat.

“Man, I agree. Let’s just go down into the tunnels and hope the cops come soon and straighten everything out,” Jesse added.

Vic had to go along with the plan. There was too much to risk going after Gina and Ramon. They took the stairs to the next level down. A door led to the tunnel system that snaked under the asylum. Patients used the tunnels during the winter to walk between the buildings, and also when the trustees were showing off Brightbrook to donors and wanted to keep the more unsightly patients under wraps. There also seemed to be some holding cells crammed into areas where the walkways widened a bit.

“It’s too dark down there to get through,” Carter said as he stopped at the bottom of the steps.

“Use your cell phones to light the way.” Vic brushed past Carter and pulled out his cell phone.

The glow from the screens of their cell phones gave enough light to make the tunnel passable. Vic looked at the stenciled signs on the walls for directions. He hoped that they would not become disoriented and loose their way. Some of the signs gave Vic and the others a sense of dread: Violently Insane Ward. Isolation Cells. Forensic Ward. Acute Regressive Ward.

As, they made their way down the tunnel, Vic searched for signs pointing the way to the boiler room. If they could just find the coal chute that Amanda occasionally used to enter the building, they might be able to use it to get to the outside.

Meanwhile, in the crematoria building, Gina threw open the storage containers and stuffed things into her Gucci flight bag as Ramon watched the door. They were hoping for a quick get-away in a car or the van, but all vehicles were gone, including Jesse’s car.

“They took the stuff I bought in Vegas, those creeps,” Gina fumed.

“Don’t worry about it; let’s just get out of here. We’ll have to make our way through the woods and get to the road,” Ramon replied.

Gina threw some things over Ramon’s shoulder and struggled to lug her bag through the door and up the steps to the top level of the crematoria.

“Been having fun, haven’t you?” A sinister sounding voice came from the doorway. Nurse Witenganz and an orderly who looked like he moonlighted as a wrestler stood there. The creaking floor above indicated that there were more people on the top floor waiting for them.

Ramon blurted out, “It was all Doc Max’s idea.”

“And he will have to pay for that,” Witenganz hissed.

Gina stepped forward and flung back her new platinum blond extensions with one hand and started in on Witenganz, “Look bitch. I don’t know what your trip is, but you better let us go now. We played along with your stupid experiment and did everything the Doc asked us to—”

“Listen bitch,” Witenganz said in an equally forceful tone, “You’re not going to have to play along anymore. You will become zombies. This time I’ll make sure of it.”

She motioned to the orderly next to her, and he herded Ramon and Gina up the stairs, where three other Brightbrook staffers were waiting. Gina and Ramon started to fight to get away. In their struggle, most of their belongings were scattered around the room. The pair was removed from the crematoria and hurried to the back entrance of the clinic.

“Take them up to the third floor. Sedate them and I’ll be up shortly,” Witenganz told the orderlies.

Nurse Witenganz parted from them and walked toward the clinic’s lobby. She was being paged by the first floor nursing station. Instinctively, she knew that the situation was becoming more and more complicated. She would have to think quickly. As she descended the oak staircase and walked down the gleaming waxed floor in the hall, the tack, tack, tack of her heels had a methodic resonance that echoed through the massive old asylum building. Turning the corner into the lobby, she was somewhat startled by the sight of two uniformed police officers standing next to the reception desk.

“G-good morning, officers,” Witenganz glanced at her watch and noticed it was just past eleven.

“Hello, ma’am. We have had a report about a group of people being in danger and hiding in the buildings here.”

Witenganz faked a perplexed look on her face. “Why, this is the first I have heard of it. Mary Jane, have any of the patients had access to the phone?” Before Mary Jane could give a reply, Witenganz added, “We sometimes have patients make prank calls like this.”

In a tone of tired resignation, she explained how patients had done similar things in the past. She quickly convinced the police that there was nothing going on but mischief. The two officers were ready to depart, when Wanda Cummings came through the clinic’s entrance.

“I’m the one who called,” Wanda said.

In her effort to get up to the asylum quickly, Wanda rushed out of her apartment and looked disheveled. Her hair still needed to be brushed, and she wore a black and white print blouse and red skirt thrown on in a hurry.

“What seems to be the problem?” One of the officers asked her.

“This clinic is conducting an illegal experiment on homeless people and has been holding three people here for several days,” She said between gasps for breath from sprinting up the steps.

Witenganz’s eyes got wider, but she kept her composure.

“Several of my friends tried to free those people this morning, but now they are trapped in this building,” Wanda continued.

“Isn’t your name Rose Williams?” Witenganz asked.

“What?” Wanda asked.

“I’m sure of it,” Witenganz turned to the officers, “She was a patient of our about a year ago. We couldn’t manage her, and referred her to another clinic in town.”

What?” Wanda shouted, “Are you trying to say I’m nuts?”

The two cops took protective positions around Witenganz, and Wanda saw a vague smile creep across the nurses thin lips.

“Well, we’ll see about this!” Wanda reached into her purse for her cell phone with the intention of calling someone, anyone, who could vouch for her sanity. At this, one of the cops grabbed for her arm, thinking she was reaching for a weapon. Wanda dodged his grasp and ran into the main hall of the clinic, screaming for Vic. The two officers then scrambled off after her.

Witenganz called the orderly that was holding Gina and Ramon on her cell phone. “They have to be moved from the third floor. Take them back to the crematoria.”

“Witenganz wants them moved,” One orderly said to the others.

“The cops are downstairs; soon they will be up here. I don’t want my hands on those two if they find us,” The other orderly said as he glanced out the window at the patrol car parked in front of Brightbrook’s entrance.

Gina and Ramon had already been sedated and were laid out on gurneys. The orderlies decided to roll them into a darkened procedure room and leave the grounds of the asylum, maybe for good. Three of the men left the building by the back entrance, got into their cars and drove out off the property. The one remaining orderly walked to the crematoria and stuffed all of Carter, Gina, and Ramon’s belongings under blankets, making two of the beds look as if they were occupied. Then, he left the crematoria, walked to his car, and drove out the front gate.

Witenganz’s was now in her office, she stopped shredding papers long enough to look out the window at the defection. Her eyes followed the last orderly’s car as it left the grounds. “Cowards,” She murmured.

Doctor Max burst through her door just then. “What’s going on?” He demanded. “I heard the police are searching the property. We need to capture those troublemakers before the police get a hold of them.”

“With whose assistance? All the orderlies have just left the property,” Witenganz said.

“What?” Doctor Max said in shock.

“There is no one left to help us. Unless…” Nurse Witenganz paused, “Max, I need you to get your gun…if you seal off the exit to the tunnels in the East Wing, they will eventually be trapped there… then you might be able to get a clean shot…”

Doctor Woodruff looked at Witenganz and was frozen.

“You might be able to get all of them…” She continued.

He turned and left for his office with out saying a word, the thought of multiple homicides weighing on his mind.

Meanwhile, the police had called for back up, Wanda had evaded them somehow—discarding her T-strap high heels during her hasty departure— and now the building was under lock down.

Wanda called Vic on his cell from a broom closet and told him what had happened, “Vic! The cops are chasing me. They think I’m a crazy!” The signal from her cell phone was weak and her call was breaking up.

“Where are you? Are you near the elevator?” Vic asked.

Wanda peeked out the door and looked around quickly. “Yes, there is an elevator close by.”

“Can you get to it without getting seen?”

Wanda leaned out the door and listened for footsteps. “I think so,” She whispered.

“Try to take the elevator down to the basement. Turn left when you get down here, and go through the double doors. I’ll be there and I can take you to where we are hiding.”

Vic hung up and told the others, “Wanda says the cops are chasing her now. We have to get back to where the store rooms are.”

It was some relief to Teddy to be heading out of the tunnels, for a while, at least.

Wanda walked carefully out to the hall. When she got to the ornate metal doors of the elevator, she pressed the call button to summon it. There instantly was a loud creak and groan in the shaft. Wanda was startled and became afraid of the noise attracting attention. She looked around nervously. When the elevator finally arrived, the door clanked and banged open. Wanda glanced at the ancient scuffed interior for a second before she stepped in side. The door closed noisily and jerked its way down to the basement.

“God, help me,” Wanda uttered as she went down in the relic.

When she finally arrived at the basement level, she looked quickly around her and, then scurried toward the double doors. Vic didn’t take too long to meet her.

“There you are,” Wanda said to him. They embraced. Wanda’s legs suddenly felt weak. “Oh, Vic. It was terrible—”

“I know, all morning it’s been like a crazy house,” He paused at the irony of his words and said, “Wanda, I need you to call your pastor and your mother and have them come up here to the front lobby. We need as many people as we can to come up here and help us get out.”

“Okay, okay,” She struggled to get her cell phone out of her purse. “What happened to your hand?” She asked Vic, noticing the cast on his right hand.

“It’s a long story, I’ll tell you later.”

They went into the tunnels were the others were hiding. Wanda called her mother on the phone and got a busy signal; she left a message on Mildred’s voice mail.

“Uh, Momma, I’m up at Brightbrook. You know, the old insane asylum? Well, I need you to come and help me. Some police think I’m one of the patients here and I’m hiding. Call me when you get this message… I love you, Momma,” She grimaced as she hung up.

She knew how this would sound to her mother and started to sob as she tried to call her pastor. Vic embraced her. The others peaked out from the storeroom to see what was going on. Nadine was a little shocked when she saw Wanda in Vic’s arms.

Teddy leaned toward Nadine and snickered, “Just like a trolley.”

Wanda pulled back from Vic’s shoulder when she heard Teddy’s voice. “How are you guys?” She sniffed back tears. “The cops were chasing me, I couldn’t believe it,”

“We had some bulky dudes after us too. That’s why we’re hiding out here.” Carter said.

Wanda got her pastor on the phone. “Oh, Pastor Mills! You’re there. Uh, this is Wanda Cummings. I’m kind of in a situation. Do you have time to come out to Brightbrook right away?”

What crossed the pastor’s mind was anyone’s guess, but knowing about the recent departure of her beau Henry with a teen may have given him the idea that she had landed in the clinic with a ‘nervous episode’. He agreed to come to Brightbrook and call her on his cell phone when he arrived. When Wanda got off her phone, it rang; the call was from her mother.

“Yes, Momma, I’m all right. No…” Everyone listened as Wanda spoke.

“I’m hiding, from the police.” Wanda paused as her mother spoke, “They think I’m crazy,” Wanda finally said.

Another pause came. Every one could hear the buzz of Mildred’s voice over the phone, but could only guess at what she was saying.

“A nurse up here gave them that idea.”

Yet, another pause.

“She is in on the experiment. You know, with the zombies.”

Mildred did not reply.

“Momma, are you still there?” Wanda finally asked.

Another fury of words came over the line.

“Yes, Vic is here. Do you want to talk to him?”

Wanda handed Vic the cell phone. A sour look came over his face as he took the phone from her hand. “Uh, yes, this is Vic…” He pulled the receiver away from his ear as Mildred plastered him with a few choice words at the top of her voice. Vic heard a few cuss words that, even he, had never used.

Wanda picked the phone out of Vic’s hand like it was a hot ember.

“Yes. Well, we can discuss all that later, but right now we need help. Can you come over? Please?” She waited for a reply and hung up.

“Hope that old bat comes through,” Teddy murmured without thinking. Wanda shot him a dirty look.

Nadine felt like an outsider in this group of old friends. Teddy, sensing her unease, decided to put his other foot in his mouth.

“Hey, Wanda, you haven’t met Vic’s new squeeze, Nadine.”

The two women stood staring at each other wide eyed at Teddy’s rude introduction. Vic looked down and shuffled his feet. Wanda caught scent of Vic’s embarrassment and decided to play it cool.

“Uh, hello, Nadine. It’s nice to meet you,” Wanda then extended her hand.

Carter broke in and said, “Uh, yeah, nice meeting everybody. Now, let’s get the hell out of here.”

-Chapter 40-

The group descended the stairs back into the asylum tunnels. Using their cell phones for light, they pressed on into the eerie darkness, and soon passed through the holding area for violently insane patients of the asylum. Tiny, windowless cells with wall mounted bunks held rotting mattresses. They were lined up in a row along the left wall of the tunnel. Everyone tried to hurry through the area, but Teddy stopped and entered one of the cells when something caught his eye.

“Retro porn,” Teddy muttered as he approached a pin-up gallery plastered on a cell wall, obviously, by one of the inmates. Teddy studied the photos from the 1950’s. Some were on playing cards, some were magazine clippings. A framed picture of dogs playing cards once concealed the stash, but had long since disintegrated, leaving the tilted frame hanging at an angle, barely covering the voluptuous nudes. Engrossed in his discovery, he had lost track of the others. “Shit” He exclaimed. “Where the hell are you all?” He yelled into the darkened tunnel.

Teddy’s voice echoed through the corridors. Finally, Vic called back to him. “Teddy, what happened? Where are you?” The echo made the voice seem like it was coming from behind Teddy, so he started off in that direction. “I’m here. Hold up.”

Vic cussed under his breath. “Look, I’ll go find him. You guys continue on and stop at the Forensic Ward up ahead.” Vic flashed his cell phone ‘torch’ toward the stenciled sign pointing to the right fork in the tunnel.

“Okay, man, be careful,” Jesse said.

Vic started back. He could hear footsteps up ahead and called out to Teddy, but because of the echo, they each became more and more disoriented. Finally, Teddy saw the elevator and decided to try to get up to the first floor of the clinic. He figured if the cops caught him that would be better than ending up lost, and becoming a corpse in the tunnel. Anyway, he could handle himself with the cops better than Wanda did, and might get to walk right out the door.

Vic tried to call Wanda on his cell to let her know he was going back to the main part of the building, but the signal was weak and he couldn’t get through. The calls from Wanda’s mother and her pastor letting them know it was safe for everyone to come out from hiding in the tunnel probably would not get through either. Vic’s hopes of a quick end to this mess had just as much chance as the amount of signal strength bars on his phone. He continued to walk through the long tunnel until he had almost gotten to the area were the cafeteria was. Just then, he heard the ancient elevator moving along the shaft. Was Teddy really stupid enough to try to go into the main part of the clinic? All he could do now was to follow him silently and hope they both didn’t get caught.

The jerky ride up in the elevator did nothing for Teddy’s nerves. He peered out of the doors when they opened and took a breath and sauntered down the hall.

“At least I know how to get out of this place.” Teddy’s past experience as a ‘guest’ at Brightbrook gave him knowledge of every quick exit in the clinic.

“Excuse me. Who are you?” A voice behind him inquired.

“Uh, I-I’m the new—” Teddy turned around, “the new custodian.” Duane Burnside aka Vic Jones had left the job and the chances of them finding a new handyman were slim, so Teddy gambled on the cover.

The person addressing him was Emily Walters. She glanced at him admiringly. Teddy sensed her interest and poured on the charm. “Theodore McFee, at your service.” He took off his worn out baseball cap and bowed toward Miss Emily.

“Oh. I’m so glad you’re working here. There are all kinds of people running about looking for some escaped insane woman. I feel afraid just walking out into the hall,” she paused, “Are you busy at the moment?”

“No, Ma’am. Just strolling around, getting the lay of the land,” Teddy said.

“Well, just in time,” Emily smiled, “I need a little job done for me in my office.”

Teddy followed her down the hall checking out the exaggerated sway of her hips. His eyes widened when he saw the name on the door of the office and he followed the infamous Emily Walters into her lair.

Vic had all but given up on finding Teddy, and headed back to the tunnel, when he heard the sound of heavy footsteps. It sounded like several men running down into the tunnel. The echo of the walkie-talkie and clank of metal made it obvious that the cops had decided to search down in the tunnels. He didn’t know if the others had been found, and decided to check on Teddy later, if he was even still in Brightbrook. So, he descended the stairs and went down into the tunnel. He had to go silently and feel his way along the walls. Any sound or a light from his cell phone would tip them off. He saw a large beam of light behind a turn up ahead and held back listening to what was going on.

“This frigging place is creepy.” The officers were obviously lost.

“Just keep your eyes open; they have to be down here somewhere.”

“God, look at this.” One cop shone his flashlight on a horrific looking contraption that  had been piled up along with other discarded equipment. “Can you imagine being locked up in a place like this?”

At that, moment a woman’s scream echoed through the tunnel. Vic jumped. The cops jumped. Vic thought the others were sure to be found and wondered what the scream was all about. He followed the cops further down the tunnel. They turned left at the branch in the tunnels and Vic sighed with relief. The others were in the tunnel to the right. Vic made his way down the tunnel and came out of the darkness without warning, startling Wanda. She let out another scream before Carter put his hand over her mouth.

“Stop freaking out over the rats already!” Carter scolded Wanda.

“It’s just me. We have to go. Now!” Vic said as he ran into main tunnel.

It was a crazy gamble, but he figured that Wanda’s mother and her pastor might be showing up soon and it was time to give up. Vic and the others could hear the cops scrambling to catch up with them when they passed the fork in the tunnel. He steered the group toward the stairway, and up to the cafeteria. He figured they could surrender there. Unfortunately, no one in the group knew of Vic’s plan, and they were running on high adrenaline. Surrender was the last thing on their minds.

“Stop here until they catch up with us,” Vic shouted as he stopped in the lighted cafeteria.

“Are you crazy? And get my ass shot?” Carter said as he ran past Vic and took the lead. He led all of them out of the cafeteria, into the kitchen, through the Main Hall and right back to the area of the Day Room. The few staff members lingering over lunch just looked at the group as they dashed through the cafeteria.

“Shit, why can’t anybody follow directions?” Vic complained.

Vic ducked behind a corner when the cops arrived in the cafeteria. He wondered if he should face the cops alone and tell them what was really going on. He could see himself being wrapped up in a Brightbrook straightjacket and carted off to a holding cell, where Nurse Witenganz would be administering zombie serum to him as Mildred Cummings gleefully looked on. He decided against that course of action, and hid as the cops scrambled toward the elevator.

“They must have gone up to the first floor.”

Vic followed the pair of cops up to where the elevator was, and watched as they went up to the main floor. He hid in a nearby storage closet, and tried to figure out his next move. Soon, Vic could hear a commotion coming from the floor up above. He thought he heard Teddy’s voice then there was a shuffling of footsteps, banging, and strange moans. The groaning and the clamor finally stopped only to start up again a few seconds later, and the tumult ended in a horrendous thud on the floor. Vic thought that perhaps the cops had captured Teddy. He listened for a while longer and then heard Teddy’s muffled voice. Vic stepped into the hall and pressed the elevator button; determined to save Teddy from whatever calamity that had wrestled him into its clutches; Vic’s heart was pounding, and he was set to fight. Did the cops get Teddy, or was it Doc Woodruff and Nurse Witenganz? As usual, the elevator moved at a glacial pace. When the door finally opened, Vic found Teddy standing in the elevator, zipping up his fly.

“Teddy! What happened? Where were you all this time?” Vic asked in shock.

Teddy pulled out a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and held it up to Vic’s face as he passed by him. It had Emily Walters name and number on it. Vic put together the scenario and figured it was Teddy and Emily who were causing the commotion upstairs.

“You picked a fine time to screw somebody.”

“It’s always a fine time,” Teddy said as he strolled by Vic, “By the way, it‘s crawling with cops up there. I’d advise you not to go up stairs,” Teddy looked around, “And where are all the others? Did you loose them, too?”

Vic looked at Teddy in disgust.

Meanwhile, after running all the way to the Day Room, Carter and the rest of the group finally stopped, not knowing where to go next.

“Carter, we left Vic behind back there,” Nadine said as she stopped to catch her breath.

Carter just waved his hand, “You go back and get him then.”

“Where are we?” Wanda asked looking around in confusion.

“It’s the Day Room, where we started out when they tried to catch us,” Jesse answered.

Wanda’s phone rang. “Hello.” It was Wanda’s mother and she had been trying her phone for a long time. “Where are you?” Wanda listened. “We’ll be right there.” She looked at the others and said, “We have to go to the main lobby. My mother and pastor are waiting there. They cleared us with the cops.”

Everyone hurriedly stepped over the rubble that was scattered across the Day Room floor and made it out of the building. It was a relief to be outside. The group made their way down the hill and entered the main foyer in the central part of the building. Passing the police guarding the entrance as they went, they made their way through the lobby.

“I’m Wanda Cummings, is my mother here?” Wanda’s shaky voice could barely speak.

“Baby!” Wanda’s mother rushed up to her and embraced her. “Are you all right? What happened to your shoes?” Wanda started to explain how she left them as she was being chased when Carter interrupted.

“Where are the Doctor Woodruff and Nurse Witenganz? Did you arrest them?” He asked an officer standing near by.

“We are looking for them. Before Mrs. Cummings and the Pastor Mills came the Doctor was hanging around, but he left after he heard what they were saying.”

“Well, we got two other people in the building and two that may have left the building… four all together unaccounted for,” Carter said.

“We have the building and grounds sealed, no one is getting out.”

The most senior officer, Sergeant Freeman, asked the group questions about what happened. Then, a voice over his radio broke in and reported finding two bodies on the third floor. Wanda and her mother gasped. Several of the cops in the lobby left to check the situation out. Nadine thought the worst had happened to Vic and tears clung to her eyes before dropping down her cheeks as she hung her head. Jesse put his arm around her shoulder to comfort her.

Officer Freeman was on his radio with the cops who found the two bodies. After a few moments, he was informed that the two people that they discovered, a man and a woman, were sedated but didn’t seem to be otherwise harmed.

“That’s good news,” Wanda said nodding her head and looking around at the others.

Wanda’s mother pursed her lips. The thought of Vic Jones lifeless body in a room upstairs had flashed through her mind for a second. One happy second. But, he was on the missing list, there might still be hope.

“Now we just have to find Vic and Teddy,” Carter said.

“Where did you see them last?” Officer Freeman asked.

“Teddy got lost when we were going past the violent lock up ward in the tunnels and Vic was standing in the cafeteria when I last saw him.” Jesse hoped that information would help, but they all knew that the guys could be anywhere in the building by now.

“Well, we are going to need a statement from each of you. Can you all step into this room and have a seat? We will be right with you.” Officer Freeman directed them into the staff lounge in the clinic.

-Chapter 41-

At the office of Doctor Max Woodruff, a tired, aging man sat at his desk looking through a lifetime of memorabilia, certificates, photographs, and letters of commendation. All of the awards were worthless now. The doctor’s contemplation was disturbed by the sound of someone coming down the hall at a hurried pace. Soon, Nurse Witenganz was at the door and, stepped inside his office. Woodruff found he could no longer look at her and studied what was on his desk.

“Yes, can I help you?” He asked in a disconnected manner.

”Don’t you realize what is going on?” She asked him.

“I not only realize it, I have accepted it,” he said as he shifted papers around on his desk as if they were sacred parchments.

“You’re a fool,” Witenganz said as she stood with her arms crossed and sneered at him for surrendering so quickly.

“What about Hemmings?” The Doctor glanced at her white shoes. “Did you call him to plead for his help?”

She nervously fingered her collar. “Hemmings? What are you talking about?”

“That lover of yours that you have been hiding behind my back.” The last three words were said with tightness in his throat. “On the drive over here, Vic Jones told me all about what he discovered. About you and Hemmings. And that rendezvous at the Starlite Motel. I didn’t want to believe him at first, but it all makes sense now…” The doctor then pulled out a gun from his desk drawer. “Damn you. Damn this experiment. I wish I had never gotten involved in it.”

“What are you going to do with that?” Witenganz looked at him fiercely.

“You see that box?” He motioned toward the corner of the room where a cardboard file box lay on a table. “It has all the evidence the police need to put us both away for a long time.” It was Ralph’s lost box. The evidence of the first failed zombie experiment.

“How did you find that?” She said aghast.

“The police gave it to me. They saw the Brightbrook letterhead on some of the papers and returned it a few days ago.”

“But Max, we must destroy it!”

“Not a chance,” Max’s voice growled in a low, uncharacteristic tone, “We are going to wait here until the police find us, and then I am going to take the easy way out.” He pointed the gun to his head.

“You are a fool,” Witenganz spat, “With the evidence right there… No one knows. It’s the word of hysterical homeless losers against our word. They won’t be taken seriously.”

‘The police are taking them seriously.”

“Listen Max, if we stick together, we can ride this one out.”

“I don’t want to ride it out… with you… any more,” Max paused, “I figured out the deal you made with Hemmings.”

“What deal?” Witenganz mockingly laughed.

“To pin the whole experiment on me and get me fired. Thrown in jail. Then you and Hemmings would get rich when he bought the land under this clinic for the condo project. You both have been colluding to bring me down for a long time. Just like you did to Trudy Johnson!”

The voices in Doctor Max’s office carried down the Main Hall and got the attention of Vic and Teddy. They followed the voices and stood silently outside the half-closed door of Doctor Max’s office.

They heard Max let out a sigh of resignation and then he continued, “I never should have gotten involved with this experiment, it was crazy from the start. We were playing with fire.” He slumped over and put his head down on the desk, the gun lay in his hand next to him.

Witenganz took advantage of his lapse of attention and tried to flee. When she opened the door, she came face to face with Vic and Teddy. In that same instant, Doctor Max squeezed off a shot aimed at Witenganz. The bullet narrowly missed Vic’s head as it whizzed through the doorway. They had all ducked down and were on the floor when another shot went off. This time it was not in their direction. After a few seconds, Vic lifted up his head and realized that Doctor Max was limp in his chair. He had shot himself.

Witenganz, not knowing who these men were she assumed they might be with the law, and turned on the theatrics. “Save me! The crazed man tried to kill me!”

“Looks like the crazed man is dead,” Teddy said.

“And you’re going to have to face the music alone,” Vic added.

Nurse Witenganz then knew she was in trouble and decided to make her escape. She stumbled toward Doctor Max’s bleeding body and feigned contrition.

“Why, why did you have to kill yourself? Max my love,” she bent over the slumped body and grabbed the gun. She then turned, pointing the weapon at Vic and Teddy.

“Now it looks like you’ll have to face the music instead.” She motioned toward the box on the table. “Pick that up.”

Vic’s broken hand exempted him from that job, so Teddy walked over and picked up the file box. Vic felt at his waist for the knife he had earlier stuck in his belt, but remembered he had tossed it out in the cafeteria when the cops were after him, not wanting them to capture him with a weapon.

“Get out the door. Go!” She was behind Vic and Teddy, ordering them toward the direction of the Day Room. Vic hoped the others were out of the building, or things might get thorny.

“Why don’t you just give up?” Vic asked forcefully.

“Why don’t you just shut up?” Witenganz replied.

Witenganz walked behind them through the Day Room area and ordered them out the door to the Crematoria. Vic was glad the others were not around, but hoped for any sign of the cops. No luck.

When they got to the small crematoria building, Witenganz pulled a key ring from her skirt pocket and flung it down in front of the door. “Open it,” she ordered.

Vic bent down and retrieved the key, glancing briefly at her. He opened the door and noticed Gina’s belongings strewn around on the floor from the earlier confrontation with Witenganz and her goon orderlies. Vic and Teddy sensed something had happened there, but could not determine what.

“Go down the steps to the room on the left,” Witenganz said.

Vic and Teddy complied. Muscles tensed as they waited for any mistake she might make so they could overpower her. She wasn’t slipping up, though.

“Lay that box on the empty bed.” Vic and Teddy noticed the two figures that were on the other beds. Were they Gina and Ramon? Vic’s heart beat a little faster. Why were they laying there and not moving? Were they dead? Vic looked at Teddy. He thought, ‘If they are dead, then we are next.’ Teddy seemed to be putting the box down, but instead, he flung it at Witenganz, who stood behind him. It hit her broadside and caused the gun to break free from her hand and slide under one of the beds. The box seemed to explode and papers flew out in all directions. Vic jumped into the scramble of papers and photos and binders to try to grab hold of Witenganz before she could get the gun back. Teddy entered the fray too, and they both finally subdued her.

“You’re done lady, give it up,” Vic said.

Witenganz finally got a good look at Vic’s face and asked, “Who the hell are you? Aren’t you the handyman who came to my house?” Vic wondered when she would finally recognize him.

“Yeah, I’ve been on your tail a long time. You’re not only going to jail for what you have done here, but also for that crap you’ve been pulling on students in your own house.”

Vic was bluffing; but the panicked look on her face made him think he was on to something, and he was happy to rub her nose in it.

“You’ll ruin me!” Witenganz shouted.

Right at that moment, the police arrived and piled down the steps. They had seen the trio enter the building and came up to investigate.

“Oh, officers! Please help me! These men are trying to attack me,” Witenganz sputtered in another desperate attempt at a get-away.

“We know who you are, Nurse Witenganz and you are under arrest,” one of the cops said.

“Witenganz! No, I-I’m… Nurse Johnston.” Witenganz claimed, then, she bent forward and started to laugh. A strange laugh, that was slow and confused. Finally, she threw back her head and convulsed with laughter.

Vic and Teddy let loose of her arms and got up. Vic’s broken hand was killing him with pain and seeing Nurse Witenganz’s meltdown didn’t give him any relief.

One cop reached for Witenganz, to get her to stand, “We’re taking you in,” he said.

When Witenganz heard this, she started to wiggle and twist away from him. The cop slipped on the slick photos beneath his feet, and tumbled down almost on top of her. She dragged her self part way under a bed, still resisting capture. Seeing the gun laying in the dust bunnies, Witenganz seized it, and let the cops drag her out by her legs. When she was completely out, she flipped on to her back and revealed to everyone that she had retrieved the gun. The odd sight of Witenganz with her hair covered in dust bunnies holding a loaded gun on the assembled crowd of law enforcement officers seemed surreal. She ordered everyone, except for Vic and Teddy, out of the room.

“Lady, give it up already! You’re done!” One of the cops shouted.

“Get out of here or I’ll start shooting!” The semi-automatic in her hand had enough rounds left to knock off everyone there, if she was a good enough shot, so the cops retreated.

Vic plaintively watched as they left.

“Get the gas!” Witenganz snarled as she got up from the floor.

Vic did not understand her for a moment. “What?” He asked.

“The gas. In the other room. For the generator.”

Of course, the gas containers. He had brought them down when he was working there. She ordered Teddy not to move. Vic would go to get them himself. He sheepishly peaked into the other room hoping the cops were hiding around the corner. No sign of them. Shit. He brought a gas can back into the room and stood there by the door.

“Move!” Witenganz ordered. “Pour the gas over them!”

Vic’s whole body shook. Teddy glanced down and saw that a blanket on top of one of the beds had been pulled away from what it was covering. He saw some clothes and stuff, but could tell that there were no bodies under the blankets. A relief.

“Do the other one!” Witenganz demanded when the gas was about half gone.

Vic moved over to the other bed and started to sprinkle the gas over the figure, he spotted the place where the blanket revealed what was under it. He looked up at Teddy. Decoys. Where were Gina and Ramon? Well, they weren’t here, in any case. Vic and Teddy nodded to each other. It was going to be a quick get-away deal, as soon as they could manage it.

“Put the gas can down!”

Vic placed the metal can down on the floor and turned around, “How far do you think you’re going to get?” Vic asked, “The cops are right out side.”

“Then we all burn together,” Witenganz calmly said. She placed the gun down on the table beside her and pulled out a cigarette from the pack in her coat pocket.

She was fishing around in the other pocket for the lighter when Vic screamed, “Get her!” as if someone was going to jump Witenganz from behind. She grabbed the gun and turned, at that moment Vic and Teddy scrambled toward the door. Witenganz managed to get two shots off, Vic and Teddy ducked and hit the floor. The discharge of the gun had ignited the gas fumes and a ball of fire burst through the room. Flames crackled as the two beds became engulfed in fire and smoke filled the room.

At that moment, someone came running down the steps and shouted, “Don’t kill Teddy!” The voice of the woman screeched as she rushed toward Witenganz and savagely attacked her. Witenganz dropped the gun as Emily Walters started to pummel her with her fists. Miss Walters had broken through the police barricade and run into the inferno to save her ingenious lothario, Teddy McFee. Quickly, both men got up and tried to push Witenganz and Miss Walters out of the room, but by then a crowd of police had entered, and they felt themselves being hustled up the stairs and out of the burning crematoria. Witenganz put up a fight, but she too was dragged out of the inferno.

Vic’s eyes were still stinging from the smoke when Wanda and Nadine ran up and grabbed hold of him, happy that he made it out alive. Miss Emily, was also clinging Teddy; while Witenganz sobbed histrionically on the ground, surrounded by the cops.

Vic recognized one of the policemen as Officer McAlty. The man he first contacted about the kidnappings up at Brightbrook. As the police dispersed the crowd of onlookers (many of them Brightbrook staff), McAlty came up to Vic, Wanda, and Nadine and complained bitterly about the events of the day.

“It’s been a friggin’crazy day. First a police escort for Howard Hemming wedding, then this.”

“Howard Hemmings wedding?” Wanda asked in amazement.

“Yep, the big shot got married to some waitress from the Lucky Spot. Daisy Perez. Married at St. Elizabeth’s Church with all the trimmings, for christsakes. Can you believe it?”

Nurse Witenganz’s screams of “No, no, no!” reached a crescendo in the background upon hearing the news of the Hemmings wedding.

After surveying the situation, McAlty got on his radio and barked, “Central. Send a transport up to Brightbrook. We need to get Nurse Witenganz up to County General’s Psych Ward. She’s lost her cookies.”

Homelessness as a Political Football Part 2

Okay. So both major political parties have figured out how to use homelessness to get more money and more votes. Homelessness is a BIG ISSUE to them, but only because property owners and the general population see it as a problem. Not necessarily because many people die on the streets every year. Lives wasted. We as homeless and formerly homeless people have to get our voices heard so that the money spent on homeless programs don’t get wasted on short-sited, useless programs that only help a select few and cost way too much.

Here’s how you can help:  Write down what you think your city or state needs to do; then get the help of a librarian or counselor to get you in contact with the people in government who can implement your suggestions. Contacting your state representative through email is a possibility in the computer age.

If you are going to vote on November 4th, and I strongly suggest you do, pick a candidate who is supportive of the rights of homeless people who are trying to get off the streets. Find names of these people by googling “homeless issues” and the name of your state. Write down the names of the good guys (if there are any…) and do more googling to find more out about them. And don’t forget to get a contact address or email. Tell them you support what they are trying to do and give them a few suggestions about what you see is working to help homeless people get where they want to be.

Art Gives a Face to Homelessness

whirled tree arts creativity blog

“[Street artist] Skid Robot humanizes the homeless by incorporating them into his art, creating scenes in which the subjects aren’t just a faceless person, down on their luck.” –Huffington Post


Before becoming an art therapist, I volunteered for a time at a homeless shelter in Somerville, Massachusetts.  I worked with another woman and we did art projects with children, taught mothers how to make healthy meals on a tight budget and most of all formed relationships with the young, often single parent, families residing in the small shelter.  It was an experience that in many ways informed my path toward art therapy and mental health counseling.

Years later, I went on to do further work at a wonderful program called Housing Families, Inc. in Malden, Massachusetts, where I interned as an art therapist.  In that role I learned even more about how fine the line truly is between having…

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Most Days, It All Came Down to Coffee and a Sketchbook

Spooky Tales from Brain Sections

Adult content. Copyrighted material.


The brick exterior of the massive asylum building towered over Vic as he slipped around its contours. He peered into some of the windows as he made his way to the place were the Day Room was on his map. Moonlight shone into the large windows and gave Vic a clear view of each room’s contents. Cheap, broken furniture lay scattered beneath ornate windows and graceful high ceilings. Sweeping oak staircases hovered over checkerboard tile floors warped from water damage.

Vic was overcome by how the decay, erosion, and splendor, all mixed into each other. He also wondered about the total senselessness in erecting enormous buildings and then finally abandoning them altogether. Letting them stand and rot, unwanted and forgotten; while the former residents were put out into the street to fend for them selves, as mentally ill people still are, in many cases. If the ‘system’ was wrong, why couldn’t anybody fix it? Vic shuttered from a chill. The wind blew from the East. Vic knew it was bad weather wind. He hoped any rain would come down later in the night, when he was finished with what he had to do.

The directions on the map lead him to the door that entered the Day Room. The doorway was a tangle of vines. Vic used his pocketknife to cut through the mass before he could open the door. Stepping into the ramshackle building, he felt the crunch of debris under his shoes. He was worried about the beam of his flashlight being seen from the outside, so he wrapped his handkerchief around it to dim the light.

The enormous room was a jumble of peeling paint, shattered glass, and littered objects. A large ornate arched window lay at the far end, but tracing the way to it was a set of cheap florescent light fixtures from the 1960’s. Vic glanced at Trudy’s map and tried to figure out where the Main Hall was. Finally, he found the interior passageway. It was lined with doors and had very few windows, so he could remove his handkerchief from his flashlight and let the beam shine brighter.

Vic’s intended destination was Dr. Max Woodruff’s office. He wanted answers that could only be found in Dr. Max’s files. Maybe he could find copies of the pictures that were in the file box that he had found in Ralph’s trunk, and later lost. With that evidence in hand, he could go to the police and put an end to Doctor Woodruff and Nurse Witenganz’s unethical experiment.

Walking through the Main Hall, Vic wondered how long it would take him to find the right room. There must have been more than a dozen doors along the hall. Most of the rooms were tiny. Were they used for treatments, isolation, or counseling? Vic couldn’t tell. Some doors were partially open and Vic peered into them for just a few seconds. Many of the small rooms held strange equipment and Vic could only guess what the machines were used for. One room held some kind of apparatus with electronic switches and cables running from it. There was a gauge in the shape of an arc, the danger zone marked in red. A table with arm and leg restraints was nearby. Vic guessed that this was the electro-shock room. He stared at the sweat stained leather restraint straps.

At that moment, a creak came from outside the door in the hall. Turning the flashlight off, he stood in the darkness for a few seconds. Thoughts of the three zombies he had encountered the first night he was at Brightbrook came to his mind. Vic’s heart was beating at a rapid pace. He listened and waited. No other sounds came, so slowly he walked back out into the hall and looked around carefully. Another creak came. It was the wind blowing through a broken window pane disturbing the door of another room.

Relieved, Vic progressed down the hall. He saw a door that had the sign ARCHIVES on it. He turned the door knob and cringed at the loud creak it made when he opened it. The room was filled with large, dust covered medical reference books. He stepped into the room and surveyed the shelves that were sagging under the weight of the massive volumes. Wiping the dust off of some of the bindings, he read the long ponderous titles with words like anatomy and psychiatry, blended in the mix. He flipped through pages of a few books sitting on a large table. The musty smell forced him to close the outdated volumes with crumbling pages.

Taking notice of a peculiar set of framed objects on the wall, he moved closer to get a better look. Vic was stunned when he realized they were human brains, thinly sliced and pickled in some preserving solution. He removed one of the framed brain sections from the wall and studied the gray form. Each frame gave a patient’s number, the mental illness they suffered from and, a brief description of what caused their demise. The typewriter imprinted card on the frame he was holding gave an account of patient #303’s slow and painful death. Having some medical knowledge in the Marines as a medic, his eyes scanned the card. Stroke… contractures… sepsis… gangrene… death. Seeing the words contractures, sepsis, and gangrene indicated to Vic that the patient suffered a long, painful, and avoidable death. Basically, a stroke patient was left unattended in a bed, in their own filth, for long periods until their demise finally came.

He stared out the window as the impending storm tossed the tree branches. The moonlight defined the tree branches blowing around outside the window. The shadowy black shapes danced around the floor of the room and around him. Vic was absorbed with the terrifying thought that an absurd end such as this could happen to anyone, including Carter. Unexpectedly, the frame slipped from his grip and crashed to the floor. Within seconds, the smell of formaldehyde filled the room. Afraid that the noise had attracted someone’s attention, Vic swiftly left the archives and crouched behind a desk in the Main Hall. Minutes ticked by, but no one came. With a sigh of relief, he got up slowly and went to the open door of the archives room. The brain section of the anonymous mental patient lay on the floor. It glistened in the moonlight from the window as the shadows of the tree branches moved around it, and seemed to stroke it. Vic wiped the sweat off his hands and slowly closed the creaky door. His heart was pounding in his chest.

Homelessness as a political football

As far as my experience goes, neither party wants to truly address homelessness. The Republican church going party members make quite a tidy sum in grants to help the homeless, and the Democrats find jobs in the non-profit sector helping the homeless. The homeless really need to grab a hold of their own cause and demand change from both parties. Making homeless programs effective takes speaking out about what really helps our community and not letting other people make ill educated guesses as to what can help. Their own self-interest some times will get in the way.

Spiritual Homelessness amid Material Wealth

Thanks, Jeremy. That was great.