He found himself on a bare mattress in a mildewed room. Plaster from the ceiling lay thick upon him, white and leprous, blotching his suit, coating his face. Little clumps of it fell from his eyes as he blinked in the dim light. He sat up and an avalanche rolled down his shoulders. The mattress, a twin, lay upon the floor, a stained and stale-smelling mattress with loose buttons that were pressing uncomfortably into William Fitzgerald’s legs. Another mattress, equally stained and abused, was against the filthy wall, a man spread neatly upon it. The man had broken fingers that had been crudely bandaged. He was not breathing. William Fitzgerald pushed a finger into the dark skin of the man’s cheek and found it cold and waxy. The mark of his finger didn’t fade when he took his hand away.
Pans dotted the orange floor, filled with rusty water that smelled like blood, each beneath an irregular stain on the ceiling. More crumbled plaster coated some of the pans. The beams of the roof peered through the ceiling, dark wood, gnawed and scratched, the scratches too long and regular for rats’ claws. William Fitzgerald looked at the hands of the dead man. Wood beneath the fingernails. Nails had been driven into the walls seemingly at random, mad industry, into the frames of the boarded over windows, into the jambs of the sliding doors, in ragged fairy circles around the bare bulbs. He left the room, and found himself in a kitchen, left the kitchen through a different door and found himself in the room. From far away he could hear the sound of hammering, hammering, hammering.