Back to the Asylum

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Spring is here. Sort of. In some places. More importantly, Story-A-Day isn’t far away!

A year ago I got my cancer diagnosis, had several surgeries, lots of doctor visits, and six months of chemo. I’m officially showing No Evidence of Disease (NED!). So, I’m looking forward to a saner year.

I’m waiting for someone to read and give me feedback on novel number two. (Always a nerve-challenging time.) So, meanwhile, I’m going to back over the stories I wrote last year, and I’m going to see what I can do with and where the characters ought to go next.

I think the story may get more intense. I’ve spent a bit more time this last year contemplating mortality, and it is coming out in my work.

We’ll see what happens.

May 31st!!!!! The end of the month but not the story.

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Wow. Chemo and exhaustion and the start of a story written. Thank you everyone who has kept reading. I wasn’t sure what to do for the last day. This isn’t the ending of the story, of course. More story is left to tell. Chemo goes through til October. Also in October my novel is published by Plum Tree Books!

In the meantime, I’ll post a few things here. I’ve enjoyed this month, but I’m glad it’s over.

Thank you again and again for being here.

Hannah peered under the door to make the hall was clear. She saw nothing but the tight weave of red carpet.

“Careful,” the old woman said, “They know how to lie in wait.”

But Hannah had gotten this far. She felt sure of herself. “We’ll be fine. They can’t know I’m in here.”

She opened the door.

The guard had her by the throat before she realized he was there. She grabbed his wrist. She kicked. He pinned her to the wall. He said nothing, and she couldn’t speak.

His stare frightened her more than his grip, and she slapped him to get him to speak if not to break his stare. She tried to kick him again, but a heavy feeling weighed down her legs. Moving was becoming more difficult while he stared. Her throat hurt. She looked away.

A strange gagging sound escaped from him. The noise pushed her fear further, but she risked a sideways glance. His face contorted. Suddenly, he let her go.

Hannah fell forward, and he fell alongside her. She screamed and pushed and kicked. He offered no resistance. It took a few more kicks for her to realize he wasn’t moving at all.

“What…” Hannah gulped for a breath.

The old woman stood there next to the body of the guard. “What happened?” Hannah asked her. Her eyes refocused.

The old woman held her knife. Specks of blood dotted her hand. She looked down at Hannah and her voice was calm “You mustn’t let them touch you because you can never fight back.”

Hannah slowly looked back at the guard. A stain grew in the carpet underneath his body. “You killed him?” she asked.

“I saved you,” she replied. The old woman reached out a hand to help Hannah back to her feet. “You’re in deep now, child. I hope you can run.”

May 30th. Resistant.

at my aunt's

I wasn’t sure I could write anything, but I’m too close to the end of the month to give up now.

They said the Asylum was built long before the town. They said the town built the Asylum. They said a lot of things.

But no living soul in town remembered a time without the Asylum. Its shadows and lights shimmered at the edge of town for as long as anyone could remember, and few townspeople wanted to acknowledge it. They didn’t speak of the people who lived there. They pretended the people who worked there didn’t exist.

As far as anyone knew, no one from the town ever got a job in the building itself. A few intrepid souls got jobs as gardeners or deliverymen, but they were never allowed inside, and they said little about what, if anything, they saw.

But the town looked the other way when the night ambulance drove through the town to the Asylum gates. No one knew where the night ambulance came from or who it carried. No one wanted to know.

The night ambulance was seen only enroute to the Asylum and only after sunset. People who witnessed its passage had bad dreams and even fell silent for the following days.

On the night Hannah crept over the Asylum wall, many people found it difficult to sleep. Dogs paced in their homes. But even if the people got out of bed, frustrated and restless, almost no one looked in the Asylum’s direction.

May 29th. So much left out.

I had more I wanted to add to this scene, but it would take more energy and time than I have. So I left it simple and short. The month is almost over. Thank goodness! Writing something remotely postable every day has been hard. But thanks to you for reading.

Hannah was running when the Asylum went dark. She threw herself against a wall. Shouts and cries surrounded her. She had no idea what happened to Meredith. They’d run in opposite directions when Security appeared.

Catching her breath, she felt along the wall and discovered another door. Might as well, she whispered. By now picking a lock took no time at all. The door opened. This time Hannah didn’t wait for anyone to come out. Instead, she walked in.

“Hello?”

No one answered. Dim moonlight cast a few shadows. The bed was empty. Hannah didn’t know she was in the room that belonged to the boy who’d gone up to the roof. She felt relief at finding an unoccupied room. Maybe she could take a moment to think.

She sat on the bed. Too late she realized the door was open. “Meredith?” But the bit of shadow Hannah could make out in the dark seemed too short for the nurse.

“You unlocked my door. Why?”

It was the old woman. Hannah was sure of it. “I thought you’d want out,” she whispered.

The sound of the old woman shutting the door didn’t comfort Hannah. The old woman had claimed to have a knife.

“You’ve let several of us out,” the old woman said. “Why?”

“Why should you not be out? Are you dangerous?” Hannah hoped she sounded brave, and wished she could see in the dark.

The old woman snorted. “Are you dangerous?” she asked.

“No,” Hannah said. “Not really.”

The old woman sighed. “That’s a shame.”

May 28th! Taking a step back.

As I figure out what’s happening inside, there are still things happening outside.

Hasher Mansfield had seen the lights from the Asylum long before he exited the highway. He never liked delivering there, but he’d always made his drop offs in the semi-darkness. Apprehension and excitement rolled in his chest.

Once before he’d seen a bright light coming from the Asylum. When Hasher had pulled up, he’d seen an ambulance and armed guards. He thought he’d heard a scream before all went suddenly silent.

Now the Asylum lights lit up the sky like never before. He turned up the dirt drive and stopped at the gate. The guard moved more slowly than normal. Hasher’s unease grew.

The guard stepped out of his shed. He had a phone to his ear. After a glance at Hasher, he waved him on through.

Hasher took a moment to put his truck into gear. He’d never been waved through without a complete and thorough check of his papers and his cargo. Years of this same gig, seeing the same guards, and they still insisted on following every last procedure. Their obsessive checklists irritated him, but this laxness unnerved him. If there was a reason for them to forget procedure, it had to be reason enough to stay away.

The guard was shouting into the phone. Hasher shook his head, crossed himself, and drove the truck onto the grounds.

At the curve in the road, he slowed down. He was glad he did. A young man ran across the road, directly in front of the truck where he threw himself in the dirt.

Hasher slammed on the brakes. Bruises and cuts covered the young man. His clothes were torn. He made no further move. Hasher looked up at the Asylum lights unsure of what to do. Wait? Get out and check on the boy? Back up?

He rolled down his window to shout for the boy to get out of the way. Maybe this was some kind of prank, though he knew it wasn’t. The night air entered the truck and so did the sounds of shouts. Glass broke somewhere, the sound perfectly carried on the breeze. A scream followed.

All the lights of the Asylum wavered. They flickered. And everything was thrown into darkness. The only light left came from the truck’s headlights, which spilled over the boy stretched out across the drive as if dead.