Not Forgotten

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I haven’t forgotten these characters. But I’m also trying to finish another draft of my next novel, work on a few commissioned art pieces, grade student papers, work on our house, spend time with my family, go to speed skate practice, and sleep.

I’ve cheated though. I’ve skipped ahead. When I finish my novel, I’m going to come back to this, map it out, and fill in all the gaps. My goal is to have something pieced together in a readable form by the time next year’s Story-a-Day comes around. We’ll see how that goes. At least, I don’t have to go to chemo anymore! Yay!

As always, thanks for reading.

Hannah and the old woman waited for Meredith to return. They sat together in the cramped space of the closet in the dark. Maybe not being able to see the old woman made Hannah bold.

“Do you have any children?” she asked. Hannah had come to the Asylum, after all, to find out about her grandmother. Possibly even meet her. Earlier the idea would have horrified her, but she was getting used to the old woman. Calling her a friend seemed unlikely, but she did feel a bond that was hard to explain.

“Nosy girl, you are,” the old woman replied. “Why would you care?”
Hannah could hear the frown in her voice. “There has to be some reason why we came across each other and have been sticking with each other,” she said. “There has to be some reason you’re still with me.”

The old woman didn’t reply. Hannah knew the old woman was there only because of the sound of her breathing and that there really was no where to move.

“Do you believe in horoscopes and fortune telling too?” the old woman asked.

“What?”

“You appear to ascribe happenstance to supernatural or mystical sources.”
In the dark of the closet of the Asylum, muffled sounds beyond the door, the supernatural felt immensely close. “Don’t you believe in the supernatural?”

“I believe in what I can do and what I can not do. The rest I leave to others.”

“But you could’ve taken off without me. But here we are together.”

“You’re welcome to leave any time,” the old woman said.

“I couldn’t just leave.” Hannah wrapped her arms around her knees and gripped her hands more tightly. “We’re a team.”

The old woman laughed and then coughed. “I’d love to hear the doctors discuss my suitability for a team. Have you never been taught how teams work, child?”

Hannah was glad the old woman couldn’t see her reddening face. “We have worked together.” It wasn’t that she believed in fate or serendipity, but she didn’t not believe in them either.

“We’ve managed not to die,” the old woman replied.

“Do you think dying is likely?”

“Dying is certain. It’s the timing that’s unknown.”

Hannah pushed images of the dead security guard and the dead patient away. Thinking about who they were wasn’t going to help her. “I don’t see what has to be certain about it.”

“Maybe you won’t die here. But you will die some day. You can’t deny that.”

“Well…no, but that’s kind of morbid to think about.” Hannah thought she saw a glint of the old woman’s eyes in the darkness. In her normal life she liked talking about death and dying, but now that it felt as if these things were close at hand, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to say.

“Meredith will be back soon. And everything it going to be fine.”

“Right. If she doesn’t give us away.”

“She’s on our side now.”

“Is she?”

“Doesn’t she have to be?”

Silence again hung between them. “They won’t let her walk away from this either. As a traitor, she should be the most frightened.”

Hannah wasn’t sure about her feelings for Meredith, but she’d placed her trust in the nurse and perhaps the nurse had put trust in her as well.

But she didn’t want to think about Meredith now. There wasn’t anything she could do for her. Meredith would either succeed, or they were all in deep trouble.

Right now in the dark and waiting, she hoped that maybe the darkness would encourage the old woman to talk. “What happened to you here?” Hannah asked.

“This is a closet. Not a confessional.”

This time Hannah didn’t reply. She resisted the urge to fill the silence. Her dad once told her you had to give people time to answer rather than rush in to hear your own voice.

The old woman breathed in deeply. Hannah imagined she could feel her exhale.

“Maybe I was young once,” the old woman said. “Do you believe that? Youth is a fairy tale, don’t you know? Can’t you tell?”

Hannah sucked in her bottom lip to keep herself from talking. She didn’t move. Anything might quiet the old woman, and a moment like this would likely not happen again.

“Once upon a time there was a girl they called Zeenia. Her parents adored her, of course. Adored her more than good sense allowed, and so no one prepared this child for the real world because why bother when everyone thinks you’re a princess? A princess must never sully herself with the real world. Never mind that she will grow old one day. No one ever thinks of this. Do you?”

“What?” Hannah asked, surprised the old woman seemed to expect a real answer. “I guess I never thought about it.” Cinderella old? Sleeping Beauty? Snow White with gray in her hair and crow’s feet at her eyes?

“They think about it here,” the old woman said. “Here in the Asylum they think about it. They think about everything and plan accordingly.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Nobody wants an aging princess with a mind she knows how to use.”

“Were you a princess?” Hannah hoped her voice sounded as if she believed what she was hearing. Where did princesses still exist? “Are you from another country?”

“I’m from another plane of existence.”

Hannah stayed silent. Her questions weren’t getting her anywhere. Maybe the old woman needed to be locked up in the Asylum. Maybe all the patients were truly sick and she had this all wrong.

The old woman snorted. “I wore beautiful dresses once upon a time, my dear, but I tired of their weight. I complained to my husband, my prince, and he showed me that jewels and brocade are so heavy when wet that they’ll drag you down to the bottom of the sea.”

Hannah tried to make sense of what the old woman said. Sitting in the dark for so long was affecting her senses. She lost track of time and wondered if she were dreaming.

“But I was saved, if that’s what this life is called. Saved.”

The door startled them both. The room beyond the pantry was a paler darkness and they could just make out Meredith’s shape. “Hurry,” she said. “Your lives depend on it.”

Day Eleven and False Starts

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I had a decent chunk of time this afternoon to write. And I did. I sat on my patio and wrote about Nate’s experience with Security before he hurtled himself at Hannah in the hallway.

But I need to do more research on things like punches and kicks and injuries. (Fun times!) It didn’t ring true for me (though maybe that sounds weird in light of the story I’m writing), and I don’t know if readers need to know that anyway. Maybe I’ll come back to it in the rewrites.

At least, I know what happened!

So, I stopped writing, had guests over for dinner and Cosmos, and now before bed I find myself staring at the page again. Tomorrow is my first day of my summer semester, and I need to get some sleep.

I still wanted something to post.

*

Nate searched for a hiding place. He’d wait for Hannah to come back out. He’d follow her, and when she needed help, he’d be ready.

He spotted a large potted plant near a door. It wasn’t the best hiding place, but if she weren’t looking around, she’d miss him.
Running hurt, but he did his best to dash over and hide himself. A girl was already there, curled into a ball, her arms around her knees. She didn’t move except to look up him.

He wasn’t sure what to do. She wore sky blue pajamas with clouds dotted all over them.

“The donkey talks to me,” she said.

“What?” Had he heard her correctly? “Are you okay?” he asked.

“They cut off its head, but it still talks. Haven’t you seen it? It hangs on the wall in The Room.”

He didn’t have time to solve riddles from strange girls. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He looked up and down the hall for another hiding place. “I’m sorry.”

She nodded and returned to staring straight ahead.

A few yards away was an open door to a dark room. He’d try there. He took one step, stopped, and patted the girl’s shoulder. “Everything will be okay,” he mumbled. “You stay right there.” He didn’t know why he said it. He doubted it was true.

To his relief the dark room contained no surprises although he didn’t turn on the light to check. He settled in the shadows to wait. He had a good view of most of the wide dim hall. He was confident that he’d see anything coming.

Day Nine!

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It seems like everything is due at once. But I wrote another day.
Thanks for another day of reading.

*

Nate grew up a few houses down from Hannah. She played with him like she played with all the neighborhood kids, because he was there. He was always good to have on your team, any team. He ran fast, and he didn’t care about anyone’s size. He certainly didn’t care about getting into trouble. It’s why she’d asked him along on her plan in the first place.

He’d agreed of course. Nate never said no to a chance to show off his strength and his recklessness. Hannah, however, was never that impressed. She was practical when it came to devising a plan to sneak into the most heavily guarded place in town. But when she’d stood on the Asylum wall, she didn’t want him tagging along. He was supposed to go home. What fool thing had he done to end up and bloody mess in an Asylum hallway?

Hannah shook her head. She did have stupid friends.

Tommy came to mind. Where was he? He was more likely to do what she asked, but not likely to leave Nate on his own. At least, not when she was also around. Tommy knew more about the Asylum than most. His mother came to the Asylum every Christmas with a bag of clothes and games and books collected from around town. He was never allowed to go with her, but she talked about it sometimes. His mother was never sure any patients were given any of the donations, but she brought them every Christmas anyway. She’d been doing so since before she married Tommy’s dad.

Hannah realized she’d never asked Tommy’s mother why she cared. Maybe she too had a family member hidden away.

That she saw Nate and not Tommy nagged at Hannah. She’d asked Tommy because she trusted him. Because he’d side with her if Nate didn’t. Because he was always around. Tommy wouldn’t abandon anyone, not even Nate.

Nate would leave anyone.

“Girl,” the old woman said.

Hannah looked up. “What?” She wondered if the old woman really would have hurt Nate with her knife.

“You’re no good if you’re not focused,” the old woman said.

“I know,” Hannah replied. She pushed the boys from her mind. They were no good to her now. “I’m good. Don’t worry.”

The old woman smiled. “I don’t worry. I do.” She looked around the basement. “One of the first things I’m going to is gut this room.”

Meredith frowned. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean, when I’m in charge, everything’s going to change,” the old woman said. “Everything. Even you.”

A Brief Aside

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I’ve not written today yet. But yesterday it was brought to my attention that someone else has a website called, ta-dah!, The Fairy Tale Asylum.

Oi.

So, I’m pondering another name. Not sure if I’ll just flip this around to The Asylum of Fairy Tales or come up with something different. Keep the phrase Fairy Tale? I think it definitely needs to keep the word Asylum.

All right. I’ve got to go write something in the meantime.

A Lovely Day Four

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The problem with having an entire afternoon to write is that it feels as if the writing then has to be perfect. I mean, there was all this time!

But I remind myself that this is a rough draft. Rough. Lots of changes will happen before the end. And there’s no such thing as perfect.

Thanks for reading!

Nate remained on the floor, but he turned his head enough to focus on Hannah. “Han,” he whispered.

She turned away and pulled open the door to the basement stairs. The old woman dashed to her side, leaving Nate, dazed and wounded. The old woman shoved Hannah aside and slammed the door shut. “Lock it,” she said.

“What? I don’t have a key,” Hannah replied.

“We won’t get through this if you don’t think. You’ve got a lockpick. Use it.”

“Will that work?” Hannah had never considered locking a door with her lock picking skills.

“Make it work. Before that stupid boy or anyone else follows us.”

Hannah knelt down at the keyhole. “He’s not stupid.” But she thought about Nate, and she knew she liked him for his tough talk and dark eyes. His intelligence came scattershot.

“I’ve known men whose minds cut through the veils of the universe. That boy isn’t fit to cut butter for my toast.”

The lock dropped into place. “You don’t even know him.” Hannah stood.

“I saw him watching Security subdue a patient, and I saw him tackle you without thinking.”

“Yes, but…” A pounding on the door made Hannah jump. Nate’s voice, muffled, came through the heavy metal door. He seemed to call her name, but it was hard to sure.

“Don’t waste yourself on a boy who needs you to make excuses for him. Now move. We’re wasting time.”

Hannah followed the old woman down the stairs. “I don’t even know your name.”

“You knowing my name is too binding. Nothing good can come of it.” They reached the basement door. “We don’t know what or who will be inside, so be prepared.”

“I was in here earlier. No one else was there.”

“You’re not young enough to believe that nothing changes when you’re not looking.” The old woman opened the basement door.

Day Three

I spent my day in 90 degree heat trying to sell my wares. Art festivals take a lot of energy. I’m tired and want to go to bed, but I still wanted to write something. It would be a shame to skip a day this early in the month.

So, here we go.

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Hannah leapt the over the last few steps and nearly crashed into the stairwell door. The old woman hadn’t lost a step behind her.

Out in the hall, Hannah dashed by a security guard. He held a screaming, thrashing patient. Hannah didn’t look to see who the patient might be. She kept running. The end of the hall was a few feet away when something, someone, hurtled into her, knocking her to the floor.

She lashed out. Her lockpick made contact, and the hands on her let go. She didn’t look. She scrambled to her feet. She was determined to do what the old woman had told her to.

“Hannah!”

She recognized the voice. She dashed to a stop at the doorway and looked back. Nate, badly beaten and holding a hand to his arm, stared after her. “Hannah,” he said. “What the hell are you doing?”

Hannah stared back at him. “Nate?”

Too late, she saw the old woman.

The old woman came up behind him and kicked him in the back of his knee. Already injured and standing lopsided, he fell to the floor.

The knife glinted in the old woman’s hand.

“Wait!” Hannah shouted. “He’s my friend.”

The old woman paused. She looked down at the boy. He looked confused and he looked scared, but he made no move to get up or get away.

The old woman put her knife down. “You have stupid friends,” she said. “Now keep running.”

Story-a-Day Begins Again

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Story-a-Day May returns! And I’m revisiting last year’s characters in medias res. It may take a few days to get more comfortably back into that world, but here’s the start. Or rather, the middle.

___________

Hannah decided not to think about the dead man. They needed to run. She hoped the old woman was as good at running as she was at wielding a knife.

“The way is clear,” the old woman said. “We should have only three more security guards to worry about.”

Hannah resisted the impulse to look back at the body of the dead man. Her plan had gotten far away from her. What if this old woman were her grandmother? Was she related to a killer? That would’ve been cool an hour ago. But being in a dark room with a dead body unsettled her ideas about what she thought she wished. “Only three?” she asked the old woman. “It seemed like there were more than that.”

“That’s a trick. There are only three.” The old woman gestured for Hannah to step out into the hall. “There’s the staff too of course. But I’ve got my knife.”

“Right,” Hannah said moving into the hall. “I’d like to keep knife work to a minimum.”

“Smart girl. It would just low us down and leave a trail.”

Hannah didn’t argue with the old woman’s reasons. Why the old woman kept her knife hidden away didn’t matter. She tilted her head slightly to pinpoint where all the noise came from. The roof seemed like a dead end, but the commotion seemed below them. “Maybe we can find a place to hide until things blow over.”

“Nothing blows over, sweetheart. They just lie in wait.” The old woman stepped further away from the relative safety of her room. “We need to get to the basement. That’s where everything important is and the cameras aren’t.”

“But we’ll be seen. Caught. Everyone is between us and the basement.”

“You broke into this place and you wait until now to be afraid?” the old woman asked.

A scream came from downstairs. “Everyone’s got to afraid some time,” Hannah answered.

“Why?”

“Haven’t you ever been afraid?”

The old woman shrugged. “I’ll be afraid if we keep wasting time here debating fear and escape plans. Move, girl. Move.” The woman took off down the hall.

The old woman’s speed surprised Hannah, and she had to sprint to catch up.

At the stairwell door the old woman stopped. She wasn’t out of breath. “When I open this door,” she said, “you run. Run to the bottom of the stairs. The stairs to the basement are on the other side of the building, so we’ll have to run down the main hall. Listen to me and don’t stop. If someone grabs you, fight enough to get away, then keep going. Don’t listen to their threats. Understood?”

Hannah nodded. She had her lock pick in her hand. It had already proven a useful weapon though she hoped she wouldn’t need like that again.