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.”

I have not given up.

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I have not given up on my story. Even though I missed the end of Story-a-Day May, I’m going to keep working on this. It was hard though, getting back into the plot. I haven’t written an outline or taken notes, so I get stuck. I know only a fraction more than you do about what is going to happen next. When I try to outline, the desire just to tell the story gets the better of me.

Also, I’ve got notes back from a reader on my second novel. I’ve got to go through those. Then the publisher looks at the what-I’d-like-to-think-is-final draft and makes more notes. Then the publisher works on the formatting and the cover. Then it will be published. Eventually. It is not a fast process.

I’m trying to get more of my art out in the world too. In spite of a few shows and festivals, I’m woefully naive about the art world. Certainly, I know more than I used to, but how to make a go of it still eludes me.

And I’ve got an idea for other stories. You know those ridiculous boxes that a person can stand in while money is blown around by a large fan and the person tries desperately to catch as many dollar bills as possible in the allotted amount of time? I feel like my brain is like that.

Anyway, here is the next installment of the story. Thanks for reading!

*

Tommy forgot the way he’d come from the Asylum. He took several turns and suspected the roads were purposefully taking him in the wrong direction. That was crazy, of course.

He gave up on finding the back entrance headed to the entrance everyone in town knew, the front gates. Hannah’s father had said nothing since they pulled away from his house. Tommy wasn’t sure if he should make small talk, but he’d been taught to let the adults take the lead in a conversation. Silence felt right for the situation anyway.

What met them at the Asylum gates surprised them both. A crowd of people stood at the gates staring out. Tommy stopped the truck, the headlights shining through iron bars and over the crowd. Many of them were in pajamas.

“My Hannah responsible for this?” her father asked staring through the windshield back at the patients.

“I don’t rightfully know, sir,” Tommy said. “But you know, Han. She does what she thinks is right.”

Mr. Wygant sighed. “It’s a lovely day, my boy, when what she thinks is right and what actually is right align.”

“But she’s smart.” Tommy didn’t take his eyes away from the crowd. They didn’t appear concerned or interested in the arrival of the truck. They didn’t even blink in the glare of the truck’s headlights.

“I just wish she were smart enough to stay out of trouble.” He didn’t stop watching the crowd either. In the crowd were boys and girls, adults and children, the healthy looking and a few with oxygen tanks and canes.

“Ain’t nobody that smart all the time, sir,” Tommy replied.

Hannah’s father let out a hint of a laugh. “You ready?” he asked.

“Ready for what?” Tommy gave Mr. Wygant a quick look. He figured he knew what the man meant, but he hoped otherwise.

“Well, I think we both know Hannah isn’t going to be waltzing through that gate on her own. We’re going to have to go in. We’re going to have to deal that crowd.”

“Maybe I could drive the truck through the gates, sir. Smash right through. They’d all take off runnin’ and we’d be in.”

Mr. Wygant frowned.

Tommy cleared his throat. “Sorry, sir. I wouldn’t. I’m just a little afraid of all those people. They don’t look right.”

“Imagine how we must look to them. No, my boy. You and me, we’re going to walk up to that gate and talk them like decent folks.”

“Yes, sir.”

“We’ll tell them what we’re going to do and let them move out of the way.” Mr. Wygant put his hand on his door handle.

“Sir,” Tommy said. “What do you think they’ll do when the gate’s open?”

“I suspect some of them will end back where they started, and a fair few will act free. But we don’t need to worry ourselves about that now. We’re here for Hannah.”

The teenager and the father sat in the cab another minute in silence watching the unmoving crowd. Finally, the boy spoke. “I’m ready when you are, sir.”

Mr. Wygant sat up straighter. “Remember,” he said. “I’m doing this for Hannah.” And with that he opened his door.

Day 19. Made it this far.

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Thanks for reading!

*

The unlocked, unguarded gate further disturbed Hasher Mansfield. He didn’t expect it to be easy to leave the Asylum grounds. He hadn’t made his delivery and he had a bloodied teen stashed under a blanket.

He’d been prepared to drive full throttle through the gate if need be, but finding it abandoned made him come to a stop. He tapped his steering wheel, and debated the wisdom of getting out to look around. “Stupid,” he muttered.

Looking left to right, hardly keeping his eyes on the road, Hasher drove up to the gate and used his fender to push the gate open. He did this slowly while praying to attract no attention. He was almost through when the gate caught on something. Hasher stopped.

He applied a little gas, but the truck didn’t move. The gate’s opening was wide, but not wide enough. He backed up a foot, and the gate moved with him. He tried to think of what could have caught on the metal rods of the gate.

He looked back over his shoulder and down at the lumpy form in the back seat. “All right, kid,” he said. “Whoever you are. Mind the store ‘til I get back.” No reply was forthcoming.

Hasher sighed. The world was dark beyond the glow of his headlights. “I never should’ve taken this job. Mary told me not to.” He pushed open the heavy truck door. He listened. “Even the dead aren’t that silent. Hell. You’d think I believed in ghost stories.” He dropped out of the truck.

He took three steps to where the gate had caught on a forgotten split in the fender. The wind picked up, and Hasher heard something other than the wind in the trees.

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.

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.

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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.