Returning to the Asylum

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The fire roared across the grounds, and they all scrambled to get out of the way. The flames rolled after them as if it wanted to find every soul in reach.

Hannah ran through the front gates. She assumed the others were behind her. They should have been, but she didn’t look back. She kept running, faster than she’d ever run in her life. Down the dirt road, pain stabbing at her side, her breath burning in her chest. Coming to the curve, she finally stopped. Gasping, she leaned forward, her hands on her knees. “Nate? Clem? Mer…edith.” She took another short, sharp breath. “Dad?”

No one replied. She straightened up and turned around. She was alone. In the distance, behind the stone walls, the fire raged. Orange sparks and gray ash spun overhead in the night sky.

Dread flooded Hannah’s heart. She had to go back.

Story-a-Day May will not be stopped.

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Every time I take this challenge on, I’m certain I can’t get it done. Twenty-days left…oh boy.

Anyway, here’s a Fairy Tale Ayslum side story.

The woman wished for a child, and she read everything she could, hoping for magic. Perhaps faeries, perhaps someone more real, learned of her wish. Whoever the good soul was decided to make the woman’s wish come true.

At sunrise the woman, thinking she heard something strange, opened the front door. At her feet, asleep and wrapped in a pastel blue blanket, was a baby.

Her heart soared. All of her talismans and charms and prayers and wishes had worked! The morning sun broke over the world, and the woman scooped the baby up from his basket and held him close.

He, she was certain, would be a prince among men.

But as the afternoon wore on, the woman noticed things. The baby didn’t coo like she imagined. His skin wasn’t porcelain like hers. His eyes were the color of ordinary coffee. The more she watched him crawl around her floor, the more common he seemed. He didn’t seem magical at all. And she realized she had no diapers, no formula, and no crib.

The woman tried a list of princely names, but he didn’t answer to a one. She put him on her hip, but he didn’t smell of roses or sweets. He grabbed at her hair.

There had to be a mistake. They’d brought her the wrong baby.

Well, no one could be expected to keep a baby clearly meant for someone else. She stared out her window and a panic bloomed in her mind. That someone else might have her baby, her special baby, and such an ordinary someone couldn’t be counted on to give back a princely child any more that a pauper could be expected to turn in a goodly sum found on the road.

How could fate have allowed this to happen?

The woman carried the baby to the road and began to walk. Inferior people might have her child, but she wouldn’t be tricked into caring for their unfortunate wretch. She was too smart for that. She had her pride.

She walked the back roads. It wouldn’t do for anyone to see her with this baby in her arms. She walked over the bridge. She walked five miles, and the baby began to fuss. Monstrous, she thought. How could they have thought this was her baby?

Just when she was certain she could go no further, she reached the gates. They were open. Exhausted, she reached the front doors of her destination. She knocked.

A nurse opened the door, and without a word, she took the baby from the woman’s arms. “They got it all wrong,” the woman said.

The nurse nodded.

“Do you know where my baby is? Who has my little prince?”

The nurse smiled. “You can be on your way.”

“But it’s not fair,” the woman said. “I’ve waited so long!”

“And yet you’re willing to wait all over again,” the nurse said, and she shut the asylum doors.

She’s still there.

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I’ve got a multitude of writing projects (because I want to work on all them all the time), but I’ve got a writing schedule now and want to continue this story once a week until the end of the story.

In the meantime, this is where the story picks up.

A cloud of blackbirds descended from the sky. The birds swooped and soared over the asylum grounds. They were a black cloud in the night sky and though they didn’t caw, everyone heard the whoosh and flutter of wings.

Lights in the Asylum flickered. A small girl was climbing through a window onto the roof. Unwittingly she stood on the same spot as the boy had earlier. But when she saw the birds, she reached out to them.

They descended. Wings enveloped her, and when they lifted off again, the girl was gone. If anyone looked up at the right moment when a bit of moonlight hit the flock in the right way, they’d have seen a patch of pale blue of a nightdress.

The night was only halfway done.

Thanks for reading.

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 25 of Story-a-Day May.

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Trying to understand my characters. Almost to the end of Story-a-Day May! Woo!

Thank you for reading.

*

Tommy’s inability to make a decision grew the closer into town he drove. Going home seemed a bad idea. His parents would call the police. They’d never liked Hannah, and this would confirm their suspicions that she was a wholly unsuitable girl.

He took turn after turn driving to where he hadn’t consciously decided to go, Hannah’s house. The sight of Hannah’s dad standing in the driveway took Tommy by surprise.

Tommy parked in the street in front of the house. He rolled down the window. “Mr. Wygant,” he called.

Hannah’s dad titled his head to the side. “Tommy?”

“Hannah home?” Tommy asked.

“Isn’t Hannah with you?”

Tommy frowned. “She ain’t with me, Mr. Wygant. That’s why I’m asking.”

Gerald Wygant shuffled over to the truck. “Why are you driving this truck thing?”

“I think Hannah’s in trouble?”

“That’s why you’re driving a truck?” Mr. Wygant touched the truck door.

Tommy always found Hannah’s dad frustrating, but he was brought up to be polite to anyone older no matter what. “Sir. If you get in the truck, I’ll take you where Hannah probably is.”

“I thought you drove that Chevy pick-up.”

“Yes, sir. I borrowed this. All right?”

Mr. Wygant nodded, and he walked around the front of the truck through the glare of the headlights to the passenger side door. He pulled himself into the truck. “You look like you’ve got blood on your face,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” Tommy replied. “I got myself into something of a scuffle.”

“Is Hannah all right?” He buckled his seatbelt.

“I hope so, sir. I really do. But that’s why I’ve come to you, sir. I thought a proper grown up was necessary.”

Mr. Wygant looked alarmed. “She’s not in jail?”

“No, no, no,” Tommy said, pulling the truck back into the road. “Hannah’s too smart to end up jail, sir.”

“What’s she done?” He fussed with the folds of his bathrobe. “I’m in my pajamas, you know.”

Tommy stumbled over what to say. “It don’t matter none about what you’re wearing.” He wasn’t sure that was true, but he hadn’t paid attention to what Hannah’s father was wearing.

They were nice pajamas, and the robe was monogramed. Her father didn’t look half bad. “Hannah…” He trailed off. He didn’t want to get Hannah into more trouble, but he saw no way around it. “Hannah went to the Asylum. I don’t think she’s come back out yet.”

Mr. Wygant’s head snapped up. “What’s she done? Say that again?”

“She’s gone into the Asylum, sir.”

“Why in blue blazes has she done that?”

Tommy saw no reason why the truth would be helpful. “Just curiosity. You know how she is, sir. She’s always wanting to know things.”

Mr. Wygant opened his mouth the say something, but ended up saying nothing. He stared out the windshield. “I’ve warned her. I’ve warned her a hundred times not to go the Asylum. Why does she never listen to me?”

Tommy considered Mr. Wygant, and he weighed his words carefully. “All due respect, sir, and I really ain’t meaning to offend you in any way. But have you ever told Hannah anything useful?”

Mr. Wygant’s eyes widened. “Tommy Adams. I’m her father.”

Tommy kept his eyes on the road. There was no traffic, and most of the town’s lights flashed yellow. He was making good time back to the Asylum and his stomach was in knots. “I know that, sir. I do. And you’re darn good dad. You put food on the table and you never raise a finger to your family. Why, I think you’re the nicest dad I know. But your daughter is smarter than the two of us combined, and when you don’t answer her questions, she figures out how to find out for herself. No disrespect meant, sir.”

“She’s gone to find out about my mother, hasn’t she?”

“I reckon she has, sir. It burns in her, wanting to know. I don’t claim to understand it, but she isn’t going to have no peace until she knows.”

Mr. Wygant nodded. “I tell you what, Tommy. If we find my Hannah safe and sound, I promise you that I’ll tell her everything she wants to know. All right?”

Tommy nodded. Silently he prayed that they weren’t too late.

Day 24. (Or Why Is This Month Lasting So Long?)

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Yesterday I couldn’t think of anything. I”m working on a major art project and getting ready for a trip and generally distracted.

I’m trying to have a career of making things (stories and art) and I still don’t know how to pull that off.

Anyway, I wrote something for day 24. Thank goodness this month is almost over! Thanks for reading.

*

Hannah’s father couldn’t sleep. He wandered through the house in dark unsure what to do. He wasn’t used to sleeplessness.

Television didn’t interest him at that hour. The book he’d been reading failed to hold his attention. He walked in circles around the living room. A school photo of his daughter caught his eye. She worried him every day.

Children always looked sweet and innocent in their sleep. He stared down the hallway. He’d like to see Hannah as his little girl again. Maybe if he peeked in on her, he’d remember how she used to be.

Stepping quietly, he made his way down the hall. Her bedroom door opened without a sound. He stood in the doorway and tried to see his daughter sleeping in her childhood bed. But it was too dark.

He stepped into the room. He squinted. It almost seemed as if the bed were empty, but that couldn’t be right. He stepped closer, wishing he could turn on a light. He’d be embarrassed though if she found him checking in on her.

It really did seem as if her bed were empty. He strained to listen. The room was quiet. Quiet as if no one else were in the room. He leaned forward and closed his eyes expecting to hear her breathing.

Nothing.

He walked over to the bed not ready to believe the bed was vacant. He sat on the edge of the bed and reached out. He felt the blanket and the sheet. He felt the flat emptiness of the bed. “Hannah?”

He waited. “Hannah?” he said louder this time.

He turned on the bedside lamp. His daughter was gone.

His mind raced to understand. She was a teen. He’d snuck too as a teen. But where would she go? She had no boyfriend. He frowned. He thought she didn’t have a boyfriend, but of course she could be keeping some rogue a secret. His stomach twisted. How often did she sneak out for a secret life? What did she get up to? He didn’t like his thoughts.

He hurried out of the room. He could tell his wife, but he thought the better of it. He grabbed his car keys. He find his child on his own. He knew where his search should start.

Day 22

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Still here! Next week, I’ll be without a computer for a few days! Egads! I’ll write on paper, but I won’t be posting. But that’s not until next week. In the meantime, I managed something for today.

Thank you for reading!

*

Everyone in town said a flock of blackbirds from the east brought bad dreams to everyone and misfortune to a chosen one.

Hannah loved to watch the blackbirds though. Breaking her parents and her community’s rules, she would climb a tree as high as she could and look for swooping dark cloud of birds. Weeks could pass before she’d see them, sometimes in the distance and sometimes surprisingly close.

If she were caught up in the tree with her father’s binoculars, her mother would rage. “Why do like to invite trouble?” her mother would shout. “Do we not provide you with enough problems?”

One night at dinner, when Hannah was fourteen, she asked her mother, “Which is worse: looking for blackbirds or climbing trees?”

Her mother slammed down her fork. “They both cause broken bones and bad luck. That’s what matters.”

“But how can birds break bones?” Hannah asked.

Her father focused on his food. His pasta seemed quite interesting to him at the moment.

“Hannah Clare,” her mother replied. “Why must you always ruin dinner with nonsensical questions?”

“But—”

Her mother pointed at her father. “His side of the family I blame for this. Curiosity pollutes the entire bloodline.” She dropped her hand to the table and turned to stare out the dining room window. “You don’t have to feed your curiosity. You don’t.”

Hannah knew she should keep quiet, but the same impulse that drove her to the treetops threw words out of her mouth. “I’d rather feed it than drown it like you do.”

The slap Hannah got ended the conversation. It did nothing to end Hannah’s fascination with the rumors about the birds.