The 12th Installment

Nurse Stillmark pushed by the old woman to the medicine cabinet. The pounding on the door increased. The door shook.

She took a bottle and a syringe from the shelf and deftly emptied the bottles contents into the barrel. “Once the seal on the door is broken,” she said without looking at either member of her staring audience, “anyone can find it. Anyone can enter.”

Hannah glanced from the old woman’s knife to the nurse’s needle to her own delicate looking lock pick. “I don’t understand. How did I find it then if—”

Something large and heavy crashed into the door causing it to warp. Hannah changed her focus. “I fought these guys earlier. Like I don’t know how many times I can get away.”

“Don’t assume they’re guys,” the nurse said.

“Maybe you’d like to ask them to come back later when you’re rested,” said the old woman.

The moment a few weeks back flashed through Hannah’s thoughts. “It’s no big deal,” she’d said to Nate and Clem, enjoying their awe at her daring. Suddenly she felt her youth compared to the women who weren’t there to fawn over her recklessness. She braced herself for whoever was going to come through the door.

But the pounding stopped. The three waited. Stealthily, Nurse Stillmark moved to the door. An empty corridor greeted them.

“Where’d they go?” Hannah asked.

“To a bigger threat.” Nurse Stillmark inspected the damaged doorframe.

“Then they underestimate me.” The old woman tucked her knife away. “Good. Now we go to the office.”

“No. I know where we can hide.” She straightened her uniform. Other than the cuts on her face, she looked remarkably like she’d just arrived at work.

“I didn’t get out of my room to hide. I’m certainly not hiding with you.”

“Go with me or end up back in your room, locked away and more sedated than ever.”

The old woman turned to Hannah. “Girl. You’re the deciding vote. Go hide with Nurse Death Needle here or come to the office with me and find whatever it is you’ve come to here to find. You’re looking for something of value, aren’t you? You think she’s going to let you find it?”

Nurse Stillmark seethed. “Security won’t give you a scolding and send you home. If you don’t want to end up in a room of your own, come with me.” She gestured at the old woman. “She’ll get us killed.”

“I want to go to the office.” Only a couple hours ago Hannah had the file cabinet at her fingertips. She couldn’t let that go.

“What’s wrong with you? You wanted to set patients free. Now they’re free. See? Mission accomplished. You only need safe passage home and I can do that. I’m a nurse. I do no harm.”

The old woman laughed, sharp and acidic. “Oh Meredith,” she said to the nurse. “There’s no patient here more delusional than you.”

“We’re going to the office,” Hannah said. “I’ve decided.” Her inexperience bleated in her head, but she wouldn’t let go of what had really inspired her. Setting patients free meant something, but it was not the secret in her heart. “It’s the office or nothing.”

* * *

Odelia Roe debated which flight of stairs to take. More chaos and shouts clamored from below, but it had to be the way out. Upstairs was only one more floor and the attic. But downstairs contained more adults, security, and nurses. Upstairs…and she tilted her head to listen better…seemed almost empty now. Anxious, unclear voices drifted down. A few hesitant, straggling patients wouldn’t bother her. They’d leave her be.

But surely that was a dead end. She took one step down and looked back up. The paint peeled more in the highest corners and cobwebs cast shadows in the fluorescent light. The light’s buzzing zipped around Odelia’s head like a fly trying to escape. Maybe the attic was the best place to hide and wait for quiet. And come up with a plan. Now at 13, Odelia understood it was one thing to escape from a terrible place, but it was another to have a place to escape to.

In the attic, Odelia saw the open window. The nighttime breeze rippled her pajamas and she grinned. A breeze! The sky! She dashed over and leaned out. Stars! She’d have a better view out on the roof, so out she climbed. Hugging herself in delight, a cloud moved into view. A storm cloud most likely, dark and moving fast.

Her heart leapt. Not a cloud, but birds, so many birds. And they were coming for her.

If any one of the patients or staff on the Asylum grounds looked up at the right moment, they’d see a patch of pale blue pajamas in the moonlight. Another child taken and the night wasn’t even halfway done.

To continue, go to the 13th installment.