The 26th Installment

Hannah climbed back through the window into the attic. “How’d you find me? What happened?” She stepped back when Clem moved as if to hug her.

He dropped his arms to his side. “We found a nurse—”

“But why—”

“She was hurt, so your dad—”

“Did you tell my dad—”

“Just come on, Hannie.” Clem took several strides across the room. “I still need to find help.”

She followed. The pink in the air had faded, whisps of it coiling along the floorboards. A desire to rest pulled at her, but she shook it off. “Help? For the nurse? No-no-no.”

Clem took the stairs two steps at a time. Hannah swayed slightly at the first step. The furious sounds of bird wings beating still filled her head. And then there was Clem and her dad…and where was Nate…and what about the nurse and the old woman? But the wings echoed. She leaped over the last five steps. The hard landing jolted her thoughts into place. One thing at a time, she told herself, and they reached the ground floor.

A few patients and a security guard were just sitting up from where they’d passed out. Soon they’d regain their senses, and once up, they’d be in the way. The teens exchanged looks before taking off.

The run down the wide hall and veering around patients exhilarated both teens. They ran as if they were up to their usual pranks and tearing away from adults and repercussions. The front doors hung wide open. Outside where the pink air thinned and lifted more quickly, more patients were on their feet. But no one paid them any attention.

Rounding the corner, Hannah rushed at her dad, who stood in his pajamas and bathrobe, rubbing his eyes and clearing his throat.

She threw her arms around him nearly sending them both to the ground.

“Han!” He hugged her back. “You okay?”

She caught her breath.

Mr. Robinson opened his mouth then closed it. Opened it again and still said nothing. He looked at Clem and back to his daughter. “We’ll talk about this when we get home,” he finally said.

Hannah pulled away. “No. We can’t go home yet.”

Clem moaned. “Hannie. C’mon.”

Lights from the Asylum cast rectangles of green around them. Dew now coated the stretches of grass. The night sky, if anyone had troubled to look up, seemed less black, the stars less sharp.

“You don’t understand!”

Clem and her dad argued at once, but stronger voice interrupted. Shouts came from nearby. The three of them looked for the direction the voices came from, angry and dangerous.

They focused on the storage building. A bang rattled the windows. Then a window shattered, blown apart by fire. Screams came from all around. An alarm sounded. Someone in the building shrieked.    

The 27th Installment