The 27th Installment

Hannah ran at the building. Her father reached for her, but she was already halfway there. The heat stopped her. Using her arm to block the glare of light, she tired to see past the flames. The old woman, the hem of her dress smoldering ran out. She stopped at Hannah’s side, coughing and hacking. “You’re here.”

“What happened?”

The old woman pushed her back. “Get away. It’s not safe this close.”

Hannah stepped backwards away from the storage building. She couldn’t take her eyes from it. She’d never seen a fire outside of a fireplace, and it seemed to her untrained eye like a creature struggling to free itself from unseen bonds. “What’re we going to do?”

The old woman nodded toward the Asylum. “Get out of the way.”

Hannah turned around and stared.

“You think a place like this isn’t prepared?” the old woman asked.

There was a fire hydrant on the grounds of course. And patients were dragging a hose to it. The bald girl helped hold the hose while someone else fussed with attaching it. Other patients came running from the main building with fire hydrants. Her dad had taken one and was now pointing it at the fire. From the far corner another couple of patients stood with a garden hose, spraying the water as best they could.

One patient stood frozen in the shadows and a few others ran the other direction. One patient showed up with a bucket of dirt and tossed it at the flames. The fire hose was secure, and the patients, four working together, unrolled it across the grass. Seconds later the hose came to life.

“Where the nurse?” Hannah asked even as she remained captivated by the scene. The patients showed far more coordination than she’d thought possible so many hours ago when she’d unlocked them from their rooms.

The old woman’s silence finally pulled Hannah’s gaze away from the powerful water spray subduing the fire. “Is she in there?”

The old woman shrugged. “She ran the other direction.”

“But the other direction would be away from the door. The exit.”


The patients were winning. The fire shrank more and more. The one patient returned with another bucket of dirt. Mr. Robinson and Clem were talking to patients, though Hannah couldn’t hear their conversations.

“What if she’s hurt?” Hannah asked.


Hannah wrapped her arms around herself and looked up. Delicious shades of pink edged the tops of the trees. The stars were fading back to invisibility. The Asylum welcomed a new day.

The 28th and Final Installment