The 9th Installment

Hannah skidded to a stop. “Oh, hell.”

“You,” was all Nurse Stillmark managed to say at the sight of Hannah bursting into the room. The nurse saw the old woman and leapt back. “Her? You brought her with you? Are you insane?”

Hannah glanced at the old woman who held her knife down by her side. “I must be. I’m here, aren’t I?”

Nurse Stillmark took a syringe out of her pocket. “She’d be happy to kill us both.”

“I would indeed,” the old woman said. “Or you, anyway. You and your needles and orders. Someone should lock you in a room and see how it feels to be taken away piece by piece, one needle at a time.”

Nurse Stillmark flushed. “How dare you? You’re nothing but a…” She couldn’t think fast enough for an insult. “Everything you’ve done… You’ve no right to speak to me that way.”

The old woman laughed. “I have every right in the universe. What did you think was going to happen when she let me out of my room? That I’d search you out in gratitude?”

“It’s your own fault you ended up here.” Nurse Stillmark believed that with her whole heart. The management may have been demanding, the hours long, and the work unthanked, but she held her head high. She protected her community! “You’re a danger to society.”

The old woman leaned in. “Any woman’s a danger who lives her life as she sees fit. Don’t think you wouldn’t be on the other end of that needle if you dared do the same.” The old woman looked around the basement room. “So, this is the almighty basement where you people lock away our property.”

Nurse Stillmark turned the syringe in her hand. “I do live my life as I see fit.”

The old woman snorted and approached the nearest locker.

“Just leave. If you want your freedom so much, why aren’t you running as far as you can?” Nurse Stillmark huffed as she saw no one was going to answer. “You’ve no right to wander around in here.”

“I don’t rely on you for my right to do what I please.” The old woman stood in front of the locker. “Oh, look. The lock’s been picked already.” She smiled at Hannah and winked.

“That, you fool girl, is why I haven’t killed you yet.”

* * *

People in town noticed the lights and the noise from the Asylum. Once people noticed, they stared and exchanged nervous glances with anyone nearby. No one remembered noise ever escaping the Asylum. No one remembered the grounds ever shining so bright. No one knew if they should call the police or pretend not to notice anything.

The doors Hannah and Nurse Stillmark hadn’t unlocked were unlocked by other patients. Some patients found clever hiding places. Others ran straight at Security as soon as they saw them. Some patients were easy to subdue, while others fashioned weapons from found objects and random things. One guard lost his fight with five patients who realized the trash bin liners worked as well as rope.

A few patients had other plans. A brother and sister, long kept in rooms far apart, embraced upon finding each other in the Asylum kitchen. They then crawled along the cabinets and left no container untouched. They stuffed themselves.

One young man stayed in his room indifferent to the wide-open door and the chaos in the hall. He sat on the edge of his bed as if waiting for something or someone to come tell him what to do next.

A woman ran until she caught her reflection in a pane of glass. She stood captivated.

Nate ignored the rush of patients around him and they ignored him. He pounded on the basement door until his hand hurt. He shouted through the door until his voice went raw. The door didn’t even rattle when he pulled on it until his shoulder twinged. He put his eye to the crack between the door and its frame, but the door was too well made and too tightly sealed. He saw nothing. Nor did he see the guard rushing up behind him.


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