I lay beneath my bed, my heart throbbing as I tried to catch my breath. How long have I been here? Everything before these walls is gone. While the sun keeps its guard I’m a captive of dormitory 66, a mouse in a nest packed and overflowing with rats, but when the moon turns her face from this place, I have my final chance. Saint Gabriel’s Asylum has been abandoned for years, or so it is told to those who don’t wish to know. The state had shut it down 100 years ago when it had failed to comply with the new codes. Legendary for its cruel treatment, it was rumored to have been experimenting with far worse, more advanced, therapies. Though the terror is silent, the torturous work continues as it always had.
I peek out and up at the crack in the tattered curtains. When the moon hits its highest point, the great door will open. I close my eyes and clasp my hands in silent prayer.
“Three,” I say at the first stroke of midnight, the top lock releasing. “Two—One.” The rhythmic pattern of the tumbling pins signals the coming for another girl. As the hefty steel door moves outwards, I fight to drag air into my lungs. It’s as if the oxygen has turned to gel. In the doorway stands a silent attendant, his towering stature an unspoken threat.
Row by row he walks passed beds of sedated girls. My mouth goes dry when I realize he’s looking for me.
I close my eyes. Please go by.
At the foot of my cot, he stops. He grunts and kicks the cot’s nearest leg.
Reaching an arm out I edged my way in to the dim light of the room. I don’t dare look him in the eye. Shivering, I pull my tattered hospital gown tighter around my bones. With a gruff hand and a tight grip, the attendant pulls me toward the door. Not a word of reproach or encouragement escaping his lips as I push away wisps of neglected hair clinging to my clammy skin.
As I’m lead in to the corridor, sounds of anguish fill my ears. Screaming and crying mingle in the air creating a melody befitting the environment. Desperate for another sound, I close my eyes and began to count my footfalls. I’ve memorized each step I must take, what doors I have to go through. I can account for every second I will spend beyond the confines of dormitory 66. Perhaps tonight I can find a moment unaccounted for, a moment to find my freedom.
When we reach the infirmary, the attendant forces me to lie down on an ice cold metal table. The smooth leather straps dig into my wrists when he fastens me into place. After a moment, he leaves me alone in the glare of the white washed walls. Chemical fumes settle over me and the room blurs a little. I thrash against the straps, but it’s as if they become tighter with every movement.
Entering silently, Dr. Andrews glances at me without really seeing me. His countenance is that of a much older man, his life’s work having etched Saint Gabriel’s story onto his face in deep lines, his anger and guilt reflected in his eyes.
“Please,” I say, “I can’t take this, not again. Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone what goes on here.” I try my hardest not to cry, but I can’t completely control it.
With meticulous care, Dr. Andrews lays out his tool, most of which are of his own invention. Some of them I haven’t seen before. I shudder as the clatter of steel reverberates within the room. Gulping, I glance towards the door.
“What am I doing?”
When I hesitate, he picks up a syringe and begins filling it.
“If you aren’t going to talk, what’s the use of keeping you awake?”
“You’re trying to find a cure.”
The ghost of a smile echoes on his face. “A cure for what?”
If he injects me I’ll be all but asleep, I can’t take that living nightmare again. Every time it takes longer for it to wear off. “A cure for your daughter. Please,” I say, my voice cracking, “I’ll stop squirming, I promise.”
Chuckling, Dr. Andrews sighs. “Is that so? I seem to recall hearing that before.” His expression darkens, a fire igniting in his eyes. “You were lying then too.”
I look away when he brings the needle towards my arm. As I feel it prick my skin, I bite my Lip until I taste blood. All too soon needling sensations begin to crawl up from my toes, my eyelids slowly freezing in place, my muscles becoming stiff.
When Dr. Andrews is certain the cocktail has done its job, he begins to undo my straps.
As the straps fall away I scream, before the medication can take this from me too. I fight to move, but I can’t. I’m completely at the mercy of a man to whom mercy means nothing. “Now, let’s begin.” Stepping to the counter, Dr. Andrews picks up a black box I haven’t seen before. Thin copper wires seem to grow like hair from it, at the end of each of them is a glistening steel needle. Stepping back, Dr. Andrews watches me.
The needles are so fine that I hardly feel them going into place.
“Are you scared yet?” he says.
The lights begin to flicker, intense heat announcing the position of each needle in my flesh.
My heart beats faster and faster until I feel like it might explode.
“Are you scared?” He says.
I try to scream, but it’s no use.
Reaching for the box, he turns a nob and the smell of burning hair fills my nostrils. “Are you scared?”
With everything I have I fight to move. I can feel my body giving up. I can feel myself slipping away. I don’t want to die.
“Are you scared?”
I look at him, my tears flowing freely.
“Good,” he says, turning off the machine and unhooking me. He runs his hand over my face, closing my eyes. “When I count down from three, you’ll be awake. Three—Two—One.”
I open my eyes, rolling off the couch in Dr. Andrew’s office and heaving onto the carpet as reality floods back in to remove the nightmare.
“Very good, Alyssa.”
“How many more times do we have to do this, Da—Dr. Andrews?”
“We do this until you can bring yourself out of the dream, or you’re aware that it is a dream,” he says. Removing his glasses, he rubs his eyes. “You signed up for this, so do try not to complain.” Waving a hand to the attendant he sighs. “Take Ms. Andrews back to dormitory 66.”
Thank you so much for reading! I apologize for the terrible tardiness of this story. Thank you all so very much for your patience. Have a question you’d like to “ask” Alyssa? Leave it in a comment below and I might just include it in the next character interview. Don’t forget, you could be the next Ruling Reader. To find out how, click here.