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Dan slowly makes his way up the granite steps of the large daunting building. He didn’t even know places like this existed anymore. He has only seem similar settings on shows like, “Ghost Hunters,” and in horror films. The whole building seems to watch him through its dusty windows.
The building is a large one, about three stories high, made of old brick. It has two watch towers. He can feel those watching him too. It seems out of place in the middle of nowhere like this. It’s like a circus tent looming over a dreary city. He eyes the guards walking beside him. They are each holding on to one of his arms. They are wearing old fashion navy blue uniforms with gold double breasted buttons going up them. These men are solemn figures, and they are both pretty buff. They hadn’t said a word to him the whole ride here.
Dan had taken a blue bus, the same color as their uniforms, but with a little more green, to get here. It was a long ride and every time it would seem to come to an end it would just keep going. The whole time he pretty much lost his sense of direction. They seemed to pass the same tree twice or turn around so many times it didn’t make sense anymore. But that was past him. The bus had slowly rode through the cast iron gate and past the rusty barb wired fences. He is here now and that’s good… right?
A man watches him from the third floor window. Dan looks back at the guards, his mouth open to speak but as he is, he notices something dart out of his vision. He looks back up at the window and the man is gone. ‘Ok then..’ he thinks.
As soon as he sets foot in the building the atmosphere seems to change around him, to shift, to get darker. He finds himself softly gasping as he enters the main lobby. There was a huge magnificent stair case that kept going around and around. A huge ornate crystal chandelier hangs over it, lighting up the space and reflecting off of the drab walls. It had an opening at each level. ‘That would fun to slide down,’ he thinks. Why was he suddenly thinking like a child? Maybe it was because he felt lost like one. He staggers over to the beginning of the steps and cranes his neck to look up them. The man he had seen before looks down at him and moments later he darts away out of Dan’s capable vision. Again he misses seeing him well enough to make out his features, but it was definitely him.
Soon the guards are pulling him along to a room on the right of the entrance. They strip him down to nudity and shower him in some hot chemicals. When he is done he feels as though he has lost a layer of skin. He grimaces, rubbing at one of his now reddish arms. Before he can go to grab his clothes the guards grab his hands and skillfully clip all his fingernails short and perfect. They didn’t even need to be filed. The guards look him over, he is still naked, nod at each other and pull something out of nowhere. They toss him the bundle and he looks down at it.
“Thanks, but um when do I-” he looks up to see the large iron door sliding to a shut as the two leave. “Great,” he mutters to himself, “just peachy..” He opens the bundle. Clothes. What had they done with his old ones? He puts them on and looks at himself in the mirror. They are exactly his size. On top his is wearing a plain spotless white t-shirt. For bottoms they had given him a comfortable pair of baggy blackish jeans. He follows the jeans with his eyes all the way down to the black work boots on his feet. He didn’t look half bad. He looks around the room. There were only two doors. The one which the guards had left through and the one which he had entered. He grabs the door handle of the one on his right, the one he had entered through, and lightly pulls. The door doesn’t budge. Dan turns around and push the other door a little and it swings open. He pokes his head out into the hall in front of him. Empty.
Trying to be sneaky and not disturb the eerie silence that seems to lurk in every corner of this place, he silently steps out and shuts the door behind him. When he turns around a different guard is standing face to face with him.
“Whoa! Whoa.. you, you scared me,” he says to the man. The man says nothing for a moment, then looks at the ground, as if making a decision. He chews on his lip a bit then turns around to point at one of the many doors on the right. Then he starts walking toward it. He stops when he gets there, his back still facing Dan, then he turns around, making Dan stop short as to not walk into him.
“In there is where you will get your introductory tour,” the deepness of the man’s voice startles Dan for a moment.
There is something else peculiar about the man also. ‘But what?’ Dan thinks. Fear. The man had an underlying tone of fear in his voice. “You will be assigned a long time patient to show you around. I’m not sure which one you’ll get for today but either way… good luck.” The second thing the man says with more fear inside of him. As if he wasn’t suppose to say that.
The guard nods at the door knob and Dan reaches for it, and gingerly turns it. He looks back to the man for reassurance and the guard nods again. He swings open the door. Directly in front of him is a window. He steps in and hears the door shut behind him. All of the walls are peeling. The original paint seemed to be light green but underneath was a dark brown. He squints to get a better look at things. The room was sunny, and at first he doesn’t notice the girl for a moment. When his eyes finally lay her he is startled.
“Oh.” He says looking her over. She is sitting in a little desk, like the kind you would have in elementary where the seats were attached to the table part. The desk top is a bluish gray and the metal rusted. He feet are swinging a little, lightly brushing the tiled floor.
“Sit,” she tells him without ordering him. Something in her voice makes Dan want to sit so he looks at the bigger wooden chair across from her on the right of him. He walks over and sits down. Once settled in he looks up at the girl. Her appearance catches him of guard but before he can even think about it she speaks. “Hi. I’m Adrina. You can call me Dri. Or Adrina. Or Dri. Either works. Like I said. Dri.” He raise an eyebrow at her. ‘Who is she?’ he thinks. “What’s your name?” she asks.
“Dan,” he tells her, “or Daniel.” He smiles, playing along with her little bit for a minute. She grins, thinking over what she should say next.
“Welcome to the Daniel C. Colbert Memorial Mental Asylum.” Her sentence stings him, replaying itself over and over in his mind. She says it like a record player, repeating itself. He knew that he was coming here… it had all been a bit of a daze. But her saying it out loud like that made it a million times more real. “I know. It must be hard having a hospital named after you,” making ‘tsk-tsk’ noises. He shakes his head out of his dreams when she speaks.
“What?” he asks, “Named after me? Why would it be named after me?!” he asks Adrina in somewhat shock at her statement.
“You’re Daniel right?” she asks.
“Yeah but- Oh! No. Not Daniel Colbert. Daniel Williams,” he explains to her. So she is a bit naïve, eh? Or sheltered. ‘Or mental,’ he thinks. Dan looks back up at the girl. She didn’t look crazy. Just a little bit odd. The girl across from him has bobbed brown hair, pulled up with a strip of denim that comes up to tie into a bow, tipped to the right side. She had made her own headband… Adrina is wearing a pair of overalls with two copper buttons above her breasts. The bottom part of the dungaree overalls is cut above her knee, showing a lot of skin. Underneath she wears a similar spotless shirt but her sleeves are long and cover up her hands and only her finger tips show. The whole white shirt is spotless except for the ends of her sleeves, where obviously had been worn out a bit. Her feet are completely bare and the bottoms are dirty where she must have not washed them in a long time. He wouldn’t either if all the showers were like the one he had just been it. Besides that fact that her feet were dirty she looked pretty clean.
“So,” she says, pulling him out of his cloudy thoughts, “there are three rules here. Don’t leave. Don’t find Victor and follow the rules no matter what.” It takes him a moment to soak it in.
“Victor? Who’s that?” he asks taken aback by the directness and strangeness of the second rule.
“Oh, him? I’m not suppose to tell you. But hey. Lets talk about something else. Why are you here?” she asks him. He bites his lip. What could he tell her?
“Because I’m different then most people. Stronger in will,” he didn’t expect her to call the police on him or anything because well, someone else already had, except instead of police, state workers.
“Like Hercules,” she points out. She leans forward in her chair eagerly, so her elbows are off the edge of the desk. She cups her chin in her hands, “you’re strong like Hercules.” Dan raises an eyebrow for a moment thinking.
“Oh, well, not exactly that kind of strong,” he says trailing off in thought. Why was this girl locked up here? What was wrong with her?
“I bet your wondering why I’m here. I was born here. They thought I would be like my mother, who stayed here. So I grew up here. I’ve read every book in the world. They have every single one and I’ve read them all,” Adrina tells him.
“Is that where you read about Hercules?” he asks, suddenly becoming curious about her. Dan watches Adrina wriggle around in her chair a bit. She wasn’t like most girls. She had long and awkward legs with knobby knees. Her skin was pail in contrast to her dark brown hair. Her she had baby blue eyes, with specks of gray in them. The band of freckles on her face reaching from her nose almost to her ears would have been perfectly ordinary if she did not have such blue eyes.
“Yeah. Duh,” she says immaturely.
“But I’m not a god like him. Hercules was a god.” Dan points out.
“I may be crazy but I’m not dumb,” she says as-a-matter-of-factly. He says nothing at this. He wonders how hard it must be for her to live like this. She leans back in the child’s desk and suddenly as he watches her there her image looks almost like a real child in school or something. ‘I think I’ve almost figured this chick out..’ he thinks. Still, there was something about her, the way she moved. First off, she looked as if she didn’t belong in her surroundings, in that desk, in that room, with him. She seemed out of place every time he laid eyes on her. Then if he looked at her another way she seemed as if there were a creature inside of her that didn’t like to be there. As if she didn’t fit in her own skin. Suddenly she jumps up.
“Well. We have to get on with our tour,” she says, almost sounding a little like a flight attendant. Dan watches her walk out of the room. He gets up and quickly gets to the door before her so he can hold it open. She strides through the doorway and promptly turns around, waiting for him to follow her out into the hall. He does, letting the door slam behind him. Adrina winces at the sound. He shrugs, giving her a look as if to say, ‘sorry’. She shakes off the distraught look and smiles.
“C’mon!” she says, grabbing his arm and tugging him down the hall. She begins to skip a little. Dan lets himself be pulled all the way down, trying not to laugh. She was acting like a seven year old. It wasn’t bad just.. different. She hums a little song as she goes, something familiar to him. He thinks about it for a moment but before he can say anything she is pulling him through a door and into a huge open room full of rows and rows of beds. Most of them were empty but some had rolled up sleeping shapes in them.
“So uh.. where’re we now?” he asks, somewhat in a daze from all of that walking.
“This wing is called Wafre. I like to call it Cookie. Either one. It’s my favorite wing because you can talk to everyone else!” she tells him stretching out her last few words. “It takes a while for most patients to get transferred here. Most of them start out in Malden.. which is where we’re going next.. I grew up in Malden.. I was stuck there for 11 years until I was moved here. And once here you never go back to Malden.. it’s Wafre or Solitary.. which is not good.” He nods, looking around the large room. He could easily tell which bed was Adrina’s. One of the beds, smack in the center of the room, had a nightstand next to it. On the stand a pile of books that was probably taller than Dan himself. He laughs a little. There were books in the bed and under the bed too.
Adrina follows his gaze to where he is looking. He feels the need to look at her. He does, looking right into her steel blue eyes.
“Well, ok!” she says. Suddenly they hear a great amount of noise coming from somewhere. Not behind them but from the doorway on the other end of the wall from which they entered through. She looks around frantically, “Quick! C’mon!” she says grabbing his arm, digging her fingers into it. She pulls him across the room and over to another set of big blue doors. He turns his head to look behind him just as they push through. What he sees though, doesn’t really surprise him. Hundreds of slightly sickly looking people stream though the doors and over to their beds. He can tell why Dri didn’t want him in there, they would have gotten run over.
She pulls him down the hall. This hall has cream colored tiles and green doors all along the right side. Offices? Interrogation rooms? Dan had no idea. They were walking at a quick pace so when one of the doors suddenly swings open, hitting Dan straight in the face he is caught of guard.
“What the frig-?” he says as it hits him. The door gradually resides and a stone face man steps out, one with a similar uniform to the ones that men guards wore who brought him in. He looks at the man, wide eyed and exasperated, waiting for a sorry. The man does nothing except giving Dan a stern look, then walks past them and back towards Wafre. He looks back over at Dri who was watching the man. She seemed a little mad herself. Dan waves his hand in front of her face and she looks back at him.
“Whaat?” she asks, shifting her weight back towards him, and glancing at the man stepping through the doors. She gives him a stern look. “C’mon,” Dri says, a little bit of an apologetic tone in her voice, “We gotta go.” He follows her gaze. The man did have a peculiar gait but other then that he was lost as to why she was so perplexed a moment ago. He feels her shaking his arm, “C’mon!” she whines, “We gotta-”
“Yeah, I’m coming…” he mutters and begins to walk. She walks too, but not pulling him this time, just holding him. They walk along silently for a moment. Dan, now on his guard, walks a little quicker every time they get near a door, like a game of musical chairs.
He sighs a sigh of relief as they get to the end of the hallway. He rubs his head a little, as they push their way through the hall way and into the mouth of a stair case. Dri tells him that they are going up a level to Malden, and that below is the basement and that no one is aloud to go there. He glances unsurely down the stairs as they go up the adjoining set. When they get to the next level they are panting a little, but they manage to try and walk like normal people as they push their ways through the big windowless doors.
A small gasp escapes Dan’s lips as he enters the area that he assumed he would be staying in for a while. All along the hallways, were cells, like prisons. It was creepy. All the bars had been painted a bunch of times. The green paint was peeling to reveal peeling white paint. Underneath that was gross rusty metal. Was he really going to be stuck up in a cell? Like a prisoner? But he wasn’t crazy! He was far from it. Anger begins to bubble back into his stomach as he watches hands poke out through the bars.
“I’m not suppose to be here…” he says through gritted teeth looking straight forward. He feels Dri’s stare on him, oh that unmistakable stare. Now she was crazy. She deserved to be here, but Dan didn’t.
“Well yeah,” she says and Dan looks over at her expectantly, “Your cell is at the end silly!” His eyes widen at how easily she says the word cell, like it was an old friend. Trying to suppress his anger he asks,
“Do I have to share one with another person?”
“Maybe,” she mutters quickly, “But maybe not. I never shared but I know other people did…” He sighs, she was so difficult. He puts a hand on his head, but no. It wasn’t her. It wasn’t her at all. It was him. Something about being in this room made him angry and the fact that he couldn’t tell what made it worse. “Well, we should maybe get on with the tour.. you’ll come back here later..” He looks at her, nodding, and they begin to walk down the hall.
He struggles to keep his gaze forward as they walk down the disturbing hall. He feels a gnarly hand grab his arm but he shakes it free and keeps walking, stone faced. Now he knew what the stone faced man from before felt like, and soon he would know what it felt like to be a prisoner- a patient here. He wonders how locking up patients is suppose to heal them. In his mind it would make it worse. He pushes all stressful thoughts out of his mind as they walk down the remainder of the hall.
They push through a door that reveals a staircase much like the one they came through. It goes up and down.
“If you’re wondering, these staircases really work. I mean, the big one in the lobby only goes to offices on the second floor. On the first floor is the kitchen and stuff like that, and hallways, and Wafre, and on the second is Malden, one long hallway, and then a bunch of offices, but you’ll never go there so just use these stairs…” Adrina explains and he works hard not to tune her out as they walk up the long flight of steps. When they get to the top he is panting again. Now Dan is a fit guy. He used to jog 5 miles every morning.
“Man, what is with these stairs?” he says in between breaths as they head towards the doors.
“Oh! They were built to not easily be climbed,” she tells him as if that is something totally normal. His eyes widen.
“Wait… what?” he asks, a little exasperated. Why would they build stairs not to be climbed.
“Well, in case some one was trying to escape.. or something like that.. I don’t actually know why they did that..” she says, “But we really have to get on with the tour now… not that there is much to see in Solitary.”
“’Kay, lets go..” he says and they do. They walk side by side through the doors, and Dan does not see what he expected. A hall way, about 300 feet long, with plush carpeting and no doors anywhere. He looks around, trying to make sense of things. It was disturbing and the worse part that it was completely silent, you couldn’t even hear a pin drop. “This is Solitary?” he asks. Dri smiles.
“Oh yes, and the guards hate when we come here because everyone here is suppose to be in isolation,” she says gesturing around.
“Okay, first off, I see no doors, and..” he trails off as she walks over to the wall and traces a shape. A square of wall that was ever so slightly pressed inward, and he never would have noticed. She balls her hand up into a fist and firmly knocks on the door twice. Dan’s stomach lurches in anticipation. And then it happens. Two firm knocks come in return.
“Anyways,” she says, “This whole hall way is lined with rooms like that on either side. The rooms are all sound proof but Mary Ellen, found a soft spot in the wood and just kept knocking on it until someone heard and thank goodness it was me, so now every time I knock for her, just to make sure she is okay.” Dan’s eyes widen. ‘Note to self..’ he thinks, ‘don’t get stuck in Solitary.’
Something suddenly pops back into Dan’s mind, what about that man he had seen in the third floor window. How were there windows on the third floor. Something didn’t make sense.
“Dri, are there any other rooms on the third floor?” he asks. She looks up at him, seeming surprised at the question.
“Oh, yes actually there are some abandoned rooms.. This whole floor actually used to be two wings. One was Camden and the other was.. um.. I forget.. but they replaced it with Solitary and then they had to get rid of Camden because they were starting to try and communicate with Solitary with the knocking… so most of the people in Camden went to Malden,” Dri gives a lengthy explanation.
“Oh, well were you in Camden?” he asks.
“I was in Malden ‘till I was 11, I was in Camden for a year, until they finally moved me to Wafre.. I was the youngest one there,” she adds proudly. Dan didn’t think that was much to be proud of.
“Well, do you think we could go to Camden?” he asks, like a little kid asking his mom to go to the toy store. She furrows her brow at him, thinking.
“Well… I guess… why?” she asks curiously and Dan is about to reply when they hear someone coming up the stairs behind them. “Oh! We have to go, that could be a transfer...” she whispers without explaining. She grabs his arm and they run down the hall. The sensation is like running on clouds because they make no noise. They burst in through doors into the staircase entry like before except the ceiling is shorter and there was no stairs going up. Instead of going down they take a right and go into another hall way. This hall way is by far the most gross and decrepit of all of them. There is practically no paint on the walls and the floor is covered in dust. Dan sneezes, quickly bringing his elbow to his face to cover it. His sneeze is loud, and echoes throughout the whole wing, eerily. He looks over at Dri, grinning. She rolls her eyes.
“So... no one ever comes up here?” he asks her.
“Nope… I bet we’re the first ones up here in a while. Wanna go look around?”
“Sure…” he says nodding. They walk down the hall, leaving fresh foot prints in the dust. Dan looks at his own. They are big and clunky looking. He looks at Dri’s. ‘Oh yeah…’ he thinks, ‘she isn’t wearing shoes…’ Her foot prints are average sized for girl, and they look like fresh made prints on the beach, ready to be washed away by the waves of time.
They walk all the way down the hall and take a right, into a sunny room. This room is sunnier and brighter than any other room Dan has seen in the asylum. He walks in, Adrina trailing in behind him. Dan looks around, is this the room he had seen that man in from outside?
Adrina walks ahead of him to stand in the window, her back to the sunshine. He blinks and suddenly her appearance changes. Her skin is pale, the freckles gone. Her eyes are icier then before, and her hair is darker. He steps closer to her, reaching a hand to her cheek to see if it was still her.
“Dri…” he whispers. She is looking at the floor now. She says nothing, her face expressionless. Before he can touch her skin she swiftly maneuvers out of the way so they switch position. Now Dan is standing with his back to the window and Dri is facing him. He looks her over. He squints. She now looks completely like she had when he first met her. Had he only imagined her metamorphosis? Or was it the sun reflecting from a different angle that changed her looks so drastically?
She takes a step closer to him, still not saying anything. Then she begins to speak.
“What’s that chain? On your neck?” she asks, still with only a wisp of emotion on her face.
Dan continues to watch helplessly as she walks over and steps onto his feet, pulling herself to his eye level by his shoulders. For a moment, he cannot say anything. She is so weightless, barely anything at all. Dan wonders what it would be like to live so… lightly.
She reaches a seductive hand to his neck. Grasping his silver chain between two fingers. As her hand gets lower Dan gets more startled, realizing that she is going to pull out the pendant out from under his shirt.
His face tensing angrily, he grabs her hand and squeezes it hardly until she is in pain enough to force her to let go. In a second, without warning, Dri is about 5 feet away from Dan, squatting on the floor. He rubs his eyes. How did she move away so quickly?
She is cradling her hand, softly singing and cooing to it.
“Dri… I…” Dan begins.
“No!” she shouts, looking up at him. Dan’s eyes widen in shock. Her face is red and tear stained. He hadn’t even seen her crying! The make-up he didn’t know she was wearing is now running down her face and dripping onto her knees. ‘Whoa…’ he thinks, ‘She’s a mess…’
He crouches down in front of her, looking at her hand.
“Adrina? Love?” Dan asks, as if talking to a little kid. Dan’s mother always used to call him love. She looks up, pure anger in her eyes. He looks right back, unable to look away.
Then, black little dots start to dance around in the corners of his eyes. Then they move in closer so all’s that he can see is Adrina. Then all’s he can see if her face… then her eyes… then… nothing at all…