This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Heavy footsteps were coming her way. The distinct click-clack sound of hard, thick boots was heard throughout the hall. It sounded like a horde of people was coming. She looked up to the ceiling. There was a huge, 15 feet gap between her and the ceiling that made it hard for her to focus on the rectangular shape on the center of it. The barely working, yellow, dim light that hung up there annoyed her even more because it made her vision a little fuzzy at times.
She stood up from her cold, flat bed and straightened her back. The cracking sound it made echoed in the empty room. She continued to stare at the rectangular shape. It was the way they dumped her into the metal box called ‘special jail’.
The footsteps stopped. It stopped with a loud last step.
Someone was above her room. 7244. It had only been two hours since her mealtime. The guard wasn’t supposed to give her meal in another four hours. Wait, was someone was visiting her? She had a visitor?
She squinted her eyes; no one had ever visited her since she woke up first time there with a tray of cold chips, and a glass of water.
The trap door flew opened, casting a nice shade of light into the room with her standing right below it. She squinted her eyes harder and used her hand to block the unfamiliar light. Slowly, something came down.
“Ms. Bryn,” said one of the guards. She couldn’t make out how many exactly were the guards up there, but she could tell there were more than three. “Agent Lithgow would like to see you.”
She stayed on her spot.
“I heard you,” her raspy voice resonated. She, herself, was surprised that she sounded like a dying cat with a sore throat. She used to sound less scratchy. But she shrugged it off. It probably was because they only gave her a cup of water every six hours, along with her food. Both tasted like shit.
“I just don’t want to see this man called ‘Agent Lithgow’,” she twisted her tongue as she said the agent’s name. “Bring me someone called Agent DiCaprio, or Agent Hardy, or Agent—”
The guard shifted to close the door with somewhat annoyed look on his sharp face. Now that her eyes had adjusted to the light, she could see the fox-faced guard and his fat friend. Other guards were standing behind, trying to take a look at her, to no avail.
“Okay, okay, I’ll meet this man,” she held her hand up. When she saw the guard stopped provoking her, her attention shifted to the stairs. “Can you lower it a little? I’m not used to walking let alone climbing up stairs.”
The guards hesitated for few seconds but granted her demand anyway.
“Nice,” she muttered. Her hand reached out and gripped the stair step. The coldness stung her hand, sending shivers down to her toes. She instantly pulled back. “Can’t you at least get a wooden stairs?”
The guard closed the lid again.
“Damn, people.” She cursed. Once she was out of her room, she would give a nice kick on his groin; that was for sure. “Okay,” she shouted, “I’m going up!”
Ignoring the cold she climbed up the stairs. She used to be good at it. Well, she used to be good at everything. But three years being locked up in a metal dungeon did rust her skills. It took her a while to get to the top.
“Please help me up,” she extended her hand so the guard could pull her out of the door. It seemed like she had lost a lot of weight. The guard had no difficulties pulling her up. She just had to make sure she had not lost that much of strength.
The air above was different. She could feel it the second she was out of the dungeon. The metallic smell still lingered but it was less strong than when she was in there. Looking ahead of her, there were cells and more trap doors. Just how many people were they keeping? When would they learn that the world was just taking its sweet time before everyone turned to be like her?
She could feel eyes staring out their barred doors, staring at her. Their expression was unreadable under the dimmed lights. And she was not trying to read them either, as it was not her priority.
She straightened her back again. It had become a habit.
“Thank you,” she told the guard, smiling sweetly at him. He was the guard who closed the lid, the fox-faced one.
“Of course, Ms. Bryn. Now if you—”
She pushed him down into the dungeon.
Upon hearing a cracking sound, she grinned at the other guards. “Few fractured bones and concussion, I presume. Probably some … blood too.” She exhaled loudly, “Just leave the stairs there. I’m sure he can climb his way out.”
The guards were unmoving. About two or three of them were ready to take out their guns.
“No need for that,” she eyed guns. The guards put the gun back to its place. “I just really hate to be provoked,” she whispered with a wide grin. “Now, now where is this Lithgow man who’s dying to meet me?” she asked. “Wait, he’s not actually dying, right?”
Oscar pulled his shirtsleeves up to his elbow. It had been thirty minutes already since he waited for the girl. He had finished his coffee and had tried to smoke but due to the asylum policy, he couldn’t. What in particular was taking the guards so long to take a little girl? Not to mention, there were eight of them going down there.
The asylum gave him an eerie, bone chilling feels, like something was just off. He constantly felt like he was being watched, but there was no one except a strangely quiet Rottweiler and a guard who seemed to have sewed his mouth shut. Not literally, of course. The room he was in smelled like something between rotten mice and sulfur. One of the chair legs was slightly crooked. It became his source of entertainment as he could move the chair up and down by stepping his foot on floor below the crooked one. The cracks on the walls made the place just perfect for a horror movie set.
He was not planning to be the actor.
That asylum shouldn’t have existed. Asylums were not allowed anymore. But he had also been informed that the St. Claire Asylum wasn’t technically an asylum. Its whereabouts was classified and only the most mentally unstable criminals got there. Which made him question, was there such thing as mentally stable criminals?
Just as he leaned back to the chair, the door to the (what he assumed) either therapy or interrogation room flew opened. He instantly straightened himself again. He watched one by one guards flooded the room, ending with two guards holding a medium-tall girl with long, disheveled blond hair. Her white, patient dress was at least three sizes bigger than she actually was as it almost fell off her shoulder and hung far below her knees. Her bare feet kept brushing one another. The look on her eyes … it was not crazy like what he had expected. In fact, she looked a bit bored. She was a lot skinner from the photos he had been showed. That he understood. The coffee they served tasted like dirty tap water (but he finished it anyway because he had nothing else to do). He could only imagine how the food tasted.
He looked back at the guards. There were only seven of them.
“Please sit, Ms. Bryn,” he gestured her to sit at the chair across from him, on the other side of the small, rectangular metal table.
The guards pushed her to go forward. She shrugged their hands off and held up her handcuffed arms. “Please, gentlemen. I can walk by myself.” Her voice was hoarse and she lost her voice on some words.
With light steps, making her seemed like she was jumping, she went to her seat. She smiled at him before sitting down. “I assume you are Mr. Lithgow,” she opened the conversation.
It was not his first trip to meet insane people. None of the previous ones talked to him first (well, aside from those ones who loved to begin a conversation with threats). It used to take him fifteen to thirty minutes until they would open their mouths. Sometimes it had to include some violence too.
“Yes,” he breathed out. “I’m Agent Lithgow,” he emphasized, hearing she didn’t use the name before.
She shook her head, “You don’t like to be called that. Why must I call you that?”
He squinted his eyes. “What makes you say that?”
“If you’re proud of who you are you’ll come here wearing black, tailored suit. You’ll probably fix your tie upon seeing me. You will show your identity card to convince me that you’re part of the confidential shit. And you just don’t have the face, you know?”
That made him raised a brow. He pulled his chair closer to the table that separated them and rested his elbows on the table. “Ms. Bryn,” he began with a grin on his chiseled face. “I left my suit in my car. My tie is already fixed as I patiently wait for you. I was about to show you my identity card too.”
She pursed her lips, nodding. “’Kay then,” she shrugged her shoulders. “You still don’t have the face. They usually have many frown lines and wrinkles around their cheeks. They usually stink too.”
“Are you saying I’m too young, Ms. Bryn?”
“Precisely,” she smiled cheekily, showing her set of crooked teeth.
The asylum must have not provided decent toothpastes, he assumed. He cleared his throat. “Well, I must be highly capable because here I am, talking to you.”
“I supposed so,” she shrugged again. “So you like green?” she asked.
He looked down at his shirt. It was indeed green. It had been on top of his closet in the morning, therefore he picked it. He turned to look at her again. “So you like white?”
She didn’t answer first. Instead she raised her brow, lips tugged into a small smirk. “I want to paint this dress red but they don’t provide me with paint,” she explained before expanding her mouth, grinning. “I can make it red my way, but I don’t think they’re going to like it. Locked fifteen feet below inside a metal room is enough, I’ve decided.”
He looked at her two seconds longer. For split moment, she looked like normal girl who liked throwing sarcastic remarks. But after spending days reading her file, he knew better. In fact, he had prepared for some crazy fit. The conversation they were having flowed less mad that he had expected so far. Still, he disliked beating around the bush. “Let’s just get to the point, shall we?” He never planned to rot inside the asylum and have some cozy conversations with her anyway.
“It should have been my line. The crazy and bad ones always get to say it.”
“I don’t want to play your games nor do I want to—”
“Let’s just get to the point, shall we?” she asked with such a wide smile, seeming satisfied with whatever it was she was doing.
He huffed. Just explain it short and clean and you’re good to go, Oscar. “We need your assistance.” He saw there was no need to explain who he was and who he worked for, as she already had the idea that he was part of the government forces.
She didn’t look surprised. She just continued looking at him with a half smile. After a while engulfed in silence, she finally answered. “Why?”
“There’s this group of—”
She cut him off. “No, no,” she shook her head. “Why should I help you?” She started twirling her not-so-straight-not-so-wavy-but-simply-messy hair.
“What do you want?”
She pursed her lips, looking up. “Hmm, a lifetime jail and asylum free? Clean sheet, an apartment, and a job too.” Before he could talk she added, “Ah, and a dog too. I like toy puddles.”
His brows met. Lines were creating on his forehead.
“Now you look more suitable with those frowns, Agent Lithgow.”
If it weren’t because they actually needed her, he would have smashed her face. Nevermind she was a girl. The world needed to generalize people by male, female, and insane anyway. Instead of doing so, he rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger. “Aren’t you asking too much, Ms. Bryn?”
“You think what you’re asking me is not too much?”
“It’s been discussed with the asylum director. You’re out of this place. Isn’t that enough?”
“That’s not an offer, it’s a must for you to take me away from here if you want me to help you.”
He closed his eyes again, calming himself. “Clean sheet, you get clean sheet.”
“It’s not yours to decide, isn’t it?”
That was it.
“Are you in or not, Ms. Bryn?” he put some pressure into his words. The smell of sulfuric acid surrounding the room was making the conversation more stressful.
She smiled sweetly at him, just like how she did to the previous guard. “It’s a choice between rotting here for another fourteen years and going out there, having fun with agents. Of course I’m in.”
“Good,” he said loudly as he stood up. “Now please follow me and we can discuss more about this in my office.”
“Not liking the place, are we?”
He scanned the guard first before answering, “I hate this place.”
“I’m glad we think alike,” she eagerly nodded, clearly teasing him.
“Let’s just go.” He started to walk out of the room.
One of the guards removed the girl’s handcuff and along with the other guards, they followed them out. They didn’t do anything as the girl appeared beside him. She was staring, making him felt uncomfortable. The guards stopped following once they were out of the asylum. It almost seemed like they were relieved that she was out.
“It’s still the same,” said the girl as she stopped walking. She looked up to the dark sky. She could never tell when it was night or day when she was having a vacation in the dungeon. She could only tell her mealtime. Since the beginning of her arrest (or stay, as she liked to call it), she always slept right after her third meal. She assumed third meant night. It turned out to be wrong, seeing she just got her first meal two hours ago and it was dark outside.
Oscar opened the door to the driver seat. His car was already parked right in front of the door. “What is?” he asked. “Get in.”
Her eyes went to the agent. “This world. It’s still dark.”
He squinted at her, not knowing whether he had to respond to that or not. “Don’t get philosophical with me. Just get in.” He got in the car and the girl ran to sit on the passenger seat. “Seatbelts,” he told her, starting the engine. He heard her buckling up, but he could feel her eyes were still on him. “What?” he snapped.
“If this shit includes saving the world, I’m expecting a superhero name for me.”
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