Written by Nimika Bhatnagar, from wordhaven,
and Audrey Francis-Plante, from audreywritesabroad
We spend the rest of the first hour in the van with Phoebe and Chandler, editing that short video. Then Rachel is bouncing from foot to foot. “All right! BDA awaits, guys! Let’s do this!”
I look out the small window at the misty rain and the grim ruins a yard away. “Let’s eat, first,” I say.
Chandler lies on the couch, pulling a blanket over his dark hair. “Let’s sleep, first.”
Rachel puts her boots on. “No! Let’s take a walk around the ruins! Come on! We only have twenty-four hours and I’m not wasting a single second motivating the troupes.”
Rachel slams the door of the van open and at once a wet, freezing breeze runs in.
“Noooo,” Phoebe says. “Cold. Ugh.”
But I’m curious. We got here last night at eleven and it was too dark to see anything. I wrap my blanket around my shoulders and join Rachel outside in the fog. “The last one out cooks all of our meals,” she calls back at the others.
“Noooo,” Phoebe repeats just as Chandler comes running out, barefoot and stepping in mud.
“Great,” he mutters. He rubs his naked arms, shivering. “Suddenly, cooking doesn’t sound do bad.”
“Boots on,” Rachel says. “And bring the camera.”
Chandler and Phoebe eventually join us, and we walk around the asylum, filming close-ups of the charcoaled brick, panoramic views of the foggy ocean in the background, and slow takes of the parts of the building that are completely ruined. One half is still standing, the one facing the lake.
It’s a weird thought, to think that this place is surrounded by water, but the last thing these people saw was fire. Everywhere.
Breakfast is burnt toast.
Thank you, Phoebe.
I wake up to the screams of my
I really don’t belong here.
Yes, you do.
Breakfast is scrambled eggs too yellow and bacon too pink.
Chandler films as we enter the asylum. The door opens and shuts behind us too quietly.
“This place gives me major creeps,” Phoebe says, rubbing her arms.
“It’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be,” I admit.
The walls and floor are covered in ash, but this room just feels like large, empty closet. Chandler aims the camera at Rachel and me as we walk into the next room, and I’m surprised to find it so well preserved. There are obvious traces of a destructive fire on the walls, but the piano in the middle of the room is almost completely intact.
I can’t help reaching it and to play a few notes. But no sound comes out.
“Are the strings broken?” Rachel asks, pulling the top part up and sending dust floating about.
We stare, dumbfounded, as I play. The strings are struck, but only silence echoes through the room.
him someone play the piano from the music room.
Nurse Layla bought us a
broken new piano last week.
Jared keeps trying to get his hands on it. Probably to ruin it with his
I hope he does.
I fucking hate its sound.
The four of us split through the rooms to search for clues. I end up in a large room with a couple of surviving file cabinets and ash-covered chairs arranged in a wide circle in the middle.
Time for group therapy.
I almost don’t see it at first.
The file is wedged in between a half-blackened cupboard and the wall, like the burning house tried to protect it from the flames itself.
Curiosity killed the cat, my mind reminds me.
Nine lives, I shoot back as I reach for the file and flip it open.
The grainy picture of a girl with bright red hair stares back at me.
I feel like I’ve seen before enters our circle.
Dark hair. Curious eyes.
He’s reading a file.
I turn the page and read on.
“Who is that?”
I whip around, heart beating wildly. And I see them.
Everybody around the circle stares at me.
They don’t notice the boy standing right there in front of them.
“Who’s who?” Nurse Layla asks me
in a gentle tone.
They are blurs. Images. Smoke. They are people, dressed head to toe in blue scrubs, sitting in a circle. And I stand in the very middle.
They’re all looking at her. She’s hugging her knees, staring back at me like I’m a riddle she’s desperately trying to figure out. Her red hair falls over one half of her face, casting her features in shadow. Mara.
He looks different.
He doesn’t … belong here.
Am I dreaming him?
“Nothing,” I tell the nurse, looking at the floor.
I don’t want more
“Earth to Joey!”
I blink. Chandler is standing in front me, shaking my shoulders. The blurry figures have all vanished. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I don’t have the strength to laugh at the irony.
Let us know in the comments what
you think of the story so far!