Religion is forbidden and those who have it are considered insane and sent to the Asylum. The only thing you are allowed to believe is what your government tells you. Brinley Larson was only 8 when they took her away to the Asylum. It had been a cold day in the Western region of the Russian Empire and she had just been looking for something to eat, while her parents worked at their minimum wage jobs. It had been sitting in the bottom of the dumpster she'd been digging through, the cold metal container protecting it from the elements. It's worn leather cover was soft under her cold fingers and the gold letters shown like stars in the white winter. It only took one page for them to take her away to the Asylum. Just one page of her book and she was sent away for a mental illness she doesn't have. Ten years later Brinley still refuses to give into her treatment and holds onto her faith.


2. Chapter 1

The snow outside the window of the dining hall brings me back to that day almost exactly ten years ago. I'd only been a curious child then, eager to discover what was so forbidden about religion and faith. But, like they say, curiosity kills. Curiosity may not have literally killed me, but it killed my future and any hopes I had of leaving poverty behind because as soon as I finish my 12 years in the Asylum I'll be forced to get whatever low wage job I can get my hands on. The one thing curiosity didn't kill is my faith, in fact curiosity led me to the greatest discovery of my life. The Bible that I found in the dumpster is long gone, but my faith in something greater than myself still remains. I refuse to believe that I am insane.

A bell chimes and I go to empty out my tray with the rest of the patients. I've never known any of them very well, at least not since Mack left, but there is always a sense of community among them even if we weren't thrown in here for the same belief. I miss Mack so much even though it's been 4 years since she left. Mack had been the only person who cared about me when I came here. She protected me from the cruel guards and always made sure I got enough to eat. I remember the first time I met her.

I had just arrived at the Asylum with the officer. We passed through the dining hall so that we could reach the office; some of the patients looked at me with symapthetic eyes, while others looked at me like I was fresh meat. The officer had taken me to the office of Dr.Middleton, a seemingly bright man at the time but I would later find he was grudging and biast.

I stood nervously infront of the desk while the officer explained what had happened, "This is Brinley Larson and we found her with a Bible a few hours ago."

The doctor looked at me and nodded as if he was agreeing with words he hadn't spoken before saying, "I will gladly take her case. I believe it is very important to save our young people."

The officer thanked him and left. Dr.Middleton looked down at me with a frown and grabbed me by the arm pulling me back towards the dining hall. Nobody looks surprised to see the doctor treating a patient this way. We turn right at the dining hall and stop in a white metal door that he opens up and harshly throws me inside.

"We don't need any more dirt around here," he spit at me and slammed the door in my face.

I stood up in a state of shock, I had thought I was there to get help not be treated like garbage. I could feel eyes watching me and turned around to find a room of three other girls staring at me, though; they were not in the least surprised. Two of the girls looked to be about twelve and they just stared at me for a moment before going back to what they were doing, but the other one, who looked to be about sixteen actually helped me. Her hair was a plain brown color and her eyes were so dark that they could be called black. Black eyes sound creepy, but her eyes were warm and inviting. She walked up to me wearing the pajama like clothing that all the patients wore.

"Are you ok?" she asked me as she examined my bruised wrist.

I nodded because tears choke dout my words. She gently pressed on my wrist as she talked to me, "I'm Mack and I'm one of your room mates. The other two are Chloe and Karey, their sisters."

I looked from her to the other two girls, I could see the resemblance, they both had strawberry blonde hair and pale skin. I looked back to Mack and say something stupid, "Mack is a boy's name."

She laughed at my childishness and says, "Mack is short for Mackenzie."

I giggled at my own silliness and started asking questions about my new friend, "How long have you been here?"

She didn't seem uncomfortable talking about herself, "This is my fourth year. I've been here since I was twelve."

I bit my lip at the thought of being here for four years much less twelve, but I continued anyways, "What's it like?"

I was afraid she'd say it's horrible and that she can't wait to leave but she said something much different,"It's not that bad. We're like a family here even if we have different beliefs that got us thrown in here. To us it doesn't matter what you believe in as long as you believe in the right to have faith and believe in what you want. Does that make sense?"

I nodded, at the time I had just barely understood her, but I still got the sense of family and I had and still want to believe in the words I had on read on the paper. My next question may have been a bit personal but I asked it anyways, "Why are you here?"

Mack smiled as if the thought of whatever got her thrown in here was pleasing and happy, "My parents and I were part of an underground group who are firm believers in a religion called Judaism. One day at school I had accidently said something about God and was brought here no questions asked. My parents were also caught, but they were taken to a separate wing of the Asylum. I haven't seen them since I've been here."

She didn't ask how I got here but I told her anyways, "I was looking for food in a dumpster and I found a book at the bottom of it. At first I hadn't known what it was but then I realized that it was a Bible. I was going to put it back but curiosity got the better of me and I read some of it. This shopkeeper saw me and she dragged me to her shop and called the police."

Mack touched my cheek, "I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that, but you're going to be okay. I promise."

I snap out of the past when it's my turn to leave the dining hall. I hold the code on my right wrist up to a screen by the door and it  takes a moment to processes the eleven characters, W3R213P42984. The W3 stands for wing three, the R213 for room 213, and the P4298 for patient 4,298. The code is different for each patient and impossible to remove, it will remain with me for the rest of my life as a reminder of the Asylum.

I have my appoint with Dr.Middleton next and I dread going. Dr.Middleton is mean to his patients but no one ever does anything about it. I open the door to his office slowly afraid that if I make too much noise he'll yell at me more than usual. The lights are dimmer than usual, Dr.Middleton usually has them so bright that you can't see, and I creep into the room. I expect to see Dr.Middleton's cruel face behind the desk, but instead I find a woman. She has brown hair pulled into a tight bun and warm eyes that look at me from behind a pair of glasses.

"Brinley?" the woman asks cheerfully.

"Yes," I answer still standing in the doorway.

She smiles at me, "I'm you new doctor, Dr.Wagner. Please, take a seat."

I sit down in the seat and look around the room. Before it was virtually empty and rather lifeless, but now there is a shelf full of books, the blinds are pulled up allowing us to see the winter landscape, and there is a potted flower on the desk. I'm half expecting this to be a cruel joke on Dr.Middleton's part and that he'll jump out from behind the curtains, but he doesn't.

"You're probably wondering where Dr.Middleton is and he is now happily retired, which gives me the oppurtunity to work with you!" she says way to cheerfully.

"Um, okay," I say still looking around the room.

"Let's start by introducing ourselves. I'm Julie Wagner and I'm 28 years old-"

"Kinda young for a doctor," I interupt.

She doesn't seem to care that I interuppted and keeps talking, "Yes, I am a little young, but I'm fully qualified. Anyways, I went to the University of Southern Russia and I've always wanted to work at the Asylum. I'm unmarried, but I do have two cute little dogs named Brick and Curly, they're saint bernards. I love reading and I'm a bit of a shopahollic. What about you?"

This woman is kind of creepy, but I go with it since she's better than Dr.Middleton, "I'm Brinley Larson and I'm 18. I spent the first 8 years of my life in Newbury, Russian Empire where I dug food out of dumpsters to eat and then I've spent the last ten years of my life here in hell."

Dr.Wagner seems disappointed that I'm not as excited to be here as she is and decides to lecture me, "Brinley, I can't help you get better if you aren't willing to cooperate with me. Your sick and need help."

My face is getting red and I shoot back, "I'm not sick and I don't need or want your help."

She frowns at me, hands me a pamphlet that reads, "Steps to Overcoming Faith and Other Forms of Insanity", and says, "Read this and we'll talk again tomorrow."

I angrily leave the room swiping my wrist on the way out. Chloe and Karey are already in our room when I get there but they ignore me. It's so lonely since Mack transferred to another institute. The main room has a torn up couch in it but the sleeping area is through a side door. I plop down on my bed still in a fit of rage. I can't believe she called me sick and acted all cheery about being here! I'm so angry that it takes me a few minutes to see the book. It sits on my night stand undisturbed by my rage. It's cover is hard and made of blue leather and the golden letters forming the word Bible even more beautiful than those of my first Bible. I pick it up and open it to the front cover where a message has been written for my eyes only: "Merry Christmas, Brinley!"



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