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.


3. Chapter 2

Christmas. The word rings inside my head like a bell, I know it was one of the forbidden holidays, but I don't know what it celebrates or why someone might call it merry. All I know is that this is a gift I have to protect an cherish. It could be snatched away from me at any moment and even earn me extra time in the Asylum, which is the last thing I want. Whoever gave this to me knows me very well, the only people who know about the Bible I had when I was 8 are Dr.Middleton, the officers, the lady who dragged me to her shop, and Mack, well I guess Dr.Wagner probably knows too. The point is it's a very limited list and everyone on it either doesn't have the means to give me a Bible or doesn't want to.

The door creaks open and I jam the book under my pillow as Karey's head pops in the door, she looks at me suspiciously, "What are you doing?"

"N-Nothing," I stammer out.

She gives me a funny look and says, "Your so weird. I can't wait till I don't have to share a room with you."

I roll my eyes at her. Karey and Chloe never really liked me, they always thought I was crazy, which is funny since they're also at an insane asylum. Karey and Chloe were sent here because they wrote a story about pagan gods when they were 10 and now they act like I'm the batty one. Needless to say they're not the only one counting down the days till they leave, which is very soon. 24 days to go.

I pull out the pamphlet that Dr.Wagner gave me and pretend I'm reading, while Karey picks up a book titled, "Overcoming Faith: One Woman's Journey to a Healthy Life". The book must be on the government list of approved books or she wouldn't be reading it. The government has banned all books with even he slightest faith reference, unless it's talking about how insane faith is. Chloe walks in and looks at me like the sight of me exasperates her. She too sits on her bed and starts reading, her book is called "The Day Faith Ended", it's a fictional book about a group of young freedom fighters who managed to stop the faith groups from spreading their insanity.

I decide to tick them off so that they'll leave and start reading aloud, "The government has managed to get the number of people in the population with Faith down from 0.05% to 0.02%. Wow, that is really interesting! Ooh! Look at this! It says here that scientists have evidence to prove that Faith may be genetic! Maybe that's why both of you went of the deep end!"

"Could she be anymore annoying?" Karey asks her sister.

"I don't think it's possible," Chloe replies.

"I like a challenge," I tell hem, "The Federal Department Against Faith or the FDAF was founded in 1943 by Emperor Phillins to prevent a further spread. The FDAF focuses on identifying people with Faith and building treatment centers for them, the Asylum is the most notable of these centers. FDAF has over 3,000,000 members and is spread ou the entirity of the Russian Empire. Because of them over 500,000 people have been saved from Faith and they expect another 20,000 to be saved in this year alone. In 1978 the F-"

"SHUT UP, BRINLEY!" Chloe yells and I laugh.

"No, wait guys there's more. The Russian Empire currently has the lowest amount of Faith cases and East Africa has the highest. And here is a list of people Faith is most common in.  Faith is least common in people with brown eyes, but most common with people with blue eyes, you guys have blue eyes! Apparentley Faith is most common in people with strawberry-blonde hair. This is like definitive proof that you two are crazy!" I tell them with mock excitement. They looked pissed and don't seem to realize that I made that I made most of that up.

Chloe angrily leaves the room and Karey follows. They have no idea  I just tricked them into leaving so I could read my Bible. The thin paper runs under my fingers as I begin where I left off 10 years ago, Genesis. I may have only read one page, but my faith in something greater than me has stayed strong and now I can finally know what that something is. The book fills me with awe as I read about Adam, Eve, and the creation of the world. How did he build everything in just six days and still have time to rest on the seventh? It's amazing and before I know it I've read all of Genesis. The stories of Cain and Abel, and Noah and the ark are incredible, but I found the story about the Tower of Babel the most interesting. Is God really close enough that people thought they could build a tower to get to him? It's not that I want to build a tower, it's more that I like the idea of God being close. I know that I have found what I have been looking for.

It's late by the time I finish and thankfully Chloe and Karey are still in the other room so I have time to fin a hiding place. As I stand up one of the floorboards creaks and I have the idea to put my Bible under there. The floor board groans as I lift it up and ease my book under it before returning it to it's proper place. I slide under the covers and fall into a deep sleep. My sleep is sound for the first time in my ten years here, normally I'm haunted by my past and my family.

The morning bell rings through out the Asylum, a wake up call and a warning. If we don't get to the dining hall in time we may not get breakfast at all. I pull off my actual pajamas and replace them with the nearly identicle outfit meant to be worn during the day: a white t-shirt and pale blue, pajama like bottoms.

The door registers my code and lets me out for breakfast. The doors to the rooms only let you out if there is an appointed place you need to be such as breakfast or you're visiting your doctor. The dining hall is filled with people forcing me to shove past people to get in line. The lady serving the food doesn't look happy to be here, she never does, and takes a puff of her cigaratte. She stumps the cigarrete out on the edge of my tray, plops a nasty looking pile of hashbrowns on my plate, and gives me a carton of frozen milk.

I find my usual table and sit by myself, everyone knows better than to bother at this point. The hashbrowns are burnt and taste like cigarette. While I chew my hashbrowns a boy who looks to be about my age walks up and plops into the seat across from me.

"Do you want to hear about Darwin's theory of evolution?" he asks me hopefully.

"Not really," I tell him.

"You sure?" he asks again eagerly.

This kid is already starting to exasperate me but I try to be nice when I ask, "You're new, aren't you?"

His brow crinkles, "How'd you know?"

I laugh a little, "No one whose been here for a while is that excited."

He frown, "Oh, how long have you been here?"

Asking someone how long they've been at the Asylum is a kind of personal question but I go ahead and answer it, "Ten years."

His eyes get big, "Ten years? How do you do it?"

"Don't listen to any of the crap they tell you," I put it simply.

" still believe?" he asks carefully.

"I can't believe what they tell me, so I choose what I want to believe. What else can I do?"

"Push back," he says so quietly I can barely here him. The dining hall fades away around me as curiosity strikes me.

I'm not sure if he's messing with me or not so I'm careful when I ask, "How?"

He shrugs as if what his previous words had no meaning, "I don't know."

I slump back in disappointment, "No, there is no pushing back."

The boy frowns at me, "You never know."

I shake my head, "But, I do know," I look at the clock, I have to be at Dr.Wagner's office in five minutes so I stand up to leave, "I have to go."

He grabs my arm when I stand up and I think back to the shopkeeper dragging me down the street. I flinch but he doesn't notice, "What's your name?"

"Brinley," I say and remove my wrist from his hand.

"I'm Luke," he tells me.

I nod but don't say anything. This kid wants a friend but he has to realize that friendships in the Asylum never last. Dr.Wagner is waiting in her office for me, but something is different, she doesn't look so bright and cheery anymore. Her fingers tap out an irregular rhythem on the wooden desk and the beat of my quickens to match the beat. I lower myself into the chair infront of the desk and wait for her to say something.

"Brinley!" she says happily but I know it's fake, she's not happy.

I just come out and say it, "Something's wrong. Isn't it?"

She drops the fake smile and sighes, "Brinley, the board of the Asylum has noticed that you haven't been very coorperative. You've been resisting treatment and they don't like it. If you don't show signs of improvement soon they're considering adding additional time to your stay and if that doesn't work alternative treatment may be considered."

I swallow hard, alternative treatment is just a nice way of saying their going to do some sort crazy surgery or test on me to try and fix my insanity, alternative treatment never goes well. I hate the idea of coroporting with these tyrants, all they want is control, that's why they banned religion. Religion gives people a set of morals and a way of life to follow, but the government wants to be the ones giving people their way of life and their morals, it's how they keep everyone under control. If I want to live I may have to cooperate.

"What do I need to do?" I ask her in a whisper.

"There are no records of you ever revoking your faith and the board is demanding that you do so," she tells me.

"I can't do that."

"I don't think you have a choice," she replies as if she didn't want me to have to do it. I thought she was here to cure me and that she'd want me to revoke my faith, not feel bad for me.

"Fine," I say but my heart wrenches, I can't revoke what I'm just now starting to understand.

She hands me a piece of paper and tells me to read it while she records it "I, Brinley Larson, under my pledge to the Russian Empire, revoke my faith and here by swear to never follow it or associate myself with its followers again. I also pledge to seek no other faith and remain loyal to the Empire," the words feel like acid as I as I say them.

Dr.Wagner looks as upset as I feel and she only says, "That should do for now."

We sit in silence for a moment and I try to get the session going again, "I read the pamphlet you gave me."

"That's good," is all she says.

My years of relative isolation have made it hard for me to comfort others but I go ahead and try, "Why are you upset? I thought you wanted me to get better."

She shakes her head, "I don't know if you were ever sick in the first place."

I'm very surprised to hear her say this and I'm at a loss of words. She looks at me, "Have you ever wondered if the system is corrupted?"


Her black eyes drift towards the window, "The system doesn't work. They just don't realize that they are causing more problems then they're fixing. It will collapse."

Her words are treachery, I glance nervously around hoping no one can hear us, "Do you have faith?"

She gives a half-hearted smile, "I can't say that I don't."

Suddenly something about the woman infront of me it all to familiar. I can see the 22 year old version of her clearly in my minnd: high cheek bones, slender waist, long brown hair, and warm black eyes. My heart stops as I make the connection between what I thought were two different people.

"Mack," I gasp.

She removes the glasses and pulls her hair out of the bun. She looks exactly the same as she did four years ago, but I'd thought she would have tried to live a normal life after she got out not come looking for me. A memory surfaces in my mind, one I had forgotten till now.

It was the night before Mack was transferred. We sat on her bed, she was 22 and I was 14. She was holding me while I cried. I didn't want to lose my best friend, she was the one who'd always been therefore me and she was like my sister.

"Don't worry, Brinley. I'll come back for you," she whispered into my hair.

"Promise?" I sniffled.

"I promise."

"Long time no see," she says to me now.

I want to cry and laugh at the same time so it kind of comes out as a choking noise. She stands up and I go to hug her. She's exactly as I remember her. Tears spill down my cheeks and I can see the same tears in Mack's eyes.

"Did you get the Bible?" she asks me.

I nod my head, "I did. Thank you."

"Good. Now listen carefully. I'm going to get you out of here. Tonight your door will be unlocked and I want you to make your way back here. I'll be waiting with some clothes and a few other supplies. I can get you out of here."

"Are you coming with me?" I ask hopefully.

"No, there are a few other thing I need to finish up here first, but I'm going to give you address to go to and I'll meet you their in three days."

"Where are you sending me?" I ask her.

"There's a group of people like us and they'll take care of you until I get there."


"I promise."

I nod because I'm at a complete loss of words. This feels like a fairytale, I'm the damsel in distress and Mack is here to save me. I'm leaving the Asylum. I never thought this day would have come, I've been here for over half my life and I can't remember what the real world is like and I'm certain the real world can't remember me. I'll get to see my family again and I can restart, I just have to hope the accept me.


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