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.


6. Chapter 5

Snow falls around us in wet clumps sticking to our hair and our clothes. The cold air feels like fire in my lungs as I breathe it in and as I breathe out it condenses in the air like smoke. Lorelai shivers as the cool air bites into her skin causing goose bumps to form on her pale, bruised arms. Seeing Lorelai like this breaks my heart, this poor girls has been abused her whole life and no one has ever defended her or even given her a second glance. I shrug of my jacket and wrap it around her frail shoulders. She smiles up at me and I smile back.

We were going to head directly to Rivers Street, but I realized that it's on the other side of town and it's already 10 at night. We decide to stay in a cheap hotel near the dinner we ate at instead. The place is in the run down part of Newbury, the place they you don't see in the glossy postcards or in the pages of a magazine. Everyone imagines Newbury as the gleaming, renaissance style town they see in the vacation brochures and it is, unless you go to the east side of the town. The east side of the town houses the poor, the manual laborers whose job it is to keep this town in postcard perfection and to clean up the rich's mess. The east side is filthy, the streets are covered in broken beer bottles and you're always looking over your back for pickpockets and muggers. Even after 10 years this hasn't changed at all.

When I open the door to the hotel I'm hit with a wall of warm air that feel good after being in the snow but smells like cigarretes and mold. This place can't be a good place to bring a 9 year old, but we need to stay hidden and we don't have enough money to afford somewhere nicer. I hand the man behind the counter the remainder of the money Mack gave us and he gives us a key for a room on the second floor. We take the stairs to the second floor, because the elevator is broken and the owner is too cheap to fix it, and find our room at the end of the hall. The room is disgusting, there is mold on the ceiling, hair in the tub, and the sheets smell strongly of smoke.

I toss my backpack in the floor and kick off my shoes before falling onto one of the two beds. Lorelai collapses onto the bed and puts her head on my shoulder, I'm amazed at how quickly she's decided to trust us, I guess her situation at home was just that bad. Lorelai is starting to drift off so I pull back the sheets and tuck them around her chin. Her ebony black hair falls around her faith and she looks at peace, for the first time since I met my half-sister I can forget about the bruises on her arms, that bitch she called mom, and the weak man we both called dad.

"Are you going to sleep?" Luke asks me quietly as not to wake Lorelai.

"I think I'll try, but I'm not sure I can," I tell him just as quietly.

He nods understandingly, "It's hard to get used to the open air when you're so used to white walls."

"The Asylum is more familiar to me than my home or anything on the outside, but there is no point in trying to run from it. This is the kind of change I need."

"It's the kind of change we all need," he agrees.

I don't know what to say next so I say, "Good night Luke."

"Good night Brinley."

I smile as I crawl under the covers and I can feel Lorelai shift closer to me. I close my eyes and let sleep over take me knowing that tomorrow I would see Mack again.

When my eyes flicker open again it's not because th sun is up or because Luke has woken me, it's because there is a banging at the door and a very demanding voice.

"Brinley Larson and Luke Sutherland open up. This is the FDAF and your under arrest for breaking out of the Asylum, murder, and kidnapping. Come peacefully and we will not use force."

FDAF, Federal Department Against Faith. Shit, we're screwed. I look at Luke and he gesture towards the window, when I look out it I see that there is a three foot snow bank and that the FDAF hasn't bothered to guard the window. They don't think we're gutsy enough to jump. Well, I guess we'll see about that.

My boots are tied tightly on my feet and my bag is slung over my shoulder as we make our way to the window quickly and quietly, the banging and shouting on the other side of the door becomes more frantic and I can tell that they'll break the door down soon. The warped wood of the window makes it difficult to open and causes the window to make a noise of protest. A loud thump and the sound of creaking wood alerts me to the fact that the police are trying to break in.

The window is open and now we need to jump, I urge Lorelai to the window sill an say, "Lorelai, it's really important that you jump."

Tears rub down her pale facd and she whimpers, "I'm scared. Please, don't make me."

"Lorelai, you need to jump," I tell her pleadingly, but this doesn't seem to convince her and she only cries more.

I'm surprised when Luke puts his hand on her shoulder and says, "We are going to be right behind you and I promise nothing will happen to you."

Lorelai looks back down at the snow bank as the wooden door moans behind us. She nods her head slowly and pushes herself of the window sill falling like the snow around her. As she crawls out of the snow bank Luke climbs on to the window sill and jumps. The door bursts open behind me as I too clamber onto the twisted, warped window sill. The police reach for me, but their not fast enough. Before they grab onto me I jump and tumble through the frigid air. The all probably lasts only for a brief second but it feels much longer. The shouts above me vanish as I fall through the open air and towards the snow bank.

I plunge into the deep snow bank and am met with a race of goose bumps up my arms and legs. I have no jacket on and the dress and tights offer little protection despite their thick wool material. My hair is plastered with the dense snow as well as my dress and tights. As soon as I crawl out of the snow we run. The police are already running down the stairs, so our head start is minimal, but we have to make the most of it.

The snow bank we jumped into is in an empty alley that connects to dozens of identical alleys. Perfect. I choose an alley that is heading in the general direction of Rivers Street and run like hell. Lorelai is able to keep up, but she's struggling. The police had to go through the front of the hotel so they won't make it to the alley in time to see which direction we went.

We pass a street sign that reads, 'Linders Circuit', we're getting closer, Rivers Street is only about a mile from here. Lorelai is really struggling to keep up now and I know that we have to stop, but we can't stay on the streets. An abandoned ware house catches my eye and I guide Luke and Lorelai to it. We duck inside and find a hidden corner of the ware house to rest in.

"Are you okay?" I ask Lorelai as she catches her breath.

"I'm okay, just a little tired," she huffs tiredly, "Why were the police looking for you?"

I turn away from her not wanting to tell her about my time at the Asylum or the guard whose blood is on my hands. She sees my discomfort and doesn't bring it up again. We sit quietly in the ware house for a while, though; it's not safe to stay here to long, they'll be looking for us. We have to keep moving.

"Rivers Street is less than a mile from here," I tell them, "We need to keep going."

Luke and Lorelai stand up without complaint and grab the few possesions they have. We exit the ware house after making sure the alley way is clear of police. We break out into a steady run towards Rivers Street and are there in just over 10 minutes. Rivers Street is full of empty store fronts and litter, I wonder what could possibly be here. I pull out the address that Mack gave me and begin looking for a matching set of numbers on the front of one of the empty stores. 1265, 1265, 1265. 

Finally, I find the matching numbers on the front of what used to be an electronics store, the exact one I had been looking through the dumpster of on the day I was taken to the Asylum. I'm not sure what to do so I knock on the front door, but no one comes. I push on the door and it creaks open on rusted hinges. The front of the store looks like all of the others, empty and covered with dust. The dust stirs as the winter wind enters the store and my lungs are suddenly filled with it. I cough until I think I've managed to get most of it out. When the dust settles I can just make out a dim light coming from the stairs that lead to the apartment where the shop keeper would've lived.

The stairs creak beneath no matter how lightly I try to tread. A murmuring comes from the top of the stairs and a head pops out of the door at the top of the stairs. It's a boy who looks to be about 19, he has golden blonde hair and a surprised look on his face.

"Who are you?" the boy asks.

"Um, I'm Brinley and this is Luke and Lorelai. We were told to meet Mack here," I try to explain.

Someone squeals and shoves the blonde boy out of the way. A pair of warm, black eyes meet mine and I sigh in relief, it's Mack. She doesn't wait for me to finish walking up the stairs, she runs down the stairs and gives me a fierce hug.

"I knew you'd come," she squeals, "I just wasn't sure if they found you."

"They did find us, but we lost them," I tell her.

She nods and I wonder if she knows about the guard, her attention turns to Lorelai who is hiding behind Luke's back, "Who is this?" she asks.

"This is my little sister, Lorelai," I explain.

"It's nice to meet you, Lorelai," Mack says and holds her hand out for Lorelai to shake.

Lorelai takes her hand tentively and Mack beams down at her. Mack leads us up the stairs and into an open apartment. The apartment has several thin matresses and card board box furniture and tables. There are only three other people milling about. When we walk in they all look at us for a moment before returning to what ever they were doing.

The boy who we first saw at the top of the stairs comes over to talk to Mack, "This is the girl you told us about. I thought you said she'd be alone."

I scowl at the boy, he doesn't seem to realize that we're standing right in front of him or he probably just doesn't care. Mack scowls at him too as she answers, "I don't care if I said she'd be alone, we'll accept anyone who needs our help. Is that clear?"

The boy glares at us as he says, "Yeah, it's clear."

He walks away with the glare still on his face. Mack looks annoyed, but she turns back to us with a smile, "Sorry about that. That was Alex, he can be a bit moody sometimes."

"I can tell," I mumble and Mack laughs. Something about Alex intrigues me, but I can't say what it is.

"Why don't I introduce you to Tylanni," she tells us and leads us across the room to where a beautiful Asian girl sits on one of the mattresses reading book titled, 'The Many Teachings of Buddha'.

The girl turns around as we approach and I realize just how pretty she is, she has glossy jest black hair and flawless skin, she could be a model. "This is Brinley, Luke, and Lorelai," Mack tells the girl and she waves.

"Hi, I'm Tylanni," she tells us cheerfully.

"Nice to meet you, Tylanni," Luke says and shakes her hand, Lorelai and I do the same.

The only other person in the apartment we haven't met yet is a boy sleeping on a mattress, Mack says his name is Jack.

Something on Mack's watch beeps and her brow creases as she says, "I have to go to work, but Tylanni can finish getting you set up," Mack grabs her coat and runs out the door before I can respond.

Tylanni smiles at us excitedly and says, "We get to make fake I.D.'s now! It'll be fun!"

"Fake I.D.'s?" Luke asks.

"So you can a joba and what not without biast for being at the Asylum," she explains.

"So you guys have all been to the Asylum?" Lorelai asks quietly from behind Luke.

Tylanni smiles at her despite the slightly rude question, "Mack is the only one who has been to the actual Asylum, Jack, Alex, and I were at a different institute. I went when I was 6 and have been out for a year now. Alex and Jack have been out a little longer because they went when they were really little because their parents got caught."

"Are they brothers?" I ask stupidly since they look nothing alike. Where Alex has blonde hair and pale skin, Jack has black hair and tan skin.

Tylanni laughs, "No, they're not related."

Tylanni leads us to a computer atop a card board box and we continue to ask her questions, "So, how does this place work? How do you know each other?"

Tylanni answers as she types into the computer, "We all met at another institute after Mack got transferred. We grew really close over the time and though we got out at different times we agreed to stick together so that we can practice our beliefs in safety and without isolation. We are like a family here, we all have jobs to provide for us and we support eachother in a harsh society like this."

The idea is absolutley amazing and I'm taken aback by the idea of a safe place to practice my faith. A machine connected to the computer beeps and a card pops out of it. Tylanni picks up the card and hands it to me before going back to the computer. The card has a picture of me, which is the only thing familiar to me, the rest of it is foreign. The card says my name is Brinley Wilson, I'm glad I can keep my first name at least, and my birthday is no longer February 8th, it's now August 16th, though; I'm still 18. Two more cards pop out and I'm disappointed to see that Lorelai's new last name is not the same as mine, she is now Lorelai Abel and Luke is now Luke Johnson. The names are pretty generic and nothing about them will stick out. We are anonymous.

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