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.


7. Chapter 6

Lorelai lays on one of the thin, mildew covered mattresses next to me; her light breath stirs the beautiful, ebony hair that frames her face and her eyelids cover her liquid gold eyes. She sleeps so peacefully, yet I cannot sleep at all, maybe it's the moon light that dribbles through the windows of the abandoned apartment or the dust hangs in the air like a thick cloud, but I suspect it's more. My life has once again taken a dramatic turn and I'm lost, I spent the last ten years locked up like an animal, but now I have freedom, even if it's limited, and I don't know what to do with it. The anger and resentment that has built up over the years has yet to fade and I see no reason to let it, they took away my life, why shouldn't I be angry? I let these thoughts of my past and my future consume me until I can't take it anymore. There is a patio attached to the apartment so I go out there to get some fresh air.

A slight breeze catches at my hair as I step onto the patio and I realize how cold it is, I put on my boots and a jacket before I came out here but I'm still shivering. My eyes travel over the beauty of Newbury and I try to take it all in, the beautiful buildings, the snow covered rooftops, and the well groomed trees that line the street, but I can't take it all in, not when the moon shines so brilliantly on this false paradise.

"Stunning, isn't it?" a voice says behind me and I whirl around to see Alex standing behind me, I hadn't seen him when I came out.

I almost feel like he'd been reading my thoughts and I reply, "Stunning, but fake. People don't understand what it's really like to live here."

He shrugs, "You're right, they don't. Most people don't understand what it's like to be at the bottom of society, to have to work long hours and have just enough money to get by, but most people also don't no what it's like to have hope, something that you can have faith in."

"I have faith, but I have no hope because there is nothing to hope for. People are never going to understand the way we think and what we believe. Society will never change," I tell him solemly.

"Someone's a bit pessimistic," Alex laughs as if it were actually funny.

"It may be pessimistic, but it's true," I say honestly.

Alex smiles at me and I can't help but look into his bright green eyes as he says, "You can't just expect society to change, you have to make it change."

"And how would you do that? Start a revolution?" I ask questionably.

Alex laughs again and I smile, "I don't know, but I believe it can change."

I can't believe this is the same boy who was giving me the cold shoulder only a few hours ago and I laugh with him, "It's nice to think things could change."

His smile is as bright as the winter moon that hangs over our heads as he responds, "It's nice to know that they will change."

"Do you know for sure?" I ask hoping that I will find some reassurance in his words.

"As long as there are people like us, people willing to be different, then things will change. They may not change today, tomorrow, or even in our lifetime, but they will change," he says almost poetically.

I nod my head thinking about his words and suddenly something catches his eye, he takes my right wrist in his hands and examines the tattoo there carefully. "How did you get yours?" he asks.

I want to pull my wrist away but I feel almost frozen and my lips barely form the words I need to tell my story. I tell him all about my story and the Bible in the dumpster, I don't exclude a single detail, not the empty feeling in my stomach or the frozen ground. He listens intently to my story but it's hard to say what his reaction is. By the time I'm done the moon has crawled high into the sky and now shows against a background of stars.

Alex doesn't respond, which I'm glad for, I don't need any more sympathy. When the silence becomes palpable and I'm acutley aware that Alex still holds my wrist gently in his hand, I speak up, "What's your story?"

His fingers slip from my wrist and it falls back to my side as he says, "It's not an interesting story, it's not like anyone else's here. It's really not all that exciting"

 "I told you mine," I argue stubbornly.

He shakes his head, "I'll tell you tomorrow when we go job hunting for you, but for now you need sleep."

I roll my eyes, "Fine, but you have to tell me."

"I will," he promises.

We walk out of the biting wind and into the old apartment, Alex goes to his mattress without another word and I go to mine. Sleep finally finds me and I drift off into a dreamy haze.

Before stands Newbury, a gleaming city of the past, now consumed by flames. The ashes of the city scatter around my feet quickly replacing the snow. They pile up faster and faster around my feet as the city burns before my eyes. I desperatley try to pull my way out of ashes but there is nothing and no one to rescue me. Smoke and ash fill my lungs and I struggle to breath, why is this happening?

A voice seems to have heard my thoughts and when it speaks I recognize it, Dr.Middleton. "See what your kind do," he says mockingly as I drown in the ashes, "They destroy everything! Why are you so certain that change would be a good thing?"

I can't see the doctor through the ashes that fill my eyes, but I can hear him and I desperatley want to wrap my hands around his throat right now. His voice continues to mock me from above as I struggle to reach him. My eyes water and my lungs burn but I keep moving towards the voice.

I rise from the ashes and find myself on a bare cliff overlooking the spot where Newbury once stood, but there is no longer a city there, instead burned into the ground are the words, "Faith will burn and you will burn with it."

Dr.Middleton, who is no where to be seen, had told me that this was th work of my kind, but he was wrong. This is the work of those who want to banish faith from the world, extremists who want believers to burn. The ash blows across the destroyed landscape and I open my eyes to find that I'm back in the apartment.

The room is silent and I realize that it's still the early hours of the morning and I'm the only one up. Lorelai, Luke, Mack, Tylanni, Alex, and Jack still lay on their mattresses sound asleep. The sun peeks through the grimy windows of the apartment and I decide to make breakfast since I'll never be able to go back to sleep. I dig through the refrigerator, one of the only furnishings in the apartment, and pull out a frozen loaf of bread and a few eggs besides that the refrigerator is pretty much empty. I guess we'll be eating french toast.

It takes me a while to get the gas stove started, but when I do the egg soacked bread sizzles in the pan and the aroma drifts through the air lightening the dark mood my dream left me in. Soon the others begin to stir and one by one make their way into the kitchen. Tylanni walks in first and slumps onto one of the cardboard boxes that make up our chairs. She rubs her eyes sleepily and looks at the stove expectantly.

"What we having?" she asks groggily

"French toast," I beam at her.

"Yum," she says with the biggest smile she can muster in her sleepy state.

"I certaintly hope so," I laugh as I scoop one of the pieces out of the frying pan and onto a  plate for her.

She takes a huge bite of the toast, without even bothering to cut it up first and a huge smile appears on her lips. She doesn't say anything as she eats her breakfast and by the time she's done the others have started to drift towards the kitchen. Each of them serves themselves a piece of toast and then finds a seat at the cardboard table.

"Thank you for making us breakfast!" Lorelai chirps cheerfully as she takes her food.

"You're welcome," I respond sweetly.

She gives me a toothy grin and skips over to the table to eat with the others.

"She's a good kid," someone says from behind me and I recognize Alex's voice despite the brief time we've known eachother.

"Yeah, she's sweet," I add as I watch her hungrily eat the toast.

"Only because she has a good role model," I can practically feel him smile behind me.

"I've only known her for a couple of days."

"Well, you've clearly done something right in those days because she certaintly seems happy," he says and stands next to me.

"I'd like to think so," I say thoughtfully.

"I know so. Now lets hurry up and eat so we can go job hunting," Alex says and takes the plate of french toast out of my hands.

"Hey!" I protest.

He takes a big bite before responding, "Oh, were you going to eat this?"

"Yes," I try to sound serious, but I can't help but smile.

He shrugs and gives an innocent smile, "Sorry."

I roll my eyes and grab a new plate and a new piece of french toast. The french toast isn't as good as everyone acts like it is, but it still fills my stomach and for that I'm grateful. There is still, miracoulously, running water so we pile our dishes in the sink and Jack sets out on washing them.

 "Ready to go?" Alex asks me.

"Yep," I say as we walk down the stairs, "Isn't Luke coming?"

"No, I think he's going with Jack," he explains.

"Oh, ok," I'm almost glad that it will be just me and Alex.

The winter wind bites into my skin even through my jacket and I find myself shivering as we head towards downtown. The walk is long, but it feels short in Alex's company. On the way he picks up a newspaper and begins flipping through the jobs section.

"It looks like your options are busboy, thrift shop, or garbage disposal," he informs me.

"I think I'll go with the thrift shop," I respond

"I don't blame you," he laughs.

He starts walking towards the address in the newspaper and stops in front of a low set, dirty, gray building in the poorer part of town. The lights in the sign that reads "Arnold's Thrift Store" flicker on in off making the sign say something different every time. A sign in the front window reads, "Help Wanted." I guess we better go in.

A bell chimes as we walk out of the biting wind and into the warmth of the store, when the bell goes off a man behind the counter looks up at us and gives us a big smile.

"Um, I'm here to apply for the job opening," I tell him.

"Oh good!" the man beams and begins shuffling through the counter for some paperwork, "I just need you to fill these out. I've been waiting for someone to apply for a while now."

I smile as I take the paperwork from him and begin filling it out. It only asks simple questions like name and work experience. When I'm done I give the paperwork back to him and he skims over it.

"All of this looks good," he says and hands me an apron with the store's logo on it, "You start tomorrow."

"Thank you," I tell him and leave the store with Alex.

"That was a lot easier than I thought it would be," I tell Alex as we walk back into the street.

"You would never have gotten that job if he'd known you'd been to the Asylum," he adds.

"I know, but I have it now," I comment.

"And I say that's a cause for celebration," he says with excitement.

"Celebration?" I ask suspiciously.

"Yes, celebration. You've been stuck in a little animal cage for the last 10 years, I think it's time you did something fun," he says mischeviously.

"Like what?" my eyes narrow, but the smile playing on my lips gives away my excitement.

"It's a surprise," he says and turns down another street towards a different part of town.

"Come on, tell me," I demand as I follow him down a series of streets.

"Nope. It's a secret," he smiles and I pout, which only makes him smile more.

We make so many turns that I completely lose track of where we are and before I know it we are standing on the edge of Newbury looking up at a huge amusement.

"There's an amusement park?" I ask my voice full of surprise.

"Yup, it opened last year," he says happily.

"It doesn't look open," I point out.

He shrugs his shoulders and walks towards the closed gate. "It's not."

"Then why are we here?" I ask as I walk up next to him.

"To go in of course," he says and begins climbing over the gate.

"We'll get caught," I insist and stand at the base of the fence.

He rolls his eyes at me, "Come on. Live a little."

With uncertainty I too begin to climb up the fence. Alex reaches the top and jumps into the snow below us and I follow. The snow seeps into my boots, but it's not too bad. Alex begins to weave through the various rides and games until he comes across what he was looking for, the house of mirrors. I leave the daylight behind as I follow him in. Alex and I are reflected a thousand fold in the mirrors that surround us. Suddenly I understand why people like places like this, it's not just that they're fun, it's also that for a brief period of time you can feel like you truly are important because you are surrounded by yourself.

Alex walks throught the maze of mirrors until he reaches a circle of mirrors near the back where he stops. He waits for me to join him in the room.

"Why are we in here?" I ask him because it's clearly not just to have fun.

"Well, before we actually have some fun, I figured you'd want the answers to your questions, so I brought you somewhere no one could over hear us," he explains.

"So your going to tell me your story?" I ask hopefully.

"I am," he replies.

We both take a seat on the floor and I say, "Go ahead."

"Like I said my story isn't an exciting one, but I promised I'd tell you. My parents were homeless, they had almost nothing, except for faith. My parents were both practicing Christians and since they had nothing they figured they had nothing to lose, so they took their beliefs to the streets. They told others about God and the afterlife. They were arrested almost right away and taken to one of the institutes for treatment. When they were taken there my mom had already been pregnant with me and I was born at the institute, but I never got a chance to live a normal life, they figured I'd be just like my parents and made me a patient as well. I never knew my parents well because we were kept apart and I haven't been able to find them since I got out," he finishes and I snap out of the daze I was in during his story.

"When did you get out?" I ask cautiosly.

"Two years ago, Mack and I got out around the same time and Jack and Tylanni got out a little while after that," he tells me.

"If you were born there shouldn't you have gotten out when you were twelve?" I ask.

"I was supposed to, but my time got extended five years for bad behavior," he tells me with a smirk.

"They were going to extend my time too for not cooperating with my treatment," I tell him.

"I guess it's a good thing Mack got you out then," he says.

"Yeah, I don't know what I'd do with out her. She's the only one who cared for me at the Asylum," I add.

"I know she needed you just as much," he tells me.

The idea of Mack needing me as much as I need her fills me with joy, it's nice to think you're needed.

"Come on, we have some carnival games to play," Alex stands up and holds out his hand to help me up.

I take his hand and he pulls me to my feet. All of the game stands are locked, but for some reason Alex has a key to one of them and he opens it up.

"I worked here this summer and kept the key," he explains without me having to ask.

The game is the classic ring on the bottle one and Alex and I stay there for hours playing over and over again. He wins most of the time since he worked here all summer, but I manage to get a few wins on him. By the time we're done it's 4 o'clock and we have to head back so Alex can prepare for his shift at the restaurant he is a waiter at. On the walk back I realize that for the first time in 10 years I truly feel alive.

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