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.


1. Prologue

The snow falls around me twinkling in the moonlight. I shiver and pull on the ends of my itchy scarf to tighten it. If you didn't live here in the Russian Empire then you'd find it breath taking, the buildings are built like those of the Renaissance except they are much more high tech, the streets are lined with trees, and the snow is always the purest white. I suppose some people who live here find it breath taking, but for most of us it's hell. The beautiful buildings are only for the rich, it's the poor's job to maintain the tree lined streets, and the snow always comes with death for the poor whether it's starvation or hypothermia. I live in the western part of the empire, which is lucky for me since I heard that the weather can get even more extreme in the north.

My icy cold fingers shakily lift up the lid to a dumpster and I begin to dig through it, usually I can find stale bread, a rotten apple, or something. Most of these bags are filled with broken electronics, since I'm outside an electronics store, but there is no food. My tiny 8 year old legs come off the ground as I dig deeper through the metal bin. I can feel my little wool dress slide over my bum leaving my scrawny legs with only thin tights to defend them from the cold. Blonde curls fall in my face and my chubby child fingers grasp at plastic bags and circuit boards. The snow it falling on my nearly bare legs and I shiver. I'll have to keep going there's nothing here.

The book store is only a block from the electronics store so I head there knowing that the owner generally leaves something in the dumpster for me. The metal lid squecks and groans as I lift it up causing me to cringe, this isn't illegal and the book store owner won't care, but if one of the other shop owners sees me they may chase me away. I'm not disappointed when I find a container of cold soup and a spoon at the top of the bin. I do my best to save some for my mom and dad, but I'm so hungry that before I know it the soup it gone. My stomach growls at me in protest but any food I get now has to be for my mom and dad.

I begin to dig though the dumpster in hopes of some more food, but all I find are some soggy recipts and a few old books. I'm about to give up when I spot something. It's a book, but it's not one I recognize. It's cover is worn, brown leather that feels soft under my freezing fingers and it has beautiful golden writing on the cover that illuminates in the star light. My fingers trace each letter carefully. First a B, then an i, another b, a l, and finally and e. Bible. I almost drop the book in the snow out of fear. This is a forbidden book. It's a book of faith and religion, two things almost every government in the world have forbidden. Books like this and of other faith or beliefs are burned whenever they are found. I saw it once, they had found a stash of such books in a warehouse, copies of the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, The Origin of Species, and several other books. They had brought them to the town square and built a great bonfire where they burnt the books till they were no more than ashes.

I'm about to put the book back where I found it, but curiosity gets the best of me and I clear a spot off on the dumpster to sit. I begin reading from the first page and instantly intrigued by the wonders of the book. Why would the government want to ban such a beautiful thing? I'm so consumed in the first page of this book that I don't hear her come out of the store. When I finally do notice her it's too late. The shop keeper screeches when she sees the book in my hand and chases me down the alley screaming.

"Eric! Eric! Call the police! This girl's got a Bible!" the woman screeches.

I slip on a patch of ice and crumple to the ground. The woman yanks me up by the arm and begins  dragging me to her shop where Marty is calling the police.

"Our youth are corrupted!" she rants to herself, "A young girl with a Bible! What has this world come to?!"

I try to keep up with her long strides, but my legs are short and I end up being painfully dragged across the icy ground. Tears fill my golden eyes and when the woman sees them she slaps me.

"Don't you dare cry! You are getting what you deserve, you stupid girl! Insane people like you need to be taken off the streets!" the woman's words are as painful as her blow.

I whimper quietly. I'm not insane or at least I don't think I am, but the law says that I am so now I have to go to the Asylum. I'll have to spend the next 12 years of my life there being treated for a mental illness I don't have. I won't see my parents for 12 years, will they even know what happened to me? The thought of being without my parents for 12 years makes me cry harder earning me another sharp smack from the woman. My left cheek is starting to swell over my eyes trapping the tears inside it.The police come to soon and the woman tells them her version of the story, they don't even ask mine.

"This little girl," the woman says, "was telling the other children about God and preaching from the Bible! If I had not shown up she probably would have told them there was an afterlife!"

"That's not true!" I say but my outcry only earns me another slap, this time she hits me with my Bible.

"She doesn't know what she's talking about! She's insane!" the woman tells the police and they believe her, after all I was caught with a Bible. To them I'm clearly insane.

One of the police officers kneels in front of me so that I can look him in the eyes, "What's your name miss?

This police officer isn't nearly as mean as the shop keeper lady so I decide to answer him, "Brinley Larson."

"And how old are you Ms.Larson?" he asks kindly.

"Eight," I answer quietly.

The police officer writes down everything I tell him and continues to ask questions, "Do you have an address we can find your parents at?"

"They work at the metal factory on Quincey lane and we live in apartment C, floor 10, building 5 of the apartments on Lavender Street," I tell him sheepishly. Lavender Street may sound pretty, but it's about as run down as it gets.

The officer nods to his partner, "Go tell the parents, I'll take her to the Asylum."

The tears begin to flow from my eyes again and the woman's hand raises, but thankfully the officer stops her. He leads me to a car parked on the curve of the street and helps me into the back. He puts the car into drive and we make our way through the snowy streets. My swollen face is pressed against the window as Newbury, Russian Empire, the only home I've ever known, slips away into the snowy white world.

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