The Asylum by L.M.G.Vickerstaff

Betsy is taken to mysterious venue she has never seen before and she is unable to think why. Her governess leaves her under the care of a elderly woman who welcomes Betsy to St. Ursula's Asylum with open arms. Will the Asylum be able to stop the voice inside Betsy's head?

   Approaching the asylum was like approaching the gallows. It looked hideous and quite frightening! It was a grand, grey-bricked building with small windows, which appeared to be barred. Black dirt completely covered them, making it impossible to see what awaited for me inside.

   Before me, was a set of Gothic, iron gates. They were decorated with asymmetric swirls and jagged roses, that could easily cut through skin. They towered over us at an immense height. The guards began to open the gates and it looked for a moment that it would take them forever, but surprisingly, they managed effortlessly. We strode through the entrance.

   I turned and looked at my governess. She stood next to the carriage, perfectly still. Her grey eyes were like two dark pits. She approached me slowly and kissed me on the forehead,

   “Goodbye Betsy.”

   A surge of panic rushed through my body. My breathing quickened and reached out to hold my governess' hand, for comfort, but she recoiled and took a cautious step back. I didn't understand. She hurried back to the carriage without a second glance. The next thing I knew, was that I was staring at the carriage, as it rapidly disappeared over the horizon.

   The guards grabbed me by the wrists and forced me into another carriage waiting about fifty yards away. We galloped up the dirt road. The carriage shook incredibly. I cursed as I repeatedly banged my head against the window. Pain throbbed and I grumbled as the beginnings of a migraine started to settle. I gazed out the window to distract myself from the pain.

  To my surprise, though I didn't believe my eyes at first, I saw hundred of crows. Their crooked, black beaks pecked at lumps of rotting carcasses. I watched in horror as one, then two, then tens of crows jumped up into the open air and hurtled towards the carriage. I curled up into a ball as the birds skimmed the carriage, their ear-piercing screeches all that I could hear. It was maddening!

   As the last crow passed the carriage, I relaxed and sat properly, pushing down the creases in my dress.

   Are we here? A voice inside my head asked dismissively,

   “Where is here?” I whispered, not wanting the guards to overhear me.

   Are you worried about your governess? Get over it! We're in a better place now! She said sourly.

   I gritted my teeth, “You don't exist!”

   The voice chuckled as though I had told a very witty joke, Oh please, Betsy! You still don't get it? We're a team. Without me, there is no you. Without you, there is no me. Admit it Betsy! You need me!

   Although I didn't want to admit it, she was right. She was the one who kept me sane and kept me in control. Without her, I'd be dead.

   All my life I've followed her demands. I have been obedient to her for thirteen ears and not once have I disobeyed her, because I know that if I did, she'll hurt me. I've felt that pain before.

   I looked back out the window. We entered a small courtyard, just outside the grey building. It looked much creepier up close. Guards marched from side to side of the courtyard, with large, vicious Alsatians. They looked magnificent from a distance, but as we got closer, their features became much clearer.

   Their black, hungry eyes instantly looked to me as I passed by. The dogs bared their lethal fangs and snarled menacingly. They could sense danger and I didn't like to think that that danger was in fact, me. If I wasn't still in the carriage or I would've been lunch.

   The carriage eventually came to a halt. It shook as the bulky guards climbed down from the top. They opened the door and lifted me out, placing me as gently as they could on the cobblestone floor.

   I stared at the building in front of me. Two impressive wooden doors - decorated identically to the gates – took up most of the front of the asylum. Leading up to the doors was a flight of uneven, stone steps. Either side of the steps were two large statues of – what once were – griffins. Many years of acid rain damage had made the creatures look deformed and although I knew they weren't real, they still gave off a sense of evil.

   The guards grabbed my arms and pulled me up the steps. They were going so quickly I could hardly keep up. My heart beat against my ribcage, like a frantic bird trying to escape. I tried to break free from the guards' grip and to run as fast as my legs could carry me back to the iron gates. But as hard as I tried, their grip would not budge.

As I got closer to the door, I could hear the faint thud of footsteps against stone. The door began to creep open. An ear-splitting screech erupted from the rusty hinges and hurt my ears profusely. I immediately shut my eyes and clasped my hands over them to block out the infuriating screeching.

   Once the screeching had ceased and the door was wide open, I re-opened my eyes and gawked at the figure in front of me. Standing firmly in the doorway, was a tall, thin woman. I couldn't place an age on her. Her hair was grey, wavy and tumbled down her back, and her skin was whiter than anything I had ever seen and as smooth as marble. I could've easily mistaken her for a ghost. Her dress was black and covered every inch of her body, the only thing visible were her hands and her face. It was decorated with frills at the neck and sleeves. The corset was laced as tightly as thought possible and I could only see her chest rise ever so slightly each second. Her fingers were long and thin, with nails as sharp as talons on a bird. She had a manic look in her eyes, which wasn't surprising considering we were in an asylum.

   As her gaze met mine, her face brightened and the corners of her mouth, curled into a small smile. She stepped forward,

   “You must be our new arrival,” she said, examining me with interest.

   I curtsied, “Yes Ma'am,” I responded. I saw her smile widen,

   “What a lovely young lady. Please, do come in.”

   I stepped into the bleak asylum. I heard the guards take a step with me, until the woman held up her hand to stop them. Her expression was now serious and showed no emotion whatsoever,

   “Please. I can take care of myself. Besides, I work with the mentally afflicted everyday,” her lips spread into a cocky smile, “So please. Go.” The guards bowed hesitantly and walked away. The woman placed a bony hand on my shoulder.

   I stared, perplexed at the room I was in. Two doors were set on both sides of the room. They looked like they were made from solid iron and were bolted securely. A wooden desk was placed in the centre of the room, with two chairs in front and one behind. It was made from a red wood and leaves were carved along the sides. On top of the desk was a quill, some ink, a stack of paper; with excessive amounts of writing on them and a small portrait. The walls were not painted and the floor was not carpeted. There was no decoration and overall the room was extremely dull. A large glorious fire place stood opposite me. It was made of marble, that needed a good dusting. There was no fire in it, just soot.

   The skeletal body sat down in the chair furthest away from me, looking up she gestured for me to sit down. I took a seat in the large, uncomfortable chair opposite. She picked up the quill ready to write,

   “So...” She began, “Your name?”

   “Betsy,” I said in my colloquial dialect.

   “Form of insanity?”

   “Excuse me?” I enquired. What on Earth did she mean?

   Sniggering she said, “You mean to say, you've come to my asylum and you don't know why?”

   Suddenly, reality hit me. The voice in my head, the reason my governess never let me play with the other children, the reason why I never felt totally alone and the occasional time when I got too angry, I'd lash out at the only on that was willing enough to care for me. My carer sent me here for my own good. She knew, but for how long? My mind has never been as it should have been. I'm not like any of the other children.

   “Maybe we should discuss this in the morning. You're probably tired. It's best if you rest for a while.” With this, she got up from her seat and began to unbolt one of the two doors.

   Automatically I jumped to my feet and followed with hesitation. As I approached the heavy iron door, I began to hear distressed cries. I squirmed. I couldn't free myself from the screaming. The sounds immersed into a perpetual ringing, that I knew wouldn't leave my ears.

   We came to an empty cell, in the centre of all the warped emotions. The women around me stretched their arms in desperation through the bars, towards me. I flinched, not wanting to feel their cold touch. I coiled towards the one person who seemed to care for me.

   Before I realised what was happening, I was forcibly being guided into my new room. I stumbled, steadying myself against the bars, not wanting to fall onto the dirty, cold floor. I turned, facing her in confusion. Smiling half-heartedly, she simply said,

   “I forgot to introduce myself. I am Sulpicia, but you shall address me as Mistress or Ma'am,” she turned away, walking swiftly towards the door, momentarily stopping to say, “Oh, and by the way... Welcome to St. Ursula's Asylum,” on that note, she was gone.

  As I took in my new surroundings, the rattling of bars filled the short spaces where cries were not perceptible. At the point of loneliness creeping upon me, that's when I heard her voice. I knew that before she even spoke, she was discontent with how well I was being treated... Or should I say unwell?

   So, what now?

   “Bed I suppose,”

   No! We have so much to talk about. Surely you can't be tired already?

   “I've been travelling all day! I can't cope with another minute awake.”

   I knew this was when the kind and persuasive side of her would come. She was always good at diverting what I wanted and what she clearly didn't approve of. It's never fair, I'm never going to know what it's like to make my own choices, with a dictator like her in my mind.

   I sat down on the hard bed trying to relax, thinking of home was the only way. Memories that seemed so recent began to distance themselves from me. Just as I thought she'd left me, she began again,

   Don't linger in the past, Betsy, you know it's not good for you. The present is now and who know what the future holds!

   As she continued to talk at me, her voice started to slowly detach itself from reality as I slipped into unconsciousness.

The End

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