Who puts a school right next to an asylum? I mean, seriously, how stupid can adults be? They put a big fence with razor wire across the top on the nuthouse side, then a canal, then another fence on the high school side. Like that’s going to keep back the crazy people.
“Stop looking at the sanitarium,” my sister said as she caught me staring out the window. Yeah, we lived right by the school. So from my room on the second floor, I had a perfect view of the loonies. Sandy always thinks she can tell me what to do because she’s two years older.
“They’re out on the grass doing yoga,” I said. It was already dark outside, but the facility kept the lights on all night. I’d been up in the middle of the night before and seen people out there wandering around. “I wonder if Uncle Bart is out there.”
“Mom said you’re not supposed to keep watching them.”
“I just wonder which one he is.” Our mom worked at the nut-factory as a nurse. Besides paying the rent, she said she did it so she could keep track of her brother. I couldn’t get a straight story, but apparently he was into some messed up stuff before they put him in there. I don’t know if was Voodoo or satanic or what. No matter how many times I asked, she wouldn’t let me go meet him.
“You’re supposed to go to bed, Danny. Mom said you have to go to bed by ten.” She walked in and stood by me, unable to avoid the same curiosity drawing me in. She hated that I was only a sophomore but already taller than her.
“Relax,” I said. “They probably won’t get out.”
“They did once, remember?” How could I forget? Even the junior high down the street locked down for four hours because some old guy managed to dig out under the fence. Apparently, he was having flashbacks from the war. I had to sit in math class for all four hours watching teen romance movies the teacher had on hand. I almost threw up. Seriously.
“I wonder why mom never lets us meet her brother.”
“I think he did some weird experiments on people. Maybe even killed one,” Sandy said. “Who would want to meet him?” She popped one hip and furrowed her brow like a drama queen refusing to eat broccoli. She flipped one lock of dark brown hair over her shoulder and straightened her pink t-shirt.
“Don’t you wonder what got him messed up in that stuff? I mean, he’s our flesh and blood. What if we all have the crazy in us? Wouldn’t you want to know?”
“No.” She turned and walked back to the hall, pausing at the door. “Don’t pick at scabs. Don’t go looking under rocks at the worms. That’s how insanity sets in. If we do have it asleep in us, we have to shun it. We have to look at the sunshine and listen to good music.”
“That’s what they tell them to do over there,” I said turning back to watch the small people. Some of them were following the instructor and sitting cross-legged on little mats under the starry night sky. Others wandered around as if they were sleepwalking. One lady kept batting at something like she thought she was catching butterflies. “Think happy thoughts and it will all go away.”
“Yeah, well if you don’t stop obsessing about it, you’re going to get your wish and meet Uncle Bart.” Sandy turned and walked down the hall, calling back, “From the room next to his!”
I closed the door, turned off the light, pulled off my shirt, and jumped in bed. It took a few tries to untangle the bedding and get under the blanket. The icy sheets made my skin tingle and all my muscles tensed up. I loved the feeling as cold gave way to heat and my body started to relax.
Just as my mind started to wander and think about seeing Katelyn in 3rd period tomorrow, the room got brighter. The wall next to me sparked with white electricity. It washed over me like a wave and I felt a buzzing go through my left hand, across my chest, and out my right. For a minute, the whole room was brighter than a welding spark and left me unable to see. My ears filled with noise almost as bad as Sandy’s scream-o music. Even though I just brushed my teeth, I could taste pizza topped with strawberry ice cream.
As the sensation faded, I started to feel cold again. I rolled over and realized my blanket was just a thin piece of crinkly plastic. The lights from the asylum reflected off the wrinkles on the shiny surface. My room was different, too. The computer sat embedded in the wall now, with colored lights flashing on and off and strange charts and graphs I didn’t understand. The carpet disappeared from the floor and became metal like the walls. I reached over and touched the cold aluminum. When the survival blanket moved, I saw that my bed had become a cot built into the wall. I jumped up. My shirt was still off, but my pajama bottoms had turned into tight black pants. The floor froze my feet so I tucked them into my shoes, which were now black boots. I pulled on my shirt. It was red with a V-neck and a little planetary logo over my heart.
Then I heard Sandy scream.