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Authors: Jade McCahon

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A Night at the Asylum

BOOK: A Night at the Asylum
5.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


A Night at the Asylum

Jade McCahon

Copyright 2013 Jade McCahon

Smashwords Edition






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“I wish that death would bring one long and dreamless
sleep. But alas, my experiences have proved conclusively to me that
– ‘dust thou art and to dust thou returneth’ – was not written of
the Soul.”

The Projection of the Astral Body
, by
Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington








Special thanks to my husband, John, my babies, Emily,
Madelyn, and Aiden, and to my family and friends who have waited
patiently for me to get my act together with this book. Thanks
especially to my mother, for her lifelong encouragement of my
writing. Also grateful for the feedback/advice/support from my
writer/reader friends and family, to Georgeane for her kind words,
and most of all my sister, Lacey, for reading and rereading and

…and to Caitlin, who breathed new life into a






This book is dedicated to

Russell, Julie, Daulton, Jamie, Eric, Sam & Faye,
Harvey, Tamara, Lela, Spencer, Shawn, Audie, Patrick, Ralph, Lori,
the beautiful and eternal River, and of course, Jane. See you on
the other side.






For his amazing, inspiring photographs of urban
decay, special thanks go to Tom Kirsch at

Much gratitude to Ian Andrews for the beautiful cover
art for this book. Find more of his artwork at






A Night at the Asylum






One O’Clock



I dreamed of my dead brother, Tommy.

In the dream he sat beside me on the porch
swing, holding a fan of red-backed Bicycle cards in his hand. It
was a beautiful day, the kind that only exists in early spring,
with a warm breeze that carried the scent of lilacs and rustled the
maple branches that hung over our house. This vision was so awash
in detail that I consciously decided it had to be real. I could see
the blue and gold flecks in Tommy’s eyes as he looked at me from
behind his cards, watched the wind twist the light brown hair that
fell across his forehead, concealing the scar he’d gotten in a
freak Little League accident when he was twelve. I felt the warmth,
the life, radiating from his body. The swing squeaked as he shifted
his weight against the wood. I wasn’t sure what we were playing,
but suddenly I was holding cards too, and Tommy was laying the ace
of hearts across the ripped knee of his jeans.

“Rummy,” he said.

“What?” I appraised my hand, scrambling to
make sense of my place in the game. “What do you mean? I haven’t
put any cards down yet.”

“You have three aces,” he answered. Saliva
sparkled on his bottom lip as he chewed it impatiently.

“How do you know that?” I stared at him.

“I can see them,” he answered.

I pulled the cards toward my chest
possessively, reflexively, and noticed my clothes for the first
time – the same white T-shirt and jeans I had just fallen asleep
in. My understanding of this was, in itself, revealing. The
disorienting, quixotic features of a typical dream were not
apparent now.

“Not with my eyes,” he insisted with a little
smile. “Sometimes one just knows.” He tapped his temple with his
finger. “Especially now…I don’t even have to try.”

I scoffed. This was Tommy’s routine:
subterfuge, maniacally triumphant laughter, his bedroom door
slamming in my face. I was gullible. I looked at him with shiny
naïve eyes and a yearning for acceptance from a sibling five years
older and infinitely more interesting. My big brother…what a kidder
he was.

“You don’t believe me,” he stated.

“No, not at all.”

This made him laugh, his head tilted back,
white teeth catching the sunlight with a bright flash. It was a
laugh I decidedly loved and realized how badly I missed. Where had
he been that it seemed forever since I’d experienced it? It was
impossible to recall. There was an invisible boundary pushing
against me in my head, cordoning off my memories.

Conscious though I was, I did not think to
ask why we were playing the obligatory card game, that time-waster
reserved for mornings our father drove us to school on his way to
the restaurant. Questions loomed just out of my mental reach. There
was a foreboding feeling about our conversation, and I could not
risk losing Tommy’s attention. I needed him here in the game,
needed to see his sun-browned face and hear the lull, the ebb of
his voice.

His expression turned serious. “I wish we
didn’t have to play games. If you’d just listen to what I’ve been
trying to say…but you’re so difficult.” He frowned. “Just like the
rest of ‘em.”

difficult?” I shook my head.

“Whatever,” he repeated, nodding. He smacked
his cards down loudly across the slats of the swing. There was a
disturbing finality to the sound. “I don’t have time for this.”

“You’re forfeiting?” I squealed in delight,
but my stomach protested, knotting itself in an attempt to get my
attention. The breeze that had pleasantly circled about us now
turned cold. A cloud had moved overhead and temporarily blotted out
the sun.

“No,” Tommy answered, his mouth twisting.
“I’m just tired of playing with you. I’ve tried everything.”

He sighed, looking truly frustrated. “There’s
still the board, but you refuse to pick it up.”

“The board?” The memory of another game –
wooden surface, painted letters, glass pointers – flashed in my
mind for an instant, then dissolved. “No…doesn’t ring a bell.”

“Never mind.” He stood and the swing squeaked
loudly in protest. The knot in my stomach curled, and I began to
sweat…real, cold, un-dreamlike sweat. Nervous sweat.

“Well…how about I make some lemonade?” I
stammered, grasping at the first idea that popped into my head.

“Really?” Tommy eyed me skeptically, amused
at my lame attempt at deflection.

“Okay then, how about a different game?” My
voice was pleading. “Just one more. Come on. I can do it this

He considered it for a moment. “There’s only
one left,” he warned, but he nodded. “Alright. One more game.”

I looked down at my hands, which were now
clutching a batch of black and white domino tiles. I didn’t
question it. Tommy kneeled down on the floor of the porch, setting
his own tiles upright in a careful line. As usual, he had his own
set of rules. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“As soon as I push them over, they won’t be
able to stop,” he murmured cryptically. “It’s called a chain
reaction. Ever heard of it?” He was patronizing me now. “If that’s
the way it has to be…”

I heaved a sigh. What was he trying to prove?
He could never come out and say something; he always had to be
overdramatic. He always had to paint a picture.

He should have been a lawyer, my brother.

“That’s not how you play,” I said. “You’re
doing it wrong again.”

“I am
, Sara.” He looked up at me,
his light brown hair in his eyes. “You just don’t understand the

don’t understand the rules?” The
knot that was twisting in my stomach pulled tighter. “Who calls
rummy when the other person hasn’t even played their cards yet? At
the very least it’s…rude. Have some common courtesy.”

What the hell was I blabbering about? Why
couldn’t I just keep my mouth shut? When had everything that was
once so clear become so convoluted? The boundary in my mind pushed
harder. I was slipping into acceptance of the encroaching

Dark clouds broiled in the sky now, choking
out the sun completely and sucking out what warmth was left in the
wind. A crack of lightning overhead catapulted me to my feet. The
chains holding the swing rattled with the sudden absence of my
weight. The knot in my gut buzzed with a corrosive sense of

My brother was scowling. “You don’t get it,
Sara,” he explained. His voice rose, whether to be heard over the
sounds of the now howling weather or out of pure anger, I couldn’t
be sure. “There’s nothing else to do. It’s like you can’t get it
through your thick skull. I’ve tried getting your attention in
every way I know how. This is how it has to be.”

“I just don’t want you to go. Please.” My
voice hysterically high, I reached out and clutched his arm, not
caring how desperate it seemed. I would do anything…cry or scream,
dig my nails into his skin, which felt warm and real. And why was
that so strange? The boundaries shoved at me. “I’ll play any way
you want,” I promised again. He couldn’t leave this porch. I had
the unquestionable feeling that if he did, I’d never see him

He lowered his head, and the wind was
suddenly still. The storm swirling around us went on without sound,
lightning flashing in his eyes – fierce, furious. “How can I make
you understand?” he muttered, definitely angry now. His words
echoed off the vinyl siding, rumbled over the gravel in the
driveway. “Sara,” he shouted. “
This isn’t a game

The tone of his voice, the stupidity of his
cliché, was oddly sobering. For a moment it seemed as if the storm
had vanished, but it was only on mute. “We could stand here trading
shitty horror movie lines, or we could go make some lemonade,” I
suggested. Again with the beverage preparation! Again with the
blathering! It was true I’d say anything, do anything. I forced a
bright smile onto my face, if for no other reason than to make him

He didn’t. He was quiet, shoulders hunched
with the weight of his sigh. The building storm overhead remained
volatile but silent. “You go ahead,” he answered finally. “I’ll
stay right here.”

Pure lies and I knew it. “I don’t trust

“Why not?”

“Because I
you. Promise me.
Promise me you won’t go anywhere.”

His smile seemed infallible, utterly genuine.
“See?” he held up his hands. “My fingers aren’t even crossed.”

I watched him for a full minute. His face
didn’t change.

Finally I backed toward the screen door. With
the slightest, most effortless movement, Tommy bent down and tapped
the first domino in his line. It crashed into the second, the
second into the third, on to the others in slow motion. He seemed
pleased with himself. I turned and went inside, knowing his
concession was a trick and still powerless to stop my inexplicable
scurrying. There was not an ounce of lucidity left in this dream,
and oddly, I knew that too. I pulled the flowered glass pitcher off
the top shelf of the cabinet, gathering ice from the freezer and
water from the sink…blinked my eyes as the powder from the cheap,
unnatural lemonade mix burned and tingled maliciously in my
throat…listened to the click-clack of the ice cubes as I stirred
the powder and turned to carry the pitcher toward the door. I was
dogmatic in my denial.

Then my ears caught another sound. The
instant I heard it, I recognized it.

It was Tommy’s motorcycle, that giant black
beast that was the bane of my parents’ existence, the mother of all
teenage rebellion. He had bought it for almost nothing and fixed it
up himself. He never wore his helmet, threatened with having the
bike taken away by our mom and dad until he was too old for threats
anymore. Its engine roared, whined, like a monster that would
devour anything in its path and whatever was foolish enough to be
on its back as well. Even through the screen door I could see the
gravel spewing from beneath the tires, smoke belching from its
pipes, a smell that was furious and lethal. With the background
rumble of thunder so close, a hurricane blew through my heart,
leaving the foreboding I felt far behind and only horror in its
wake. I dropped the pitcher and it shattered against the floor,
tiny slivers of glass bursting like shrapnel into my skin. I ran
out on the porch. There was my brother, peeling out onto the street
in a trail of putrid smoke, not even once looking back. I watched
him disappear around the corner and the strangling knot in my
stomach was suddenly unbearable, weakening my legs until they sank
out from under me. The thunder clamored, the wind howled. Lightning
cut my head in half and I was falling, into a vast dark hole that
would never end.

BOOK: A Night at the Asylum
5.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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