There's not much I remember from myfirstdayhere. I remember needles and tears and thisisforyourowngood but I recall nothing else. I wake up with a pounding in my head; all the little flashes dance their way into my consciousness, reminding me of my nonexistent insanity that everyone is convinced is real.

I am in a strange room; astrangeplace. Of course, I usually am. I haven't been home since thathorribleday.

My hands roam the crisp linen that covers me. It is pale blue and I despise that color. The room is small and I can jump off the bed and slam into the opposite wall if I want to. But I don't. The ceiling is tall and I can't reach it even if I jump on my bed as high as I can go. But I don't want to.

The room is chilled but Idon'tneedtobewarm so I step out of bed and stand on shaky legs. I'm dizzy and my vision skitters and skips but I'm alright. There's a mirror on the back of the door, and I see a face staring back at me.

Amber eyes. Pale skin. Strong bones. Stringy brown hair. AmIPretty?

I don't have time to dwell on that much longer before the door swings open, almost hitting me, and a boy stands there, holding a stack of clothes. He has blond hair that flips up and looks very soft and blueyesthatsparkle. He smiles and I see that he has silver strands across his teeth like train tracks.

"Hi, you must be Settie." He says, smiling and exposing his train track teeth. "I'm James."

I don't move. I don't speak. I do what I've been doing since I was seven. I stand in place. James, who seems to be very friendly, almost too much so, looks at me with curiosity.

"They said you weren't much of a talker," He shrugs, and I can't help but crack a grin. Something about the way he says it makes it sound funny. "Oh well, I guess I should just…"

James puts the stack on a shelf that I did not notice before.

I don't react. But, for some reason, the one little wispy thought keeps running laps around the inside of my head. Am I pretty?

Am I?


"Well, you should put these on. I guess they'll come to take away what you're wearing now."

I flush, remembering what I am dressed in. His eyes skirt over me briefly and I hunch back to cover myself. I am in a threadbare tank top that is far too thin and an old army green pair of sweats that are worn through at the knees. My feet are and dirty and suddenly IfeelInferior to James and his clean, mental hospital look.

He leaves with a smile and I look at the clothes that have been provided for me. I ruffle through the stack. Clean, stiff denim overalls and a t-shirt the same powder blue as the sheets. There are small, white socks and white canvas shoes. New clothes. Clean clothes.


This place has a nice front. They have a garden up there and comfy chairs in the waiting room and floorboards the color of melting caramel. But once you get to whereverIam, the courtyards are made of gravel and scraggly grass and the chairs are broken and plastic and the tiles are old and yellowing. It reminds me of a prison.

The cafeteria is the nastiest place overall. The walls used to be red, I think, but since they were painted, food has been thrown and timehashaditstoll. They now are an odd orangy-red with flecks of white and splatter marks of assorted colors. The floors look as if someone poured bleach in the center of the room several years ago and then neglected them.

The tables are sagging in the middle and the cracked seats are all occupied. Our silverware consists of a spork, a cup, and a plate. The plates are nailed to each spot and the spork and cup are chained to the table as if we are likely to steal them.

I sit in the corner with my food in my hands, watching. All the spots are taken, so I have to enjoy the musty, grime-filled corner. Whatfun.

The food is alright, I suppose. I've had better. I've had awholelotworse. It's cornbread, grits, and green beans. I opted out of the soiled-looking grits so I'm nibbling on cornbread and eating green beans out of the cup of my hand.

A pair of white shoes stops in front of me and I look up into a pair of blueeyesthatsparkle. James, the boy from earlier.

"Hey, Settie!"

My name's not Settie.

"Do you want a seat?"

No, I'm good, right here. But he grabs my hand, the one with the green beans, and the pulls me up. The little green tubes scatter across the stained floor.

He leads me to a nearby table and stops. It's full.

"Hey, Mary. Do you have somewhere to be?" He says to a middle aged woman. She looks up at him with dazed eyes and nods.

"Ah, yes. I should probably get going. I need to make John lunch. He's doing yard work right now, always such a dear…" Her voice is soft and wispy, as if it will be lost if you blow the words from the air.

She lifts herself off the seat and drifts away. The girl who was sitting with her starts to cry.

"No! Where are you going?" She cries and gets up and dashes after her.

James sits in one of the lopsided sears and motions for me to take the other. I sit, confused and trying to ignore the twinge of guilt for knowing that we made to people give up their seats. But I get over it; since thathorribleday, I've realized that one must do a lot to get around in this world of sterilized needles and hospital beds.

"Mary and Taylor. Mary saw her family killed a few years ago and it screwed her up. She convinced herself that she's still alive, so she walks around thinking that everything's the same. Kinda sad, really. Taylor, she was found alone on the highway and brought here. She has really bad abandonment issues.

"Of course, we all have stories like that. Except for me, of course. Really, I'm pretty normal. What about you? You're probably not going to answer me. Oh, well. Anyway, I'm just here for night terrors. Really bad ones. Do you know what a night terror is?"

I shake my head. James has a lot to say, and it's pretty interesting. He tells me about his night terrors and the time his parents found him on the roof and I laugh.

He tells me the stories of the other residents. Apparently we are in the 'Social Section', the part of the asylum that holds the people of a milder insanity.

"Mainly people like Mary, who are nice enough, or people who just have anger management issues or bad OCD…" He lists the types of people that are considered safe enough to be here. "… And then there's the 30 day people like you and Bobby."

30 days. I have heard this term. I have heard it floating from the front seat to me in the back while my mother's on the phone. I heard it on myfirstdayhere when my mother checked me in. And now I'm hearing it again.

James must see my furrowed brow for he launches into an explanation. "Usually people who need financial aid apply to it. It's risky, so a lot of people just opt for a cheaper place. Basically, they put you into an extreme treatment plan for a month. You pay dirt cheap for it, and if you start to show improvement by the time it ends then you get the rest of your stay here for free. If you don't…"

James stops speaking and he looks uncomfortable. A chill settles over me and suddenly Idon'twanttoknow. I don't. I don't. I don't Idon'tIdon'tIdon't.

"September Quirrely?"

I turn around at the sound of my name and I see a man with beady black eyes. The folds of his fat make a shadow slip over his face. "You're going to have to come with me."

I don't have any time to fight because the large man in a nurse's outfit lunges forward with a needle and sinks it into my neck.

"What are you doing?" James's voice sounds weird and hollow, as if he's yelling in a cavernous space. My limbs are going heavy again and I slump backwards into the man's arms. The fluorescent lights above me start to spin when the man answers James.

"She's one of the more difficult ones. You'd do best to stay away from her, Jamie. You wouldn't want to get attached."

And then the world turns dark.