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The asylum is cold.

The inmates' breaths frost in the musty air of their cells, some coming in quick gasps and pants, others erratic and uneven, some level and steady in the peaceful rhythm of sleep. Tonight, there is a certain uneasiness in the frosty wind. Then again, that uneasiness comes every night here.

A few doctors are working late. They try to hide their fear behind masks of "seen-it-all," but they give themselves away, rushing the paperwork so they can go home early. They have studied the art of psychological healing for years and yet still don't fully understand. They have built walls to put the prisoners in, yet fail to realize that the patients run free every night in their dreams. All their careful work undone, as if the doors were opened at midnight each night, letting the inmates run wild through the streets of the city they were so carefully protected from. The doctors are puzzled that they aren't making any progress. The inmates look forward to sunset, like a drug given in small doses every time the moon rises.

A psychiatrist jumps, toppling papers over onto the floor in shock, as a piercing shriek sounds throughout the night. He is halfway to the door, assuming an emergency, when the shriek catches in its owners throat and forms another syllable: "ha". The patient is laughing. The doctor's shoulders slump and he returns to his paperwork, fighting the temptation to run all the way home.

The peals of laughter continue until they die down into a demented chuckle: "ah-heh. Ah-ha. A-heh-heh. Heh." Another doctor, on the other side of the asylum, entertains thoughts that would get her locked up with her patients if anyone found out. Half the employees are mad themselves. The asylum director is quite possibly the most dangerously deranged person in the building.

A wracking cough travels through the twisted corridors. A bulging yellow eye snaps open. Hands clap, teeth clack. Someone sings a long-forgotten children's lullaby. The doctor picks up his fallen papers and leaves gratefully. The psychiatrist on the other side of the building falls asleep in her chair listening to the laughing man with madness in her eyes. Windows become frosted with consensation from heavy breaths.

Far above, a dark shape flits across the moon, watching silently, looking down upon a place without hope.


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