The sky shone bright blue through the metal crisscross of wire mesh over the window. Down below, the trees grew tall and green, birds flew about merrily, and the world turned for everyone else. People passed by, walking down the sidewalk, cross the street, many stared up at the windows. Some shuddered or hid their eyes. Among them, demons. Hundreds. Maybe even thousands of them. He’d lost count years ago.
Myrtle was screeching down the hall again, that meant demons were coming to give him his pills. The tell-tale clip clop of boots headed his way made his shoulders tighten with apprehension. Maybe if he didn’t look at them they would just let him take them and leave. He blinked away a hot rush of tears that filled his eyes. How dumb to be afraid of these same demons.
These two came every day, twice a day. One held the tray with the pills and a small glass of water, the other stood behind the first, beefy arms crossed, waiting for any wrong move. But there was no fight left in him. He liked sitting here staring out the window. They never let him outside anymore. Not after he’d been lost staring at a demon for several hours. How long ago had that been? A few months? Maybe a few years? Not that it really mattered. One day blended into the next.
He took his pills dutifully, handed back the empty cups and opened his mouth to show they’d been swallowed. Only when they walked away did he finally feel some of the tension leave his shoulders. Distantly there was the sound of a TV blaring. Rose often yelled at the people on the screen like they could hear her. He wondered if she knew most of them were demons too.
More footsteps headed his way, several sets, one heavier than the rest. There were raised voices. Had they forgotten a pill? It’d been ages since he’d been taken downstairs. He didn’t have to go back for more training did he? He swallowed a pain filled breath, fear coursing through him in an instant. He’d do anything, say whatever they wanted, as long as they didn’t strap him down again.
He began to shake as the voices filled the room.
“Why isn’t he ready to go?” Someone demanded. A pair of women paused just inside the door, glaring around the room. “This is worse than a prison. Why is he in a straight jacket?”
“We haven’t received official release papers. I’m sorry, Ma’am, but you can’t be in here. This is a restricted ward. Mr. Winters is one of our more volatile patients.” One of the demons tried to block them from coming further into the room.
“Volatile? He looks like he’s thirteen years old, underfed, and hasn’t seen real sunlight in at least a decade.” Someone stepped into the room behind them. A demon, but not one he’d ever seen before. This demon had long hair like an angel, all golden and bright falling like lazy petals over his shoulders and cascading down his back, and he wore dark clothes, leather with lots of zippers. His hands were covered in a bright spattering of ink. This demon towered over the others, his face stern, eyes narrowed. His voice had been gruff and angry.
One of the women pushed her way across the room and knelt down between the chair and the window. “It’s time to go home, Aaidan.”
Aaidan? Oh, right that was his name. Sometimes he forgot. He sighed and wondered what she meant. Home. What a foreign word. A memory of an angry man, fists raised, and a sobbing woman flashed through his head. Pain. He flinched.
“He’s not stable enough to leave, Ms. Franks.”
“It’s Mrs. Franks. You’re standing next to my wife.” The woman nearest Aaidan snapped back. “If case you’ve forgotten, your little hospital has been ordered to release, with compensation, all victims of your sexual identity conversion scam. I’ll be surprised if this hospital isn’t closed by the end of the week. Get him out of that awful jacket right now.”
“Mrs. Fanks. You know we can’t do that. He is a ward of the state. His parents handed him over to the Heavenly Road Asylum more than ten years ago. You know they gave up all rights to him.”
“Jake?” The woman looked at the long-haired demon.
“On it, O.” With only two long strides was sudden in front of Aaidan.
“You can’t do this!” The other demon shouted.
The long-haired demon smiled at Aaidan. “Hey, little buddy. You ready to get out of here? See some sunshine, eat some real food?” His eyes were a shade of bright green. Face somewhat scruffy but beautiful like an angel.
“Are you a demon or an angel?” Aaidan whispered.
“Well, I guess we’re all sort of both right? A little good, a little bad? That’s what it means to be human.” He fiddled with the straps of the coat finally snatched a knife out of his pocket and sawed way the last remaining strap, then tucked the blade away again. “Your aunt’s been really worried about you.”
The woman touched his face. Her eyes were kind, a warm brown, skin around them slightly wrinkled, but not from tension. She didn’t look at him like the others did here. “Do you recognize me at all, sweetheart?”
Aaidan thought about those warm eyes. The woman who had been sobbing had eyes like those, only never as soft and welcoming. There was this one time when he was little that someone looked at him like that, with no judgment, just love. Aaidan remembered eating fresh baked chocolate chip cookies while his Aunt Olivia stroked his hair. He’d been seven and had fallen off his bike.
He blinked again. Surprised by such a lucid memory. Most of the time all he had was fog. “I remember cookies.”
A smile lit up the woman’s face. “I’ll bake you some fresh cookies when we get home. Oh, baby boy!” She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him fiercely.
Aaidan frowned, not sure what to do. He wasn’t allowed to touch anyone. He looked back at the long-haired demon. Security filled the room, a group of hulking demons in uniforms with sticks that hurt. He’d felt their sting before, but the long-haired demon rose to his full height, a scary thing that was, and cracked his knuckles.
“I’ve got his release forms, all the court orders, and federal mandates right here,” the second woman waved a stack of papers around. “Try to stop us and you’re all going to jail.”
Olivia pulled the straight jacket off and tossed it aside. “Do you have anything you need to take with you, baby boy?” She looked around the room, but there was nothing personal. “Jake, can you carry him?”
“I don’t remember what cookies taste like,” Aaidan said quietly.
“He’s so tiny. Didn’t they feed him?” Jake, who was the long-haired demon, scooped him up out of the chair. “Weighs nothing. Christ, my dogs have more meat on them than him.”
“Not supposed to touch,” Aaidan said voice raised slightly in alarm. The warmth of Jake’s body against his was nice. He was always so cold, but no one ever gave him extra blankets. Demanding young men went to hell. Evil young men with wicked thoughts like his. “I don’t want to go to hell.”
“Peanut, I think you’ve been there for the last decade,” Jake commented as he headed for the door. “Ladies, let’s get out of this hell hole.”
Faces peered at them from every doorway. The silence almost painful while Aaidan struggled to keep himself from falling into the devil’s snare and enjoying the strong arms around him. No one was supposed to touch him. The demons used to back when Aaidan had fought the medication, but that had been years ago. Now they just held him down to shove the pills down his throat.
His panic began to rise as they ventured into areas Aaidan hadn’t been in years, down the stairs, through the main hallway, and toward the door. He couldn’t go outside. Evil waited for him out there. It was everywhere, hiding in every corner, waiting to suck him down to the black abyss of never-ending fire. He began to struggle.
“Hey, hey. Calm down, kiddo. No one is gonna hurt you,” Jake told him.
“Aaidan, I’m just taking you home. I promise we’ll keep you safe.” Olivia stroked his brow, but the door was so close. The light shining through it so bright it hurt his eyes.
“Can’t. Can’t go out there. Demons!” Aaidan fought with all his might, though he might as well have been a flea in Jake’s arms. He sucked in several huge lung-full of breath but still couldn’t breathe.
“He’s hyperventilating, Olivia,” Jake stopped just before they exited the building.
A doctor cut them off and the security guards became a wall of bodies. “You cannot remove him from this hospital. Mr. Winters is very disturbed.”
“No doubt because of your reprogramming methods. We have video you know. One of your nurses defected and gave us hundreds of hours of videos. Including videos of you using shock therapy on Aaidan,” Olivia threw back at him.
“Shock therapy is used to treat many illnesses, including depression, which your nephew has. Now if you’ll have your somewhat barbaric friend put him on the bed over there we’ll wheel him back up to his room where he’ll be more comfortable.” The doctor gestured to a gurney that had been pushed down by a tight-faced orderly.
“Marissa?” Oliva asked.
Marissa stepped forward, flipping through her stack of paperwork. “Custody of one Aaidan Delaney Winters is remanded to Olivia Brittney Franks. Any interruption of this change of custody shall be seen as direct disobeying of a court order and met with criminal charges.”
“That means get the fuck out of our way,” Jake said, pushing his way through.
Aaidan blinked around him at the faces that seemed to stop and move in weird motions. His pills were kicking in again. Everything spun, but at least the pressure on his lungs eased even as the brightness of the sky filled his vision. All he could see was the bright blue and a weird golden halo around Jake’s blond hair. Maybe this one was an angel, he thought briefly. Just as the world vanished and darkness took him down into a deep sleep.
Jake wished he’d brought his guitar or something other than his phone. When O had insisted on taking Aaidan to a specialist she trusted he could have just said he had something else to do. After all he’d just been there to help by playing the muscle. Olivia and Marissa had been sure they would meet opposition in removing the kid from the mental hospital. He’d thought they’d been exaggerating, but they’d been right. He knew his grungy rock appearance would make them nervous, though he didn’t consider himself a real tough guy and never spoke with his fists. Sometimes looking like the bag guy just helped. Though the kid’s question still threw him off. Are you an angel or a demon?
Did that mean the kid really was crazy?
He leaned back in his chair and stretched. Tomorrow he’d be working on the house, sanding the windowsills to get them ready for replacing the windows and repainting. Every couple of years he bought a house that needed some love, lived it in, fixed it up, then sold it and moved on. Six months ago he’d found the most beautiful place. Thought it might just be the forever home for him, after some intense cleaning and fixing of course. That was when he’d met the Franks. Nice ladies. Barbequed all the time and were genius’ at it.
Those many evenings sitting around the grill, sharing meat and sauce, he’d learned about their on going fight to save this kid, Olivia’s nephew, Aaidan Winters. Jake had gone so far as to look up old newspaper clippings about it. Apparently, at the age of twelve, he’d been caught with a neighbor boy and set off to one of those reprogramming camps. When that didn’t work his parents institutionalized him. Something you could only do in a handful of states and Tennessee was one of them. Olivia explained that Aaidan had been caught holding the other boy’s hand. Nothing overt, but apparently they’d all suspected for some time that the kid was gay. Still that was no reason to throw the kid away for life like his parents had.
Kid. Well, Jake supposed he wasn’t much of a kid anymore at twenty-two, but he could hardly think otherwise when the man probably weighed less than a hundred pounds and was barely over five feet tall. Stunted for life. Christ. What a mess. Yeah, he should have gone home. He just thought back to how different it could have been if his parents hadn’t accepted him.
Hell, he’d always been the trouble maker of the family. The second from the bottom of six kids, he was the musician, the tattoo freak, the one who hadn’t gone to college, and had revealed to his parents at sixteen that he was bi with a firm lean toward men. That was more than a decade and a half ago. Before people knew there was more to being gay than just liking men, or that being bi meant you weren’t set smack dab in the middle. His parents had given him more gruff over his first tattoo than his sexuality. Guess he should have been grateful. Some people really got the short end of the deal.
The door opened and the specialist stepped. Everyone jumped to their feet, even Jake who barely knew the kid. The woman’s face was drawn, tired, and a frown played the corner of her lips. Not a good sign.
“It’s bad then?” Olivia asked, running her hands through her brunette curls. Marissa gripped her other hand. “Is there anything we can do?”
“He’s extremely malnourished. You’ll have to ease him into a balanced diet, supplement a lot of vitamins. Nothing overly sweet or fatty, his body can’t take it right now. Broths, lean proteins, bland vegetables lower in fiber.” She pulled out a list and handed it over. “Here’s a list to start him off with. Introduce each level slowly, watch for reaction. I suspect he might even be gluten intolerant. Most of the foods mental hospitals offer are high in starch and carbs, over processed. He’s got hundreds of ulcers in his stomach and intestines. Could be from the medications, could be from an allergy, which would most likely be gluten. I did take a sample of his stomach lining and we’ll be testing it, but that will take a few days.”
“What about the medications he was on? Are there things we need to continue with?” Marissa asked.
“A lot of them are sleeping medications, anti-depressants, things to keep him loopy, or if he were volatile like they claim, to keep him calm. Taking him off shouldn’t make him too sick, but you may find he’s very sleepy for a few days.” She pulled out another chart. “His bone density worries me. Probably a prolonged lack of calcium. Something we see more often in third world countries than anything here in the USA. I would like to test his vitamin levels every month for the next few months until we can get him back to normal levels. However, I think the damage has been done. Right now his bones are pretty fail. No intense activities. A single fall could have him cracking a hip or breaking his spine.” She paused, then shook her head. “You know I deal in recovery of a lot of these type of patients, but this is going to be hard. Emotionally he’s still 12, is there a grown up locked in there somewhere? Probably. I’ll have Ellen schedule weekly at home visits with him. He’s likely not going to be up to leaving the house anytime soon.”
“What about a suicide watch?” Jake asked, ignoring the horrified looks on Olivia and Marissa’s faces. “He might not be strong enough to hang himself or even cut his own wrists with a knife, but he might be able to hurl himself down stairs or out a window. I know suicide is high for those who have been through one of these reprogramming things.” He had a friend for six months, came back after being reprogrammed only to lock himself in the garage with the car running a month later. “I’m just trying to be real here.”
“Mr. Rhoades has a valid point. I do recommend keeping Aaidan away from heights, or anything you think he could find to harm himself. Pills, razors, anything he might use to hang himself. It sounds morbid, but it’s better to be safe until we can give him back the life that was stolen from him.” She motioned to the room. “You can take him home. I’ve got the nurses filling the vitamin prescriptions right now. You know how to give a shot, right? Giving him pills will only remind him of the asylum.”
Olivia nodded, “I can give him the shots.” She blinked back tears and headed into the room. Everyone followed and Jake couldn’t believe how small and frail the kid looked. And this is what hate did to people. How horrible.
Aaidan smiled faintly at him when Jake approached to pick him up again. “You’re back, Angel.”
“Sure am, Sunshine. Ready to go home? Hospitals of any kind are really not my thing.”
“Hmm.” Was all he replied before closing his eyes and seeming to fall back asleep again. Olivia and Marissa collected the medications and everyone headed out to the duo’s Hummer. Jake had thought it was an odd choice for the two when he first met them, since they were both fairly small, nonaggressive women who didn’t seem to flaunt their minor wealth. But they also coached little league, ran a division of brothers and sisters, headed a ton of Pflag events, and often had foster kids. The Hummer made sense because it had a lot of space and a get a hell out of their way attitude. Jake liked that about them.
The drive back to their neighborhood was a silent one filled only with random tunes from the local pop station. Aaidan slept in Jake’s lap the whole time. He shivered once or twice, forcing Jake to dig out a blanket from the back and wrap him up. He vaguely wondered how many more kids were lost in these places. Who else had been thrown away? He sighed and prayed for the kid to have a fast recovery.
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Inheritance (Dominion book 1 rerelease): http://www.amazon.com/Inheritance-Dominion-Novel-Lissa-Kasey-ebook/dp/B00TA6BN9C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426864297&sr=8-1&keywords=inheritance+lissa+kasey
Bio: Lissa Kasey/Sam Kadence lives in St. Paul, MN, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing, and collects Asian Ball Joint Dolls who look like her characters. She has three cats who enjoy waking her up an hour before her alarm every morning and sitting on her lap to help her write. She can often be found at Anime Conventions masquerading as random characters when she’s not writing about boy romance.