Excerpt for Asylum by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Mr. and Mrs. Boyde had gone through all the phases: Initial horror, anger, refusal, guilt and acceptance. After two years of dealing with little Didley - that was the name they'd chosen for their misshapen child - they had finally reached the last phase and convinced themselves that they were not able to look after Didley's needs, and had decided it would be best for all if he were placed into the hands of those who could.

After enough searching and fussing to convince themselves they had truly opted for the best possible future for their unwanted burden, they set off, one misty April morning, towards Heahne Asylum.

Heahne asylum was a relatively small structure which, the brochure said, was "unique and trustworthy". The only two conditions they were required to accept were perfectly agreeable to them. One was to adopt another child of their own choosing within the next ten years and the other was to never, ever, seek their own child again.

"We won't adopt another...another one like Didley. We want a normal child." Mrs. Boyde said at the first meeting.

"Of course." Dr. Nye replied, "I will have you fill in a form which will allow you to provide a detailed description of the child you would want. Now tell me about your own son. May I see?"

"Of course," Mr. Boyde said, "we keep his face covered when we're outside." The father gingerly removed Didley's heavy hat and scarf.

Didley blinked in the bright light of the small room, relieved by the removal of all the hot stuffy padding. Fresh air was much welcome. He smiled back at the doctor's beaming face.

"Well, well. You're an interesting looking type," the doctor said.

"Interesting?" The mother cut in, "He looks like two normal faces patched together into one! And what is that bulging appendage there? And have you seen those misshapen hands?"

Didley's daddy grabbed his arms and held them up for the doctor, so Didley wriggled his fingers.

"Yes," said Dr. Nye, "I see. I will give you some papers to read. Bring your child back next week together with the papers, signed."

In a surge of ill-concealed sense of guilt, the Boydes made sure that last week with their child would be the happiest one. They had pic-nics, little surprise parties and all sorts of sweets. Mr. and Mrs. Boyde were wonderfully kind towards their little, unsuspecting son, while they secretly hoped for each day to pass quickly.

Ironically, the day Didley remembered best was the one with the door. It was the day when his mommy and daddy left him with the doctor. They had walked into the small room again, but then had moved on to a bigger, longer one. There was a bright red door at the end.

"Here," Dr. Nye said, "You two cannot go beyond this point."

The door at the end of the room had two large mirrors at its sides. Didley saw himself for the first time, and for the first time saw how different he seemed to be. He turned his head from side to side, hoping maybe to look more like his daddy and mommy from a particular angle. He suddenly had the impression the reflected image was staring back at him. "No!" He bawled with fear.

Dr. Nye had to drag him for the rest of the distance to the door. Didley twisted around, shrieking. His mommy and daddy had already turned their backs and were walking away.

Yes. That day he remembered best.

Eight years had passed. The initial entrance into the asylum had been the worst part. Life inside the asylum, he had to admit to himself, was considerably better than what he'd been used to until then.

First of all he wasn't forced to hide his appearance. As he grew he learned to accept his own deformities as well as the ones of the other children.

Some of the nurses were strange too, some had an extra arm or, like him, an extra eye, and all were always nice to him.

He had made friends too, many friends, but his favorite friend was Miles. Miles was very different from him, but Didley felt a strange familiarity with the little, blond-haired kid.

The inner area of the Asylum was also very large, and had a beautiful central garden where all the children played. Around the garden, which was a perfect circle, were the children's rooms and the seven corridors which had side doors to the washrooms, the canteen, the infirmary and other important rooms used by the staff. At the end of each corridor was a white door and, beyond it, all the children knew, a colored door.

From time to time one of the doctors would come in and call a child's name. All the other children would cheer and call out as well because they knew what that meant: Their friend had been adopted. The doctor would look at the child and say "Blue door!" or "Yellow door!" or any other color, and the selected child would march away, smiling and waving, cheered on by the others.

No child ever left through the same door they'd entered.

On this particular day, eight years after he'd set foot inside the Asylum, Didley was holding his ear to one of the side doors in one of the corridors. It was his favorite door for two reasons: It made a funny, low growly-humming noise, and it had an unusual name: "Dimensional splitter core" the tag said. It was always closed.

"There you are!" Miles called out to him, "gotcha!"

"I wasn't playing hide and seek," said Didley.

"Well I hope not, that was an exceptionally lousy hideout. Wanna go wrestle the tentacle kids?"

"I'll pass, thank you. I still have suction marks on my arms, from last week. How about we-" he was interrupted by a musical riff on the loudspeakers. "They're adopting someone!" Didley said.

"Hey, maybe it's you!" Miles said.

"I don't think so. They rarely adopt the monsters. You have a chance though. Your face is much more symmetrical than mine."

His friend opened his mouth to reply but froze when a voice behind him called his name.

"Miles O'Brien!" Dr. Nye said. "Red door! Oh, hello again, Didley," he added.

"Miles! Miles! Miles!" The other children started chanting.

"See? I told you!" Didley shouted over the noise. He wiped away a tear and started chanting Miles' name too.

Dr. Nye gestured towards him. "Care to join us for a proper goodbye, Didley?" he said.

Didley nodded and followed, along with his friend, down one of the corridors.

When the white door opened, Didley saw, and remembered, the red door. To its sides were two frames but from the inside, instead of mirrors, they were windows.

"You stand here, Didley, and do not make yourself seen. Do you recognize those two people?"

Standing outside the red door, were a man and a woman who looked just like his friend. Their hands had three fingers each and they had one large eye in the middle of their face. They seemed so familiar. He watched as they leapt, overjoyed at the sight of Miles, instantly in love with his large blue eye and blond hair. Didley looked at the doctor as he walked back in through the red door.

"Mom? Dad?" he whispered.

"Yes, but now they will be your friend's parents."

"Well, they seem happy."

The red door shut, and the glass went dark. "Yes, it was important that you saw them like this, so you can let go," Doctor Nye said.

"Well, good for him, he was normal."

"Everyone here is."

Didley turned to look at Doctor Nye. "No. I'm not," he said.

"Not here you aren't, but through another door you will be. Do you know how many doors this place has Didley?"

"I counted seven."

"Correct, and do you know how many places we can walk out through those doors?"

"Well, seven?"

"No. Millions. As many as the possible mutations.

Each one belongs to a different dimension. You are perfectly fine for a place populated by people just like you."

"Are you kidding? Two eyes? And ten fingers? And this?" Didley grabbed his nose.

“You bet, little human.”


About the authors...

Ian Lahey

Ian Lahey is an author and English teacher from Italy. He tries to write humor and speculative sci-fi, and also has attempted historical and fantasy genres, but they always get mixed up in his stories so he's never sure what turn his narrative wil take next.

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Hauke Vagt

Hauke is an amazingly talented illustrator from Lisbon. He combines 3D graphics and manual artwork so that one blends into the other, creating surreal and astounding worlds.

You can see more of his artwork here:

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