Author: Theresa Dale
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
We follow Bailey O’Connor on an exciting urban exploration trip across the border to discover the secrets of a long-abandoned institution for mentally and physically handicapped children. But there's more than just mystery darkening the crumbling buildings they discover, and Bailey finds herself lost within them with the help of those who linger.
The search for her is mounted during the day while her own search takes place in the dark. Are the rumors true? The whisperings of experiments performed on the innocent and vulnerable? What secrets lurk within the few impenetrable buildings on the site?
Most importantly, can the truth be uncovered before the property is leveled and its secrets are buried forever?
“There’s really not a lot to it; I was walking back to my apartment from a party – psych students are nuts; I don’t know if you were aware of that?”
He laughed. “Sounds like a contradiction, but go on.”
“I was tipsy – just feeling sort of light and bubbly, like everything was OK with my world, you know?”
“Anyway, I rounded a corner – one I’d seen a thousand times before on the way back from class – but this time, someone was there, in the shadows.”
He shuddered dramatically.
I smacked his arm. “Are you making fun of me?”
He shook his head. “No! It’s creepy! Keep going!”
I laughed at how his eyes widened. “OK. Um – yeah; I saw her peripherally, at first. I’d gotten so used to that alleyway I barely ever looked into it anymore. But she was in white – a straight-jacket, actually, and she moved with, like, a shuffling noise, so I stopped in my tracks and looked.”
He motioned me onward.
“And, there she was. Not like you and me there, but almost solid. She was coming toward me with this look of terror on her face, and I couldn’t look away. Her eyes were dark; it felt like I could look into them forever and still wonder about who she was, and what had her so scared.”
“You said a straight-jacket?”
“No wonder you thought it was a connection for you, considering what you were studying,” he said quietly, his eyebrows furrowed.
Touched, I found myself smiling, even as the memory of the ghost lingered in my mind. “Thank you for saying that.” I looked back at the group. “They’re starting to pack up.”
He glanced toward them, then back at me. “Keep going.”
I sucked in a breath. “I just stood there, half feeling like I was going to pee my pants and half wanting to ask her who she was, and then she stopped, just before the streetlight could reveal more of her to me. I just remember thinking that she needed help, and feeling desperate to give it to her. And there was something else – she had no feet.”
“I mean, they weren’t amputated! Her legs just sort of faded into nothing, and she was faded, too; I could see the trash cans through her.”
“It’s kind of crazy you had the time – or the presence of mind – to notice all that.”
“It was like time had stopped.”
He nodded, as though the explanation was completely logical.
“And she was looking at me like she recognized me. I felt so – I don’t know – connected to her, somehow. And then a car horn made me jump, and she was just – gone.”
Cal leaned back on his arms, his expression thoughtful. His gaze moved over my shoulder and I turned back to find Moshi approaching. I looked back at Cal. “She knows, but I’d rather not discuss it all over again today.”
“It’s incredible,” he whispered. “I completely understand your feeling that it meant something.”
I snickered. “Probably means I’ll end up in a straight-jacket, myself.”
He didn’t reply. I liked that about him; he didn’t participate in small-talk or agreeable banter if it wasn’t true for him, and he never seemed to feel he needed to play along just to smooth over rough moments. So, it was a relief that he didn’t indulge my self-deprecation.
“Oh, are you telling him?” Moshi knelt between us, looking at each of us in turn.
“How did you know that?” I threw my hands up in defeat.
“Good ears,” she pointed to the earflaps of her pink Jigglypuff hat with a smile.
I shook my head and stood, remembering my sandwich when it squished slightly in the process of pushing myself off the cool grass. I unwrapped it quickly and took a bite. Still good.
Moshi looked at Cal. “What do you think?”
Cal shrugged. “I believe she saw what she saw. Don’t know what it means, though, or why she saw it.”
Something in my chest swelled and I paused in my chewing as he smiled up at me.
“I’m pretty sure she’s not crazy, though.”
Moshi stood and looked at me with a certain smugness. “See?”
I made a face.
“I’m sticking close to her at Briarhaven,” Moshi hooked her thumbs through the straps of her backpack as she regarded Cal.
Cal downed the rest of his soda and stood, rummaging in his bag absently. “Why? You want to protect her?”
I laughed as Moshi rolled her eyes. She was petite enough to be mistaken for a child, especially the way she was dressed, in clashing, wild colours and sparkly silver combat boots. She looked like a self-dressed toddler with a future in the weird side of haute couture.
Moshi winked at me, then fixed her eyes on Cal again. “I have a theory about her straightjacketed ghost.”
My stomach did a little turn as Cal’s expression changed.
“Oh, shit. You’re thinking the ghost is attached to the asylum?”
“There’s no reason to think that,” I muttered, then slung my pack over my shoulder.
“You should stick with us, too,” Moshi looked up at Cal, and there was a touch of adoration there. But then, most everyone liked Cal.
He glanced back at me over his shoulder, a crooked smile on his lips. “I don’t need a ghost story to want to hang out with Bailey.”
I remember a sensation of lightness take me over when he said that. And letting myself think of the week we’d spend together exploring a place that was sure to offer new experiences. I wasn’t thinking about my ghost at all in that moment.
I certainly wasn’t worried she’d take over my trip.
And maybe, for a little while, my whole life.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
Asylum is a fun, yet spooky adventure many would otherwise never glimpse. It combines urban exploration, ghosts, and devastating crime, all woven into a dark mystery that one explorer can’t ignore. When Bailey O’Connor finds herself being swayed by a ghost to stay among the long-abandoned buildings of the Briarhaven Asylum, she has no way to predict the impact of her actions – or the extent of the dark truth she’ll uncover.
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