#1886

Tanim wonders, chasing the fleeting shadow down the long hallway, if Daren even knows where he’s going. The asylum is a multi-floored compound of brightly lit hallways that to the unfamiliar eye all look the same. Can Daren have any idea where the front doors are, when patients are kept shut away so deep within the maze? And even if he does still remember the way out, how will he get past the locked doors on each level and the employees who guard them? Surely he knows escape is impossible. Mad Daren might be, but he isn’t stupid.

Rounding a corner just as Daren flies through an unlocked door and into the stairwell beyond, Tanim stumbles to a stop and stands gasping for breath. He never imagined Daren could run so fast; though then again, he’s never had cause to chase after him, at least not literally. He gives himself a few seconds to catch his breath and check for security guards – none are following as of yet – then resumes the chase. Up two flights of stairs, back into an identical hallway, through countless turns and turnarounds he follows Daren, who remains always a dark figure vanishing around a far corner.

Finally, Tanim turns and finds himself facing a dead-end hallway just as one of its doors slams shut. Straining to calm his racing heart and aching lungs, he begins checking the handles of each door. Most are locked; given the burned out fluorescent bulb in the ceiling, this particular section of the asylum seems to be rarely in use. The doors on the right side of the hall are all locked. On the left side, Tanim meets locked door after locked door until he is almost to the end. The second-to-last handle moves under his hand and he hesitates, certain Daren is inside but uncertain of what the man might do when cornered.

Tanim pulls the door open slowly, expecting perhaps for Daren to rush him and continue his unpredictable flight, but nothing happens. The smell of blood hits him instead, and he pushes the door open wider to let in the hallway’s feeble light. It falls over Daren where he kneels in the shadows, glistening as it strikes the blood coating the man’s face and trickling in a steady waterfall down his neck, shoulder, and chest. In his hands he grips an open pair of scissors, their blades covered in blood; it is these, it seems, which he has used to make the oozing lacerations which crisscross his shaved head.

“I was trying to fix it,” Daren explains, his voice and eyes eerily calm. Tanim tries to speak but finds he has no words. Instead, he kneels down and gently lays his hands over Daren’s bloody fingers to extricate the scissors.

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