Tales from the Asylum is a feature in which authors put their characters (an already existing one or a completely new one) in an asylum room of their choosing, with a task/duty of their choosing to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a magically warded building…
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For SPFBO 9 I’m returning to my old tradition, where I offer to the authors in our batch a spotlight on Queen’s Book Asylum. While in previous years I created a new feature, this year I let them choose between all of my available ones: What the Hungarian?!, Tales from the Asylum, Stuck in the Pages, Party with the Stars, To Be Continued…, as well as the regular author spotlight options of an interview, and a guest post.
Sharon Rivest, the author of Deceit, chose Tales from the Asylum, so let’s see how she imagines our home!
I’m a writer of science fantasy and grimdark fantasy.
Connect with Sharon Rivest
Mace is a disgraced ex-Houseman, now mercenary, newly returned to his homeland, a place ruled by a king but truly run by the Masters of the Houses of the Pentad. His one wish is to exact revenge against Fallon, Master of the House of Spears, an obsessed madman, who took away everything Mace loved.
With little more than a dog, a spear, and an old warhorse, Mace must find a way to kill the powerful Fallon. His need for revenge leads him ever closer to discovering of the secrets of the Pentad’s power.
Interweaving present and past, Mace’s journey unfolds. As he navigates his turbulent present, the past that molded him is revealed. A series of terrible mistakes in his younger days ultimately lead to the tragic events that haunt his soul and propel Mace down his present path of vengeance. A path filled with loss, deadly choices, tragic outcomes, and unforeseen answers.
LIFE AT THE INSTITUTUM
The door to Karub’s room swirled open, the revolving triangles it was made of pulled back into the wall. Berta stepped over the foot high threshold into the room, smoothing the black taffeta of her skirt down as the door closed on its own. Today, she was a redhead, fetchingly freckled and enticingly cinched into her dress with laces that begged to be undone.
Unfortunately, Karub’s level of arousal wasn’t what it used to be. Once, the tight-fitting outfit would have had him racing across the room in anticipation of a lengthy bit of debauchery followed by a painful evisceration. He’d been exceptionally good at both. But not anymore. His baser instincts were slowly eroding. Which was the goal of what the administrators here at Institutum Enim Ipse Eructo called aversion therapy.
“Ready, Karry,” Berta said breathlessly.
Karub raised an eyebrow in response. She stood there, puffing out tiny clouds of white fog in the cold of the room. He didn’t take her heaving breasts as a sign of lust. She simply couldn’t get a decent breath in that dress.
In any other circumstances, he’d have gone anywhere the ripe young girl led him. Lately, leaving the relative comfort of this stony, subterranean cell had only resulted in pain. Not that he enjoyed being imprisoned here with the ice slicked walls and lack of fresh air. Or that straw pallet for a bed. New straw, he reminded himself. The room still smelled a bit smoky from burning the last one in protest. After all, a man of his tastes deserved a decent amount of carnage with his bread and gruel.
From deep in his overstuffed chair, he said, “Maybe another time.”
He made sure to look bored as possible, plucking at the frayed cloth of the chair’s arm with his overlong fingernails. His personal grooming had taken a dramatic turn for the worse in this place. He’d been forced to give up his lovely round cherub of a manservant. In truth, he hadn’t been allowed to replace his last valet, who, admittedly, had been the victim of a particularly brutal snit on his part. Still, he shouldn’t be expected to go without. These circumstances were truly barbaric.
“But it’s time for therapy,” Berta urged with a smile. “Dr. Faust is waiting.”
Therapy was never an enjoyable experience. The term aversion made it sound as if the methods used were innocuous. After all, didn’t one avert their gaze? That meant simply looking away. There was nothing simple about aversion therapy. A better term would be repression therapy. He had yet to figure out what aspect of his appetites he was supposed to repress. Was it the nubile young women they were trying to make him loathe, or the butchery that came after? No matter which, he didn’t want to give up either. He’d given up heaven for these vices. Hadn’t he paid enough?
Berta pursed her lips and frowned prettily. “You really can’t refuse. Someone else will ask you and that someone won’t be nice like me.”
“Are you nice, Berta?”
“At this moment, deliciously so.” She batted her eyes at him.
“It doesn’t matter how delicious you are, my dear. I’m not allowed to taste.”
She clapped her hands. “See that? Therapy is working. Come along.”
Karub looked around the room for something to bash her head in with. There was nothing, of course. He could stick straw into her until she died, fulfilling the old saying about last straws. But the process would take forever and the someone she’d mentioned would stop him long before he accomplished his goal.
Fate and a moment’s weakness had led him to this place. They’d offered him two choices, and this is the one he took. He had yet to decide if being in an asylum was better than spending eternity chained in the desert of Dudael. Sometimes, he thought he might like the heat better than this bitter cold. Sunshine was nice. He missed it, and the blue of the sky.
He pushed himself out of his chair and followed her. Dr. Faust would soon discover the real reason he didn’t want to leave his room. A new pair of wings had sprouted on his back. Wings on a fallen such as himself weren’t allowed. Faust would hack them off. Again. Repetition never lessened the pain. It seemed once an angel, always an…
“Hurry up,” Berta said.
These words reverberated off the walls. Berta’s other form had a very deep voice. Her eyes had begun to glow and the sight of them made Karub increase his pace, stepping into the freezing hall and turning toward the torture chamber they called a therapy room.
The hallway seemed to go on forever. Like his time here. The years had taught him he could endure any therapy they devised. Could fake any behavior they sought to promote. But his attempts to be moral and upright seldom fooled them. When they were fooled, it wasn’t for long. What did it matter? Conforming to their way of thinking would never earn him freedom. They would never let him ascend, or be whole again.
A heavy ironclad door opened. The thin face of his therapist turned toward him. Lips like pink worms slid back from a collection of crooked teeth.
“Good morning, Karub,” said Dr. Faust.
“Ready to start earning your way back into heaven, Doctor?”
“It’s a long road, but if one perseveres…”
Karub ignored the sound of the door closing behind him. “What new temptations will you try to get me to loathe today?”
The doctor pointed toward a series of calendars which took up most of the damp stone wall on the far side of the room. Years too many to number. Years past reduced to smaller squares, barely to be seen. Those more recent were larger until the current year was a huge square in the center. Days crossed off with x’s dripping black ink. Here and there, a bloody thumbprint stood out, rusty red amongst the black. A thumbprint for every time his wings were hacked off.
“Seems the time has come again.” Faust’s grin widened. “For me, this never grows old.”
Karub straightened his shoulders, moving the rudimentary stumps growing beneath his coat. They were too short to emerge from the cloth and take on their intended purpose. A tear fell down his cheek. Even a demon such as he had hopes and dreams. There was nothing he wanted more than to fly.
“What about therapy? I believe we’re making genuine progress.”
“First things first,” said the doctor, reaching for the scythe the reaper lent him for occasions such as this.
Grab a copy of one of our SPFBO 9 semi-finalists, Deceit by Sharon Rivest!
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