Robin slowly writhed. She had full control over her body, yet all her summoned willpower scarcely ruffled her prison. Escape was utterly impossible, and there was a part of her that embraced this finality.
At least until the blankets came off. Sunlight pierced through dyed hair that hung scruffy in front of her eyes
"Mrrrrff..." Moans escaped her throat.
"UP! Up, up! I told you like four times already."
Robin felt herself twirled onto her back and she stretched her limbs. The warmth was already escaping her bed, fleeting into the cold air of their antiquated dormitory room.
"Christ alive, Robin." The girl slapped her palm against the back of her other hand, as though she were warming it up for a dope-slap. "It's cute when you sleep, except when you've got shit to do."
"Listen. There are freshmen getting here in like... twenty minutes." Erika's voice vascillated between mock annoyance and genuine annoyance. "They're gonna be like, 'oh, cool, student government. Oh, cool, sororities. Oh, cool, the LGBT alliance.'"
Erika rocked her half-sleeping roommate back and forth, rolling her out of the bed and onto the blankets strewn about the floor.
"And then they'll say, 'that's cool, where's the arts club?' And then everyone else will say, 'oh, you know. They're a bunch of flakes.' And poof, in an instant, every kid forgets they even like art when they see the free keychains from Student Government. And it's all because one freaking person, you, Robin, couldn't be bothered to put up a booth for one hour."
Robin murmured something and raised herself. She was slow and methodical, and she took the time to reapply her piercings to her lip and ears before speaking.
Erika was mollified. She nodded and worldessly resumed preparing herself. Robin spent a few minutes throwing on flannel and jeans while her roommate teased her hair. Erika took more pride in her appearance; her auburn hair was in a neat bun, glasses reasonably clean, and her white blouse neatly framed the 'ART ASSOCIATION" t-shirt.
"Erika, do you think we'll get a lot of new members this year?"
"Don't know. Hope so." Robin threw on some socks she was fairly sure were matching before lacing up her shoes.
"I didn't even stay out late. I just like sleeping."
"Me too, Robin. Now, as penance for sleeping in an extra hour, you're carrying the gear. The table and stuff is already set up."
"Sure," Robin said, getting to her feet. "But that's not penance. I always carry the stuff."
Erika chuckled. "You're also going to be wearing it."
* * *
Robin slowly writhed, again. No, as much as she tried, it was nowhere nearly as comfy as her bed. She practically drooled at the thought - snuggling up, snoozing in on a Saturday, lounging around practically naked under the blankets... the warmth of a laptop (or a person!) to provide succor; sleeping in late on a Saturday was a fantasy for anyone, especially a busy college student like her.
She had never actually attempted to sleep while wearing any of her equipment, though. The black leather of her straitjacket was probably fake, but she had never wanted to call out the seller on it. Its finished surface was smooth to the touch and even had a slight shine in some places. It smelt thickly of polish and oil. The jacket itself was made for fetishistic purposes first and foremost. Thick straps of dark green leather, unfinished and much more rigid, kept her wrists very firmly in place. Her tugs for freedom, therefore, only tugged at the jacket; her bondage looped in on itself. This was in addition to the long sleeves. Her partner had spent plenty of time laboriously wrapping the long, floppy leather sleeves behind her back and strapping them in. A zipper and a series of buttons along the spine of the jacket had added to the kink; Robin distinctly remembered grinning while biting her lip as she felt the jacket's slack disappear. The sensation of helplessness was fine and dandy, but the way it grew - it was like figuring out a puzzle or unwrapping a gift. Well, wrapping a gift, but whatever. Analogies were never perfect.
And speaking of analogy, Robin was a little skeptical. She'd been in this bondage for half an hour and she wasn't sure if the crowd 'got' it.
"Student Art Association of Danner. Free yourself from chains of conformity."
"Hrrnf." That was stupid.
The 'art piece' was the ultimate eye-catcher. Robin's body, snugly ensconced in her leather straitjacket, was a mix of college attire and fetishistic goddess. Her legs were kept together with some prop cuffs, arms still comfortably jacketed in the slightly stretchy and therefore probably fake leather.
Her head was supposed to indicate a 'closed mind' - a blindfold of yellow fabric (presumably police tape) and a thick bit-gag (which really didn't have to be a nice padded leather gag but Robin wasn't disappointed) complemented a pair of white iPhone ear buds. Robin was sitting down, kept in place against a rolling office chair. Her form was snug, with several thick rubber exercise bands pressing below and above her leather-enclosed bust and an extra strap at her waist. A tablet and keyboard taped to her waist was probably something about the monotony of an office job. Sure it was.
Robin wasn't talking too much; that was Erika's job. She was the one that ceremoniously removed the blindfold to show the 'veil lifted,' and she was the one that tried to grab students who might drift to other clubs. The "Student Activity Fair" was created to attract people with fancy rhetoric and free crap. Already she saw people eyeing the free pens at the Southeast Asian Students Alliance table. An Indian girl with a bindi and wearing a traditional sari was busy glad-handing.
But her club - 'SAAD' - didn't give out stuff. It gave out a performance.
"Release your inner artist!"
Erika, the presenter, handed out pamphlets, business cards, and calendars with great applomb. Once in a while she'd go back to her jacketed exhibit.
"The activity fair is taking extra long," she said, removing the gag. "You can leave anytime." She spoke with a whisper.
"Erika, people are going to think we're like... a fetish club."
"We're not?" Erika retorted. The jacketed attraction laughed out loud as Erika removed the blindfold and ear buds. At least they were getting viewers. The other SAAD club members were eagerly talking about the shows they'd put on and the events they hosted to a growing crowd. Hundreds of students had entered the lounge, but their booth was getting more gawkers than anyone else. The fact that there had been a moaning girl in bondage probably helped.
"Ah, see, the mind is released!" Erika shouted to the crowd. "By your good graces, you can make the art society better than ever!" She turned back to Robin. "So, judging by the stares we're getting, it's gonna be a good third year."
Robin didn't respond.
"Robin? Are you all right?
Robin was far away indeed.
Her eyes flitted left and right. Erika's face seemed blurry and out of focus, as though she was on the other side of a frosted window. The gymnaisum was wrong. The walls that held sound-dampening foam were iron and wood.
The rows of chairs were all out of order. Actually, had there been chairs on the walls? Surely not. The lounge's carpet had faded away, where only hardwood remained. High glass walls rose on all sides, creating a hexagonal prison. She shifted her head, noting where once she had stood vertically bound she now lay horizontal, head tight against a gurney, body restrained, eyes wide open, mouth forced agape - ears filled with the sounds of scraping metal and echoes. The gurney rattled violently as she struggled, creating a din that reverberated through her entire panicking body.
The sensation of a warm hand on her neck made her throat go tight. A distinct tingle at the base of her spine was quickly followed by the feeling of her hair on end. Cold, dead black eyes met hers.
"Careful now. You're not the one into breathplay."
Erika seemed so pleased as she removed the gag.
"I was keeping a good eye on you. It's like you stopped breathing for a second."
"What?" Robin blinked the sleep from her eyes. Her gaze had been met not by some malevolent figure, but the Danner Dandy - a 1920s vaudeville villain who would probably incite a cease and desist from the Monopoly Man. The room was emptying, and Robin was smart enough to guess that a half hour had passed.
"Maybe you have sleep apnea? You dozed off and I just went about my thing, checking you every minute or so. I heard you wheezing."
"Yeah. Like you had something in your throat. I touched your neck and you woke up."
The pensive look told Erika much more than she anticipated. Robin knew it, as Erika's disturbed features made her seem just as worried.
"Just a bad dream."
"You should probably get it looked at sometime. You snore pretty loud."
Robin laughed. "How loud?"
Erika began unbuckling her roomie from her jacket. The cheap leather was tight, sweaty in a few places, and unbuckling each strap required Robin to suck in a little air. It compressed her flesh quite nicely in a few places, and the way the straps bit against her body was remarkable in its own way.
"Cartoon character level, Rob."
The banter helped her forget the dream.
"Saw and a log?"
"You bet. You shoulda wore unibody PJs. Nightcap and everything."
Robin laughed out loud. "Hah. Like a dude from the 1900s."
Her friend said something else, but Robin was already lost in thought. She was giving a lot of thought to what had happened and not much to what would happen.
* * *
The day at the library had been fruitful. Not at all fruitful in the way a normal workday operated, of course. Robin's day job, working at the front desk of the Mirage Foundation Center for Learning - or the 'library' as non-pretentious people called it - meant that she spent more than her fair share of time pretending to work. Oh, sure, it could be busy - but it was the middle of winter. Students were knee-deep in classes and midterms were still far and away. Bitter cold kept people indoors in the evenings. All of this made for a 'dead zone' of a few weeks' time in which she could go an hour or more without anyone asking for her help.
After shelving documents and re-imaging a few computers, Robin settled in to enjoy the silent hours between dinner and closing time. Stifling a yawn, she snuggled into her ergonomic desk chair and basked in the warm glow of the internet. In this way, nearly two hours passed.
Robin busily swapped through tabs as she waited for her shift to end. The second episode of "Star Trek" came to an end, and her concentration waned; the dream was haunting her evening. Piecing together the elements, it had obviously been an ancient room. Quite old; the wood was faded and the glass chipped. But what room? She had never seen anything like it. She knew this college inside and out, and could recognize the rooms even if she was standing on her head - and she was quite proud of her ability to stand on her head.
She turned to the school workstation as the ending fanfare to "The Walking Dead" played out. A few keywords came to mind; theater, old, gurney... and so on. Amphitheater, hexagonal...
The screen flashed with images of a room that felt too familiar. Large and circular, with a hexagonal glass 'cage' in the center. Rows upon rows of seats that seemed to encourage gawking at whatever entity lay inside. Variations on this design ; some larger and smaller, and some without glass.
'Operating theaters,' she read. 'A raised table or chair... surrounded by rows of seats so students and spectators could observe medical procedures.' So it was a real place then... but certainly not one she'd ever seen before. 'Usually used for surgeries, but not always... occasionally used for interviews or psychological examinations.
She perused line after line of image search. She knew it the moment she saw it. The glass case - the hexagonal glass case. Now *that* was unusual. It looked like the one from her dream. 'The perfect start to a thriller movie,' she mused. Already she envisioned dark experiments, cloudy nights, and evil doctors cackling with their creations.
The gentle beeping on her watch reminded her it was time to leave. She sequestered her laptop in her bag, packed her belongings, and turned to leave. She stopped only when she realized she was still logged in. She made a quick save of the image she found, but something slowed her exit - the picture.
Wait. How many universities were there called "Danner College?"
She didn't spend time debating it. She didn't even say 'hello' to the next worker as she left the building. Her tired mind couldn't help but piece the two images together into a mosaic. The room - one she had never seen before - may have existed. It might still exist.
Her dormitory beckoned from across the campus. It was a bizarre old spire, probably dating back more than a century. It had been refitted half a dozen times; first with plumbing, then gas lines, then electricity - and most recently, she was told, wi-fi. Of course it didn't work, hence why she was only *told* that it had been equipped with wi-fi.
The entire dorm was something like seven floors tall, with apartment-like rooms jutting from a central square. The doors, she was told, had at one point been thin wood with viewing windows. Now they were solid wood. Another refit.
The loud 'clunk' of the door locked behind her. Robin scarcely took the time for her nightly lavations before heading to bed. Thanks to Erika's interruption, she had spent the day on five hours of sleep. She actually grinned as she looked at her bed, dropping piercings on the counter and drying her hair. The thought of sleeping in on a Saturday was delectable.
She stretched and positioned herself with her back against her bed. She let herself fall backwards into the warm embrace of sleep. The thud reverberated in her ears and she felt a minor soreness as she contacted with the firm padding of the floor.
Five sides of her cubic prison were identical. Save for the wall farthest from her, they all had the same beige cushioning. Cushioned floors, cushioned walls, and a cushioned ceiling. The solitude of her unwelcome new scenery instantly grew on her. Her eyes, confused and unfocused, saw all six walls as the same.
"No..." the words left her open mouth and reverberated in the padded room.
An animalistic instinct to scratch at the walls was squelched by a canvas not dissimilar to that which padded the walls. From her neck to her ankles, her flesh was tightly ensconced in in the familiar feeling of a self-hug. It had no padding or lining; it was not designed for pleasant aesthetics. She tugged and she was stuck.
Her fingers wiggled in long sleeves; the straitjacket she wore had each sleeve tucked tightly beneath the opposite armpit and then wrapping back around. No matter how much she would compress then, she wouldn't be able to find any leeway. The sleeves themselves were locked together at the wrist; around the exterior white canvas were two particularly thick leather straps. They were tight around her wrists, and she quickly recognized how sturdy they were as she struggled. Her wrists, in addition to being locked together, were further against her stomach.
The rest of her body recieved no reprieve. The canvas straitjacket was infuriatingly snug in some places and baggy in the others. She squirmed, grinding her tightly-packed hips against the ground. All the way down to her legs she felt it; two individual leggings enclosed into another single unit. Her toes, while free, were doing little to help her escape.
Her eyes focused, and she saw one great beacon of hope - a door. A large door, tall as the room, against the wall farthest from her. There was only one window; fairly large and square, it had metal grating reinforcing the old, faded glass. Through it she saw little.
Each tug send a slight jingle and a loud ruffle echoing through the room and back into her ears. The acoustics were practically deafening when she spoke. She was trapped, sacked, and strapped quite snugly. She flopped her legs helplessly like a beached mermaid. The reminder of her canvas bondage was enough to keep her going.
She stared through the glass of the door window. On the other side, she faintly caught a glance at a clock that read 11:00.
Robin jumped. Something hit the door with a tremendous clang. She tugged again and felt the straps bite at her wrists. Her entire jacket compressed as she pulled helplessly.
It was quiet. Nothing. No sound, no more banging. She realized she had stopped breathing, and began panting rather heavily, slowing as the loud clang became a memory.
"Okay, Robin," she said aloud. "This is just like a room escape puzzle."
Another clang. Again, a tingle down her spine, and again, the reflexive tensing of her muscles. Every strap tug into her soft skin as she writhed.
This terror passed a second time. She remained unharmed.
"Listen, just come in if-"
A series of two more bangs hit the door. These were louder and quicker. Dust trickled down from the steel frame.
The message was clear. No talking allowed.
"Hey, sorry- do you not like noise?"
"I mean, I'm just guessing since you only seem to get mad when I'm making noise."
Every few words was interrupted and inaudible by a voracious slam against the portal.
"If you didn't want me talking, you should have gagged me. Ohhh, but then I'd be moaning, and I suspect you hate it when someone moans. Probably really annoying."
Robin's voice soon became inaudible even to her. The tumping against the door was so voracious and rapid it sounded like a drum. Dust flew everywhere.
"So how about this - how about we skip to the end and you just come in and-"
The bass of the banging ended with a stacatto crash. Shards of safety glass fell to the floor. Robin's eyes went up and she saw the clock on the far wall - 11:00, presumably at night. She could see quite clearly now that the window was gone. In its place was a den of twisted steel and sharp prongs; the remains of the wire mesh reinforcement lay in a crumpled heap. No malevolent force seeped in, and Robin counted a good three minutes to herself in stunned silence.
When it seemed that the banging was a memory, she made her move. Most important would be her feet; if she could walk or run, she could move; even if something tried to enter the room with her, she could make a dash of it.
There was no grace in her movements. She inched along like a worm. Canvas ruffled in places and hugged her form like a vice in others. Doubtless the prisoner looked foolish as she squirmed, but she didn't expect any observers.
Robin flopped to the door and extended her legs. Arching her back to the utmost, she raised her bagged legs as high as she could, carefully aligning one of the sharp remains.
She shut her eyes tight and retracted her legs with as much force as her muscles could muster, coupled with the obvious benefit of gravity doing some of the work. The wire freed her legs from the bisected canvas. Incredibly cool, clammy air reached her ankles and feet.
She spread her legs and felt the canvas rip further. It was a gratifying sound; hearing fabric rip is normally not associated with joy. With a few more thrusts, she had managed to tear the sack all the way to her thighs. It now trailed like a cape or skirt, ruffling as she got to her feet.
Standing was a privilege. It felt like it had been days, though it couldn't have been more than minutes - or had it been an hour? Time didn't seem to pass, for she physically felt no different; no more ill, no more thirsty of hunrgy. She looked at the clock through the broken window.
At the exact moment she glanced at it, the timepiece made a loud 'click'. The hands reached 11:00.
Though the jacket had a certain historical flair, she was ready to be free of it. The low, broken grate window was conveniently at her chest level; she positioned the sharp prong around the sleeve.
It was to her great frustration that nothing happened. The bindings around her legs were clearly of less substantive material than the those around her stomach. No matter - belts were of second nature to her. The prong was conveniently thick, and the buckles relatively slack.
She slid the strap around her wrist over the prong and lifted. Marvelous! The first strap was almost undone - just a little maneuvering and the strap could slide over the buckle. She was repositioning herself for a second attempt when the sounds of gentle feet resumed.
A bead of sweat dripped from her brow. Her magenta hair, now moist from perspiration and matted from her struggling, slooped in front of her eyes. A stray strand tickled her nose.
The patter seemed to stop, then resume. Another step, and silence. Then another step. Each time, the steps grew ever-louder. And yet, they were maddeningly quiet. No roaring, no evil laughter - just the gentle echo of heavy fabric against solid tile.
She blew the hair from her face and tried again. All she needed to do was to lift the strap one more time, and her arm could fly free.
With great force, she pulled again, and to her horror the prong bent.
The angle was no longer optimal. The metal was buckling. She noticed she was grinding her thighs together in anxiety.
A crunching sound outside the door indicated that the entity had stepped on something, possibly broken glass. Possibly glass from another room adjacent. Possibly a room that had held another victim not unlike herself. Possibly one who had not escaped. Possibly.
There was time for one more try.
"Puzzles are fun," she said aloud. Robin inhaled deeply.
Leaning down slightly, she inserted the prong. It snugly fit between the strap and the metal buckle. She lifted once more, and pulled. The leather strap neatly exited the buckle and the entire straitjacket seemed to lose its snugness.
Instantly, she threw the jacket over the spiky remains of the reinforced window. She reached through with one arm, the jacket padding her as she stretched for the external handle. One tug upwards and the door opened.
The 'inmate' shoved it open with two hands. As it swung, she felt it hit something. Something fell to the ground in the darkness, landing with a heavy thud.
She stepped into the darkened hall. Her intellect had all but vanished, replaced with the obvious desire to flee as far and as fast as her legs would allow. As she exited the cell, she allowed her curiosity just one indulgence. She turned her head to see what creature had smashed the window.
She stared. Tall. Fuzzy. It had unblinking eyes. A massive, round head.
The Danner Dandy met her stare. The cardboard prop lay on the floor, tilted to the side. It was a victim of her explosive escape from her cell.
Robin shivered. She ran her fingers over her body, checking to see that she was indeed all there. Every piercing, every little blemish was right where it should have been. No marks on her wrists showed any indication of the canvas prison against which she had struggled so viciously.
It was only then that she exhaled. Spots appeared in front of her eyes. It hadn't felt real at all. Somehow that made it even worse.
The click of her dorm door sent one last shiver down her spine.
* * *
"Don't they charge you to get back into your room?"
"No way," Robin chuckled. "I think they saw the underwear and knew how hard it was to even ask for an unlock."
Prathiba leaned back in her chair. It definitely wasn't made to rock or lean, but her haughty expression indicated that it never once crossed her mind. Robin wrinkled her nose slightly at the thought of school property breaking because a student was careless. Prathiba had never been one for the rules, despite the fact that she spent hours every Wednesday in the student government room debating them. She had dark skin, the barest hint of an accent, and a loud, haughty voice. She usually used it to great effect, startling those who had subscribed to the image of a demure Indian student.
"Or maybe they saw the underwear and knew how hard they were."
"Hah! Maybe. I don't remember what I was wearing."
"No, no, lemme guess. White panties with polka dots."
"Sounds like something a Stepford wife would wear."
"You could subvert the trope. Go for a 50s housewife look this year."
Robin laughed again."I'm not cool enough to be different."
"Says the girl with dyed pink hair who wears straitjackets."
There was a long, awkward silence. The chain restaurant was fairly packed, but most of the students were eating alone before class, so the noise came from the kitchens and hallways rather than the dining area.
"Sorry, Robin. Touchy subject?"
"No, not at all." If Prathiba had asked this question a week earlier, she would have been happy to talk about her kinks. Now, every thought of confinement brought her back to last night.
"You sure? I mean, it was kinda inappropriate, but you know - for the art club, it made sense. I mean, it sure caught my attention."
"Personally, I'd love to try that on. You, uh... maybe you should form a kinksters group or something."
"Yeah." Prathiba smiled and swallowed.
"Liking bondage isn't a requirement to hang out with me."
Prathiba laughed; it was deep and lasted a chortle too long. "Does it help?"
Robin hung her head again.
"Hey, sorry. For a second time. I mean, I'm a little jealous. We had free pens. You had black leather."
In spite of what had happened, Robin managed a laugh.
* * *
"Uh... is it - is it plugged in?"
"I'm still following it.
"Could you.. could you try and un-plug the cable on your end?"
The internet was a magical thing, except when it wasn't. Robin stared at old basement walls, tracing one particular cable with her finger. She clicked the radio back on.
"No, seriously. I don't know where this thing ends. If you knew where the basement router was, I could just walk there."
"I don't know where it is."
"Why not, Boss?"
"Because it was installed seven years ago and they didn't write it down. Just follow the wire."
"I'll tell you when I find it." The radio clicked off.
The basement wasn't nearly as creepy as she had expected; her greatest threat was probably the mildew speckling the ceiling. It was a little unsettling to walk it alone after usual work hours. Every office lay empty. She couldn't help but take a peek inside.
Dog calendars. Photographs of children. Comic strips. Old keyboards. Glass cases of memobilia. Broken monitors.
She stopped mid-step and reversed. This glass case was decades old. Brown wood and browned glass ensconced old plaques and photographs. The dust of decades interfered with her vision.
"DANNER STATE ASYLUM"
The plaque was old but its embossed letters were clear. Photos of smiling doctors, rows of beds, and medical instruments littered the forgotten display case.
Each photo had a date. Most of them dated from the 1800s, with only a few in the 20th century. The newest was listed as 1913 and had an accompanying news clipping.
"November 1913 - Danner State Asylum shutters its doors for good. Patients are slowly moved to newer hospitals around the state... the main atrium is leased to the new Danner College." Her eyes hovered around other notes.
"January 1908... Danner Asylum is renovated. New doctors... new patients... a focus on a just a few diagnosable disorders... subject paraphelia..."
She scratched the back of her head. At least one photo showed smiling doctors, men and women alike, examining a canvas jacket. It was too familiar for comfort. She exited the library in an instant, stopping only to grab her bag and throw the radio back to her boss.
* * *
"Definitely closed in 1913, but students had already been using some of the buildings for a few years."
"How many years?"
"Why is it so important, Robin?"
Erika shrugged and flipped the page. "It doesn't say. It does say that there were students and mental patients on the same campus. Wow. That must have been... weird. Confusing, even. Probably mostly boys back then, but women, too. You've got these young kids with rich parents, and then a building over you've got a bunch of crazies."
Robin grabbed the book out of her hand. Book was an exaggeration; it was practically a magazine.
"I could have grabbed you two; they had like, a million at the information center. Seriously, you didn't know Danner was an old hospital?"
"I knew it was a hospital, just not... like... a mental hospital," Robin shouted.
She set her glasses on the nightstand and gave a nonchalant shrug. "It doesn't bother me. It was all non-violent stuff, too, just read the book. No murderers or anything. It's not like the students even saw the patients."
It was pretty clear that Robin was not comforted by the thought.
"You know, back in the day, people would check themselves in. I think Lady Rockefeller did that."
"Did she now?" Robin asked skeptically.
"Yeah. It was like a vacation, I think. Too stimulated? Life got you down? Spend a few weeks at Danner. By the end, Danner was all women, you know. All female patients and mostly female nursing staff. It must have been a resort."
"I don't know," Robin said, thumbing through the historical pamphlet. "It says - it says right here, they didn't believe in invasive procedures. So they tried shocking people... exposing them to weird therapies... this is messed up, Erika."
Another shrug. "They did what they thought was smart at the time. I bet some of the patients weren't too sad about getting free opium or whatever."
Erika turned out the light, indicating the conversation was over. Within a minute, Erika was snugly bundled beneath the blankets. Robin sat cross-legged on her bed. She didn't want to sleep.
I'm sleepwalking, she thought. And I had one lucid dream. And a waking dream. She stared at a foot locker, blinking sleep from her eyes. Inside that locker was her 'secret stash' of toys. She shut her eyes. Maybe she had just been obsessive; too much time thinking about french maids and 'bane suits' and trussed up detectives.
Another lump in her throat grew as her eyes opened. She desperately wanted to close them, but she needed to soak in every ounce of information she could get.
An ancient office. A clock that was set to 11:00, though with a bizarre twilight in the windows it mattered little. Dust everywhere. Rotting books, shattered picture frames. All of it a century old. A huge paper desk calendar dated to 1910. Today was Friday. Tomorrow would be Saturday. A massive red circle was around Sunday.
"NEW PATIENT PROCESSING"
She went to reach for the calendar, but her hands refused response. She didn't want to look down, but she felt her heart beat faster every second she delayed.
Both hands were most thoroughly clamped in patent leather. Shining, polished, and smooth, her hands were balled up and sealed away. Two tight straps with tiny metal locks kept her mittened and helpless.
As she stared at her fists, her eyes traced their way up the rest of her arm. The aroma of leather filled her nostrils, mixing with the noisome smell of the dusty office.
She sat in a high-backed chair with two massive armrests. Each arm was webbed flat against the armrest. Black straps with gold buckles adorned both her arms. At her wrists, at her forearms and elbows and biceps - a veritable network of straps adhered tightly to her flesh. She raised and lowered her hips, jabbing her leather mitts uselessly into the air.
Each leg bore a similar fate. Her calves and knees, ankles and thighs all bore such straps. They had been applied liberally and lovingly. She stared at her bondage, relishing the delicate nature in which they had been locked - enough to stretch taut against the skin, compressing her supple skin and tight against her appendages. It was just enough to immobilize her, to make her chirp and grunt.
It was not for lack of trying that she was immobile. She bucked her hips, tugged her arms, tried to kick; none of it worked. It made her sweat and moan, but it brought her no closer to freedom. The hopelessness of tonight's scenario made her slump forward. Robin tried to speak but even this was denied; her soft cries reverberated back into her mouth. The sensation of a hard and heavily padded panel against her lips made certain that any attempt at speech would be reduced to muffled grunts. She tried to shake the padded leather from her mouth before noticing another lattice of straps that kept it affixed. She panted, frustrated and tired. She arched her back, shoving her stomach and bare chest to the air, but could obtain no give in the straps.
A pencil scratched against paper. The room's darkness was broken by a soft twilight from a window.
The desk had an inhabitant now. Moments ago, the room was only her - solitary and strapped. She craned to see across the desk, but the light seemed to shift.
What she could see was a hand. Not the flesh of a human's hand, but doubtless matching the silhouette. In dim hues she saw a thumb and fingers grasping a pencil between them. Again she squinted; perhaps she should borrow Erika's glasses next time.
The hand grasped an aged and cracked pencil and scraped it over matted yellow paper. It was impossible to read from this distance.
As she stared, it became clear that the hand wore some sort of mitten. White canvas covered the four fingers and thumb as separate digits. Small, thin straps of black circled the wrist and forearm. Seams and bands for belts also slowly became visible in the light.
The hand stopped. Another hand reached, sliding over the sheet. The presentation was formal and without ceremony. Type-written font mixed with flowing cursive.
NAME: Robin Woodhill
INITIAL DIAGNOSIS: Restrictiophile; paraesthesic lunacy incited by exposure to bindings and restraints - results in satyriasis (increased desire) and abnormal urges.
TREATMENT: Indefinite detention. Exploratory paraphelic stimulation. Physical restriction.
ADMITTANCE DATE: Sunday, 11AM
Robin felt a lump in her throat well up as she read. A prescription for detention.
"Mmmngff.... mmmmff! Mmmmmnnng!"
Her argument was obviously unconvincing. The mittened hand tapped the date twice more as if to remind her.
She raised her head, hands flailing in their mitts. She pleaded her case.
"There's a mistake! This is over!"
"No, they got one more season."
Robin stared at the screen in front of her. The TV hummed and flooded the dormitory common room with a warm glow. It reflected off the pasty white walls and the off-white blanket Robin was swaddled in.
Erika took a seat, sipping a cup of steaming tea. "Yeah. I think I told you? They just kept the last episode of what was supposed to be season 4-"
"Oh yeah, Robin. They just used the 'season 4' finale as the real series finale, which-"
"When...?" Robin tried to blink the sleep from her eyes.
"It was on in the 90s." Erika chirped, eyes still staring at the screen.
"What time is it, Erika?"
"Hm? Uh... like nine in the morning. You're up mighty early."
Erika smiled and pulled her hair back. It was let down today, slightly scraggly but nowhere near as unkempt as Robin's dyed mane. Robin had ways to make it seem natural, though.
"You sure? Because you, uh... you're here. And the TV was on."
"Um... maybe? I think the TV is still set to turn on every Saturday at nine. Which is what woke you up, I suppose."
Robin snuggled herself beneath the blanket. She didn't escape; she got lucky. The next best thing would be to set alarms to wake her up regularly.
She always did her best thinking beneath the blankets. Sunday night. She needed to not doze off until Sunday night. Alarms, maybe, and coffee.
It was the most peculiar sensation. Her memories of the office were already fleeting. Mittened hands, Sunday night... she was already forgetting the context. Not unlike a dream, in fact. And, Robin reasoned, the fact that she never seemed to question her surroundings - well, that must mean she had been dreaming. A series of very specific dreams linked to the Danner Asylum. But, odds were good that they were just that - dreams.
She poked her head out from the blankets and peeked at her phone.
If it was just a dream, why was she setting all these alarms?
* * *
Robin sat down on the bench and cupped her head in her hands. Sweat dripped from her neck and ran down to her tank top. She rested each elbow on top of her knees. It was the first time she'd gotten to use her exercise pants in quite some time. It was, in a way, liberating.
"Midnight." She stared at the clock, a gigantic oversized buzzer normally used for basketball games. "Twenty-three hours to go."
She hoped - in a way, she knew - that if she could just skip past that admission date, she'd be in the clear.
Robin counted the list on her fingers and arched her back. She counted the possibilities in order of least to most threatening.
"One: I suffer from bad dreams. I can go to class, talk to my colleagues, and keep my mind busy."
"Two: I suffer from hallucinations. The student clinic will be open. Maybe they'll do some scans. Maybe I'll get paid to be part of a study." She almost grinned.
"Three: The strange..." She didn't want to talk aloud to herself. Robin scrunched her nose. Saying things aloud didn't make her feel much better.
"Three: My love of kink has makes a bunch of weird ghosties want to have me committed."
Robin ran her fingers through her hair. "Yup. Sounds way better now. Erika!" She yelled to her roommate busy jogging along the track. "Let's get home."
She finished her lap and came from jog back to walk. "My body cries."
"That's because you're sweating, hun."
Erika laughed, clearly out of breath. "I wasn't built for this."
"Actually, Erika, you evolved for this over the course of millions of years." They both got a smile.
"Robin, I thought you said you wanted to stay up or something. Why go home now? The gym is open."
"I did, but I changed my mind."
Erika laughed. "Yeah, sound about right. You're such a cat."
"Because I love sleep?" Robin raised an eyebrow.
"Because you get bored after twenty minutes."
"Not true. We were exercising for more than an hour."
"Playing pool isn't exercise," Erika retorted.
Both smiled as they returned to the locker room. Robin decided that a shower now would be easier than a shower later at home. While not very prudish she'd never really enjoyed the act of showering publicly, and while the gym was quiet at night there were still other night owls in the locker room.
Just like with cold water, it was better to get it over with fast. Robin stripped down, quietly tiptoed to the showers, and turned the water to maximum. Hopefully she could be completely done by the time Erika would enter. There was something inherently odd about seeing your roommate naked. She bit her lip and lathered as quickly as she could.
By the time she had rinsed, Robin was priding herself on the fastest shower of all time. She grabbed her towel and quickly dried her body. Locker rooms always made her mind flash to dirty thoughts. According to porn, every locker room was a lascivious den of vice and sensuality that would make a hedonistic Roman blush. She moved the towel to her hair, drying her blonde-dyed-pink mane before scrubbing her face. She threw the towel over her shoulder and reached for her bag.
"It's not fair." Robin's eye twitched involuntarily. The bag was gone. The lockers bore signs of rust and age. The floor was pearly tile, icy against her bare feet. She clenched her toes, fighting the urge to cry.
"I'm awake. It's not fair. Not fair at all." She grabbed at her towel in a fit and threw it to her feet with a somewhat satisfying 'thump' and a disturbing 'chink.' Thick canvas hit the floor in front of her, with long sleeves, dark leather belts, and brass buckles all in a heap. She kicked what had turned into a jacket away from her.
"Listen, you," she said to nobody in particular. "I don't know what rules you play by, but I'm not having it. Haunt someone else."
'I've hit a new high point in my life,' she thought. 'I just yelled at a ghost school.'
Robin quickly began looking for points of egress. The locker room was almost entirely dark. There didn't seem to be any moonlight coming through the high windows. Not even stars shone. Nothing seemed to exist outside whatsoever.
Still nude and growing cold, Robin peeked at the rows of lockers. She casually opened the one she had previously stashed her belongings, and sighed.
"Padded panel gag with plug..." she dropped it on the bench.
"Tiny locks... white straitpants... another straitjacket... leather belts... posture collar." The cold sweat forming on the back of her head was growing hot with frustration.
"And let me guess..."
She slammed the locker shut.
A brass plate with her name had been attached to the locker.
She turned her eyes to the next locker. It was identical. She opened it, and again found the institutional restraints.
"Really subtle!" she was shouting now. "I swear... on Monday I'm going to exorcise the crap out of... whatever you are. Stop with the games! Do you hear me!? "
Apparently, 'it' did. Dozens of lockers flew open. The sound of ruffling canvas and stretching leather overrode all other sounds. Straps covered her face, webbing her body until she disappeared. She hardly had time to moan.
Robin jolted awake, twisting left and right. It was comforting to be in a bed, but spine-tingling to know she was still restrained.
There were fewer chances taken now.
'Every puzzle has an answer. Even asylums have rules.'
She found herself trying to say it aloud, and even noticed that she reflexively shook her head. Talking to herself, yelling at nobody - she was starting to sound crazy.
Her bindings were quite stringent, as she had expected after being assaulted in the locker room, though there were marked differences. White cotton and canvas ensconced her figure like a second skin. Tight canvas hugged her curves; it was taut against her bosom and waist and the sleeves were just as snug. The smell and sound of stretching fabric overrode her senses. Both arms were in long sleeves, which looped around her back and disappeared into a network of buckles that run up her spine. Each outstretched hand slipped below her armpits. It was, at least, how she would have restrained someone.
She pulled with no recourse; only managing to pull the sleeves tighter. A dozen straps lined the jacket's back, lacing her tightly into her canvas prison. She bucked left and right, rotating to gain purchase. She moaned. Robin was stuck. She wished she had a hint.
Even so, Robin couldn't ask for a hint. She felt around in her mouth and she was forced to confront a tremendous protrusion. A fat rubbery plug lay squarely between her lips. As much as she tried, forcing it out was fruitless; it only meant working her tongue and lips uselessly. She moaned in embarrassment; the plug combined with the sensation of a padded plate. As she turned her head, she felt straps that snaked around her head. It wasn't exactly keeping her quiet, but it was keeping her from doing more than moaning into her plug. A collar seemed chained to the bed.
Further, her ankles were spread by a thick metal bar. She didn't like it; it made her vulnerable. Cold wind tickled her inner thighs. Her sex was protected only by thin cotton underwear. Another chain linked the bar to the bed frame.
She turned her head to the right, and noticed that she had a 'roommate.' A sheet of faded linen was blocking her bed from that of her roommate. She couldn't see her neighbor but she didn't need to; the occasional stretch and clink of metal indicated similar levels of bondage.
There was also a modicum of light emanating from her roommate’s space. Gently flickering yellow lit the canvas up the like the wall of a cave; it glowed parchment-yellow, with the tattered holes offering strange rays of light that flooded Robin’s own space.
Robin's neighbor was moaning. Something had entered the room; a large, humanoid silhouette. It stepped quietly, making the same gentle pattering sounds she had heard the night in the cell. The silhouette was moving up the other girl's form, examining each element very carefully. The handler’s silhouette moved so deliberately. No twitches, no tapping of feet, no humming.
Something happened in the other room. She must have woken, because suddenly the silhouetted girl began moving – bucking and thrashing. Robin wasn’t an active participant; she was a viewer. She tried to form words in her mouth but they always ended with her moaning into her plug.
The other girl started moaning. Numb words and pathetic churrs echoed through the screen. A terrible, mind-bending screech filled her ears as the handler slowly dragged something into the room; something metal, something heavy.
The roommate’s hips started bucking to the left and right. The curtain was almost shaking from the motion. The handler was stooped down, its head and hands at about waist length. The girl’s moans grew in sound, then intensity, and finally began to raise in pitch. A low buzzing and occasional sparking crackle now filled the room.
"Mnnnggh!" Robin squealed in shock. Too late she realized she had interrupted a very important 'procedure.' She could hardly hear the squeals of her roommate as the creature parted the linen separator.
It was tall, nearly six feet. Like the rest of the building its colors where uniform; fabric white, brown leather, and tiny brass fasteners. It was a walking asylum in itself; a white fabric suit covered the creature from head to toe. The legs ended at the knee in a pair of long, brown leather boots. Two massive cuffs circled its ankles individually, breaking up the otherwise-consistent finished leather. Straps ran the length of the thighs, breaking up the uniform white of its legs. A harness around its stomach and chest had straps above and below its breast and around its stomach mimicking a corset. Its neck wasn't visible either, encased in a massive mahogany mouth corset; it ran from just above the breast to just below the nose, all of it rigid and finished leather that prevented the slightest movement. The entire harness was connected by a single tremendous strap that ran down the center of its body, looping around its groin. It gave the creature such a bizarre symmetry. It was imprisonment incarnate; a mobile asylum for a single patient.
The handler inched closer, gripping a pair of wires. Its hands were a single unit and a thumb, identical to the mittens that had handed her the 'admission papers' earlier.
It graced her inner thighs with two sticky pads, each with wires leading out of sight. An electrical buzzing on her thighs made her burn. As it buzzed her soft thighs, she felt a tumult of conflicting emotion. The buzzing rapidly grew louder, stronger and she felt the warmth she tried so hard to neglect rolling to a higher peak, sending her back into the air as she arched.
The buzzing stopped for a brief moment, and then it resumed.
Robin stared at her phone. The alarm stopped for another moment, then resumed its jingle. The 9:00 alarm buzzed.
She scarcely gave it another thought. She was awake, dressed, and sitting in the locker room once again. Light streamed in through the high privacy windows. She turned to her locker, hands still shaking, and retrieved her purse.
The locker next to her was still closed, a lock still on it. Robin clutched her hands to her mouth when she noticed Erika's lock, still sitting untouched from the night before.
The next hour was a blur of phone calls. Erika's purse was found at the front desk; she had never checked out the night before. For that matter, neither had Robin, but she had so panicked a demeanor that the desk worker didn't question it.
Robin practically ran back to her dormitory. The door was still locked, the room was untouched. Erika's bed was just as neatly made as the afternoon before; Robin's was just as disheveled.
"You wouldn't leave me behind," Robin said. "I won't leave you."
She closed her eyes and sat on the bed. She rotated to her back and inhaled deeply.
* * *
When she was last here, she hadn't noticed the mirror. The operating theater had six glass walls, a bench, some chairs, but above it all was a mirror. Completely horizontal, it was so perfectly placed as to give her a marvelous view of her demise.
From the top of her head to the bottom of her feet, Robin felt the pressure of total enclosure. The suit she wore was thick and padded around most every area. It ended at her neck, it seemed, but in the interest of consistency she wore a tremendous hood as well. The same padded white material met with the familiar rubbery taste of a plug gag, flush against the encasing suit. Adding to this was a heavy panel of a blindfold, but in order to give her the privilege of seeing herself, it was temporarily off.
Each of her arms fit nicely into the sleeves of the puffy asylum suit, but to prevent any chance of escape or harm, Robin's arms were also treated with a second pair of binding gloves. They forced her hand and thumb into a mitten, and the reinforced leather gloves wound all the way to her elbows. Each was locked tight against the table; two straps apiece would certainly keep her from doing any lifting.
Though her legs were separate, they zipped together. Robin stared as the zipper quickly closed, bringing both of her thighs snug and creating a long skirt. The skirt itself ended in a small leather sheathe that comfortably enclosed both her feet and ankles and kept them at an angle - preventing the obvious egress method of hopping away.
Hopping would really not be an option for Robin in any event. She sighed, staring at the padded woman in the mirror, and she began to notice the lattice of straps that locked her to the table. Every six inches, another bright red band restrained her poor form against the gurney, squishing against the padded suit and pulling her tight.
In a way, this was natural. Robin sighed again, breathing deep. The restriction was exquisite, the kind of splendid overkill she hadn't dreamt of in her most bizarre fantasies. While she of course knew she had to get free, the thought of finally sleeping, the chance to give the asylum what it wanted - only temporarily - had an appeal. Already, Robin formulated a pattern of behavior, playing nice to secure a preferential spot for Erika - wherever she was.
Something deep within her was warming, and the plans for her departure slipped away. The place was powerful, Robin mused. An entire generation of young girls running free, flaunting society, walking around without so much as a straitjacket or collar! Robin had been the anamoly.
The fire slowly built around her sex and breasts. Jolts, low and constant at first, began to course through these most sensitive of erogenous zones. A few moments later, she would feel it mixed with something stronger. Robin moaned; she was angry at her snug confinement, angry at the mechanical stimulation, and all the more angry at herself. Why had she come here? She was drawn in without a plan.
Another shock, and she moaned loudly into her plug. The head and shocks were intermixed now with the occasional vibration; it created an unforgiving pressure that would quickly release. Her discordant emotions refused to give in to wanton passion forced upon her. And yet, it had become normal; utterly normal to experience these rising tides of lust within her confinement.
Robin shook to the core. Her short contact with reality slipped and she fell back into a cycle of passion. The stimulation would accelerate and vibrations would tingle across her body. Her wrists, her armpits, her rear - all were subject to these tortures. A craving for release would well up deep inside her, somewhere beyond the part of her mind that saw this as a puzzle to be solved and a horror to escape from. She hadn't noticed that the blindfold was slipped over her eyes, but she was now truly isolated from the world save her sense of touch.
The cycle continued, and Robin had no response; to struggle inside her prison was the most resistance she could show. The moment belonged to lust, animalistic and carnal. Climax overcame her, and another plateau of stimulation began to rise even as she recuperated from a tremendous apex of sexual release. Every period of rest was only a brief sojourn before a climb back to peaks of desire.
The passage of time was marked only by the incredible sensations rocking her heavily bound form. It became impossible to tell how long she spent in her prison.
"I'm sorry," Prathiba said. "I came - I came as soon as I could." Light blinded her as Prathiba dropped the blindfold to the ground.
Robin looked up. She was still restrained. She was not in her bed at home. However, the dark face of Prathiba Prassad was greeting her, hovering over her head.
"I - I saw your name. Are we dreaming? Are we dead?"
Robin's breathing had slowed. She felt the restraints loosen bit by bit. The heavy straps unbuckled, the long gloves fell from her arms.
"Listen, Robin, you're my only friend here. I saw other names, too. Other people I know. I saw Erika's name. She's in another room. They've got her in some kind of padded cell. I was in one, too. I hid when one of those things came looking for me, then ran out the door."
"Sorry, Robin." The thick plug left her mouth and she smacked her lips.
"Okay. Can you walk?"
"I think so."
"Good. Try and be quiet."
Robin sat up. She threw the last vestiges of her enclosure to the ground. Prathiba blushed and turned. "Right. Good thinking. I kept the patient's gown, but, uh. I see they didn't give you one, Robin."
The two tiptoed out of the operating theater and into a dark hall. It was eerily silent. Prathiba shut her eyes and tried to wake up, but it was a fool's errand.
"Okay. Over here. I've - I've dreamt about being here before but this is the first time I could, you know, escape. That window - it normally leads outside. I know this building. Robin, give me a boost. I'll find out if we can leave the asylum - or I mean, if there's anything at all outside these walls. Are you ready?"
Prathiba heard the slow, practiced patter of canvas on tile. She turned just in time to see Robin entering the suit. Buttons clicked shut, buckles fastened. She was grinning as the tremendous mouth corset sealed itself. Her pink hair disappeared under the white of the hood. Prathiba could hear her teeth rattling as she fell to the floor.
* * *
Erika was able to moan.
Erika clawed her way out from beneath the blankets. Getting out of bed in the Winter took more willpower than walking on hot coals.
"Robin?" Erika rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "I'm sorry. I just had..."
Robin cocked her head with a cheshire smile. "A bad dream?"
Erika giggled. "Yeah. What are you, my mother?"
"Just your nurse," Robin said with a smile.
"Well... it was... I don't know. You were there though. It wasn't you. It was a monster, but it was a dream - so I could tell it was you."
"That's how dreams work, I guess." Robin took a seat on the bed while Erika sat cross-legged beneath the covers. "You don't have logical reasons for doing things. You just know they happen."
"Still what, Erika?"
She gulped and fished for her glasses. "It wasn't a nightmare."
"No?" Robin cocked her head again and took a sardonic tone.
"I... you were a monster, but like... I almost liked it."
Erika stared at her roommate quizzically. "What did we do yesterday?"
"We came home from the gym. You were pretty tired. You left your purse there."
"You didn't get it for me?"
"They said it had to be you."
Erika sighed and put her hands to her temples.
"Hhhng. Okay. I'll put on pants and head over there now. Robin, meet you for lunch?"
She smiled. "Absolutely. Hey, let's make that dinner - after dinner I've got a place I want to show you."
Erika was no stranger to such remarks. She smiled, shrugged, and waved her roommate goodbye, stopping only to put on a shirt and lazy pair of sweatpants. Robin grinned and shut the door behind her.
With a loud sigh, Robin put her back to the door. She slowly, very slowly, began to sink down until she was now sitting. Resting her head against the wood, she clasped her hands together around her waist. A wide smile grew across her face.
Even now, she could hear Prathiba's moaning. She no longer begged to be let go, but she begged for release all the same. Robin moved forward as a handler, massaging her newest patient until she found the erotic plateau she so craved. She would return Prathiba to the waking world. Soon.
Robin relaxed on the floor. There were many more empty cells. There would soon be many more patients.