Through the course of my research for the archaeological poem published earlier this month, I came accross an article about a little known disaster that happened at Colney Hatch Asylum in London in 1903. This was one of the worst asylum fires in the city's history, and the 52 women who perished have largely been forgotten.
This story, and others like it, inspired me to write this piece of flash fiction.
I stand and watch the asylum burn. I know I should feel angry after everything they have done to me, righteous even in its ultimate destruction.
But I just feel numb. Black belches of smoke vomits out of the shocked window frames, hinting deep inside at the fiery beast’s glowing heart.
Jenny was right. She was always right. One day, she had said to him. One day this place would all fall down around me, and I alone would stand firm.
I don’t feel firm now. I feel soft and limp and thin, and all the stark elements around me are threatening to cut through me like paper.
I hear the others, whooping and laughing and screaming. Running riot as they career out of the asylum.
I’m not supposed to call it an asylum any more. It’s a hospital now. It gives them better press to call it that. Not that it has really changed. It is still a place to hide away the broken ones, so we don’t offend the senses of the ‘normal’ ones.
The normal ones. Ha. The normal ones are the reason those on the top floor are burning in their beds right now, strapped down and drugged out of their minds. Locked doors and collapsing roofs.
They’ll call it an electrical fault. A patient to blame, smoking when they shouldn’t have been. But I know the truth.
I can hear the fire fighters coming now. I slip into the shadows, and disappear. My shadow trails like a black cloak, the orange fire tendrils clinging to the hem.
S J Menary