Matt blinked in the harsh light of the sun pouring through his window. His head pounded, like someone was slamming a hammer against the inside of his skull. He groaned, falling back into the hot covers. How long had he been asleep? He couldn't remember stumbling home after the party, and his tongue felt dry against the top of his mouth. Despite his thin covers, Matt felt like he was burning underneath the bed covers.
There was a knock at his door. Matt cursed, thrashing in his bed before stumbling on the ground, his covers wrapped around his body. His eyes were watering from lack of sleep, and, rubbing a hand against his face, he could feel the thick stubble on his skin, the results of neglecting to shave for days. Through it all, a musk of stench hung in the air.
He cracked the door opened, and inwardly groaned. His landlord, Henry, the short, squat man with small, beady eyes looked at him from across the threshold, his eyes in a set glare.
"Mr. Capette." Matt swallowed.
"Henry. Can I...can I help you?"
Henry grunted. "I don't know. you tell me." Matt sighed.
"I'll promise I'll have the rent to you by the end of the week."
"Uh-huh. That's what you said last the last time."
"And I meant it," Matt said. "Just...things came up, I guess."
"I like you, Matt, I do, but I got to make a living, too, see? No more excuses now, got it? No more excuses. Pay your rent or the next thing you'll see on the other side of the door is an eviction note. Do you understand?"
"Yes, yes, I got it. I promise. No more excuses."
Henry gave him a flat look.
The door closed behind Matt, and he sunk to the floor. What could he do? He couldn't let himself get evicted. Where could he go? He had no money, no family, no home outside the apartment complex, and a journalism degree worth squat. He had moved to Los Angeles, risking the high apartment rates in the hopes of getting a chance at a top journalism spot. When that didn't pan out, he started to work for local businesses, but it was never quite fast enough to pay for the rate of the bills. Now, his day of reckoning was coming.
Something needed to change. Matt showered, shaved, and booted up his old laptop. His resume was still up when the screen came to life. Matt sighed, minimizing the window. If he wanted to the pay the rent in time he would have to do things that was a little...unorthodox.
He typed, "Writing opportunities" into the search browser, holding his breath as his computer seem to crawl getting results. He got several hundred hits. Matt scanned through them, filtering mentally ones that were bogus or had misinterpreted his search. Most were blogs filled with advice for struggling authors. Matt didn't write fiction; he was a journalist. He reported facts.
As he thought that, however, Matt's eyes stopped at a search. "Tabloid writer wanted." He clicked on the link, which brought him to a site filled with gruesome pictures and odd titles. In the middle of it all, a link to an application form blinked. Matt clicked on it, scooting to the edge of his seat.
The words, "Freelance writer needed" appeared on the screen. He continued reading, "Will pay top dollar for full story on the Beverly Hills Asylum." Matt frowned. An mental intuition in Beverly Hills? It seemed like an odd choice for an institution. As he read, however, Matt's curiosity peaked. It wasn't an institution for the insane. It was an institution for celebrities. A retreat? Matt pulled up another window, searching for anything on Asylum 90210. There was nothing real. Matt frowned, returning to the job description. Was it real, or was it all just some drunken fan girl's wish? Matt groaned, leaning back in his chair. What was he doing? Chasing random places that might not exist? Was he really that desperate? He glanced at his watch. Did he have a choice? With a sigh, he grabbed his pack and walked outside. Beverly Hills, here he comes.
Matt walked down the street, glancing down at the large map in his hands. For days he had followed lead after lead, but nothing seemed to be working. Nobody on the streets had any ideas of any "Asylum for the Stars," and he couldn't very well go into the gated communities to ask the stars themselves. He checked beauty parlors, grocery stores, even jewelry buildings, anything that might have a connection to any of the stars that might be housed at the Asylum. He was quickly running out of money, resources, energy, and time.Throughout all of it, Matt's deadline at the end of the week loomed in the back of his mind.
Something didn't seem right with the whole idea of having an asylum for celebrities. How on Earth could something so substantial as a retreat like that be kept hidden from the media world? The whole thing just felt...off. He was beginning to feel like the whole thing was some hyped up half-cooked conspiracy theory. He was going to have no story, and, more importantly, no money for rent.
Matt looked around the street for anyone to interview. Despite the warm temperatures and clear skies, there seemed to be no one out, which seemed odd to Matt. A woman walked on the other side of the street, her head down and covered with a large sunhat. A handbag was wrapped around her soldier, and she wore silver high heels and a tight, form-fitting black dress and skirt. On her blouse was intricate brooch, draped in gold and laced with diamonds.
"Hey!' Matt called out, desperately. "Hey, can I talk to you?'
The woman looked, slightly surprised. She didn't seem to see Matt at first, and she seemed distracted, as if she were in her own world.
"Oh, hello there. Can I help you, sir?"
Matt frowned, a little surprised.
"Where is everyone?" Mat Inquired. The woman looked around, again looking surprised, as if she had just noticed that the streets were very mysteriously empty.
"Why, I don't know, sir. It is Halloween tonight...' She blushed. "I apologize, I'm being rude. My name is Anna." Matt sighed. Great, he was dealing with some confused foreigner that happened to speak English.
"My name is Matt. I'm a journalist."
Her eyes lit up. "Like Mr. Hearst?"
"You've heard of him?"
"Yes, I do. My father and him are good friends." Matt stepped back. Hearst was a famous newspaper mogul a long time ago. He was also very much dead, but Anna had said her father knew him like he was still alive and kicking. What was going on?
She smiled, cocking her head in confusion.
"Nothing. I'm just...I'm looking for a place, but I can't find it. You've probably never heard of it, though."
"Try me. What's it called?" She asked.
"The 'Asylum for Stars'"
"I've heard of that!"
"I know where it is. Follow me."
They raced off through the street, Matt's heart pounding. Finally... This could be it.
"Here it is!"
Matt stopped in surprise, Anna had brought him to an desolate allay, however an old gray building stood before him with a small sign on a odd shaped door, "Asylum for the Stars."
Matt's heart quickened. He turned to Anna.
"Are you coming?"
"No, I'm good, but thank you. Have a pleasant time." She started to walk in the other direction.
Matt shrugged, stepping inside the building. The reception room was a dull gray, with the monotone buzz of the fan above. In front of him, a chubby old lady sat at the reception desk.
"Can I help you?"
Matt froze. He never imagined himself actually finding the place.
"I want to talk some of the occupants here." The lady sighed.
"Only patients are allowed here."
The woman glanced at him, and sighed. She reached for something underneath her desk. "Security. We have another patient. Please escort him."
Doors to the side banged open, and two men slammed through, grappling Matt's hands. Matt squirmed, suddenly panicking. They started to drag him through the doors
"All complaints must be filed with the proper personnel. Have a nice day."
"Wait!" The doors slammed close, shutting him off from the world.
Matt's ears rang as door after door slammed behind him, echoing off the steel walls. His wrists were bruised where the two men held him, and his feet dragged along the ground. There was a table set up with straps hanging limply on each side. They threw him on, and began to strap him down.
Matt started to scream before the electric shocks began.
It coursed through him like fire. Every muscle in his body tensed, and Matt's screaming ceased as his energy, even to resist, completely disappeared.
"I'm not...I'm not suicidal," Matt mumbled, his eyes closed.
"I don't care," one of the men said. More pain flooded his body.
He wasn't sure how much time passed. It could've been minutes or hours, maybe even days. He was in constant, excruciating pain, or a dull, senseless numbness. After what seemed like eternity, he realized he was alone, and the straps were undone.
He tested his body, somewhat surprised that everything worked. He felt...content, almost happy, even. Maybe the therapy had it's benefit.
He stood up, glancing around the room, expecting men to come pouring in to take him away again. When nothing happened, he cautiously stepped to to the door and opened it, leading out to brightly-lit hallways that led to hundreds of rooms.
There were other people in the Asylum, he could hear them. Matt followed the noise, hesitating for a moment then he realized they could be more guards to bring him back to the therapy room.
But...that wouldn't be too bad, would it? He did feel better. And besides, he still have the tabloid story to worry about. He needed a story.
People looked up as he entered, but most just ignored him. Matt remembered the strange lady from before, and how she seem to be in a daze. He got the same feeling from before, except it was even stranger because there were hundreds of people who seemed to be out of touch with reality.
Matt set himself down at one of the tables. One of the men, an older fellow with a fraying gray beard, looked up.
"Can I help you sir?"
"I'm working on a story, actually. Could you tell me what this place is?"
The man suddenly broke out into a huge grin.
"It's a palace for movie stars!"
"Yes, I got that, but-"
"After my huge hit on The Blond Adventure, they asked me to come here."
"I'm sorry, but...what movie?"
"The Blond Adventure! My, my boy, haven't you heard of it?"
Matt mumbled a thanks and stood up, rubbing the side of his neck. What was going on? The man thought he was the star from some Hollywood flick that didn't exist.
His eyes fell on a nearby woman. She was wearing a golden, diamond-laced brooch and looked very familiar. Anna, the woman from the street, he realized.
"Hey Anna, what are you doing here?" She looked up.
"Do I know you?" Matt's eyes widened.
"well...Not really, let me ask you, were you a move star?." She grinned.
"Yes, of course dear, I starred in My Red Firetruck. Surely, you've heard of it."
"Ummm...not quite. But I-"
"But what about the Ape Woman? Or was it Amazon Woman? Both were quite popular in the late 90s." It went on like that for almost an hour, the woman talking constantly about the movies she stared in that did not exist.
"I notice you've been staring at my broach young man."
"It's beautiful," Mat replied.
My husband gave it to me years ago, it cost him a small fortune, I loved wearing for years, but now I grow board of it."
"Then why don't you give it away or sell it?"
"Oh dear it's only worth fifty or sixty grand, not much money these days. Since you like it so much, I'll give it to you when I die." And with that she emerges from her seat and walks down a long dimly lit corridor and disappears.
"Umm...thank you," Matt yelled on death ears. Matt spoke to about a dozen more people in the hospital with the same result, everybody here was a fake. Despite the fact the asylum was void of movies stars, he could still write a good human interest story about the place.
The door to the outside world was unlocked. Matt glanced around, surprised that there was no one to stop him. With a slight hesitation, he stepped into the warm Beverly Hills sun. Nobody stopped him, and nobody followed him. Matt blinked as he got to his hotel room, still a little unsure what exactly had happened. He busted out the story, writing furiously into the night.
The office for the tabloid magazine was nearby, so he walked over, and handed in the story with pride.
A chubby man on the other side scanned the papers, frowning.
"I'm sorry, but these stories need to be somewhat true. I can't take this."
"But it is true!" Matt clamored. "I was there myself! It's only a few blocks away!" The man sighed.
"Look, I'm about to go on lunch-break, and as you can see I need the exercise... So how about you show me this hospital and then I'll believe you."
The walk was awkward, however Matt could hardly contain his excitement. Soon, he would have some money, and he could pay his damn rent. They walked down the the ally and Matt felt his heart stop.
"It should be right...here." The building was gone. it was just an empty lot. The man sighed.
"What are you trying to pull, kid? You on drugs or something? I don't have time for this anymore." he walked off huffing.
"But...but...I could've sworn…"
Matt starts to walk off in shock when something caught his eye. he frowns, and grabs something laying in a pool of muddy water. It's a brooch, a golden brooch - laced with expensive diamonds...