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Aaron’s childhood is overshadowed by memories he’d rather forget.

His eighth year of existence brought the worst memory possible, his own Father doing the most unspeakable offences for the first time. He recognises his eighth year as a time of pain and suffering and no, please stop!

Except it doesn’t stop at his eighth year, nor his ninth, tenth or eleventh.

He’s eighteen and it’s been ten years of misery.

When his sister is born he wonders if the pain will stop but it doesn’t, his Dad just gets cleverer and more creative and by the time Sandra, his Step-Mum finds out it’s too late to do any damage control.

Sandra’s not a monster, he is.

But Sandra’s the Maternal figure who turned a blind eye to horrific abuse in hopes that it’d spare her daughter.

Aaron can’t blame her, he’d take it to save his sister.

But who’s there to save him?

--

He’s eighteen when it all comes to a head.

He’s threatening to spill the beans, let the cat out the bag and find someone, anyone who’ll believe such a story.

Only Sandra’s begging him not to and he’s looking down at his innocent and pure little sister and he’s agreeing.

They’re arguing in the bathroom later that night, his Dad and he.

He’s pushing and shoving and screaming and Aaron can’t let it happen, no, please not again.

And before he knows it he’s running and he’s going to the only place he knows at a quarter past midnight. The garage where he works is empty apart from a silver Volvo that’s in for brake-pads and an MOT, he’s sitting in it just to get a bit of warmth and he’s curious and he’s got nothing to lose and no reason to stay and before he knows it he’s turning on the ignition and watching the smoke engulf the entire garage.

It’s scary and thrilling and peaceful all at the same time.

There’s a burning in his lungs that’s getting tighter and crushing his chest even more until suddenly it doesn’t. Nothing hurts and he’s boneless and delirious and free.

Until he’s not.

He wakes up in Hotten General three days later, his throat red raw from the corrugated tube fed down his neck. He’s alive and well and all the nurses are pleased with his progress and he’s thinking and saying that he’d much rather die, he’d rather be dead than here with Sandra hovering in the waiting room and signing his papers because he needs help.

They’ve decided that sectioning him is the best option in his mental state.

Sandra’s fed everyone this cock-and-bull story of how Aaron is that head-fucked he’d say anything to anyone who’d listen and suddenly she’s got him a bed at a mental institute out in the sticks and she’s telling everyone that he’s going because he’s suicidal but really he’s going because his Step-Mum is afraid he won’t keep his mouth shut about what his Dad does to him in the quiet of the night.

-

Home Farm is an institute spanning across a large portion of the Yorkshire dales, it’s practically in the middle of nowhere and Aaron’s driver is grumbling about the fog and how the hell he’s going to make it back through this. They drive through a large gate adjoined to surrounding fences with electrical barbed wire wrapped around the top, it looks more like a prison than a hospital.

Aaron wonders if he can make a run for it when they park the car.

He doesn’t.

An orderly meets him at the car door, leaving little chance for him to do anything but follow the large muscular man to the main entrance. He takes one last glance at the outside world in hopes that it won’t be too long until he’s part of it again.

Doctor Alex Mason is barely older than Aaron but his crinkled eyes tell him he has years ahead of Aaron’s boyish self. His office it tiny and dark, his various awards and accolades are positioned neatly on a shelf behind the desk. He’s talking but Aaron’s not really processing what he’s saying, more interested in the stack of patient records on the inpatients pile.

Doctor Mason asks stupid questions like why do you think you’re here Aaron? and do you accept our help, Aaron? Aaron nods along, wanting to get this over with. He figures he’ll be here a couple of weeks, a month at most and maybe, just maybe he can go live somewhere else after all this blows over. He’d see if his Mum would let him stay or maybe he’d head to Leeds and kip on his mates sofa for a bit. He’s getting ahead of himself and before he knows it, Dr Mason is thrusting a white form in his direction.

Aaron’s never been good with words but he trusts the Doctor, he’s a medical professional so why wouldn’t he? And so he signs his name in cursive at the bottom of the contract before allowing himself to be bustled from the room and down the corridor to the ward entrance.

No turning back now.

The first patient he sees is close to the image Aaron first pictured when he realised he was heading for an asylum. He’s rocking back and forth with his arms bound in a straight-jacket, he’s high off something Aaron would rather not know about and he’s screaming profanities in a broad Northern accent. It’s off-putting and nerve-wracking and makes Aaron want to be anywhere but here.

“Ignore Eli” Doctor Mason muses, marking something off on his clipboard “He’s having an episode”

Aaron nods along like it’s all the explanation he needs but he can’t resist looking back over his shoulder at the scruffy man who’s now laughing manically.

Doctor Mason shows him the day room all set up with individual high-backed chairs and a TV set on wheels, it reminds Aaron of when he broke his arm as a child and spent the week causing mayhem on the Paediatric ward of Hotten General. It’s nostalgic and terrifying all at the same time. Aaron’s room is small but at least he doesn’t have to share, the bed against the wall has clean sheets and a green cellular blanket, the Doctor points out a shelf for Aaron’s belongings but he doesn’t have many so he’s not that bothered, he’s more bothered about the brown leather-bound book Doctor Mason thrusts into his grip.

“This is your journal” The Doctor explains and Aaron screws up his face in disgust at the prospect of writing his every thought to be psychoanalysed by the on-duty shrink but he puts it to the back of his mind when he notices the bars on the window. He asks in a jokey way if it’s that bad here that they need bars to keep the patients in but Doctor Mason assures him that all of his patients are happy and want to be here, that’s why they signed the contract.

But Aaron’s changed his mind.

Aaron doesn’t trust him, not one bit.

--

The food is alright, typical of hospital type meals - nutrition-filled but rank, he’s not that bothered though, at least he won’t have his Dad breathing down his neck if he can’t stomach the entire plate.

He’s made a friend, or at least someone who’s latched onto him like the puppy he’s always wanted but now he can’t get rid of. He calls himself G-Man but the staff call him Gerry, he’s like a hyperactive five year old in an older-teens body. He’s goofy and dorky and weird but he looks harmless and Aaron thinks maybe, just maybe he’ll be okay here.

He’s lying in bed that night replaying all the painful memories in his mind.

He’s in the middle of the largest madhouse in Yorkshire yet he’s never felt safer in all his eighteen years.