The government removed the lid of the incredible disappearing box and turned over the top hat and punctured the water tank so the patients spilled down the hallways, over the walls, to dry out like toads to be mowed over in the neighbors’ front yards.

Burned were the brochures and poor reviews, and the staff filed into assembly lines or nursing homes.

The ceilings bowed and seedlings grew trunks in the elevator shaft where a suicide of ravens has waited for the end of the world since the beginning of the world.

Patients returned with sleeping bags, teenagers ripped out the light fixtures, and ravens stole what glittered, spoons, and the lapel pins nurses had worn on dresses white as electricity or snow freezing death until thaw.

But the farmers still harvested the field seamed to the back yard where patients had rehearsed living while children kicked back their legs in swings that flew them high enough to see over the wall and barbed-wire vines and into the cornfields, the cornstalks like storytellers that sink ships.

Stories say the person who, with closed eyes, binds the self to a cot in one of the cells will hear the thoughts of the former patient. Not the patient crabwalking across the movie screen, and not even the patient in the government playbills saying funding is lacking—wings closed down—nurses strapping patients to beds because there aren’t enough stagehands to watch the props, these patients, the inmates, the ones with their faces erased as they push lawn mowers over a caption that exclaims Productivity!—as they sit with crossed legs in one of many school desks: Education!—Even the faces' reflections are scrubbed from the glass bellies of washing machines big enough to clean everything but hope.

Those who followed the story’s directions (up the country roads to the town founded on the asylum) but who did not bind themselves jumped down the elevator shaft or became storytellers or gravediggers.

I found not a cell but the room, one large room, with a cot, cot after cot from the dormitory pictures, cots tightly made, erased of the patients in the camera’s flash. Cots in rows across both walls, cots rowing down the aisle to nowhere.
And I lay down.

But I remember only waking bound in red sheets. My husband’s handing me the telephone and saying it’s my best friend’s husband, and there’s her name before his voice says it down a thousand miles of country-road telephone wires, and there’s the scream down and up a thousand miles of the body’s wires and that scream it’s still going that scream and this scream won’t stop until I pass back out and wake up on that cot instead of the red sheets under the white comforter I’d bought on sale when she was alive.

God, I swear I went to that asylum and tied myself up. It’s the only story that explains.