~ the raven chronicles ~ 5

22 Mar

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES.)

Dr. Sylvester Agnostica, MD.
Sterns-Carson Sanitarium
Green Pines, Ohio

November 16, 1932
6:45PM

I return to this page, even though waning twilight advises otherwise; I must write things down before I journey home, before I convince myself that what I’ve seen and heard this day, did not happen.

After I departed my office this morning to see Mrs. Sinclair, I was stopped in the Dayroom by Mrs. Wallace. She seemed a bit overwrought, insisting that she had heard young Ezekiel faintly calling to her in the ward where he sleeps; she repeatedly searched the room, high and low, and was unable to find him, or even pinpoint the direction of his voice. I told her that was good news; it indicated that the boy was indeed in the building. Good news? she replied, with a quizzical look. Determined not to be waylaid again, I then told her to go find Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Kleiner and enlist their aid in the search; it would simply be a matter of time until they found the boy.

No sooner had I turned to continue my trek to visit Mrs. Sinclair, than an orderly ran up the hall and breathlessly told me to come quickly, something terrible was going on in the patient dayroom. Before I could get any pertinent details, he ran back off in that direction, obviously expecting me to follow; I did.

At the wide entryway of the dayroom, I found a crowd of patients gathered. As is the case with so many of the feeble-minded when their daily routine is breached, some were in near hysterics, either laughing uncontrollably, or wailing like ancient peoples mourning their dead.

I squeezed my way through the vibrating throng and saw Claude Fortrel, the largest of our patients, a giant of a man, with a chair raised high over his head, threatening Mr. Jenkins. Looking back on it now, I can hardly believe my own actions; I strode into the room, looked up at Claude, and told him to set the chair back on the floor immediately; that if he wanted to act like an animal, I would turn him out into the snow with the rest of the wild creatures. He immediately lowered the chair; it hung suspended at his side, still two feet off the floor. His pendulous lower lip trembled for a moment, and then he began to sob like a child.

I then noticed that Mr. Jenkins stood positioned as a shield between Fortrel and another patient who lay huddled on the floor. Whimpering and cradling one arm like a bird with a broken wing, the supine inmate turned out to be Bobby Foster, an irritating but harmless lunatic with a penchant for talking non-stop.

Nurse Wallace entered the dayroom and rushed to tend Foster. I turned to Claude without any expectation of a reasoned response and was not disappointed. Through his tears, he mouthed a circular diatribe that was as nonsensical as it was vehement; the parts I could understand went something like; “I told him to stay away from her…he should stay away from her…she wants me, not him…” Occasionally, animal instinct takes possession of a patient and they imagine some type of romantic connection exists with another inmate. This generally results in some harmless display of affection, like walking hand in hand, but we have, on occasion, discovered inmates engaged in clandestine, carnal relations. I have reinforced to the staff the need for vigilance in this area; the last thing I want is a bastard, idiot birth in my hospital. In hopes of circumventing any such behavior, I asked Claude to identify the individuals he was referring to; I might as well have been speaking to one of the stone lions in front of the hospital. Already at the end of my rope, I forcefully told Claude to stop his inane ramblings, and he fell silent. I then instructed Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Kleiner to seize Claude, strap him in a jacket and place him in solitary until tomorrow morning.

After supervising dispersal of the inmates, I headed off once again, to see Mrs. Sinclair. As the din of moaning and laughing faded behind me, I formulated a number of questions to ask her; I had no idea if she could, or would, answer any of them, and pondered what my response should be in either event.

Preoccupied with my thoughts as I passed through the various wards, I was surprised to suddenly find myself at Mrs. Sinclair’s cell. I paused to gather my wits, opened the speakeasy window, then announced myself; patients often lay about their rooms in various stages of undress or engaged in inappropriate behavior and the staff endeavors to notify before entering in order to not only stem their own embarrassment, but to allow our patients to maintain some semblance of dignity. I looked through the small, rectangular aperture and could see no trace of Mrs. Sinclair. I called to her once again, remembering to use her alias, and warned that I was entering the cell. I then enlisted an orderly of the corridor to stand ready nearby. I opened the door and stood in the threshold; Mrs. Sinclair was still nowhere in sight. I quietly called again and stepped inside the room, and looked around. When I turned back toward the doorway, I spotted her, to my left, ensconced in the corner. It would be a lie to say that I was not startled; it would be closer to the truth to say that I felt like a small animal about to be swept up by a beautiful bird of prey.

I motioned to the orderly to close the door, and waited for his receding footsteps; prying ears and eyes are the last thing I need. Once I felt secure in privacy, I addressed the woman.

Mrs. Sinclair, I said, you and I must have a discussion. From out of the shadows, I saw her eyes, bright and frighteningly blue, just like that first glimpse of them on the day she arrived at Sterns-Carson. Wordlessly, she looked straight at me; I felt that she was looking right through me, as a sea captain would look through his spyglass to some distant shore. Mrs. Sinclair, I repeated, can you hear me? The thundering silence that ensued between us merely reinforced what I already knew; this woman had not spoken since her arrival; there was no reason for me to expect anything different now.

Mrs. Sinclair, I said, I want to help you, and I am going to help you, help you regain some of what you have lost. You have suffered a severe shock, but with time and treatment, we will be able to heal your wounds.

I wondered then if I would not have been better served to have allowed Fr. Leavell to tell me the circumstances that led to this woman’s current condition; that thought evaporated as I recalled the implications of Mr. Cannon’s visit. The less I know, the better for me; this is not merely a medical situation, this is also a family affair, a family affair of the rich and powerful, in which I have been placed as an unwitting pawn. That ends now, I told myself; this woman shall be brought back to her senses if it is the last thing I do; all the means are at my disposal. Once that is accomplished, I will insist that Mr. Cannon arrange for her release, whether it be a transfer out of Sterns-Carson to a convalescent facility, or back to the Drummond family home, it matters not; whichever course will get me out from under this sword of Damocles.

As I came out of my abstraction, Mrs. Sinclair stirred slightly, the particulars of which, sent a chill down my spine; her fingers began to move, slowly, nearly imperceptibly, as if she were knitting or counting time. The tautness of the rest of her body magnified that one, small detail of her countenance, and the effect was unnerving. Then, in what I can only imagine was a trick of the dim light, I saw her dressed in No, I must describe this experience precisely, before my mind has time to reason it away, for what happened next was not merely a visual manifestation, but something more akin to an all-encompassing dream.

As we silently faced each other in the close confines of that cell, I heard a stirring, like the far-off call of the north wind of winter; the walls of the room evaporated, and we stood face-to-face in a tall tree forest; Mrs. Sinclair’s grey hospital shift was gone, replaced by a long green gown, ornamented with feathers and elaborate beadwork; her blonde hair swirled about, suspended in the wind, and flowed across her face from left to right in lacy strands; her deep blue eyes glowed with a fire like the blue of a flame. Gripped by fear, I closed my eyes, as if that could extinguish the vision. When I looked again, we stood in the dim cell once more. Her hands were still; my palms were sweating, my mouth was dry.

Mrs. Sinclair, I said, fighting to stifle the tremor in my voice, I am setting a regimen of treatment for you that will commence, tomorrow. Though much of it may seem unpleasant, I assure that it is all necessary to make you a whole woman once again. And with that, I averted my gaze from her, and left the cell. The orderly closed the door behind me. I watched him secure the door. Though I know I walked back to my office, I cannot recall one single step.

My pen hand trembles as I finish this entry. One more brandy and I shall begin the journey home. I pray when I return tomorrow that all of this day shall be revealed as an anomaly, a happenstance, a mere wrinkle in the fabric of my life.

©2011 j.edwardfitzgerald all rights reserved

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One Response to “~ the raven chronicles ~ 5”

  1. Tami March 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    OMG, and then what? I LOVE THIS!!!

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