~ the raven chronicles ~ 38

15 Jan

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES.)

Dr. Sylvester Agnostica, MD.
Sterns-Carson Sanitarium

Green Pines, Ohio-

November 22, 1932

I left the Dayroom, returned to my office and worked hurriedly to finish my reports detailing the recent incidents here at Sterns-Carson; I intended to have them in hand before the Drummond party arrived.

Throughout the process, I fought the urge to return to the Dayroom and the breached window. To what end I would make that trek, I had no idea, but I found the prospect nearly irresistible. I possessed no evidence that the phantasm in the snow had been any more than just that; but the breached window was solid proof of things amiss here at Sterns-Carson that bordered on the unexplainable.

I rose repeatedly from my desk, and each time successfully overcame the urge to leave my office; with the help of a touch of brandy now and then.

An hour or two passed and I felt that my evidentiary documents were suitable for presentation to Mr. Cannon, or even Jacob Drummond if circumstances warranted; though I could not picture Jacob Drummond as the type of man who would deign to examine a legal document when he had a renowned barrister at his beck and call—even on a leash, I would venture—to do that work for him; and I felt that Cannon would have reasons of his own to keep inquiries discreet and scrutiny superficial; Liza Drummond had said as much the day she visited and sat in the chair opposite my desk.

eliza radiantI pictured her again as she was that morning, scrubbed and fresh-faced, naive in her sensuality. Then I visited the image as she was the night I saw her in the snow, a naked beckoning seductress, hungry for forbidden fruit and unafraid of perdition.

Again, as so many times in recent days, I could not reconcile the two; a chaste young woman and a harlot; a child of Eden and a spawn of Hell.

The notion crossed my mind once again that I had no perspective to judge or reach conclusions about anyone’s character; I and I, the man who always regarded himself to be an upstanding citizen and dedicated husband, who went home one night and brutally raped his wife out of no other motive than a conceited notion that she had displeased him.

The thought that I had lost Priscilla out of a selfish destructive flaw that ran through my blood like a disease, sent me to the narcotics cabinet in my office, where, once again, I pulled the stopper on the bottle of laudanum and tapped several drops into my brandy.

It was not until I quaffed the mixture and the familiar euphoria washed over me that the thought occurred to me that imbibing in Coleridge’s elixir might not be the best course since the Drummond party was undoubtedly already en-route. I had yet to meet Jacob Drummond, but the very notion sent my soul a tremble. I rationalized that it would be better for me to be refreshed and relaxed once the Drummond party arrived, and in recent days, I had found nothing else as refreshing as a tincture of opium.

I locked the narcotics cabinet, walked to a chair near the fire, sat down and leaned back. I closed my eyes and tried to erase my apprehension.

A bell chimed.

The dream came upon me.

I stood in a vast dark wood.
The stout trees all gnarled and thirsty, twisting toward the sky.
Their trunks stripped bare of all bark and the color of charcoal.
Shiny white twigs dotted the dark forest floor.
A light through the trees beckoned.

I began walking through the desolate landscape, unsure and anxious, but unable to do naught else. As I traveled, the bleached remnants at my feet multiplied until the ground was covered with them and they cracked with each of my steps.

I stopped, bent down and picked one up.
I studied it lying there in my hand, and realized that I held a piece of human bone; that all the white relics scattered across this terrible landscape were thus.

“That is forbidden,” a basso profundo rang out.

I glanced around and discovered myself in two places at once; the locations transparent and overlapping; the desolate woods and my office, existing in time and space simultaneously.

“Forbidden”, the voice said again.

A figure towered before me.
Beyond 8 feet in height.
Shrouded from head to foot in a black diaphanous mantle.

I glanced once again at the artifact in my hand, it’s shape horribly conclusive.agnostica veil

I looked into the glass doors of my office bookcase and saw my reflection there.
A naked, veiled woman gazed back at me.
Long black hair cascaded over my shoulders, down my shapely body to the floor.
They were my eyes.
And my face.
Yet both completely unknown to me.

I regarded the bone once again.
I tipped my hand and watched the bone slowly tumble to the office floor.
It clattered and echoed among the scattered shards and fragments on the forest ground.

Another chime sounded.

death forestI found myself once again in the desolate forest of death.
I slowly turned and discovered a precipice behind me and a vista beyond that drained my soul of all hope.
The wide world of hill and dale laid out before me contained nothing but the gnarled trees and the scattered bones for miles; and miles; and miles; presided over by a diffused sun hanging in the ashen sky.

I wept bitter tears.

A double chime sounded.

I opened my eyes.

From the leather chair in my office, I heard a thud outside.
The sound of muffled voices.
The clock on the wall read 2:00.

I got to my feet and hurried to the window.

In the driveway just beyond, four cars sat parked at the foot of the sanitarium’s entry steps. A man in a  suit, long coat and hat, walked from the first car, a modest sedan, back to the second car, a long limousine with curtains drawn on the rear windows.

As the man tapped on the window, two other men came to the rear of the limousine and stationed themselves at the the bumper of the car, one to each side.

Mr. Cannon popped up on the opposite side of the limousine and hurried around to the side parallel with the hospital.

The back door of the limousine came open and a man that I knew must be Jacob Drummond stepped up and out of the car. He spoke a few words to Cannon, who nodded and replied in a close, confidential manner.

Then Drummond turned and extended his hand to the open door. A dainty glove appeared, took his hand, and the lithe figure of Eliza Drummond rose from the depths. Unlike the somewhat girlish appearance of her previous visit, she looked sleek and sophisticated, in highest heels, long sable coat, cocked brimmed hat, and dark glasses.

Eliza took her father’s arm; he and Cannon exchanged a few more words; and the three of them began their ascent up the steps of Sterns-Carson.

I realized that I stood there in shirtsleeves and dropped suspenders while the jury that could very well decide my destiny was about to enter the doorway to my world.

I hurried to the lavatory; splashed water on my face; straightened my hair; set my braces; donned my jacket; took a deep breath; and strode out into the hallway to meet my fate.

©2013 j.edwardfitzgerald  all rights reserved


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