Death of an English crumpet
I cannot remember whether I was insane to begin with or if cruel circumstance thrust madness upon me. It might have been the Embrace that forced this disease to blossom within, but I do not think so. I believe the seeds of madness were already there. You might find my lack of memory amusing or even annoying. I care not. You try remembering what happened to you almost two hundred years ago. Try remembering what you had for dinner last Tuesday. I imagine it would be quite the endeavour even for a mind that has not been corrupted in a manner such as mine. Now if you have settled down sufficiently I will tell you my story.
I was born into a wealthy family. My father was a barrister and partner at a law firm in London. He was a strict man with clear notions of what was appropriate and what was not. To tell you that he was a loving man would be a lie. In his opinion, children were only meant to be seen and not heard. My mother, in the words of Coventry Patmore, was the perfect Victorian angel in the house. She was everything a good wife and Lady of the time should be. She played the piano with utter grace, her needlework was neat and perfect, and she was soft, and loving and caring. She rarely spoke unless spoken to and had given birth to three children, two boys and one girl, me. I was the eldest, a mousy, skinny child with none of my mother’s natural grace. She had been ill while carrying me in her womb and therefore I came out sickly. Or so I was told. My brothers however were a beautiful set of almost identical twins with curly auburn hair and blue eyes, healthy as little bulls they were. When the weather was cold I was not permitted to play outside. I remember watching my brothers at play from my bedroom window, dreaming of joining their games. I rarely could though. As I grew older, it became less proper to play with boys, scraping ones knees and getting mud on ones dress. It was simply not Lady-like. So they confined me to playing by myself with my dolls, or practicing the pianoforte. The piano was the only thing I did not completely fail to master. Maybe, one day I will play for you and you will weep at the beauty of my melodies as my mother once did. Where does the madness figure into all of this you might wonder? I shall tell you. It may have been that the voices in my head came to me because I was lonely or maybe I was simply born with the malady and it simply did not come to front until a predetermined point in time. I do not really know when the voices started to speak to me. It almost feels like they were not there one day and then there the next. It hardly matters, suffice to say that they were there from an early age, maybe I was thirteen or fourteen when they became apparent. I started talking to figures that were not there. At least that is what it would look like to any bystander. The truth of the matter was that I could see things others did not. I now believe that I could see the spirits of the dead, what you mortals would call ghosts, and communicate with them. I cannot be certain of this however. At first they terrified me and I would be afraid to be alone, but after a while they stopped being terrifying and I began to have conversations with them. Some spirits came and went, but I often had regular visits from some of them, and they in turn became my friends. My favourite was an old sailor who had lived just a few streets away from my house and who had died in his bed from some pox or other. He had such wondrous tales to tell from his journeys at sea. He spoke of wonders from distant lands and made my imagination dance. I miss him sometimes still, and wonder if he was ever real or just a figment of my imagination. I no longer see them you see. After the Embrace, the ghosts stopped seeking me out or maybe I simply dreamed them up, I do not know.
Where was I? I am sorry, thinking of old times often makes me quite distracted. I shall return to my tale. I am sure that had not my mother and father discovered my conversations I would perhaps have led an unremarkable life. I might have married some barrister from my father's firm and mothered beautiful children and so on. However, they did discover it and for some time they chose to ignore it thinking it the result of a child's playful imaginings, but as months passed and turned into years they grew ever more concerned. I had become old enough to stop believing in imaginary friends, and when they confronted me with their opinions on the matter, I told them that I was not imagining things. I was speaking to real persons, and I told them of my dear sailor. Could they not see him too I inquired. It was then that I realized that I was different, and that I had frightened my parents. My father grew furious with me and demanded I desist making up such lies. When I defied him, said that I was not lying he slapped me and locked me in my room. There would be no supper until I apologized for my wickedness. I did not apologize of course, and spent almost two days without sustenance before my mother convinced my father to let me have food brought up to my room. I was in deep conversation with the sailor when my mother brought up a tray of tea and biscuits. So engrossed in the conversation was I that I did not hear her come in. How long she stood there listening to me speak I cannot tell. I only remember the clattering of the tray as she set it down on my dresser and rushed out of my room, locking the door behind her. I could hear her weeping all the way down the hall. After that incident, they had several doctors visit me, examining me. They all concluded that I was delusional, or otherwise mentally ill. Most of them recommended my parents have me committed to an asylum, but they decided to keep me at home for the time being. Thinking it would be safer, not to mention less shameful than having their only daughter committed to an asylum. So they kept me in my room which had now become a cage, only opening the door when they brought me my meals. Upon entering, they would look at me with fear, and sometimes revulsion. They did not understand, and to them I was a freak, possibly dangerous, and definitely shameful to the family. I tried to escape once. I had tied my sheets together and climbed out the bedroom window. I made it to the cobbled street below, and then I ran. I did not get far however. A police officer patrolling the street saw me, and I suppose a fourteen year old girl dashing down the street in slippers and a night gown was quite suspicious. He called out to me and when I did not answer or stop, he dashed after me and eventually caught me. I kicked and screamed, and even bit his hand trying to break free, but it was all in vain. He was too strong and I was only a child. He twisted my arm then and made me tell him where I lived and brought me back to my home, my prison. After the escape my father whipped me with his belt until he drew blood and I lay weeping and trembling on the floor. My mother was hysterical and fainted in the end, and had to be carried to bed by the servants. My brothers knew little or nothing about my plight. They were shielded from me entirely. After my ill-fated attempt at fleeing, my parents had had enough. This could no longer go on and they decided to have me committed to a sanatorium. They had me examined by doctors again and got them to sign a slip of paper with their recommendations to have me committed effectively taking away any rights I might have had to my own life. Such were the times alas, a woman had little rights to begin with and if you were mentally ill you had none. All your decisions were no longer yours, but your family’s, and my family differed little from others. They left me to rot, they didn't even come to see me once after having me committed. I still hate them for sending me away. It does not matter that they were victims of their time. What they did to me is beyond forgiveness! We were wealthy back then, and my parents could afford to put me up in a private asylum. Not that it mattered much. The asylums were all horrors in their own right. I cannot remember the name of the institution they shipped me of to, I remember little of anything that happened in those frightful days. One day I was in my room in my own clothes with familiar things surrounding me, and the next I was in a small white painted cell. They gave me a white linen frock before they chained me to the wall next to a bed. There was a piss pot in one corner, and a small barred window in my door was the only source of light I had. It was clean, but it was cold and dreary. Every day I could hear the moans of other patients from treatment rooms and other cells that lay close to mine. I swear I can still smell the pungent odours of that cursed place. I was lucky enough I guess. At least I had a cell of my own. In a public asylum I might have been chained to a wall with six or seven other women in the same room. Lucky is not really a term I would like to apply to my past or my present to be frank, but it is the only word that springs to mind. You look sad my dear. Does my little sob story break your heart? Do not shed any of your precious tears just yet. The worst is still to come.
The Sanatorium had a staff of male wardens, or is orderlies the correct term? Whatever the fresh hell you want to call them, they were there and their task was to keep an eye on all the inmates, transport them back and forth between treatments, and keep watch during the nights when most of the personnel had gone home. The nurses were female and took care of feeding the patients, helping them with every day chores or assisting the doctors with their treatments. Some of the girls that were deemed harmless and pliant would be allowed to wear their own clothes every day and to go to a common sitting room where they could enjoy tea and cakes and pleasant conversation. Girls like me, who were seen as flight risks, and exceptionally delusional or dangerous were kept in our cells most of the time and clothes were denied us. I wept a lot in the beginning. I missed my family and my home, and the cold and the hunger gnawed at me constantly. I barely slept, and when I did it was always a restless fitful sleep. I was scared and alone and I never knew what new pains waited for me from one day to another. My only comfort were the spirits that had put me there in the first place. They kept me company, but even their voices could not substitute the warmth of another human beings loving touch. I still spoke to them like I had always done before, the damage was done, and no matter how much I pretended not to see them I knew I would not be released unless my family wanted me back. I slipped into the role of the mad little girl and somewhere along the path of pretend it became more and more real. As the true horrors of the insane asylum was unleashed upon me and started breaking my mind into tiny fractures, I fell farther and farther away from reality. Yes, I wept quite a great deal during those first weeks, and I would weep more than I could ever imagine possible during the course of the next few years. My treatment consisted of all the customary techniques of the day, designed to make me calm and relieve me of my so-called delusions. They would attach leeches to my temples and to my reproductive organs to drain me of bad blood that could be the cause of my instability. Let us just say that it was not pleasant at all, and quite degrading. Sometimes they would throw us into tubs of icy cold water and leave us there until our lips turned blue and our bodies started to convulse. Once I even passed out of consciousness and nearly died from the hypothermia that afflicted me. Once, I became very ill and contracted pneumonia of the lungs and had to be wrapped in several layers of blankets, and because I had to be watched constantly, they chained me to a bed in the infirmary. It was the only time during those years that I felt truly warm and at peace. After I finally regained my health, they threw me back into my cell and stripped away my clothes again. Every evening the nurses would administer a drug, a sedative called Paraldehyde that calmed us down and made their workload more manageable. I hated it, it made me feel weak and often they would administer too much of the drug and it would cause me to vomit and feel nauseated for hours. Sometimes it would even lead to convulsions and spasms. They were simply overlooked, or used as treatments to shock the system. The treatments and administrations of drugs were horrible enough in their own right, but there were other things that added to the horror of that place. A dark ugly secret, kept between the patients and the wardens. At night, when the only sounds of the asylum were the moans of the inmates, they would play their evil games. The first time it happened to me I did not realize what was happening until it was all too late. Because of the Paraldehyde I was not at all present, which when I think about it was a small blessing. They came in the middle of the night, two or three of them I think. They pinned me down and strapped my arms to my body so I could not move. One stood at the door of the cell as a lookout whilst the others began to undo their trousers. They pinched and prodded me with eager fingers and hands teasing me before thrusting their members inside me. One after the other. The pain and indignity was, and still is indescribable. There are no words for the horrific things that were done to me, and all the other girls who had been locked away and forgotten. They only chose girls whose families had abandoned them you see. I would often lie in the dark waiting for the tell-tale sound of footsteps, and the jingling sound of keys. It was hell, it was purgatory and all I longed for in the end was for death to set me free. In those cold lonely hours, I would pray to God for forgiveness. Forgiveness for the sins I never committed, but there was never any answer, no consoling words or soft embraces, only pain and suffering. In that little cell I lost my childhood faith and it has never returned. I do not miss it! Of all life’s delusions faith is the biggest evil. It makes us weak. So in time, my prayers died away. Instead, I would simply speak to the shadows and the darkness in my cell or to my spirit companions. I would whisper of my pains and my tribulations, my constant hunger and my dreams of fresh air and freedom. Sometimes the darkness would return my whispers. A soft deep voice that wrapped my mind in velvet would float on the night air, cooing promises of an end to the pain. I often felt like someone was there with me, stroking my hair, and wiping away my tears. At the time I believed it to be just a figment of my fractured mind. It was impossible for anyone to be there with me after all, well except for the spirits of course. It is funny how little I knew of the world.
I think I was locked up in that hellhole for three or four years. It might even have been five for all I know. Time becomes a very irrelevant thing in a place like that. All I know is that my body changed in the course of those years and I grew older. I had given up all hope of ever returning to my family, or society in general. I had stopped hoping for salvation or redemption it was all just an endless parade of darkness and abuse. I can assure you that none were more surprised than I, when one night Fate finally decided to intervene on my behalf. Now before you go jumping to conclusions I am not speaking of fate as in the abstract concept, Fate was...is, a vampire. My father, my lover and my saviour. That particular night began as any other. I had been dosed with my nightly dosage of Paraldehyde and the effects had begun to wear of. I was suddenly awake with the feeling that something was different. I sat up on my filthy mattress and my heart skipped a beat. The door to my cell was open, ajar, and a sliver of light fell on the floor. I got up in a hurry and timidly approached the door, my heart racing wildly, threatening to push through my chest. I did not even notice that my chains had been removed. From the hallway, I could hear angry voices. Someone was yelling, telling someone else to leave the premises. I carefully glanced into the hallway through the crack in the door, and I could clearly see two of my tormentors and a third stranger I had never seen before. The wardens were commanding him to leave, if he did not they would have to remove him by force. The stranger calmly refused and did not move. I sucked in my breath. His voice was the voice from the dark shadows in my room, his was the soft caring hands that had tended to me in my darkest hours. I could not believe it, but there he was. I knew what would happen next if he did not do as the wardens demanded. They would harm him. I knew they would. I could not let that happen and so I threw open the door and screamed for the stranger to run. I was already lost and it would only cost me another beating. I had little care for myself. If I was lucky, maybe they would beat me to death. When the wardens saw me standing there, half-naked in the hallway they forgot about the stranger and ran towards me, grabbed me, beat me and started to drag me back into my prison. I looked at the strangers face urging him to escape with my eyes. What a beautiful face it was, filled with compassion and pity. His blue eyes seemed to pierce my soul and wash away all my fears, but when he spoke again, it was not with the soft velvet voice I had known. It was like a sharp nail being hammered into my head and that of my captors. We all fell writhing to the floor clutching our heads, screaming in agony. “Close your eyes and cover your ears,” he told me. I did so without question. He then spoke to the wardens with that horrifying voice again. It seemed to have madness dripping from it. I did not know what happened next for I kept my eyes shut and my ears covered thoroughly. All I could hear were muffled wild screams and a lot of clanging and thrashing. I did not dare move, indeed I dared not breathe for fear of what could happen to me. I then felt someone kneeling next to me and gentle hands embraced me, lifted me up and cradled me close. “Open your eyes my sweet” the velvet voice said and I obeyed. I stared straight into those beautiful blue eyes. They were soft and hard at the same time and I could see madness dancing in them just as madness surely danced in mine. “You are safe doll, they will never harm you again”. I did not believe him of course and maybe he saw it in my eyes for he then showed me what had become of my tormentors. One had gauged his eyes out with his own hands and was bleeding from the empty sockets where his eyes used to be. He was crouched in a corner muttering something about worms, worms in his eyes and in his mind. Still clawing at his own face. The other warden lay sprawled on the floor of a treatment room. He had found a scalpel, which he had used to cut off his own manhood. As I watched he tried to force it down his own throat. He was going to die, I could tell. The pool of blood on the floor only grew, and I remember thinking that no man could survive it. I felt sick to my stomach, but I also felt a perverse joy at seeing the tables turned. They were the victims now and it made my blood boil. The stranger still cradled me in his arms and whispered softly in my ear “Do you still wish to be free doll? Will you come with me?” I looked at him then, and at the dying man in front of me and I nodded. He briefly kissed my lips, and then his sharp fangs bit into my skin and he began to drain my blood. The ecstasy and pain I felt at that moment I had never felt before and have never felt again. I slowly lost consciousness and my heart almost stopped beating. He then bit into his own wrist and fed me of his own blood and I drank from him like a hungry child. I then passed into a deep sleep, haunted by horrid nightmares of weeping ghosts and laughing gods, mad doctors with blood-slicked scalpels and burning sunlight devouring the world. When I awoke, I could taste his blood in my mouth and it was sweet, not at all like the iron taste normal blood leaves behind. I wanted more blood, more night and darkness, I wanted to taste sweat and fear and pleasure. I needed it, the hunger tore at my stomach and I could smell the blood from the dying man lying on the asylum floor next to me. The blood was still wet, but it was cold. I did not care. I rolled of my back and started licking it of the floor like a dog laps water. I crawled through the puddle and fell upon the dying man and sank my fangs into him drinking what little was left of him. I could feel the wickedness in his blood, which only made it all the sweeter. After I finished feeding of the warden, the stranger, my saviour spoke to me from the doorway of the treatment room. “Have you had your fill yet? We must leave this place soon or not at all.” He held out a coat for me to wear. I slipped it on, not caring that the rest of me was covered in blood. Then we left the Sanatorium, disappearing into the night.