I know not how to begin nor how much time I have left to scrawl down the memories that squirm so uneasy in my thrumming skull. How does one describe such a thing? “Thing,” that is the only word for it. For it was no man. Though doubtless fantastical my tale will seem, I feel compelled to recount the episode, to lay out everything in the greatest possible detail, not for mere posterity, but for the safeguarding of all who read hereafter…
I am a clinical psychiatrist. In 2015, I was offered a job by the board of the Montfremont Mental Institute of Cleveland working the male ward. They needed new blood given that the previous clinical psychiatrist who had worked the male ward had died several weeks prior under most mysterious circumstances. This grim information naturally raised my hackles, however, the pay was good and my mind was restless. I had dedicated my life to interrogating mental illness, spurred on as I was by the memory of my deteriorating grandmother, babbling half-nothings to the bluebirds on her lawn feeder and confusing me for her late husband, Edumund, or as I knew him, Grandad Eddy. Such memories steeled my heart with purpose. Thus, I accepted the offer and made way to Montfremont Institute and there arrived on the first of February. Whilst the institute was deemed a part of the city-proper in truth it sat far outside of it, beyond the heated concrete hum, in a high, twisted wood, upon a incline that was rumored to have been a ancient burial ground, though, no one really believed it. The institute had previously experienced trouble with harum scarums of all sorts, journalists who’d crept round to find out if the relatives of the city’s elite where there confined, young punks who’d graffitti the walls and thieves and darker sorts who fancied that mental wards, being designed to stay internal egress, were lax as to external incursion. Personally, I induced that the burial mound story had been invented by one of the board-members to deter unwanted company.
Upon the end of my first month working inpatient clinical services at that cold and eerie manse, a most singular event occurred which in equal measure shocked, perplexed and horrified all who beheld it.
But first, to render the instance sensible to the uninitiated, I must note that Montfremont Institute had been the last great work of the late industrialist, Charles W. Montfremont, whose young daughter, Clarisa Montfremont had, upon her twenty seventh birthday, been stricken with a terrible and inexplicable bout of madness and had subsequently fallen into a catatonic stupor. The event so moved Mr. Montfremont that he transformed his subtantial estate into a make-shift psychiatric hospital so as to provide the very best care to his troubled daughter whose condition only continued to deteriorate. He not only renovated the interior but also hired a part-time staff of professionals, physicians and psychiatrists. So grief-stricken was Montfremont by his dearest’s plight that five months after his daughter’s fall from reason, he took his own life by way of cyanide-laced tea. The papers put the death down to a heart attack though few believed the story and poor Clarisa fell out of reality completely. It was reported by certain looselipped servants of the family that she began to paint the walls with her own blood, chanting strange words to herself as she did so in a tongue none could understand. Naturally, this horrified the medical community as well as the surviving members of her family but so absorbed were they in settling the late Charles’ affairs that prolonged and direct intervention was rendered impossible and so she was confined to her room and assigned a personal caretaker to ensure her safety. Shortly thereafter, it came to light that Charles had left everything to his daughter which caused quite a scandal. Due Clarisa’s condition, the ownership of the estate was transferred to Varney Montefremont, the elder Montefremont’s youngish cousin, a incorrigble social climber. Varney, a energetic philanthropist, took the venture public and turned the estate into a full-fledged, non-profit clinical institute which greatly added to his popularity. This popularity was dented, however, when Clarisa, in a fit of utter madness, took her life. Details at the time of the incident were scarce but the papers blamed the staff. Negligence. In response to this tragedy, Varney pledged to completely transform the institute, to modernize it and implement a complete staff overhaul. Whilst a dark cloud still hung over the Montefremont name, Varney’s campaign was largely successful and shortly, the entire event passed from all minds and was forgotten; just another curious tale to divulge around the watercooler.
Having thus divulged in brief fashion the history of the institute I can now relay the bizarre adventure to which I had earlier referred. Montfremont is divided into two wings, male to the west, female to the east. My duties frequently took me to both wings but, given my sex, I found myself in the former with greater frequency than the latter. One evening, towards the end of February I was making the rounds on the ground floor of the male wing, tending to my patients, physical examination, psychophysiological diagnostics, comforting them where able, noting suggestions for future dosage adjustments and filling up my leatherbound notebook with personal remarks. I had just arrived at the room of a one Dale D. Darren. He was schizophrenic, plagued by delusory fits of sounds and noises that bore no earthly source, yet, he was both kindly and pliant and on my word was kept from being moved up a floor to Ward M-B where high-risk patients were kept. He sat upon the edge of his cot in the spacious makeshift bedroom, rubbing his knees as if removing some stain which only he could see. He said nothing as I entered the room and only spoke when I addressed him directly.
“How are you feeling today, Mr. Derren?”
“I can’t get it off.”
“You still see the scales.”
“I know… they’re not really they’re. I know that. I just can’t stop seeing it.”
He looked up at me, his long, thin face filled with pleading.
“It doesn’t sound it, but this is good. That’s the first time you’ve admitted it.”
“I didn’t want to think I was mad.”
“You’re not mad. You simply have a chemical imbalance.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
I placed my hand upon his shoulder and smiled broadly. He plucked up.
“You’re not mad, Derren.”
“The mad do not know that they are mad.”
“Yeah. Yeah. You’re not going to hook me up to that machine again are you?”
“No. Not today. I just came by to see how you were doing.”
He closed his hands over his knees and nodded firmly.
“I’m doing… good. Its the girl I worry about.”
“Yeah.” He nodded once more, starring intensely at the floor as if it might, at any moment, divulge some momentous secret unto him.
“This is the male ward. There are no girls.”