Hellesdeon Part 3
The pain in his chest eased with each inhale of the smoke. It circled around his head propelled by the hand held fan of the woman opposite him. From a ceramic bowl it came freely into the air, the smell was sickly, not sweet nor bitter, but created a nausea within the pit of his stomach. The woman was speaking in poetic verse, he couldn’t detect the language and it as sounded, the verse was repeated again and again. He did not know how long he’d been sitting in front the bowl, he’d arrived at twenty five past three. The sun had hidden it’s self away behind the clouds as he stepped into the building, creating an overcast that was eerie and uncomfortable. His stomach revolted and he turned his head away from the bowl, the world outside of the smoke was clean and fresh. Victim to the woman’s trickery he vomited onto the persian rug. A finger touched his facial hair and redirected it back into the smoke. Vomit hung from is beard, but his glassy eyes and numb face failed to notice it go cold. She stood and moved closer to his head as it began to loll. Still she spoke the verse and the words faded from his ears, he fought his eyes as they began to close, his body numbed, he fought his eyes as they began to close. For a moment he felt a hot spike in the back of his neck, then it passed and he fought his eyes as they began to close. With slow recognition he became aware of the repetition, aware of the fighting, and he accepted it for he reasoned it must be good. He allowed his mind to fight his eyes. The smoke cleared in front of his mouth as the woman leaned so closely their breath mingled in the air. In an instant his head fell and his chin came to rest on his chest. The woman stood up and removed the bowl from the small fire that upon which it sat. She then came across the small room and with zealous took a handful of his hair and pulled his head back. On release it swung as though disconnected from the neck. Her nails then trailed down from his right ear and across the back of his neck. She licked her lips with anticipation. Vomit had spilled onto his shirt and she took up a towel from the table and dapped it away. She stalked his body with a maternal air, stroked his face like a lover, and ran her fingers through his facial hair like a barber. Then, as if shocked she withdrew her hands folded them in front of her lap. Then she stood. In front of him. Adorned with a pensive innocence. She then walked to the back of the room, parted the curtains and slipped out a door.
Christopher Woods awoke in the back of a Police Hansom to the clopping of impatient horses and the orders of an ill tempered driver. He could hear the outside world and the tap of a foot that he perceived not to be his own. His body was numb and he felt that his mind had been detached from it. With an effort he attempted to lift a weight off his mind and after minutes of willing himself was able to lift his head. Within a second it had slumped down again. Then the voices, two, maybe three, he could not tell.
“Hold hard, he be a wake I tell ye.” The horses stopped dead in their tracks and his rolled in response. The driver climbed down and opened the door on his left side. The officer to his right lifted Christopher’s head.
“What do ye think, James, do you think he’s the right one? For Doctor Frank?”
“I tell you Robert, I sure do ‘ope he is, he wasn’ta easy one, I tell you! he ‘ad to work on ‘em f’ owours, he ‘id.”
“Aye, carry on then and We’ll get him ‘ome.”
The driver climbed back to his perch and cracked his whip against the hide of the horses. They both turned to him and snorted. Then, frustrated and impatient they clopped back into the city traffic. Christopher’s head lolled about as he sat with eyes staring toward the ground. The hansom travelled for what felt like hours before Christopher was able to lift his head again. He passed the time with his eyes to the floor and the conversation of the policemen falling in and out of focus. As he gained awareness, he noticed sounds around him, the horses clopped, the wheels skipped along the cobble. He lifted his head and allowed it to fall backwards. The officer ignored him. His head landed on a cloth backing, behind which he could hear the rattle of a bolt that stopped and started as the hansom lurched forward in the ever condensing traffic. Many more minutes passed before he could muster the thought patterns to focus on the sounds his ears were receiving. Slowly he heard the shouting of obscenities, and the cries and sobs of broken men. He arched his neck to the left side and strained to see the below the cloth backing. With a great effort he could see one of the front wheels of the carriage behind them slipping in and out of view. The steel pole that attached the carriage to the hansom pivoted as they turned corners. Naked feet slipped toward the bars and fingers stretched to the back of the cloth. Silent cries, cries of anguish and sobs of despair drew the crowd to the streets. The effort of straining had exhausted Christopher and he began to slip in and out of lucidity. He watched the people as they appeared to propagate on the sides of the street. Mother’s threw their waste toward the carriage and the inmates could only endure the assault. As the journey progressed word spread like wild fire and the each street began to fill up more so than the one before it.
“Why? Stop! Stop! Why?” The policeman turned to Christopher and smirked without a word “tell me why, tell me why?”
“You’re the one for Doctor Frank, you are.”
Drool hung in a long line down from Christopher’s lip and pooled on his shirt. He reached out with lead arms and they collapsed back into his laps.
“Frank?” His head fell forward involuntarily and whiplashed. He fought his eyes which wanted to close. He held them open, he pushed his fingers into them to stop the ache. Then felt a strike against the back of his head.
The evening since his visit to the old woman had worn on and night had passed without his knowing. When he opened his eyes he felt wet. It was a still the early hours of morning and the chains of the patients clanked into oblivion. On the side of the hansom a lantern had been hung and its light had been directed toward the patients. He couldn’t see. Gingerly he shifted across the seat and sat nearer to the window. He did not dear climb down and although the night was cold he held his breath at intervals to ease the shivering. Positioned with his head beneath the light he could see the men being escorted into the orifice of a building. They did not try to escape but instead walked with their heads hung. The two officers had been joined by two more men whom appeared to be doctors.
“In the Hansom, got to ride up front. Use of police hansoms is costly doctor Frank, sure ‘ope you can af’ord it.” The doctor smiled in response.
Christopher’s body had come back under his command though his mind wondered in and out of focus. His eyes had trouble adjusting to the dark and as he rubbed them he realised he was once again lucid. He attempted to stand but was scared by a noise behind him. A deep breath calmed his nerves. The door on the cage had shut but still his eyes saw a stream of people heading toward the orifice. They were unlike the others and they contorted and twisted in the light of the lantern. They had no features, only malleable skin, that absorbed their clothes and rearranged their shapes. Christopher panicked and threw himself toward the far side of the Hansom. He clutched his hand to his heart and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Two officers approached him from the building and as he sat with his body pressed against the hansom’s side. They looked at each knowingly. Neither of them spoke. Christopher opened his eyes part way and saw the them as monsters, their bodies contorting, the chains and cuffs they carried appeared as extensions of their limbs and their tongues lashed at the night air, though they did not speak. Christopher clenched the muscles of his body and froze in place, his eyes wide with terror refused to close. One officer arrived arrived at the hansom and placed his hand gently on the seat before opening his mouth to speak. One officer arrived at the hansom, his hand twisted outward from his body and Christopher heard the chain clink on the ground. The other officer approached him from behind and stood behind him. The first officer spoke;
‘Good evening gov’ we’re going to take you inside.’
The other officer approached him from the back of the hansom and stood behind him. His breath hissed between pursed lips and his eyes flashed the oranges and reds of flame.
The first officer spoke;
‘Good evening gov’ we’re going to take you inside.’
Without warning the demons lunged at upon him.
Without warning the officers clasped his limbs.
From behind his hands were drawn behind his back by cold iron and his feet were shackled.
Christopher opened his mouth to scream and dry air coursed from his lungs and into the night. He released a violent thrash but was quickly subdued.
Christopher’s ears awoke first, the sound of the chains along the ground as the officers walked in silence. Then the pounding in his brain. Then the burning sensation that spread across the back of his head. Finally his eyes opened. His head was hanging and his neck was inexplicably sore. He raised his head with an ease that surprised him and arched it backwards towards the looming sign of the building. He gazed for a few seconds before being dragged beneath it. Blurred eyes recognised the letters. Hellesdeon Mental Hospital. But why? Why? He thought to himself. Deserted by his courage and driven into confusion and despair he gave himself to the demons that took him.
Deserted by his courage and driven into confusion and despair he gave himself the officers that walked beside him.
Inside the electric lights placed along the ceiling worked periodically, leaving much of the halls in darkness.
“Welcome back Christopher!” the receptionist looked through the dancing shadow of a gas lantern, then down again to strike his name off a list “In his old room please gentlemen.”
Christopher was dragged down the halls. Orderlies roamed from room to room with gas lanterns, where they would slide back the peep hole on the door and hold the the lantern to eye level. Inside the rooms patients fled the light, while others were drawn like moths. The hall was lined with doors. Some patients rocked, others wailed and others cuddled in the furthest corner. The orderlies yelled abuse and rattled the doors to their rooms. Christopher and his escorts passed out of the corridor and turned left down another. This was lighted with gas lanterns above each of the doors. A sign read ‘Therapy.’ There were four doors in the corridor, with each room more expansive than the cages before them and lighted by electric lights. Christopher turned his head. Dazed and confused. Terrified. Through the viewing panes in the iron doors he could see large wooden chairs. The windows flicked through his mind like a tableaux. An empty chair. A chair with a patient. The splash of ice water. Terrified screams. The chair rising again. He pissed himself. He grew cold. Orderlies passed them by. The air of the expansive asylum was thick and grasped onto his face. It felt as though they had walked for hours. I don’t remember. Can it really be this big? The thoughts tormented him as they walked further the air grew more pungent and the sounds more chaotic. Orderlies terrorized the patients with greater ferocity, the doctors dragged them down the corridors into the therapy rooms. A great nagging began to surface in his mind, another set of thoughts quietly whispering to themselves. The three men had passed by the therapy rooms and now the way was lit only by the periodic lantern. Christopher’s sense of direction, sense of space and time had abandoned him. With each second the hall appeared to grow longer, the patients quieter and the whispering louder until the two officers stopped.
He lay on his back, each of his wrists and ankles throbbed. The door to his cell was slammed shut and bolted. There was no light save the one on the outside of the door. Which succeeded in lighting only the immediate wall space. His head still throbbed from the blow he’d suffered in the hansom and it now had been made worse by the collision with the floor. Of all places the air in the room was the most pungent. It had a suffocating quality and was permeated with old excrement and urine. All was silent. There wasn’t a sound in the institution. Hesitantly he sat up right and strained his ears. Nothing. The screams, they’ve stopped. How long have I been here? His thoughts were crowded by another set which steadily grew louder, whispers in his brain. Disorientated he drew his knees up and placed his hands on the floor. A chill moved through his body and at that moment he realised the ground was wet. The chill graduated into a shiver and above his own breathing, misplaced breaths penetrated the air. With great care he turned his head into the darkness and strained his eyes. It was darkness that stared back at him. He held his breath. The ownerless breath continued. “Hello?” then silence. Christopher stood and his spun. He pressed his palms against the door and stared out beneath the light. He could hear only his breathing. He turned and stepped into the darkness, then held his breath. The air was disturbed just as before. Christopher exhaled and stepped further into the darkness, he turned his head toward the light above the door, in order to guess the distance. His left hand was clenched into a fist and his right was out in front of him, consumed by night.
A few more steps and he brushed the end wall with his fingers. For a moment he froze. Gathered himself. And turned. Two paces forward and his fingers connected with the wall. The gas lantern burned above the door and its light had become more adventurous, it now seeped through the gaps in the wood. He turned again and within two paces had connected with the other wall. Disheartened, confused and in despair he placed his back against the wall and slide down. He was stopped by a wooden bench. Christopher followed it with his hands until it reached the first corner. Then held his breath. The ownerless breaths seemed closer than before. He followed each of the planks, one hand after the other, he slide along the bench. Where are you? Is anyone there? Unable to speak he found himself thinking the words to the growing noise in his head. One, two three, four, five he counted until he reached the second wall. The breathing seemed to grow louder with each advance and his own thoughts became further lost in the whispers as they became more frequent. CHRISTOPHER! A harsh whisper ripped through his mind and he flung himself onto the bench and covered his ears. The breathing had grown into a heavy rasp and with his chest against the bench, it seemed closer still. Christopher Woods attempted to grow his own thoughts but each one was lost to the whispers who tormented it, then stole it’s voice. The whispers grew into thoughts of their own and adopted the tormented voices of their predecessors. They’ll find us here, they’ll hurt us, but you deserve it, you deserve it don’t you. We know what you did, we were there. “No, no they won’t. I didn’t do anything, I didn’t, I didn’t” they want to hurt you and we don’t want you to be hurt . Unless you deserve it. Christopher began to sob and he pressed his hands harder over his ears “I didn’t do it! They don’t want-“ he stopped talking. What, what? Don’t want? You do want it, we know you do. You do want it! You deserve it, they hate you, we hate you. Nobody likes you! “Stop it! Get out, out, out!” he shouted “Help me please!” There us nobody to help you! Christopher heard the footsteps and voices of orderlies as they ran down the hall, he curled into the fetal position with enough time to watch their lanterns pass the viewing window in his door. We told you! We told you! We do not get out, we do not, we are inside you! “Enough! Please stop! Help somebody help!” he cried. Then all was silent. A heavy hand pounded on the door. The voices had been silent for sometime. The door flung open and two orderlies entered, one with a lantern and sheet of paper, the other with chains.
“Christopher Woods “ the first read from his sheet of paper “we are here to help you!”
They are not!
Christopher’s eyes were still shut tight;
“Make it stop! Please, please make it stop!”
“Mr Woods, please remain calm. We can help you, we are here to help.”
The orderly with the chains cautiously approached Christopher while the first kept talking;
“You’ll need to come with us, we can make the-“ he hesitated and held the lamp to the page, then feverishly scanned it for information “voices stop. Yes, we can make the voices stop you just need to come with us. Mr Woods?” Christopher lay face down, still sobbing and without speaking. “Mr Woods, my assistant is now going to help you up.”
They’ll hurt us! You deserve! They won’t help! They’ll hurt us!
“No they won’t! He said they are here to help!” he screamed into the wooden bench. The orderly with the chains moved swiftly and pinned him down. Christopher began to scream as the man’s knee pushed his face into the bench. He pulled his hands behind his back and chained them, then as Christopher groaned in between breathlessness he chained his ankles. The orderly pulled him to his feet by his wrists and they escorted him out of the room.
Here it is, the chair. I told you, I told I told you they would hurt you! It’s good, you deserve to be hurt, because I know you did IT I know you DID I was there.
“No, no, they won’t! I’ve not done anything!” he thrashed against the men’s arms. Christopher was being dragged through the hall into the asylum’s therapy quarters. The orderlies dropped him at the door and he slumped against the wall beside it. They unlocked the iron door, then dragged him inside. Inside, a doctor stood beside a large circular tank of wood. There were four steps leading up to the large wooden chair that sat on a pole which spanned the width of the tank. On the right side there the was a cog and handle mechanism connected to the pole, which caused it to rotate when turned. Behind the handle was a lever, with the top wrapped in a leather grip, it was anchored to the floor and controlled the clamps that held the pole in place.
“Good morning Christopher!” the man greeted him as he was dragged into the room. He was much younger than Christopher’s 50 years and was also much smaller in frame than the two orderlies. He was a handsome man, with thick brown hair which was kept short and had been pushed back by his fingers. The doctor had a strong jaw line and warm demeanour. He moved with purpose as he motioned the men to attach Christopher to the chair.
“Hello Christopher, do you remember me? I am your doctor, Albert Frank. I am going to help you with your delusions. Try not move too much while they strap you in. Yes, very good. I know it feels a little bit tight but you will get used to it. I am going to ask you a few questions to gauge your progress since you’ve been gone and I want you to answer them as best you can.”
The orderlies tightened the leather strap around Christopher’s forehead and then stepped away from the chair. Christopher’s wrists had been bound to the wooden frame, as had his legs and feet.
“What am I -“ he started before being silenced. “Do not speak Christopher, this is behaviour correction and you’re first lesson is that you do not speak unless I ask you. The way to your mind is through your movements. Do you understand?”
Christopher was silent
“I said, do you understand? You may answer that, Christopher.”
“Yes” he managed.
This is your fault, your fault, we tried to tell you, we tried. You are pathetic, you are a waste of space!
“Now, to continue on with my questions. Firstly, you are sick, do you understand that?”
“Good, do you know where you are?”
“Well done, do you know why you are here?”
“No” his shaking became violent.
“You are here because you are sick, you are here because you hurt somebody Christopher. You hurt somebody who didn’t need to be hurt and that is very bad behaviour.”
“I did not-“
The doctor motioned to the orderlies and they walked behind him, one to the lever, the other to the handle.
Christopher’s eyes widened with terror.
Now look what you’ve done Christopher, this was never a good idea, look what you’ve done. You’ve ended up in this chair AGAIN after hurting somebody innocent.
“Stop it!” He screamed.
“Enough Christopher! Now, do you know why you are here?”
You hurt somebody! That’s why, that’s what you did, you hurt somebody
“Yes, I hurt somebody.”
“Are you sorry for what you’ve done?”
“Will you do it again?”
“We are going to help you Christopher, to make sure you aren’t tempted and we want to make you better. Do you want that?”
“Yes, I do, please help.”
“Very good” the doctor turned to the orderlies, “begin.”
The orderly pulled the lever and the clamps released the pole. The chair tipped backward and plunged Christopher into the ice cold water.
“Bring him up.” The crank started to turn and the slowly emerged from the water, Christopher gasped for breath.
“We’ll have to do this a few more times, then we’ll consult with the director about organizing a trepanation.”
The chair dropped backward and plunged Christopher into the ice water. He then came up again.
“Do you still hear them?”
Christopher hesitated, gasping for air and choking on the water in his throat. His entrails felt frozen and his lungs had begun to fill with water.
“Well, do you?” the doctor continued.
Still gasping with blue lips and in between sobs he answered very slowly.
“Good! It seems to be working. We’ll do it again just to be sure. This is wonderful progress Christopher, I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Most patients need two or three sets of treatment and some even trepanation. But not you. Once more.” He turned to the orderly who released the clamps and plunged Christopher into the water.
“Leave him a while. I think we’re on the edge of a break through.” His elation escaped in his voice and he counted to twenty before motioning for the crank to be wound.
Christopher’s face broke the surface and he drew a deep desperate breath which gave way to panicked shallower breaths.
“Please, please, please!” he gasped before the chair was upright “I don’ hear them! Stop, stop!”
“Are you sure you don’t hear them, Christopher?”
Good, good he’ll stop, tell him.
“Bring him down and take him back into his room.” The orderlies untied Christopher’s bonds then replaced the chains. They lifted him onto the stairs and he fell, unable to hold his own weight he was dragged down the corridor.
It was almost mid morning when the orderlies led Christopher back down the halls. Patients were being transported into therapy rooms while others roamed and swallowed their medicine. The asylum had quietened since the night before and the electric lights and gas lanterns had been turned down. The sun penetrated the gaps in the window boardings. And the halls seemed less complex than the night before. It is almost idyllic in a twisted sort of way he thought to himself as one of the orderlies opened the door to his room. The back wall window had been boarded but the sun climbed beneath the bottom where the wood had been chipped away. A dirty light was cast into a pool onto the wooden bench. Christopher stepped into the room and his shackles were unlocked. “Have a good day Mr Woods” the orderly said has he turned away and closed the door behind him. The floor of the room was now dry and Christopher walked to the end of the room and sat with his back straight against the wall. The dirty sunlight fell into his lap and since he was in the hansom he began to doze.
Doctor Albert Frank sat at his desk and took out his fountain pen and record book.
21 June 1850,
The patient, Christopher Woods, responded well to today’s treatment. It seems to have cured him, however he is going to be monitored until further notice. The preparations of a precautionary trepanation have begun and he will under go a medical examination until the observation period ends on July 1.
Doctor Albert Frank.”