From the bloodied journal of William Elbridge
Such horror, I laugh now, for I am certain of my abhorrent lunacy. Believe me when I tell you that the manner of my escape is all but lost to me; I awoke, face down in a muddied London street. How I came to have traveled halfway around the world back to London, with no recollection is perplexing in itself, yet the note fixed to my chest raised further, inexplicable subjects.
To the unnaturally inebriated fool.
I hope, for reasons I cannot comprehend, that your return to London was a somewhat safe venture. Though I am sure you will have no memory of it, your drunken behavior in Garni raised the alarm of the local embassy. Having escorted you from the public eye, you rambled endlessly about a supposed demon, after which you passed out.
I am obliged to tell you that your behavior warranted unorthodox methods, though a gentleman who claimed to have met you on the train journey to Garni, volunteered to travel with you, back to London. His kindness saved you from the ruthless Armenian prison that awaited you. If I were you I’d make sure to thank him. What he plans to do when you arrive in London is his business.
Ambassador Conrad C.P. Cohen – British Embassy, Garni
My attempts to stand were met with humiliation; it appeared whatever had caused my inebriated state, lingered. Poison? Hard-wearing opiates? The creature itself? All manner of possibilities, I’m sure.
To fathom such a notion; I had travelled countless miles with absolutely no recollection what so ever, it is simply impossible. Reflected in my composure were the indisputable signs of madness, my steps were not my own, my thoughts and vision clouded. To my sickening dismay the realization that Col. Thompson’s transformation, gruesome indeed, had occurred as a result of the creature’s vile surgery. It was entirely possible that I was entering the incongruous transmutation stage.
Alas, a vile persona emerged once again.
“Such trivial deliberations, have you not the intelligence to conquer it?” Rebuke chattered scathingly.
“You wretch, foul and unwanted…leave me in peace.”
“Oh? It is peace that you desire? Well allow me to divulge the harsh truth; so long as you draw breath dear William, you shall forever cower under your own shadow!”
“You are nothing more than incongruent hogwash; a part of me that should have died long ago.”
“Die together we will, you and I are bonded…evermore.”
Rebuke’s strength had swollen, his voice clear and clearer still. To what end had my madness reached? Priding myself on the notion that knowing Rebuke’s psychological presence, and all madness that it brought, negated my looming insanity. Yet it seemed Rebuke had grown, far beyond the control of my rational mind.
“Bonded, yes…you saw the creature in the catacombs; vile flesh contorting around accursed bones.” I settled on a nearby bench, keeping my speech muted. “Were we truly bonded, then you would have been as fearful as I…no?”
“Fear is the product of the weak, an illusion of the inane. I am a creation beyond. You are little more than a host, frightened by my power…calling it ‘madness’.”
Ire burnt within me; I had fallen victim too many times at the hands of my misfortune. I skulked onward down the damp street, my composure tattered, my movements inconsistent. I have no doubt that it was my bungling parade at alerted the officers attention. The world around me span as Rebuke drowned out all sense, its never-ceasing voice circling over and over again.
“Bound till death…madness and glory be…bound till death.”
This pathological marriage was too much to bear in the light of my wavering consciousness.
The alerted officer approached, slowly and analytically. Placing a firm hand on my shoulder, grinning in anticipation of a struggle spoke.
“Well, seems we’ve had a little too much of the devil’s nectar…eh boy?”
Slurring uncontrollably. “Y-You have no…no idea.”
“Oh, I do; your kind stink up my streets with an ungodly stench.” Pulling me to the side of the path. “You’d best silence your tongue boy, people get into a lot of trouble talking back to an officer of the law.”
To the best of my recollection, I swung my fists in a mad fury – screaming for sanctuary from the shadowed surgeon. Inevitable I received a brutal beating before being tossed in a damn cell, all before collapsing under my own exhaustion. Let me tell you a night in the cell, surrounded by guards, was exactly what I wanted…at least, I thought that was the case.
I awoke, once more in an unfamiliar place, pounding skull and vile sensation looming in the pit of my stomach. Such a scene had become a regular occurrence, the unfortunate fool who can barely remain conscious. Though, I awoke to the voice of my dear cellmate, Ernest. A suitable name for a fellow fool, though I imagined, for some peculiar reason, that his mother had adorned him another name.
“Such youth…inexplicable…DAUNTING!” Ernest cried.
“What on earth are you talking about?” An adjacent cell called.
My mind had begun to stir, though my eyes drew far too heavy for me to awaken completely.
“In my cell…here…next to me.” Ernest leaned over, examining me further. “Alive, yes…definitely…but why is he HERE?”
Peering through my heavy lids I gazed upon the withered face of an old man, his hair and eyes blazing uncontrollably.
“Who are you?” I spluttered.
“Me? Well…no, it is not gentlemanly to ask a woman her age…very rude indeed.”
“You’re positively mad. Where am I?” I sighed.
“Locked…LOCKED…away with key and stone, to await justice dispensed from throne.” Ernest sang.
“I’m guessing that I am in hell, should you be my companion.”
“Oh yes…I am and will, forevermore.”
Forevermore? A word bearing meaning beyond meaning; my tormentor’s word of choice, my eternal damnation, bound forevermore. It is a curse.
The exchange of introductions, painful as they were, helped. Mad Ernest had told tales of his misfortune, a distant echo of my own troubles. I had taken to Ernest, despite his repulsive composure and lack of attention; I did feel rather partial to his company. It could well have been the recent misfortune and lack of, what one would call, a friendly face that had made even the inexplicable conversationalists, seem entertaining.
In fact, we talked at length about the strange rodents that could be seen darting about the jail’s corridor.
“Feasts, on legs…the scampering means a meal for all…oh yes, yes a thousand joyous moments await.” Ernest chuckled.
“You do not eat such vermin, no man could stomach it, not even you.”
“Tis not what I am craving, but what sits in my belly…full and nutritious, oh so delightful…I do not want, only to live.”
“What kind of living involves such contemptible appetite?”
“You are witness to it my friend, oh yes…you are sitting amid the very bounds of my madness; you and I are not so dissimilar.”
I chuckled silently; such a poor excuse for a man could never be likened to me, even considering my questionable mental state. Though as the days progressed I found it increasingly arduous to disprove his notion.
Though I cannot be certain, I believe I remained in that cell for over a week, for all I knew it could have been twice that. Ernest had worn his tongue to a stub; all manner of conversation, madness or otherwise, ceased. To think that a man as utterly psychotic as Ernest would, seemingly, run-out-of-things-to-say is beyond my logical perception. I felt for the old fool, at my own peril and to which I had truly grasped the extent of my madness.
“Elbridge?” A loud, thuggish, guard bellowed. “William Elbridge?”
I leapt to my feet. Could it be? I wondered. Could god have bestowed grace upon my damned mortal soul? I was not so fortunate.
“Yes?” I coughed, partially asleep.
“There’s a gentleman by the name of Dr. Percy Trickle to see you.” The guard widened his smile. “Looks to me like the loony has reached the end of his little fantasy.”
Still perplexed by the unexpected nature of the entire proceedings, I remained silent. As the cell was opened, and I my arms and legs bound, I began to wonder if I had, in fact, understood the gravity of the situation. I do not believe that I did.
Led by the ape-like guard I found myself in a small room, little more than a table and two chairs. Sat in the far chair a well-fed man, bearing a smudged pair of glasses and a, somewhat, clammy disposition. I examined my appointment carefully; perhaps it was the grand display of concentration that had forced him to avert his gaze, perhaps my appearance had not been to the standard that I had expected it to.
“Ah, yes Mr. Elbridge.” Dr. Trickle mumbled diligently. “Please, have a seat.”
Perching curiously on the chair I stared expectantly.
“May I ask what this meeting is regarding?”
“You may, in due course.” Trickle rifled through his file and pulled a series of notes out. “I would first like to ask you some rather rudimentary questions, just a formality I assure you.”
“Now, you were examined thoroughly when you were first sent here. A colleague of mine performed it himself. We analyzed a multitude of different samples, of which we found nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Well, that sounds positive?”
“Yes, one might think so.” Trickle pushed the papers aside and gazed expectantly. “Were you administering opiates Mr. Elbridge?”
“Why would you ask such a thing?” I tried my best to feign shock. “I am in the midst of a terrible, terrible crisis.”
“I am aware. I read, in detail, the officer’s report.” Sipping from his mug. “My second question Mr. Elbridge; have you ever been admitted for mental illness before?”
“No, not once. I have never sought such attention; one should keep his thoughts to oneself.”
“Quite, but there is often an exception when those thoughts procure a somewhat…hostile demeanor.”
“Oh yes, according to the report, you were quite the aggressor when you were apprehended. But my concern is not with displays of public intoxication. I am far more interested in what you had to say about ‘the demon’. I assume you know what I am referring to?”
“Oh…yes I am afraid that I do.” My tone retorted, slipping into a mild gargle.
“What strikes me as odd, is the correlation between your story, and that of a former patient. Wilhelm Walker, do you recall such a name?”
I pondered for a brief moment, names and faces had blurred into a collage of inexplicable expression.
“I-I cannot say for certain.”
“I believe you William, I do not think that you are fabricating this experience. On the contrary, I believe that you are of the utmost distress. This is why I am here.”
“This…Wilhelm, saw the creature too?”
“Quite, in fact the gruesome details of his mutilation were revealed in the postmortem. The coroner had never seen such morbid workings, yet the man lived, in relative physical comfort. A ‘black stitching’ of ‘unholy origin’ was never located, but scarring and evidence of muscular interference was present.”
“Evidence? I have never thought I would hear such…indefinite proof. I am not mad? By god…I am not mad.”
Trickle smiled a little before removing another sheet of paper.
“Yes, I am glad to impart some good news, but I am afraid that it shall be overshadowed with the gravest of news.” Twiddling with his glasses, and clearing with his glasses. “You are a wanted man Mr. Elbridge. It seems that a far more serious accusation has befallen you. A priest by the name of Alfonso Chavarria had been investigating these very attacks; his deduction was that you were a key factor in nearly every case.”
Recoiling in horror. “Preposterous, I shall not here of such filth!”
“I wish it were so Mr. Elbridge, but there is a rapidly building stack of evidence against you.”
“Name me one item, I shall divulge exactly how absurd it is.” I puffed with a fury; such obscenities had forced me close to tears.
“Well, of all of the victims, you are the only known survivor.”
“That proves nothing!”
“Maybe so.” Pulling a written statement from the file. “This, is a written document from the harbor master from which you had reportedly left for Garni.”
“What of it? Spit it out damn it!”
Reading aloud. “At no time, in the last twenty years has a vessel departed from this dock, nor resided at this dock, under the name that Mr. William Elbridge has described. I can also confirm that no such captain –Archdale- has ever been registered or even heard of, for that matter.”
“That can’t be, I remember it clear as day!”
“I trust, you believe that fact Mr. Elbridge. I do not think you a liar. But it appears, especially considering your unusual method of return, that you did not leave England, and have suffered a total memory block.”
After a minute of hearing these words all sound seemed to merge into an echo, tangible yet fluid. I had remained suspended, I was not mad. If I were, could such coincidence occur? I would bear memory of such horrific acts, surely?
“How can I be sure?” I slurred.
“At this point Mr. Elbridge, I would not pertain to know anymore than what I have already told you. I no not think you a madman, so much as an ailing sufferer of blight of the mind. Madness is often a self-inflicted evil.”
“I did not kill those people, I swear to you.”
“I do not think that you did, that is why I have arranged for you to be transferred to Holloway sanatorium. You will be safe from the arm of the law there until I can generate a more detailed diagnosis.”
At the time I did indeed feel that time in a sanatorium would offer me nothing but comfort, safety and time to delve into the deepening chasm of my mind.
“What of Alfonso? He will surely endeavor to see me hang.”
“I am afraid that Mr. Chavarria has been missing for sometime. It is unlikely that he shall be discovered alive. And to that end, I am afraid that dark times lie ahead. Though I have faith that we will get to the bottom of this.”
Packing up his papers, Dr. Trickle smiled with a strangely optimistic glow. I felt, not fear, but apprehension; were I to fall prey to my diminishing sanity, I would only succeed in fastening that rope around my neck.
“Doctor?” I cried.
“What of my cell mate; Ernest?” I motioned toward the cellblock. “I believe that he too suffers from an ailment of the mind.”
A cold expression of sheer dejection washed over Trickle’s face.
“Mr. Elbridge, you have been kept in the isolation block. You have been alone in that cell for three weeks.”