I heard news today, unpleasant. The premise of the article focused on the unique mental condition of one ‘William Elbridge’. The likenesses to my own mental cautions are such that the authorities have deemed Elbridge a danger to society. Of course the differences occur in Elbridge’s circumstance; according to the article, William had been taken into special consideration and medical-psychological analysis. Through my anxieties I deduced that two possible outcomes lay ahead. The first, exposure of Elbridge’s madness, and therefore my own. Second, Elbridge is revealed to be telling the truth and there is indeed an ungodly creature about us.
Time has passed beyond recall; I have sat and counted the breaths that dear Mary takes, each one a gift. I know that the shadows lurk, ever watching, never ceasing.
I must confess, both to myself and to my Muriel that my heart has taken to dear Mary her beauty and perfection hold no bounds. For the question is not of love, but fate; I stood on the brink on my own self-destruction, only to be saved by my wondrous Mary.
I have pondered deep within my core, to fuse the tendrils of love and logic, my mind, the wiser; I was bound to Muriel til death. Nothing more. Cold? Yes. Uncouth? Irrefutably. Yet I hold no explanation to the feelings that have torn me from the beloved memory of my Muriel. I must calm myself…I have mentioned that fate has played a decisive part in my love for Mary. I am justified, to feel…human. And, as I write this, I can tell you that I have never felt so human in all my life.
We have felt the insurmountable touch of each other’s affection, the writhing passion of a careless nights folly. I am not ashamed, to be truthful, I have merely battled my guilty mind to within an inch of its life.
We reside, still, in the poorhouse. I have made a fine, honorable, living in the factory. And though the dark shadows cloud my mind, Mary and her child spring forth, free from the chains of fear and unease.
My apprehensions of the creature’s whereabouts only reignited upon hearing the news of Elbridge’s capture; he had been accused of god-knows-what, and would likely end up god-knows-where.
I might not haven taken Elbridge’s circumstance to heart, were it not for the disappearance of Alfonso Chavarria, not long before.
What could one do? Dare I take the reigns of my fate and peruse the final remaining leads; obscure leads that, undoubtedly, trail to the creature’s domain? The only other option, that I can conceivably suggest, is to wait, doing nothing, keeping a low profile and living my life in fear of the dark. Were it not for my love for Mary, I would have opted to return to reclusive ways, burrow deep within my self and wait for the storm to pass…futile, yet feasible. Alas, my dear Mary deserves more, a life lived in peace and serenity. I could give it to her, though I would not know where to begin, to ignore such needs would serve only to reawaken the old Joseph, the bitter and the uncaring.
“Would you wait for me?” I whispered, as I held her close. “Would you wait, for my return, despite the dangers I would evoke?”
“However the world attempts to challenge us, we will prevail, my love.”
“Were it possible to find the truth behind the evil that has pursued us, would you trust me to find it?”
Mary paused, her eyes unsure.
“You would risk everything, just to stir the evil for answers?”
“I would strike the very core of this being, if it meant that you could live in peace.”
I was motionless, unable to calculate.
“I-If need be, yes.”
“Then what sort of life could I lead?” Mary’s eyes began to swell. “I have already lost one love to this monstrosity, I will not allow another! Especially you, my sweet Joseph.”
“If I do not try, then we can never truly rest.”
Our clash of passions for each other ended in a flail of tears and a final kiss on the brow. I did not intend to cause her harm, I had hoped only for the betterment of the future for Mary and her child. I left that evening, pistol and lantern at the ready. I knew that William would have answers, and breaking into his stone cell would be the only way to get them.
The lights remained, flickering about the moon’s dull light. I could see the guardsman standing about the main gates. Debating whether or not to incapacitate him, I eventually stumbled across a passing comment I had heard while working in the factory. The two factory hands had been talking about the disappearance of Chavarria, one of which claimed that a series of tunnels led from Holloway sanatorium to large sections over London.
I checked my pocket watch, it was not long past midnight, and I had time to search for an alternate route. Scurrying about the facilities drains, I found a large metal grate that covered an old factory run-off. Inflaming the lantern I descended, slowly, into the nauseating-greasy tunnel. Running on little more, than ‘gut instinct’ I was unsure of the tunnel’s path, still, I ventured on. I moved in the direction I had believed to lead to the sanatorium. Driven by a burning desire for resolution I continued, tenacious and stalwart. The distant echoes of viscous liquid dripping...resonating, the atmosphere changed, I could sense the presence of life above me.
“I must be close.” I murmured to myself, scrambling about the congealed mucus that the tunnel provided. I traveled deep into the pipework, the steel tube growing smaller and grungier. The lantern grew dim; I must have traveled for no more than an hour, yet the light continued to struggle against the impenetrable wall of shadow.
At long last, as my patience wavered, I saw a small glint of light eek at the end of the passageway. As I drew nearer, I could hear the faint crackling of a grammar phone. Playing was an unfamiliar song; it bore a marching rhythm, and militaristic melody. I was undoubtedly approaching the sanatorium. The vague cries of the mentally deranged grew loud, to the point of rattling the pipes around me.
Peering through the small opening, I saw the inside of a closet, a shadowed figure, resting back against a chair. I am not proud of what I did, but I can tell you that it was quick, the pressure against his neck was just and the deed was done. Adorning what I could of his uniform, I stuffed the limp orderly into the crevasse and covered it with a crooked pile of toolboxes. Such luck so far; I had entered the facility, gained a disguise and would now have one last task, to speak to William Elbridge.
I had misjudged the revulsion of a mental ward. The screeching and screaming drove through the heavy metallic doors. Having little more than the poorly lit lantern and a scattering of wall lights, I became precipitously conscious of the chaos that surrounded me. The screaming, I cannot tell you how maddening those cries for help were.
I was alone, it seemed; the corridors were all but empty, no guards or nurses. I paced the hall with sheepish trepidation, my task simply required me to locate and call William to justice. It was the notion of finally achieving those answers that allowed me to continue through the freakish maze. I began to wonder how many of the voices were indeed ‘real’, were I to have conjured my own madness, then I too may end up a resident.
I traversed for a considerable length, through the maze, my mind focused entirely on the tiled path before me. I had no idea where to begin.
“You there?” A voice cried. “Yes, you.”
Turning in absolute shock I stared at another orderly. His eyes squinted he paced toward me.
“Have you seen to C-block?”
I paused, knowing nothing of the inner workings of the building.
“I-I have, though…in my haste I missed out a patient” I held my breath; my heart pounded faster than it had ever done so before.
“You did?” The orderly sighed. “Who was it?”
Replying immediately, to an almost suspicious degree. “Elbridge, sir.”
“Understood, he is somewhat of an exception is he not?” He chuckled.
Forcing a chuckle I released the grip on the pistol behind my back, and placed it under my jacket.
“It has been a long day, may I ask you for directions to his cell?”
Pausing, he placed his hand on his hip.
“You must be new?”
“Y-Yes sir, very new.”
“I remember my first night shift; the ambiance of the place will become second nature to you, I promise.”
With a clammy handshake the orderly gave me Elbridge’s cell number and bid me a good evening.
The journey through the cells had lightened in sinister shadows; the meeting of the orderly had initiated me to the facility, despite my illegal intrusion.
And so I approached cell two-fifteen, my hands shaking I slowed in pace, gazing intently at the passing cells; two-thirteen, two-fourteen and finally, the chamber holding my answers, my redemption. Scantily, I placed my hand upon the metal shutter, inside I would bare witness to all that I had hoped for.
The screeching of the metal rang out across the screaming halls. Lifting my lantern to the shutter, I could see little more than the light reflecting off of the tiled floor. Before I could call out a name, a loud and piercing yell ejected from the cell.
“What do you want of me?” a withered sobbing followed suit. “I am man’s mortality, a victim of the feeble and the weaning sensation of age; am of no curiosity, nor hold secrets which your sane mind would believe.”
I waited, listening intently to the speech from within.
“I ask of you, your name?” I spoke softly.
“My name is many; consequence, failure, madman. Though my mother used to call me William.”
“Did you mother marry a man by the name of Elbridge?”
“I believe she did, and such is my title.”
“I have been looking for someone like you for a longtime.”
“You and many others, I’m sure.”
A cold and malicious voice erupted from the cell.
“Though a hand may strike at my throat, the eyes of the world stare blankly at my sullied hands.” An unusual guttural hiss.
“For once dear Rebuke, I agree with you.”
Two voices, held within one cell, it was moments after this that I pieced the threads together; William was mad beyond reason. Gathering what little sympathy that remained, I pleaded for his attention once more.
“I have suffered at the hands of the beast.”
A stunned silence.
“Indeed, it is not a claim I make lightly.” I pushed my face toward the shutter. “I would very much like to see your face William.”
Scrambling and shuffling told me that he had moved. Spotting a shadowy figure lumber toward me, I saw the outline of a twitching soul, empty of all rational being. As William drew nearer the light, a glimmer of his face reflected back at me; his face had worn; the bruises and general dilapidation suggested an unpleasant time, to say the least.
“Behold, the trials and errors of all that is human.” William wept.
“My god, you’ve taken a beating, surely?”
“That entirely depends on your perception of it; I have suffered at my own hands, it is not a beating, but a rightful punishment.”
“I need to know if you have anything that you can tell me William.” Leaning closer to the hatch. “Anything? I need to end this hideous nightmare.”
William placed his head into his hands.
“I c-can not say…Rebuke…he is in control.” William cried in anguish. “I am not my self, I am not who I once was…I ask of you, what is your name?”
“Joseph, you can call me Joseph.”
“Ah…s-such a name, strong, creative…I ask, Joseph, that you look into my eyes and tell me what you see?”
I looked, squinting all the while, into the tearful eyes of a madman. He stared back with such fevered anxiety that I was unable connect this…maniac to the careful plotting of the creature’s activity.
“I-I see a man, whose fate has been stricken ill.” I stood back a little to allow the unnerving image of William’s expression to disturb me further. “Like mine. But I must express, William, that I do not believe that you killed those men.”
“I did not…I swear it.” Clutching his head once more. “Though, Rebuke will not leave me alone, his prying insidious voice casts doubts and nightmarish afflictions that drive me to this…pit.”
“May I speak with Rebuke?”
“He does not answer to calls of those who dare ask. He speaks only to me, when the time suits him.”
My temper flared.
“Tell me where the creature is! Dammit, tell me how to save my love!”
Another languished silence.
“To look…one must…see…to this, it cannot be.” An unpleasant gargling voice. “For souls are marked, here, now and evermore.”
“I do not have time for your riddles!”
“You and your lover-whore will suffer!” Rebuke screamed.
I cannot recall this event without immediately quivering. In frenzy, I placed the barrel of my pistol against the hatch, firing the chamber empty. I am certain of at least one round hitting William; the sound of punctured flesh and the silencing groan that followed calmed me.
“What have I done?”
The echoes of my shots rang through the cavernous corridors. Without a moment’s hesitation I darted through the maze for the crumbling wall crevasse.
The trek through the tunnel was all the time I had to reflect, after which I adorned my impassive façade and slowly strolled back to the flophouse.
A dream once hurt me; I was little more than a child, the image I had conjured before me was that of a fair girl, her appearance is lost to me now, yet I remember the pain I felt when I awoke, reality is by far my least favorite delusion. To awake to the realization that my first love was merely a figment of my imagination, tore me asunder; I was no more a child, simply a perpetual fountain of guilt, sadness and never-ending sorrow.
I like to think of my fabrications as my very own fable; a fairy tale, of such magical divinity.
In the moments of my return, I beheld Mary; her sleeping form a conjuring of emotion, bringing me to tears. To say that I loved her would be an injustice to the inexplicable adoration that Mary deserved. I returned, weeping, sitting gently beside bed. You will never truly know how much I loved her; it is a feeling whose words beyond only to the divine, for the love I felt was more than mortality could accommodate.
I rest my head against Mary’s slowly respiring form, the images of that fateful dream, the insatiable love, filled with the presence of my dear Mary.
I have grown tired of my pursuit, I could not be certain of William’s death, but I felt the dust settle around me; I could sleep at last.
Though, as my dreams began to conjure visions of death, blood and the grotesque, I did not find the respite I desperately needed. I floundered, night after night; my mind aching from exhaustion.