BEDLAM text image


An Older Tale short story from before the world of The Rising Tentacle.

The Personal Diary of Eric Helman

Today was my first day at the sanatorium. Doctor Waston had afforded me every courtesy in his letter of reply, welcoming me to spend time in research for my novel and had assured me of every cooperation. He would be personally showing me around the facility and introducing me to suitable subjects for analysis.

I had been met at the crossroads by Camdon, the butler in horse and trap to take me the one and a half miles to the house, for the coach would not detour from the main route. I had swapped one dour driver for another, for neither had two words to share between them but spirits were high as we dipped into Down Denning. I was greeted by Mrs Melling, Camdon's wife and crossed the threshold that day. Would that I had not.

Upon arrival, I handed my letter of reply (by way of clarification as to the capacity of my visit) to the clerk at the reception booth in the large entrance hallway. It was taken and presumably filed. The clerk barely looked at the document but motioned for me to await the doctor, some little-ways from his domain. The doctor arrived shortly.

Dr. Waston was not at all as I had expected of the man. Whereas I had presumed a smart, well-appointed individual, confident and gregarious, with a keenly pressed white coat. In fact he was a slight, ill-kempt little man. He avoided immediate eye contact but when he did look up, he had cold, piercing eyes that seemed to see right through into the soul of a person. The white coat was not so white, it had various stains of dubious parentage, at various points about its surface. The dishevelled look was crowned with an unruly mop of black hair. However, appearance notwithstanding, he was a nice enough fellow and my first day was successful by way of introduction to the facility and its daily routine. I must admit, the noise of the place; shoutings, murmurings, jabberings and the like still ring in my ears as I write this journal but I am sure I shall come to accept its strangeness in short time.

As I walked into the sanatorium, two things immediately hit me. First was the fetid stench, a mixture of urine, human excrement and decay. Secondly was a large brute of an inmate! A right hook to the left side of my face. Luckily for me, the inmate although large, was decidedly emaciated and as such his punch lacked any real power. This was my initiation into the inner sanctum of insanity. I freely admit to being nervous once in the main body of the sanatorium, I had started out full of confidence but I can put this down to not really knowing of what I was letting myself in to. But as I have mentioned previously, I am sure I will come to accept the place. I made some brief notes today on my initial impressions of 'Bedlam' as I have affectionately come to call the place and I am confident of using these 'initials' in my work. One or two characters captured my attention as being worthy of further investigation. One, a female who seemed for all to be in another world, a second was a small man sat quietly in the corner but whose eyes had a captured fear in them, yes those eyes will be useful.

The sanatorium building is heavy and foreboding, it has seen many days but I am not as sure it has seen its current usage for the same period of time. It has a converted look and feel. Indeed, there are parts of the building that seem as though untouched by the madness thrust upon it. I pretty much have access to all of the building save for odd doors which are locked (I have tried the handles), I shall ask my host as to their use when I opportune upon him. He must be a busy and much required person as I have not had the chance to meet with him again since my initial meeting several days ago. I am making detailed notes in my working journal along with sketches and I am saving this occasional diary of sorts to note my reflections upon my time spent. Both may eventually serve purpose in developing my story but this diary will be of a more personal nature. It is here, in these pages that I must confess to a melancholy feeling about myself these days. There seems so much wretchedness in the world that has been distilled into this building. Its walls drip with the hopelessness of lives. Some of the lives are a mass of incomprehensible babbling, of no meaning to inmate or jailer (for jailers are what the staff at the sanatorium are), however occasionally, one of the lost souls calls out and communicates a stream of words that seem to have some meaning, a meaning deep, hidden straining to be pulled from the depths of my mind. I am starting to feel there is some reasoning hidden in myself but I know not of this reason.

I must confess to being appalled today. I was given to observe the 'treatment' of a patient today. Under the auspices of Dr. Waston. a male patient of about forty years was strapped to a table in one of the 'consulting' rooms after being manhandled into the room by three helpers. He was shouting, only snatches of which I managed to comprehend; "the guardian...", "I must... back...", "I am responsible...". The violent struggling that ensued upon transferring the poor unfortunate onto the table from the trolley was repulsive to watch. The snatches of words descended into outright screaming until the doctor injected a large dose of some chemical which seemed to calm him. I left at this point and I made a point of seeking out the man's file to try and understand what terrors were affecting him. This fellow came from a large house down in the country, one he had inherited. It seems the loneliness of his life there had set him on a course for his present madness. It was documented he was suffering from some kind of delusion, 'an unspeakable writhing under the stones' and 'the hallway picture that pulls you to your doom'. Poor wretch I have to keep reminding myself that I am here to research for the purposes of writing and must not get pulled in to the worlds of these unfortunate people.

I have spent time this day, with the female I identified earlier in my visits to the sanatorium. I had seen her sat, as though in another world, a world more real than this one. She would smile, as though experiencing wonders in this other place but this would give way to apprehension, then fear, then loathing. I now know she was once an intelligent woman, she still is, it seems that she has just given way to something. It was when I made contact with her that her story unfolded. The transcript from my interview is as follows

"I came to the gate and looked through the iron gate railings. There was an abundance of gayly coloured flowers, pinks and blues and yellows, all beautiful and blooming, against the green, but I turned away, I did, I turned away, at first. I came back the next day, it looked so beautiful you see, so beautiful. The sun seemed to shine through the petals so cleverly, the colours were so rich and bright, they spoke to me; vermillion, ochre, night blue, golden yellow. The large gate looked foreboding. I remember putting my head forward and touching the black heavy iron but it felt as light as a sparrow's feather and rocked slightly, to and fro. I stepped back, for I was apprehensive but the beautiful scene of the garden, it pulled at my heart's strings. So I did it, I pushed the gate, I thought it wouldn't open but really I knew it would..."

This vivid stream of images had flowed without pause but now she stopped. I asked if this was a dream. Her curt reply was "Dreams are but veils". I coaxed her to tell me what had happened once the gate had been opened (for I was now sure that this was some kind of truth she was presenting). She reached forwards and grabbed at my arm, tightly.

"I stepped in through the gate, it wasn't wrong, it opened easily and it was a beautiful place. The perfumes enchanted me", She was smiling and as if breathing in once again the perfumes of the garden. "The colours lifted my senses, I walked without a care, this was the most perfect time, I remember there was a warm glow on my face of the sun but it turned! At first I felt the cool on the back of my neck but thought nothing further of it, a butterfly was flitting from flower head to flower head, it was elegant and pretty. The coolness turned to a breeze that seemed to ruffle my hair but an exquisite tree with leaves of summer green was beckoning me to sit under it. It was then that, as a small bird flew across and out of my vision and past a stand of salmon and yellow lupins that I had turned my head enough to start to see behind from where I had come!". My patient had now started to become visibly agitated in stark contrast to the serene pleasure she had exhibited thus far. "It was changing... The beautiful flowers... Cold, black, fear, loathing... I couldn't find the gate you see? It wasn't there anymore, only a black, burned landscape and a cold moon and scratching". I asked at this point if she would like a glass of water which I had poured and was proffering to her. She turned her head slowly looking straight through me and then swung out her right arm, extending it past my right shoulder, knocking the glass from my hand and let out a blood-curdling scream. "Aaarrggghh, it comes, the dark thing from the abyss! I couldn't find my way back, the flowers were gone, I couldn't find my way back. There was a slithering, I turned to run into the flowers but they had all but disappeared, disappeared! Then there was the sound, like blades slashing through my head and a rumbling call...".

By this time she had ripped my white coat arm and bruised me from the clutching. The screaming had brought orderlies and Dr. Waston into the room. They grabbed at her and dragged her off and I was left, drained. I felt some of the terror had transferred from the poor woman on to myself. I sat for a long time. I present this here, in my personal journal for it has set me thinking.

I confess today that this is a dour place. I am beginning to think that many of the people are not merely mad but have experienced the things that they scream about and hide their faces from. There is an idea I am starting to form that something has tried to get at these people, some thing from outside what we see in our normal day to day lives. I mentioned it to Dr. Waston today. He seemed curious but cautious, yes cautious is the word. I had spent time with the man whose fearful eyes had caught my attention in those early days. He had been reticent to speak initially but had gained some little confidence at my patience and demeanour I think. He had spoke quietly about some house (his I suppose) and the hiding horror. Again, he spoke of a picture (as I had read previously in his notes of admission). He described its greenness and some great story it held, of people and stones and worship. He then went off into a tirade about the guardian being missing and how the writhing thing would out into the world without the guardian. The guards started to take notice. He and I both became aware of this, I started to comfort him and he, knowing started to calm. He was not so demented as to ignore what sedation would be metred out to him had he not calmed. As I relayed the day's recalling, Dr Waston became agitated, for what reason, I do not know why. He passed off the discussion as that of a fractured mind and said it was to be expected but he hoped I was getting what I required for my 'writing'. I was left more than a little puzzled but then again, it is a puzzling place.

The Personal Diary of Dr. Waston

This 'writer' who has arrived today seems well enough but is full of the world and its folly and obviously knows nothing of the inner world. It should be an interesting time for him. I wonder how he will fare, this Mr Helman? We shall see. Ah, the apprehensive charms of the new initiate. I can see him holding back, the confusion is grabbing at his mind. I do not reckon he will last long, this writer. He will write but never really know of things he could write about. And even if he could, the outside world would see him only for a madman.

I have to give Mr Helman credit. He has stuck at his task and is making no small headway into some of my more 'interesting' patients. I will have to watch him closely. I cannot afford him stumbling upon that which he should not.

I confess I am worried. This Helman is starting to dig too deeply and get results also. He seems to have a winning way with the inmates here, especially with those I would wish him not to have. If his writings and ideas get out into the wide world my work here might come to an end. I still have a long way to go. It will not do to have this meddlesome novice stumbling around in the dark!

Nearer and nearer he treads! He tells me of things I am master of. He has not once spoke of my genius, the work I have carried out in the name of science and other things. He only fumbles his way in the dark. Fool.

Today, the writer has written his last. He looks surprised, strapped to the table, struggling to understand. He will become a useful receptacle in the great days ahead. The new serum is nearing completion. A fortuitous meeting, for one of us at least.

The Official Diary of the Bateston Sanitorium

Eric Helman: Suffering from delusional psychosis - extreme.

This gentleman came to the sanatorium after hiding behind a delusional psychosis, I suspect for some many years. After becoming more and more agitated, sedation was required and a continuing dose of sedation has managed to contain said gentleman. I fear his prognosis is poor as he falls deeper and deeper into his illness. We will however provide every comfort for him and endeavour to treat him to the best of our ability.

Our six-monthly review will be held in April until which time Mr Helman will remain sedated and strapped, for his own safety in room 7 of the East Wing except for weekly therapy sessions. Communal contact to be avoided.

File under: Long Term.

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