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Category Archives: short story

June 21

I’ve made a concerted effort to quit washing my hands at least every hour but it’s so hard. The urge consumes me. It’s so bad that I feel I have to wash to release the pressure.

I found myself humming the melody to that damn tune while I was cleaning the kitchen and when I realized it, it scared me. I don’t know what happened or how to explain the incident in the alley, but I think it might have just been a dream. It’s so unlike me that it couldn’t have been real.

I started researching memory lapses and blackouts and I’m relatively sure that’s what happened to me. It’s the only reasonable explanation.

June 22

Last night I had a strange dream. At least I think it was a dream. I think it was like when you awaken in the night and you’re in that zone between sleeping and waking where you mix reality with your dream. I must have been dreaming about a mold or some other type of discolored spot on the wall that just wouldn’t come clean. This makes sense because I have such a fear of disease and filth that my nightmares tend to be about my inability to be clean enough or be healthy enough.

Nevertheless, when I awoke I instinctively looked to the wall where the spot was located in my dream and saw, to my horror, that there was in fact a spot on the wall. Groggily I arose and went to inspect the spot but it was only a shadow!

It was so weird because then I lay in bed and watched the spot wondering if I saw it in waking and unconsciously incorporated into my dream, or if I dreamed it first and then it just so happened that the shadow took on the shape of the spot in my dream?

June 23

Jeff came to visit today. At first I was so glad that he had made time to come by. Having my brother visit is such a rare thing that I was quite literally giddy. As it turned out, though, he’s about as much of an ass as Dr. Kaplan.

I knew the visit was bad the moment I let him in the apartment and he said, “Jen, you look terrible, are you getting any sleep? And this place smells like a swimming pool!”

I mean, what kind of greeting is that and how am I supposed to respond? Did he really expect me to be all cheerful and happy after he waltzes in here and starts in on me?

Things didn’t get any better from that point on, either. All he did was chide me for being such a recluse and obsessing over how clean everything is. He has no idea what I’m going through.

To be honest, I don’t even know why he came by. He claims that he was worried about me after he and Angela hadn’t heard from me in so long. He acts like it was my doing but it was he who put an end to Angela’s and my relationship. Does he really think I don’t remember that? And do you show your concern for someone by barging in their home and berating them about their lifestyle?

I was so furious by the time he left that all I wanted to do was work out. I figured a good sweat would burn off some of my anger. I went up to my room to change into my workout gear and noticed something strange. The place on the wall where the spot was in my dream was really discolored. At first, I thought it was a trick of the light, but as I got closer, I saw that it was true. There is something odd about that patch of wall.

I never did my workout. I wound up venting my anger into cleaning the wall.

June 16

My Health Anxiety began with my mother’s illness. I was only 8 years old when she found out she had Lupus. The disease affected her in numerous ways and she battled it for a long time. I was 17 when she died. When she passed away, I felt a ton of guilt. A part of me believed that it was partially my fault. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it was how I felt, nonetheless.

I became so familiar with her disease that I began to believe I was suffering the same symptoms. A rash on my face, fatigue, painful joints, headaches, hair loss – the lists goes on and on. And each time one of those symptoms popped up, I immediately knew it was the worst case scenario. I had my mom’s genes that meant that I, too, was destined to die of Lupus.

As each test came back negative, I refused to accept it. I just deftly attributed it to either the doctor’s error in accurate diagnosis, or the fact that I really had another disease.

Even today, I still believe that I’m carrying some new strain of a debilitating disease that leaves doctors baffled with how to categorize it. Logically, I know this is crazy. In reality, my days are consumed with worry and despair over my health.

June 19

I’m finally getting around to writing about my doctor’s visit the day before yesterday. I meant to do it right afterwards, but it has left me so exhausted that I’m just now feeling like writing about it tonight.

I made it to Dr. Kaplan’s office without incident. Even with the heat of summer, I still put on a thin wind-breaker and hold it tight about my neck as I dart to the doctor’s office trying to avoid any contact with the throng of humanity on the sidewalks and streets. Still, I managed to navigate my way there without brushing into anyone.

It wasn’t until I saw Dr. Kaplan that things went south. He was the worst and I don’t care if he reads this next time, although I don’t think I’ll be going back to that horrible man! We began with small talk, which was alright, and then he asked about my journal. I handed it over and waited while he read the entries. Then, he removed his glasses and hit me with the most condescending look. From then on it was horrible. He’s so judgmental it just gets right under my skin!

He began by telling me how I pushed Angela away by making her mother’s condition about me. The nerve! I did no such thing! And then he had the audacity to critique my daily routine and tell me it was unhealthy and abnormal! He has no idea!

Oh, there was more. More than I care to vent and fume over. I shut down after we had strong words and let him go on lecturing me while I just sat there seething. In the end, I walked out of there with a script in my hand for some medication called Lexapro that he wants me to try out. I don’t think so. Just some more crap to pollute my body and alter my mind.

But all that wasn’t the real bad part; I mean it was bad, but not bad in the same way. The thing that has really left me shaken is the man from the alley I encountered on the way home.

As I rounded Pikes Peak Avenue headed towards the park I passed an alley and heard this homeless man playing his guitar. Even though I was walking at a brisk pace, I found myself slowing down. There was something about the tune he was playing that was so captivating. It’s hard to describe now, but I just remember that it was so melancholy yet somehow soothing.

What happened next is really beyond my faculties of reason. I literally fell into what I believe to be a state of hypnosis. Somewhere deep in my mind I still had some type of awareness, but I was lost as if in a dream landscape.

The melody continued to wash over me as I stopped and retreated to the alley’s opening. Soft, dark waves of gloomy notes flowing one into the next lulled me into a trance. God knows how long I stood there and my eyes closed as I descended into the music. It was so sad, yet so beautiful. How could such a creature as this make such music?

I had the impression of floating high into the air – maybe it was an out-of-body experience; a dream-state roving composed of bits and snatches of sensations. Whatever the case, I beheld the city from high above as a hive of activity moving at high speed in blurry pandemonium while directly below me in a tiny circle of calm slowness I saw me and the guitarist alone with the music.

I began to descend ever so slowly while I watched myself walking towards the man. He was so engrossed in playing that I don’t even think he saw me. The music still came in soft, undulating waves as the haunting melody pulled me along. Closer and closer I descended still mesmerized by the song and watching the entranced me walking in a languid gait towards the filthy guitarist.

And then I saw, to my horror, that the real, physical me below was intent on approaching and touching the vagrant! But the part of my consciousness that was displaced – the rational me – was not going to re-enter my body in time to stop my hands from touching the horrible creature spinning that wicked, diabolical tune!

I strained with all my willpower to reach my body before it happened, but it was no use. Just as I reached my body there was mad mix of sensations. A chaotic swirl of noises and images and feelings all churned up into a quick torrent that sent a shock through my soul. As I came to myself, the first thing that hit me was the sadness in my heart. The song still swirled in the air about me. Through the hazy blur of my tears I saw that I had reached my hand out and was caressing the man’s face!

The most horrible part of the whole thing slammed into me then. The man quit playing and turned his face up towards me with the most saturnine smile I have ever seen. It was then that I beheld his face. He had four long scabs running diagonal across his face and my hands were caressing those grotesque, encrusted sores!

I screamed. I ran. I made it home, locked the doors, and then I must have showered and scrubbed my hands for hours. Even after that, I returned to the bathroom at least every hour to scrub my hands again and again and again. Just writing this makes me want to wash again.

As if that all wasn’t bad enough, now I have that cursed melody sounding in my brain over and over.

image

June 13

I have an appointment with Dr. Kaplan in four days and I’m already preparing myself for the trip. It’s not far; the office is only ten blocks away. Still, it might as well be across the Brazilian rain forest as far as I’m concerned. There’s just so many things out there that are waiting to attack me – germs, filthy hand rails, infested door knobs, diseased beggars, street  urchins, ruffians, people jostling me on the street, the riff raff of society all spreading their pestilence. All it would take is one miniscule bacterium to do me in.

I know it is irrational, but that doesn’t change the way my mind works. Hypochondria is not a rational disease. Actually, Dr. Kaplan has requested that I call it Health Anxiety – that’s the new term for it. I still like Hypochondria, though. Did you know that Hypochondria originally meant “below the ribs”. It was a reference to tummy aches. Over the years it became synonymous with symptoms that a doctor can’t cure.

Even though I’m freaking out about the trip to my appointment, I’ve refrained from calling Dr. Kaplan. See, I don’t need to call him every time I have a suspicious looking mole or some door-to-door salesman comes by. I can fend for myself.

June 14

Today I’m going to write about my daily routines since this is something that Dr. Kaplan wants to focus on at our next appointment. To begin with, I must explain that my number is five. This only makes sense to a person with OCD. Everything I do ritualistically, I do in fives. I wake up at 7:05. I should clarify that I set my alarm to 7:05 and that’s when I get out of bed. It’s not like I ever have a full night of uninterrupted sleep. I toss and turn and worry all night long. Many nights I will just lie awake in bed for hours at a time. Nevertheless, I get up at 7:05 regardless of the amount of sleep I actually got during the night.

When I get up I immediately brush my teeth and clean my bathroom – not a thorough cleaning like I do later in the day, but just a cursory cleaning so I can use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and shower. I brush my teeth five times throughout the morning while showering and getting dressed. I do not shower unless the tiles are sparkling clean and the whole bathroom smells like chlorine.

During my shower I perform a thorough examination of my body for any lumps, lesions, or changes to my skin. Anything new, I’ll document on a piece of paper so that later I can research it on the internet.

After I shower, I wipe down the shower and begin to wash whatever clothes or towels are dirty from the previous day. I never have dirty laundry sitting around. After that, I go and check the doors and windows to ensure they are locked. I’ll do this routine throughout the day at certain times. Then, it’s time for breakfast.

My food intake is exclusively Vegan. I will not eat cooked meat because it can lead to disease, especially if improperly cooked. Animals are disease carriers anyway, so I just avoid them. I also refuse to eat any processed food. Again, it just leads to illness and disease. I realize that vegetables are risky too. I subscribe to a whole foods delivery program so that I don’t have to leave the house to shop. The company delivers all my fruits and vegetables and any other Vegan foods I need to my house once a week. Still, I soak all of my fruits and vegetables in a solution of vinegar and grapefruit extract that naturally removes and chemicals or bacteria that might be on them.

Anyway, my breakfast is mostly an acidic-based meal and then the rest of my meals for the day are generally rich with vegetables. For breakfast I’ll have a glass of purified water with lemon, a half of a grapefruit or oranges, a bowl of grapes or raspberries, and an English muffin with jam.

I wash my dishes and utensils before and again after I eat. This can turn into a ritual cleansing quite easily and many days I wind up cleaning the kitchen five times.

After the kitchen is spotless and has a nice chlorine smell, I turn on the T.V. and catch the latest news. After the news I like to listen to a talk show on the radio on homeopathic medicine. I know Dr. Kaplan will not approve of this – nor, especially will my Primary Care Physician Dr. Ramsey. Still, I enjoy the callers’ questions and Dr. Weiland’s philosophy.

If I’ve discovered any unusual bumps or blemishes, I’ll take the time to research what they might be on my computer. This typically turns into a lengthy bout of reading about diseases all the way up until time for lunch. Before lunch, I’ll clean the kitchen and then usually have a salad with a side of potatoes or rice. After lunch, it’s time to clean the apartment.

Once the apartment is thoroughly clean, I’ll work out, shower again, and then take a nap. My workout usually consists of Pilates or Yoga with some type of aerobic video – I have several that I’ll rotate through. Exercise is very important to good health.

After my nap I’ll have a snack and watch a movie or T.V. show. It just depends on what I’m currently into at the moment. I pretty much spend the evening after dinner either watching T.V., reading, or surfing the internet. I’ll do that until 11:00 or 12:00 at night before finally going around and checking all the windows and doors at least five times before finally going to bed.

So you see, my daily routine is not that out there even though I know that some of the things I do might be considered a bit eccentric.

June 10

I had a visitor today. Looking back on it, I should’ve just hid and let him believe that no one was home; but I didn’t know what he wanted and it could’ve been important. In the end, he was only a door-to-door salesman and I wound up mumbling apologies through the cracked door before shutting the door back and locking it. And now I have become obsessed with checking the locks.

I phoned Dr. Kaplan – of course, he was with another client and didn’t call me back right away. When he finally did, we talked about the salesman and the distress that it caused me. It was his idea to start keeping a journal so that at the next session, we could address the frequency of my calls to him. You see, he thinks I call him way too much, but I don’t think so. Sure, I call him from time to time, but it certainly isn’t an abnormal amount.

Since the salesman left I’ve checked the locks and cleaned the door eight times. I know that is too much. I know that. I can judge what is too much even though I can’t stop myself from checking. Dr. Kaplan is just a busy man and any interruption from a silly woman with OCD is too much for him and his busy schedule.

June 11

I miss having a pet. I used to have a cat named Ajax, but he was too dangerous. I don’t mean that he was aggressive or anything of that nature; he was just too much of a risk to my health. Cats – well, any animal for that matter – are either carriers of disease or attract other vermin that carry disease. Jeff was kind enough to find Ajax a good home, but I still miss having someone else around – even if it is just a pet and not another human.

Dr. Kaplan assures me that my Hypochondria is all in my head just like the OCD is, but I don’t care. I know my body and I know when unclean things in the environment affect my wellbeing. When Jeff took Ajax and I cleaned the house, I felt better almost immediately. Still, I get so lonely here with no one to talk to. I wish it were easier to just get out and go but the world is so fraught with danger and disease. It takes all of my courage just to make it to Dr. Kaplan’s office for therapy. And after I get back safe and sound to my apartment, I’m so exhausted that it takes me days to recover from the venture.

June 12

Angela used to call me at least every other day but I’m afraid that her mother’s illness has consumed her. Jeff is certainly a good brother and tries his best to keep tabs on me, but he never called as much as Angela. I’m really glad that Jeff found such a good girl as Angela to marry – she and I really became close until her mother found out she had cancer. When she called and told me, I became obsessed with her mother’s symptoms. I was only trying to help. But, eventually, it led to me becoming obsessed with seeing the symptoms in myself and all I wanted to talk to Angela about were the similarities between her mother’s illness and mine. I mean, I believed I really had breast cancer too.

Then I got the call from Jeff. He was nice about it but I figured out that Angela couldn’t talk to me about the cancer. It was too hard on her. I went to the doctor and demanded all the tests that could diagnose breast cancer but they didn’t find anything. I’m still not convinced.

The point is, I guess, that I miss having Angela check in on me and I miss having someone to talk to. It’s not like I don’t have anyone at all, just not someone who is regular. That’s all.

Hi! If you’ve read any of my blog and my weird writings, please take the time to post a comment about your thoughts and impressions. I’d love to hear what you think!

Also, here is an interview that I just did that delves a little deeper into my artistic vision.

Interview with David Garrett

Claire and Lucius walked down the hall of the South Wing to the small, padded isolation room. A chair and Lucius’ guitar sat in the far corner.

Lucius smiled at Claire as he entered the room.

“Alright, Lucius, you have one hour and then I’ll be back to escort you back.”

“Thank you.”

Claire shut the door and then proceeded to go into the adjacent room. This room was dark but Claire didn’t turn the lights on. Instead, she left the door ajar so that light from the hallway could illuminate enough of the room.

In times past this room had been used as an observation room. The shared wall with the padded cell was a one-way mirror. From Lucius’ point of view, it looked like a large mirror, but for Claire, it was a window. She could see Lucius adjust his chair and then almost lovingly pick up the guitar.

The room was equipped with a microphone and speaker so that Claire could have listened to Lucius, but that was unnecessary – she knew he would meticulously tune his guitar only to skew the tuning before playing. Besides, it wasn’t the audio she wanted to record, it was the visual performance.

Claire had already deposited a camcorder on a tripod in the room. She turned it on and ensured the angle and focus were correct, then she pressed the red record button and left.

***

Lucius wasn’t the least bit surprised that Claire had been the one to retrieve him and escort him to his playing session. The Baron had already told him that today was the day of his escape.

His patience and practice had finally paid off and he was ready to spread the performance now.

The Baron had requested that before he help Lucius escape, that Lucius play the entirety of the suite one more time. At the end of the today’s session, Claire would help Lucius leave Rathbone Asylum for good.

And so, Lucius poured his heart and soul into his final practice within the walls of the asylum. And his performance was incredible.

After he had finished, he placed the guitar back against the wall and sat waiting for Claire to return.

Shortly, Claire opened the door and smiled at Lucius. “Okay, Lucius, are you ready to head back to your room?”

Lucius merely smiled pleasantly and followed her into the hallway. They took no more than a few steps when Lucius said, “Oh, Claire, one moment, please. I must look upon you for what you are.”

Claire turned confused and Lucius proceeded to peel the mask completely from his face so the he might behold her in her true form.

What Lucius saw was shocking – almost too shocking for him to believe, but the Baron had not lied. Claire was one of the insect things just as the Baron had warned him. He stood transfixed as the human-like covering finished sloughing off into a pile in the floor. Her head reminded Lucius of the head of some great praying mantis. If was triangular with two enormous compound eyes. The antennae wiggled, testing the air and then the strange, sideways mandibles opened and a horrendous screech issued forth like the forest erupting with the sound of a host of cicadas.

Lucius’ hypnotic stare was broken and he realized that now was the time to act. He lurched into the Claire-creature and struck the thing exactly how the Baron had told him. There was a brief struggle where the creature tried to use its insect appendages to fend off the attack, but Lucius persisted through his revulsion until the creature was still. Then Lucius took the swipe key from the body and returned to the isolation room to retrieve his guitar.

After that, it was a relatively easy task to use the key to exit out of the little used and empty South Wing.

Lucius Rivers was now free to introduce the world to the Baron Shadowmancer’s grand Suite Insanity in E minor.

Claire, one of the night-shift nurses, and Jason, one of the night-shift orderlies, sat at the nurse’s station chatting and drinking coffee.

“So, is it true that Dr. Middleton confiscated Lucius’ guitar?” Jason asked.

“Yes.”

“Thank God we don’t have to listen to that infernal racket anymore, huh?”

“It’s hard to believe that he used to be an amazing guitarist.”

“What?” Jason said.

“Yeah, his nephew was telling me that he used to be this incredible classical guitarist who performed all over the place. You know, it doesn’t surprise me. There’s something about him that makes me think there’s something going on with him that we don’t get.”

Jason snickered at the absurdity of Claire’s statement. “Come on, now. Surely you’re joking. The guy‘s as whacked as they come. He plays in the toilet water and talks to the corner, for Chrissake.”

“I know he’s lost his mind. I’m not trying to say he’s lucid, but I do think that there‘s some kind of method to his madness that makes sense to him and no one else. For example, the talking to the corner. If you watch him, he only does it after dark when the hall lights come on. The light from the hallway casts a certain shadow in the corner that is kind of human shaped. It’s the shadow that he sits and talks to; no other time will you see him conversing with the corner.”

“That’s just creepy,” Jason said.

“Yeah. It’s so bizarre. And I’ve watched him while he plays guitar. He’s actually pretty good.”

At this Jason nearly spit his coffee out. “Now I know you’re messing with me, Claire. There is no way you can call that atrocious twanging, good.”

Claire giggled and continued. “I know it sounds horrible, but if you just watch his fingers, he plays the same patterns over and over quite deftly. The weirdest thing is that he’ll pause to tune the guitar and once he has it tuned, he’ll mess up the tuning in different ways before starting to play again. But then he’ll play the exact same patterns in that out-of-tune manner before doing it all over again.”

“Well, I think you give that kook too much credit. I think he’s just a nutty as the rest of these poor saps around here – maybe even worse.”

Claire smiled and said, “Maybe you’re right”.

“I know I’m right. Well, I gotta go walk my rounds. Thanks for the coffee, Claire.”

“You’re welcome.”

As Jason moseyed down the hallway, Claire muttered to herself, “I wonder what it would sound like if it were in tune?”

***

Baron Shadowmancer: After the modulation to C minor, the piece also transition to five-four time. Beginning on C on the fifth string, next go to E flat on the fourth string –

Lucius: Hold on. I can’t keep all this straight unless I have my guitar in hand. It’s too hard to remember all of it in my head.

Baron Shadowmancer: That’s alright, Lucius, you’re doing splendidly. Tomorrow you work on what we’ve covered and we’ll pick up from the C minor modulation after that.

Lucius: How much longer must we endure these arrangements?

Baron Shadowmancer: Not much longer. After you’ve learned this piece, I believe it will be time for you to go.

Lucius: Go? Go where?

Baron Shadowmancer: Out of this place, Lucius. Down south, I should think. Not too far; maybe the Springs or so. The time for your unveiling is very close at hand. But I want you to be ready – I want the Suite to be ready.

Lucius: I don’t know if I can make it out there. After all these years in here, I’m afraid I’d be lost. I’m afraid I’d just be . . . well, afraid.

Baron Shadowmancer: Lucius, my subject, my prodigy, my child. Lucius, you’ll be under my protection and my guidance. You have nothing to fear so long as you are the vehicle of my grand work. The Ne Plus Ultra of my creative output. My Magnum Opus.

Lucius: How will I get out, though? Those beasts are too watchful. Their cunning is too thorough.

Baron Shadowmancer: The one called Claire will help you.

Lucius: Yes, she seems nice. Are you sure she’s one of them. I’ve been so afraid to withdraw the mask and see her true form – afraid I’ll really see her as she is and then I’ll be devastated.

Baron Shadowmancer: That’s probably for the best. You must trust me when I tell you that she is one, but do not look upon her without the mask, Lucius. Even though she is one, she still will serve her purpose – for me; for us.

Under his old, murky delusions, Lucius had suspected that his demonic captors disguised themselves behind masks. The Baron had dispelled this notion by showing Lucius that there was but one mask that needed to be removed – it was the mask that shrouded Lucius’ vision. Once Lucius had knowledge of where to grasp the edges of that mask, he need only peel away the proper amount to behold the world as it really existed.

Lucius had not the wherewithal to remove it all at once; the world was just too alarming. It required degrees. But he had removed enough to see the two “doctors” entering his room in their true forms.

The two demons strode into the room on their insectoid legs and the one who called himself Dr. Middleton spoke. “Lucius, this is Dr. Harris and we’re here to talk to you about your guitar.”

Lucius smirked, seeing through their ruse. He decided to confront them openly. “Did you know,” he began as he sat up on his bed, “that Benjamin Franklin invented the insane asylum and then invented an instrument that drove people mad just so he could use the instrument to fill the asylums?”

“Lucius, I don’t think that is true.” Dr. Middleton began, but then Dr. Harris jumped in.

“Just a moment, Dr. Middleton, I’d like to hear more about your theory on Franklin, Lucius.”

“Oh, it’s no theory. It’s the truth. Go research it yourself, if you like. Franklin created the first modern hospital. In those days, doctors traveled from house to house in circuits, just as circuit judges did – that’s why they’re called ‘circuit’ judges. The first hospital specifically had a ward for the mentally ill. It was done quite purposefully. And then Franklin unveiled the glass armonica – an instrument that produced insanity by its haunting and ethereal tones. Even Mesmer used is to subdue his victims. Now, why do you suppose a genius like Franklin would create an insane asylum and then create an instrument to produce the very thing he was claiming to want to treat?”

“Oh, come on now – “

But Dr. Harris held a hand up to shush Dr. Middleton.

“Lucius,” Dr. Harris said, “I’ll have to do as you say and research this. But we are here because of the music you are playing on your guitar. Do you realize that the things you are playing are causing everyone distress?”

Lucius ignored Dr. Harris and looked at Dr. Middleton who was standing defiantly with his alien, insect arms crossed over his thorax. “Dr. Middleton, does my music drown the calls of your cicadas?”

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

“Just that I know your true form. You’re not fooling me anymore.”

Dr. Harris spoke again. “Lucius, we don’t want to completely revoke your guitar privileges; we just want to ensure that your playing doesn’t bother the other patients and the staff. Would you be alright with playing an hour three days a week under the right conditions?”

Lucius broke his glare upon Dr. Middleton and turned to look at Dr. Harris. “That’s alright, Dr. ah, Harris, was it?”

“That’s correct.”

“You may take my guitar. I’ve been playing under guise anyway. The world isn’t quite ready for the Baron’s true compositions. When and where shall I polish the rest of the pieces?”

Dr. Middleton spoke up. “Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons in the South Wing’s isolation room. I know you detest that room but it’s the only room where the sound cannot carry throughout the hallways.”

“Fine, fine. It’s only a temporary hindrance anyway.”

“Thank you, Lucius,” Dr. Harris said as he stepped over and took the guitar that was leaning against the wall.

“Yes, thank you Lucius,” Dr. Middleton echoed.

“You’re welcome, Gentlemen.” Lucius spat the last word with sarcasm because he knew they were creatures of the abyss. It was alright, though. The Baron had prepared him for this eventuality well in advance.

As the two doctors were exiting Lucius spoke up. “Oh, and, Dr. Harris, remember to look up the information on Franklin. But I must warn you, Do Not listen to Mozart’s Adagio in C for the Glass Armonica no matter how tempted you may be.”

Dr. Harris smiled and reassured Lucius. “Yes, Lucius, I’ll be sure and do that.”

After the two had gone, Lucius chuckled to himself. He knew that the demon Harris would give into the temptation and have to listen to the Mozart piece.

Mozart Adagio in C for glass armonica

Dr. Middleton and Dr. Harris strategized a plan of how they were going to handle the patient Lucius Rivers as they strode the sanitized, white hallways of Rathbone Asylum.

“His nephew said that he was a very accomplished musician in his youth,” Dr. Middleton said.

“I have no doubt that at one time he was,” replied Dr. Harris.

“He even studied classical guitar under the Cuban Maestro Rubio Colon.”

“I’m sorry; I’m not familiar with him.”

“Well, anyway,” Dr. Middleton continued, “after nearly fifteen years of seemingly no interest in playing, Lucius suddenly began to hum snatches of music and to ‘play guitar’ on whatever surfaces were available to him – mostly just his own body or the air.”

“Hmmm, interesting.”

“Yes, we thought so. You can see that we thought it would be healthy for him to have a go at playing guitar again after learning from his nephew that he used to be a virtuoso.”

“Really? He was considered that good?” Dr. Harris said with some skepticism.

“Well, that’s what his nephew claimed anyway. We gave him the green light to bring Lucius’ instrument to the asylum so that Lucius might be reacquainted with the guitar.”

“From the sounds of it, the two still hate each other.”

Dr. Middleton chuckled.

Ever since John Graham, Lucius’ nephew, had brought the guitar, Lucius had been playing the most grating, discordant music ever heard. Not only was the music insufferable, but it had actually caused the staff, and especially the other patients, to become more agitated and cross.

Almost immediately one of the patients had broken down in tears while another began to rage and curse and strike at anyone who came near. The nurses and orderlies were at their wits end trying to placate the patients while the ward deteriorated into chaos and dysfunction.

One of the nurses had gone to Lucius and attempted to confiscate the instrument but Lucius retaliated by screaming at her and threatening to boil her alive as he obsessively hugged his guitar.

The next step in the protocol of the ward was to isolate the patient and notify the senior Psychiatrists on duty. Dr. Harris was the most senior staff member and Dr. Middleton was the treating physician on Lucius Rivers’ case.

The two doctors continued to discuss Rivers until they arrived at the door to his room. Dr. Middleton knocked.

***

Lucius Rivers sat in his sterile, soft cell mulling over the Baron’s revelations. For so many years Lucius had struggled to understand his plight, knowing that things were askew. It wasn’t until Baron Shadowmancer arrived that he had begun to learn the true nature of so many things.

The first major revealing was the nature of the stone pillow. That was difficult to figure out. But after Lucius had determined that the smooth stone in the yard was to become his seer’s pillow, then the rest flowed quite quickly. Lucius had managed to elude the baleful eyes and sneak the stone into his pillow case. Almost immediately, his nightly visions had started in a glorious procession toward epiphany.

The first evening that he noticed the Baron’s arrival would be forever etched in Lucius’ mind. It was terrifying to behold. The Barron didn’t arrive alone – apparently couldn’t manifest alone. He had to come in the company of the Wild Witch. For you needed light to create the proper shadow. You needed the proper shadow to manipulate the gateway. At first, Lucius was confounded by the light, not realizing that the real power resided in the shadows behind him.

So, night after night, Lucius had lain in his bed as the yellow light summoned the Wild Witch and captured his awe. Mesmerized by her glory, he sat in fear and watched her cavorting in the light, not realizing that behind him the shadows danced too.

It was on the fifth night – for the Baron dealt in fives – that Lucius sat watching the play of light and heard a soft whisper from behind. Turning his head slowly and in growing terror, he saw the Baron towering in the corner’s shadows. Tears began to stream down his face as he realized the immensity of his power.

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Step by step, alone I crept

Step by step by lonely step

And then I felt a brushing touch

A gentle voice that whispered much

About which note and tone of choice

About the timbre and the voice

About the inflection of the string

And how to make the guitar sing

Step by step, together we crept

Step by step by maddening step

“The glass armonica’s ghostly notes will cause insanity in its musicians and listeners! At least this is what was thought to be true in the 18th century. People were frightened by the armonica’s sound due to it’s strange interactions with the human brain and ears. Benjamin Franklin invented the glass armonica in 1761 after being profoundly moved by the sounds of the glass harp.

The glass armonica’s sound is perceived by human ears differently than other instruments because its range is between 1,000 and 4,000 hertz, the human brain compares ‘phase differences’ between the left and right ears to triangulate the origin of the sound rather than comparing volumes. This causes hearing disorientation and a ‘not quite sure’ feeling about where the sound is coming from.”

“Mesmer treated patients both individually and in groups. With individuals he would sit in front of his patient with his knees touching the patient’s knees, pressing the patient’s thumbs in his hands, looking fixedly into the patient’s eyes. Mesmer made ‘passes’, moving his hands from patients’ shoulders down along their arms. He then pressed his fingers on the patient’s hypochondrium region (the area below the diaphragm), sometimes holding his hands there for hours. Many patients felt peculiar sensations or had convulsions that were regarded as crises and supposed to bring about the cure. Mesmer would often conclude his treatments by playing some music on a glass armonica.”

“Mr. Mesmer then seated him near the armonica; he had hardly begun to play when my friend was affected emotionally, trembled, lost his breath, changed color, and felt pulled toward the floor.”

“There were accounts of the instrument being banned by physicians who cited possible ill effects including prolonged shaking of the nerves, tremors in the muscles, fainting, cramps, swelling, paralysis of the limbs’ and seeing ghosts.”

Fifteen years in this asylum

I cry and cry

I laugh and laugh

Mostly at the exact same things

There’s no distinction between these scenes

Just my particular state of mind

“Pennsylvania Hospital was founded in 1751 by Dr. Thomas Bond and Benjamin Franklin ‘to care for the sick-poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia.’”

“A similar expansion took place in the British American colonies. The Pennsylvania Hospital was founded in 1751 as a result of work begun in 1709 by the Religious Society of Friends. A portion of this hospital was set apart for the mentally ill, and the first patients were admitted in 1752. Virginia is recognized as the first state to establish an institution for the mentally ill.”

I want to be a little bird

And fly out of my mind

And sing a new song

To drive the world mad

Mostly, I want to be free