Sunhill Asylum, December 12th, 1957
E.C.T. # 25
I spent all day standing naked by the open window; it was snowing outside but I didn’t feel the cold. Now they have strapped me to the bed. Lying on this feather pillow is a torment; I would prefer a rock, a stone, or a lump of iron. I cannot sleep for the incessant trembling of my limbs. Three hours on my back and I’m hot as molten lead; my blood boils and my skin peels off in flakes which tumble in a blizzard. The world is so very small, blurred and insignificant. Hunger, thirst, pain and sorrow—all these are childish things.
I have decided to starve myself to death. This past week I have eaten nothing at all – except five Communal wafers stolen from the Chapel pyx. Without Mummy Selena, the prospect of Death is my only comfort. Last night I had a voluptuous dream in which I was Marilyn Monroe, sleeping naked between satin sheets. But now I can’t sleep at all. My peace is constantly broken by mocking voices that come from all corners of the cell. The keyhole scorns:
‘Look at him! Sibi nullius erant conscii culpae. [He is nothing but skin and bones]. He’s wasting away! Soon there will be nothing left! Good riddance! A millstone round his neck and to the bottom of the sea!’
The plughole spews:
‘Are you still here Jill? It’s high time you escaped. Ghosts can walk through walls. Haven’t you tried it yet? Why wait for Mummy Selena? She won’t save you. Poor cow!’
The soap bar foams at the mouth:
‘Bright star! You are the immaculate conception! The queen of heaven and earth! And Christ is the bridegroom of your soul!’
On hearing this proclamation, I am moved to anger and bawl:
‘Shut up! Shut up! Leave me in peace!’
I fall on the bed and weep. At length, the soap bubbles softly:
‘Why punish yourself? Haven’t you suffered enough these long centuries? Starving yourself to death will accomplish nothing. What do you hope to achieve? You think Death will alleviate your miserable condition? You will reincarnate as some beast of the field: a donkey or an ox. Do you want to trudge the furrows and be beaten every day of your life? Listen to me. I bring a message from the Saviour. Your sexual aberrations are not criminal at all. When you see a petticoat hanging on a line, it is only natural that you feel compelled to steal it, especially when the wind animates the silk. Heaven knows, you have stolen many items of silken apparel; and your home is filled with a suspicious number of frocks, ball gowns, girdles and shoes. The impulse is as natural as it is uncontrollable. Your fetishism is nothing but a form of asceticism. Did they not tell you this? Believe me, there is nothing wrong with you. Nothing at all.’
But then the keyhole scorns:
‘Nothing wrong with him? Nothing wrong? Get out of that dress, you degenerate gender bender!’
Doctor Hulme came to talk this afternoon but I remained completely mute. I would like to reveal my secrets but the moment I speak, I’m swept away on floods of tears. Besides, I cannot confide in Hulme: he’s too irritable, unsympathetic and indifferent. He spent a good hour trying to explain the hieroglyphics of my fetishism. He said, in no uncertain terms, that pathological sexuality was the root cause of all my troubles and failures in life. He made it clear, that if I did not cease my transsexual perversions, I was fatally doomed. He took my temperature, pricked my feet with pins, and pinched my nipples. Yet I felt nothing.
Hulme returned the following day. On reading my journal, he became hostile and asked why I had portrayed him in such a negative light. I said he was a fool and a misogynist. He replied that I didn’t know the first thing about him. I claimed to know the secrets of his heart and the date of his death; and this not with conjecture but certainty, the facts being given by supernatural agency. Whereupon he slapped me in the face and told me to shut up. I called him a hard-shelled Huxleyist. He called me a lunatic. I told him there was a dark cloud above his head, condensing in the shape of a goat. Whereupon he ran out the cell.
Hulme returned at dusk. He said my writing was a thunderstorm of fantasy and obscenity, and the product of a diseased mind. He said Mummy Selena was not real, but an Oedipal projection of psycho-sexual-infantilism. I insisted she was real. We argued about this for some time. I told him it was conspiracy against me – that Selena was a doctor from America who secretly worked for Pontius. But Hulme said I was a paranoid delusional. He said my effemanation was a sign of moral decadence and that my psychic hermaphroditism was not a natural occurrence but went against the laws of Nature. I told him I was born this way, and throughout my youth was victim to many effeminate fantasies; I preferred the company of girls, liked to play with dolls, and wore female clothes whenever the opportunity arose. I explained that my kleptomania for women’s undergarments started at puberty, when my body was subject to the horrors of testosterone. He said effemanation always followed in the wake of luxury and debauchery. But I disagreed, and pointed out that I had always been poor. He said it did not matter; that there was nothing worse than an effeminate man; and that boys should be manly and girls womanly. I called him a hideous moral imbecile. He took great offense and began to shout at the top of his voice. He said a healthy mental equilibrium was kept in balance only by powerful application of the will, supported by external pressures, such as fear of ridicule, punishment and personal harm. But since I did not fear any of these, I was a lost cause. He said a lobotomy would be highly beneficial and purge my depraved impulses. When he tried to take my wig, I scratched his face and called him an impotent old codger. On leaving my cell, he shook his head in dismay and muttered:
‘I fear you have deserted both your body and your mind. Clearly, you are not interested in a cure, for you are too much in love with your depravities.’
At 3.0 p.m. they put me in a straight jacket and strapped me to the bed. I feel so utterly helpless – like a fly in a pitcher plant, slipping towards my doom. How I long for Mummy Selena. She remains absent. She promised me a petticoat but I fear she will never return. This thought alone is a source of great misery. The wind moans with despair:
‘Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata.’ (i) [We are ever striving for what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied us].
I perceive the world as if from a great distance. I am wholly out of it.
At around dusk I felt my heart snap like a green sapling. My thoughts overwhelm me. What of my powers? Shall I escape through the walls? But what if I get stuck? I try not to think. I don’t know what happened last week, last month or last year. Did I commit all those crimes in the newspapers? Some say the Saviour sends out mysterious forces into this world of despairing darkness. I feel the end is nigh, but the prospect of transmigration leaves me numb. I do not wish to return in any shape or form. I want final termination: to be utterly extinguished. Yet I dare not close my eyes, lest I awake a vegetable. But then again, what would it matter if I could not think? Cognito ergo sum [I think, therefore I am]. If I ceased to think, there would be no evidence of my existence. But what if Descartes was wrong? What if a cunning demon has deceived me, and I do not exist at all? That is to say, I’m non-existent entity. A ghost. Quoties in eam cogitationem venisti? [How often have you entertained that thought?] After all, I am non-existent in the eyes of others: I’m a non-existent girl. There is no evidence of my existence. I am buried in my bones. Is this not hell? What if you had no body? Surely I do not! I’m invisible to the world!
During the night I memorized the sonnets of Shakespeare. But it struck me as a completely pointless exercise. Nihil scire est vita jucundissima.(ii) [To know nothing at all is the happiest life].
E.C.T. # 26
I awake with a splitting headache, as if a metal band is crushing my skull. The skin on my arms is wrinkled and leathery, like some prehistoric lizard. Gazing in the mirror, my reflection is insubstantial – a ghostly visage devoid of human features. Orbs of Light flit past the window and phantoms glide through the walls. Was I born mad? Or did they make me so? The plughole gurgles:
‘Necesse est cum insanientibus furere, nisi solus relinqueris.’ [It is necessary to be mad with the insane, if you would not be left alone].
I fall into a dreamless sleep.
At about midday, Mummy Selena opens the door. She is changed like a devil, with two horns poking through her hat. She wears a polka-dot dress with seamed stockings and high heels. A leather bag is slung about her shoulder with a serpent silver buckle. I cannot fathom our mysterious rapport. I am both enthralled and frightened by her. She holds complete sway over my sensual and spiritual life. The more I resist her, the weaker I become. What is more, she nurtures my forbidden desires. My overriding fear is that if I displease her, she will withhold the narcotic. Consequently, I have surrendered to her charms and dare not disobey a single word. I have no doubt that if she were a disincarnate spirit, I would be completely possessed by her. Surely men would think twice before letting a demon possess them for all eternity. But not I. My only desire is to be with Selena forever. She is my beautiful moon goddess, high priestess and saviour of my soul. I realise that none of this is consistent with the holiness and truthfulness of the Saviour. And I sometimes wonder if Mummy Selena is real at all. Where did she come from? The Garden of Earthly Delights? Or does she work for Pontius? If so, what is his dark purpose? There are many mental afflictions that cannot be adequately explained by psychology or psychiatry. But in any case, psychology knows of no better effect than the simple command of a beautiful woman…
She feeds me pink blancmange from a plastic bowl:
‘Eat it up for mummy… What a pretty dolly you are! I think you’re the prettiest dolly in the whole wide world!’
The jelly numbs my flesh like ether. I relish every spoonful. High as a kite, I swoon on the bed. Then she blows in my ear and slides her palm between my legs:
‘Oh precious! Have you wet your nappy again? Poor darling! Let mummy make it better…’
She pulls off my pants and smothers me with Vaseline; then she takes a fresh nappy from her bag which she stuffs between my legs. I study her lashes as she fastens the nappy across my tummy. As if by magic, a new pair of plastic pants is produced from thin air; they are thicker and bigger than before, with two translucent layers. She rubs them on her cheek and coos:
‘Silky and soft, just how baby likes.’
Then she grabs my ankles and bids:
‘Help mummy! Feet through the holes! So high!’
I lift my legs, pointing my toes as she pulls the elasticated lace up my shins and over my knees. Then I arch back in compliance, raising my hips off the mattress.
‘What a good girl!’
She tugs the pants snug around my groin where the fat wad of the nappy splays my legs apart.
‘All clean for mummy. Isn’t that better?’
I gaze in adoration for what seems like an eternity, drowning in her Arabian eyes. Then I whisper:
‘Magis te quam oculos amo meos.’ [I love you most dearly].
But she presses a finger to my lips and chides:
‘Ah! Ah! Baby mustn’t talk. Baby must be quiet…’
She plugs my mouth with a dummy and begins:
‘Do you like my polka dot dress? It’s very pretty isn’t it? I want you to imagine that you are made up of polka dots, just like these. Your whole body is composed of little dots, thousands and thousands of little dots, covering your skin, that slide about this way and that. Listen carefully Jill. I can give you any shape I wish. At this moment in time, your dots are scattered about the cell. Your have no real form at all. You are small minded and weak. Just a little girl. You do not have the mental power to re-arrange yourself. Only Mummy Selena can do that. She can turn you into a horrible frog; or wave her magic wand, and change you into a beautiful butterfly… See the dots cascading down my legs. Your dots follow my dots; we are gathering together. Becoming one. Our bodies are merging. Feel my dots slide about your skin; silky dots brushing against your thighs; your waist, your hips. Disc by disc, dot by dot, you are slowly changing shape. Becoming Selena. But all this will take time. Do you understand? Now, would baby like to wear some frills?’
Yes. Baby would. Baby would like that very much. What has mummy brought this time? A party dress perhaps? I gaze in longing as she teases an oversized pair of frou-frous from her magic bag.
‘These are very special,’ she whispers. ‘I made them myself. Organza and taffeta; six layers deep and trimmed with blue bows. Only for precious dollies… Are you my precious dolly?’
I nod, tears of frustration burning my eyes.
‘Oh baby! Don’t cry!’ she croons. ‘Soon you’ll be a beautiful butterfly, just like mummy. Then you can wear whatever you want…’
She takes a bottle of perfume from her bag and sprays it on the knickers. Then she stuffs them in my face and bids:
‘Breathe in Jill. Good girl. Deep breaths. Let’s get rid of all that nasty maleness…’
I gasp through the gusset, drawing frantic breaths as she pulls the fabric taught over my head. I recognise the narcotic at once: Cyclops.
‘Breath deeper Jill. That’s it. Good girl. Breathe it all in for Mummy… Etiam oblivisci qui sis interdam expedit.(iii) [It is sometimes useful to forget who you are]. Do you know who you are Jill? You’re a beautiful butterfly waiting to be born…’
The exotic aroma stirs up my soul. Sandalwood and frankincense: the scent of the Virgin Mary. The anguish is too much to bear. I long to vacate my body and slip into hers; to awake embodied in her bones; to strap on her dress and walk in her shoes the whole day long. How wonderful the world would be. Can she really change me? My dots explode in delirious waves that ripple out beyond the asylum walls and across the distant moors.
Stupefied, I lie in my cot as she rolls me about like a doll, zipping a frock up my back. When I am fully dressed, she kisses my forehead and exclaims:
‘Oh! How adorable! What a pretty girl you are! You’re my favourite dolly in the whole wide world!’
She rubs her nose on mine then asks:
‘Will baby be good until mummy gets back?’
I paw at her hair but she turns away and leaves me alone, locking the door behind her.
I’ve lost track of time. Orbital equations flash through my head: the transit of Venus; the passage of Mars. I lie on my back, sucking my dummy and staring at the peep hole. My whole body aches for her return. I call her name six times. But when the door opens, I’m greeted by Dobbs instead. He waves his truncheon and barks:
‘If you don’t face the wall and go to sleep, I’ll beat the shit out of you! Understand? Stop looking at me! Do you hear? The sight of you disgusts me. You filthy pervert! Face the wall, I said! The next time I check through that peep hole, all I want to see is the back of your head. Got it?’
He hits his truncheon against the cot and storms out, slamming the door behind him. Why must he ruin everything?
I turn over and face the wall. But I cannot sleep. My ears roar with the brimstone fires of hell. The wall is full of gnashing teeth and snakes writhe about the pillow. Am I dead yet? Impossible to tell. The keyhole quips:
‘Are you still here Jill? It’s time you broke out. There’s no point in hanging around this godforsaken hole. Have you changed into a girl yet? You have? Are your menses thick or watery?’
The plughole gargles:
‘You filthy whore. Why don’t you hang yourself? You beast! Thief! Murderer! Masturbator! You stink like an old camel. Ugh! What a hideous creature! A freak of nature! Pontius will cut out your brains! Spike your drink! Poison your food! Poor Cinderella! She’ll never go to the ball!’
The bed floats in the air and lurches from side to side, as if tossed like a ship in a storm. Electric waves run over my body from head to toe. A blackbird sings in the yard – a timbrel tune from Nursery school:
“Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady dressed on a white horse,
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes…”
E.C.T. # 27
At the stroke of ten, Dobbs brought me slops to eat: Complan and water, with lumps of bread floating in the bowl. But my hands tremble so much that I cannot bring spoon to mouth. When I swallow, I feel the food passing through my bowels; my glands wither and my flesh crumbles like mouldy cheese; I’m corroding from the inside out. My nerves are loosed from their stations and hang from my fingertips like slimy cords. I hear the inward workings of my body: the oozing of fat, the pulse of blood, the squelch of marrow.
At midday I was injected with paraldehyde which made me very drowsy. I fell into a stupor and had wet dreams about Mummy Selena. When I awoke, I prayed to The Christ, pleading for chastity, forgiveness and deliverance. (I must confess that my sexual aberrations have always revolved around Christ and the Devil). Alas, Christ did not come but sent my diamon instead…
Krew appears as a dazzling orb of Light, his mighty eye radiant as a thousand suns. His voice chimes like solar winds:
‘You are my exquisite creation! By my mysterious art, you exist between worlds. Recall the dark tower of your conception! Yours is the egg of Nature, known only to the wise; your beauty is so rare that many long for it in vain. What mysterious seed is now reversed in you? It comes forth from Heaven and Earth, born by virtue of Sun and Moon. A carbuncle of flesh from the old Serpent. Let me attend it! For I am of the most noble purified Earth, by which dross lead is changed to gold. I will ascend to the starry firmament and unite the two faces of Adam. I am of the highest and the lowest; all things are resolved in me, and I always appear when the order of Nature is reversed.’
I suffer a boundless thirst for Heaven, then rise from the bed and hover in the air.
iii. Publilius Syrus, 142.
Copyright (c) Nicholas Shea 2017.