The herd deforms the individual. You were never susceptible to its influence. You found no companionship there. Not with those docile fools who blindly accept the authoritative conditioning of their education; not with the unprogressive mob that chants on the terraces and drinks in the taverns; not with those who call themselves progressive intellectuals, and constantly disturb the peace, marching for societal reforms. You never belonged with the herd. Too many conflicts and revolts. Too much violence and unrest. Too little contemplation and understanding. There’s no place for you in this world. No place at all. Except with Mummy Selena. Mummy Selena understands the misery of your condition. Mummy Selena will make it better. All little girls know that. Take solace in the cradle of my embrace. I will give comfort. I will give release…

Sunhill Asylum. Date unknown.

E.C.T. # 8
I awoke suddenly from a heavy sleep. The dawn sun was pouring through the window, and standing by the door was the visage of a very beautiful woman. She looked at me directly and said in a very earnest manner: “Your earthly sentence is almost over.” I knew it was the faerie, Spinning Grazide.

E.C.T. # 9
I have just read the previous entry. I regret to say that I have forgotten all about this mysterious lady, and am unaware of any reason why I should be imprisoned in the first place. I have no memory of coming here or beginning this journal. The temptation to steal something silky overwhelms me. Skirts, corsets, knickers, ribbons. Anything. Whenever I hear the rustle of silk my heart pounds and my fingertips tingle. Taffeta excites me most of all. When I put it between my legs I feel a rapturous ecstasy which takes my breath away. I long for a private parlour where I can shave my body and dress as I please.

E.C.T. # 10
The Galilei transformation can be obtained from the Lorentz transformation by substituting an infinitely large value for the velocity of light ‘c’. But I have forgotten the Lorentz Transformation. The vehicle between flat spacetime and curved spacetime is the equivalence principle, that is to say, the laws of physics are the same in any local Lorentz frame of curved spacetime as they are in a global Lorentz frame of flat spacetime. But to apply the equivalence principle, one must first have a mathematical representation of a local Lorentz frame.

There are holes in my mind. Holes in Time. How shall I return to the past? An observer in a local Lorentz frame of curved spacetime can compare vectors and tensors at neighbouring events, just as he can in flat spacetime. But to make the comparison, he must parallel-transport them to a common event. If I am in a bubble of curved spacetime that exists simultaneously in two separate epochs, what was the common event that created the formation of the spacetime bridge? Theoretically, if I can find the common event and reconstruct the curved spacetime, I can then locate the corresponding branch of history that sliced through superspace: a path between worlds. Then I might escape this bubble of insanity. There exists a specific point in space, where these two worlds collide: where the present meets the past; a membrane in the void; a funnel between incarnations. I am completely lost without it – trapped in a bubble with this stinking animus. How I long to be free and swim in the crystal fountains! What is the common event? Was it something I did? A miracle perhaps? Or some abominable crime? My only escape is Death. I must kill Jack. I’ll make it clean and quick. Christ knows he’s suffered enough. Any day now, when his back is turned…

Jack and Jill went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

E.C.T. # 11
The compulsion to suicide is great. The skin around my temples is burnt to a crisp. I’ve lost control of my bladder. The worst nightmares are the ones when you know you are awake. Each grand mal seizure is followed by feelings of euphoria. When I report them, Dr. Pontius writes “Patient improving” on my chart. When I become apathetic, he writes: “Patient no longer complaining.” Meanwhile, my brain is so fried that I am unable to speak. If I summon the will to resist, a rubber mouthpiece is slipped between my teeth. Then I’m shocked again. A rack of lightning. A void of juddering pain. When consciousness returns I hear a soft female voice: an American. She bids me to be good. She whispers forbidden secrets. I dare not repeat a single word. She buckles me down and unbuttons her blouse:

‘Good girl Jill. Good baby. What a pretty girl you are…’

The door flings open and a recumbent hag with hideous visage comes straight at me, shrieking and waving her fists; she flies on a bent broom, circling the light like an angry bluebottle. At every revolution, she spits a curse and kicks my head with her hairy foot. I crawl under the mattress, gibbering in fear. She garbles:

‘Under a tree in stormy weather,
I married this man and maid together;
Let him alone who rules the thunder,
Put this man and maid asunder!’ [i]

Then she swoops out the window, cackling into the night.

An hour later, I am visited by black mastiff who sits by the chair with malignant intent. He salivates in sticky drools and eagerly licks his lips. Surely he wants to eat me. But at the strike of midnight, he walks off through the walls.

The apparitions do not abate. At the strike of six, I hear a haunting ballad which echoes down the corridor like droning bagpipes. A Frenchman singing in pig-Latin. His footsteps get ever closer, then a knock comes at the door:

‘Enter,’ I whisper.

He passes like smoke through the spyhole and manifests at the foot of my bed. I behold the apparition of a bawdy drunk, dressed in rags with an unruly crown of ivy; he lurches round the cell, slurping from a tankard, singing:

I’m a wandering scholar lad,
Born for toil and sadness;
Oftentimes I’m driven by
Poverty to madness.

Literature and knowledge I
Fain would still be earning,
Were it not that want of self
Makes me cease from learning.

These torn clothes that cover me
Are too thin and rotten;
Oft’ I have to suffer cold,
By the warmth forgotten.

Scarce I can attend at church,
Sing God’s praises duly;
Mass and vespers both I miss,
Though I love them truly.

Oh, thou blessed Master,
By thy worth I pray thee
Give the suppliant help in need,
Heaven will sure repay thee.

Take a mind unto thee now
Like unto St. Martin;
Clothe the pilgrim’s nakedness,
Wish him well at parting.

So may God translate your soul
Into peace eternal,
And the bliss of saints be yours
In His realm supernal. [ii]

He decomposes before my eyes, his innards slopping on the floor. Then his skeleton rears up and dances on the bed rails:

‘Do you remember me Jack?’ he chatters.

I’m so appalled by his ghastly grin that I dart under the sheet and say three Hail Mary’s.

E.C.T. # 12
My name is Jill. I wet the bed last night so Mummy Selena dressed me in a nappy and plastic pants. She smells of ether and geraniums. I love her Arabian eyes and glossy scarlet lips – her tender touch and silken tresses. Yet still she remains a mystery. Where is she from? The Garden of Earthly Delights. Despite my incarceration, I find her completely irresistible. Night and day, she’s forever on my mind. She struts about my cot, attended by fallow deer and exotic birds of Paradise. She flips like an acrobat and does headstands against the wall, revealing her petticoat, stockings and suspenders. She hides a magic fruit between her legs – a giant strawberry that chants psalms and canticles. Nothing is beyond her power. She commands the wind and the fouls of the air. My faerie queen of Demonic Delights. She rides bareback upon a dazzling kingfisher with iridescent wings. In the twinkling of an eye, she’s beside my cot, her breast pressed upon my cheek. She giggles and goes “Buh! buh! buh!” whilst spooning custard into my mouth. And when the bowl is empty, she says:

‘Come on baby, drink your milk.’

‘I don’t waa…’

‘But it’s good for you. You don’t want nasty doctor Pontius to take you away, do you? You’re a good baby aren’t you? Drink it up for mummy.’

She slips a latex teat between my lips—the kind that vets use to wean calves and pigs. Her milk is spicy like hot rum punch. I suck hard, my mind swimming in delirium. Christ help me, I want to be like this forever.

E.C.T. # 13
I had dreams of fire and falling over a great precipice. I landed in a pit of drowned women, all lying in a tangled heap. I tickled a corpse with a straw and it came to life – a grisly girl who stabbed me with a bone. When I awoke, I found myself on a train, dressed in rags and hobnail boots. The conductor asked for my fare but my pockets were empty. So I ran down the aisle and jumped out the door. Mine is tawdry, shameful existence to be sure: travelling from town to town, begging for food, dossing in doorways, and thieving corsets.

The asylum clock strikes three. The enemy is close. I pull the blanket over my head and lie quiet as a mouse. An hour passes. I cannot endure this life. The doctors will surely kill me. Hulme hates me especially. I disgust him on every level. He said I was a paranoiac fetishist, subject to erotic hallucinations. He explained that all erotic paranoiacs are voluminous writers. Is that why they gave me this journal? It seems I have been writing for centuries, all alone in this gloomy cell. I sit at the window and wait for dawn, watching the moon sink behind the moor. At the strike of six, a crow lands on the sill with a fat worm wriggling in its beak. He caws:

‘Good morn fair lady.’

‘Good morn Mr. Crow.’

‘My name is Ailes de Suie [Soot Wings]. Don’t you remember me?’

‘Alas, I do not. Have we met?’

‘In the Old World. You raised a storm with my mother’s feather. May I say how pretty you look today.’

‘But Soot Wings! How can you say that? I am covered in horrible hairs!’

‘Smother this worm on your flesh, and ’twill become smooth as alabaster. Not a single hair shall remain.’

I follow his instruction to the letter, plastering the worm round my whiskers, nipples and groin. But the charm doesn’t work, and when I look in the mirror, I find pig bristles have grown instead. A dream, I tell myself—just an infernal dream.

‘Wake up Jill, wake up…’

When I open my eyes, I find myself in Paradise…

I wear a silken Christening gown with a ruffled bonnet and sky blue ribbons; it’s the most breathtaking dress I have ever worn, but I’ve no idea where it came from; I don’t even remember putting it on. Mummy Selena says I look adorable. She calls me her baby doll, her precious baby doll, her darling baby doll, and kisses me all over. I tremble with excitement, as if I have just committed a crime, like stealing my mother’s underwear. What have they done? Surely, they have sectioned my soul. I must do something to revenge myself. But secretly, I want Mummy Selena to finish the job. I overheard Pontius call me a “terminal experiment” – one that goes beyond all ethical and legal limits. My regression is delicious yet terrifying in its obliteration. I can barely feed myself. How do I write? Another mystery. Krew hovers above my bed and sprawls on the ceiling like an abortion. He promised to preserve me, body and soul; but surely he has forsaken me. I hate myself and I hate this journal.

E.C.T. # 14
My bones are melting. I am overcome with an absolute sense of nullity; a paralysis of all feeling. Life does not improve but only gets worse by the hour. I’m a hopeless case. What’s the use in trying? Today I was very rude to doctor Hardy and made him cry; he’s the only one who has showed any compassion, but I said hurtful things to him that were diametrically opposed to my true feelings. I am oppressed by suicidal thoughts. I think it would be better for all if I had not been born. There is something terrible inside me: an alien presence. I felt it first as a child, and now I realise this spectral omnipresence has obliterated my entire life: a Death Demon. He overshadows all, snuffing out my days and hopes.

It’s all wrong I tell you. I am the victim of illegal circumstances and cruel conventions. A conspiracy of demons. My body is a tomb—a nauseating skin-suit that cloys about my bones. A psoriatic chrysalis of scaly plaques. Transmutation evades me. The wheel never turns in my favour. Must the future always agree with the past? The simplicity of faith should be enough. The priest said no soul is beyond the help of God… Do I believe in prophecies and miracles? Yes, yes and yes again. But all I see is the destroying angel.

There was a little girl who had
       A little curl
Right in the middle of her
When she was good, she was very,
      very good
But when she was bad, she was

[i] Lancashire rhyme, cited in the folk tale ‘The Irish Priest’.
[ii] Medieval student’s song.

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2015.