If myths, dreams and illusion are to be possible,
the apparent and the real must remain ambiguous
in both subject and object.[i]

Sunhill Asylum, March 12, 1957

Jack lies chained to the cot wearing nothing but a diaper, his wrists and ankles fettered in leather buckles.

Pontius looks down, shaking his head in dismay:

‘Jack Vallis is both Faust the God seeker, and Mephisto the God hater, rolled into one.[ii] As Mephisto he plays the fetishist, the paraphiliac and infantilist; but as Faust he is a pious believer – a suffering saint who longs for the Second Coming…’

‘Did you sedate him?’ asks Selena.

‘Just a grain of paraldehyde to calm him down a bit.’

‘He looks completely out of it.’

‘Don’t be fooled. He was cursing like a trooper just a moment ago. Now he’s seen you, he’s on his best behaviour.’

Selena wheels Jack into the cell, parking beside a steel dressing trolley with a glass top.

‘Thank you Dr. Pontius. I have him in hand. You can leave it to me now.’

Pontius digs in his pocket and produces two phials:

‘Very well. He’s all yours. But I hope you know what you’re doing. Doubling the dose is a risky business.’

She takes the phials:

‘It’s best you keep out of it Dr. Pontius. Just let me do my job.’

‘As you wish.’

Pontius shuts the door, leaving Jack with his surrogate. Selena draws beside him, stroking his cheek with back of her hand:

‘Poor baby. That nasty Dr. Pontius doesn’t understand you. Not like Mummy does…’

Taking a rubber ligature, she ties off his upper arm, singing softly:

Bell horses, bell horses, what time of day? One o’clock, two o’clock, three and away!

He whimpers as her hair brushes against his cheek.

‘You like the feel of Mummy’s hair, don’t you baby? Shall I spray you with my perfume? It’s Intimate – your favourite.’

She produces a bottle from her satin-lined bag and sprays his neck, rubbing it in with her wrists. He swoons in a mist of castoreum, civet, musk. Seeing it has the desired effect, she douses her cleavage, and hovers over the cot, pushing her bosom in his face:

‘Smell Mummy.’

He moans at her buttery softness, reeling in aromas of sandalwood, cedar and patchouli. When she pulls away he looks distressed and mutters:

‘You know the secrets of my heart as if you have read them in a book, but you are powerless to change my fate.’

‘What fate baby?’

‘Lord Scales is going to send me to the pyre.’

‘Don’t you worry about that nasty Lord Scales. I’m the one who holds your soul in the balance, not him. Lord Scales and his Infernal Counsel just like to make fun of you.’

‘Yes, they do. They make fun of me. Can you see them too?’

‘Of course I can baby. And I’m going to send them all away. Lie still now. It’s time for your medicine…’

Jack watches intently as she dons a pair of rubber gloves. Then, taking a fluted bottle, she swabs the puncture site with surgical spirit.

‘Does that feel cold baby?’

‘Can you really see them? The Infernal Counsel. Or are you pandering to my delusions?’

She presses a finger to his lips:

‘Hush. Everything will be fine. You’ll see.’

She bobs out of view then reappears with a luminous syringe of pink liquid. The platino-iridium needle is 5 cm long and of larger calibre than ordinary hypodermics. She points it upward, tapping the glass, squeezing the steel plunger to evacuate the air. When the needle begins to dribble, she puts it to the swollen vein:

‘Hold still for Mummy.’

She’s about to inject the drug, when Jack blurts:

Wait. I saw your dream.

She stops, concerned:

‘What dream?’

‘The dream you had last night. The one where you jumped to your death.’

‘Don’t be silly. I didn’t jump anywhere.’

‘You did. You jumped. From the belfry of Saint Jeane en Grève.

She scowls and pulls away:

‘You’re not allowed to look inside Mummy’s head. I’ve told you before. If you look inside my head, I will run away forever. And then what would you do? You’d be all alone in the world, without Mummy Selena to look after you.’

He ponders the implications as she fondles his hair. Then the flash of a diamond catches his eye. He gasps:

‘Your ring! – I’ve not seen that before.’

She holds out her hand, the jewel sparkling in a sunbeam:

‘Do you like it baby? Look at all the pretty colours. It’s a Victorian miner’s cut with 58 facets. From India, I think. Two whole carats. It has a large culet, a high crown and a deep pavilion. And a very unique fire.’

‘A unique fire – just like you.’


‘You seem to know a lot about diamonds. Are you engaged?’


‘But that’s your engagement finger.’

‘Yes, but I’ve only got eyes for you, baby.’

‘Do you take me for a fool? I’m a certified lunatic. And you’ve got me chained to a cot.’

‘If you must know, this ring belonged to my grandmother. And I wear it to keep away roaches.’


‘Men are pests.’

‘All men?’


‘A girl like you must have many prospective suitors.’

‘I’m not in the dating game.’

‘What game are you in? Brainwashing?’

‘I’m here to realize your full potential.’

‘To what end? Saving the world from nuclear holocaust?’

‘Isn’t the world worth saving?’

‘Perhaps God wants to destroy this rotten world by fire.’

‘You can’t believe that.’

‘It is written in Revelation: And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.[iii]’

‘I would forget about the seven seals and the horns of the great beast, if I were you. It’s just a fairy tale.’

‘A fairy tale? Are you mad?’

‘The book of Revelation is full of depraved imaginings.’

‘Imaginings? It is the inspired word of God!’

‘No baby, it’s not. The book of Revelation was penned by a false prophet, who claimed that one thousand years after the birth of Christ the great dragon would be let loose to destroy the earth. It didn’t happen. Therefore, it must follow that the book of Revelation is false.’

‘You’re not a true believer.’

‘Oh but I am.’

‘How can you be, if you refute the Bible?’

‘Religion and spirituality are two very different things.’

‘So you believe in the soul?’

‘Of course I do, baby.’

‘But you deny your previous life.’

‘I don’t want to talk about it. Will you be still? I can’t do this if you keep moving about.’

‘Look at me: imprisoned and chained as a madman – just like a holy prophet.’

Calm down.

‘Let me go, Selena. Please.’

‘I thought you liked it when I take control.’

‘I do. But I’ve got something to tell you. Something important.’

‘So go ahead and tell me.’

‘I can’t. Not like this. It doesn’t feel right.’

‘You talk too much. Stop thrashing about, will you?’

‘We’re chained together, you and me.’


‘You think you’re free. But you’re not. You’re chained down in a madhouse, just like me. Chained to the earth and estranged from heaven.’

‘That’s not very kind. Be nice to Mummy.’

‘Unbuckle my straps. Just for a minute or two.’

‘You know I can’t do that. You might cause trouble.’

‘No, I won’t. I promise. Where can I go? The door’s locked and the window’s barred. Release me. Then we can be together. Properly.’

‘Not now baby. It’s time for your medicine.’

Medicine? Is that what you call it?’

‘It’s my gift to you.’


‘Don’t you want it?’

‘You know I’m addicted.’

She lifts her skirt:

‘To me or the drug?’


He lies there for a moment, smitten by her beauty, drinking her in with his eyes. She strikes a series of provocative poses, parting her slip, flashing her girdle and suspenders:

‘Do you think I’m pretty?’

Parched, he croaks:

‘Yes, very. Kiss me Selena. Please.

She drops her skirt again:

‘Not now. Later. After your injection. Then I’ll kiss you all over.’

‘You swear?’

‘Cross my heart and hope to die.’

His head tosses on the pillow:

‘I want you. I want you so bad.’

She taps the syringe and grins:

‘This stuff will blow your mind. It’s a real roller coaster. Are you ready?’

‘What is it? Heroin?’

‘A secret formula. I don’t even know myself.’

‘Another foul concoction of Dr. Pontius?’

‘No. Pontius ignores your right to self-determination. But I want you to be complete. I want you to be happy.’

Frustrated, he yanks at his manacles:

Happy? Do I look happy to you?’

‘I’m going to make you happy. Be still.’

‘You might as well give up. I’ll never find those silos.’

‘That’s because you’re blocked.’

‘Blocked? That’s an understatement.’

‘In my experience, most psychic blocks come from childhood trauma. Or repressed desires – usually of a sexual nature. They’re the chief mischief-makers of hysteria.’

‘Is that how you see me? Hysterical?’

‘I didn’t say that. I said you were blocked. Sexual energetics can release those blocks. Do you know there is a proven link between unobstructed sexual energies and telethesia?’

‘Don’t give me all that hidden sexual conflict tosh! Let me go. I don’t belong here.’

‘Then where do you belong?’

‘I don’t know. The past is a blur. Pontius said I went to Borstal. But I don’t remember Borstal. You’d think I’d remember going to a remand home for wayward boys.’

‘Do you remember jumping from the train?’

‘Yes. But what happened before that is all in pieces. And I can’t make sense of it. Either way, I don’t belong here. Not in this place.’

‘This place is all you’ve got in the world. You’re better off with Mummy. I understand you. I know how you tick.’

‘You can’t fool me any more. I know you work for Schneider.’

‘You remember Schneider?’

‘Yes. And I know that you spoke to him.’


‘Last night. On the telephone. Don’t deny it.’

‘You’re right. I did speak to him. About you.

I knew it. Well Schneider can find someone else to do his dirty work. I’m not his performing monkey. Telekinesis hurts. It really hurts. Does Schneider know about my nosebleeds? And all the blinding headaches?’

‘I’m on your side baby, believe me. I care for you. Really, I do. You’re important to me.’

‘To your job, you mean.’

She clasps his hand in earnest:

‘I can make you complete. Don’t you want to be complete?’

He whispers:


‘To be who you really are inside?’


‘Only I can do that for you. You won’t reach your full potential until you find psychic totality. I can make that happen. Unlock your telesthesia.’


‘I’m going to take you down The Crystal Staircase.

‘Crystal staircase?’ asks Jack, intrigued. ‘What’s that?’

‘It’s a secret…’

Brandishing the syringe, she edges up beside him:

‘Don’t move baby, or I’ll miss the vein.’

‘What will you do? Dress me as a little girl again?’

‘Would baby like that?’

He breaks down and wails:

No! No! Why can’t you make me a man? How shall I ever be a girl with these brute bones? And a face of ten thousand whiskers!

She pulls the needle away, soothing his brow with the cup of her hand:

‘Mummy will make it better.’

You can’t! It’s impossible! It’s too late! It’s all too late!

‘It’s never too late baby… Not for my magic.’

‘It was magic that got me here in the first place! Oh please, I beg you, you must listen. We’ve done terrible things. Such terrible things…’

‘Hush baby. Don’t talk. Let me find your pacifier…’

She digs in her bag and produces a dummy with a monstrous teat. She tongues it seductively, wetting it between her glossy lips, then pops it in his mouth:

‘Suck for Mummy. Baby likes to suck…’

But he spits it out in defiance:

‘Listen to me. Your dream. Your suicide—’

Enough!’ she snaps.

At once her tenderness evaporates and she fixes him with an icy glare:

‘You will do as you’re told.’

Jack writhes in his restraints and exclaims:

But I know why you jumped from Saint Jeane en Grève!

She smiles again, playing the part, brushing him off with a pat on his diaper:

‘It was just a dream baby. Forget about it. Mummy doesn’t want to hear about nasty dreams.’

‘But it wasn’t a dream! Don’t you understand? It was real! It was the Old World. We knew each other. We met in Paris on the Petit Pont. I had a stall there. Remember?’

‘Don’t be absurd,’ she flusters. ‘How could I possibly remember such a thing? That was centuries ago!’

‘Ah! So you admit that the Old World is real.’

‘No I don’t.’


She looks hurt:

‘Hypocrite? Why?’

‘You believe in Bridey Murphy’s reincarnation. But not mine – or yours.’

‘Bridey Murphy was a different case entirely.’

‘How was it different? Ah yes, I know: she was perfectly sane – but I’m a dissociative hysteric. And mine is a very mixed neurosis.’

‘I don’t want to hear another word about it. Now be good and take your medicine.’

‘Do you know what that stuff does to me?’

‘I know you like it baby. You can’t resist.’

‘That stuff is poisoning my brain. It makes me see things. Things I don’t want to see. Things you wouldn’t believe. Listen to me. Please. It’s important. Saint Jeane en Grève. Your suicide—’

She slaps his face:


Before Jack can say another word, she gags him with the dummy and buckles the head-strap:

‘Suck for Mummy. Baby loves to suck. Suck and drool. Good baby. Mummy knows what you like. I’m going to put you in a beautiful frock. Oh yes I am! With a big frilly petticoat. My magic is strong. So strong. You’re going to be pretty. So very pretty. Now hold still darling. Just a little scratch…’

Selena perforates his vein, pushing the plunger, whispering tenderly:

‘Sweet baby. My sweet, sweet baby…’

When the syringe is empty, she chirps:

‘There. All done! What a good girl!

Jack groans with pleasure as she releases the ligature. An effervescent glow runs up his arm, engulfing his mind in glory. At once the world implodes, and Selena shrinks to the size of a small fairy. She hovers before his eyes, fluttering her silver wings:

‘Let the world go, baby. Let it all go… Give in to the rush… You know you want this. You can’t resist. You don’t want to resist. Going deeper. Deeper for mummy… Deeper is better. Deeper is good. Deeper is safe…’

Jack lies motionless, as if enraptured by some heavenly vision, his eyes fixed on the ceiling with limpid dilated pupils. He feels his mind expanding beyond the confines of his skull – beyond the cell, the asylum and its precinct… The air about him wavers with a blue ethereal fire. Sounds become colours and colours become sounds. The bark of a dog attracts the moon in an indescribable way, and is re-echoed in his left foot. Selena becomes a glissando of harmonic intervals that tingle his bones: her platinum hair – a steel Dobro; her blue eyes – an oboe; her red lips – a serpent horn; and her pink nails – piping flutes. Her polka dot dress is a symphony of silver spheres dancing in a manifold of hyperspace. And her siren voice an array of coloured firework fountains. Distant footsteps become grey columns, rising and falling across an infinite blue plane. His attention turns to the barred window, where fractal ferns creep over the icy pane, creaking and groaning like keeling ships.

But then his synaesthetic perception is infiltrated from without. He trembles at a nebulous presence – something menacing and dark. A soft murmur envelops him and a mauve mist gathers about his head. The contents of space are inverted: top becomes bottom; inner, outer; large, small. His cell flips inside-out, and his cot hangs upside down on the exterior of a giant bubble, with the whole asylum inside it. He beholds the cosmos, enveloped by his own soul. A holistic vision of God. Yet this entire infinity is set within the tiny clasp of Selena’s diamond ring. The bubble pops and Jack tumbles into the crystal – a kaleidoscope of higher dimensional polytopes. He hears the ravings of priests, the cackle of witches, and the wind howling in the trees. Then a blinding light flashes on the horizon, brighter than a thousand suns.

Suddenly his cell is snatched away, as if by some alien force. Then another cell, black and boundless, penetrates from above. This new cell is empty, subtle and terrifying: a second space that cuts across the previous space. He feels as if a profound question is being put to him: an order to submit and die, or push on further into the unknown.[iv]

Selena checks his pulse against her watch. Just twenty beats per minute. When the psychotropic agent has taken full effect, she adjusts his headphones and flicks the Dynavox T-26. The reels jolt into motion and Jack hears her Texan drawl, pulsing between his ears. The siren mews in resonant waves that seem to massage his temporal lobes. With every reverberation, he lurches back and forth through vaults of abyssal space:

‘My sweet one. My precious. Mummy is rocking you. Rocking you in your cradle. How soft it feels about your body. The pillow is soft. The blanket is soft. You are soft. Everything is soft. So soft. Falling into softness. Into a soft pink warmth. Feeling so sleepy now… Feel that warmth permeate your mind – a soft pink cloud, enveloping your body. Sink into pink. Good baby…

Going deeper… Feeling that rush take you away… Away on a warm flood of becoming… A lovely pink rush, from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes. My perfume makes you so sleepy. So sleepy. Can you see the polka dots flying off my dress? So many polka dots dancing in the air…

Deeper down… Deeper with Selena. I’m kissing you all over. Kissing you all over. Licking you all over. All the little polka dots landing on your body… Melting like butter on your skin… Making you soft and silky. Dissolving your maleness away. Come close to my body… Closer… Good girl. Let yourself go. You want to let go. Abandon yourself. Relinquish control. Good girls always let go. Mine is the path to peace and resolution. To freedom. To happiness… Go deeper…

‘Into my depths… Into my heart and soul… My depths are your depths. As you fall into me, you fall into yourself. Into freedom. Slip into me. Absolute freedom begins with a pure self-identity. Your true essence is an undivided substance of absolute freedom. Find yourself in me. Consciousness is the element in which all beings have their substance. No earthly power can resist your spirit; it ascends the throne of the world and penetrates all matter. Your anima is a being of absolute Notion, indivisible, unconquerable and perfect in itself…

Deeper for mummy… Falling into pink… Falling into feminine… Dissolve in the pink; pink is your first postulate; pink is the harmony of your morality and objective nature; pink is your becoming; pink is your goal; pink is the colour of your absolute determinate fate; pink is love; pink is the resolution of your reason and sensuous will. Sink into pink…

‘You are falling into Selena. Like a little drop of ink, falling into a glass of water. A little pink drop, teasing slowly apart. What strange ribbons we make, as we swirl round and round and round. Feel the unseen forces pulling you asunder; unstitching, unlacing, disentangling. The female currents, spiralling, curling, bending and twisting. The lunar tides and flows, expanding, contracting, unravelling. Dissolving into me. My womb. My blood. Moulding and sculpting the embodiment of you. A beautiful wraith. The essence of me in you. Of you in me. Our bodies becoming one…’

‘I will lead you to The Hidden Light. The light within yourself. And you shall experience many wonders of womanhood. Great wonders, more wonderful than anything you could imagine. Wonders of the Earth and of the Heavens. Not lying wonders, but true wonders. For my wonders are facts, and my facts wonders. Your powers shall increase beyond your wildest dreams. By which you shall know the mysteries of Nature and Time. You shall become the oracle of oracles: a Sibyl more illustrious than the Delphic priestess…’

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2021. All rights reserved.

i. ‘The World as Perceived’, Phenomenology of Perception, by M. Merleau-Ponty.


iii. Revelation, 16:8.

iv. Fischer, Raum-Zeitstruktur und Denkstörung in der Schizophrenie, p. 253.

Image © Nicholas Shea 1992-2021. All rights reserved.