The storyteller of pain, p.3
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       The Storyteller of Pain, p.3

           Loren Molloy
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  Delia reminded Lilian of a nature documentary she once saw in college. Predators in the wild. A bored predator waiting for a decent meal to peak its interest. It was a strange transformation from their meeting the day before. Delia’s eyes locked onto hers. Delia’s grin widened even more. Lilian suddenly felt like her blood turned to ice water. A chill ran down her spine. Fear, pure fear, had captured her senses completely.

  Fully aware of having Delia’s undivided attention, Lilian was determined to remain looking composed and undisturbed by any of it. She walked calmly and confidently to her seat. It happened to be across from Mrs. DelaCour. She didn’t feel composed or calm nor did she feel confident. She felt terrified. All that woman did was look at her with those creepy, cold, dead eyes of hers. No matter how she felt on the inside, she knew she had to show a calm front to her group and especially in front of Delia. One thing Lilian had learned was never show your fear.

  The insane always seem to get violent if they see fear in their captures’ eyes. Several years ago Lilian met a jail warden at some charity function who told her, ‘Riots happen when the captives see their captures’ as afraid and weak. Never show them you’re afraid. Gives them power over you and that’s never something you want with either criminals or the insane’.

  She never forgot it and that one bit of advice saved her numerous times throughout her career. Lilian opened her notepad per usual and gathered all her courage. She met Delia’s still waiting eyes that reminded Lily of two pools of liquid darkness, each surrounded by an ocean of white. Lilian smiled her most professional shrink smile and began.

  “Well Delia, as this is your first group session with us, let me introduce you to the other women you will be in group with every week. Going around the room clockwise, from your left is Eleanor, then Gladys. Next to her is Beatrice then Abagail who is the one holding onto her doll. Then next to her, that’s Sophia. She is sitting next to Vera. Lastly the woman sitting next to you, on your right, is Cora. And I as you already know I am Dr. SinClair, head psychiatrist here at Danvers Lunatic Asylum.

  Let’s now just go over a few rules that all the patients in group are expected to follow. Firstly, let me just say this room is a safe place for us to discuss whatever is necessary to aid in your recovery. Secondly, whoever is sharing needs to be treated with respect by everyone, by being supportive and quiet while the person is sharing. Everyone is expected to wait their turn to share. Do you understand me so far Delia?”

  Delia smiled and began, “Don’t you see I am a map of scars. Under this skin, under this flesh, a book of scars tells the story of my life. I’m like a patchwork quilt but nothing so pretty or so neat. Each scar is a story each story leads to another scar and then another story. The story is never complete. I am the storyteller of pain.”

  Lilian sighed loudly. “Ask a stupid question...get a stupid answer!’

  Abagail started giggling at her doll while chanting,

  “Stupid answer! Stupid answer! Stupid answer!”

  When Lilian looked up from her notepad, Delia’s face had contoured. She looked pissed. She looked furious. She was staring, very menacingly, at Abagail.

  “Abagail, enough now!” Lilian was suddenly fucking terrified.

  The air in the room had changed drastically. Colder somehow. To see Delia react to anything around her was astonishing, but somehow she also became even more terrifying than Lilian thought possible. It made it all the worse for her. There was an iceberg stuck in the bottom of her stomach. How Lilian, thankfully, was able to keep her voice relatively even but stern was a blessing.

  Abagail was now quiet and frozen in fear at Delia’s reaction. Lilian looked back at Delia. The reaction to the mimicry was too evident to be ignored. This reaction does not add up to her previous afflicted condition. She was obviously capable of so much more than just reciting a paragraph. More to the point, this certainly didn’t add up to mental illness. Yet she shouldn’t pry? Who is she kidding? How can I not pry now?

  Delia was still staring at Abagail who was staring very intently at her doll and nowhere else. Delia didn’t realize Abagail mimics people quite frequently. It was part of her pathology.

  Abagail had been one of Lilian’s first patients. Police had brought her in at 2 o’ clock in the morning. She remembers because the station called her at home to meet them there at the Asylum. The police found her locked in a travel trunk at the foot of Abagail’s parent’s bed. The parents were butchered. They were found hacked to death on the bed. 9 year old Abagail was forced to listen to her parent’s being murdered not 2 feet for where she was trapped.

  Police said when they finally discovered her, trapped inside, and got the trunk open, she was clutching that doll of hers and had her teeth firmly embedded in her own forearm to keep herself silent. Abagail still had the mark permanently engraved into her arm. She also still had that doll clutched in her hand at all times. To this day, Lilian couldn’t get her to explain how she wound up locked in the trunk in the first place. She was pretty sure it was a form of punishment the parents were using. Abagail was almost 15 now.

  Her body continued to grow into adulthood while her mind remained stuck at the age of 9 years old. Lilian believed some minds shatter into unfixable pieces. Some tragedies are just too much for one mind to handle. She believed it was a fail-safe method the brain uses.

  The brain, in Lilian’s opinion, realizes the horror is too much to comprehend, handle, and to survive; so it does the only thing it thinks it can, to save the person in question. It shatters. Maybe that’s the real reason Humpty Dumpty couldn’t get all the pieces to go back together. His brain was too scrambled. Lilian could almost hear the ‘rim shot’ sound off in her head.

  ‘Poor Abagail!’ Lilian thought. After years of working with her, she still couldn’t get Abagail to explain why she was in that trunk in the first place. All she would say was, ‘I was a bad girl. Bad girls get punished.’

  If Lilian tried to push it any further, Abagail would burst into a violent episode. She would then be heavily sedated and be brought back to her room. In all fairness to herself, there were more than 2,000 patients in Danvers and that number was steadily increasing. Lilian only had time to see Abagail once a week which was only in this weekly group session. With group sessions, there was just never enough time to discuss everyone’s issues in the same session. Purely impossible and completely frustrating, which is something she stated to her boss several times in the beginning.

  When she signed on, she believed she would heal her patient’s minds and send them on their way, back to the joys of their old lives. It made her think of the day she was hired. She was so proud. Her family was proud. She made the papers that day, shaking the hand of the Superintendent of the hospital and their lead medical doctor, Dr. Charles Page.

  She will never forget that day. She can still see Dr. Rushfeld opening the door to her office with a grand gesture and handed her a ring of keys.

  “The keys to this proud castle, Dr. SinClair, are now in your capable hands.” Dr. Rushfeld dropped the massive brass key ring into her waiting open palms with a flourish.

  It was a very proud moment for her. Lilian was only 21 at the time. She was the youngest to ever graduate with a PH.D and the youngest Head Psychiatrist ever to be assigned to the most prestigious Psychiatric hospital in the country.

  Lilian remembered, that moments after that, a tall, regal looking man strode confidently into the room. He was very dapper in his expensive tailored three piece steel-gray suit complete with top hat. He had this air about him. No one said “no” to this man. It was something you just felt, a potent mixture of power, money, and connections wafted off him in waves.

  He had thick honey-blonde, copper hair and mustache to match. Both obviously were clean, neat, and trimmed but it was his eyes that she would never be able to forget. A silent, hidden cruelty to them. They also matched his suit perfectly. Steel gray eyes that twinkled and shimmered with mirth. Not something you usually see and not somet
hing she would ever be able to forget.

  Dr. Charles Page walked into her office that day with several news reporters to take a candid photo of their new ‘crown jewel of the hospital’. It was the way he said it to her.

  “These reporters want a picture of me with our new crown jewel of the hospital.”

  The distain was heavy in his voice and the look in his eye was not one of joy or pride, but jealousy and cruelty. No one else seemed to notice. They all continued looking at him with such reverence and awe. Lilian couldn’t see the mask the rest of them saw. She saw the ugly truth. He was an evil son of a bitch that she would have to be very careful around.

  She had no proof. Nothing she ever heard about him was bad in the slightest. She heard he was a perfect gentleman. The right sort of person, one you want in your social circle. An intelligent capable man. A miracle to modern medicine.

  None of the women who spoke of him ever mentioned eyes, so cold they could cut diamonds or that the man could smile at you in such a way as to make you feel he was pondering the best method to kill you. She felt like there was a lead cannonball sitting in the bottom of her stomach and ice water slushed in her veins. She did not want to pose shaking hands with this scary bastard. She didn’t want him touching her, looking at her, or speaking to her.

  After the ordeal was over and Dr. Page and his goons of reporters followed behind him, Lilian turned to her college professor, mentor, and now boss and asked shakily,

  “Is he always like that?”

  Dr. Rushfeld looked genuinely surprised and said,

  “Dr. SinClair, you just graduated top of your class and the youngest ever to graduate from our fine alma mater. How can you be surprised that our beloved Superintendent is thoroughly proud to have you on board? Didn’t you see how happy he was? He even called you ‘our crown jewel!’

  For goodness sakes, modesty is one thing dear lady but you should realize what comes with such accomplishments. Your picture will be across the country tomorrow, shaking hands with the most prominent medical doctor in the country. He’s making amazing strides with surgical procedures that will help patients of all varieties. He’s been published in several leading medical journals and you’re shaking his hand in tomorrow’s paper. I see great things for you young lady. I should say, Dr. SinClair!”

  He made a slight bow and tipped his cap in respect for her new title!

  Lilian blushed slightly to see her favorite college professor do such a thing to her. It was a very sweet gesture but a concern forced her to ruin the moment.

  “Dr. Rushfeld I do have a concern I’d like to share with you, if you please.”

  “Of course, Dr. SinClair whatever is it on such an auspicious day?” Dr. Rushfeld chuckled gently.

  “Well, it’s just that when I walked in this morning, I was given the monthly report and we are well over our quota for patients by quite a few. There also seems to be entirely not enough staff for all these patients. You know as well as I do, the staff to patient ratio going on at this hospital is atrocious. As my first act of office I’d like to hire on more staff and wanted to know the best way to go about it.”

  Lilian remembered being worried of his reaction even though she was completely right. There was, as of that mornings count, 679 patients in the asylum. That was 179 over the occupancy limit to begin with but having only 142 members of staff was totally ridiculous. The hospital was completely understaffed. Half of that number handled the kitchens, laundries, chapel, farm, and dormitory duties for the hospital. They didn’t even deal with the patients directly at all. It was mind boggling.

  When she was told they wanted her, she thought she was stepping out of her doctoral into a dream job. Now it seemed after she had signed all the papers and dotted all her i’s she had actually landed in an unorganized mess. She knew her predecessor died suddenly 2 months ago, but how he allowed this understaffing to happen she would never understand. It was very illegal and very dangerous to be so completely outnumbered by people who were put in there because they were violent, dangerous, and unstable.

  Dr. Rushfeld’s face had darkened since she began speaking. He looked pensive and troubled. Stroking his Van Dyke in deep thought as she’s seen him do a thousand times when he’s trying to figure something out he said,

  “Danvers doesn’t have the funding to hire on anymore staff. I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with what you already have. It’s not in this year’s budget but I’ll ask the board and committee at next year’s annual meeting about seeing if we can find some money for new hires.”

  “Dr. Rushfeld, you can’t be serious? How can there be no money available for new hires? This is the most prestigious lunatic hospital in the country!” Lilian was angry and very frustrated. They couldn’t really expect her to be ok with all this.

  “You are correct Dr. SinClair. This is the most prestigious lunatic hospital in the country. Dr. Page is making leaps and strides with his medical procedures and various treatments, so all funding goes to his work. The money went to his shock treatment machines, his hydrotherapy tubs, his insulin shock therapies, and his psycho-surgeries all of which are handled solely by Dr. Page.”

  Dr. Rushfeld ticked off each one of the items on his stubby, sausage-like fingers. Then intensely stared at her for a moment and said,

  “At this moment, he’s working on perfecting frontal lobe lobotomies. If he does, this hospital will become even more famous than ever before.”

  Lilian couldn’t believe her ears.

  “How is this okay? It’s Inhumane! Dr. Page essentially is perfecting scooping a chunk of brain matter out of a living person without having them die afterwards! The ones who survive come out drooling shells of a person. How can this be called helping? And the sheer amount of money this has to be costing the hospital to basically torture our patients must be astronomical if I can’t afford to hire even 15 new orderlies.

  Honestly, why can’t the money be spent on hiring more therapists, nurses, and orderlies? We would be able to have more individual therapy sessions and group sessions. These people come here to get help not become a science project for a Mad Scientist and they certainly didn’t come here to be turned into living vegetables. Dr. Rushfeld, you must be able to do something?”

  “What do you think I can do?” Dr. Rushfeld asked quietly.

  “’re on the Board, aren’t you?” Lilian asked feeling perplexed and dumbfounded by his reaction. This man was not the same man she had as a professor. This man looked defeated and weary.

  “Dr. Page is the Superintendent and is also Chairman of the Board for this hospital. Who’s going to argue with him? He is a very powerful man, Lily. He is not a man you trifle with. For your sake Lilian, be thankful for the nurses and orderlies you do have and whatever you do, don’t discuss this issue with anyone else. That would be dire to your career and your job hire.

  Don’t forget he is the man, who with a snap of his fingers, can have you blacklisted from practicing psychiatry in this state. Hell, I bet if Charles Page wanted to, he could have you blacklisted throughout this entire country. You’d be the youngest psychiatrist to ever be blacklisted and still have to find a job to pay off those considerable student debts you accrued getting your degree.”

  Lilian just stood there with her mouth hanging open in shock.

  “Now Dr. SinClair, I hired you as head psychiatrist for this hospital. You have one job. I suggest you stick to that and leave the rest to someone above your pay-grade. So once again, Congratulations, Dr. SinClair and I bid you a very good day.”

  Dr. Rushfeld tipped his cap and proceeded out of the office. Lilian was still holding onto the massive keyring. She thought, ‘I hold the keys to my prison as well as that of my patients now.’ Dr. Rushfeld was right. If she made any kind of stink about this, that evil son of a bitch would gladly make sure that she lost everything she worked for. There wasn’t a job she would ever be able to find after that, to pay off her debt. She was trapped. She was set up and completely tra
pped by her very own signature.

  She couldn’t quit! Nope, she remembered them saying that if she ever wanted to quit, she would have to give a 6 month notice and train her replacement before being allowed to leave. She signed that damn contract anyway. She never dreamed she would want to quit. Now she couldn’t because she had to submit her reasons for leaving, to the board, which obviously she couldn’t do, because the main reason was the chairman.

  She could lie but she knew if she quit, no matter what, it would affect her career. She was trapped like a canary in a cage. Lilian shuttered at the thought which brought her back to her group session. She had been sitting there daydreaming about the past instead of conducting her session. That’s a very dangerous thing to do whispered her subconscious.

  Looking around, Sophia was still pulling on her strawberry hair. Everyone was where they should be except Abagail. Panicked, Lilian scanned the room quickly and found her sitting in the corner of the room facing the wall. She had never done that before. Lilian looked back across from her. Delia was still sitting there calmly, smiling the same melancholy grin. Her eyes had gone back to their original crystal blue eyes. Whatever she saw there before, was gone now.

  How long was I daydreaming? Lilian looked at her wristwatch. Damn! Twenty minutes!! How was that possible? Thank God no one got hurt. Although Abagail never went and sat in the corner before. Then again, Lilian had never dazed out like that before to give Abagail such a chance. But why? Why is Abagail behaving in such a fashion? What transpired while she was daydreaming to cause this?

  Composing herself, Lilian walked calmly over to Abagail. Crouching down to get to eye level with her, Lilian asked cautiously, “Why are you in the corner?”

  “Bad kids get timeouts!” cried Abagail in a hushed tone.

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