Boston Public Library
Read Part One Here.
Read Part Two Here.
Read Part Three Here.
I’m sorry if there are typos in this. I’m a little drunk. It’s funny, you know, I said I tossed most of the old man’s stuff, and that’s true. But I found his secret stash of vintage scotch in an old milk crate covered with newspapers and I brought that along. Figures he’d hide something like that from me, the only real treasure in his whole dump of a place.
I guess he tried to hide the journals, too.
Anyway. I only made it a few more entries before I started hitting the bottle. Just like Gramps after Clara asked him to bring her a child… the first time. Must run in the family.
I know what you must be thinking. I’m making all this up. Or, at worst, it’s real and Gramps was just crazy. That he belonged in that asylum with the rest of them. But there’s just this… feeling I have as I read. It feels so authentic. So raw. Those pages of ‘God help me’ that Gramps scrawled over and over again… you can practically taste the desperation.
And there’s something else, too. But before I tell you that, take a look at what Gramps wrote after he claimed that Clara came back.
August 20, 1903
It was a dream. Surely, it was but a dream. Clara’s suicide has weighed heavily on me and resulted in a fever dream of sorts.
I have been telling myself this for nearly a week. I will continue to tell myself this.
It was but a dream.
August 23, 1903
God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you allowing this demon to torment me so?
Last night, Clara tapped on the pane of my bedroom window with her long, slender fingers. Her face still glows with that healthy aura she had in her final days in the asylum but she is as pale as the moon in the sky.
I told her to go away. I climbed out of bed, careful not to wake Mary in her delicate state, and hissed at the window for Clara to leave us be.
Outside, hovering eye-to-eye with me as I begged her from the second floor of my modest home, Clara smiled.
She told me, again, I would bring her a child.
I opened my mouth to tell her to go back to hell where she came from and instead asked her when.
She pointed one long, slender finger at my sleeping wife. When she is ready, she whispered.
I pleaded with her. I said I would do anything she asked. I would find a child in town, a vagrant, someone who wouldn’t be missed. I asked her through my tears to reconsider.
Clara shook her head.
Anything, I begged. I will do anything.
She shook her head, back and forth, a simple patient gesture: no.
Behind me, I thought I heard Mary stirring. I turned, saw her motionless, and looked back to the window. Clara had lifted it, somehow, and seized me by the face, pressing her full lips to mine, diving her tongue deep inside my mouth.
It was as though my body was on fire. Without thinking I lifted my hands to rake them through her long dark hair but she pulled away at the last second, just before my fingertips could touch it. It looked like black silk shimmering in the moonlight.
When she is ready, Clara repeated, and then she was gone.
I woke with a start back in bed. I was… in a manly way. Mary was sleeping soundly beside me.
At first, I believed it had all been a dream. I wanted so badly to believe it was another dream.
Then I saw the curtains waving in the breeze.
I have begun to dread the birth of my child.
August 27, 1903
Dr. Bowen is anxious, jittery. He appears to have not slept in several days. I believed it was due to the disappearance of a female patient from the second floor east wing but I heard him mumbling to himself as I mopped outside his office. Mumbling about how it was impossible, utterly impossible.
I cannot pretend I do not know what he means.
September 19, 1903
I have not seen Clara in quite some time. Perhaps it was a dream after all. Perhaps I was sleepwalking, opened the window in my slumber. Perhaps Dr. Bowen has been mumbling about something else entirely.
The patient from the second floor east wing, Anne-Marie, has still not been found.
Mary is well and hopes to give birth before winter. I cannot shake the blanket of uneasiness that falls over me when I consider this but I try to remember: perhaps it was a dream after all.
November 11, 1903
Anne-Marie has been found. I wish I could say she was found unharmed.
A patient from the east wing broke down crying before an electroshock therapy session. He begged the doctors to hold off, to not put the device on his head, if they would stop he would tell them where Anne-Marie was.
Dr. Bowen was angry but, with four other nurses in the room, had no choice but to call in the local sheriff. The patient led them to the forest at the edge of the grounds where they found a fairly freshly-dug grave. And again to another part of the forest, to another grave. And again to five more graves.
The patient sobbed as he told them he had never wanted to hurt Anne-Marie. It was just that she was the easiest, the closest, the one he had access to. But the witch wouldn’t stop. She gave him the keys, she told him what to do. She said she needed something.
I was mopping the lobby when I heard all this as they took him away in a straightjacket. He was raving, eyes wild, insisting that he had the proof, just check his cell, it was hidden inside his pillow. What the witch wanted. Check his pillow, the proof was there.
While Dr. Bowen was dealing with the police, I snuck away to the second floor east wing. I went to the patient’s cell, which had been cleared out after the ruckus that occurred when he was taken away. I ran my hand along the pillow and found a slit in the pillowcase.
Inside, shoved amongst the cheap filling, were seven human teeth.
I do not know what to make of this.
November 15, 1903
I have been thinking — why the forest? Why would the patient bury Anne-Marie in the same place that Clara led all those other patients to hang themselves? What use would Clara possibly have use for human teeth?
I wish I could ask the apprehended patient but he has already been… dealt with. And now he is beyond reach.
November 19, 1903
Dr. Bowen has closed his office door and rarely comes out. When I do catch glimpses of him, his face is pale and drawn. Dark circles hang beneath his eyes. The nurses gossip, say that he is worried the hospital will face fines after Anne-Marie’s murder.
I think he can hear the tapping on his window at night as well.
December 2, 1903
Mary has given birth to a girl! A beautiful baby girl. She is so lovely, so small. I would do anything to keep her safe. Her birth has ignited a fire inside me that cannot be put out. Of this, I am sure.
I will keep Ruth safe. With my life. One look into those eyes as blue as a summer sky and I know I am powerless to do anything but that: keep this beautiful creature safe.
December 11, 1903
Children are going missing in town. Mostly children who worked in factories, snatched on their way to or from their daily shifts. At first I was frightened but I paid close attention to my comings and goings. Asked Mary to do the same. I found no gaps in my memory, no unusual black spots. Mary showed no signs of suspicion.
Ruth is thriving. Mary, she remains weak from the birth, but I have no doubt she will recover.
December 30, 1903
1904 is upon us. Last year at this time Dr. Bowen gave a rousing speech about the asylum’s impending success, how it would stand as a monument to modern medicine and reform. This year he wished us a happy new year in barely-heard mutters and retreated to his office. He looks worse than ever. I could’ve sworn on his way out of the dining hall he looked at me. And he looked… guilty.
January 2, 1904
Ruth has been missing for two days. Mary is inconsolable.
I told the police, upon her disappearance, to speak with Dr. Bowen. I was convinced — convinced — that it was he who had taken her. Whether it was under Clara’s spell or of his own accord, I was absolutely sure it was Dr. Bowen.
And then they told me. He had been found hanging in his office before the skeleton crew shut up the asylum for the new year. He left no note.
Now I am not sure what to think. And, what’s more, I am frightened of what I might think.
Ruth, my little Ruth, she’s gone and I couldn’t protect her and what’s more, I am suddenly worried, so worried that I know who took her after all.
Gramps. Gramps, is this what I think it means? God, I never had an aunt so I can’t help but think…
I’ve already finished one of the old man’s bottles of scotch. Isn’t that funny? Thought he could hide them from me, the bastard.
And I guess that’s why I can tell you now. What I wanted to tell you before but couldn’t. One of the reasons I can’t dismiss Gramps’s journal as pure bullshit. Part of it is the feeling, but another part? Another big part that I can’t deny, as much as I’d like to?
Every night for the past few nights, there’s been a noise at my window. Specifically, tapping.
I’m too scared to look.
Read Part Five Here.