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solitude

By , Dexter, MI
My tale is not necessarily a happy one. It was 1837 when it happened. I was 15 and oh so happy, I had a beautiful house, wonderful friends, and loving parents. I was beautiful too, I had the bluest eyes, and hair as black as night. It all went downhill on September 17, 1837.
I was running through the streets, my feet pounding hard against the cobblestone. Soon I was panting from the exertion of it all, my corset had not allowed for my breaths to come easily, my black boots had soon pinched my feet to such an extent that I was barely running at all. But I had to keep going or the thing would eat me alive, the wet, green, glob that was just oozing with a yellow pus that smelled of sulfur. Slower and slower I ran, almost tripping over myself in the mere horror and desperation of the moment.
I woke with a cold sweat covering my body. I was shaking uncontrollably, and not for the first time, this had happened almost every night for many words. Suddenly I hear a knock at my door.
“Miss? Your Mother would like you downstairs immediately.” My maid Hester announced that cold, dreary morning. “And she also said to make sure you were presentable.”
“Okay, thank you Hester.” I called back
Company, the last thing I need, what I do need is to get rid of this damned headache pounding through my brain before I have to plaster a smile on may face and be polite to whomever is so important that my mother felt it necessary to wake me up for. I hurriedly pull my favorite dress on over my undergarments and pull my hair back into a tight bun the way ladies my age are supposed to do, and rapidly walked down the stairs to meet my mother.
She was standing beside a man who seemed to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s. He had black hair that was freckled with grey. His demeanor was that of a pompous old man thinking he was better than others. Immediately I despised him.
“Fern, this is Dr. Jones, he is here to discuss your..... dellusions.” My mother informed me, lips pursed and eyes boring into my soul like always.
“How do you do Dr.Jones?” I inquired politely.
“Very well thank you, should we proceed to the sitting room to continue this conversation?”
“I think that is a wonderful idea, come along Fern.” My mother agreed.
While walking into the sitting room, I catch Dr. Jones staring at me, when he notices me watching him, he just coughed and sat down.
“So, Ms. Rosewood, would you like to tell me what has been occuring these past few weeks?”
“Well, I’ve had dreams that I was running in the streets of London with a grotesque monster chasing me.”
“Can you explain to me what the monster looked like?”
“Well, It is basically a big glob of yellow pus that smells of sulfer, it has very sharp serrated teeth.”
“Interesting, very interesting. Have you had any other hallucinations like that?”
“Well, if you count seeing pixie’s surrounding me at different parts of the day...”
“I do count that,” Dr.Jones chuckled. “ Well I’m going to take my findings in to examine them and we will let you know in a week at the latest.”
“Thank you very much Dr.Jones, I will see you again in about a week.” My mother smiled as she said this.
“Yes, goodbye Dr. Jones.” I said with impatience.
As soon as he left, my mother turned to me, pursed her lips, and said “I can’t believe you were so rude to poor Dr. Jones, I am ashamed of you Fern.”
“What did I do?” I basically screamed at her.
“What did you do? You took your own sweet time getting dressed and presentable when he has more important things to attend to.”
“Well it’s not my fault my bloody brain is pounding in my head to such an extent that I can barely stand, let alone be civil to someone.” I spat with as much venom as I could.
She opened her mouth to say something, but all that came out was “ Go up to your room and think about what you just said to me, and watch your language.”
“Fine.” With that I ran up to my room.
Soon I heard three taps at my door, a signal that Hester and I made up so we could tell who it was at the door.
“Come in.”
“ I brought you your dinner miss.” She hesitated.
“Thank you Hester, and as I have said before, call me Fern.”
“Are you ok, I mean do you want to talk about it...Fern?” She whispered.
“What is there to talk about, I’m completely mad, Dr. Jones will probably return with my entrance into Bedlam.” I joked.
“Oh no miss, you musn’t think like that.”
“To late.” I responded with a smile on my face to assure her I said this in jest.
“Well Fern, I have to go clean, no more thinking like that okay?”
“Okay Hester what ever you say.”
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*the next day at noon*
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Suddenly there was a knock at the door, my mother, who was actually being kinder to me than I expected after yesterday, hastened to answer the door.
“Dr. Jones, what a pleasent surprise.” I heard my mother exclaim with fake enthusiasm.
“Yes, I have your daughters diagnosis with me, may I come in?”
“Oh, yes of course you may, we are just eating our lunch, you may join us if you would like.” My mother offered.
“Actually I just ate, thank you for the generous offer though.”
“Well would you like a drink? Scotch or Brandy perhaps?”
“That would be wonderful.”
When he was content with his scotch, he proceeded to tell us my diagnosis.
“Fern has a dellusional disorder, it’s progression will only continue to affect her mind and body, the specialists think that it could be treated and possibly cured at Bethlem Royal Hospital.
I stared at him in horror, me, at Bethlam? Was he insane?!! Did he want me to die or something? I’d heard about Bethlem, or Bedlam as some people called it, and it doesnt sound like a very nice place. I know that the hospital originated somewhere around the year of 1247, but around 1337 is when it actually started admitting “patients”.

They also hold dances at the hospital for the patients to get socialization with people who were not crazy, though most of London is, and always will be, crazy. They used to let people peer into the “rooms” (which were more like cells than actual rooms) for a penny! I wanted to say something to Dr. Jones, but my mother beat me to it.
“Dr. Jones there must be some mistake, I can’t let my daughter go to Bedl- I mean Bethlem, no offense, but she’d never get better in there! She would probably turn crazier than you proclaim she is now!” My mother almost screamed.
“Mrs. Rosewood, please see reason, we can’t treat your daughter at your home, and if she isn’t treated for her disease she could become completely insane, you don’t want that do you?” He asked in is most reassuring voice.
“No but-.”
He cut my mother off “ then its all settled, we will ready her room and I will be back here in an hour to collect her and her belongings,” he smiled, “don’t worry we’ll take good care of her and you can visit anytime you like.”
With that he promptly left the room, leaving my mother silently sobbing and me staring at the spot his imposing figure stood moments before.
“Fern you should go pack your things.” My mother whispered, trying to hold back the tears that I could see cascading down her face.
I tried to imagine her emotions right now, her husband dead, her only daughter pronounced a lunatic. I hated myself for it, hated that I had to leave her alone, hated Dr. Jones for insisting I go to the horrible asylum, because that’s what it really was, an asylum and a prison, soon to be my home.







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The carriage ride to my prison or, wonderful new home! as Dr. Jones put it, was loud bumpy and boring. There was nothing to occupy me except or my thoughts. I was on the verge of breaking into tears, when the driver tapped lightly on the door

“Miss? We’re here.”

With that I climbed out of the carriage and climbed the steps toward certain misery.

Oh, the smell, it hit me as soon as I opened the door, sulfur mixed with sweat, and was that blood I detected in the air? The surroundings seemed clean enough but I could hear faint screams of the crazed, and wondered if that would someday be me. Dr. Jones sauntered up to me.

“Well you made it here in one piece at least,” he chuckled, probably trying to make me feel more comfortable, “would you like me to show you to your room?”

I didn’t say anything, just nodded my head and watched his face fall out of the fake, plastered on smile.

“Right, well, lets get this over with.”

With that, he started down the hall, and I followed him, because what choice did I have?

The halls were dimly lit, and the “rooms” were a little brighter so you could see the “patients”. They all peered through the bars, curious to see the new arrival.

Suddenly Dr. Jones stopped and turned toward a small, but fairly clean cell.

“Well this is your room, this is also where you’ll spend the duration of your treatment.”
Translation: You are to stay here until someone comes to let you out. Keep it clean because you will most likely be spending the rest of your life in here. Most of all, don’t make it hard on yourself and scream, it’ll only make things worse.
He unlocked the door and gave me a brief tour of my new room.
“There’s the toilet, we will let you out every 3 days to bathe. You will get food from that slot there, and your bed is right there. I think thats all.” He backed out of the room, carefully locked me in and walked off.
Some of the inmates screamed obscenities as he walked past and tried to catch him like a child would grab for her father’s coattails, but I just curled up on the rock hard bed, and lost myself in the screaming, the headache, and the sadness of it all. I fell asleep, and everything after that was just a blur, nothing to make sense of, that last day was the only real thing I remember.
So, I ask you, what makes us human if people pronounce our imperfections as insanity?



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