By Cheshire Grin
I've a new patient today! The Director said that this one would require all of my 'special' talents. Bah! The old man knows as well as I that this particular case is almost certainly hopeless! No doubt the old fool wishes to put me back in my place after I spoke up about the drilling at the last meeting. Still, I have little choice but to accept it. One can only hope that it will prove more fruitful than first impressions indicate.
A peculiar patient she certainly is! Elizabeth Rye is her name, yet she responds only to the title Alice and that infrequently. A grim figure she is to behold. Swaddled in bandages, she lies almost comatose in her cell, staring the ceiling and muttering occasionally to herself. The words are intelligible, gibberish and nonsense from the depths of some strange dementia. The burns are mostly healed by now, yet still require some small tending. The large scar beneath her collarbone is far more disquieting.
The orderlies from the hospital informed me of her details when they brought her in. It certainly is a tragic case. Lord but how I despise these kinds! Parents murdered before her very eyes by that damned lunatic who escaped last year. I understand they still haven't caught him. Damn the man! If only he had not set fire to the house as he left, this might have been quite a different case altogether. It is quite a miracle in fact that the wretched girl has survived. Yet, as I look at her, I cannot help wondering if she were not given the crueler fate, to linger on in dementia after her family has departed.
The orderlies informed me that she lay insensate for more than three months after the fire. However, even those three months of rest and healing have not repaired girl's mind. It appears that the incident has done considerable damage to her psyche. I can say no more without a more prolonged diagnosis, yet I feel her future is grim. Would that I had not been delivered this burden! It is the children who are always the worst.
Spent the morning observing the girl. She seemed calm and indeed docile upon my arrival, crouched silently in the corner and muttering to herself in a soft fashion and yet the nurse informs me that she screamed like a phantom throughout the night. One can only wonder where she found the strength. Her appearance is unnaturally pale and emaciated. She would certainly not survive were it not for the victuals which we force down her throat.
I still find myself puzzled to give a diagnosis. She displays many of the symptoms associated with various illnesses but not all or enough to reach any conclusion. For one thing, I am unsure as to whether she has retained the power of rational speech. Calling her by name provokes no response. However when I address her as 'Alice' she will occasionally turn her head toward me in the most disconcerting manner. Yet her stare is blank and further attempts at communication provoke nothing. Often she will turn away while I am in mid-sentence and return to her soft ravings as if I were the one speaking nonsense and not her!
Nothing in the room seemed to interest her. The nurse spent a fruitless hour showing her picture books and reading stories. Still no reaction. It was as I brought a flame before her eyes to check the dilation of her pupils that Elizabeth first showed any response. As soon as she noticed the flame, she gave vent to the most hideous wails and fled to the far corner of the room, screeching and tearing at the wall so that her nails bled and the nurse was forced to restrain her! Indeed, I had not expected so violent a response although of course, in hindsight I most certainly should have, as fire has played such a large part in her personal trauma.
I spoke with Brandson that afternoon concerning a treatment and he recommended one of Fowler's elixirs, which I had been considering myself. He has used them quite often to effect in cases of severe dementia.
Elizabeth has so far shown no improvement. She still requires force-feeding and is either incapable of or refuses any attempt to engage in conversation. Indeed, she takes little notice of either myself or any of the nurses. She spends her days alternately crouched in a corner, gabbling to herself or upon her cot, staring blankly at the ceiling. She appears to have fled into some internal reality, estranged from our own. Nights are less peaceful however. Her screams are frightful to behold. She holds her own against any of the asylum's other inmates. I see now why the hospital was so anxious to be rid of her!
I have determined to try Fowler's elixir on a low dosage as an initial treatment. The correct dosage may be difficult to determine as too little may have no effect and as the medicine contains Strychnine and other such elements; it may prove fatal at high dose, especially to a child.
I am loath to try the bloodletting as is common is such cases. I fear the poor girl has little to spare! Still, if the potions prove ineffective it may provide some relief to her madness.
Distressing news in the papers this morning. Dodgson, the escaped lunatic has claimed another two victims down in Notting Hill. Both stabbed to death and the house set alight. What on earth are the police doing?
No change so far in Elizabeth. I have tried a number of variations of the elixir but to no avail. I am afraid I may have to increase the dosage. No stimulus appears to reach through her delirium but I am determined to draw her out whether she wishes it or not. As the weather improves I may try taking her outside. Some fresh air may do the wretched child good. I fear the glum walls of the asylum are no place for any youngster.
Dodgson has struck again, closer to Cheshire this time. This makes the ninth death. I begin to grow uneasy. The police seem unable to catch him. I now begin to doubt that they will. He was ever cunning as I well remember.
Curious reaction today! The spring weather has grown warm and I have been taking Elizabeth for strolls outside during the past week. She will walk when led but had otherwise remained apathetic until I had begun to despair. Today as we strolled through compound, Elizabeth observed two of the elderly inmates playing a game of chess upon which the girl became most agitated. She seemed reluctant to leave so I waited as she observed the game for long hours, growing more and more restless as it progressed. Finally, as the battle came to an end, she uttered the first intelligible word I had heard from her. 'Checkmate.'
So she can speak! I have resolved to obtain a set for her. Perhaps a few games may help draw more out of her.
Another death in the papers. The murders are becoming more frequent. I grow restless with this killer on the loose. Sleep is becoming difficult to find. I see his face in my dreams.
I inveigled upon Brandson to purchase a chess set for young Elizabeth. He has become most interested in her case it appears. Fortunate for her indeed! The set arrived yesterday and is quite a nice specimen as chess sets go. Elizabeth has proven herself a rare master. Astounding that such a young mind can so intuitively comprehend all the nuances of such a complex game! I myself have no great skill and she cuts down my pieces with ease. Nevertheless, it is no great loss as it seems to have gained her trust in some small manner. She speaks now, indeed as gaily as if she had always done so. Strange that this change should be so sudden! And yet, I fear it may be no great improvement. Elizabeth's speech is strange and incomprehensible. For one, she insists that her name is Alice. No effort can convince her of her real name. So adamant is she that my own mind now thinks of her as such. Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg! The girl talks to me as if I were a cat! It seems that a vast world exists within her head that I am only beginning to understand.
Tragedy today! Things could hardly be worse. I invited Brandson to play a game of chess with young Alice. It seemed the least I could do after he bought her the set. Besides, the girl needs a greater challenge and his talent for the game far surpasses mine. Would that I had foreseen what was to happen!
All was well at first. Brandson was a good opponent for the child. The game progressed with neither gaining the upper hand until Brandson, by dint of much effort succeeded in felling her queen. Who could have predicted such a reaction! The loss of this piece provoked young Alice into a fearsome rage. She flew at Brandson and attacked him savagely, screaming like a banshee all the while. It was as if some inner demon had been released. I was forced to call in the nurses and have the girl restrained and sedated. The poor man was scratched and bruised quite badly. The shock of it all has quite shattered my nerves. It is something indeed to witness a mere child bear down a full-grown man by sheer savagery!
What is worse, the Director caught wind of the incident. He has threatened to have the girl subjected to surgical drilling if it happens again. Curse the man! One would have thought he'd have learned his lesson after the last case, especially as the patient is still at large.
Closer and closer I draw to the centre of Alice's madness and find myself helpless in the face of it. Such a powerful dementia I have seldom seen in one so young. Yet strangely, in spite of all my failures I find myself relieved. Her internal world is fascinating! She tells me stories of her exploits as we play, though I am now exceedingly wary of taking her queen! Not that she would let me!
Strange tales they certainly are! She tells of gigantic forests of mushrooms, each larger than a tree among which prowl enormous insects. There are gardens full of talking flowers and oceans full of bizarre and mythical creatures. Yet, I fear a terrible hatred rages within. Always in these stories there are minions of the Red Queen, fearsome soldiers and dire beasts bent on the poor child's destruction. The figure of the Red Queen seems to be central in Alice's delusions. She refuses to describe the Queen herself yet it seems obvious that Alice pictures herself as an opposing queen. This certainly explains her rage during the game with Brandson. Also, though I had not made much of it until now, it explains why the girl always chooses the white side during our games.
More murders! The man tortures me. Slowly…slowly he makes his way here. I am almost sure of it now. Worse, his methods also begin to change. The three discovered today were missing their heads.
I believe the Director also suspects Dodgson's motives. Often these days have I seen him observing my work. Does he believe that I created this killer?
The Director's watchfulness has impressed upon me the need for progress. I can only surmise that the elixir is not working. Over the past week I have supplemented Alice's treatment with bloodletting. Yet this also has proved to be a failure. No changes in the wretched girl save an increased paleness of complexion. Does she respond to nothing!
No matter! I am not through yet! One more week I will allow the current treatment. If there is still no progress I will start with the shock therapy. A colleague in London has had some interesting results with a similar patient.
I can hardly credit it! The therapy appears to be working. Alice grows more and more lucid and I find myself able to hold quite long conversations with her. It appears the shock treatments will not be necessary. I cannot imagine what possessed me to consider them in the first place?
Alice refused to leave her bed today. She kept muttering 'The Red Queen comes!' over and over. I can't think what's come over her, unless… Does she know?
Weariness is catching up with me, I feel so tired these days. Perhaps it is just a part of growing old?
Another death! Nurse Ginley was decapitated as she arrived home last night. He is here! Police searched the area but found nothing. I find myself constantly looking over my shoulder. Alice remains in her cot, sobbing and muttering about the Red Queen. I should have listened to her earlier.
I have never felt such fear before. I seem to see Ginley's decapitated head peering at me from every shadow. My hands shake so that I can hardly write. Tomorrow I am buying a gun.
Soon. The Red Queen comes. Soon, she says.
Despite the fear, I can barely keep from laughing. After all, a queen without a king is lost from the start! Until recently, the King sat on my desk. But I have given him to Alice to hold. He is her prisoner now. Only one more move remains. But oh… I am so very scared.
Behind me, Alice seems to be whispering 'Checkmate' over and over again as she plays with the doll.
Why can't I stop grinning?
To Dr. Jonathon S. Macey,
Re: New Patient
I am entrusting a new patient to your care, one Lucius Crawford, an ex-doctor here. A peculiar case indeed! No doubt you read about it in the papers. Quite a shame really. As you know, it was that lunatic Dodgson. He broke into the asylum last month with a knife and attacked Dr Crawford and his young patient, one Elizabeth Rye. It appears that Crawford engaged the man and shot him down as he approached. We are still unsure as to which of the two was Dodgson's intended victim. As you are no doubt aware, Miss Rye survived an earlier attack by the madman, after he had murdered her parents. However, perhaps you are unaware that Dodgson was an ex-patient of Dr. Crawford.
Don't be too hard on the old fellow. He's quite the hero you know, however far gone he may be now. Poor man seems to think he's a cat! Mind you, that grin he's developed is rather disturbing. I can't help but think that there's no hope left for the old chap. Did you know that they found him having a tea party with his young patient? Some stuffed animal (possibly a rabbit?) was lying torn to pieces between them. The pair appeared to be attempting to eat it. Most odd!
I would suggest starting with a series of shock treatments. The man is quite docile and shouldn't give you any trouble, although you might try to avoid mentioning chess. It appears to upset him.
William H. Quincy, Director