(continued from part 5)
“She was convinced that this… thing, was real. She was obsessed with it. In her last days, she spoke of nothing else.”
“Poor woman. How was it she… ah, forgive me. I shouldn’t pry.”
“You were going to ask how she died? Its alright. Its seldom I get to speak of these things to anyone, the old family isn’t particularly keen to come down here anymore, especially not Varney.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Not as sorry as I am. Well, anyways, to the heart of it. You can see from the book – though you had doubtless already heard – Ms. Montefremont was most fond of drawing. She sketched ceaselessly, from sun up to nightfall, everyday, without exception. After her first… suicide attempt, I had her pencils confiscated. Too dangerous. After the third, I forbade staff from providing her access to any pointed objects with which she might be able to harm herself or another member of the staff. Only soft charcoal was permitted. Foolishly one of the orderlies forgot to check the package one after noon — god, I still remember it, as if it had but happened yesterday — and… inside that charcoal packet was a small art scalpel, for sharpening the stick to requisite length and width. She… she cut her wrists. It was… I found her. Soaking in a pool of her own blood and there upon the wall, scrawled in her own wet red were the words: ‘metal talon’d and malcontent | smoked in ire til all bloods spent | til the last seeds of time expire | whence fades all the vaunted fires | to the deep and soundless place | I cast myself into your embrace.’ Below the bloody scrawl was a picture… of that… thing, from the book. The thing from the ‘deep and soundless place.'”
I could see that the recollection had greatly affected the director, so much so that it was clear he was fighting back tears. I had never seen him so upset before.
“That’s truly dreadful. I don’t know what to say.”
“You need say nothing.” He turned and looked out the window where the moonlight crystallized over the treetops like an eldritch mist.
I agreed and thanked him for the drink and the conversation, shook his hand and left him to his leathery, half-smoked cigar and bourbon and headed to my chambers down the hall.
I dreamt that night. Of Clarisa, though I had never met her. She sat playing a piano in the main lobby of the asylum, smiling as I approached. The tune she played was foreign to my ears, dissonate and unnerving, yet, simultaneously enthralling as her mundane beauty. We sat playing together until my hands tired and I, quite accidentally, hit out of key, whereupon Clarisa look shrunk from me muttering strange words as the piano strings clanged and transformed into massive centipedeal beasts that slithered across the ground and up the wall as a thrumming noise, or something like a noise, filled up the ambit of my consciousness. Words began to form from the overwhelming sibilation, spoke as if by many voices in semi-unison, and all of a different tone and tenor.
“-down the spiral inside the blooded womb right triangle awry structures distended still standing neath their angular shade pulsing flesh howls like rabid dogs skin tearing off the vegetal mold mocked by lichen licked by stone inside a cage ribcage necrophage scratching branches reaching vainly to welkin-sparks gray snail’d as depraved scales hanging heavy-lidded over fat and bulging eyes spellbound by heaving breasts and seamen spurts hips like lances minds like glue sticky weak and loose cleared by wreakful return and the chittering call the furnace strikes and piston shrieks and machinic talons razor gleaming steam screaming clanging hanging metal-cleaver-sharp the red-iron-brand smoked with rhea’s black blood-”
I realized with shock and horror that it was my mouth that was moving, my tongue that spake forth those strange and insane lines. “Clarisa!” I howled, turning to where she had been and finding nothing but her clothes, covered over in chitinous scales. Upon closer inspection, they were not her clothes at all, but mine.