The Curious Patient

My Dear Emil,

It has been some years since we last corresponded, but I trust that you are well. Certainly, your practice appears healthy enough, judging from the occasional published works of yours that I have had the pleasure to read. What prompts me to write to you now is a continuation of the strange circumstances that I related to you in our last exchange. I had considered the matter closed after the disappearance, but I tell you now that my curious patient has returned.

It occurred yesterday evening, in what, for the individual involved could only be described as unsurprisingly dramatic circumstances. I, as has been my habit, had taken a stack of case notes from the day’s patients and a bottle of brandy into the study where I had planned to spend the next several hours making leisurely annotations. My own practice, though not as grand as yours, has done well these last two years. A number of quite interesting patients are housed in the asylum and my observations of these individuals often fills my quiet hours.

I had barely opened the first file when I heard a commotion in the hallway outside. I rose, opened the door and stepped out into the hall to see what the fuss was about. Foremost in my mind was that Mr Scully (an intense dipsomaniac) had somehow gotten loose again and was wandering the asylum in a state. Quite a different sight presented itself to me: Basil and Samuel, two of the orderlies, were half supporting, half carrying a man down the corridor away from me. I hurried to catch up, and as I came along side and saw who they were supporting, I felt a sudden twitch of recognition.

“Good Lord!” was all that I could exclaim. It was the patient. I recognised the curve of his back, and the long grey hair which hung loose, masking and framing his face. I rested a hand on Samuel’s shoulder to halt their progress and I examined The Patient in amazement. The grey hair was streaked and matted crimson in places and he hung loosely, like a doll, upon the shoulders of the orderlies. I brushed back the hair and turned The Patient’s face into the light.

As had been his custom before, he still wore the same mask of greasepaint. Or at least, I could see what was left of its most recent application. I recall a white base, with dark or crimson diamonds, or sometimes just outlines of such over his eyes as whim took him. Now it was smeared off and smudged, masked itself by the blood and welts that had painted quite a different pattern upon his countenance.

“Quickly, let’s take him into the infirmary.” I indicated to the orderlies, pointing down the corridor. “What on earth could have happened to him?”

Samuel gave a slight jerk of his head towards the figure half draped around his shoulders and replied, “Can’t say Doctor, he just turned up at the door. He’s been worked over right proper, I’d say. I was just making my rounds, when I heard a crash from the step, outside, like one of the pots breaking. I opened the front door to see what it was, and found him lying there.”

He was light, making the carrying him into the infirmary hardly difficult. There, I stripped him of the tattered rags that he wore and began to work upon his wounds. Samuel’s estimation was quite correct, from what I could see: The Patient had been beaten quite badly. However, it was not until I pulled away horrifyingly sticky cloth from his back that I saw the real damage. Two deep incisions upon his lower back, most likely from some kind of blade, oozed fresh blood. We lay him down and I opened the wooden draws that held my instruments, hoping that my surgical skills did not squeak with the same disuse.

As I write this The Patient is resting in his old room, here at the asylum, still unconscious. I have cleaned my tools and hope that my abilities have not atrophied too much since my days at the hospital. Time shall tell, I suppose. And no doubt, so will my patient, in his own way. He may already have, perhaps. As we carried him into the infirmary I was supporting him and his head fell near my ear. Perhaps I imagined it, but I thought I heard him whisper, or perhaps just breathe these words to me:

“The grains fall … fall too fast.”

I remember your interest in this patient two years ago, and so I undertake to keep you up to date with any developments.


Dr Robert Oatman


~ by Electro-mechanical Man on April 1, 2011.

One Response to “The Curious Patient”

  1. Something I wrote a few years ago that I regretted never finishing off.

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