Background ~ August 1881
While on his way to secure a better future for himself, Erik is involved in an accident that puts him through a physical and emotional trauma. This trauma has triggered his deeply buried memory to return to his troubled soul. He wakes in the mental ward of a hospital where he’s left to deal with the horrible truths about his past. Read more to have the questions raised in the third volume answered.
The Truth Be KnownA man’s cold and indifferent voice rang in my ears. “No! Don’t give him anymore! Doctor Hendricks wants him awake.”
Quickly, a second voice, a compassionate one, responded, “Then Doctor Hendricks can be here when he wakes, because I won’t be. I can’t watch him go through that again.”
“It’s by police orders, so …. ”
Their voices trailed off, a door closed, a lock turned, and so did my entire being. I fought to take in more air and tried to open my eyes, but, at best, both were feeble attempts. Hazy white was all I could see, and I blinked several times to clear my vision, all without results. My arms were too heavy to move and so were my legs, causing me to think I was hallucinating about Christine’s room, the Persian carpet, and my attempted suicide.
Finally, I took a deep breath and blinked several more times, but everything was still white. The walls, a cabinet in the corner, a chair, a small bedside table, and the door were all white. Where was I? My sight traveled to a high, sunlit window, and again I tried to focus. Then, with a rush of terror surging through my chest, I saw bars on the window.
Instantly, I screamed and fought to remove the weight that held me down, but, as my sight traveled down my body, mind-boggling torment sprang from my lungs in the form of an ear-splitting scream. I was strapped to a bed, and my attempts to free myself proved short lived, especially once two men, also in white, entered and shoved a needle in my arm.
“No!” I shrieked, while thrashing my head from side to side. “No!”
As I began to relax, I heard one of the men say. “I thought the doctor said no more morphine?”
A subdued reply followed, “He said if this happened again to give him a lower dose, just enough to calm him.”
When a sheet was raised, a cool breeze moved across my legs. “It’s bleeding again. Get me another set of wrappings.”
I felt as heavy as a battleship’s anchor, both my body and mind, but I managed to open my eyes long enough to see a blonde man removing a bandage from my left thigh. A thin, sandy haired man approached him and handed him a package, and then a bloody bandage was removed from my leg.
I turned my face away and closed my eyes, which allowed bizarre illusions to appear and confuse my mind further. Then the sight of the bloodied white bandage distorted into visions of the white snow splattered with the blood of the victims at the wreckage. Together, they flashed in quick bursts like lightening before my closed eyes.
As I pummeled a man’s chest mercilessly, his groans permeated the white room and took turns with the panicked screams of horses, horses trying to flee from the sound of twisting metal and the cries of men. The smell of the burning train, the burning flesh, and a burning campfire fused and became as one.
The feel of a hand on my forehead turned into cool wind on my neck and in my hair. The voices faded, and only Libre’s breathing and hooves pounding the earth did I hear. My eyes searched the dark trail in front of me, and my heart screamed its unbearable pain at the white ceiling and white snow. Trees sped quickly past me, and doors closed and locked, all escaping the terror.
I felt the leather restraints on my wrist and the leather reins in my hands as I pulled to a quick stop, turned in circles, and searched for hoof prints in the moonlight. My head pressed against the white pillow, and branches in the darkness struck my face. Thrashing against my confinement and searching for the beast responsible for my loss and pain, I persevered. Words of comfort in the white room mingled with words of conquest and laughter around a glowing campfire.
I floated, slowly and weightlessly, toward the monsters. The flickering fire, casting its distorted shadows across the sleek coats of steeds in flight, mixed with the cries of men and breaking necks. Then only my growls of hatred and pain echoed through the forest, causing the owls to flap their wings and flee their nests, causing the men in white coats to flee from the madness.
Overburdening my soul, my growls, the campfire, the blonde man, the dagger tearing through flesh and clothing, the trees, the horses screams, swirled in a whirlpool like vultures over a forsaken carcass in a deserted desert.
The bloodstained scene became darker and darker with each heart that was ripped from a merciless chest, and my restraints pulled tighter and tighter on my wrists. The uncaring and pitiless heart held high above my head released the last remains of its life’s blood, allowing it to run warmly down my arm. A cool rag wiped across my forehead, and soft words reached my ears. Then, with my roars of a beast, one unfeeling heart after another flew high above the cabinet and the treetops, vanishing into the gloom of the night sky, never to repeat their deeds of horror again.
A cool rag gently wiping across my face shared its time with the warm blood of heartless men flowing over my head and neck. I screamed at the white ceiling, at the train cars in flames, and into the dark night sky. I thrashed against my restraints and against my cloak swirling around me. Again, I moved in circles, searching for a hateful heart still left beating, but there was only one—mine.
I was alone in the room, and I was alone by the campfire. I looked at my hands in restraints, and I saw blood and a dagger dripping crimson. I threw it above the trees and growled, and I watched it turn in the moonlight, flashing quick glitters in the darkness. It disappeared over the treetops and over the cabinet. I yelled and yelled at the ceiling and at the trees. My cloak turned in circles around me, and I waited for the blade to return to the earth and to my miserable heart.
“Rip my heart out! Rip my heart out!” I cried into the darkness that surrounded me.
Trees passed me, water surrounded me, but no silver blade returned to rescue my broken heart, but a needle did as it slid into my vein and released me from my torment. I fell to the ground and cried for the darkness of the forest to fall over me, to bury me, but it rejected my pleas. The darkness took my Vashti, but it refused to take my crushed spirit, and I cried. I cried until the night returned to the tranquil quiet it must have felt before I entered it with my death-dealing rage.
I heard the soft voices of men, the faint hoots of an owl, and the rustle of leaves above me, but there was no knife to share space with my bleeding heart and rescue it. I could feel the soft touch of a cool rag on my face and the peaceful nicker of Libre on my ear.
Only then did the quiet night and darkness finally have pity on my broken soul. It carried me away to a place where there was no more pain, no more sorrow, and no more reality. I was taken to a place where only peace resided, where only soft sounds could be heard, where only blue skies and white clouds lived. The earth encompassed me, swaddled me, and protected me. I was carried in its tender embrace to a place where I could exist without a heart and without a mind, where nothing was felt, and there I stayed. At last I was free—free from the dark dismal crimson and the smoke filled horror.
Vague and muffled voices found their way to me through the peaceful night. “It’s been four hours, how much morphine did you give him?”
“Only what I usually give him,” a compassionate voice replied.
With the coldness of ice, a man questioned, “You do realize, don’t you, that Doctor Hendricks is out for your neck? He really wanted him awake.”
A cool rag on my face shared time with a caring voice. “Well, then, he needs to sit in this room with him and watch what goes on. He needs to see this poor man’s agony. I can’t bear to see him like that. There has to be another way to do this.”
“Leon, you shouldn’t allow your emotions to interfere with your better judgment and your job,” came a purely clinical reply.
Softly spoken words by a caring heart answered, “How can you not? Look at this pitiful man, strapped down and completely mad. And his poor face and body. I wonder what happened to him.”
“You call that abomination a face?” returned the harsh voice along with a snicker.
But my unseen protector rebuked, “Hush, he might be awake enough to hear you.”
After that warning, the uncaring voice wasn’t so confident, and he asked, “Are the straps tight enough, Leon?”
Gentle fingers touched my hand along with his faint reply, “Yes, any tighter and it would be too dangerous for him.”
By the time the battle of the voices stopped, and I heard the door click closed, my heart was racing out of my chest, and I could hold still no longer. I took several rapid breaths, and jerked my head toward the sound of the door. My teeth clamped down tightly, and I tried with all my might not to scream again. The room was still white, but the window was dark, along with its bars—my lifelong dreaded bars.
I raised my head and looked at my body that was strapped in four places, and both my wrists and ankles were also tethered tightly to the bed, causing enormous dread to surge through me. My mind, partially coming out of the fog of what I could only hope was a bad nightmare, was unable to think its way out of the situation I found myself in. I had to think, and I had to be awake and have my wits about me if I was to do that successfully. So, as my soft growls made their way beyond my teeth, I watched the door in fear of another injection.
I laid my head back down, closed my eyes, and tried to relax when the sights and sounds of the campfire began again. It was real. What had been a question in my mind for two decades was no longer a question. I’d done it. Who was I? What was I? I was the monstrous bat who’d slaughtered those men at the campfire in Persia. Oh, dear God, please put an end to this madness. But my silent cries for solace went unheard. I’d done it. How could I live with this irrefutable knowledge? I couldn’t, and there was no heart left in me even to try.
I started to struggle and lose control of my faculties again, so I fought harder to keep from opening my mouth and releasing my torturous thoughts. I held my breath, and tried to gain a measure of control so I could think. No, I screamed within my head. Don’t act like a crazy man or they’ll treat you like one. Think! Think! But the smell of smoke and burnt flesh began eating its way through my mind furiously, and, once more, I heard my screams of horror.
I sobbed and sobbed, at first like a baby and then like a madman, thrashing my head from side to side again and moaning low through my teeth. Twisting my head toward the wall, unbearable grief added its pressure to my caged horror and the true understanding of my past deeds. Tears rolled from my eyes as I fought the desire to run. I had to stop the nightmare, the living nightmare from continuing. I had to find a way.
I heard steps and a key in the lock, so I closed my eyes, and then the door opened and footsteps entered my new and frightening cage. Then I began to fight the hardest I’d ever fought in my life to control my actions. I had to maintain control or I’d be rendered unconscious again, and then I’d be in the complete control of those around me—an impossible scenario.
When the sheet was removed off my leg, visions and smells of the campfire and a beating heart in my hand returned. I opened my eyes and focused on the cabinet in the corner, telling myself to concentrate—concentrate. I slowly turned my head toward the startled face of the man beside me and began an act played out with two of me. One held back the visions in my head and the desires to scream and run, while the other began a script to gain the confidence of Leon, the man unfortunate enough to be by my side at that time.
While relaxing my jaw and softening the expression in my eyes, I spoke faintly and calmly in his German tongue. “Thank you for taking care of me. It’s comforting to know you care enough to help me in a humane way. You’ll be blessed for your show of mercy toward me. My name is Erik.” And even though I already knew his name, I asked to complete my opening script, “May I ask your name?”
He was obviously shocked, and his hands remained motionless over my thigh. He did, however, managed to get out one word. “Leon.”
“I realize it’s difficult to look at me without my mask,” I continued with a politician’s smooth tongue. “Perhaps it would make it easier for you to converse with me if I had my mask. Do you know if it’s somewhere near?”
He was still staring at me, as if a tree had just come to life and was speaking to him. I encouraged his thought process with another request for my mask. “It’s a half mask and is made from tan leather.”
That helped him, and after laying the bandage down on a tray at his side, he went to the cabinet and opened it. I quickly searched its contents for anything that would give me an idea of what I could use. He knelt down, going through a box of what looked like my clothes, and then he came back up with my mask in his hands. I closed my eyes and sighed, but opened them quickly when the nightmarish visions moved before me again.
“Thank you,” I said, as he placed my mask over my face, which helped immensely in my endeavor to maintain control.
Then, I started talking to him as he returned to his job of changing the bandage on my leg. I first thanked him again for getting my mask, and then I started a normal conversation that you could hear in any corner café around the world. I asked him if he was married, if he had any children, what their ages were, where he lived, what he liked to do when he wasn’t working, and any other questions to get him to relax and trust me.
During that strange conversation, carried out by three individuals; him, the sane Erik, and the insane Erik, who was holding the tempest inside at bay, I watched for the signs I needed to get free. It didn’t take too long. When he smiled in earnest and talked about his children, I got the first one—he was truly caring. The second I got when he warmly laid his hand on my arm and talked about a fishing trip with his father—he trusted me. And the third, and most important one, I got when he cut a bandage and then carelessly dropped his scissors back in the pocket of his white coat. With that small error, I knew how I could end my living nightmares.
Once I had what I needed from him, I put my plan in motion with a childlike tone in my voice. “Leon, will you tell me the truth? I’m too much of a coward to look.” He frowned and nodded. Then I asked, “Do I still have my left hand? I can’t feel it. Please, tell me the truth.”
His eyes widened as he exclaimed, “Oh! No!” Then he quickly released the buckle and strap around my left wrist and began massaging my hand and forearm. “I was afraid they might be too tight.”
I smiled inside as I watched the innocent concern in his warm hazel eyes. “Thank you for your kindness. It feels much better.”
Then, without prompting, he did the same thing to my right hand and arm. That time, the smile inside was a familiar one, and I gained strength from the elation of controlling someone’s mind and actions. Once he was done with his gentle massage, he re-buckled the straps.
“I won’t make them as tight this time,” he said with concern, and I thought, I know you won’t, because that’s what I wanted you to do.
As he was finishing the bandage, I set the second stage. “I’m hungry. Do you think you could get me something to eat?”
He smiled. “You should be hungry. It’s been over a week since you’ve eaten. I’ll get something for you right away. I’ll also tell Doctor Hendricks that you’re awake and lucid.” He laid his hand on my knee and smiled again. “I’m so pleased that you’re feeling better. If there’s anything at all I can do for you, please, just ask me.”
Trying not to laugh at him, I merely smiled. “You’ve already done more for me than you could possibly know.”
I felt a small thrust of guilt with his trust, since I knew what I was about to do to him, but it had to be done. There was no way around it. It had to be done.
I waited for the door to lock closed, and then I began. While the straps were looser, they were still snug, and by the time I had my left wrist free, my skin was stinging, but it was free. The buckle holding the strap across my rib cage was difficult to unbuckle, and my wrist and fingers were in contortions to do it, but I did it. From there it wasn’t too difficult.
With one eye on the small window in the door, I first released the strap holding my shoulders down, then my right wrist, the strap across my hips, then my knees, and finally the ones around my ankles. My heart was racing by the time my feet hit the floor, and my head was spinning by the time I reached the door, where I cautiously looked through the window.
The halls were barren, with a chair against a wall here and there, but I saw no one around. There was a hallway running past my door and another one just to the left and leading away from the window I was at. I searched every wall I could see, looking for a door without a window. I needed a small room, or preferably a storage closet, where I wouldn’t be found for just a short while. That was all I needed, just a short while. I couldn’t see any such door, but I knew there had to be one.
While I continued to watch the window in the door, I searched the cabinet for either my lasso or anything that could be used like a hangman’s rope, but there was nothing. While on my knees, searching my clothes for my cloak and lasso, I remembered placing my cloak around that poor woman, causing the horror scene to surface again, so I jumped to my feet.
Without my lasso, or any other means of strangulation, I only had one choice. So I went back to the window and watched as one person after another passed. Finally, Leon appeared around a corner, with a tray of food in his hands. I pressed myself back against the wall beside the door and waited for my innocent helper to enter.
When the door opened and he saw me standing right in front of him, he took in an influx of air. All at the same time, I grabbed the tray with one hand before he could drop it, seized the front of his throat with the other hand before he could scream for help, and pulled him inside the room before his struggle could be seen by others.
The door clicked closed, and I held that position until his eyes rolled back and his knees went limp. I then lowered both him and the tray to the floor quietly. Lastly, while taking the keys and scissors from his pocket, I watched for the vein in his neck to pulsate. Once I was certain I hadn’t killed him, I stood up and returned to the window. After searching the hallway again, I unlocked the door and waited until there was no one in sight, and then I swung it open and started running down the hall, searching for my much-needed closet door.
At first, loud voices and then screams came from behind me, echoing down the corridors. I plowed through everyone, including nurses, causing the contents on the trays they held to spread out over the floor. All I needed was one secluded room and the scissors in my hand, and I could finish what I’d started in Paris. Then it would be finished.
I came to another corner and quickly looked in both directions. When I looked over my shoulder behind me, I saw two men in white coats in hot pursuit. I was running out of steam, and the men behind me were gaining on me, so I couldn’t wait to find a secluded room.
While still in a run, I opened the scissors and raised the sharp edge to my right wrist just as I rounding a corner. Then, out of nowhere, a man stepped in front of me. I stopped short, and with the blade poised and ready, I blinked several times in confusion, and so did he.
“Oded?” I questioned softly.
He frowned, and I blinked and looked again. It was the Persian from the train. To my surprise, he showed no fear. A madman was standing before him with a pair of open scissors in his hand, and he showed no fear.
Hearing the steps behind me getting closer, I prepared to plow through him, but he spread his arms and legs, as if to block my way. I glanced back over my shoulder, and then with a loud growl, I shoved the blade across my wrist at the same time that white sleeves wrapped around me with a force that knocked me to the floor and pinned me there.
As my cheek hit the shiny white tile, I saw my means of death slide across it along with my mask. No, I moaned silently. Let me go. Let me escape this life. Let me escape these memories. I struggled with what little strength I had left in me, but my hips and shoulders, as well as my naked cheek, were pressed securely against the cold floor.
I heard someone order, “Quick! Give it to him!”
I gave up my struggle when I felt the prick of the needle, knowing there was nothing more I could do. As my growls subsided, and the excited voices around me quieted down, there was one remaining voice that refused to give in.
“Let him go! Let him go!”