The Patient

Remember The Howl of the Banshee from last month? Well, The Patient is a companion piece written for a course taught by the same professor and with the same guidelines. The only difference is, this short story is not a gothic mystery, but pure gothic horror.

Enjoy this spooky blast from the past!

In all my life, I have never been so confused and uncertain.  I have encountered difficult cases before, but none like this.  No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to cure Miss Lucinda Grey of her curious illness. 

            I have heard from the old housekeeper that the late Mrs. Grey had suffered a similar illness, although she refused to seek the aid of a doctor.  However, it was not the illness that had killed her.  The story of the woman’s death was fragmented, and no one seemed to be able to agree on one particular way of telling it.  The only thing the people of the town could agree on was that Mrs. Grey had been attacked by a wild animal on the night of her death.  That was the story anyhow.  The servants of the Grey house seemed to have a different idea of what had happened, although none of them dared to speak these ideas aloud. 

            Now, one month after that tragic death, the newly orphaned girl was experiencing symptoms similar to those of her mother.  I had been sent for immediately and have been tending to Miss Lucinda for over a week now, although I am beginning to feel as if my presence is unwelcome.  On several occasions over this past week, I have heard the housekeeper say to her fellow servants: “We should not have called for a doctor, but for a priest.  It is the child’s soul that is in danger, not her body.”

            I have turned this phrase over and over again in my mind and can determine no clear meaning.  Perhaps the housekeeper, a very religious woman, feels that her young mistress will soon depart the world of the living, and that preparations should be made so that the girl’s soul will pass safely into heaven.  However, I see no need for this; not yet, at least.  Yes, the girl is ill, but she is not dying; far from it.  None of her current symptoms suggests that she is anywhere close to death’s door.  In fact, if it weren’t for her strange symptoms, I would say that she is the healthiest person I have ever seen.  During the day, Miss Lucinda is the very image of health.  It is at night that the symptoms become apparent.

            Once the sun goes down, rather than sleep, this girl is full of wild an untamed energy.  I have watched her run around the house frantically, wearing nothing but her nightgown, as the servants try their best to get her to return to bed.  Unfortunately for them, she fights them savagely every step of the way.  She becomes especially violent when she passes by a window.  She appears especially fearsome when the moonlight is reflected in her savage and sleepless eyes.  For her benefit, and for the benefit of the servants, all of the curtains are to remain closed until this illness passes. 

            When the girl eventually does drift off into sleep, I have noticed that she continuously scratches at her side.  One day, when I was examining her, I noticed that she has scratched herself so hard that blood has been drawn around the claw-like indentations in her flesh.  When I first saw the wound, I saw (or thought I saw) teeth marks, but I must have been imagining this.

            This case continues to puzzle me, even tonight.  The light of the full moon has illuminated everything in sight, but in doing so I feel as if a shadow has been cast over this situation.  I feel that I am no closer to a solution that I was at the beginning of this long week.

            Shaking my head with defeat, I decided that I had done enough work for one day.  I was about to blow out the candle and attempt to go to sleep when I heard a noise from down the hall.  The guest bedroom in which I was staying was down the hall from Miss Lucinda’s so that if something were to happen to her I could be at her side at a moment’s notice.  But it was not Miss Lucinda who had uttered the sound. 

            I heard it again.  It was a woman’s scream.  My blood froze, and my grip tightened around the candle.  Slowly, I got up and managed to bring myself out into the hall.  I noticed that the curtains were open, and the moonlight was illuminating a dark figure on the floor.  I walked over to it and noticed that it was one of the servant girls.  At first, I thought she had fainted, but when I bent down to inspect her, I saw that she was covered in blood.  Her throat had been torn open.  I recoiled in fear and disgust.  I had seen many wounds as a doctor, but none that displayed this kind of savagery.  I felt ill.  I was so horrified that I could barely think.  Another scream from another part of the house shook me from my stupor. 

            Gathering what little courage I had left, I turned away from the bloodied corpse and began to walk towards the direction from which the other sound came.  I had a sickening feeling that I would be tending to many patients that night.  But what was the cause?  What could have done such a thing?  What…?

            I stumbled and dropped the candle.  Quickly, I stamped out the flame so as not to add a house fire to tonight’s list of tragedies.  When I straitened myself out, I noticed a small, dark figure moving through the halls.  I could not see just who, or what, it was until it stopped just before the large window that stood between us on the wall.  It was Miss Lucinda!  She was naked, and trembling, and dripping with blood.

            “M-miss Lucinda!” I stammered.  “Are you alright?”  I took a step closer, but she did not move from where she stood.  She would not step into the light of the moon that was cast onto the floor from the window.

            “I am perfectly alright,” she said calmly with a sweet and innocent smile, her blue eyes seeming to glow red.  “Mother would be so proud…” she said as her sweet smile became a sinister grin and her teeth grew to sharp points before my very eyes.

            I watched in horror as she stepped into the moonlight.  Her long, black hair seemed to spread across her body as she bent down and continued to advance towards me on all fours.  Instinctively, I backed away from her as the features of her face took on a more animalistic form.  I was about to break into a run, but my legs had barely registered the command of my brain when she pounced on me, barring her sharp and bloodied teeth.

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