Firstly, I must apologise for the appauling amount of time between updates - a combination of writer's block and being snowed under at work having contributed to this story being rather neglected as of late. However, having finally got some time (and inspiration) here is chapter 6 at last.
Let me know your thoughts on this chapter - I am always happy to hear them.
Late afternoon sun filtered in through the dusty window of her bedroom. She sat still on the wooden floor of the room, with her legs pulled up to her chest, resting her head on her knees and listening to her heart beat. Over time, she had come to realize that the medicine Dr Craven gave caused her to feel drowsy, and she would often find herself sleeping for hours at a time after taking it. The sleeping she didn't mind so much - it calmed the voices which tormented her, and caused them to seem less real. It was the disorientation she found unpleasant - the feeling of being out of time and place with the rest of the world - that she had somehow fallen into an alternate state, existing in the twilight world between wakefulness and sleep.
She turned her head once again towards the window, squinting at the dull sunlight which filtered in. She moved her hands towards the light, revealing the worn photograph that was held within them. She brought her fingers up to allow them to pass over the figures captured on the creased paper. The ghost of a smile flickered over her face as she remembered the day the photograph had been taken. It had been the final photograph taken of the three of them, before the two people she had considered most dear to her had left forever. She recalled the day well – It had been one of the hottest days that summer, and they had been sharing a picnic lunch in the Secret Garden. She recalled how her uncle Archie had brought his camera down to the garden, as he had said 'in order to preserve the moment in time.' They had given each other looks of shared humor when his back was turned as he fussed about with his equipment, chuckling at what appeared to be an old man's sentimentality, but had posed for the photograph nevertheless.
'Please, take me out and kill me if I am ever as bothersome as Father', Colin had whispered in Mary's ear, as Archie had taken yet another photograph – this time with the express order that the two boys were to sit behind Mary on the picnic rug, so that the bounty of their lunch could be displayed to it's full potential.
It was this particular picture that she held now. She looked at it closely, wondering if anyone else had ever noticed the way that Dickon was tenderly smiling not at the camera, but down at her. Had anyone ever looked at that photograph closely and guessed what that glance meant? Would anyone have ever discerned that by that point they were more than just childhood friends?
But she knew within her heart that no one would have suspected anything. As far as society was concerned, Dickon was little more than a servant – true, he was a good childhood friend of both her and Colin, but he was born into a different class, and the idea of any kind of relationship developing between the two of them would have been considered absolutely ludicrous by most people she knew – well, almost everyone, anyway.
She sighed, feeling her mind turning against her will, back to her earlier conversation with Dr Craven and his wife. Unbidden, the images began marching into her mind, making her heart pound anxiously and her head throb.
'My dear, I have become considerably worried over the past few weeks at what one might consider a deterioration in your condition.'
'My condition?' she had frowned.
Dr Craven had been seated in the sitting room, along with his wife Ida – a thin and haughty woman whom Mary couldn't stand. Dr Craven had glanced at Ida just then, and a look had passed between the two of them which seemed to be heavy with meaning. She had felt herself begin to shake, not understanding what was happening, but feeling dread begin to well up inside her.
'Yes. I have taken it upon myself to enlist the help of another professional – one who am I am confident will assist me in determining the right course of action to treat you –' He paused, before continuing, as if choosing his words carefully. 'After all, your health is paramount.'
She had looked at him carefully, then noticed the shrewd look in the eyes of his wife, Ida. Ida caught her gaze, and looked at her in a queer manner, which sent a shudder through her body. She had turned her gaze from Ida back to Doctor Craven, feeling a sense of uneasiness build.
'I don't understand. I thought you had been treating me?'
'I have, but I regret I may have reached the limit to what I am able to do. I am hoping that Dr Rivers will be able to help determine the appropriate treatment for you at this stage.' He caught her eyes. 'Do not be alarmed, my dear girl. I only have your best interests at heart. Who knows, perhaps a change of scenery is just what you need.'
The conversation faded from her mind, the voices growing dimmer. She stared once more at the creased and faded picture, closing her eyes a final time at the image of a time that was no more. Tenderly, she brought the picture up to her lips, and allowed them to linger over one figure in particular.
'Goodnight, Dickon.' She whispered. Then, placing the picture back into the box, got up, and eased herself into bed, finally succumbing to sleep.
She wakened groggily, encased in absolute darkness, after what felt like days rather than mere hours. It took only a few moments for confusion to build. Something didn't feel right.
The mattress felt hard and uncomfortable beneath her, and further investigation revealed that she appeared to be lying on a thin squab on a dusty stone floor in an unknown room. She took a deep breath, the air tasting musty and stale, then sat up, tyring to get her bearings. She felt a cold chill sweep through her body as the only explanation for what could be happening leapt to mind. Doctor Craven, she thought desperately, he's done this to me! Taken me out of my bed and brought me to – her thoughts stopped dead. Where exactly was here, anyway? It seemed to be a cell of some kind. Had he taken her into the cellar underneath Misselthwaite? Had he been afraid that she would try to make her escape before he could organize his 'second opinion'? what was going on?
Her eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness, and she could now vaguely make out a dim outline of a door. She stood up slowly, not understanding why her legs ached and her arms felt so stiff. Could Dr Craven had given her a different medication that had allowed her to sleep so deeply that she had failed to notice being moved here, to this place?
She made her way towards the light, her fingers feeling the outline of the door, confusion gaining in strength as she realized there didn't seem to be a door handle. Leaning hard against the door, she pushed against it with all her might. It didn't budge. The dizzying panic that had begun when she awoke in this strange place, now threatened to overwhelm her.
'Doctor Craven!' she called, dismayed to find her voice hoarse as though she had not used it for a long time. 'You must let me out!'
She added sharp knocks to the door when no one came, barely noticing the pain that seared through her as she banged her tender hands time and time again.
'Can no one hear me! Agnes! Doctor Craven, anyone!'
She paused, pressing her ear up to the edge of the door. Was it just her imagination, or did she hear voices? Unfamiliar voices, and a distant sound that was possibly someone shouting, and then footsteps.
Was that someone laughing? Yes, she could distinctly make out a low gutteral laugh, which sounded as though it was coming from somewhere further outside the door. Her ears pricked up at the sound of two people talking, another laughing, and then the sound of footsteps. Raising her fists, she pounded upon the door with all her might.
'Help! Help me! I'm in here!'
She pounded desperately, furiously, shouting as she did so. She barely noticed the tears of frustration and fear that began to trickle down her cheeks.
'Someone! Let me out! Let me out!'
She stopped pounding, letting her aching fists drop to her sides, and quickly pressed her ear up to the edge of the door. Was it? Yes it was! She could distinctly hear someone approaching.
'Lord, never a moments rest around here.' a woman's voice grumbled. 'Especially wi' this one, wouldn't you agree....' Mary pressed her ear tighter to the door, but the words were lost as she heard another woman give a low, guttural laugh.
Where am I? She wondered feverishly as she continued to listen. Presently, she heard the sound of footsteps outside the door, and the jingle of keys. She looked up in wonder as a narrow opening in the door slid open, revealing the outline of two dark eyes.
'What is it this time?' a voice hissed. 'I swear, you're worse than all the others. Never a moments rest with you around.'
Somehow she found her voice.
'I need to speak to Doctor Craven at once. There has…. There must have been some mistake. Let me out so I can speak to him.'
'Let you out?!' laughed the voice incredulously. 'Who do you think you are, giving me orders?'
She stepped back in disbelief, as though she had just been struck.
'You can't keep me here. Bring Doctor Craven down to see me.'
'I don't know who you're talking about. Must be another one of your delusions. Go on, get back then and leave off your yelling.'
'You…. You don't know who Doctor Craven is?' she asked in disbelief. 'Then I'm…. I'm not at Misselthwaite?'
'Finally, she begins to see sense. Did you hear that, Betty?' the woman laughed, 'still thinks she's at –' she sneered, the word sliding off her tongue 'Misselthwaite'.
'Oh goodness! Well who could blame the poor thing.' Came the distant reply.
A feeling of upmost dread washed over her, she felt her knees give way beneath her, and she leant heavily on the door.
'This, this is all a dream, isn't it?' she said softly. 'I'm going to wake up any moment now.'
'Oh I'm afraid not.' she heard a voice chuckle. 'No, this is very real. Very real indeed, Miss Lennox.'
Her stomach felt as though it was filling with ice, and she wondered if she would faint. 'Who....' she shook her head, 'Where.... are we.... where am I?'
'Why, Rainhill House, o' course!' she paused, and then said slowly, as though explaining it to someone incredibly stupid 'A home for mad gentlewomen. You've been here almost six months now.'
Mary felt her legs give way beneath her then, her breath seeming to die within her throat. She slipped down the door, unable to stop her descent, then watched in horror as the slit to the door was closed, leaving darkness to descend once more.