I had watched her now for months in her dark cell, since my first night here. I couldn't remember being anywhere this long. My plan for that first night was my usual. Get in, feed, get out and move on. I made my rounds. Old age homes… hospitals... Occasionally I would hit a prison. I tried to avoid those if I could help it. Being executioner for crimes that I myself perpetrated…well, it made me uncomfortable.
I had been on this earth far too long. Too many of the young and healthy were gone because of me. Feed on the old, the sick and the dying, I told myself. It was a compromise that I had made over the years. It eased the burden of the death sentences that I was forced to administer in order to exist. At least I didn't destroy someone with a future.
Then I found this place, Athens Asylum for the Insane… and her. I had no plan to stay, but as I roamed the halls that first night, I caught her scent, very floral despite the other odors rising from here. I looked in her small barred window. There was something so hopeless about her. Sickly and frail, forced to spend her existence in a dark filthy hole... I stood for several minutes staring at her. I should ease her pain. She certainly filled my criteria, but I passed her by for reasons unknown to me, feeding on another wretched soul. I left town and moved on north, but I as the days passed I couldn't escape the image of her, curled up in the corner of her black prison. I stayed in the tri-state area, finding myself wandering back to this place over and over again, always stopping at her window on my way to my next victim. It got to the point where I didn't go anywhere else. As over crowded and retched as this place was, I felt better about what I was doing than in anytime in my immortal life. I was an angel of mercy. No one should have to exist like this. One of these trips I caught a posting on the employee bulletin board for the janitor position. I decided that as long as I came here regular, I might as well take it. Employment inside the facility would provide easier access to my prey. I could research here during the day, be more selective of who I would feed on.
It was still dark when I arrived at 5am. I wore dark glasses while I mopped the floors, hiding my crimson eyes from view. I told the few people that questioned me that my eyes had been damaged during the Great War. Transformed into a monster at thirty-three, I appeared to be around the right age. I smiled as I overheard them gossiping. Half the staff here now thought that I was blind. No one ever noticed when I left. The general thinking was why would anyone be here longer than they had to be? If it was sunny, I'd just wait till dark or if it was cold enough, cover myself up in a hat and gloves.
I had to admit this was an easy place for me to get a meal. I spent my shift searching for the next human to free from here. No one noticed or care how these poor condemned creatures met their ends. Like me, many of the staff quietly rejoiced, as the name of my latest victim would appear in the paperwork. The nurses words, whispered to each other eased my conscious, removed all lingering doubt that what I was doing was good.
The asylum opened in 1874. It was meant to be a more benevolent place to treat the mentally infirmed. However, over the years things changed. Families would drop off elderly they no longer wished to care for. Parents abandoned unruly teenagers here. Then there were the children, infants and toddlers when they arrived. Rich and poor alike dumped what they couldn't, or wouldn't deal with. The institution, bloated with patients, failed to keep the level of care their founders hoped to provide. Funding shortages left fifty patients to one nurse. Physically handicapped, mentally handicapped, it didn't matter. They were all lumped together. If they weren't crazy when they arrived, they soon became that way. They would regularly lose three or four patients a month in a place this size. I could feed here once a week if I wanted to. But as confident that what I was doing was right, I couldn't do it to her.
I had a plan in my head for my next victim. I felt that I had made a good choice. But as I ran toward the asylum, I started thinking about her. God, she was such a tiny little thing. For reasons I could not rationalize, I had snuck into the nurse's station and took her chart the first night I was here. Ten years… Tens years sentenced to this hell hole. She had just turned nine when she arrived. I looked at the photo in her file. She arrived here a pretty little girl with a terrified look on her plump face… She had long black pigtails when this picture was taken. Now her face was gaunt, pale grey from a decade in this abyss and away from the sun. She probably weighed less now than when she got here. Her shiny hair was short now and wiry. Usually they keep all their heads shaved. It kept the parasites away. She however had been neglected to the point where they hadn't touched her in a couple of months. No one looked in the small dark window; they just slid her food tray under the door. I wondered when the last time they bathed her was. Soon I figured, someone would notice. Maybe they didn't care. Maybe they hoped she would be dead before her maintenance was added to the attendants to do list.
I had memorized her chart. She was originally from Biloxi, Mississippi. It made me sad to think that she was so far from home. But the truth was, she no longer had a home. I understood that. Until recently, I hadn't had a home in centuries. It appeared that she did still have a family though. My family died before I became a vampire. Hers included her mother, father and a younger sister. It angered me that they had never been to see her, not once since she was committed.
Her diagnosis was schizophrenia. She had visions, visions of the future. The rest of the file contained the various methods used to cure her. Some were humane, but most were barbaric. Bleeding, freezing and kicks to the head were thought to "shock" the illness from the patient's brain. None worked. As the abuse went on, she fell deeper and deeper into her own world to the point where she no longer talked or did much of anything. This explained why I had never heard any sounds from her. Usually the corridor was full of sound, even at night. Some rambled, some cried, the new ones screamed. But not a sound from her… I surmised that spending ten years here had done more damage than anything else. The system having failed her, washed their hands of little Mary Alice Brandon when she turned 18. She was moved into the hopeless ward.
It was late, for humans. She had been on my mind all day. I decided this was the night, and changed my plans. She didn't deserve being here, I rationalized. She deserved peace. I came through my usual window and headed to her cell. The door was open. The stench, a foul mixture of humane decay and products meant to curb the odor, was stronger in the hallway tonight. There was an attendant inside with a hose and bucket of bleach. This is what they did when one died. It was Mar Alice's cell. Part of me was happy she was gone; the other part wished I could have seen her once more. Her body was nowhere in site and I turned toward the morgue. I wanted to say goodbye. Then I caught her scent. No, she wasn't dead. It trailed down the hall towards the baths. Somebody finally noticed. Funny, I thought to myself, I would have guessed that they did that sort of thing during the day.
I followed the trail she had left. I caught the scent of her escort. He was a familiar odor here. I watched from window in the door. She was lying nude on the floor of the open showers. The man, about forty stood over her with a hose similar to what the other attendant was cleaning her cell with. With rubber gloves on, her dumped powder on her and began to scrub her naked little body with a hard bristled brush on a stick. Her eyes were open but she did not move nor make a sound as he cleaned her with less care than he would have a dog.
He turned around, looking anxious. I had just managed to get out of site. He shrugged and opened the door, walking out into the hallway.
"Hey, Earle," he yelled. "She's about ready."
Earle stuck his head out of her cell.
"Give me a second. I'm almost done here. I hope you got the stink off her Sam. I gagged during the last one."
"Beggars can't be choosers" the other man retorted.
I flitted in as he closed the door to the bath area. I hid behind one of the curtains that partitioned the room. The cleaning attendant came in a minute later, locking the door behind him. I watched as the men each grabbed one of her legs and drug her away from the drain.
"When was the last time she was shaved?"
"We'll do it afterward. They creep me out when their bald."
"I better not get lice from her Sam."
"I dumped enough disinfectant on her to clean the entire ward."
They threw her up on a low table. She didn't even twitch. One of the men started to strap her to the table.
"Why are you bothering Earl? Look at her."
"Don't you remember the last time Sam? She was the same way… until she wasn't."
Sam smirked," I thought that was the best part."
Earl continued to tie her down." Fine, go over to the door and stand guard. You can take them off and have her when I'm done."
As the one man headed toward the door, the other started to unbuckle his belt.
His hand never made it to his fly. I threw him up against the tile wall. He crumpled to the floor and did not move again.
I turned to face the one at the door. He was bigger that me. Maybe if I were human that would have matter. But I was not human. I grabbed him by the hair; my teeth tore into his throat. I had not tasted blood that was strong for a long while. The justice of destroying this fiend only enhanced the delicious flavor. Once he was drained, I casually walked over to the other one and kicked him in the side. I wanted him awake for this. He started to stir. The first one was lucky; he barely had time to register what was about to happen to him. The other one, Earle, looked up from the floor at me in horror. My eyes glowed red with the blood of his friend. I grinned savoring his expression. Monster I may be, but even in my darkest hours, I would have never committed atrocities like this.
"Please," he begged. "Don't kill me. I have a family."
"One you clearly don't deserve." His companion had dulled my bloodlust. I put my knee to his chest and grabbed his wrist. My plan was to sap him slowly. I would make sure he felt the fires of hell in this world before he crossed over to the next. He screamed for twenty minutes before the blood loss pulled him from consciousness. No one came to his aid. He was just another prisoner in this hole.
As I finished I looked up at her, lying on the table. Her skin was red and chaffed from the disinfectant. I cursed myself for not killing them sooner. Her head was turned in my direction. She had seen it all. Though she still said nothing, her eyes were open, and she smiled. Once I was sure the monster I drained slowly was dead — I would not unleash this beast into the world as an immortal — I got up, went over to what looked like a linen press and got a clean towel and gown for her out of it. Carefully I dried off her abused scratched body and pulled the nightgown over her head. I picked her up and carried her back to her cell. Holding her in my arms was not difficult. I had just fed on two grown men. I rocked her till she fell asleep, whispering in her ear.
"I find a way out of here for you, Alice."
Though this is no longer the case, all the treatments and conditions of Athens Asyllum for the Insane occurred during the nineteen twenties and thirties when Alice would have been there.