AN: I had to write a creative response to Regeneration for school and this is it. It's the scene of the suicide 3 weeks prior, mentioned by Sassoon and Rivers. So this is it, enjoy.
Rivers sat in his room in the few quiet hours before dawn, unable to sleep. The wind blew leaves and branches to scrape against the windows, scratching insistently against the glass. By the light of his bedside lamp Rivers could see the patterns of trees playing across the white netted curtain. He heard a scream echo through the hospital and quickly placed the book he'd been reading back on his bedside table. It wasn't the screaming that was cause for alarm, it was the pitch. A woman. One of the VADs. He got up, dressed hurriedly and headed towards the source of the noise.
When he reached the woman he saw Bryce approaching her from the opposite direction.
"We have enough screaming in this hospital without you adding to it."
"D-dead. Dead. He's dead. Killed himself."
Bryce and Rivers turned upon the scene at the same time. Keats lay spread eagled on the floor.
"I was on my morning rounds and I was just checking on him and the door was locked, so I pulled out my key…"
Rivers could hear the VAD explaining to Bryce as he stepped into the room, surveying the lifeless corpse. In death he lay in a pool of blood when in life he'd been as horrified of blood as Anderson now was. He knew he should be horrified, he felt he should be horrified. Instead, he calmly crouched down and picked up the stained scrap of paper that lay beside the corpse. On it Keats had written:
Craiglockhart memories will be sad,
Your name will never make us glad;
The self-respect we ever had
We've lost - all people think us mad.*
Rivers reminded himself to copy out the note to give to Owen later so he could put it in The Hydra. Keats would like that. He placed the piece of paper in his pocket. In a feeble hope, more to check he was actually dead, Rivers pressed two fingers to Keats' neck, the blood on his wrist made checking for a pulse there impractical. Feeling nothing, he pulled his fingers away letting them dangle between his knees as he reflected on his first meeting with Keats.
He hadn't been mute, as many patients who arrived at Craiglockart were, nor had he had much of a stutter, which had greatly surprised Rivers, as he had become quite accustomed to stutters from patients newly arrived from France. Keats, however, just simply hadn't spoken much. Which, according to the file Rivers had received from Keats' CO, was rather unusual. Apparently he'd been very talkative, using loquacity as his chosen method of dispelling fear amongst his men.
His file, along with the first meeting, had revealed Keats' story. The rest of his squad had been obliterated and he had woken up alone in a dug out, buried under the fragments of his men, covered in their blood, having it seep into every fibre of his being, every pore. The smell of it permeating his nostrils, the taste of it covering his lips and tongue. The need to blink its stickiness out of his eyes, overpowering and the feeling of not knowing how much of the red coating he wore was his own, if any at all.
During that first meeting Keats had stared blankly at the wall behind Rivers' head, expression empty, responding only to direct questions with a few words in answer. But that had just been the first meeting. In the times following, small bouts of progress had been made; at least that's what it had seemed like to Rivers. However, apparently that hadn't been the case as the crimson covering the floor now showed.
Rivers' silences had drawn out descriptions of Keats family in North Petherton. He was the second eldest of 4 children, his eldest sister was a school teacher, his youngest still in school. His brother had wanted to enlist as well but hadn't been old enough. Rivers wondered vaguely if Keats' death would deter his brother or if it'd encourage him further.
Rivers was brought out of his thoughts by Sister Rogers.
"What's all this racket, Major?"
Rivers stood up as he heard the quiet whispers of explanation Bryce gave to Sister Rogers.
Bryce came into the room. "We'll have to get this cleaned up."
Bryce sighed. "What a way to start the day."
"Get the locks taken off the doors too." Rivers turned and left the room, his hand clenched around the note in his pocket.
Out in the hallway, the VAD who had found Keats' body was being consoled by Sister Rogers. Rivers passed them and headed for the tower, his one safe haven. He climbed the stairs and unlocked the door, stepping out into the frigid air. No one knew he came here, few knew he even had the key.
He leant against the iron balustrade and looked out at the hills, a few lights winking into existence in Edinburgh as early morning business was attended to. Rivers sighed heavily. He'd failed. In his duty to his patient, in his duty to his country. Even though he knew there was little, if anything, he could've done, he blamed himself. He knew Keats had made his own decision, his suicide a product of his own war experience.
Keats' story was no more horrible than any of the others, nor any less. Why had his treatment of Keats failed when it had prevailed for so many others? He'd thought he'd had it covered. Keats' progress had been good, slow but steady. The door to this tower was locked, Rivers being among the few that had a key, removing the temptation of a simple exit from the war. His family had been by to see him, a support system was important for patients of war neurosis and, being at Craiglockhart, Keats'd also had a roommate, generally having a roommate deterred suicides. But then he remembered. Keats hadn't had a roommate. He'd been one of the "lucky ones" this month, having a single room. Rivers grip on the railing tightened as he stared at the lightening landscape. He still couldn't understand why. Why had Keats chosen to end his life when there were so many others who fought on? There were other patients whose stories were just as horrific, if not more so. Burns, who couldn't eat for the memory of the German soldier whose ruptured stomach he'd landed on, Jones, whose continuous washing of his hands, to wash away the imaginary gore, drove the most docile of VADs to hysterics, Gladstone too, whose own brother had bled to death in front of him, entangled in the barbed wire.
He was beginning, as he had started doing recently, to question the moral integrity of the continuation of the war. How could it be just that it drove people to such extreme measures? Because there was no doubt in his mind that Keats' suicide resulted from his war experience, of which the catalyst was waking up in that dugout.
Like the great majority of officers that came through Craiglockhart, or any military hospital for that matter, Keats had cared for his men. A man who cared so much for people didn't logically end his life. The only explanation Rivers could conclude was that Keats felt he had no further purpose in life after the loss of his squad.
As the sun rose around Craiglockhart, Rivers turned and climbed back down the stairs, moving, surprisingly, uninterrupted through the corridors to his office. Most patients were already awake by now, but the hospital remained uncharacteristically subdued. The VADs bustled soundlessly on their rounds, conversations kept to a quiet murmur.
Rivers stopped in front of Miss Crowe's desk, outside his own office. "Lionel Keats' file please, Miss Crowe."
"Is he the one?" she whispered. "Did he kill himself?"
"The file, please, Miss Crowe."
She turned and searched through the overcrowded filing cabinet behind her, pulling out the correct file and handing it to him wordlessly.
Rivers sat down at his desk and opened Keats' file. He read through the admission report and the following notes, adding his own in regards to Keats' progress. He released a heavy sigh and pulled the last page of the report towards him and wrote: Mar. 23, 1917. Deceased.
*The Hydra, Editorial & June 1918 (this wasn't actually mine)