A Grim Inheritance - I

Written and Illustrated by Benjamin Fouché

The task of which I speak began in September of 1873, when I was rather unexpectedly visited by two detectives from the larger district of Wickham, New Hampshire.  They gently knocked on my office door at Forkham Sanitorium—and upon opening it, they were remarkably insistent on discussing, as they said, “earnest matters”.  At length, while they explained who they were in full detail, I instantly became alarmed.  At first, I wondered if perhaps an inmate escaped or an injustice had been committed against one of our patients. But the further they discussed why they came to me—a mere psychiatrist at a state-funded facility on the brink of closing—the greater my understanding became.  It was a case that they had been struggling with since December of the previous year.  I distinctly recalled reading in the newspapers about the horrid discovery at the meager mortuary in Hemlock—Winston Manor.

The mortician’s whereabouts were still unknown.  Well, even now as I am telling you my story, his precise location continues to remain a mystery—but at the time, they assumed that I would be able to study the letters that were uncovered in his workplace—perhaps they fancied me intelligent enough to figure out where it was exactly that the mortician fled to.  Moreover, I will admit that one of the reasons I accepted helping the investigators was because my occupation at Forkham was immensely depressing; I had already heard several probable rumors about our facility shutting down and the state transferring our patients to a larger institution in a faraway, marshy region of the country.  And for some reason they were persistent with their invitation, assuring us that their asylum had room for hundreds.  Despite Forkham Sanitorium having plenty of space for forty more patients, the state funding was unbelievably insufficient; after all, Vermont is an incredibly small state.

I did wonder why the patients could not have been relocated to a nearer institution, but I realized it mattered little, for once they were committed, family never visited.  I can sympathize with the relatives of the more violent inmates never wanting to visit, but I have always found it remarkably dejecting when relatives of the more benevolent patients never return.  But mayhap, if a humble place such as Forkham did not exist, all of our patients would have been neglected unto death.  Undoubtedly, after bestowing these insights of my life upon you, you may now be able to understand my irredeemable misery—which as I have stated before, is the reason I chose to assist the detectives.  Thus, they left a box on my desk.  And kept within were the letters written by both the mad mortician and his mysterious contact.  After examining the first three, I was utterly fascinated—but equally frightened.

What dark influence could possibly manipulate someone with so little effort? The mortician continually referred to his worshipped correspondent as, “The Darkness”—the correspondent also used this as his penname.  I believe it has a great amount of significance in the case.  One might at first read through their letters and presume the man was writing about pure nonsense—but if examined meticulously, his subjects become increasingly more disturbing; in the earlier letters, the mortician stresses how intensely he desires “nightmares” and “deathly predicaments” that were once common during his life.  He continues in his writings, stating that the silence of which afflicts him is too much for his soul to bear.  Eventually, it comes to the point where he is essentially begging this “Darkness” to manifest in his life once again.

Then, the grim correspondent replies, explaining with an ominous yet graceful articulation that he unerringly understands the morose withdrawals that the mortician is experiencing.  Furthermore, this “Darkness” tells the mortician that he must discern something that resides within his own heart.  Once I read this, I had a self-revelation; The Darkness was insinuating that the poor mortician must discover his inner shadow—his own darkness, if you will. And once these forbidden desires and impulses were set free, nothing could cease his venomous transformation.  So far, this is the conclusion that I have come to when interpreting the first several letters.  And as their communication continues, the mortician goes on to describe all of his wretched and ghoulish deeds.  What I personally find most upsetting is the degree to which the dark correspondent encourages the mortician—praising his hair-raising actions.  What type of human—if human at all—could descend into such malevolence?

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