Coffeebreak Thrillers __Light Cards and Enterprises

More Stories Link


Briar Haven (The Devil's Alma Mater) by Joe DiMino who retains all rights

Many people would call me evil. Perhaps a bad seed? Someone born without a conscience...with a soul so dark and densely dank, that not a spectrum of Divine light could find a way in, let alone a sizable space to abide. But there are a few of you out there, less righteous, who have considered wrong doing but through the grace of God had not gone that path or traveled too deeply to find a way back. It is to you whom I speak: Citizens not so quick to condemn...and do not base their judgment solely on disgust, or the outpouring of vial excrement from a most hideous crime perpetrated. But having said that, I must hasten to tell my story...for I have little time~suspecting my life expectancy can be measured in hours at the most. Therefore, in a moment's remorse (new to me~and more than likely a subconscious attempt at making some sort of amends, hoping our creator will use his influence upon my demise to secure me a smaller furnace to stoke), I will attempt to explain what has brought me to the lowest of moral dregs with sincere hope that some child in the future, like myself, born in a mental institution, will be spared the same fate, to have received his entire education from the stricken, within the dark labyrinths of ailing minds.

Although my character has been described as savage; and I, subsequently, and rightfully so, called by many loathsome names~thief, rapist, and most recently murderer which I will soon explain in detail~however, my given name is Rudolf Clifford. My Grandfather on my mother's side, is (rather, was~my change in tense will soon be self evident) the celebrated psychologist, Edward Koning, founder of Briar Haven Mental Facility in Briar Massachusetts: located atop a hill, overlooking woods and flowered meadows considered by many a virtual Eden on earth.

As for my paternal relations, other than carrying the family name, Clifford, I know only the harsh fact that my father, like my mother, was a mental patient at the facility; which I will do my best to elaborate upon.

My mother was born sickly...weak in body and mind. She had been pampered from her first encounter with the world, which had made her exceptionally dependent upon her mother, my grandmother, Eleanor Harper, devoted wife of Edward Koning, so deeply involved with his first child, the institution, that he paid scarce attention to his wife and new daughter.

When my grandmother was killed in a tragic riding accident (my mother was then fourteen years of age), the immediate shock threw my mother in a state of depression she was never fully to recover from. Grandmother had been everything to her, and the loss left mother unable to cope with the simplest tasks. As for grandfather, after a brief bout of mourning, he dove ever more deeply into political affairs pertaining to the institution, and his invalid daughter was now entirely forgotten, perhaps purposely so, to disassociate his own mind from any stigma attached to her illness. After all, what would people think, were it common knowledge, that the head of such a prestigious facility was flawed enough to produce such a defective offspring?

Still, mother needed caring for...and he was not heartless enough to make no arrangements for her daily survival~this became the chore of the staff. At this point an entry in my mother's diary might best explain how I came into existence:

Diary Entry: May 6, 1937:

"At times I find it difficult to distinguish real from fantasy. Fantasy most seems the sensible choice ...and reality~cold, void the warmth of spontaneous feeling.... Did I imagine that glorious sunset?~each flower held to my lips tasting of sweetness and the promise of life eternal. Standing beneath my bedroom window, the soothing sound of violins I swore I heard coming from the apple orchard~were they real or my soul's hungry yearning for freedom?~each lyric sound seeming a wing of peace, lifting me to heights of rapture...or madness...I scarce could tell the difference, and cared naught to distinguish. And did I imagine~I pray I did~last night's later torment,when from an eerie mist which gathered at the foot of my bed, a human form took shape? It sat a specter vision. I could feel its unnerving presence throughout the trembling presses of down. It seemed foreboding. I sensed this~and for a moment, silent remained. Then called...beckoning a quiver of response. And none issued...called again...and again, until stopped by the solitary echo of my own pleading voice. Thus far only seeing the back of her head, at last she began to turn. Emerging from shadow, her strangely familiar profile came into view, quickly followed by the impact of her full, morbid countenance. It was departed mother...and some fiend had sown her mouth coarsely shut. She tried to speak~eyes piercing, swollen and pulsing red. Tears streaming down her face, beyond comprehension I felt profound guilt unequaled. Had I caused this somehow? Was her suffering because of me, and my catacombs of madness the the penance of her unending hell?

At length, the apparition was gone...leaving behind a sorrow even now I dare not entirely recall.

And did I imagine~Oh dear God, I pray not!~ last night in the meadow with Donald? He, like myself, seemed a hopelessly suffering soul, and together we tried to dispel for brief moments the plaguing gloom of our afflictions. Not much between us was said. But I felt safe with his arms around we drew closer...lying upon the fragrant grass our bodies yielded to the warmth of caresses.

During the sixth month, when it became apparent to the staff that mother was pregnant, she was made to feel ashamed. Soon guessing Donald was the father, for the two were often seen holding hands while strolling the gardens, he was equally condemned. Grandfather believed all psychosis to be hereditary~a demon passed down through the generations, blaming mother's on her maternal lineage. Certain that I, the offspring, could not escape madness, he made certain that henceforth mother and Donald would never see one another again, thus preventing future transgressions. For most of the time, Father was kept shut up in a wing on the opposite side of the main building, and soon afterwards, finding his way to the roof, jumped to his death, perhaps unable to bear separation from my mother, the only light in his dismal life. Why grandfather found it necessary to tell mother of her Donald's fate remained an infamous mystery to the entire staff. She pined thereafter without stop...and within a year had taken her own life. Though merely an infant at the time, I remember vaguely, her cold rain of tears bathing my face...and then they were gone..forever. Grandfather immediately after turned his concerns to the duties of a rapidly expanding facility, leaving my upbringing entirely to the staff. When staff was not available, some of the patients would fill in as surrogate parents~Miss Hathway, unbeknownst, a potential child molester, was more than happy to accommodate.

By the time I was seven she had me reading some of the most provocative literature. Nietzsche I saw as an oracle, whose luminous supermen became more than heroes to me~indeed, Gods, destined to rule the world from the Mount of Superiority. Though Miss Hathway did function as a splendid teacher, the prior alluded to sexual compulsion at last was her undoing. The practice of bathing me persisted into my early teens; when down by the lake, in hygienic guise, she assaulted me~afterward breaking down in tears...begging my forgiveness...pleading that I tell no one. For sure she loved me, in her twisted way. Kneeling at my feet~trembling hands covering her shameful face~I was quick to realize the potential of control from such remorse. Her transgression became a powerful weapon in my hand when I wanted to get my way with most anything. Threatening to tell our little secret, I delighted in watching her squirm. Though I felt no compassion, totally finding sadistic pleasure by tormenting her, it was back then that I began to toy with the idea of putting Miss Hathway and others like herself out of their wretched misery.

In the autumn of my sixteen year, I became obsessed with the daughter of a patient. She came each weekend to comfort her stricken father.Her name was Dawn~and lovely as her name might suggest. I had heard that opposites attract. She was as generous as I was selfish. She thought of others while I could not sway from my desire to own her every breath~which when not returned by outward affection toward me (in fact, she appeared to despise me), manifested in me an anger that poisoned all my awake moments. Nothing brought me rest...nor pleasure~not even tormenting Miss Hathway. I was haunted by the deep blueness of her soft eyes when caring for her father. Why could she not look on me that way? Her hair~sunrise, full of morning, and brightness that only unspoiled youth can emanate. This I found in her, the soul of life. And if ever my soul were to warm, just once, it could only be through her.

She took to avoiding me at every opportunity. When confronted by me face to face, she was repulsed by the attention. Had Hathway spoken to her? Or perhaps she saw in me~through me~to the very center of my being, my mother impaled on the pointed protrusions of my evil heart. Evil! The first time I ever thought of myself as such. Admitted to myself what everyone else apparently already knew.

I recall when the West Wing of the hospital was under construction, and how a patient had wandered too close to a working bulldozer and was pitifully crushed. While all others turned away, I moved closer. As they gasped at the mangled remains, I drew strength from each convulsive purge. I soared on the fact that I felt nothing. That's how Dawn turned from though I were mangled or crushed. A misfortune to lay eyes upon...and to shield oneself or go insane.

I waited my time lurking in dark shadows...and one late evening when she was leaving~I struck. Let it just suffice to say~what I first thought to obtain by splendid poetry and feigning tenderness, I now took with all ferocity. Grandfather later claimed it cost the institution a small fortune to hush up the matter. There were staff to bribe, claiming they had seen Dawn tempt me with suggestive clothing and tawdry remarks. Feeling outnumbered, she settled for a cash settlement, taking her father away with her, refusing to leave him one moment longer in care of such swine.

With Dawn gone I turned further inward: Sadistic play with Miss Hathway derived less and less pleasure. In fact, the entire atmosphere of the institution was unbearable. For the first time I heard the incessant screaming. The longing for freedom, those sorrowful souls prevented from death...bound by straitjackets...tossed wailing into padded cells~their only crime ever to have been born. Oh the superiority of the poorly educated staff! Who, if not for the unfortunates they attended (the same they looked down upon~mocked and jeered at), would be left unemployable, and a stain on that very pure society Grandfather thought protected by facilities like Briar Haven.

My earlier toying with putting an end to this horrid place was now a flame ignited in me. I began satisfying my resolve by snitching small amounts of cyanide from the caretaker's shed. I planned well the ghoulish task at hand. Earlier this evening I proceeded to dump handfuls of the lethal stuff into the chief's stew, and then to the lazy staff's chagrin, offered to help dish up and serve heaping proportions at breathtaking speed. The quantity of poison made the stew exceptionally potent. Patients tumbled out of chairs in deadly convulsions. But I made not a move to help...and thought only of mother, and how her calling for help had settled like snow, on cold, distant hillsides, where only dark angels drew comfort from the aloneness. Staff stumbled from the kitchen, clutching their abdomens. I personally served Grandfather his dinner...then hurried to explain his fate as I perceived the first fatal reactions.

Those of the staff who missed dinner because of critical duties, upon seeing the bedlam fled the institution at an alarming pace. I suspect the lights coming up the road are some of them returning, accompanied by the authorities. And still, as I put down the pen an pick up the revolver on the table, I feel no remorse. Looking out from Grandfather's office window, down upon the moonlit gardens and orchids, and out over the lake shimmering with light, I say to myself, "The institution never has seemed lovelier. Mother!~I'm coming!"