Thursday, 29 May 2014

Another Unconventional Case

“Wha… wha… what’s th… th…  What’s that?  A-a-a p-ppocket watch?  On a-a-a ch-chain?  Twirl-ing round an round an round… Tha-th-that tha’s sil-ly… It’s l-l-like y-y-you… like y-y-y you try… like y-you tryin t-to.. trying to hyp, hyp hyp-no… hyp-no-tise… b-b-but tha’s si-lly… ha, ha, ha, ha” (a fit of giggles, childish, imbecilic almost)  “Bu-bu-bu ladies… bu ladies… bu ladies don’t… don’t have… ha,ha,ha,ha,ha, po-po-pockets …ha,ha,ha,ha,ha… I m-m-mean po-po-pocket wa-wa-wa-wa…”

“Ssshhh, hush now… that’s a BIG word, you KNOW you have trouble saying big words.  Just think of it as a thing, now – a big shiny, ever so pretty thing that you just can’t remember the name of, that catches your eye and wont let it go, that fills your mind until your silly little head is empty of all else, that you can still see even when it isn’t there, whenever you hear my voice, like a gentle lullaby, a baby blanket lying heavy on your thoughts… it’s just another silly word you no longer need to know, that you just can’t be bothered to hold on to, that has drifted out of your head forever, like the name of your boyfriend, the name of your favourite pet… all those other things we have been working on together to help you forget… remember… we work TOGETHER to help you forget… can you remember why? “

“He-help m-m-m make be-be-be…”

“Another difficult one…better…try good… say good…”

“He-he-help m-make m-m-me g-g-good pat-pat-pa-pa…”


“He-help m-m-make g-good pash-pash-pash-passhh…”

“And what SORT of good patient are we trying to become?”

“M-m-men… men… men… men-tall p-p-passhnt…. No…No… No I-I-I’mm no-not a-a-a me-me-men-t-al passhnt… I’m not go-go-gonna l-l-ook at th-th po-po-po wa-wa-wa…th-th-th-f-fing…shi-shy-nee fing… not gonna look at th-th-th shy-n-n-nee f-fing… you c-can’t m-m-make m-m-me… you hip-hip-hip-no-tissst… can’t hip-hip-hip against will, not if not want to…me…me know ho-ow it w-works…can’t make me if, if,if.. I wont look.. I…”

“Silly girl, you’re already deeply under… deeeply, deeeeply under – and you’re deeply under because you want to be under… because for months now I’ve told you that you want to be  under, because you trust me, you LOVE me, you want me to help you empty out your head for you – so that I can take care of you – so that you can better adjust to life here in an institution… that is how you can tell how deeply under my spell you really are.  Look around you and you see a bedroom, a child’s bedroom all fluffy and pink and comforting… that’s it, let your eyes drift from the shiny gold thing twirling around and around – go on, I’ll let you… you can see the room – just as I describe – but you can still see the twirling shiny gold thing, whichever way you look, a room full of things you no longer know the names of… but you know you are in a hospital ward with bars on the windows and locks on the doors and the nightie you wear is really a pair of hospital-issue pyjamas and the teddy bears in cots are really the five other girls we have here, all dressed in exactly the same way and all in their hospital beds… so you must be hypnotised already. ..”

“N-no-no no ye-ye-ye c-c-cnt m-m-make m-m-m l-ll-look at…fing…shy-n-ee fing…can’t hip, hip-hip-hip no no tizze against m-m-m… can’t make me go, go. Go deep-er..can’t… wont shut eyes – yo-yu-yu’lll want me to sllleeep, shut my eys and sleep but wont sllleeep, so sleepppeee, so…”

“I’m NOT trying to make you… silly… I’m not trying to make you follow the pretty shinny thing spinning around and around and around, see, I gave you permission to look away… I’m not even using my pocket watch… it is not even there… that is why you can still see it every where you look – it can’t be moving all around the room.  You see, it doesn’t exist, my pretty, shiny pocket watch is all in your mind… which is because your eyes are already shut, you are already deep, deep asleep – you are completely unable to see or hear anything I don’t want you to… If you don’t believe me, close your eyes, see if that’ll make the pocket watch go away… there you are… good girl… the pocket watch is still there, isn’t it?  That is because you were already hypnotised, very deeply hypnotised – and now you’re helping me take you deeper still, by testing that fact, closing your eyes and slipping deeper still… We do this every day – in the sessions we have together, three times per day.  It is called ‘fractioning’; I bring you partly out of your trance, give you a little awareness while keeping you under my control just enough to prevent you resurfacing completely, and then take you back down again, each time a little further, perhaps ten or twelve times each session until we reach our final destination.  Do you remember the schoolroom we go to, the special private little schoolroom where we un-learn things?  We’re nearly there now – when we get there your subconscious will be spilled all over the schoolroom floor like a discarded jigsaw puzzle, and when we turn to leave we choose together some piece to leave behind, to be swept up.  And then we sit you at a desk in a little school pinafore dress, with your hair in pigtails, and we play that kind of hangman game we play on the schoolroom blackboard, in which we rub out one letter at a time of some word, name, idea or fact we are trying to rid ourselves of, and when that thing has all gone, and no longer clutters up your silly little head, you get to pick a chocolate from teacher’s box as a reward for helping yourself… Look, can you see the schoolroom door up ahead?”

“Yes miss”  The voice, lispy, childlike.

“And are you ready, dressed in your school uniform?”

“Yes, miss, of course miss…”

“There, you see – silly girl.  And I’ve not needed my pocket watch for months now, you silly thing… I just have to say ‘you silly thing’ and it is right there, in front of your eyes…. All you can see… my voice all you can hear… And when you wake up, you giggle wildly at the nurses, and at the hospital ward with its bars and locks, and at the other girls in their matching mental patient pyjamas - it all seems so deliriously funny, and yet so comforting to be a mental patient now…  Isn’t that right, honey?”

“Yes miss”

“Then open the schoolroom door and we’ll go in… look there is your desk, an… Oh, look – the blackboard is already set up from last time, the hangman game is halfway through.  Shall we complete it?  I don’t recognize the word, there are too few letters left – what do you think it may have been?  Do you think it might have been your name, the thing people used to address you by you before you came under our care here in this institution?  I think it might have been, don’t you?  I can’t imagine what it might have been, not from those few letters.  I.B.L.L.A – whatever could that have been?  It’d give you one of your migraines trying to work it out from that, make you feel REALLY poorly – and we don’t want THAT, now, do we?  I think it’d be best if you just took this blackboard eraser here and just rubbed through the whole lot with one swipe, so we can get them out of your head once and for all, and then you can have one of my delicious chocolates for being such a clever girl – and then we can start another game… that’s it – good girl.”

Lying back on her hospital bed, eyes closed and her green and white striped institutional pyjamas crumpled under the heavy covers, the back of her head sunken deeply in the latex-covered pillow, Isabella Hanky-Smyth-Green’s soft lips moved gently, her voice resigned yet relaxed, a mere whisper where once there had been strident tomboyish rebellious indignation that she should find herself installed in a mental institution at the whim of a legal guardian she hadn’t even met:

“Yes miss..” 

The truth was a little different.  The truth was, in reality the doctor NEVER let young Isabella Hanky-Smyth-Green fully resurface nowadays.  Even the supposed companionship of the other five girls – although institution discipline forbade any communication between them – and the semi-conventionalism of the small hospital ward with its double row of curtain surrounded beds, three either side, and barred, frosted glass windows she would wake up to was an illusion constructed in her head. 

Her reality was in fact far sadder, more impoverished, than even that.  There was a small windowless bare-walled room furnished with a rail-sided hospital bed that in turn was furnished with all the leather-strap wherewithal necessary for the ‘humane restraint’ of a psychiatric patient. on which the late teen girl was presently reclining on her back.  A tall, slender yet full busted woman, dressed in a tight fitted tweed skirt and white form-fitted satin-finished shirt-blouse was leaning across from one side, murmuring the soft sing-song words of the practiced stage hypnotist – which she indeed actually was , or had once been - while gently rhythmically tapping the pretty girl on the forehead with two fingers.  Two other beds, both opposite, contained what were obviously – to any sensible eye – two manikins dressed in institutional pyjamas identical to those the hypnotised teen was clothed in, right down the to the hospital badge, name and the words, ‘mental hospital’ on the breast pocket along with the word ‘DELUSIONAL’ printed in block capitals across the centre – a word repeated up on the wall at the rear of each bed. 

A wheelchair, equipped with straps and a restraining poncho affair, was set before a television set perpetually playing films about mental illness and featuring the inside views of various mental hospitals and was where young Isabella spent the major portion of each day.  A commode chair equipped with restraints and a colonic irrigation apparatus took care of toileting matters and was set before a full length wall mirror such that the occupant would have little choice but be witness to her own humiliation.  Supervising from a corner, part reflected in the mirror, stood a life-sized manikin of a well proportioned, wide-hipped and big breasted woman, black nylon hair in a tight no-nonsense bun and dressed in the unmistakable uniform of the British hospital matron of days gone by, the navy blue dress, white cuffs, collar, high-fronted cap and starched pinafore apron pressed and ironed to perfection.

What would have been oppressive, subterranean silence was perpetually under attack by a softly indistinct cacophony reminiscent of hospital ward activity.  The air was filled with the hissing and rasping of nylon stockings, the click-clack of stilettos, the rustle of starched nurses’ uniforms, the snap of rubber gloves, the faint crinkle of those disposable plastic aprons nurses sometimes wore, the occasional clatter of porcelain or enamelled bedpans and the rattling of urine.  There was the murmur of  conversation, too indistinct to pick out actual words, other than the occasional remark which would surface as if gas bubbling up from out the ground in some mire someplace – and always disparaging; “…very poor mental health…” or “…all mentally ill in here…” or “…losing her grip on reality, poor thing…”  or “delusional – cant expect much” or “…take no notice – they’re all delusional in here; spout nonsense night and day…”.  All this was set to a background of gently hissing, rattling rainfall as if on a roof or window some way off – and all of it on a tape loop; actually a rather long one, cleverly running between two tape machines and long enough to mask any repetitive pattern that might otherwise have emerged.  The tape loop ran night and day, and had done so since the girl’s capture. 

The basic motive had been simple extortion, the promised payday of a nice ransom.  The setup had been elaborate, but the amount they had been after was… well, extortionate – ruinous.  It was anticipated that negotiation would be long and drawn out, and in addition would benefit from a long ‘sweating out period’ beforehand, possibly of several months, through which they would of course have to hold on to their captive, yet would make no mention nor make contact with their intended victim.  Then there was planned to be another extended period while they salted away and laundered the money and erased any paper trail – only then was their captive to be released. 

The set  up had been intended to create confusion in their captive, leave her convinced she had been perhaps injured and been in some medical clinic somewhere, and simple surgical masks covering her captor’s features would have added to that illusion.  Obviously there were always going to be SOME mental scars, such an aftermath was inevitable.  But there was not to be any physical harm, nor long-term mental harm:  The latter didn’t necessarily fit with the agenda of certain of the girl’s captors,, a couple of characters with an axe to grind with their extortion victim which went well beyond monitory destruction.  And here was the result.  The ransom had been paid long ago – and an extra payment extracted since, the latter seeing the sale of the family seat in addition to the company assets and art collection which had had to go to settle the initial demands; it had been ruinous indeed!   

The negotiation had indeed been long and laboured, and reluctant to apply pressure - as many more ruthless types might have done - through physical threat and peril, perhaps hacking of an ear or finger (although the girl’s hair had paid the price at one point – though that did play to the institutionalising theme), they chose instead to highlight the psychologically damaging aspect of the girl’s incarceration.  Thus at one point the teen was subjected to their own idiosyncratic and highly imaginative form of the well-known Chinese water torture for the cameras.  At another point they had filmed the result of several days of sleep deprivation.  Then of course there were the corporal punishment, discipline and humiliation scenes they had filmed the girl undergoing, a regimen put together by one of their number, a trained research psychologist, with the intended aim of the régime being instantly recognisable to any expert as something likely to lead to long-term psychological damage if prolonged. 

So yes, their aims were met.  The girl’s family effectively ruined, at least in so far as their continued participation in the particular realm the girl’s captors were interested in was concerned.  But as for the girl herself… Well it wasn’t looking likely they would be getting her back any time soon; and they certainly would not be getting back anything LIKE the outgoing, gregarious, vivacious and rebellious girl they had once known, even then.  But then again, the girl and her remaining two captors were not even anywhere NEAR the United Kingdom, let alone under British jurisdiction or even its influence; her new home was not even under western hemisphere influence.  Labour relations had an altogether different meaning in these parts, and a mental defective could be put to work in a number of ways.  Indeed, there were residential institutions in this region of the world that owed their entire EXISTENCE to the efficient manufacturing power of their inmates, the rigid discipline they worked under and the sweatshops they laboured in.  And of course, anything even vaguely young and pretty could expect to participate in certain… extracurricular activities – it went without saying.   

Straightening up from the soundly sleeping girl, the woman smiled smugly to herself.  Once she had finished emptying out the little fools head, then… hmmm… perhaps she’d keep her closer to home.  Domestic service didn’t take much of a mind – and she’d always wanted to see an heiress, and a spoilt little would-be (or would have been) debutant to boot, scrubbing the stairs on her knees – or would it be on a cushion on her knees with her head bobbing up and down between a pair of well spread thighs.  Either way, she could still send the girl back to her family if she tired of her in a few years, safe in the knowledge that they would be both appalled and devastated at what little they would receive back.  The term ‘husk’ wouldn’t do it justice.  
 Yes, a VERY unconventional case, indeed – if anything about kidnapping could ever be said to be 'conventional'.     

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