In the second part of my series called ‘Inspired,’ I have written a short story called, ‘Forgotten’ based on a picture taken by the very talented photographer David Kennedy. If you like his work, you can check out more on his Instagram page @grey.lord. Let me know what you think, and if you are a writer, artist, photographer or general creative type, and would like to collaborate with me, then get in touch.
She was just nineteen years old when she was institutionalised. She was not a criminal, nor was she mad. Her only crime was being pregnant and unwed. Her lover had been much older than her. She was innocent and inexperienced. He did not have the excuse of youth nor naivety for his actions. He had seduced her, convincing her that he loved her, that they would elope and marry. But one day, she found her letters unanswered, and no answer at his door. He never said goodbye. At first, she had believed he would come for her; save her from that wretched place. But he never came, and eventually she lost all hope, along with her mind.
The day they brought her there, the sky had been a dark and foreboding grey, threatening to rain at any moment. She had stared out the window of the car, willing it to rain. She didn’t want to weep alone. Her father had not said a word to her since the day she had spilled her secrets. He never looked her in the eye, and tensed whenever she reached out to him, or spoke his name. After a while, she stopped trying. Her mother had called her a whore, and slapped her hard in the face.
They had tried to have one of the back street Doctors solve their problems, but she had only revealed her affliction when the bump had grown too large to conceal, and by then, it was too late. She had been glad. She loved the life growing inside her. It was all she had left of her lover, and of the time in her life when she had finally felt true happiness. It would belong to her, and she it. She would run away to somewhere they did not know her. She would invent a name, and a dead husband. They would not have much, but they would have each other.
By the time she saw the institution coming into view, and realised what was happening, it was too late to escape. She had kicked and screamed, and even bit one of the men in white uniforms, who had dragged her from her Father’s car, but they were so strong, and they stabbed her with something which filled her head with fog. She had screamed at her Father for help, but he never turned around. The last thing she had seen, before everything went black, was his car driving away.
After that, it was difficult to tell nightmares from reality. Her room was small and dark There were bars on the tiny, grubby window, from which she could just see the lush green of the world outside those walls. Inside, everything was grey. Grey paint peeled from the walls, and fell in large clumps like scabs. The itchy wool blanket which was stretched over the lump filled mattress of her single bed, was also grey. Even the light which emanated from the naked bulb above, seemed to be grey. It swung from side to side, despite there being no air in the room, and cast moving shadows all around.
They left her there, in that room, for hours. No one came to see her, or explained what was going on. The only reason she knew there were other people there, was the occasional scream, which echoed through the corridors outside her cell. Eventually, three men appeared. Two, she recognised as the orderlies who had dragged her inside. One wore a bandage on his right hand, which seeped. She hoped it hurt. The third man was short, with thinning grey hair, and small features. He wore small, round glasses which sat on the tip of his nose, and a pale grey, tweed suit. He always spoke quietly, even when she screamed in his face. He was Doctor Stevens, and he was the most evil man she had ever met.
He told her three things that first day. First, he said that she was very sick, and that she needed to stay in the institution until he could make her better. Second, he told her that violence would not be tolerated, and every outburst by her, would be met with swift and harsh punishment. Third, he told her that a lack of cooperation was pointless. They had ways of making her take the drugs and eat her meals, and they were so terrible, she should be smart and do what she was told, like a good little girl. She spat in his face.
Everything went black again. When she awoke, it was dark outside and her room was empty. She stared at the ceiling, damp and mould creeping across it, and prayed for help, for mercy. But it never came.
The next few weeks were a repetitive cycle of treatments, bland food, restless sleep and punishments for her defiance and attempts at escape. Ice baths in the morning, breakfast of cold porridge and bread. Next, came ‘exercise’ which consisted off placing her alone in a large enclosed yard, to wonder up and down, staring at pieces of the sky, before lunch, usually a broth of some kind. She would then be forced to have talking therapy with Dr Stevens, during which he would deride her for her sinful life, before she was made to go to the Hospital’s chapel, and confess her sins to the unsympathetic priest, Father Murphy. He always looked at her like she was the Devil himself, and spoke to her of the terrible fate awaiting her in the afterlife if she were not to repent. After another bland meal, she would be placed in her room for the evening, alone with her thoughts. The only reading material provided was a bible, with pages missing. The only comfort she had, was the movements and kicks of the child within her.
True despair did not come until the day they took her baby. She had went into labour in the small hours of the morning. It was pain like nothing she had ever felt, and she was utterly exhausted by the end, but it had all been worth it when she heard the little cries. But as she reached out to it, they carried it away, still crying. Crying out for it’s Mother. That was the last time she ever saw her child. They never even told her the gender, until a nurse with red hair, called Queeny, took sympathy on her, and secretly gave her a small black and white photograph of an infant, wearing a dress and bonnet. On the back, written in pencil, was the word ‘Elsie.’ That was one of the few moments of kindness shown to her during her stay.
After they had stolen Elsie, they had moved her to general population. Some of the other girls were there for the same reason she was. They tried to make friends, but she had nothing left to give another. She closed herself off, and stopped speaking. Other people only hurt us anyway.
Years passed, and patients came and went, but she remained, heartbroken and alone. Eventually, even the staff changed, and new managers and Doctors brought new treatments and therapies, but nothing can heal wounds that deep. When they found her stiff and cold in her bed, the other patients said she had died of a broken heart. Inside her hand they found a worn out black and white photograph of a child, whose, they did not know.
Everyone was glad to see the place closed. They had tried to sell it, and during the property boom, a few property developers had even viewed it, contemplating turning it into flats. But there was something off putting about the place, a vibe which left everyone who stepped foot inside, feeling unnerved. Eventually, it decayed and began to crumble. Not even birds would use it’s roof to perch, and dogs, out walking with their owners, barked at the empty windows, warning of invisible threats.
They say, she still walks the corridors to this day, crying out in pain. Crying for her baby.