"The world is all a carcass and vanity, the shadow of a shadow, a play and in one word, just nothing."—Michel de Montaigne
It was spring of the year 1839, when had I reached Amsterdam by train from Harlem. I was in Holland to join an international conference that was being hosted and presented, by the doctor and professor, Hendrik Van Hassel. Professor Van Hassel was a very reputable scientist as well whose studies and discoveries on phenakism had galvanized the scientific world. His advanced theories would change the course of phenakism. However, I would soon alter the course of that history anew, and the general pattern of thought deduced before, into my unimaginative and apocalyptic glimpse of the future.
I had listened close and attentively to his eloquent speech that elaborated his studies and discoveries pertaining to phenakism, the study of the human mind, through the skull. I had admired his brilliance and dedication as a perceptive man of science. Once the conference was finished, I waited in the foyer for him, so that I could speak to him afterward at length. When he appeared in the foyer, I introduced myself to him; although I was not certain if he would address my inquiry after all, he was a very busy fellow.
"Dr. Van Hassel, pardon me for the bold intrusion—but if you have time, I must speak to you at once. I am Dr. Joseph Van der Burg of New York sir, and the matter is very urgent and delicate."
His response was, "From America, you say Dr. Van der Burg? You are very far away from home. I cannot believe you have travelled to Holland, just to speak to me or attend my conference."
I smiled and chuckled, "Oh no sir, I was in London previously, before my arrival to Amsterdam.”
"Then my good American doctor, what is this pressing matter that you need to speak to me about?" Dr. Van Hassel asked.
"What would you say Professor Van Hassel, if I told you that I am presently investigating a theory that will not only cure madness but as well perhaps, all nefarious nexus to this incurable mental disease until now?" I acknowledged.
At first his reaction was doubt and bewilderment, but then he was completely intrigued, "What exactly is this investigation that you are suggesting, Dr. Van der Burg?"
I responded, "Perhaps, we should speak this matter away from here, in privacy professor!"
He looked into my eyes and replied, "This matter must be very important Dr. Van der Burg."
"Indeed so professor!"
"Come and follow me then doctor, we can speak along the way. I am heading towards the Blauwbrug Bridge, by the River Amstel. It should give you enough time to disclose your significant revelation."
"Do you mean the same river that flows through the heart of the city?"
He nodded his head in affirmation and said, "Yes!"
I then proceeded to elucidate what I was investigating at the time, "I am a man of science and consider myself a champion of the cause of genetic evolution. All of my life has been dedicated to the advancement of science and invention professor. And even more, since the death of my late beloved wife, who succumbed to the horror of madness. I have devoted endless years to the preservation of her memory. And for years, I have been studying the components of the human physiognomy, including the brain. I have reached the conclusion based upon my inference, which has offered me the basis of my theory that the cure to diseases imposed or caused by mankind lies in the study of the human body itself."
"Theory, exactly what theory have you surmised Dr. Van der Burgh?" He asked boldly.
"Although it is an unproven theory yet, it is beyond a doubt feasible in the end professor. The possibility of eradicating not only madness, but as well in the future, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid or any plague for that matter is of immense significance sir," I interjected.
As we continued walking steadily, my discourse had begun to arrest even more his interest, and captivate his heightened perception. We spoke and discussed this particular theory of mine at length, and had shared privately our audacious opinions and observations with each other. We both had been receptive to our individual interpretation of this subject, and were extremely eager to fulfill the advancement and cause of science. However, not all my concepts were shared or accepted, by Professor Van Hassel. What was agreed in the end superseded our trivial disagreements, and permitted for our possible correspondence to be continued abroad.
Our fascinating parley abated once we reached the street that led to the Opera House ahead. He had mentioned that he had a personal engagement to tend to with his frow, and he amicably excused himself. Indeed, he was a man to be respected, and his collaboration to scientific research was to be revered also. Thereafter, we shook hands and I had noticed progressively that his earnest impression of me was more propitious than unpleasant. This had proven to be an inspiring benefit, to my important trip to Europe.
Upon the following morning, I boarded a ship off the dock of Amsterdam to New York, leaving behind the Dutch city that had enamored me, with its plentiful beauty and rich history. During the voyage, I pondered wisely and thoroughly, the enlightened conversation I shared with Professor Van Hassel, and his extraordinary words began to resonate and enable me to further explore my studies and hypothesis, about the strong possibility of a veritable cure for madness, as I had contemplated many times before.
When I returned to America, I was welcomed by my fellow compeer of science and loyal friend, Dr. Charles Chadsworth, an Englishman, who I met in Princeton as a student, while he was traveling from England. He had relocated to America and became a noble citizen of the country. I had invited him to join me for dinner, so that we could discuss my trip to Europe, and especially my trip to Amsterdam that he was impassioned to know. His dear wife Emma was Violet's intimate friend, and our families were well embedded in New York for decades. They were frequent visitors to the estate and enjoyed the picturesque landscape of the remote area.
My quaint home was a solitary mansion, behind the Hudson River in the small town of Tarrytown, New York. The house was known, as the Tarrington Mansion. The Gothic mansion consisted of a limestone building, with impressive turrets and a four story tower, above the small designed windows beneath. There was a magnificent garden of blooms, with linden trees and rolling lawns accented with protruding shrubs, within the estate. Inside, there was a glass-walled vestibule, two bedrooms and servant quarters. There was as well, an office, library, dining hall with a warm fireplace.
In the dining hall we had found ourselves after returning to Tarrytown. Around the dinner table, we began to converse, anent the one topic that most excited us, science. Despite the wearisome travel in train from New York to Tarrytown, I had enough vim and verve to carry on, with an extended conversation. There was so much of my memorable experience in Europe and in particular in Amsterdam I wanted to share with my old good friend from England, but the conversation I had with Professor Van Hassel interested him the most. After all, we were both scientists and arduous adventurers.
"Thus, you discussed his recent discovery at length?" Dr. Chadsworth inquired.
"Indeed, and I shared in return, my concept on the matter of the research I am presently undertaking," I replied.
His response was, "Oh, you don't mean, that elusive cure of insanity, you have been speaking of ever since, we were students studying medicine long ago?"
"Exactly, and the most compelling thing was, that he did not totally dismiss my theory. On the contrary, he was enthusiastic to know more, and we cordially agreed to share our opinions and collaboration, through our correspondence," I rejoined.
"Really", was all that he uttered.
"If Edward Jenner was able to create immunity to small pox, then why can I not create a cure for madness? Just imagine how better the world would be from now to the future?" I ejaculated.
"I doubt that I would live to see that day my friend. Nevertheless, as a man of science myself, I look forward to that day, dead or alive," he answered.
He had sighed before he said, with a token regret, "Unfortunately, I must go now, and I am certain you are fatigued, with the long fastidious trip." He grabbed his top hat and departed.
I told him one last thing that was consequential, "Charles, that day shall be sooner than later, my friend. You will see!"
That night I was pensive, but my body was extremely weary from the trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, I slept until the early afternoon, when I was awakened by the chirping of the sparrows outside, who had gathered near the window sill. I busied myself after awakening in collecting my notes taken in Amsterdam, so that I could commence with the task of advancing my research and theory. I was deeply committed to the fulfillment of science in its purest form ascertained. My resolution was unwavering, and my solution would be incontrovertible. I had always been regardful of my critics and the potential of my pending failure. However, I was absolutely determined to achieve my ultimate aspirations.
The day would be occupied, with the satisfaction of my obsession to find the unthinkable cure to madness I had sought ere. The eventual answer would have to be acquired, through my intellect and diligence afforded. Although my theory was yet unproven, I was completely convinced that I could manifest the crucial elements that were necessary to create the elusive cure. All that I had to attain was the manner which allowed me to create this prognosis finally. I thought it prudent to keep a diary as well, for the purpose of recording my progress and the precept of my theory. Even though, I realized that I would be exposing myself to unavailing presumption and circumspection I proceeded.
In my laboratory inside the cellar, I began to attempt to implement my elaborate experiment. If I could only induce the reference of the origin of all common illnesses or diseases into a single pattern, then I could surmise from experience, a precedent that would expedite a clear and efficient understanding of its function. The source lied in the intrinsic nature of biology and anatomy. The unique cell theory that described the properties of the cells in organisms and reproduction had to be thoroughly deciphered. Cell biology had been established, since the 17th century, and afterwards, scientists had debated the nature of cellular regeneration and the notion of cells as a pertinent component of life. The difference in structure in animal tissues and plant tissues was relevant, as was the fundamental and vital comprehension of the cause, why red cells agglutinate in the first place. I had studied the complexity of the rete in human anatomy, from my days as a student. The question was how reliable could this theory combined with my own assertion of cell reproduction be accurate with pathology?
For weeks I was entirely engrossed, with my ongoing research and experiment, but every time I perceived progress, I would be hindered by the presence of uncertainty and logic. I was resolute to not accept failure or omission. The days and nights resulted in undesirable frustration and exertion, and gradually I could only reach the visible tangibility of the cause and effect of illness, and its lingering capacity. Hitherto, this was ineffectual and insufficient to achieve scientific relevance. It was necessary that I established the sequence of progression and regression at intervals. This would require a specimen in order to accomplish that unique experiment.
I had studied before the evolution and adaptation of plants to its environs. However, this would not conclude the expertise solely for this endeavor. In spite of that reality, I was prepared and cognizant of the difficulty I was to confront. My expectations were high and I felt plausible. I concentrated on the disease that was more perilous and deadly at the moment, phthisis. I recalled the words expressed by Professor Van Hassel daily, and the veracity of what was known of phenakism. I was aware of such treatments as homeopathy and allopathy.
One day, I awoke to the idea of examining a dead corpse infected with consumption. I wanted to study the state of the body once dead, before complete decomposition and putrefaction. I also would require that the contaminated corpse be someone, who was not prominent. The foreseeable problem could materialize in obtaining a dead infected corpse. Where could I find a corpse immediately? I knew as a physician I could examine a patient of consumption, at my own discretion; but a recent dead corpse was more challenging and totally another matter. A wondrous but macabre idea insisted in my mind constantly upon that day.
I thought of the morgue in New York City. Thus, I instructed Peter my carriage driver to travel to New York City, and visit the morgues, until such a body was located. I gave him money to pay handsomely the mortician. I had entrusted him for this significant task, and I was certain that the matter would be handled with the utmost discretion. Fortunately, New York City was infested with abundant pestilence and death. It took Peter one day to find a recent dead corpse at a local morgue in New York City, and to return with the corpse I was seeking.
Once he returned, I told him to take the corpse that was wrapped up in heavy cloths under a plastic covering to the cellar at once. He then departed and returned to his servant quarters, while I remained behind in the laboratory. After making preparations for my own autopsy, I discovered the probable cause of death and the severity of the illness of the man, whose corpse I was examining. I had perfumed the body before, preventing the stench to expand. I then made the appropriate incision into the body with a scalpel.
When I reached the area of the lungs, I discovered the deterioration of the man's lungs that were apparently contaminated, with bacteria. The damaging infection in the lungs was impossible it seemed to overcome. The poor devil was in the last stage of his debilitating disease. The lips were dry, and the corpse stiff, but preserved. I was extremely focused in my precision and deliberate in my accuracy. Then, I kept the lungs in a wax sealer of the deceased individual, and identified the specimen I had in my possession.
Soon, I began to examine the blood cells of the scarred tissue from the lungs I had removed under a microscope. It was evident and there was no doubt that the dead man had died from exposure to consumption. It was more likely that he got the disease, from intimate contact with an infected individual. More exploration of the samples was crucial and imperative to resolve with exactitude the state of the specimen, after dissolution. I needed then, a living entity or human being to prove the other aspect of my theory that was consistent, with the basic fundamentals of science. This individual would need not only to be hale but as well, very robust in nature and stature. This was a dilemma perhaps, or so I was exaggerating.
The following morning, I instructed Peter to head to New York City to find me this time, a living specimen. It had to be exactly as I had planned. He had returned to Tarrytown that night with a certain gentleman, who fitted the description of the person I was interested in. I did not inquire much only his name. His name was Robert Sweeney, and he was originally from Canada. He had been in New York City, for five years approximately. This added information he had disclosed to me openly. He rested the night, and I had explained to him that no harm would be brought upon him, and I would explain everything in the morning.
When the morning arrived, I expounded the simple procedure to the gentleman. I had mentioned I was a doctor, and he did not appear to be wary or anxious; instead, he was quite calm and compliant knowing that admission. He did not seem to be afraid of syringes. Thus, I took blood from his arm and thanked him for his participation, since it was for the worthy cause of a vaccine. He was not interested in knowing more details and then departed. I had examined his blood cells under the microscope and did not notice anything out of the ordinary. So far all was going according to plan, and the achievement of my experiment could be performed with supposed efficiency.
This inducement had stirred my fascination and yearning. What was the next step in the process? I needed to observe the brain of a madman. A volunteer was necessary, but whom? I could not permit myself to share this experiment with someone I was not acquainted with. The question of ethics arose, and just morality.
In the end I made the conscious decision that I would seek that brain. I knew the great peril I was exposing myself to, and the controversial discussion I would ignite if successful, in the scientific world once made public. Indeed, courage was wanted and consideration was also warranted. I needed to be certain of every small detail. I studied night after night the lengthy notes I took from Professor Van Hassel in Amsterdam, and I had abstracted from his research the significant parts and included my discoveries, within the experiment I had initiated. I made sure that I would not be disturbed, and only Mr. Tillman my butler would remain in the house, if I had fallen asleep in the laboratory at night. I was eager to reveal my discovery with Dr. Chadsworth the next day. I thought in anticipation of his reaction and opinions.
Thus, I invited Dr. Chadsworth over for dinner once more. It was the perfect excuse to obtain his perception and response; although I was not confident if he would react in incredulity merely. I was somewhat nervous as well, as I knew that he possessed a keen acumen. I had summoned Peter to visit his house, and tell him of my invitation for dinner. If there was one thing consistent of Dr. Chadsworth, it was his fine disposition. He was always prompt and efficient in his engagements private or public. I appreciated his candor, and I trusted his faithful discretion. I waited until his arrival, and when he arrived, I cordially greeted him standing at the front door. He noticed in me a bit of apprehension in my countenance.
After we had finished dinner in the dining hall, I explained the true reason for the congenial visit and described every detail of my discovery to him. His reaction was at first disbelief and bewilderment expressed. However, when he entered the laboratory and saw what I had been doing, his curiosity elevated. I immediately elucidated my experimental discovery down to the minutiae. There was still this burden of proof and realization that beclouded his acceptance of my finding. What was indispensable as evidence was the result. And that meant convincing him, despite the consequences. It was a precarious quandary to undergo—not knowing, if my theory would be understood. A strong intuitive thought prevailed over me, and emboldened my resolution.
Thus, I began to explain more in detail, my experiment and what I had uncovered. Dr. Chadsworth was in accordance with me, and urged me to include him in any future collaboration. His intrigue had compelled him to ask what my next step would be. I did not know and therefore, I could not give him a reasonable reply. He was forced to leave me, and return to his home. He had to take a train to Boston, in order to attend a conference that he was giving the next morning. The last thing he said before his departure was that he would keep this matter confidential, and he would visit me upon his return. He was very persistent that I kept him informed at all times, about my condition and new revelations. I acquiesced, since I could confide in him.
That night I decided to rest for the remainder of the day. Even though I felt healthy, I did not want to be ill. I was suffering from strong headaches and lapses of memory at times. This was a cautious measure to observe on my part. I was in the garden taking a stroll that week, when Dr. Chadsworth had visited the house afterward to speak about the evolution of the experiment almost daily, and together, we discussed the issue of my scientific research. I was aware of the ramifications of my discovery.
A month had passed, and no clarification on how to firmly proceed. Verily, had I achieved my purpose? If so, was I ready to attempt to cure the uncontrollable nature that was madness? Was I being realistic in my assumption of possibilities—or was I being irrational? And could the dreadful disease of madness be cure, with a mere theory? So much had been mentioned about this illness that had plagued mankind, since its inception. But could a complicated illness that was more of the brain be cured in the first place? I had to discuss the issue in depth with Dr. Chadsworth, and thus, I invited him once more to dinner. However, before that, I sent a correspondence to Professor Van Hassel in Amsterdam. I was eager to reveal my discovery to him, and to continue discussing the subject of madness as well.
Meanwhile, I shared the conversation on the matter, with Dr. Chadsworth in the hall, as we had gathered to celebrate my birthday. When I asked his opinion on the subject of madness, he was puzzled but interested in knowing what I was pondering. It was then that I disclosed my intention on furthering my experiment with insanity finally. It was insanity after all that killed my beloved Violet.
His reaction was to be expected, "Good God, are you implying that a mere concept can cure insanity?"
"Perhaps, it can be done. Why can't we believe in phenakism, as a possible solution? That is all that I am suggesting!" I responded.
"No one has dared to before. Surely, you are mindful of the complexity of the human mind?" Dr. Chadsworth inquired.
"I am indeed, and that is the challenge of science and medicine, to be explored and discovered, as a phenomenon."
"Are you prepared for failure?"
"Yes! And that, I am willing to confront if necessary."
We left the useful colloquy and debate for another day. I had concluded that I would proceed with the daring and new experiment, after further consideration. Time was consequential and the key to this evolution.
Subsequently, I stood in the main hall, staring at the beautiful portrait of Violet that hung in the gallery glistened, by the fainting gleam of the oil lamp. She was dressed in an elegant morning dress, with shirring on the upper sleeves, and trimmed around the bust. Her esthetic beauty shone in her eyes, her smile and her curly locks of hair, surrounded by a muslin pelerine short cape that covered her shoulders entirely. I was always drawn to her ageless pulchritude. It had been over a year since her fatal death. The tremendous guilt of not being able to save her, haunted me every single day of the week, with a torrent passion I was forced to accept unwantedly. In the end, she was my supreme inspiration, behind this drive that compelled me to success.
I would require a specimen, for this incredible experiment—but not necessarily a living person. After all, what was going to be studied was the actual brain. Where could I find such a brain of a deranged individual? Why of course I realized then, exactly the place I could retrieve a brain of a dead person, the madhouse. This matter was a delicate one, and would involve my participation—knowing that a brain would not be so easily obtained.
Thereafter, Peter had accompanied me on the trip to New York City. Once in the city, we located a madhouse that was situated upon a surreptitious part of the city that was not much known to me. After speaking to the steward of the facility, and explaining to him that I was an influential doctor, who was doing research on the subject of madness, he granted me the brain I was seeking. Although I did not know a lot of the mental history of the illness the deceased suffered, the brain was to be sufficient for the experiment. I told the steward, we would return in the morning for the brain.
That night, we slept in one of the vacant hotels of the crowded city. When the morning came, we went back to the madhouse and took the brain that was donated to us so kindly.
Afterward, we returned to Tarrytown, with the brain that I needed. I had the brain of the unidentified individual, as with the other organs stored in a wax sealer for preservation. All I knew of the stranger was that he was a man in his early forties. Perhaps a foreigner, since New York City was growing rampant with foreigners. I waited until the following morning to begin the experiment. In the confines of my laboratory, I examined the tissues and cells of the brain, with the microscope. Then, once that was done, I meditated the capacity of the brain and the rest of the body that was corporeal.
Oddly enough, there were no immediate signs of the brain's abnormality, outside of what I had presumed. Perhaps, I had miscalculated in my ideal assumption and its difficult complication. For hours I endured, without any real distinction of madness. I waited and nothing was differentiated. Where did I go wrong?
Quickly, I summoned Peter to fetch Dr. Chadsworth at his home. When Dr. Chadsworth arrived, I explained to him the experience I had undergone. His reaction and response were somewhat vague, as were the results to the experiment. There was not much else he could do, since neither of us had become actual experts of the brain. I thought of Professor Van Hassel, who had studied the mind and phenakism. He could have the answer in unlocking the mystery that I was searching for.
Soon, I attempted to return to normalcy, and reflected on what I was to expect in the days ahead. I was within an indefinite territory, and only time could truly determine what was next. I had performed studies on patients, involving phenakism, but this would be different.
The following week, I received correspondence from Professor Van Hassel, informing me of his visit to New York City, within two months. He was to be in the city for a lecture tour, and to visit me too. He had an urgency to see me, and discuss more in depth the analysis of my theory on the mind. Naturally, I was content to see him, and finally speak about my experiments. I did not perform any further studies, until I had an understanding of the intricate nature of the mind.
One day while I was washing my face with water, I glanced into a mirror and saw a horrible image of a man. It was the striking image of a stranger, who bore a similar guise as myself and he laughed. The image had startled me and left me contemplating the apparition that appeared. For a moment I thought I was seeing things, due to my fatigue. The image lasted only for a glimpse, before it disappeared. In the end I dismissed the image, as a figment of my imagination. I would be wrong, and the image would not only reappear, but have a voice as well. It was the day that the world would meet the fiendish Mr. Randolph Tate, my altered ego.
I was in New York City at the time visiting, when my first untamed episode of hysteria manifested and caused my altered ego to appear. I was not prepared for what transpired upon that dreadful night. Would I comprehend the aftermath that ensued in absolute horror? The episode that I mention occurred nearby a dark street of Manhattan, as I was walking alone. I was expecting to visit the house of a dear friend, when a carriage passed me by swiftly. I was fortunate that I was not struck by the heavy carriage.
However, a bizarre encounter happened afterward that would leave me visibly shaken in the morning. As I dismissed the harrowing incident, I was drawn into a solitary dark alley. When I began to walk a mist surfaced, as I continued walking. An unusual voice made a strong utterance then. At first, I saw no one present. Thereafter, I had perceived the footsteps of a stranger walking in the rear. When I stopped to look, there was no one standing behind me. I followed my instinct and went forth; but once more, I heard the footsteps, and they sounded closer and closer.
This time, I waited for the stranger's proximity, until at last, I saw his vague guise emerge. As he approached me, I saw a man dressed in an elegant black cloak, and he wore a white shirt underneath the dark cravat. His black cloak covered his broad shoulders. His trousers were green, and his sparkling pointed shoes light brown. He wore a distinctive black tall hat. He carried a shining gold walking stick that had a gargoyle on the handle that protruded. His countenance was the only thing I could not distinguish of his mysterious semblance. It was concealed by the darkness and fog. I called on him to identify who he was and, there was no response at first. Then he uttered my name clearly.
A sudden instinct in me to scurry away prevailed, and I ran to one of the main thoroughfares of the area. I had looked behind and around me, and the suspicious stranger had vanished. There was no apparent sign of him within the vicinity. I took a profound breath and was relieved that the stranger was no longer following me.
Afterward, I continued on my way, but leery of the bustling activity of the city. I headed toward the home of my friend, with the incident fresh on my mind. Fortunately for me, his home from my hotel was not distant. When I reached his home, I did not mention to him, the odd confrontation I had in the alley. Instead, I simply attempted to forget the occurrence. I concentrated more, on discussing our old days at the university, since he had studied medicine as well. The time spent there was a welcomed boon and an enjoyable evening.
Since it was late when I left his home, he offered to have his carriage driver take me back to the hotel I was staying at. Ultimately, I acquiesced and got into the carriage. Soon, the carriage spun its wheel, as the horses trotted. They were off, but as the carriage proceeded, the carriage suddenly increased its speed. When I realized that, I called on the driver, and no answer. The carriage reached the hotel and halted abruptly before the entrance door. Once it halted I opened the passenger door wide and immediately got off, screaming at the carriage driver, who was seated on top. Since the driver's back was facing toward me, I did not see his face. All I saw was a black tall hat that he had over his head and nothing else. I approached him forthwith and saw his face finally. Good God, it was the face of the same individual, who I felt was lurking behind me in the alley, and worse he resembled me. The question I had considered, was he stalking me?
"Dr. Van der Burg—Dr. Van der Burg!" He uttered, as he turned around to address me.
When I asked why he was stalking me, and for his identity, he merely drove away. I could only watch in consternation. I entered the house at once, and entered my room stupefied, by the inexplicable occurrence. Inside of my room, I took a glass of water to quench my thirst and then sat down on the bed pondering; but as I was pondering, I heard a voice within the room. I could not tell where the voice came from, except that it was in the room. I looked and looked, but no visible sign of anyone present.
Thus, I heard the noise from outside, and thought perhaps it was a voice from the streets. Oh yes, it had to be, and I had mistaken the origin of the voice. I calmed myself and afterward looked into the mirror to see how gaunt my face was. It was then that I saw the face of the fiend again. It was my face with a devilish smirk and eyes staring straight at me. I closed my eyes, hoping that the dreadful apparition was inexistent, but it was there, staring at me, as a baleful image of myself. No, no, this cannot be transpiring. This ghastly image is nothing more than a creation of my own debility—or so I wanted to believe desperately. But the voice spoke, and he uttered more than my mere name.
"You want to believe I am not real, but a creation of your mind, as its weakest state Dr. Van der Burg. However, I am real and exist in your mind."
"Who are you?" I yelled.
"I am your altered ego. You wanted to cure madness and a specimen. Well, now you have one!" The voice said.
"No, this cannot be true! I ejaculated.
I then broke the mirror, as the pieces shattered on the ground. Instantly, the image and the voice were gone and absent. I was lucky that no one in the hotel heard the commotion—for they would think me mad. I betook myself to linking one episode after another, and if this was somewhat connected to my experiment. Was I going mad, and had I defied the laws of ethics with a brazen enacture? What had triggered the inference of these abnormal occurrences? Had the accumulated weariness caused this horrendous lapse of conscience unknowingly? Was I truly witnessing a subconscious manifestation so erroneous in my brain? I quickly dismissed the disturbing episodes with the fiend and slept not knowing what was to happen the next day.
When I did awake, it was in the early afternoon. I got dressed in headed toward the home of my friend again, who was in the front door on his way to the carriage. He was about to depart, when he saw me approaching. He had a peculiar expression on his countenance. It was as if there was something urgent that he wanted to inquire. This I perceived with a candid perception.
"Dr. Van der Burg, were you aware of the fact that my carriage driver Monty was killed yesterday?" He asked.
My reply was, "Killed you said doctor?"
"Yes, killed and his body, was found two streets from here," he said.
"My God, how did he die? Who killed him?"
"Doctor, his neck was completely broken. Apparently, he was beaten and thrown off the carriage. Now, as for your question to who murdered him that I am afraid is for the authorities to solve," he confessed.
He then asked me, if I had any knowledge of the incident, since I was taken to the hotel yesterday. I had no inkling who the killer was, and why the carriage driver was killed in the first place. Indeed, it was a shocking revelation, but one that I was not prevalent of previously. There were not much details or information I could divulge. The truth was that I did not know—but what about my terrifying encounter with the stranger, who resembled me? Could this all be related in the end? The need to relate to him, what had occurred to me was suppressed, by the irrationality of what it meant. Thus, I said nothing about the incident, from last night.
I returned thereafter to my hotel and had wondered about the mysterious death of the carriage driver. I had to seek distraction, and I had planned on going to the theater that night to see a performance, but I never attended the theater and instead would be involved in another horrible episode. It was an episode even more horrid than the prior episode. As I was walking toward the theater, I came across a brothel at the edge of a corner, and a young attracted lady was standing. She was a local prostitute who was tempting me. That was all that I remembered of that awful night.
When I awoke, I was in my room on the floor. As I gradually rose to my feet, I noticed I had blood on my polished shoes. Yet, I did not know where the blood stains originated from, and for how long they were there. Quickly, I began to overreact, and constantly my thoughts were absorbed, with the bloody stains that were still fresh. Then, I heard the familiar daunting voice again. The ominous villain had decided to reappear, and taunt me with a wicked fastuousness and extreme dissimulation. Apparently, the unbidden apparition came and went at unpredictable intervals. I closed my eyes in order to not see him. For a brief moment, I thought he would leave, and this was truly a living nightmare. However, the fiend did not go away, as I opened them anew. He was gawking at me, with those piercing eyes of evil that seemed to be dauntless and unyielding. At first, he spoke no audible words—or made any viable utterance. All he did was stare and stare, until I could bear no more, this madness. Thus, I screamed at him.
"What do you want from me? Go away! You are not real!"
"I am as real, as the blood stains on your shoes doctor! You killed that poor prostitute, and dumped her body in the water of the harbor. Don't you remember what happened doctor?" He said.
"No, no, this is not possible. I came back to the hotel. I did not murder that poor girl. I am innocent, I tell you!"
"What about the mud on your soles doctor? Where did you get the mud from then, if you did not go to the harbor? And where did you get the scratch on the lower left side of your face?"
I looked at my soles, and there was clearly mud left as evidence. I was aghast by this discovery, "How did I get mud on my soles, if I only went?"
I had paused before I said, "It is mud from the streets of the city. Yes, it must be this!"
"No, you want to believe that, so that your mind can convince you to not accept this unpardonable crime you committed doctor," he responded in such a facile manner.
As for the scratch that was on my face, I did not know how I got the scratch or who scratched me. His words abhorrent in nature perhaps had pertinence. This, I could not fathom an instance. This time I did not break the glass of the mirror, instead, I covered the mirror with a sheet of the bed. It seemed to be the answer, as the voice and the image of the fiend had faded. I was confounded even more with these insurmountable coincidences. I had to know whether or not the murder existed. How could this be proven? I thought then of the newspapers. I would find my truth in the printed word, and it would not be to my enjoyment. I had stepped out of my room and hotel and bought a newspaper from a vendor. I hurried to read the articles printed, and as I perused, I found in the second page at the bottom, a mention of the gruesome death of a prostitute. It was the irrefutable evidence that could not be disputed, and worse the body was located by the harbor, as the conniving fiend had described. There was no disputing that the death of this poor woman had occurred. How could the murder have anything to do with me? Verily, was I the duplicitous murderer? Had I lost my mind and failed to recognize that unspeakable and unbearable reality?
The answer was to escape and return at once to Tarrytown, while I was not yet under suspicion of being linked to the murder of the prostitute and the murder of the carriage driver. I began to pack my clothes. I was convinced that if I stayed any longer in New York City, I would be arrested or at least questioned, about the recent murders. However, as I was attempting to flee, I would be stopped along the way to the carriage, by an odd looking gentleman, who was a witness to the crime perpetuated to the prostitute. His name was Mr. Wilkins, a short and stocky fellow. He told me that I resembled the killer, and that he would immediately inform the authorities, if I did not pay him a large amount of money. It was blackmail that this scoundrel was imposing upon me. My response was firm and direct I was not going to acquiesce to this brash persuasion at any cost. This I demonstrated with vehemence and clarity as well. Nevertheless, when I stated my position, he reiterated his threat again. I told him I would not falter under his bluff, and demanded proof or verification. I dared him to give me an accurate description of the killer, if he was certain that it was me.
"Oh, the killer was a dapper gent and wore fine garments as yours. He was as tall as you sir, and his curled hair was parted to one side, with his sideburns and mustache, like yours. His shoes were as splendid as your shoes sir. He had an excessive hubris and spoke with a particular southern drawl. He said his name was Randolph Tate," he replied.
"A southern accent you say? Then surely you are wrong in your assessment of the killer, when as you can hear, my accent is New Yorker Mr. Wilkins. And Randolph Tate you say? Well, evidently I am not him. My name is Joseph Van der Burg. Now, if you don't mind, please get out of my way!" I told him.
As I began to ascend onto the carriage, he said one last thing that made reference to my walking stick. "The walking stick was exactly the same as yours. It had a hook on its handle. Yes, the hook!"
"You are incorrect Mr. Wilkins, and if you continue with your frivolous accusations, I shall have you arrested for slandering my worthy reputation."
He did not say a word and tipped his hat in departing. Even though I felt relief in avoiding the threat, the threat still remained. There was an urge to abate the menace, and my departure would alleviate that contingency.
I finally left the city, and returned to Tarrytown, leaving behind the phantasmagoric incidents I had experienced. It was an absolute blessing in disguise. I tried to rationalize the effects of the incidents in New York City, but I could not understand them through clear introspection. The convoluted episodes that were manifesting were yet, unsolved. What was I to do? Perhaps Dr. Van Hassel would explain to me the vile nature of the occurrences. He was to arrive soon in New York City, but how could I then clarify the lapses of memory and the telling incidents?
As I pondered this, a knock on the front door was heard. It was Dr. Chadsworth, who had paid me an unexpected visit. I had to recompose myself, and not permit Dr. Chadsworth to see me in this heightened state of paranoia. I knew he would begin to question me meticulously. Thus, I was able to regain my composure and address him. When he inquired about the trip to New York City, I told him that the trip was a success, and that I had managed to relish the many fascinating wonders of the city. He did not notice any queer part in my demeanor or quirk. Apparently seeing him and being home had brought me back to my jovial sense for the time being. He asked me if I had recently contemplated the serious continuation of the incredible experiment I was attempting impressively. I was capable of diffusing any visible trace in my unhinged instability of my mental faculties. I told him that I had not made a calculating decision yet on the matter, and when I did he would be the first to know. I told him I was still fatigued with the trip, and that I needed to rest. He fully understood and said that he would visit me in a couple of days.
In the meantime, I started to meditate the magnitude of the brain and the ponderous effects of its unbelievable ability. For a whole month it seemed that the intrusive madness I was enduring had left for good I had thought. I had decided to abandon the experiment for the sake of my sanity. I was determined with discernment of this despicable actuality. Had the ordeal truly subsided? I presumed that the madness was temporary, but I was sorely mistaken.
Upon one night I was in the main hall staring at the portrait of my beloved Violet, when the reprehensible fiend of no commiseration had reappeared. The fiend's nettlesome voice I began to hear patently afterward, but where was he? At first, I could not see him. I listened only to the muttering utterance, until his voice grew in intensity. He called my name numerous times, and each time the voice tormented me with a fervent passion. I asked the fiend what he wanted, and the fiend would haunt me relentlessly from that moment.
A precipitous trepidation entered in me, as desperation forced my regression and my altered ego to dictate my persona. I stubbornly resisted with all my might and soul, but it was pointless, since he was an inherent part of me. How could I rid myself of this inseparable devil, when his attachment to me was irreconcilable? He tried to make me believe that I was ultimately the fiend. I was the culprit and murderer, and not him.
Ultimately, I left the main hall and went outside to the garden. I walked apace into the forest, until I had reached the Hudson River.
I was gasping for air, when I heard the sound of a carriage approaching. It was Dr. Chadsworth, who was heading toward the house. I knew I had to return at once, before he did. I could not afford for him to see me in such a miasma of despair and perturbation. I ran as fast as I could, until I reached the house in a heavy perspiration. Fortunately, I arrived before his carriage did.
After drying off my sweat, I stood in the garden awaiting the arrival of Dr. Chadsworth. Unfamiliar to me was the fact that Professor Van Hassel had accompanied him on the trip to the house. Apparently, he had arrived to America much earlier than predicted. My immediate reaction was a genuine conglomeration of astonishment and elation. I greeted them both, as they descended the carriage. They did not perceive symptoms of my hysteria. I had admittedly mentioned to Dr. Chadsworth of Professor Van Hassel's arrival to New York City, but I never imagined that he would come as far as Tarrytown to visit me so soon. Dr. Chadsworth had explained that he was in New York City, and happened to have met Professor Van Hassel at the dock. Dr. Chadsworth learned of his acquaintance with me, and therefore he offered to bring me to Tarrytown.
Afterward, we entered the house, and we sat in the parlor conversing about the research and experiment I was conducting. I was not certain if I would reveal that I had no plan to further my research and experiment. The dubitable status of its fulfillment was definitely at a variance. In the end I confirmed my inactivity, and their reception was not of complete satisfaction or plausible comprehension. They wanted to know the truth, behind my sudden change of plans. Our dialogue changed from admission to absolute incredulity. It was then that I made the startling disclosure behind the truth I sought to suppress. I was honest in what I understood of the uncommon occurrences that befell in New York City, and the grim image of the fiend, who within this anomaly I did not understand.
Dr. Chadsworth whose contesseration I had valued for decades was succinct in his reaction and response. Perhaps it was out of deference for me, but Professor Van Hassel was more direct and subjective in his reaction. His approach and observation were analytical and mindful. He was a sagacious man and had studied passionately the nature of psycho neurosis. I had explained my headaches and pain in the glabella. He was interested in knowing more of Mr. Randolph Tate my altered ego. There was little I could comment on the matter, since I knew only his voice and his guise. I did not know where he came from, or who his true identity was in the first place.
Professor Van Hassel remarked that it was feasible that my subconscious mind had intertwined with my conscious mind. He asked to describe him and thus I did the best I could acknowledge of him. Then he asked me, if he could meet this enigmatic, but contemptuous cold-blooded murderer. It was determined that in order to manage that fatal encounter with the charismatic Mr. Tate, he would have to be summoned or appear. There were two viable options to conclude Professor Van Hassel said.
One was that I was in total abnegation and aberration in not accepting the truth of my culpability. The second option was that my altered ego was non-existent, and there was an actual Randolph Tate, whose appearance was exact to mine. In there, lied the veracity of this madness. Could there indeed be another killer, and be identical as to call him my twin? This experiment would require that I be completely unconscious, for it to be valid. I agreed, since I needed to know the truth, despite its heinous nature. I was convinced of my intractable madness, and my vexatious compunction toward this complex alterity that it presented. I had confronted adversion before many times in my life, but never within this infectious manner or degree of detriment. The equivocal plan proposed the revelation and containment of the culprit. The disputable experiment would conclude with a contradictory premonition.
Within an hour the daring experiment started, and the transition would commence also. I was lying down on the divan in the parlor, when gradually I began to fall to sleep, after being given a primitive form of a sedative. The effects of the sedative were quickly felt. When I awoke, my vision was blurry at first, then, became clear by the passing minute. I saw no one present in the parlor. I was somewhat puzzled by the absence of the others. Had I been sleeping for hours or did they all leave? I also noticed that I had blood on my hands and face—but how? I had a sharp knife in my hands. Had I murdered someone and was not aware of that circumstance? I had searched through the drear corridors afterward, and there was no sign of anyone near. I went to the main hall, and it was there that I noticed on the floor a body. I was not sure, if the person was dead or alive. I slowly walked toward the mysterious body.
Once there, I turned the body over and saw that it was the body of my butler, Mr. Tillman. He was stone dead, and had been murdered. His neck was sliced and there was blood everywhere on the floor. Whoever killed him did with a ferocious ire and impunity. Then I found the dissection of a listless dead body of another man down in the laboratory. I was horrified by the discovery and worse of the identity of the murdered. It was my dearest of all friends Charles. Who had killed him? Had I killed him? This I swiftly cogitated. Dr. Chadsworth had been stabbed several times, judging from his gashes or wounds, in such savage manner.
Two dead bodies discovered in my home of persons, who I was extremely fond of. An unsettling ponderance of speculations entered in my brain straightway. I could not bear the unmitigated suspense any longer, and I searched the rest of the house for Professor Van Hassel. I found him then on the floor in the dining hall bleeding to death, and the fiend was standing over him, with a knife in his hand. He was the killer, and not me. The mischievous fiend stared at me, with an egregious gaze of sheer horror and a haughty posture of defiance and dominion. We stood staring at each other, and neither one of us flinched for a moment.
Miraculously, Professor Van Hassel was breathing and alive it appeared. The grievous expression on his wan countenance was disturbing and intense with urgency, as if he wanted to tell me my damnable truth. I had perceived this desperate look upon his face, as he cringed in pain. He wanted to warn me of an imminent danger I did not discern.
"You will not get away, you devil, if it is the last thing I shall accomplish on this earth," I yelled.
"You are ever so persistent in your circumspect mien and needless perseverance, when you are studious and ingenuous. However, you are too late my good doctor," the fiend rejoined.
"Dr. Van der Burg, you are the fiend. Your madness has always been there. You are the killer. You are Randolph Tate. Can't you see yourself doctor?" Professor Van Hassel confessed, before his body succumbed to his deep wounds and died.
"Now, you believe me doctor, look into the mirror, and see the guise of the murderer!" The fiend interjected.
I saw in the nearby mirror the guise of Mr. Tate, and then I listened attentively to his emphatic words. Indeed, it was me who was Randolph Tate. Gradually, I began to recall the events that unfolded and led to my madness and killing spree that began anew recently. The lapses in my memory had plagued me, since Violet's death.
First there was Mr. Sweeney the Canadian. I had killed him before he attempted to depart. Then it was Monty the carriage driver, who I killed with a blow of my walking stick, and caused the convulsion of his neck. Oh the poor prostitute and the witness Mr. Wilkins. I murdered her in the alley and threw her into the ocean, as her body was found in the dock afterwards. As for the crafty Mr. Wilkins, I had killed him with my walking stick as he bludgeoned to death. I was incredulous to accept my truth. It was a truth that had condemned me to the unmerciful grasp of evil and insanity entirely.
A metamorphosis in me had consistently troubled me, since the death of Violet. My despondency became my ultimate madness. Every whimsical penchant had emerged and developed from the phantasmagoric shadow of Mr. Tate, who coveted everything that I as Dr. Van der Burg did not dare to possess. He was the authentic dandy and sycophant, but beneath that charming persona and attraction of his existed, an implacable devil in disguise. I then saw the radiant ghost of my beloved Violet, standing within the dim corridor. I was free at last of my horrible altered ego Mr. Randolph Tate. Our love had destroyed and banished him to the wretched netherworld of afflicted souls for good I had hoped. The cadavers were never linked to me, and I never dared to confess once.
How could I expound upon something, someone, who was not of mere credulity, but a feigned Termagant or invention of my distressing mind? I am presently forlorn in a remote dungeon of an unknown island far away from civilization. The name I shall not mention, only that it is surrounded by very high thick walls, and by the cloisters of an abandoned abbey, where no one can find me, including Mr. Tate. Time will witness my inevitable demise in the end, and only God will deem judgment on my appalling sins and peccant life. No mortal man will play God or take bold interventions into their hands, without just wrath merited. Not even, the devious Mr. Randolph Tate.