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THE LAST BREATH

Chapter Text

November 29th, 1893

 

Sally had met Father Campbell in her first few weeks working at the asylum. She didn’t see him much, as the chapel was only open to patients and staff during the day. But she had gone to confession there a few times, as Father Campbell was a night owl, and a kind man who was willing to be more lenient with that rule. 

 

The first telling sign that Father Campbell was about was a deep, rattling cough as he turned the corner behind the altar.

 

“Good evening, Sally,” he ground out after another cough. “Good evening, Father Campbell.” Sally replied.

 

“Shouldn’t you be inside, working?” He asked with a knowing grin. Sally cracked a smile in return: “I needed to escape for a bit.” “Well, that’s all fine and good,” Father Campbell paused to clear his throat, “But I’d be careful. Mr. Spencer is in quite a foul mood and if he catches you, I can’t say that he’ll let you go easily.”

 

“Oh?”

 

Campbell waved his hand dismissively, “Something to do with the finances.” “Is the asylum going out of business?” Sally asked nervously. Campbell chuckled, “No, no… not for a while yet.”

 

“I should get back,” Sally blurted, feeling the conversation beginning to wane. She turned to leave, but before she reached the chapel door Father Campbell stopped her: “You have a good heart, Sally. But one that can be easily corrupted.” Then, he disappeared behind the altar.

 

Sally stood there, fingers loosely gripping the door handle. She stared at the spot Campbell had been standing. There was a voice in her head telling her to reject what she heard, no matter how true the words rung. It came from a shadowy corner of her mind, and Sally got the overwhelming feeling that the voice was not hers

 

An uncomfortable pressure built in her temples, and Sally quickly turned to leave the chapel, hoping to escape it.



The first time introducing a patient to hydrotherapy was always the worst. It took everything in Sally to hold them down in the grimy bathtubs, while they screamed and thrashed around. Sometimes she was afraid she would drown them. The doctors claimed it decreased agitation in aggressive patients; Sally thought it only made them worse. The hydrotherapy centre was a series of long, rectangular rooms, arranged parallel to each other and connected by the east corridor past the Men’s Ward. The rooms had damp, tile-covered floors and grey-ish wallpaper, plagued by mildew and water stains. Claw-footed bathtubs lined the walls on either side, and were usually filled with cold water to submerge patients in.

 

A middle-aged woman with the name Tillie, as her file stated, was hauled into the room close to an hour ago, and was still struggling with the nurses, Ruth and Morris, who were trying to strip her and force her into the bath. Sally stood close by, completely on edge, ready to rush in if the woman really started putting up a fight. It was almost unbearable to watch Tillie scream curses and swing wildly at Sally’s colleagues. She was wrapped head-to-toe in thin, white blankets which were secured tightly about her feet and sides. She continued to wriggle about as the three nurses picked her up and set her down in the bathtub.

 

Sally stumbled backwards to catch her breath as Ruth and Morris got to work securing wide, cloth strips over the rim of the tub so Tillie wouldn’t be able to wiggle out. The woman seems to calm down for a moment, which the nurses took to converge in the middle of the room. 

 

“A right loon, she is,” muttered Morris. Her pocket watch was plucked for her apron pocket and flipped open. Sally listened to the excited ticking until Morris flipped it shut again. “I best be off,” was all she said before marching out of the room. Just then, Sally clued into the sound of water splashing and turned to see Tillie’s head disappear below the rim of the bathtub. Sally rushed over and was immediately hit with the spray of ice-cold water. She ignored it, plunging her hands down as bubbles of the woman’s breath rose to the surface. Sally groped around the soaked blankets on the woman’s back. Finding a hold under her arms, Sally hauled Tillie up above the water’s surface.

 

She had no time to collect herself, or catch her breath, as she was roughly shoved away by Ruth, who proceeded to secure more restraints around Tillie’s neck and shoulders, supposedly to keep her head above water. Sally took a step back, judging from Ruth’s tense shoulders that she was angry. “She’ll stay there all night,” She spat, and left the room, leaving Sally to follow behind her.



    Warden Spencer eventually took up a much larger role in administering treatments to the patients. Spencer used a more strict approach to managing the population in the asylum, whose numbers were beginning to get out of hand. Patients were restrained in straitjackets and manacles for long periods of time. Cells that normally held one or two people were used for four or more. More than once Sally could attest to seeing him scream profanities at patients. She reckoned Father Campbell was right: running the asylum was really getting to him.

 

 Sally began noticing that a lot of her colleagues were being let go from their jobs, and the night shift at Crotus Prenn became more and more desolate. One of the first to go was Ruth, and the excuse she was given that her sister was quite well off, and that she should be able to get by with her support. Sally never saw Ruth after she was fired, she was only informed by another nurse the next night that she was gone. 

 

It wasn’t long after that the Warden’s ire turned to the nurses and orderlies. He had more respect for the doctors, really. It was the nurses and lower employees who he’d excuse of slipping up and doing something wrong. The first hours of the night shift — before Spencer left for the night — was spent dodging him and tiptoeing over every task, as to avoid setting off his explosive temper.




May 2nd, 1894

 

There had been something ominous about the sky that night, even before Sally reached the asylum to start her shift. The screams were piercing now, as she barrelled desperately down the rows of cells. Something had upset the patients, and now the commotion had spread to nearly every room. The violent clanging of the metal doors and the agonized wails threatened to burst her skull. When Sally first arrived, the moon-tinged silhouette of Crotus Prenn had a foreboding energy around it — a warning.

 

The other nurses rushed by with syringes full of sedatives. Not far behind them was Warden Spencer, who looked absolutely fuming . Sally kept going, but as she attempted to rush past, Spencer caught her roughly by the shoulder. 

 

“What is going on here!?” He demanded. His voice struck loudly in Sally’s ears, and she jumped at the sudden anger. “T-The patients, sir,” she stuttered, “Something one said upset them and now—“ “WHAT? Anything could set these lunatics off, what is it now!?” 


Sally gulped, “They think we’re going to increase the number of treatments, sir.” “Of course we’re going to increase the numbers of treatments,” Spencer bellowed, “Now get back there and sedate them! I don’t care how much chloral it takes.” The warden shoved Sally backwards and promptly turned on his heel, marching back down the corridor. Sally decided not to test the warden’s patience, and turned, dejectedly, back down the opposite side of the corridor to where the other nurses had gone.