MARCY

 

My name is Marcy. I don't know how I got here but here I am. I don't know how long I've been here. There are a lot of things I don't know. Even my name—Marcy. I'm not sure that's right. The nuns call me that but I really don't remember. I guess that's why I'm here—I don't remember things. It's real odd. I mean to be grown up, or almost grown up, and not be able to remember how you got that way.

But Sister Zoe says I have to try. That's why she gave me this pen and paper. I like the paper. It's bound like in a book. The pen leaks a little. I'm supposed to write down anything I remember, anytime, anywhere. And it can all stay private if I want. Sister was definite about that. I don't even have to show her if I don't want.

The thing is, so far, I haven't been able to think. And I'm trying, too. Just nothing comes.

 

On June 6th, Marcy had been admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital with severe concussion, lacerated hymen, anterior laceration of rectal mucosa, three dislocated fingers, multiple cuts and contusions, and sixteen cigarette burns on her breasts and buttocks. She was suffering from exposure, stupor, global amnesia, and was later found to have contracted syphilis as a result of the assault. She was not impregnated.

In the weeks that followed, the authorities were able to uncover more information about her attackers than about their victim. The identities of none, however, had come to light.

On September 2nd, Marcy was declared a Ward of the State and transferred to St. Francis Sanitarium for rest and psychiatric care. The name "Marcy" was arbitrarily given her pending positive identification. She was approximately fourteen years old, 5 feet 2 inches tall, 102 pounds, brown eyes and brows, left-handed.

 

I'm scared. Today I found this pen and paper and one page with some writing on it. It's mine. But I had completely forgot until I read it. I told Sister about this and she says she gave me the paper four days ago, and not to worry, just keep trying. From now on I'm going to write every day and especially put down the date, even the time. It's Tuesday, September 16th, at ten o'clock in the A.M. I have everything laid out on the table next to my bed now, so I'll be sure to see it in the morning. I won't bother writing anymore until tomorrow.

 

"How do you feel today, Marcy?"

"Fine."

"I thought we'd have another little chat, if you don't mind."

"No, I don't mind."

"Do you want to sit, or would you like to lie down?"

"Sit."

"Shall we sit together then?"

The elderly nun came from behind her desk and sat on the sofa, offering Marcy a place beside her. The girl sat down.

"May I hold your hand?"

Marcy hesitated. Her fingers reflexively clenched.

"That's all right. It's always up to you, Marcy. I'll never try to make you do anything you don't want to do. Are you comfortable?"

Her fists relaxed a little. The multitude of wrinkles that defined the Sister's wimpled face seemed kindly.

"Uh huh."

"Well, take a minute and get really comfortable because, very shortly, I'm going to ask you to go to sleep."

"But I'm not even tired."

"This is a different type of sleep. You can do this kind with your eyes wide open, though it's usually more pleasant to keep them shut."

"Like hypnosis?"

"Exactly."

Marcy shifted around on the couch, took a pillow from the corner, placed it over her lap, then folded her hands atop it neatly.

"Okay, I'm ready."

"Let's begin then by taking three deep breaths. If you use your stomach muscles first and then your chest muscles, you can take in a lot more air… That's it… In through your nose, out through your mouth. Nice and slow and steady… Good… Now try to picture a little door in the center of your forehead. It may be easier if you close your eyes. The door is rounded at the top, and as I speak it's slowly opening. Inside you can feel a warm, soft light glowing… Pretend now you're walking there, through the archway… finding yourself on the top step of a beautiful spiral staircase that winds in graceful turns all the way down your spine. There is a railing for safety that you can touch with your hand. Do you feel it?"

"Sort of."

"Good. Now, at your own pace, I'd like you to start down the stairs, imagining that your spine is becoming more and more relaxed with every turn. Ready?"

"Yes."

"Begin… Take your time… Breathe easily… Let all the tension disappear… Turning… Turning… Down… Down… Down… When you reach the bottom there will be a pair of doors with a button on the wall beside them… Are you there yet?"

"Uh huh."

"Press it, and when the doors open you'll see it's an elevator with a thick carpet on the floor and a picture window on the opposite side. It's well lighted and very safe… Are you inside?"

"Yes."

"Good. Now as the doors close you'll see two more buttons. One says 'up,' the other 'down.' When you're ready, push the 'down' button, then face the window and watch the number on the wall outside. The first one is one hundred. Tell me when you're moving."

"Now."

"Watch the numbers. Ninety-nine… Ninety-eight… Ninety-seven… They're passing at a slow, comfortable speed… Ninety-four… Ninety-three… Ninety-two… Ninety-one…"

At "fifty," Sister Zoe suggested that the elevator pause.

"Are you still feeling relaxed and at ease, Marcy?"

"Yes."

"If you look above you, you'll see that the ceiling, too, has a window through which you can look. Way way up at the very top you can see where we began. See?"

"Yes."

"Now as we go deeper, whatever sounds you hear around you will gradually grow faint and finally disappear. The only one you'll still be able to hear is the sound of my voice. Are you ready?"

"Yes."

"Press the button… and down we go. Forty-nine… Forty-eight… Forty-seven… The sounds are fading away… and as we go deeper your eyelids are beginning to feel very heavy. It feels good, in fact, that your eyes are already closed because they're wonderfully, wonderfully tired. It would almost be too hard to open them… much more pleasant to leave them closed… relaxed… almost sleeping… relaxed… and sound… sound… asleep.

"Can you hear me, Marcy?"

"Yes."

"Do you know where you are?"

"Elevator."

"That's right. You're in your own private elevator and in just a moment the doors are going to open and you'll step out into a very special room that's full of familiar things… things only you can know… things only you can describe… Get ready now. The doors are opening. You're stepping out… Now tell me what you see."

The room was dark at first and smelled of mildew, dust, and time. But as her eyes adjusted to the light, its contents materialized. There were books galore—cloth-bound, leather-bound—stacks piled high; on shelves, under tables, all up and down the musty walls. They seemed to be the building blocks from which the room was made, and formed a labyrinthine scheme of dusky passageways, through which, with modest trepidation, Marcy bravely crept.

"Books."

"You see books, Marcy? What kind?"

"All kinds. Old."

The avenues between the books grew tall and very narrow, some barely wide enough to wriggle through. Here and there, wherever books were missing from the shelves, gaped pitch-dark pockets. Another turn; more shadows stared—pockets swelled to giant size, black, suspicious, secretive. Marcy's courage, in reverse proportion, seemed to wane. She tried to keep her eyes from glancing to the left or right while passing, but her focus, in spite of her fervent efforts, strayed. She froze in her tracks.

Worlds! The inner walls were honeycombed with precious miniature worlds! Fascinated, she peered at one after another: castles, villas, and stately mansions, farms, a forest, a volcanic isle—each created with such meticulous detail, they almost could pass for real.

"Marcy?"

The corridors were widening and on the ceiling, farther in, a light reflected from an unseen source below. Marcy's heartbeats quickened. She sensed that from this inmost sanctum a nameless danger loomed, yet something drew her on—an intuition she would be protected. The light was brighter, the turns more frequent, the life-like settings fewer. Then, as she rounded one last corner, there he was.

"A man!"

"What man? Can you describe him?… Marcy?… Marcy?"

He sat amid a chaotic mass of wood and glue and glass and paint, fabric scraps, mounds of clay, plaster, paste, papier m�ch�, wax and string, spools of thread, ink, balloons, coloring crayons, bits of yarn, fur, and hair, needles, chisels, hammers, nails, tweezers, toothpicks, tacks and staples, and so much more the man seemed nearly buried underneath.

Looking up from his work, he peremptorily motioned Marcy in. She ventured forward, drawn less by the old man's manner than by his weird Gargantuan eye. It looked both odd and terrible, magnified as it was by the thick monocle he wore on a strap around his head. She took a minute getting used to the sight—orbs of such unequal size that stared at her and blinked three times, then unceremoniously closed.

She noticed then his hands—wonderful hands. Like gnarled wood they flexed with a rough-hewn grace—knuckles for knots, veins as roots, the wrinkles deep in simulated grain. They held a piece of ivory from which was carved a tiny man, held it as if offering it to her.

Marcy stared amazed, so perfect were its features. Had she failed to see that the hands that held it trembled slightly, she surely would have sworn the figure breathed.

"May I hold him?"

The mismatched eyes shot open.

Don't talk so loud!

She started.

"I'm sorry."

"What, Marcy? I didn't hear."

You've done it again!

"But…"

Too loud! If you want to stay, you'll have to behave. There's no need to shout just because I'm an old man. I'm not hard-of-hearing, you know.

Confused, Marcy tried again in her softest whisper.

"Is this all…"

NO! I told you I'm not deaf.

Thoroughly flustered, Marcy tried moving her lips without uttering a sound, mouthing another apology.

I'm sorry.

That's better. A bit grotesque, scrunching your mouth up that way, but better.

He modified his tone.

I'm not angry, mind you. You'd know if I were angry. Really riled I'm a terrible sight—hair standing up on end, eyes bugged out, cheeks puffed, nostrils flaring. Just terrible. You wouldn't like it. I don't like it. Glad you caught on as fast as you did.

Marcy was about to speak again but thought better of it.

Now, about this visit you've decided to pay me. I know pretty much why you've come, even if you don't.

He interrupted himself to pour a cup of steaming coffee from a pot that sat over a hot plate on his workbench.

Want some? No? It'll put hair on your chest. Or rather on your noodle.

Huh?

Never mind. All in good time. All in good time.

He took a long, loud slurp (his monocle fogging) and sighed.

Ahhhhh, Ethiopian. Marvelous stuff. Now, to the issue at hand—before whatshername gets fidgety and calls you back. This little man you've so admired is for you.

He placed it in her palm.

Don't expect to keep him though. He's going to disappear for a while as soon as you leave here anyway. Just the same, it's best you know right now; he's not to be thought of possessively. Ruins things. Always has, always will. Try to think of him instead as somebody well worth knowing. A friend. That'll be far better in the long run.

"Marcy?"

Drat. Time. When you're enjoying yourself it winks right by; when things are awful it lumbers on forever.

As if to assure Marcy of the category into which she fit, he winked at her.

Think you can find your way out?

I don't know. I think so.

And back again?

I'd like that, yes. I'll try. Thank you.

Then good-bye.

Abruptly he returned to his work. A bit nonplussed, Marcy squeezed the little figure in her hand and, as she turned, was magically back at the elevator doors.

"Marcy?… Marcy?"

"Yes?"

"You're walking back to the elevator now. The doors are opening. You're stepping inside… Are you there?"

"Yes."

"Good. Now listen carefully. The next time we use your elevator we'll be able to go up and down much faster. In a moment you'll push the 'up' button. When you do you'll move quickly up to floor one hundred and to wakefulness. You'll feel fresh and rested and wide awake. And you will remember everything you have seen, heard, smelled, touched, even tasted. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Then push the button, and up we go… Ten… Twenty… Thirty… Forty… Fifty… Sixty… Seventy… Eighty… Ninety… One hundred."

 

 

 

 

It's Wednesday, September 17th, at 9:03 in the A.M. Yesterday I got hypnotized! Sister Zoe did it. And when I was under I met the Miniature Man. He was gruff and hollered at me and made me talk without making a single sound, but even so, I liked him. I think he liked me, too. I say that because before I had to leave he gave me a present. That's the part I didn't tell Sister. I would have if I'd had the proof but when I opened my eyes to be awake, the present—a tiny little ivory man—was gone. The funny thing is, he warned me that would happen. I just didn't believe him. I had it tight in my hand. I know I didn't drop it.

There's no sense writing down the rest that happened because I told it all after. What's important is that I still remember.

 

Sister Dana stood anxiously outside Sister Zoe's quarters waiting for the chapel bell to toll ten, the hour of her appointment. It had been her task to care for Marcy during her convalescence but, due to an incident now three days old, she felt she had failed miserably.

She had mostly ministered to Marcy's physical needs, for when admitted, Marcy still suffered from periodic stupor. Days would sometimes pass during which she would function rather dully—with Sister Dana faithfully attending her. The passive character of these states afforded the nun an easy routine that, once established, quickly lulled her into taking certain things for granted. One of these was Marcy's indifference toward being touched. She had shown, in fact, no sign whatever of feeling the hands of those who nursed her—until, that is, the occasion of her first full bath.

Sister Dana had run the water, undressed the girl, helped her into the tub, and was tenderly soaping Marcy's body when, without warning, Marcy shrieked. It brought staff running from all directions. They burst in, Sister Zoe among them. Sister Dana—embarrassed and mortified—fled the room; which had made, she believed in retrospect, an even worse impression.

The subsequent guilt with which she tortured herself was caused in part by the circumstances of having had a patient in her care emotionally explode. But another part was attributable to the young nun's secret fears that something in her manner while bathing Marcy had set off the tantrum. And how humiliating that Sister Zoe had seen!

The door before her opened.

"Ah, there you are, Sister Dana. Come in. I've made us a pot of tea."

Struggling to conceal her agitation, Sister Dana entered.

Despite Sister Zoe's authority and high position in their Order, little distinguished her quarters from the other Sisters'. The room was simple: wooden floors, white stucco walls mostly unadorned, a window. What furnishings there were bespoke utility. And yet there was a difference—a sort of feel more than anything overt, a sense of integrity that made the sparseness rich by virtue of its pure intentions. Sister Zoe knew who she was and what her role in life should be. The strength of those convictions stood out around her.

"Please, sit down. I thought our chat would be more pleasant here. Cream?"

"Yes, please."

"Sugar?"

"Two."

"You're looking tired. Are you not sleeping well?"

"Not very, Sister, no."

"You should try a cup of warm milk before retiring. I know it's an old-wives'-tale remedy, but that hasn't made it any less effective through the years."

"Thank you, Sister, I will."

They sipped their tea. Under the wise, insightful eyes of her superior, Sister Dana felt comforted—but also threatened. In troubles past, the senior nun had always offered prudent counsel. But this was different.

"Now, about what did you wish to see me?"

"You know. You must."

"Marcy."

"I'll never forgive myself for the way I acted, Sister."

"Your being upset was quite understandable; the whole place was in a dither after Marcy's awful scream."

"But running away like I did…"

"Was unprofessional, yes. I trust you'll muster more control in the future."

"Yes. Oh, yes, Sister, I will. I don't know what came over me."

"Was there anything else?"

"Else?"

"About which you wanted to see me."

"Well… no. Only that I'm terribly sorry."

She was amazed that Sister Zoe appeared so ready to dismiss the matter.

"Apology accepted."

Much relieved, Sister Dana rose to go.

"But there are some other things I'd like to discuss with you."

She sat back down.

"Some recent developments in Marcy's case. I thought you ought to know for our work ahead."

"Our  work? You mean you still want me to care for her?"

"In an adjusted capacity, yes."

"But what about what happened?"

"Oh, I'm sure she's forgotten that already. Whatever it was is locked back up with the bulk of Marcy's secrets. Lucky for us we at least caught a glimpse of a key."

"I don't understand."

"Intimate contact."

For the remainder of the interview, Sister Zoe related her observations about the success and, more significantly, the failure of her hypnotherapy. Of particular concern was Marcy's disregard for some of the suggestions. Her feedback showed (contrary to the preconditions) that there was nothing familiar about the room that she had visited. Having anticipated that the trance state would expose Marcy's untold past, this turn of events mystified the nun. Furthermore, such errant jaunts were dangerous, for though the girl reported later that she had been in no real danger, the fact remained that for a time she had strayed beyond her therapist's control. Perhaps hypnosis was not the tool for unearthing Marcy's memory.

"Must she remember, Sister Zoe?"

"Yes, I'm afraid she must. No matter how deeply her past is buried, it's bound to resurface. If that can happen while help is near, her psyche may survive it. But alone, I fear, Marcy's memories could prove quite unendurable."

After Sister Dana left, her plaintive question echoed—Must she remember, Sister Zoe?

Must she? The nun closed her eyes and wondered what God's plan for such a one might be.

 

JULIAN

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