A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
— July, 18XX+1 —
July 29, 18XX+1
It has been some time since I felt any events worthy of chronicling occurred, but in the interest of posterity, I once again put pen to paper. It hardly seems possible that I wrote the words in prior entries. I can scarce ascribe such barbarity, inhumanity, indeed, evil to a civilized, cultured Englishman such as me. Oh, my infirmity continues unabated, never doubt; and, despite setting the best physicians of our age on this problem – anonymously, naturally, to protect the family name – no surcease appears in store as yet. However, the servants have remained trustworthy. In these intervening months, we have established a “sick room” in the depths of the basement, windowless and with thick oaken door, where the long hours of our mindless ravings about delicious brains remain undisturbed.
Charlotte continues well, monthly ailments aside; our son, for I feel confident it will be the heir I so desperately hope and pray for, kicks strongly and makes his presence firmly felt with delightful frequency. I feel confident that he will be strong and robust, the firm leader that our family needs to continue my work in redeeming the Sherborne name.
In the months since my return, I have converted my treasure into more liquid assets. To my delight, the gems in particular, of which I managed to retain a very goodly number, far exceeded the value I had ascribed them. The Jew to whom I sold a portion of the jewels valued them at an excess of £2,000 and explained that, as they formed a nearly perfect matching set, as a collection the stones thus drew a much higher price than as individual stones. I never imagined that I carried such a staggering sum with me in tiny stones all those miles; but Providence has provided for us much more handsomely than I anticipated. The sale of that set of gems, just a few of the small chestful I carried out of Africa with me, has allowed me to completely repay all Sherborne debts. Additional sales of similar sets of precious stones in other European capitals have allowed me enough capital to begin judicious investing. I hope that those returns, properly used, will support my family at a tolerable level on their own. With this turn of good fortune, I now anticipate delaying my return to Africa for some years, perhaps even decades.
Continue reading.To celebrate this blessing and our impending parenthood, we have decided to hold a grand ball in our London home, which we have been able to reopen thanks to the increased wealth in the Sherborne coffers. Charlotte has become a whirlwind of activity, organizing gowns, the extravagant meal, musicians…in short, all the details required to successfully host such an event. All the brightest stars in the London firmament have accepted and such is the increased status of the name Sherborne these last months since my successful return that we even hope to be honored by a brief visit from one of the Royal Family. Such an honor could not even be dreamt of even 18 months ago.
I begin to believe that, perhaps, my fateful trip to Africa has indeed succeeded. I cannot but begin to think that even the monthly horror that overcomes us may be acceptable price to pay in exchange for the increased social standing and goodwill of all those whose opinions we value most.
August 12, 18XX+1
We have arrived in the London house, which is a whirl of preparation for the grand ball to be held in two weeks’ time. I have found a small, secluded room in the wine cellar that will serve as a private confining space as I enter into my brainy brains. That is, my period of instability. The London servants have been told that while in Africa I contracted a disease that is highly contagious and requires quarantine for a full week, after which I shall have recovered almost totally. Charlotte alone shall wait on me during this period, for we have found that, even in our periods of madness, we find one another’s brains much less attractive – indeed, repulsive is a more accurate term – than the delicious, warm, gooey, juicy, dripping brains of others. I ascribe this to our profound love, which prevents us from desiring one another even when we lose all powers of control and reason. This period is coming upon me very soon, and I must now begin to confine myself or risk once again destroying all the brains for which I have so assiduously labored.
September 9, 18XX+1
I hardly know where to begin. The ball – the murder – the repercussions – all jumble together in a torrent of misery and misfortune that shall surely haunt me to the end of my days. Would to God that things had transpired ought; that the lock had not remained unclasped, that against orders good William Jenkins had not ventured into that corner of the cellar. But God alone could change the course of time, spinning backwards the events of that terrible evening.
I must gather my thoughts and present them in an orderly fashion, that future generations may learn from my failures and, should Providence smile upon them more than upon my poor unfortunate self, perhaps avoid my misery.
According to plan, Charlotte locked me in the wine cellar room in mid-August. I was to receive my daily food and water from her hands only, and all servants were strictly warned against even approaching within hailing distance of the door. They were to believe that the illness from which I suffered was so terrible that only my wife would risk approaching. Alas, the illness is far more terrible than they imagined! Though it shows no outward sign, save initially pale and clammy skin, yet it wreaks greater havoc in a man’s life than French Pox or smallpox or any disease I have heard of.
The week progressed acceptably to begin; I sensed no desirable brains nearby, but only that of my devoted wife, who visited at every available opportunity. Yet she often found the demands of preparing for the upcoming ball called her away from my cell, and we trusted that the servants, out of self-interest at the very least, would obey the order to stay far from the door and thus remain safe. All was well until the end of my confinement. By then, reason had begun to return and Charlotte and I conversed frequently. She asked if I had self-restraint enough to emerge, and I too-eagerly begged for release. She knew then that I required another day to ensure the perfect safety of those around us. Yet, because I had begun to return to myself, she became lax in locking the door, and in the afternoon on the night before the ball inadvertently left the door unlocked.
However, I felt no desire to move. I continued to sense no human brains, and my increasing self-control served to prevent me from leaving the cellar altogether. It was then that Will Jenkins, a simpleton we employed as a menial servant, appeared in the cellar, presumably in search of a particular cask of wine. He penetrated deeply enough to awaken my instincts, and – I can scarce write it – the inevitable happened. I killed him, smashing his skull with my bare hands, and scooped his brains out to dribble their wonderful meaty juices through my fingers. Eating them was heavenly, and my conscience remained utterly dead until I finished my feast. Then I looked down and saw the terrible disaster, the future looming dark and dismal ahead of me.
In one act I, who so diligently sought to redeem my family, had destroyed it utterly.
Yet not all hope was lost, for this Will Jenkins had no family or friends, no sweetheart or even dog to miss him. Other servants treated him kindly but distantly. Knowing this, a plan began to form
in my mind. Perhaps Will Jenkins had simply fallen down the stairs and cracked his head in the fall. Perhaps the crack had splattered his brains across the floor and I, horrified at the gruesome sight, had immediately cleaned up the mess as best I could, in the process accidentally soiling my clothes with his remains.
Quickly I set about creating the scene, positioning the increasingly stiff body, filling the chamber pot with filthy rags and the remains of the brains I had not (God! How could I?) consumed. The servants might question a bit, but the word of a nobleman such as me against one of the lower classes – who are well known for their prevarication – can result in only one outcome. I had only to assume the correct attitude and wait for Charlotte’s return, that she might join my complicity and provide collaboration for my story.
God. I cannot continue my tale of woe at this time. I shall resume the tale when I have the courage to face the bitter truth of my utter failure.