Later that evening as Karen strolled around the deserted gardens enjoying the magnolia aroma that had silently seduced the arriving night air and for herself, she came across the hospital superintendent enjoying his habitual evening cigar. He welcomed her with a practised smile so akin to his profession.
“Good evening Herr Doctor,” she said as she then asked him to join her on her walk. And he happily obliged her request. She then enquired rather cautiously as they walked saying: “There was something I wanted to ask you if perhaps there are any tenants still living on the hospital grounds who still had grazing rights for … sheep?”
“Sheep!” he laughed.” No, and no to both questions. In fact, I have never noticed any sheep or lambs or a friendly aged shepherd with a wooden crook and cloak in or near the hospital grounds in all my years as principal of the hospital.” Then after a few final pleasantries, they wished each other a good night. He did not enquire about her curious request. Nor did she offer any explanation of why she had furnished it. As she finally departed the gardens she suspected she had inhaled perhaps the essence of Verbena settling in the evening air.
Karen suddenly recalled her old nanny as a child long ago who had informed her that it was possibly used to staunch the wounds of Jesus when He was gently removed from the blood-stained cross by His friends and family. So was it really the so-called named ‘holy herb’ she had read about or just another healing balm still loved and believed in by so many even after so many years?
Karen when later enclosed in her upholstered bed still somehow remained unsatisfied with what the doctor had shared with her. But she had no reason to be suspicious of his answer. But just who was this friendly old man who had created such a lasting impression on both her and Carin. And what was the mystery of that missing mysterious ship’s bell that he had talked about, and were brother Jerome’s disintegrating bones still encased somewhere under the hospital foundation? This was all very perplexing to her as she then gratefully drifted into an exhausted sleep. It was for her a dreamless night. But not so she later learned for her dear ailing friend Carin.
The following morning Carin was late herself in joining Karen for breakfast and instead requested only a cool coffee and some warm rolls to be served to her if possible on the bright terrace. It was a delightful morning offering inspiration to all now preparing to face the new day ahead. Karen hoped her friend shared her own optimism about the weather as the day evolved. But there was also a timid breeze she noticed creeping upon them that possibility predicted rain.
Then as she later joined her on the shaded terrace Carin related to her about a distressing dream that she had endured the night before.
“It was so real and so frightening to experience,” she said as they later walked into the hospital grounds near the now-closed tennis courts. She was still suffering due to her permanent illness which of course Karen knew only too well of that strain on her friend’s damaged heart. But she decided to remain passive about Carin’s ongoing medical condition and not enquire too much about it unless seriously compelled to.
“Tell me about it, dear” she enquired as they settled down on one of the wooden benches on the freshly mowed lawn. She moved closer to her friend and placed a protective arm around her frail shoulders. It was like old times, just the two of them sharing their secrets with each other. And she knew these personal revelations that would be now shared with her would probably never happen again to her oldest and dearest dying friend.
“Well,” Carin began pushing her heavy windswept hair back from her face, “I was suspended somehow in a darkened crypt or a vault.
There were black marbled walls and flaming torches secured to the walls. And I was looking down for most of the time. I was also later standing in the crypt itself observing what was happening all around me. In the centre on a raised stone plinth was an expensive adorned raised coffin. Then suddenly there was a crash and the voices of many men in strange uniforms came barging into the crypt and talking and laughing excitedly and speaking in a language that I suppose was Russian. They all looked rather intoxicated to me as well.”
“They then began breaking the vases and destroying decorated ornaments and some fragile chairs. I was somehow able to know that they were obviously searching for any valuables to steal. And I could also observe their electric torches being weaved around that cold vaulted ceiling as well.”
“I was then suspended above them and able to view what was happening just below me.”
She paused to gather her thoughts on what she was about to impart to a now very concerned Karen sitting close to her exhausted friend and now holding both of her shaking hands. She waited for the next remembrance of this terrible dream that had made such a frightful impression on Carin’s usual demeanour.
“As the soldiers laughed and shouted and some were using vile language, I noticed some of them were using their rifle bayonets to force open the coffin lid.”
“When it was finally exposed, what was seen there before them was a skeleton with jewellery and rings still attached to the hands and wrists that had been laid carefully across the chest of the body. There were several shrivelled flowers as well and some black and white photographs that had curled at the edges that I could see. They then violently tore off the jewellery from the hands and neck and then shared their ill-gotten spoils amongst themselves. Two of the men were fighting each other for a pearl necklace. It was awful to see and hear. Then one of them brought in an aged balalaika and began to play, I suppose, a polka.”
She paused as if preparing herself for what she was about to reveal: “Then a tall man with a red beard and an officers insignia on his cap and cardboard epaulettes on his shoulders reached into the coffin and lifted out the skeleton. Can you believe it? And began to dance around the crypt with it in his arms. They all stood around clapping and singing then suddenly the skull snapped away and crashed to the floor. Then one of the drunk soldiers treated the skull as if it were a football kicking it to the other men. And I suddenly felt a searing pain in my head as each heavy boot landed and crashed onto that battered skull as it was then thrown to each other with shouts of merriment. Then one of them was sick in the corner!”
“And then Karen I somehow accepted that it was me they were abusing. It was my skeleton, can you believe it … oh it was terrible. And I also recognised my favourite rings and jewellery. These were personal gifts from my mother and Hermann. But why Karen? What did this terrible dream signify because I’m really still mystified!”
She paused and clutched Karen’s hand asking almost in desperation: “But I don’t know any Russians … I have never visited their country. I don’t even speak or understand their strange language. And why if it is my body or skeleton that I could see being cruelly desecrated? BUT what does it all mean? And why am I in that ghastly vault and who placed me here and for what reason?”
To be continued…..
(C) Copyright G. Patrick Battell
(All Rights Reserved