The next day Susie moved out of Victor’s house. She had spent the morning telephoning various people until she’d found what she was looking for. Then she packed her bags and told Victor that she was going.
“I can’t stay here,” she said flatly.
“But where will you go?” said Victor.
“I’ve got that all arranged, I’m moving into a clinic.”
“But why? I told you I’ll never see Michael again, if that’s what you want.”
“It’s too late for that,” she said.
“But Susie,” he said, “we’ve been getting along so well. And I’m getting better. Why throw it all away on a whim?”
“Whim? You call it a whim? You want me to participate in some devil worship and you call it a whim?”
“I told you, it was meaningless. We’ve been happy together haven’t we?”
“I was all right until I moved up here, Victor,” she said “and I don’t want to get sick again. You can do what you want but I’ve got to think of myself.”
“But where will you go?” he said.
“That’s all taken care of,” she said.
“Won’t you even tell me where you’re going?” he said. She picked up her bags and went to the front door. She was being difficult but felt justified. She went outside without telling him goodbye, got into her car and drove away. Victor was flabbergasted. He was angry and annoyed and lost. Susie drove into the city and went to a large building. She went inside and found the office she was looking for. Inside was a nun dressed in her uniform.
“I rang this morning,” said Susie.
“You must be Susie Walton,” said the nun.
“Yes, I am. I have to get admitted today if possible. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Well, let’s see. You’ve been hearing voices? And you’ve been to a hospital for this before? You wish to stay for at least month. Is that right?” said the nun.
“Yes. A month should see me right,” said Susie.
“You understand that we don’t rely on drug treatments here. We believe in natural healing. The spirit must be allowed to heal and harmonize the mind, itself. ”
“I quite agree,” said Susie.
“Are you a Catholic?” asked the nun.
“No, I’m not. But I’m a Christian,” said Susie.
“Normally we require that all patients be members of a congregation of the church, preferably Roman Catholic, but last week that rule was changed. We’re taking anyone these days. But it is important that you have some faith in your life, otherwise you’ d be wasting your time and ours. And our valuable resources.”
“I believe in God,” said Susie emphatically.
“Well, that’s a start I expect,” said the nun and shuffled some papers on her desk. “You’d like to be admitted this afternoon?”
“Yes, if it’s possible,” said Susie.
“If you’ll just sign these papers we can get you going. There on the bottom line.”
Susie signed the papers and was given a carbon copy for herself. The nun stood up and directed Susie to the door. Outside was another nun, much younger looking. The older nun spoke to her and she took Susie by the arm and led her down the hall.
Once at street level, Susie felt more cheerful. The nun was to accompany her to the clinic but because Susie had her own car there was a slight mix up. Eventually they agreed to go in separate cars. Susie drove like a maniac with the nun in hot pursuit. They went to the Eastern side of town to a quiet residential area.
The clinic was large and newly built. It stood next to a church surrounded by green gardens and lawns.
Susie parked her car on the street and waited for the nun to arrive. She took a few minutes and then parked behind Susie’s car.
“You were driving like a demon,” she said when she’d gotten out of it.
“I hate the traffic. It makes me nervous,” said Susie. “Is this it then?”
“This is it,” said the nun.
“St. Peters psychiatric clinic.”
“Do we go this way?” asked Susie, pointing to a big modern looking building.
“No dear,” said the nun, “that’s the administration block. Reception is the other way, in that house.” She pointed towards an old house that stood in the grounds. A path led from the road to it. They walked along the path until they reached the front porch. Susie dumped her bags there and both women went inside. Susie was asked to sign some more papers and then given a wrist band to wear. She was also given a white hospital gown. Her bags were kept at the reception centre. A few minutes later Susie and the nun were going to her room in the St. Mary ward. It was a new building, low and sleek set behind the reception house. They remained silent and walked briskly. Finally, Susie was shown her room and shown the cafeteria.
“Meals are at six in the evening, and breakfast is served at seven. Lunch is at noon,” said the nun. “You’ll be expected to attend all meals. We have a prayer service in the morning and before each meal which you can attend if you wish. The bathrooms are not to be used before noon and you can make outside phone calls between six and eight. The duty doctor will see you shortly. Any questions?” Susie
had none and went back to her room to wait for the doctor. She felt happy and slightly tired. She lay on the bed and stared out the window. There was a car park outside the window and she watched as people drove in and out. Half an hour later came a knock on her door. A priest dressed in black came in and introduced himself.
“Hello, I’m father Tony O’leary,” he said. Susie got up off the bed and shook his hand. They sat on the lounge chairs in the room.
“You were admitted today?” asked the father.
“Yes, a short time ago. I’m waiting to see the doctor,” said Susie. “That’s me,” said the priest.
“But I thought you were a priest,” she said.
“I am, but I studied medicine as well. I’m a specialist psychiatrist. Now what’s the trouble?” he said.
“I’ve been hearing voices,” she said dryly.
“Oh? And how often do you hear them?” he said.
“Not very often,” she said, “but recently two or three times a day. A male voice behind my head.”
“Have you tried to kill yourself?”
“Taken any drugs? Such as Heroin, LSD or Speed?”
“No, I don’t use them.”
“Do you drink?”
“Yes I have been fairly heavily recently.”
“Does that affect the voices?”
“I hadn’t noticed,” she said.
“How do you feel right now?”
“I’m a little sleepy, quite a good mood.”
“As you know, we don’t rely on drugs here, so if you’re taking any prescription medicines you’d better leave them with me. Our approach is less intrusive. We have therapy sessions four times a week, group meetings and we encourage our patients to explore their own feelings for the answers. Of course if you get extremely unwell I can give you something to help.”
“Thank you Doctor. I do have difficulty sleeping soundly. I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams lately. Nightmares.”
“Oh? Do they follow a pattern? Always the same imagery?”
“Yes and no,” she said. “Sometimes they’re the same, but mostly they change depending upon what I’ve been doing during the day. They scare me a lot.”
“Because they’re so true to life?”
“That, and because I don’ t want them to come true.”
“What about your appetite?”
“I’m eating enough. I enjoy food.”
“Well then, why don’t you take a little nap and we’ll see you at dinner? I must be off, I have some other patients to see.” The Doctor stood up, shook her hand and left the room. Susie lay back on the bed and listened to the noises coming through the window. There were a lot of cars coming and going, but hardly any birds called. She thought it odd. At ten to six Susie got up from bed and put her slippers on. She went to dinner and found the cafeteria easily enough. It was full of patients dressed in white hospital robes. There were several girls her own age, several older men, some middle aged women, and some younger boys. They all looked depressed and downhearted. They shuffled past the kitchen window holding their trays. A nun put their food on a plate and passed it through. They walked away slowly and found a table. Susie had come last and when her meal had been given to her she walked
around the room looking for somewhere to sit. It was crowded and no one paid her any mind.
“You can sit here,” said a small mousy woman. Susie sat next to her and picked up her fork, took a mouthful of food and swallowed.
“My name’s Susie,” she said.
“I’m Lyn,” replied the woman.
“Glad to know you,” said Susie and took another mouthful of food. “You been here long?”
“About six months,” said Lyn.
“That’s a long time. What’ s wrong with you?” “I’m a manic depressive,” she said.
“Feeling any better?”
“Pretty much so. I’ll be going home on weekend leave soon. I’ve gotten over the hump, it’s down hill from here on in.”
“You like the nuns?” asked Susie.
“They’re very good to be with, and Doctor is terrific.”
“Yes, I met him this afternoon. I just got here. It seemed like a nice enough place. Do you go to group therapy?”
“No, I go to mass every morning. Then I usually have a session with the Doctor. He’s very good. He puts things into perspective.”
“I suppose it’s a slow process,” said Susie.
“You have to use your own inner strengths,” said Lyn. “The Doctor is there just to guide you along.”
“You’re religious, then?” said Susie.
“I am, really. It gives me a lot of support and my husband thinks I’m getting much better.”
“You’re married? Got any kids?”
“Yes, I have two boys and a little girl. Their daddy is taking care of them. I’ll be fine when I get out and go home. It was such a chore looking after them, I don’ t know why but I cracked up. I couldn’t help myself.”
“Will you be cured?”
“Oh, the Doctor says there isn’t a cure. You just learn to live with it, like a disability. I can control my moods better than ever now. I don’ t lose control anymore. No more tears, or tantrums. I’m pretty steady.”
“Will your husband come and get you when you go?”
“Of course he will. I love him very much. I’ll go home for the weekend to be with my family. They’ll get to know me again and we’ll see how things are. We haven’t had a real family for years, I’ve been going crazy on and off. I’ve neglected them and they’ve distanced themselves. But the Doctor thinks I’m almost ready to start again.”
“That’s good,” said Susie and finished her meal. The two women talked until the dinner room was closed and then went into a lounge and continued to discuss the details of their cases. Lyn was very talkative and aggressive. Susie was withdrawn and secretive.
At eight they both retired back to their rooms. Susie had a shower and felt fresh and clean. She began to miss Victor and started writing him a letter but the words wouldn’t come. Every time she tried to tell him that she still loved him, she would get angry and frustrated with the thought of him a Michael’s. She started crying and didn’t stop until she fell asleep hours later.
Two weeks later Susie had met some other patients. There was Joe, a middle aged father of three who hadn’t worked in ten years. He was withdrawn and quiet. He heard voices, too, telling him to invent some new machine he’d never heard of. Then there was Steven a younger musician. He’ d started seeing visions and had gone on a spree of sexual adventure that resulted in his getting a case of gonorrhoea. He had admitted himself on the insistence of his girlfriend. And there was Philipa, a grey haired mother of two who believed she was the Devil. She had improved much, but had been a resident for nearly a year. Her progress was slow and retarded. Her husband had taken to drink and didn’t want her back home until she was her old self again. Susie would attend the therapy sessions with Father O’ leary every few days and they would talk about life, about her past about her future and about her history.
He told her he was very encouraged at her prognosis. He expected her to recover completely within a few months. She hadn’t heard any voices and signs were that they would not return. Susie, however, felt that she was hiding her true feelings from the Doctor. She felt she was telling him little white lies all the time. She wanted to leave the clinic and didn’t want to go through her therapy. She would send Victor letters that told him how much she loved him and would wish him well. Sometimes she would call him in the evenings and he would beg her to let him visit, but she would insist it was too early. Several times she thought she heard the voice again but didn’t tell Doctor O’ leary about it for fear that he would discount her progress. She talked about everything except what was really troubling her, and the Doctor didn’t seem to notice. He was a fastidious man who always looked immaculate in his black suit and white collar. His hair was silver around the edges and was short. He was bald on top and had a loud laugh. He liked to tell patients little jokes and loved to see them laughing with him. He wore gold rimmed glasses and hardly ever discussed religious matters. Susie liked him but didn’t trust him completely. After each session she would go to her room and lay down dreaming of when she would be able to get out again. The Doctor had advised her she could leave anytime but had said that he thought two or three months wouldn’t be an unreasonable time to spend at the clinic. Susie began to consider whether or not the whole thing was working.
She thought that drugs could do a faster job and were more reliable, particularly whenever she thought the voices were coming back to haunt her. She found herself attending mass in the morning. At first she sat at the back of the small chapel and watched the ceremony but gradually she moved closer to the altar until she began taking communion and reciting the creed. She learned the Hail Mary and had prayer beads with her at all times. She got anointed with the oil of the sick and prayed before each meal. One day she went to see Doctor O’ leary feeling uplifted and high. He seemed sombre and preoccupied.
“Hello, Doctor,” she said casually.
“Good morning, Susie,” he said. “How are you today?”
“I’m feeling better than I have for a while. I’m happy and cheerful, full of enthusiasm. I have great expectations of you Doctor.” He smiled and took up a pencil.
“What have you been thinking? About Victor, I mean.”
“I’m missing him very much,” she said. “He’s the only one true love. But he’s so strange in many ways.”
“He loves you?”
“I’m sure he does, but he’ s too bound up with himself to ever allow anyone 100% of his time. And he has some strange things going on in his life. You heard he was shot?”
“You told me about it, Susie,” said the Doctor.
“Of course, I must have mentioned it. But did I tell you that he had to go to court to give evidence? He had to identify the man who shot him, and the defence lawyer asked him about his past. About Satanism and his song lyrics.”
“And what did he say?”
“He told the court he wasn’t a member of the band when they were interested in the occult. Which was true enough. But he never told me about his own preoccupation with Satanism until it was too late.”
“You mean he harboured a secret interest in the occult and never told you about it?”
“It went further than that, Doctor. He actually took me to meet a friend of his named Michael. And we went there and Michael did some kind of ritual to summon Satan and they all drank blood from a silver cup and carried on like it was something they all believed in.”
“And it surprised you? Shocked you?” said the Doctor.
“I had this strange feeling that the voices I was hearing had something to do with Satan, with the Devil. It scared me a lot. I really lost control and left him the next day. He said he’d never do it again, but that wasn’t the point. I had a very strong feeling that I was possessed by some evil power that could be contacted through the ritual they did.”
“Did you drink the blood?”
“No, it smelt awful and by that time I couldn’t believe what they were doing. They seemed so normal, nothing out of the ordinary to look at, but they were chanting and calling for the Devil to appear and it got to me. I thought I’d start hearing voices again. I actually believed the voice I heard was the Devil and he wanted me to hurt myself.”
“Yes? But you didn’t and that’ s the point. You were strong enough to resist the temptation. That’s a very important point to remember Susie. You have that strength and you mustn’t let yourself get carried away. Satanism and the occult present very real dangers to the innocent. It’s not just a game people play. I’ve seen some very serious cases involving the occult. The danger should not be under estimated. There is an evil power and God is the only other person who can over come it. God is the source of all good, Satan is the source of all temptation and evil in the world and you have to be strong to reject him.”
“I know that, Doctor, but it came as such a surprise. It really did. One minute we were sitting there in a normal living room and the next Michael was chanting something and everyone was taking part. I don’t know how long Victor’s been involved with all of this, but he must have lied in court when he said he had no involvement in Satanism. That’s one thing that troubled me, not to mention the fact he was almost killed because of it.”
“That’s not as surprising as you might think, Susie,” said the Doctor stretching back into his chair. “There have been many instances of Satanic possession recorded in history. God and the Saints have a way of dealing with those who become immersed in it. But I’m sure your case isn’t as extreme. He’ s a successful musician, after all.”
“That’s what worries me,” she said. “He could have been doing it for years. It all fits in place. He got his big break through me and then I started hearing the voices again. He didn’t seem to care about me when we were at Michael’ s. He’ s just too guarded and secretive. He never goes to church and I don’t even think he’s a Christian. He has no foundations that he’s told me about apart from his music. And his songs are so strange. They’re melancholy and mix up images in strange ways. He says he loves me but he doesn’t say anything about the future. I’m lost really. Sometimes I think I should never see him again. He frightens me, too.”
“You can’t deny your feelings, Susie. But it’ s dangerous to place too much importance on what you think when you’ve been under so much pressure. You are afraid of hearing voices and they don’t tell you very pleasant things. If you were hearing God’s voice or angels it would be a different matter. Perhaps nothing to be concerned about. No, you have to tread carefully here. You say you love him, but
you don’t know enough about him. That’s normal. Have you ever thought of what your life should be like? I mean you’ve started taking the sacraments here and will you continue doing so when you leave? Will the Church become an integral part of your life? These are the questions you must think about. Pray and ask God to forgive your sins and to guide you to your salvation. You have the strength, I know you do.”
“Sometimes I don’t know that I do. Sometimes I feel I’m falling apart. There’s something I haven’t told you about yet. In these last two weeks I’ve been sure that I’ve heard the voices again. Nothing very clear. But a nagging thought in the back of my head. Sometimes it’s just a thought, but I keep thinking the voices are going to come back and then what’ll I do? I can’t stop them.”
“But you can refuse to be influenced by them, can’t you? You’ve done it before and you can do it again. There are drugs I could give you to reduce the frequency of your episodes but I don’t want to drug you unless it’ s extremely urgent. You have to conquer this on your own and with God’ s help. Pray and I’ll pray for you.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” said Susie. “I appreciate it, I really do. And I believe you. I can overcome them, it’s just that the thought of them scares me. It’s good here. There are a lot of nice people and the sisters are wonderful. Everything is perfect, but I keep worrying that it can’t go on like that for much longer. Something has to happen to break it all down. And I don’ t want to see Victor while I’m like this. He’s just too confusing at the moment. I haven’t got the strength to help him any more than I do to help myself. I know he has to change too, but I can’t convince him how serious it is. He thinks it’s going to be fine when I get out of here. He thinks I’ll just come home to him and everything will be good.”
“You can’t be unchaste, you know. You will have to settle this one way or another. Will he marry you, for instance? Become a member of the church? Reject his past, confess his sins and be reborn? Those are the real issues here.”