I’m a bit worried about today’s visitor. I think she’s supposed to be in a lunatic asylum and I’m not sure how she got here. If you don’t hear from me again, expect the worst.
It is worse than we ever imagined it would be. The first few days were the worst: the shock of my new surroundings, those abhorrent acts of brutality, the threat of which lingers in the shadows, leaps out at the merest look of defiance. But – and this has come as a shock to me – I have quickly grown used to the place and seem to be able to block out all but the most severe cruelties. I have lost track already of how many days I have been here – very few though, perhaps eight or nine. It feels like so much longer; I miss you and Fleur terribly. Maybe it is best not to dwell on it, after all, I must remember my purpose here. My motives are good; I just hope nobody will judge me too harshly for them.
There is no harm in any of the women. Indeed, there is one I believe I can even count on as a friend. She is a brave soul, Minette Dolan, only about eighteen or nineteen years old. She is very protective of the more vulnerable patients and has shown me the way to survive in this place. When I asked her how long she had been here, she said she didn’t know. She knows the date she came in here, she says, but does not know what date it is now, or even which day of the week, for we are not allowed a clock or calendar. When I asked what had brought her to Saint Anne’s, she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Moral insanity.”
She would not be drawn on it any further, and I have considered it for some time: moral insanity, what could that possibly mean? Dolan believes she can communicate with the spirit world; she gives comfort to some of the women here, women who have lost children or loved ones. I don’t believe there is any malice in her; she is misguided, that’s all. What harm could it do, to offer solace by bringing messages from the other side?
And yet women like Dolan are ten a penny in this Godforsaken city. We have met women like Dolan before, have we not? Since coming here I have thought about Soubrette often, the charlatan in her red room, with her ringed fingers and china figurines all rattling on her shelves.
In the end, I believe you nearly fell for her, but I think perhaps you wanted to. You had more at stake than me. One could be forgiven for being deceived.
It is time you let go, Patrick, let go of the past and start living again. Pictures of Magdalen are dotted all over the house; the portrait of her standing at the top of a horseshoe-shaped staircase with a flower garden behind her, another taken after she died. That one sits in a frame on your dresser in our bedroom. It is hard to live up to the memory of a ghost.
Ghosts – our house is full of them. There is Zeus, also, who you had prepared and stuffed, sitting always at our fireside, menacing me with his glassy stare. He never liked me; he was Magdalen’s dog, forever slobbering on me and pinning me against walls with his docile weight. Magdalen’s dog, Magdalen’s husband, Magdalen’s bed and her wardrobe full of clothes. There is only Fleur who is really mine.
I know you will never forget Magdalen – I wouldn’t want you to – but it’s time to let her rest in peace. We can talk about it more when I come home. It won’t be long now. I only say this because I love you. I love you and Fleur more than anything in this world, and can’t wait to see you both, just as soon as my work here is done.
Thanks for that, Cicely. And to the rest of you: you don’t really have to worry about me because Cicely comes from the pages of (soon to be released) Delirium by the very talented Emma Rose Millar.
Saint Anne’s Lunatic Asylum, London
One woman whose secret has brought her to the brink of insanity; another who claims she can tell fortunes and communicate with the dead. With seemingly no way out – and everything at stake – only one of them has the tenacity to survive.
Lies, murder, obsession… Delirium.
About the Author
Emma Rose Millar is a single mum from Birmingham who works part-time as a sign language interpreter. She writes historical fiction for adults and poetry for children. Her first novel, Five Guns Blazing, won the Chaucer Award, (Legend Category) in 2016. Her novella, The Women Friends: Selina, co-written with Miriam Drori, was shortlisted for the Goethe Award for Late Historical Fiction in 2016. Delirium is her third novel and was shortlisted for the Chanticleer Paranormal Book Awards in 2017. Some of Emma’s children’s poems will be published in 2019 by The Emma Press.
In her spare time, Emma enjoys swimming, yoga and ice-skating, and makes delicious chocolates.