This was my entry for another holiday story contest over at the Cracked.com forums. This time, it’s Valentine’s Day stories. Enjoy!
Dr. Milton Sheppard
Saint Joseph’s Hospital
May 3, 1906
I feel terrible for not writing you for so long, and worse for only calling on you now in a time of need. I would have sent telegraph, but I fear the story is too long, and we have, unfortunately, not yet received telephone service this far beyond the Mississippi.
I think I should explain the story first, so that you don’t misunderstand me or think that I may be playing some elaborate joke.
Shortly after I moved to Lakeside to begin my practice, I received a late night knock on my door and outside found an out-of-breath young man. We shall call him Robert. (In fact, please assume from this point forward that no party in this tale is being referred to by their Christian names.) Robert’s wife, Emilia, was giving birth and had encountered complications. I rushed across town to her bedside and helped her deliver her new daughter, Olivia.
The “complication”, it seemed, was merely a misunderstanding. Their midwife was not actually a midwife at all, but had lied to the family in a confidence scheme. She had given Emilia a concoction of lemon grass, rainwater, and rust sanded off of Robert’s own wheelbarrow! Naturally, it was fairly harmless, but the experience had made Emilia ill. I treated her as best I could with some magnesium tablets and delivered the child. (I reported the midwife to the sheriff the next day, and she was escorted out of town not two days after!) I did not charge the couple any money, as I felt pained by their existing hardships.
As a result of my kindness, Robert and Emilia came to trust me in all manner of things, and they treated me as a close family friend. Therefore, I do not exaggerate when I say that I was closely involved with Olivia’s development through childhood and into young womanhood. I personally administered every examination she was given in her youth, save one, when she broke her leg in a horse riding accident and had to be sent to the doctor in Westhill, as I was unavailable at the time, giving a lecture at the nearby medical college. Nothing was ever amiss with her. She was always a girl of good manner and even better health. As she grew, she quickly garnered a reputation for being the most beautiful young woman in town, mostly due to her luminous green eyes.
So, it was no surprise to me when, after she met a young man named Samuel, he would later ask to take her as his wife. I was not as familiar with Samuel’s family, as they had only moved to Lakeside a few years previous, but he seemed to be a smart, strong boy, and he came from a family of great wealth. They had a family doctor that they preferred to visit out of town, an old friend of his father’s, and so I had never met Samuel in the course of my profession.
Samuel, quite the romantic, had married her on St. Valentine’s Day. (I, myself, attended their wedding, and it was quite beautiful.) Afterward, they went away to Paris for two months. Olivia had spent her entire life wanting to visit Paris, and now she had her opportunity. Robert and Emilia kept me consistently updated on their time overseas. (I believe that Emilia was secretly worried that Olivia might catch some exotic, foreign illness.) According to the reports I later collected from her parents and Olivia herself, nothing out of the ordinary, other than what I will soon describe, happened during their time in France, nor during the voyage there or back.
Upon their return, something was different about them. Both were sullen and seemed gravely depressed about something. Samuel stopped coming into town altogether, spending quite a lot of time at the house his parents had given him. Olivia began visiting more and more with her parents, and they complained to me that she had developed a habit of neither talking nor eating.
It came as a surprise to me when, a fortnight later, Olivia approached me directly about an examination, insisted I not tell her parents, and that Samuel be there as well. She wept openly while asking me, which gave me great concern from the beginning. I begged her to tell me what the matter was, but she refused over and over. She said she would tell me just before the examination. Finally, I told her that if she did not tell me, I would be forced to report the matter to her parents, as it might be something I could not help her with.
At that, she burst into fresh tears and told me the story. Upon their arrival in Paris, they had tried to do that which newlyweds are meant to do, but something had been wrong. She said it hurt her quite badly. At this point, I explained to her that it was natural for a woman to be hurt her first time, that it was nothing to worry about, but she shushed me and continued on. They waited another night and made a second attempt, but the same pain came back, only this time it was far worse. Olivia complained of belly cramps and severe pain in her womb.
All told, they had made four attempts to consummate their marriage, each ending with Olivia in dire pain. The last time, she said, she began to feel a gurgle coming from her stomach, as though she was sick, but did not feel the urge to vomit. It was at this point that Samuel had decided that perhaps something was wrong with his new bride. I’m afraid that, as is the manner of young men, he had become unhappy and put off by the whole affair, and Olivia was now terrified that he would leave her for a woman named Victoria, whom he had previously courted. She had decided not to see a doctor in France, for she was far too embarrassed by her plight. During the trip home, Samuel rarely spoke and she spent her days apart from him.
Finally, upon arriving back in Lakeside, she had decided to come visit me, but Samuel had forbade it, fearing that word would get out and his reputation would be sullied. Finally, she had convinced him to relent and had come to me that very day. She insisted she leave soon after her story, as Samuel had instructed her not to be seen. I paid for a boy to run out to Samuel’s farm and send a wagon to come and pick her up.
I spent the next two days wondering about the nature of her problem. I had heard of women with narrowness in their bodies, or forms of hysteria that caused them to suddenly clench down during intercourse, but I wasn’t sure that this was the case. Something seemed very odd about the whole thing.
Finally, the day arrived. Samuel and Olivia arrived in the same wagon I had sent her away on, and he had his driver park it at the rear of my office. He truly was changed by the incidents in Paris. Previously boisterous and straight-backed, he stood slouched in the corner, his face bright red.
After some coaxing, I got Olivia to remove her undergarments and climb up on my table. I lifted her skirts (at which Samuel grunted loudly) and began my examination. From the outside, her sex looked normal. There were no marks or scars or any kind of damage to it. Upon attempting to view the inside, however, I had great difficulty. I inserted the standard finger, but found I could barely get it in to the knuckle before Olivia began howling with pain.
In the end, I had to use a tool I was given in New York some years previous, which I had used sparingly before. It’s a small paper “flash light” that illuminates without fire, and it is quite useful. Unfortunately, the cell it uses is difficult to find, especially out West, so I am always reluctant to use it.
I held her open with the tips of two fingers (any more and she would begin to scream again) and looked inside. What I saw shocked me so much that I fell off of my chair.
Upon preliminary examination, I thought what I was seeing was a mistake. Surely, this was not possible.
When I looked closer, however, I saw the truth.
A large, hideous red eye stared back at me, and seemed to lock its gaze upon my own. Worse still, worse than any nightmare I’ve ever had, my friend:
I’m afraid I am at a loss. I do not know how to proceed with this patient. Please respond quickly, for I fear that this matter may be one in which time is of the essence. Olivia’s dear Samuel took the matter too far to heart and was found dead yesterday morning, hung in his barn. She is fully distraught, and I fear that she cannot take much more. I have contacted several local hospitals, but none are equipped to deal with such a malady, assuming they take me seriously in the first place.
And so, I urgently beg of your assistance in this matter. I hope you will reply with haste.
Dr. Herbert Zimmer.