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In the library with the statue…

Olivia (@babelfishwars – go follow her she’s dangerous) is one of our copy editors. Consequently she is not easily bewildered or worried by things she gets sent in the mail. Until the day this box turned up. We hand over to Olivia to tell the tale (and yes all our authors are very welcome to write in and correct her piece for spelling, grammar and continuity).

She wanted you to have this I don’t know why or who you are, but I owed her this much for forgetting about her.

I like to think it reflects well on my friends and family that when I received an utterly anonymous mysterious package with a cryptic and perhaps slightly ominous note attached, only two told me to call the police*. My mother did suggest checking the door was locked, but then burst into raptures of laughter – so I think, on balance, she was in favour of it. Most friends expressed acute envy and excitement. One offered to marry the sender, sight unseen. Another offered their cat in exchange for a “mystery stalker with gothic proclivities”. {Sender – are you open to either trade? Do let me know.}

The parcel had been sent to my home, but had been undeliverable. I arranged to pick it up from the depot, near the office where I was working. I’ve made the error of opening an unexpected parcel at work before (probably what you imagine), I wouldn’t do this again. If I had to suffer in suspense, so would the fools attached to me on Facebook. The most popular post I’ve ever made.

 

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Among the suggestions as to contents (my friends, ladies and gentlemen, my friends): something flayed; mummified cat; foetus cadaver? About the right size for twins? …

Once home, I was already inundated with messages demanding updates. Shush, fools. I’m busy appreciating. The lid required levering off – an immensely satisfying process – and the box opened to reveal a pile of straw and some letters. So far, so not necessarily hate mail from an over-sensitive author.

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I updated as I explored. I got complaints if the photos weren’t in focus enough for people to read with me; if I wasn’t posting fast enough. The box was a double enjoyment – pleasure exploring it for myself, bonus pleasure at the tormented cries of those I drip fed the experience to.

The top layer was formed of doctor’s notes (dated 1950s), two newspaper clippings, and a burned letter in rather unrestrained handwriting. A picture emerged: an unethical doctor, an escaped patient enacting revenge. The newspaper clippings suggested a paranormal element, but allowed for alternative readings, and offered supporting evidence for the veracity of the information in the other documents. Fascinating, fun … gory. And on Facebook, collaborative research was taking place. The clippings linked to an asylum in North Wales – dates were checked, pictures found. The crazed letter mentioned a date, and setting a fire – and the asylum had indeed suffered arson at the particular time. Everything fitted. Perfectly. The line between fact and probably fiction blurred enough for the nervous excitement of ‘maybe’ without any of the fear of ‘actually’.

What’s in the box?

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A statue of St Dymphna, patron saint of mental and nervous disorders. Obviously. Obviously? Back to the letter. The patient “took up the holy statue”. It was the statue (or the saint) who “made his blood flow”. Oh. Oh!

One friend started searching for evidence of a doctor bludgeoned to death. Considered date format of the doctor’s notes – clearly an American or Canadian doctor working in the UK in the 1950s. Nothing found, but excitement continues regardless. Who had the statue all this time? Why had they sent it to me? Why now?

I remarked ‘it’s a pity there’s no blood on the statue’. Then a niggling thought. I’d been wrapped in the words, the story – I’d merely given the statue a passing glance to see what it was. I have absolutely no idea how I missed this:

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Cue the following: “Isn’t this the point at which you should call the police?”

“Buy luminol.”

And: “… Are there clumps of hair in it?”

“No, only a few strands.”

Of course the conclusion of all this? My status announcement: My face hurts from smiling.

I’ve had to under-detail the experience; there’s no way I can convey it without copying the documents verbatim, and even then the tactile pleasure is lost, along with beautiful details adding to the realism, such as the handwriting of the various documents matching the temperament of the supposed writer.

I can’t quite decide which is the best bit: the fact that the crazed and tortured patient who gains vengeance was also called Olivia – which (saying something worrying about my psyche) resulted in me identifying a little too closely: “So, I tonked the evil doctor over the head with the statue. Then what did I do? Why did I send this to me?” or that I now own a bloody murder weapon in the form of a desecrated plaster saint, and it’s taking pride of place in my living room in the hopes that it’ll provoke aghast and bewildered questions.

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Best present ever – mystery + story + experience + evidence + mass envy on Facebook. And within the entire package – not a clue as to the source (aside from its country of origin: Canada). Whoever you are, you’re my favourite immensely-creepy present giver. I’ll keep you. So long as you stick to what’s probably fiction.

*Note: were I not the type to have delightfully imaginative and mischievous friends, and were I not fairly certain one of them was responsible for this gift, I might have been worried rather than delighted. I’m not completely bonkers.