Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Thursday 17th June 1943

Poor old John is now in Ward 37.

Last night I awoke suddenly, and heard John stumble past my bed gasping in an eerie voice, to himself, “The bastards! They've poisoned me!” He went out. I followed and saw him staggering about in the garden, Just then he gave a scream – and then stopped short, as though as startled as I was at the terrific smashing of the deep night silence. A moment later he saw me and sobbed, distraught, “Oh Steve! They've poisoned me! I'm dying.”

I shepherded him back to the ward, and for over three hours the night orderly and Sister tried to sooth him. Sometimes they let him roam free, watching from the shadows, John wandering in the moonlight; sometimes the night orderly held him down in bed, or struggled with him. Dozing and waking, I heard some pathetic conversations. “I'm dying. I realise I'm dying. Don't you understand I've only got a few minutes to live?” “Well, if you're dying lad, just lie down and take it easy.” “But why have you killed me? Why?”

And I could see how evil everything must be to poor John's twisted mind. For instance when the orderly said, bending over the bed, “There! Lie still a bit, and I'll get you a glass of water...” I could imagine how sinister such an offer would appear to John. For the same reason he also refused every sleeping draught which was offered.

“... I want to die in the Catholic faith... Why are you sitting there watching me? You want to see me dead, don't you?” “Sometimes I wish to Christ you were dead, mate,” replied the orderly with feeling.

When John was wandering alone, clutching his head, I noticed two things which normally, before I myself became crazy, would have seemed horrible and uncanny. When he spoke, he spoke (to himself) in two voices. One voice would give a high pitched cry, “Poison! They've poisoned me!” And the other would say, roughly and normally, “Don't be a bloody fool. Go to bed.” The second peculiar thing was that John, plunging headlong down the dark ward, would suddenly stop and stand rigid, hands at his sides, staring ahead. Then after a minute or so he'd stumble forward again with more piteous cries. What was he doing in those silent moments? Watching? Or listening?

They took him away at about 4 a.m. Just before he went, there was one slightly humorous incident, when William Lias suddenly sat up in bed and cried with ponderous joviality, “Hullo! What's wrong, old war horse?” “Nothing,” replied Store tonelessly, “I'm just dying, that's all.” “Oh! - Balls!” ejaculated Lias and immediately lay down again.

A few hours after Store had gone a new patient came in – an RASC sergeant – and was led in, weeping. They come and they go.

I'm alright for manual work, or routine work like the linen store; but I can't write. This diary is an effort, letter writing is even worse. For most of today I have been trying to write a sonnet – 14 lines. But nothing is doing in the poetry line. Once it gushed out so easily.


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