Anna Watters hated to be alone. It had developed almost to the level of a pathological phobia. During the day, she would sit with a group of friends at school, and then would be picked up by her mother At night, her parents would keep her company while she did her homework, and then her father would tuck her into bed and wait until she was asleep before going to bed. No-one, not even Anna, could fathom this terror, but it was as real and as crippling to her as a physical illness. If she was ever left alone, her heart would race until it seized up in her chest.
She would vomit and then actually fall into unconsciousness if left alone for too long a time. This fear had begun when Anna had been but a child, and had continued up until now, her 16th year. Naturally, Anna’s parents wanted to solve this problem. Due to her fear, a door had been built between her room and her parents, and she would frequently climb in between them, sobbing and afraid. Anna was due to leave school that semester and her parents worried how she (and they) would cope if she was at home 24hours a day. Finally, it was decided that a doctor would have to take control of the situation.
Anna, soft and quiet, as ever agreed with her parents. She was as confused as anyone about her problems. Whenever she was left alone for long periods of time, a slow terror would build up in her. Once, she had tried to remember when this fear had started, but all she could remember was her mother, singing her a lullaby in a darkened room. Thinking of this, however, made her attacks worse, and she had never had the courage to ask her mother about that memory, afraid that she would be implicating her own mother as the cause of her problems.
Finally, the day of the psychiatrist’s appointment loomed. Anna, dressed childishly as ever in a mickey mouse tee shirt and denim shorts, plodded dutifully after her parents as they entered the plush offices of Dr Salzberg. And very plush they were. Since the Stockmarket boom of 1987, Anna’s parents, Joe and Mary, had earned astonishing amounts of money through their financial advice business. Anna’s home was opulent and she truly did want for nothing- bar the simple ability to sit by herself and have some time alone, something that Anna, a typical teenager, often craved.
Thus,when they said they wanted the best, they got the best, and Dr Salzberg was, without doubt,the best-he had even been on Oprah. Anna walked into Salzberg’s office with some trepidation. Even before her fear, she had been a shy, timid little girl, hiding her thin face behind hanks of long dark hair. Salzberg’s office did nothing to put her at ease. It was decorated in the most masculine style she had ever seen. The walls had been painted a dark, oxblood colour, padded out by bottle-green leather cushioning. On opposite walls hung stag heads, mounted as if in the moment of death, mouths wide with pain.
Salzberg was a short little man, really to small to be frightening. He looked out of place in this big office. ‘Anna, Anna, my dear girl, don’t look so afraid! Come, sit down. ‘ His tone was kind, almost to the point of fawning. Anna immediately felt better and perched herself on a thickly cushioned couch. ‘Your mother and father have been telling me about the problems you’ve been having, and I think that I may have a solution’ He smiled down at her, peering through his glasses at the small girl hunched up on his sofa. Come with me’ Salzberg held Anna’s hand as they walked down into the asylum. Screams, jeers, howls of pain made Anna jump as they walked solemly through the dirt streaked corridor. ‘Not to worry my dear, just you close your ears to it all. Soon be there! ‘ Finally, they came to the end of the corridor, far away from all human habitation, it seemed to Anna. They stood before a small door, painted patchily gunmetal grey. Anna shivered. It was colder here, and darker too, she could see her breath hang in front of her face.
Salzberg fished out a huge bunch of keys, chose one, and swung the door open. Anna could not properly make out the interior, but it filled her with dread none the less. ‘step inside my dear… go on now’ The door slammed behind her. From within the gloom, she heard a sharp scratch, and there was suddenly light. Her mother and father stood before her, smiling kindly. ‘Mother?… Father?… what.. I mean… Dr Salzberg said I should be in here alone… ‘ Still her parents smiled, as they advanced on their now weeping daughter.
Her mother began to undo her hair, letting it tumble over the black cape that she wore as she smiled at her daughter. Anna was still in a state of uncomprehension and fear, yet she was still glad that she was not alone. ‘We offered you up my darling, aren’t you happy? You will be his… you will rule by his side! ‘ Her father had not spoken up until then, and his speech now was tinged with a little shame. ‘I couldn’t think of anything else, the business was failing, we were about to lose the only home we’d ever had, that crummy little apartment in the bronx, your mother was pregnant with you…. t seemed like the only way at the time. We would have you for 16 years, and then he would take you… it would be the same as if you’d went to college… ‘ He trailed off as his wife pulled at his arm. She smiled at Anna, with a trace of bitter jealousy around her features.
‘Count yourself lucky child, some would kill to be his concubine’ Just as they were about to leave, Anna’s father turned once more and held his daughter close. ‘I wish… i just wish you hadn’t been able to remember when he marked you… rom that day on, you were too afraid to be alone in case he got you… i wish you’d been able to live more…. ‘ Anna fell upon the floor, clutching at her father’s arm, trying to stop him from leaving her alone in this dank, damp hole. She screamed, she babbled, she cried, until eventually her throat was hoarse. Finally, she sat and tried to accustom herself to the gloom It was then that she saw the figure, darker than even the shadows in her cell, patiently waiting for her.
From all around her seemed to come the noise of mumbled words, a chant that could have, in a childish mind, passed for a lullaby. The nurses found her the next morning, a cold little figure curled up on the floor of the isolation chamber. Her hands clutched at her heart, and even in death she seemed to have found no peace from the fear that plauged her all her life. Dr Salzberg was unfortunately unable to attend the post mortem as he had been discussing his financial options with John Watters.