The front door stands ajar for the first time tempting me to take that peak as a sense of excitement overwhelms me. It’s impossible to squander the delicious fortuity to glance through the portal into a mysterious world beyond that doorway.
Everyday, walking past, the clocktower overpowers me as I stare at the dizzying heights beyond it’s pyramid rooftop, only to glance curiously at the empty clock face, as though time stopped the day the hands of time were robbed from it.
The porch is framed either side by Romanesque columns hinting at what to expect within. The stunning large early 18th century studded door, it’s beauty vulgarly decimated by an overpaint of modern moss green, feels heavy to the hand. The creaking hinges, a reminder of it’s old age beneath, give a chilling sound. Behold the wonderment!
Beneath my feet the freshly polished stone floor feels cold and hard, and is as chequered in design as it’s abominable past. The grand staircase beyond the trinity arches come to life like the scene from the Titanic, reimagining, piece by piece, the lavish, opulent foyer, cascading upwards through a chain of steps leading to a turbulent, tragic destiny.
I am instantly blinded by the garish chandeliers illuminating the high-ceiling empty and chilling space. Each footstep echoes into oblivion, and as I stare into the abyss I stop dead in my tracks as a sudden gushing wind swings the door wide open, with it blowing amongst the autumn leaves an old newspaper headlining ‘The ClockTower Whisperer’.
It is dated October 31st, 1879. It reads, ‘4 years ago to this day the voluptuary Ms Vaugn died in cell 13 after receiving a lobotomy. Prior to losing her mind, the Infirmary was owned by her. She enjoyed a lavish lifestyle into her late 20s until she became admitted as a patient in the very building that was once her castle. She became a tenacious local legend after stories travelled far and wide about her climbing to the top of the tower, to sing about the secrets entrusted to her by local folk and neighbours who came to her for comfort and advice. After 3 years acting in this unusual behaviour, every evening when the clock struck 6pm, one night she nearly fell to her death. A local psychiatrist diagnosed her with psychosis, her property was taken over by him in collusion with the Mayor, and it was decided the City of London Infirmary would open its doors. It would later become her final resting place. Yet, for the past 4 years since her death there have been allegations that residents could hear her whispers echo in the corridors. Allegedly, the whispers were of local gossip, secrets of others that should have been buried with her the day she died. Initially, this was diagnosed as ‘collective psychosis’ until the very staff working the Infirmary reported the same allegations. The Psychiatrist, Dr Levin has denied any such allegations and has reported them as just ‘rumours’, until today. Dr Levin has been taken sick and a trusted source has reported that he has been diagnosed with chronic phobia. You would be forgiven to believe that Ms Vaugn’s ghost has finally got to him too.’
As I sit in silence on the first step of the grand staircase, I find myself staring in adoration of the sheer opulence of the place; I too enjoy the luxuriously materialistic conceptual design of this modern new place that made it what it is today. And maybe it is a testament to her life.
Suddenly, a sickly sweet smell fills the air, a cloud of smoke lingering, sending me into a psychedelic trance. The walls close in and as if by magic, illuminated letters radiate from their surface turning into words and sentences. ‘Let me tell you a secret’ I hear a whisper over my shoulder. I read out sentence after sentence coming into sight, ‘Lucinda is in love with her lover’s brother, though she decided to keep them both’, ‘Poor Denis! He pretends to be a successful Tradesman but in fact he is a dirty gambler’, ‘the Mayor and Dr Levin were lovers, they took my home from me out of greed, then put me to my death’. From this last sentence I came to the shocking realisation that these words were the secrets told by the ClockTower whisperer! I feel a chill; Ms Levin knew the most devastating secret which caused her death.
It became clear to me that underneath the grandiose opulence you only have to chip away at the dove white paint to reveal the secrets she never kept, written in ink for all to see, for eternity. And that is how it came to be that the clock-face to this day remains without the hands of time. Lingering in perpetuity.
A Woman’s Scent
“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it”