From the diary of Lillian Archer:
“My darling, these past two weeks I have tried to get away from here through the parks. But things have changed there too. If the sickness and the sudden confusion are not enough I believe he has now positioned sentinels to keep us inside here.
On Monday I set off at five, at first light, wondering if this would make any difference to my chances of getting out. But I began to feel nauseous halfway along Constitution Hill. Determined, and so upset I had only gotten thus far to be suddenly stricken with the sickness, I set off north instead through Green Park with Piccadilly in sight. It was then I spied a woman who should not have been in the park. Not at that time of day, or at any time if I am to be honest.
Seeing her gave me such a shock I didn’t leave the flat again until Sunday morning, and I had the porters do what shopping I needed.
Even after all I have endured I am still ready to be shaken to the marrow by the strength of his influence. I still question what I saw, and still leap from denial to acceptance on an hourly basis, but I must accept these new sightings are a change in the strategy he employs to keep us in.
In my nervous state of mind I was ready to dismiss the individual in Green Park as some kind of actress. Perhaps they were filming nearby. Or maybe she was one of these strange youths I read of in the papers who are so fond of dressing up. But from her appearance I would have placed her with the Victorians and not the current “swinging” Londoners, or whatever they are now.
She wore a long black dress that swept the path, and a bonnet on her head which concealed her face from me. And could I have imagined all of those ribbons in a detailed frill around her face, as if she were in mourning? It was the details that convinced me this silent and unmoving figure was real. But she was so tall and so unhealthily thin beneath the dress that stretched up to her throat, she made me suspect I was seeing a person on stilts playing some prank on whoever was about at that time. And she was pushing a black perambulator out in front of her. A big old fashioned thing, heavy with wheels like a cart.
I turned away and pretended to ignore her. But, as I proceeded to go on, she just seemed to come quickly out of the mist that was clearing from the base of the trees, and approached along the path I needed to cross to reach Piccadilly. No matter how much I slowed down or sped up it seemed impossible that we would not meet at some junction ahead.
I veered to the right but she kept pace with me, so I cut directly upwards and tried to avoid a collision I instinctively felt would be unpleasant for me. By this time I was stumbling. Losing my balance because I felt so wretched. My hair had come lose and fallen across my face and I was in such a state, darling, but I tried. I really tried.
She was there when I reached the path. Waiting, not more than a few feet away. Almost at my side. So silent, but determined to greet me I felt. I only looked at her quickly, but could not see any evidence of her features inside that bonnet. It was angled down, but still, I thought, where is her face? Though what I did see in that solitary glance were her hands, clenched upon the handle of the pram. And I could not take another step after observing the state of them.
They were all bone. Brownish and mottled, not white as you’d expect bones to be. And in that moment she reached out and spread these hands over the top of the pram. As she unhooked the black veil from the hood and reached inside, her fingers made a clatter as if she were wearing lots of loose wooden rings on her thin fingers. I thought this sound more dreadful than the sight of them. And what she raised from the pram made me scream. I remember hearing my voice as if it came from someone else. It simply didn’t sound like me.
I must have fainted, because when I woke, the sun was warm on my face and the woman and her horrid pram were gone. A tramp stooped down and asked after me, but he frightened me too and I staggered all the way home in tears.
A week to that day I tried again. First, to reach the trains to Brighton at Victoria, and then to push across the river by the Albert Bridge where I had been unable to get through some years before. But there were more of them. Waiting for me.
Near Victoria I was greeted by something all hunched over and wearing a flat cap. The face under the peak was all chattering yellow teeth. And on Cheyne Walk, three days later, my heart nearly stopped when I was surprised by the sudden appearance of three little hairless girls with the strangest misshapen heads, all long and thinnish. They were wearing surgical gowns tied at the neck and they did a horrible little dance on their stick legs, right there on the pavement before my eyes. Under the gowns I think their bodies were stitched together. But it was the way they moved …
I tried to run around them and get across the Albert Bridge but saw something caught up in a tree. I thought it was a kite, but it was fleshy. A face, in fact. With small pox scars on the skin and no eyes. Just hanging there alone in its own grief and pleading with me.
It was as if I was being held down in a nightmare and unable to wake. I doubt I shall ever try and go south again. Down there, it is worse than anywhere else.
Of course I am losing my mind. I know it. As you did at the end, my darling. But we both know where we saw such things before. He brought them here. We never got rid of them. Not after all that burning.”