“My most intriguing case of somnambulism involved a sixteen year old girl.” The speaker leaned back in his chair and surveyed me over the top of his steel rimmed glasses.
Martin Rickets is my neighbour. He is also a psychiatrist, and I had invited him and his wife, Maria, to join me over a meal and one or two bottles of wine. I am a writer of occult fiction, and with a story to write on the topic, hoped I could persuade him into giving me some background information.
I refilled his glass. “Go on…”
He held up a hand for me to stop with the glass no more than three quarters full. “You’ll appreciate, I can give no explicit details. Patient confidentiality and all that…”
“I understand that.”
He picked up the glass and let the dark red liquid swirl around inside his mouth. “Hmmm, nice. Pinot Noir?”
After a few moments, he put the glass down and continued. “The girl’s mother brought the girl to me. I’ll call her Emma for want of a better name.” He looked me directly in the eye. “That’s not her real name in case you are wondering. Their practitioner, I’d known him from when we were at university together, gave the family my name.”
He paused for another sip of the wine before continuing. “In the first occurrence of something untoward, the mother had difficulty waking Emma for school, and on entering the bedroom, found the girl face down on the floor covered in blood. At first, she assumed it was the girl’s blood, but there were only a few superficial scratches on her legs and arms. This happened two months before they came to me, so I have no way of knowing if the story is exaggerated. Emma had no memory of how she came to be in that state. I think the mother was a little concerned about where the blood had come from. She immediately burned the soiled clothing rather than investigate its source.
“As life seemed to return to normal, they did nothing for a further three weeks. Then a Saturday, Emma has a part-time job in a boutique in town, the mother was again unable to wake the girl. In a repeat of the earlier incident, Emma was lying on the floor, covered in blood and with similar scratches on her arms and legs. This time, there were also bite marks on her arms.
“Emma still remembered nothing but as the girl seemed to be feverish, they kept her off work. By the Monday, she was recovered sufficiently to attend school.
“The third attack took place exactly a week later. Events seemed to follow the same pattern, but the injuries to Emma were worsening. The bite marks had broken the skin in several places and drawn blood. Concerned the girl might develop tetanus, they took her to see their doctor. He was concerned enough to refer the patient to me under the suspicion that the injuries were from self-mutilation.
“The parents had made no mention of there being far more blood on Emma’s clothing than could be accounted for by her injuries. I believe it would have helped if that blood was analyzed, but too late now. An hour session in which I interviewed Emma convinced me self-mutilation was not the cause. I assumed the injuries were caused by some pet, a cat or dog. According to the mother, this was not possible. A younger daughter, Emma’s sister, has an allergy to animal fur. They had no pets.
“The only alternative could be that Emma left the house in a somnambulist state, the attacks occurring elsewhere. Emma’s mother thought this very unlikely, as she would have heard the girl leaving or entering the house. The doors at front and rear of the house remained locked as far as they could tell. I suggested that her bedroom window could be an alternative exit, at which they decided to have someone fit locks.
“As their doctor had prescribed drugs to ensure Emma slept soundly at night, I suggested they take all precautions against the possibility of the girl getting out of the house and thus wait and see what happens.
“Two days later, I received a phone call from the mother in an extreme state of stress. She discovered Emma that morning, but her injuries were so severe the girl was hospitalized. I immediately went to see for myself, and spoke with the surgeon who attended the girl. He confirmed Emma appeared to have been attacked by some animal, possibly a large dog.
“Emma remained in hospital for three days before returning home. Her mother felt the best option was for her to sleep in the same room with her daughter to prevent further sleep-walking episodes. Nothing more occurred for ten days. Then, two a.m. one morning, I was wakened by a telephone call to say Emma was missing. The police would do nothing as technically, Emma could not be classified as a missing person.
“Taking Maria with me, I drove to the house and together with the parents we scoured the streets in the immediate vicinity without seeing any sign of the girl. We returned to the house at first light around six. Emma was on the floor of her bedroom with injuries similar to previously. We woke her, but again she was unable to provide an explanation. Shortly after that, the family moved away, blaming the location for the events. I am not sure where they are now. They have not contacted me, so whether the attacks are on-going, I cannot say.”
“An interesting case,” I said. “And you still have no thoughts on where Emma may have gone during the attacks?”
He picked up the glass, staring at the contents without making a reply. I continued, “Do you think there might have been some occult explanation?”
Martin drained the glass of wine before answering. “I have no belief in the occult.”
© 2011 Robert A. Read.
Word count 997