From the Lost Journal of Dr. Lorenz Meissner
June 12th, 1925
Today I returned from my second year at University. I decided to come home a few days early and surprise my parents. My mother was thrilled to see me, but my father seemed more put-out and distressed by my appearance than I was anticipating. Despite the gruffness with which he greeted me, my parents immediately presented me with a gift to commemorate another successful year. The gift was this lovely leather-bound journal.
I have never kept a journal before, but I admit to finding the idea somewhat appealing. There are thoughts and feelings that I sometimes wish to express and have no one to express them to. Perhaps when I am an old gentleman, I may look back at this collection of words with fondness. There is even the prospect of passing the words on to the next generation of Meissner men. That would be something, wouldn’t it?
After the presentation of gifts, I immediately made my way to Mother’s garden. I had missed the flowers almost as much as I missed my parents. I made the excuse of needing fresh air after such a long and arduous train ride, however, the truth is so much more embarrassing. I do not know if I shall ever be able to explain to others my fascination with flora. It is about as clear to me as my fascination with water and all things aquatic. One would infer based upon my childhood near-death experience, that I would be opposed to being in water, but that is the farthest from the truth.
In any event, I traversed through the gardens and was both inspired and slightly disappointed. The blooms seemed to have sunk since last I saw them. I picked up one of the older watering cans and went about the task of sprinkling water on the precious roses and lilies. I spoke to them, chattering of my classes and various instructors. It has always been easier for me to talk to flowers instead of people. I know that is ridiculous and the flowers cannot respond to me, but is it unscientific of me to report in these pages the flowers seemed to blossom as I spoke? By the time I left the garden to have dinner with my parents, I could almost swear that the blooms looked brighter, and the flowers were open and more cheerful in appearance.
It was probably just my imagination.
At dinner I offered my grade reports and discussed my classes. Both of my parents were pleased to hear that I made honor roll and all my marks were good. My father paused to see that I had taken Botany as an elective. It pleased my mother and the two of us discussed a recent project that I was involved. It was the cross-breeding of flowers to produce pink petals from the combination of red flowers and white flowers. It had been so long since I saw Mother’s dark eyes light up with such wonder. Father was not as pleased by the recount and he relayed to me that Botany was not exactly something that would aid me in my trek towards a degree in medicine.
My rebuttal involved stating I needed an elective in sciences and how I wanted a class that would not take away from my medical studies. I went on to describe how the class was ‘easy’ for someone such as me, and that the instructor let students do much of the work in class. Appealing to my father’s sense of duty towards medical studies seemed to do the trick. I could see my mother smiling behind her napkin. Mother obviously knew better, but the explanation was enough to stave off Father’s cold disapproving stares.
After dinner, Father invited me into his study. I was surprised by this action, but was absolutely giddy on the inside to be invited for an after-dinner drink and smoke. He sat at the fire place, despite the fact that it was not lit. He poured the two of us a small tot of his best vodka and lit two cigars. The alcohol was warm and it burned as I sipped it. I was never one for drinking, but I watched Father down three glasses to my one and puff at his smoke in a way that I admired deep in my heart. My father is such a masculine icon amongst the medical world.
As I stared at him and we sat in silence, I started to note something odd, however. His blue eyes shifted often and there was a sheen of sweat upon his brow. His hands were trembling, to the point he almost dropped his cigar. I cannot recall him ever looking so pale or upset. I asked him if there was something wrong, but he kept waving me off and insisting that it was nothing. I shall have to remember to have a look in some of my text books for his symptoms. I noted that his pupils were constricted along with the unusual pallor of his skin, the sweating and trembling. Could he be coming down with some sort of summer flu? I shudder to think it be signs of aging. My father is a rock amongst our family. No, it must be a passing ailment or perhaps just stress. These are not the best of times for our nation.
After a long silence with our drinks and smokes, my father began speaking to me of the journal that I was presented. I again tried to impress upon him how grateful I was for such a thoughtful gift. He kept waving off the sentiments and went into a long lecture about records keeping. I’m not sure I exactly understood his meanings. I silenced myself and sat as I often did when my father spoke. It was like when I was a child and he gave long speeches about how important it was for each generation to be filled with medicine and science. He went into an almost tirade of how I must use this journal to keep notes on my medical findings and to take notes on my patients and research.
What he proposed bordered on unethical and dangerous. At the end of his speech I interjected that many of my instructors insisted modern records keeping were quite sufficient and that there were plenty space to make notes and keep other doctors informed of an individual’s progress. To my surprise, Father actually stomped to his feet and loomed over me in a way that made me feel so small I almost flinched. He again insisted that I had to keep records for myself and that one day I would understand. By the time the lecture was over, he was practically shouting into my face and I could feel my pulse had quickened and my eyes were stinging. I did not dare shed a tear, however. Despite my age, he would have surely struck me in the face for doing something so childish.
I am still rather shaken and confused by the after dinner conversation. I think I need another walk in the gardens before I try to sleep. Though it feels good to be back in my old room, I feel confused and uneasy by my father’s state and his outburst. Perhaps Mother could shed some light on the situation. I will try and speak with her privately tomorrow. Asking her to walk in the gardens with me is the perfect opportunity.
Good bye for now, Journal.
June 13th, 1925
It has been another long and confusing day for me, Journal. I had breakfast with Mother. However, Father was absent from the table. I was given the excuse of him working in his laboratory.
As long as I can remember, our cellar has been a sort of research work-station for my father. I can remember him disappearing from sun up until sun down through the door. I suppose this has not changed since I have been away at university. I’m not sure why I would expect it to. My father has always been dedicated to medical research, though I’m not entirely sure what goes on down there. I have never been allowed to step foot beyond the threshold.
Despite his absence, or perhaps because of it, Mother and I spoke at length about all sorts of things. She babbled for quite some time about the state of the neighbors. She spoke of who was marrying whom and what ladies were still available. I was completely disinterested, but I did my best to listen. At one point she asked if there were any ladies that I had met while I was away. A part of me was almost disappointed in myself that I could not convey a sordid tale of some such. I wanted to lie to her, but I have never been able to lie to my mother the way I could spin yarns to my father.
Instead of speaking to my bachelorhood, I started focusing on the way women conducted themselves. I talked of hairstyles, clothing that I had come across and the latest styles. Thankfully, this distracted Mother from her obvious interest in my romantic life. A romantic life that is non-existent. I have no interest in such things. There is far too much work to be done. I realize that I am an only child, and there are certain expectations I must live up to. However, I am yet to turn twenty years of age, and with a budding medical career on the horizon, I simply cannot commit to a wife and family at this time.
After breakfast I easily talked Mother into walking in the gardens with me. The flowers looked so much better today than they did yesterday. They were standing taller and the blooms were bright and cheerful. My mother commented on how she was having trouble getting them to grow properly since I left, but today they seemed much better. I urged her to use the older more cumbersome watering cans. I know it might seem silly, but for some reason I feel the flowers like those better. Here I go again, giving human characteristics to the flora.
At any rate, amongst the talk of flowers, gossip and other such mundane topics, I managed to slip in the topic of Father looking ill the night before. Mother tried to shake me off. She made up excuses about the state of our little town, politics and being worried about his practice. As I thought she might, she put it all down to stress and finances. I suppose her explanation is as good as any. She is his wife after all. If anyone would know the man best, it would be her. I would have accepted her thoughts without question, were it not for what happened a few hours before dinner.
After sundown there was a knock at the door. I was outside in the gardens again and had slipped in through the back. I would not have known at all, was I not making my way up the hallway and to the stairs. I had intended to go to my room for some light reading before dinner time. That is when I saw the man being greeted by my father. He was tall and slender, wearing a top-hat, jacket and white gloves. I stopped in the hall to observe the two of them. The man pulled an envelope from his pocket and presented it to my father. I had only a moment to glimpse the contents, but I could clearly see the notes inside.
That envelope was filled with money.
My father startled at the sight and immediately took the money, stuffing it into his pocket. He urged the stranger to follow him into his study, but the stranger stopped and lifted his head to look towards me. I know I had not made a sound, and yet somehow the man knew I was standing there. I can only assume that my shadow was cast upon the floor.
The man gazed at me with haunting gray eyes and he muttered a name under his breath. He called me ‘Emil’ in a breathy tone. The look on his face was one of shock and awe, almost as if he’d seen a ghost. My father became flustered and called out to me, motioning and introducing me as his son. He must have said my name half a dozen times. The stranger removed his top-hat and gloves politely and then took my hand, stating with absolute certainty that my middle name was ‘Viktor.’
When I started, the man smiled. The look made my insides tremble and I had to struggle to keep my hand from shaking as it slid into his smooth palm. The way he shook my hand made me feel even more uncomfortable. His hand moved up the entirety of mine and fingertips brushed against my wrist in a far too informal motion. I felt small in his presence and his eyes bore into me. It was not like a man of power towering over me and attempting to make me feel like a child, it was more like a predator looming over a white rabbit and breathing heavily upon its smooth fur. I felt as if he wanted to devour me, and though I know it sounds insane, a part of me wanted to allow him.
My father said something, though for the life of me I cannot remember what it was. It was barking and commanding, causing the stranger to break away from his grasp upon me. I wobbled where I stood and was forced to catch the nearby bannister. As the two retreated towards my father’s study, I was able to try and drink in some of the stranger’s actual features. He had unusually pale skin, and incredibly long and thick black hair. He spoke German fluently, and yet his accent was not one that I was familiar. Clearly the gray eyes, black hair and snow white skin was enough to show he was a foreigner, but none of it is anything I can place.
I am utterly at a loss as to anything about this strange man. My father did not properly introduce us. I do not even know his name.
I went to my mother when my knees finally stopped shaking and asked her about the man. I described the bundle of money that I saw exchange hands, but all she wished to speak about was how handsome he was, and how he had not aged a day since she last saw him. I pressured Mother, asking how long the man had been doing business with Father. She said she wasn’t certain, but it had been as long as she could remember. She insisted that it was just part of my father’s practice and likely the man had some long-standing illness Father was treating.
I was thoroughly unsatisfied with her answers, and so I went to my room with the intent of waiting until my father and the stranger left the study.
What happened next has confounded me even further. I heard the tell-tale signs of my father’s study door opening and went to confront the two men. However, instead of the two heading for the front door to say goodbyes, I saw them rounding the house towards the cellar. As stealthily as I could manage, I followed the men through the house to confirm my suspicions. I saw the two enter the cellar and heard my father lock the door from the inside. This would have confirmed my mother’s hypothesis that the man has some sort of ailment and my father is treating him, however, the shear amount of time the two spent down below was exuberant, let alone what came next.
Father was absent from the dinner table. I asked Mother about him taking the man down into the cellar and again she made up excuses. I have never known myself to be so upset by her fervent denial that Father does any wrong. In my youth I clung to my mother and used her as a shield from the outside world, and from my father. She often put a positive spin on even the ugliest of situations. If Father struck me, she would offer excuses and kisses to make it all go away. However, I am no longer a child and so her blindness to things going on, even in this very house, is beginning to almost annoy me. Does she love my father so obediently that she questions nothing, or does she understand something I do not, and through her partnership keeps secrets for him?
I must know. Most especially after seeing what those two men were engaging within the laboratory.
After dinner I made a hasty decision that led me to the vase on the mantelpiece of my father’s study. Inside is a skeleton key that opens any door within our modest home. I took it and quickened my pace to the cellar door. Before I opened it I could hear what sounded like a rattle of chains and the cracking of a whip. There were grunting sounds and inhuman growls, almost like some enormous hound was chained below. My mind began spinning all kinds of horrific scenarios, but what I came across was nothing less of pure insanity.
The key slid into the lock easily enough and I inched the door open as quietly as I could muster. My breath was coming in shuddering pants as I made each creaking step down into the glowing depths. I stopped on the steps and crouched down, peering at a candlelit room. I saw my father swinging an arm wildly, clutching something tightly in his hand. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light, but I finally made out a riding crop. He was dashing something soundly with the crop, filling the air with slashing sounds.
At first I could not see what he was striking, until he suddenly bent down and leaned forward. The stranger I met earlier was chained face-first to a wall, dangling shirtless. His back was riddled with angry red marks. The most recent thrashes my father had made split open the flesh, and blood was starting to dribble down from the wounds. I immediately clamped a hand over my mouth to keep from shrieking. It was terrible enough to see my father beating this man, who was now trembling, sweating and bleeding, but my father apparently wanted something even more sickening.
I watched as the man who raised me leaned forward, flicked out his tongue, and ran it along one of the thin red bleeding lines.
By now my stomach was turning so badly that I moved immediately from the spot and darted up the stairs. I shut and locked the door back as it had been, and rushed out into the garden. I lost my lunch behind the yellow lilies.
When I was finished vomiting, I hid myself amongst the flowers and started to cry. I am not certain why I was crying, but I could not stop the salty tears from flowing down from my eyes. I have no idea how long I sat there amongst the flowers, but after a while I heard the laboratory door open. Without knowing what I was doing I moved from my hiding spot and peered inside through the backdoor of the house. I saw Father leaving the cellar, but the stranger was not with him. The man is still down there, presumably chained up where father was performing that sadistic ritual.
I intend to go down when I am certain that Mother and Father are asleep. I must speak with that stranger, and indeed if I can, I will free him of those bonds. I have no idea what my father is involved in, but clearly it is not ethical. It may not even be legal!
Wish me luck, Journal.