Updated: Sep 14
Author’s Note: The origins of this short story by me may seem obscure to you initially. However, if I were not to have provided this introduction, then those of you familiar with the works of Charlotte Brontë will have found your feet in the fourth paragraph and know this to be a fantasy re-imagination of an excerpt from that 1847 classic of English literature,
I drew inspiration from the 2001 Oxford World’s Classics (second) edition, namely pages 292-294, Volume II, Chapter XI. In this scene of the book, Edward Rochester is leading Jane Eyre and Richard Mason up to see the incarcerated Bertha Antoinetta Rochester (née Mason) on the third floor of Thornfield Hall:
He (Rochester) lifted the hangings from the wall, uncovering the second door: this, too, he opened. In a room without a window, there burnt a fire, guarded by a high and strong fender, and a lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain. Grace Poole bent over the fire, apparently cooking something in a saucepan. In the deep shade, at the further end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards (pp. 292-293).
As you read, you might discern striking similarities between my piece of flash fiction and Brontë’s original. Equally, however, you will note my marked departure from the source material with my introduction of a mesmerist, so giving the piece a disturbing dreamlike – perhaps even surreal – quality. As someone qualified in the administration of hypnotherapy (I hold a diploma in Ericksonian Clinical Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming) I could not resist the temptation of such a union with this visceral scene from Jane Eyre. I afforded myself the rare ‘joy’ (is that the right word choice, I wonder?) of entering the purple prose realm, opening with some rather grandiloquent language. This being an experimental piece, such floral fantasies seemed permissible to me!
In closing, I must mention that I provide no reasoning (or analysis) concerning a psychological interpretation of my story. What it all means I leave to your good judgement and own creative imagination!
 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
The mellifluous words dripped in sonorous and metrical precision from the mesmerist’s lips, his honey tongue enticing me to drift deeper into trance with each suggestion, each command. The outer defences of my subconscious mind now breached, he urged me onward through its labyrinth; down the tortuous corridors and through or past the interlocking nexus of chambers and recesses that snaked forever on in countless ranks, their number multitudinous like a night sky pregnant with stars.
Akin to a marionette, I was manipulated and moved; the mesmerist directing me to our intended goal – a dark repository at the core of my being in which lurked my demon. I lifted the dark veil that covered its outer mass and discovered a last door: this I also opened at the mesmerist’s behest, and, fearful but resolute, crossed the dark threshold and entered.
In a vast room of unfathomable height, length, and girth, devoid of natural light, there burnt a great fire in an ornate granite fireplace, set resolute on the floor away from any wall. A strong fender of wrought iron guarded its front, whose design someone had fashioned as writhing serpents and foul beasts of unknown origin. An ornate lamp affixed to a metal chain of ponderous length was suspended from the invisible ceiling several feet abreast of the fire, the sallow light from the former casting a sickly radiance upon an intricately carved, round oak table beneath it. Facing each other on opposing sides of the table were two high-backed oak chairs, the trio of matching design. These few items comprised the sum of non-living objects in the void.
My gaze returned to the fire, at which, stirring something unknown in a steaming cauldron, stood the unmistakable form of Grace Poole – a fearsome, fictitious woman of mystery I remembered from my childhood reading of the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – now appearing in solid form before me. She turned and cried ‘ware!’ several times, whereupon I heard the scurrying sound of running footsteps, traversing the floor back and forth somewhere off in the impenetrable blackness beyond the fireplace.
‘Ah, sir, it sees you!’ cried Poole. A ghoul of a being now came upon me out of the gloom, whether beast or human, I knew not at first. It grovelled then growled like a great grizzly bear with gnashing teeth, then grovelled again as it approached. The beast descended on me with herculean strength and, as its matted, grizzled hair parted, I saw in the half-light its contorted features. Staring at me with wild eyes was… myself. I grappled with the feral form of my twin, uncertain who would be victorious and, calling upon Poole’s aid, together we tethered the snappish hyena to one of the sturdy chairs. I, fatigued beyond measure, sat in the other chair, staring across at my dark self.
A voice beckoned from some distant and unseen quarter, at which point the mesmerist awoke me from my trance.
Brontë, Charlotte, Jane Eyre, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)
Citation for this post (MHRA - Modern Humanities Research Association). Please use:
Priestley, James, ‘The Demon in the Attic: Lifting the Veil’, The Demon in the Attic: Lifting the Veil, 2022 <https://www.jppriestley.com/post/the-demon-in-the-attic-lifting-the-veil> [accessed D/M/Y]
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