Obscura Rhapsody Chapter 11.2

The story so far: things have shifted. But how and why?

Gerard calmed his mind, and through gritted teeth said, “Mr. Tungsten…” 

“Please, call me Jaeger. Or ‘Jet,’ as my friends do.” 

Mr. Tungsten,” Gerard continued, “I must object to the brusque manner in which you are speaking to Sister…” He stopped short, realizing he did not know her name. 

She smiled meekly and pointed at a badge on her uniform. “Maeza,” she said, her voice containing a sweet lilt that Gerard found refreshing. 

“Sister Maeza,” Gerard continued with a nod, “a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Now,” he said, turning back to Jaeger, “I would appreciate it if you would cease being difficult with Sister Maeza. Like many of the staff here, she is being kind and generous with her time, and the least you could do is show some respect.” 

Tungsten regarded Gerard from behind his odd spectacles. “You never did answer my question.” 

“Pardon me?” 

Tungsten smiled as he took a drag of the cigarette. When he spoke, it was slow and purposeful, and Gerard was certain the truculent man was being caustic. 

Who. Are. You?” He stretched out the last word as he blew smoke towards Gerard.  

Again, Gerard bit down the desire to become physically violent with Tungsten and took a sour breath before continuing. “Dr. Alexis Gerard. I am new to the sanitorium.” 

“Oh!” Maeza squeaked excitedly. “You’re the new alienist?” 

“’Alienist’?” Tungsten repeated, rubbing his chin.  

Gerard felt a twinge of embarrassment, though he could not understand why. “Yes.” 

Tungsten appeared lost in thought. “I thought you were from the Ezosian Midlands?” 

“I never said I was!” Gerard replied, sharper than he intended.  

Tungsten put up his hands. “Look, there’s nothing wrong with being from outside of Northrift. I have a few friends from the Tzion Islands. Lovely people, great food.” 

Sister Maeza smiled and placed a gentle hand on Tungsten’s shoulder. “No, Mr. Tungsten—” 


“Eh, Jet. No, Dr. Gerard here is an alienist. It is… a new and promising field of medicine.” 

“Involving people from outside the country?” 

“No,” Maeza continued patiently, “involving people who… who are not well in the mind. Kind souls such as Dr. Gerard are investigating new ways to help people who suffer from ill humors. We hope they can help them recover, even fully, from such disorders.” 

Gerard caught a glimpse of someone running by them, from the corner of his eye. It was a man bereft of any clothing and a poor Sister chasing close behind, frantically waving her arms. He caught Maeza blushing, but to her credit, she acted as though she witnessed nothing. 

Tungsten sighed. “I’m not sure you’re going to find anything like that here.” He promptly took another drag of his cigarette.  


Gerard abhorred the awkwardness that permeated the air between himself and the chief administrator, a short man named Braxton whose pallid complexion would have been concerning to most doctors. He was constantly sweating, removing a handkerchief from his jacket, wiping his brow, and then putting it away… only to repeat the process within a minute or so.  

Gerard did not understand why the man was sweating so much. While not cold in the room, it was hardly warm enough to justify keeping a window open, let alone sweating as profusely as Braxton was. Gerard decided not to broach the subject, as was his way, and chose instead to observe and wait for Braxton to speak. 

But Gerard, after some brief introductions, simply sat before Braxton while the man began poring over several documents on the desk. There was a grunt here and a mutter there, but Braxton said little of value during the interim. This went on for several minutes that might as well have been days.  

“Dr. Cross is very complimentary of you in her letters,” Braxton said last. 

“She is truly kind. I performed my residency at the hospital she administers for several years before coming to Astora.” 

Braxton offered only a noncommittal nod before returning to be enraptured by the ink on the pages before him.  

Gerard stifled a sigh, but after several more minutes he ventured, “Are there any questions I can answer for you?” 

“Hmm,” Braxton said, as though barely hearing Gerard. “You’re a rather impatient one.” 

“I meant no—” 

Braxton raised his hand, and Gerard stopped speaking.  

“You are young and eager, Dr. Gerard. I can respect that.” The man’s voice had a reedy quality that Gerard prayed he would be able to get used to. “I have some concerns as to whether you’ll… adjust… here at Astora Sanitorium.” 


Braxton gently pushed away the papers and leaned back in his chair as he regarded Gerard. “Allow me to be clear. Your chosen field of medicine is one that is met with a great deal of skepticism by many of the staff here. I fear you will find hesitation, perhaps even resistance, to your new ideas.” 

Gerard bit back the slew of choice words he had for the small man. Instead, he did his best to project reasonableness and calm. “And yet you invited me to Astora. You hired me for this position without qualms or provisions.” 

Braxton nodded. “I did, and I do not regret the decision. However, it would be prudent of me to disabuse you of any illusions you may have had in coming to Astora. It will be difficult, Dr. Gerard. You will find it difficult to find common ground with your peers. They will not respect you like other doctors.” 

“I have been facing such prejudice since I began my career, Mr. Braxton. I am no stranger to the ignorance of supposed learned people.” 

A hint of a smile crept across Braxton’s face, and it took Gerard by surprise.  

“I’m pleased to hear that, Dr. Gerard.” Braxton stood and extended a hand to Gerard. “I do hope your time at Astora is a fruitful one.” 

Gerard stood as well and gripped Braxton’s hand. “I appreciate that, sir.” 

It would only be much later that Gerard realized, as he strode past the pale halls and dark wood of the building, that this was the last moment he would have to escape the madness that was Astora Sanitorium. 


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