From a Psychiatrist’s Notebook: An Unfinished Story by Bruce Costello

November 15, 2012 Comments Off on From a Psychiatrist’s Notebook: An Unfinished Story by Bruce Costello

The day before her twenty-ninth birthday, Sister Maria arrived in Sumatra aboard the barque Matilda Briggs. This was almost two years after the strange disappearance of her predecessor, Sister Helga of Heidelberg. The Holy Fathers had been reluctant to send a replacement at all, given the circumstances, but prayer and faith resolved their doubt. The call went out and Sister Maria answered. 

Stepping ashore, she wished she hadn’t. The heat was awful. Her head ached, and she felt sick at soul, her old problem of the flesh having troubled her during the voyage. 

Nothing had actually happened between Sister Maria and Brother Marcus, a fellow passenger. The problem had been in the way her body had reacted to the fantasy of him, in how she had physically relieved her frustration … and in her guilt. 

After a two-day jungle walk with guides, she arrived at the Mission Station to a ceremonious welcome from staff and local natives, who were, they said, very relieved at her safe arrival. 

Life for Sister Maria at the Mission Station settled into a routine of prayer, teaching, preaching, healing, and meditation. 

Brother Marcus had stayed aboard the Matilda Briggs, his final destination unknown, but Sister Maria could not forget him. Her fantasies continued, and the torment intensified. One night – whether driven by desperation, misery, or yearning – she left her bed and began to walk. 

The night was black, the jungle thick, the heat and humidity horrible. 

She was found the next day, dead.  


An English detective, on holiday in Sumatra, was asked to investigate, along with his companion, a doctor. Examination of the body revealed signs of unexpected activity, the nature of which is confidential. There was no indication, however, that a struggle had taken place. Unusual bites and scratches were found on the woman’s body. Cause of death was given officially as misadventure. 

The detective returned to England hurriedly soon afterwards. His findings and the medical details were not made public. 

The requirements of confidentiality in my profession do not end with the death of the patient, in this case, the unfortunate detective whom I treated for years thereafter at my London clinic. Ethically, I can reveal no more of his story, as the detective, himself, had stressed to me on several occasions: it is a story for which the world is not yet prepared. For now, it must remain unfinished.

© 2012 Bruce Costello

Bruce Costello recently retired from twenty-two years as a counsellor in private practice. He has taken up writing as a pastime.

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