TUMBLETY: The Deathbed

Meanwhile in…


Dismal Creek Swamp, Norfolk, Virginia


A PHYSICIAN walks down the hall and plaintively knocks on the door at the end.

A dry wheezy cough sounds from the bedroom as the door opens a crack.

The door opens for the Physician.

JAMES MAYBRICK a wealthy Cotton Merchant from LIVERPOOL taking advantage of the post war turmoil to get a “leg up” in the cutthroat trade, lays in bed, deathly ill, lost in a state in delirium, stricken with TYPHO-MALARIAL FEVER. His face is darkened and flushed, hot and harsh to the touch. As he struggles to breathe, his mouth is slightly parted revealing a tongue heavily coated and brown, deeply fissured and cracked. His teeth blacked with SORDES, encrustations of blood, build- up and bacteria as he suffers the symptoms of the debilitating fever.

Typho-Malarial Fever occurs in the the end stage of malaria. A most pernicious disease. It is unfortunate this stage can be easily avoided if the proper care and treatment were to be administered in the first place. The fever comes on swiftly, suddenly and often without warning. The first paroxysm is marked with a chill occurring earlier in the day, subsiding at night. Though the patient may feel a couple hours of repose during this remission, the fever never fully subsides. Then the second paroxysm strikes, carrying on with as much or more intensity than the first attack. Thus signaling a series of fits following a remission that decreases in duration until it ceases all together. The fever assumes a continuous form.

MICHAEL MAYBRICK steps into the hallway and closes the door behind him to speak in private about his brother’s rapidly deteriorating condition. His face is tired, drawn and care-worn. The prominent composer who goes by the name Stephen Adams has come to Norfolk, Virginia to collect his brother and bring him back to Liverpool, England dead or alive. It is beginning to look like the latter.

Michael Maybrick and the Physician speak in hushed voices, though it doesn’t make much of difference whether poor James Maybrick hears them or not.

MICHAEL MAYBRICK shakes his head.
The quinine has no effect. In fact he is getting much worse. I don’t know how long he can go on. Earlier, he could barely breathe, much less speak, but when he did he begged for death. Yet, with every jagged breath he cursed the fact he is condemned to die in Virginia

There are far worse things than dying in Virginia.

Please, we’re from Liverpool… And now, now, he just stares, lost to us in state of delirium and debility. And if this forsaken festering swamp takes his life-

We haven’t tried everything.


There is a hint of hope in Michael Maybrick’s voice, despite the fact that his brother is a bit of an asshole, he doesn’t want to see him die like a dog in Dismal Creek Swamp.


I could have had him up and eating, health fully restored before the first remission ever occurred. There would have been no need to resort to something so drastic as a mineral poison such as Fowler’s Solution.

It is a solution of potassium arsenate. A general tonic used to treat an array of afflictions such as ulcers, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis. And more severe conditions such as leukemia and syphilis. If you haven’t realized, your brother isn’t the only one suffering from malaria here in Dismal Creek Swamp. Would you like me to administer the drug Mr…?

Adams. It’s Adams. Yes please do.


Michael Maybrick pauses in the doorway of James Maybrick chambers. Expecting fully to see the all too familiar form of his dying brother.

The room is empty and so is the bed. The sheets are stripped and the mattress is bare.

Michael Maybrick looks puzzled. His brother is nowhere to be seen.

Wisps of smoke rise up past the window. Firelight flickers outside.

With trepidation Micheal Maybrick crosses the room to look out the window.

EXT. Outside the Manor- NIGHT

James Maybrick stands in front of a fire watching his bedding burn. He happens to look up catching a glimpse of his brother in his bedroom window. He’s no longer a sickly brownish hue, his skin is flushed from the heat of the fire and not the fever. He breathes in deeply and gratefully, stretching his legs, digging his heels deep into the ground, arches his back, and grins triumphantly and toothily up at his brother.


What was born from the ashes of the sheets of his deathbed was not dear Jim at all. He arose from his expiry as something entirely different. A creature-a creature of habit. Arsenic, I have seen it ruin many good men. Had I been there to intervene with my medical expertise instead of being so wrongfully detained, I could have stopped all this. We more than likely would have met later under less horrific circumstances.


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