Alfred was dead, but his ashes still carried the blame for present day miseries. There was much speculation regarding the madness of Alfred. Some said he was schizophrenic and manic-depressive, others argued he was demon possessed, while still others argued he was simply a crazy alcoholic.
|People inside Alfred's Head.|
Most everyone agreed, however, that Alfred's problems were inheritable, whether by genetics or by curse.
Anna knew firsthand the far-reaching impact of Alfred's insanity. She, like all of his descendents, was scrutinized for even the slightest hint of mental instability. Anna could not accept the gossip and became obsessed with uncovering the truth about her great-great-grandfather.
It was impossible to reconcile the handsome man in the black and white photo with the madman Alfred was said to have been. He had a James Dean half-smile and a flirtatious tilt to his jaw that gave him an air of charisma.
He was prone to severe melancholy, paranoid delusions and hallucinations. He used moonshine to silence the chatter inside his head, but it only made things worse, especially for his wife and children, who were often terrorized by his psychotic rages.
The situation grew so desperate that one night Marla slit her own wrists, in an attempt to divert Alfred's attention from their baby girl, who he was attempting to drown in a barrel of rainwater. He was convinced the infant was demonically possessed. The internal voices drove him to it, saying they would not stop until the deed was done.
Both Marla and the baby died that night, and Alfred was locked away in an insane asylum. The remaining children were orphaned off to relatives and their lives forever tainted by their father's sins of madness.
Anna was driven to discover for herself if Alfred's insanity was truly inherent. She was thus compelled to journey back to the Saskatchewan farm where Alfred was raised. There, she found Ruby, 101, still alive and in possession of a child-sized coffin meant for Alfred when he was nine.
Anna eyed the coffin, as if it was a time machine and Alfred’s weak, prepubescent body was lying supine right there, taking in shallow breaths, waiting for the sweet relief of death. She continued to stare at the coffin as Ruby described how Alfred was expected to die of rheumatic fever, but miraculously survived.
"But he turned strange after that," Ruby confided in a low, shaky voice, "always talking to himself and banging his head against the barn wall. The fever – it cooked his brain.”