Autumn is a magical season in Aubrac. The colors are shimmering and the mist that clings to the trees gives the landscapes a fairy tale feel. It’s also the season of stories and mysteries. On the occasion of Halloween, we are offering you content that is a little different from usual, longer, but which will take you to the heart of Aubrac. A story which takes place in one of the legendary places on the plateau and above all one of the most mysterious. A building inaccessible, which fuels the imagination, which makes all those who look at it fantasize: the Royal Aubrac.

Louis' vacation doesn't go at all as he hoped. This twelve-year-old boy, intrepid and always looking for new adventures, is bored to death. On October 31, he could be with his friends, asking for candy in the streets of Paris, disguised as a serial killer. But no. This year, his parents had to decide to spend the All Saints holidays in the countryside. “What could be better than the family home in Aubrac to reconnect? » they told him.

So he finds himself sitting on the sofa in a small stone house, with blue shutters and a very steep roof. The interior is dark, with thick walls, large wooden beams, dated furniture and soft blankets on the beds. The fire crackles in the fireplace, while outside, the fog has covered the pastures with a fine white veil. Since their arrival, Louis has not set foot outside. He sulks in his corner, sighing all the time. In addition to having to spend the next few days without internet, he has to share his room with Annabelle, his seven-year-old little sister.

“You know, he hasn’t done anything to you, this poor deer,” his mother said to him, passing behind the sofa, her arms full of chestnuts to cook.

For an hour, Louis has been staring, arms crossed and eyebrows furrowed, at his great-grandfather's hunting trophy hanging on the fireplace post.

– Why don’t you go outside for a bit? It's Halloween. I'm sure the villagers would be happy to give you some candy.

– Mom, there are four houses in the village… I will quickly have looked around.

- One more reason. It won't take you long and who knows, maybe you'll meet some interesting people. You often say that you want to become a great explorer. This is the opportunity, right?

Louis takes a moment to think about what his mother said to him. He hadn't thought about that. Indeed, he could do like his favorite heroes, explore this tiny village and perhaps come across a unique treasure. Determined, he jumps up and runs to get his coat in the hall.

– Louis, wait for your sister and take her with you.

The two children stop in the doorway. They are located in the heart of Aubrac, a small hamlet, surrounded only by pastures. The houses are imposing buildings made of dark stone. Their silhouette is silhouetted in the fine mist which lets in the last light of the day. Only a few souls live in this village all year round and the silence at the start of the evening is deafening. No lights appear to be on in the windows. Louis starts to moan.

– We went out for nothing, I’m sure there’s no one in this lost corner…

- Look over there ! Annabelle writes after a few seconds, pulling his sleeve.

Louis looks in the direction his sister is pointing at him. Squinting, the boy sees a flickering light through the fog. It's not very lively, but it's there.

– You're right, there is something. Come on, let's see what it is!

They set off towards the light, hoping to find an inhabited house to ask for some sweets. They are slowed down by the mist which turns into fog and thickens as they advance along the road. Soon, they can no longer see the village behind them. The cold bites their cheeks. Louis is so excited that he walks with long strides. His little sister almost has to run to keep up with him. The light disappears at times, forcing them to stop several times to get their bearings.

– It’s far away, I’m starting to get scared, Annabelle says after a moment, turning back towards the houses she can no longer see.

– Don’t worry, nothing can happen to you. I am with you.

After about ten minutes, the wind started to blow strongly. Annabelle is finding it more and more difficult to move forward. The veil surrounding them gradually parts to reveal a gigantic shadow. Annabelle grabs her brother's arm. In front of them, a huge building towers over them. Sixty meters long and twenty meters high, its facade is made up of countless bay windows and windows. Behind it is total darkness. The place seems completely uninhabited, abandoned even. However, the children are sure they saw light.

– What do you think it is? asks Annabelle

– I don’t know, it looks like a big hotel or something. Come on, let's take a closer look.

The little girl is not reassured, but she follows her brother who comes a little closer. When they arrive about ten meters from the building, a dull and distant buzzing fills their ears. The place seems to be enveloped in a milky veil, but which has nothing to do with the surrounding fog. It's like they're seeing through a screen. The image flickers slightly, crackles. The children are startled when they see a shadow pass behind a window. The walls seem to come to life, the windows become newer, less damaged. As if two images were superimposed, one current, the other with a few details that differ.

The shadow behind the window materializes again, becomes clearer. It is a woman, in a long dress fitted at the waist, her hair pulled back into an elegant bun on the top of her head. She walks down what appears to be a hallway, then stops in front of a window and stares outside. Annabelle holds back a cry by placing her hand over her mouth.

– Who is Louis? She's looking at us, she asks in a trembling voice.

– It looks like… memories! exclaims his brother, amazed.

The image is not sharp, as if the colors have faded over time. Little by little, other people appear behind the high windows. People from another era are lying on beds outside, on the balcony which runs along the facade. At times, people dressed all in white come to visit them and leave.

– It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

The children jump and scream in terror. Louis turns towards the voice. Next to him stands an elderly man with his arms crossed behind his back. The young boy struggles to see his face even though he is only a few meters away. The man does not look at them but stands straight, facing the imposing building.

– You see, children, you have before you the work of my life, he declares with pride in his voice.

Louis turns a little more to try to see the man better and realizes that he can see the trees through his shirt.

- Who are you ?

– Excuse my rudeness, I didn’t introduce myself. I am Doctor Camille Saunal. I am the doctor behind the creation of the sanatorium.

- The what ? can't help but ask Annabelle in her little child's voice.

– From the Sanatorium, let’s see. The masterpiece you have in front of you. A fantastic adventure, indeed.

Intrigued, more than afraid, Louis begins to ask questions in memory of this man, in order to learn more about this mysterious place. He is fascinated by the way this doctor from another time speaks.

– Sorry, but what is a… sanatorium?

– Of course, in your time, they are no longer really relevant. I lived in the late XNUMXth century and early XNUMXth century. At that time, an illness was wreaking havoc. Anyone could be affected and we had difficulty healing her.

- Plague ? Louis asks, vaguely remembering this name he had heard in a movie.

– No, laughs Doctor Saunal. Tuberculosis. It is a respiratory tract condition, very complicated to treat in my time. By studying cases in my Parisian clinic, I realized that the pure air of the mountains promoted healing. With a strict medical protocol and follow-up, patients had a chance of recovering, if they were taken care of in time.

– And you chose here to build the hospital.

– Aubrac was the ideal place to set up an establishment of this type. The climate was perfect and there was no shortage of space. But be careful, it wasn't that easy. I had to prove myself and convince politicians to let me carry out this project. I happened to have a good relationship with a senator, which helped me greatly.

The doctor pauses in his explanation, delving into his memories. Annabelle takes the opportunity to watch people strolling on the terraces in front of her. She admires the women with their long skirts and their buns impeccably held on the top of their heads. She feels like she's looking at an old moving postcard.

– Before starting the construction of the Royal Aubrac, I had to check if my assumptions were founded. I had to show them all that I was right to embark on this ambitious project. So I asked my Parisian patients if they were ready to come and spend four months in Aubrac, to try my method. It was during the summer of 1895. About ten of them volunteered, all at a very advanced stage of the disease. We installed them in a small house in the Aubrac domerie, wedged between the church and the Tour des Anglais. Given the stage they were at, I knew there was no question of complete recovery, but the improvements were visible. The results on patients taken earlier were therefore really promising.

– But I don’t understand why you chose here? Louis asks. You are from Paris though. You could have gone elsewhere.

- You're right. Other establishments of this kind were built in the Alps, for example. On the one hand, I have Aveyron origins. This country is close to my heart. But above all, Aubrac was a much more welcoming place. It is better to have a lush, green landscape than a perpetual, cold layer of snow under your feet to get better. It’s too reminiscent of death and mourning.

– So you convinced everyone.

The old man nods.

– It took me a few years, but once the project started, it happened very quickly. All the materials to construct the building were found on site: basalt, granite, wood. We brought in specialized workers from central France. This is how we were able to inaugurate the Royal Aubrac in 1902. It is one of my greatest pride. We have furnished it to be luxurious and comfortable. This brought people from all over France, and even from abroad. They could thus enjoy the climate, appropriate care and magnificent facilities that the sanatorium offered.

– But couldn’t everyone come here for treatment, anyway?

– No, they were well-off people. In sanatoriums like this, we treated the rich man's tuberculosis, as they said.

– That must have been incredible, Louis marvels.

– Unfortunately, the happiness of having succeeded in my bet did not last long…

Doctor Saunal lowers his head for a moment, then when he raises it again he turns towards the children. A glint of anger flashes in his troubled gaze. He tells them that the Aubrac Sanatorium adventure only lasted seven years. Little by little, people began to detract from him and financial problems put an end to this magnificent adventure, a life's work. In 1911, the building was bought.

– It was not my medical skills that were questioned, but narrow-minded people could not understand that an illness could be cured with the help of what surrounds us: nature. It's a shame... when we see what this place dedicated to science became afterwards... it makes me very nostalgic.

The wind that had settled began to blow again. Annabelle struggles to keep her long hair behind her ears. In front of them, the building crackles even more, the buzzing grows louder. The residents start walking faster and faster. The image flashes by, as if someone had pressed the “speed up” button on a remote control. Before the children's eyes, the entire history of the sanatorium unfolds.

Shortly after the end of its medical vocation, the sanatorium was bought to become a branch of the Astoria Hotel and the International de Vichy, becoming a luxury hotel for spa guests. When these images pass before the doctor, he sighs loudly. Children see richly dressed people walking in front of the building, women with parasols in their hands, men with elegant hats screwed on their heads. Then the image accelerates again, the building is left abandoned for a moment, before coming back to life.

Louis and Annabelle feel a little less disconnected from this era. There, before their eyes, a multitude of children play on the tennis courts below. They chase each other shouting in the courtyard. When snow covers the image, ski suits replace shorts and t-shirts.

– This period in the history of the sanatorium satisfies me a little more, continues Doctor Saunal after a long moment of pause.

Annabelle has almost forgotten his presence, too focused on what is happening before her eyes.

– Hosting summer camps and snow classes will at least have allowed children to flourish and discover this beautiful region.

Little by little, the memory of the sanatorium fades, giving way again to the present. Louis turns to their adventure companion. He widens his eyes. Man is less and less visible. It fades at the same time as the stories and people who brought the building to life disappear.

– I hope that the Royal Aubrac will one day become as majestic as it was at the time. When I created it, I wanted it to breathe life into my patients, but also into the Aubrac plateau. You might be lucky enough to see it rise from its ashes.

The memory of the doctor raises his hat over his head in a slight bow.

– While waiting for the children, I was delighted to chat with you. It's been a long time since I got back into my life like this.

– But you are disappearing! Annabelle exclaims when they can only make out a vague human form.

– Now you are the guardians of the history of Royal Aubrac. It belongs to you.

Everything becomes silent again around the children. The buzzing disappears at the same time as Doctor Saunal. The fog around them becomes a light mist that reveals the lights of the village behind them. Annabelle and Louis look at each other without saying anything. They have just experienced a unique moment, far from all the young boy's hopes. They remain for a moment longer contemplating the building, which seems very empty and devoid of life.

When the icy wind makes them shiver, they decide to return to their home, to their time, to their life. On the way home, the brother and sister promise never to tell anyone about what they have just experienced. No one would take them seriously. Deep down, Louis knows that he will never be able to forget this unique and suspended moment. He who found this mountain land uninteresting and boring, he now feels intimately linked to it. Linked to this story of devotion, ambition and scientific advancement. Even in his wildest dreams, he had not imagined experiencing such an adventure. Everything seems possible to him now.

Arriving at the entrance to the village of Aubrac, Annabelle turns to her brother hopping and says to him:

– Shall we go get some candy now?

This story is fictional, based on historical information collected in: Cransac Francis. Writers who discovered mountains, Sanatorium Literature. Cahiers des Rencontres d'Aubrac collection, notebook n°3. Editions du Rouergue, 2000.

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