A short story by Cult
The chair was not as comfortable as it had first appeared with its soft leather and reclined structure appearing more like a sheetless bed but, of course, I'm just stalling. The events and occurrences I wish to discuss with Doctor Perance, a complete stranger who nevertheless came highly recommended, are unbelievable and, I’m afraid, quite preposterous. I hope that there is perhaps some deeper meaning to what I’ve witnessed. The visions that are hardly dreams but I have my fingers crossed that perhaps others have experienced the same strange phenomena. In a nutshell the true reason for my being here is to assure myself that I am not in fact stumbling onto a precarious gradient that may well lead into an endless pit of absolute insanity.
Doctor Perance (“Ruben, call me Ruben please, I would like for you to think of me as a friend.”) is behind me. Every so often I can hear the faint soft swish of fabric as if he is repositioning folded limbs or brushing lint from his slacks.
“So I see here that you were a professional athlete, you played football.” He taps something on his notepad, then continues, “I can't say that your name rings any bells, I can only presume that's not what you came here to discuss?”
I interject as if needing to defend myself, “I spent most my time on the sidelines, a few highlight reel plays in my college days but otherwise I’ve had a rather uneventful professional career.” I was telling him the truth, sadly.
“Sorry, I meant no offense.”
“The reason for today's visit? You were a touch vague on the admission form.”
“I should preface this with… this is the first time I have visited a psychologist.”
His muted chuckle breaks the silence “You wouldn't believe how many times I hear that exact phrase.”
“I’m a cliché, huh?”
“Please, take your time, in your own words. You have no need to fear reprisal or ridicule here.”
I pushed open the door whose hinges are dry and crusted with rust, admittedly the main obstacle was opening that door. Now that the seal is broken the hinges do not pose a problem. I push against the barricade as light bursts into the room. It won't be much longer now until the shadows disperse with my secrets revealed.
“How do these things differ from those we all see?”
“The vision only lasts a second, barely, and I only seem to see it when I'm not really focusing.”
“Are you positive it isn't poor vision or your eyes playing tricks on you?”
“I've already travelled down that avenue more than once. In fact my eyes were the first thing I had examined following my untimely forced retirement.”
I hear the unmistakable tell-tale tap of his pen on a hard surface.
“Do you get migraines?”
“No, not one since my playing days oddly enough. I remember blaming the supplements and vitamins, its madness how much players are pushed to consume.”
“Is your sleep regular?”
Of course, these are all questions I've asked myself numerous times. His next comment threw me for a loop.
“Would you consider yourself gifted in any way, by that I mean...”
I knew exactly what he meant, and I thought it strange that I had never considered the possibility myself, “Was I special, was I clairvoyant, could I predict the future? No was the answer to all of the above, I've only ever been called special in a sarcastic manner. If I could predict the future why was it that my house was in foreclosure and my POS vehicle, I had only recently purchased, needed a complete engine overhaul? I certainly wasn't gifted. Cursed was closer to the mark.
“I'm unlucky, does that count?” My career ending injury came in my first game back following a three months battle with an infection (caused by dirty floor mats in the locker room).
“Probably not, but tell me more about what you believe you are seeing.”
“Do you believe in any conspiracy theories?”
Fuck me! Does he think I picked this up from an Art Bell radio special? He notices my silence proceeding with his train of thought.
“There is a theory on sightings, similar to what you describe, of what some call shadow people though I’m only aware of a few reports.”
There it is, he’s put me among the ranks of assorted weirdoes, nut jobs and those still plagued by the residual effects of an experimental drug fueled youth!
“Look. I have no issue with the moon landing, it makes no difference to me if it was indeed faked. Yes, it's possible that our own government took out JFK. Yes, it's also a possibility that the Bilderbergs really run our country, the land of the free, Ha! Yeah right! I understand the reality is everything can be questioned but I prefer to dwell on the things I can actually control. Okay?”
“You consider yourself a realist then?”
“I certainly thought so but now I'm not so sure.” The statement couldn't be closer to the truth.
The first time I experienced what I thought were visions, I chalked it up to stress and a lack of sleep combined with copious amounts of prescription medication that admittedly could illicit seeing strange things. A reality hiccup to even the strongest psyche so it was easy to play it off as nothing. I twist my torso stealing a glance behind me. Ruben notices looking directly at me over his pen hovering over his well worn notepad.
He gives me a reassuring smile then asks that I recall details if I can, “There must have been a turning point for you. When did you believe something was amiss? When did you decide it wasn’t coincidence but something more?”
The chair's soft leather squelches as I shift attempting to find the position that would make me most scarce. That comfort-ability I had leaving though the sound makes me smirk uncontrollably like a six year old hearing flatulence at the family dinner table. I train my gaze on a puzzling but still rather intriguing piece d'art, an ideal focal point to aid my concentration. I then proceed to tell him about a recent visit to court where I had hopes to curb my ex-wife’s obsession with fur and heels all in an effort to hemorrhage every last dime from my dwindling account, “I remember my attorney was arguing fervently over a newly introduced amendment when out of nowhere I caught slight movement over his shoulder. A slowly meandering shadow vapor rising from behind the presiding judge. As hard as I tried I couldn't look away, it had me transfixed. I feared the smallest movement would alert the presence I had seen it. I discovered if I squinted I could see it better. I must have looked like a total fool with my face all scrunched up. My ex yelling at me to pay attention snapped me back to reality and the shadow was gone but I swear I saw it make contact. The shadow had reared up over the judge's shoulders with tendrils seeming to float out like lazy smoke into the judge's ears as they engulfed his head.”
“Are you serious, Doc?” My reply was hasty and louder than I intended. Self-conscious over my defensive outburst I continued after an awkward pause coupled with a mumbled apology, “... The last thing I need is a golden ticket to Loonyville. It’s bad enough that I think I'm going crazy, I don't need other people treating me like I'm an extra from that eighties Carpenter flick. The… ummm… overbearing skull faced, bug eyed aliens movie.”
“I don't believe I've seen it. Any sightings since then?”
“Numerous. I caught an inky smudge on the nightly news just two weeks back. I must've replayed that footage in slo-mo at least a hundred times. Fortunately I'm no longer married. No one in their right mind would put up with that behavior.”
“Of that I'm sure. Can you tell me what the segment was about?”
“Political. Civil unrest. There was an international conference held at the White House. I can't remember specifics but I vividly recall that damn sinister presence.” A chill ran down my spine as I ponder the implications of seeing these entities and their interference into matters of national importance. It wasn't the first time I had done so and I'm certain it won't be the last.
“So I have the honor of being the first person to hear about this?”
“Honestly I don’t know why I told you but I didn't know where else to turn.”
Why the obsession with being the first to hear?
“You can be secure knowing you came to the right place.”
It took me a moment but after several failed attempts I finally manage to swing my legs up, off and out. I'm no longer at the mercy of the couch with it's deceivingly cozy facade. I can now face the Ruben in an immeasurably more relaxed position. If only I had managed to lift my gaze from the intricate patterns of the faded carpet sooner I may have actually had time to ask the only question I ever really needed to ask, “Why?”
A simple question. Short, just three little letters, but they wedge firmly in my throat as if in another dimension. Instead I stammered some nonsensical dialect even the wisest scholar had no hope of deciphering. I realize I have no need to squint anymore. I can see.
Ruben is no more than a foot away. I watch his face literally split in two by an all-consuming mirth beneath. His pad and pen lay forgotten at his feet. On the wall, the affixed plaques and framed certificates shimmer and churn as if caught in a heat wave. The congratulatory sentences melting away dripping lazily from the polished wood. Black ink coalesces, forming a fine mist that seems to float with purpose toward Ruben. I cannot move. Shock turning my limbs to stone. The exit is unreachable though maddeningly only a few steps away. With open arms Ruben welcomes the mass’ slithering caress in an amorphous lovers embrace. Ruben gets to his feet with relative ease, a jacket of flickering menace and shadow enveloping his frame.
He lifts an arm in my direction, “The first session is free!”
The darkness uncoils slithering from his outstretched hand to touch my flesh which to my surprise is cool, not at all unpleasant and I willingly surrender myself to it's every whispered promise.