“I haven’t been able to sleep.” Ben whimpered to his psychiatrist who doodled in the margins of his pad. The doctor stopped listening five minutes ago as his client went into his usual rant about his neighbors and their part in his overwhelming depression.
“I tell you, they talk about me behind my back since me wife died. She was the soul of gentility. Not a mean bone in her. I see them whispering about her on my way home from work.”
Dr Grumman considered his patient, trying to find a way to help him back from the brink. Ben was a decent man, his upbringing in a modest township in Cornwall meant his education was humble but serviceable. Despite that, his social charm allowed him to find his way into London and get work in the food service industry while he finished school as a chef. He met his wife during his time in school and fell tragically in love with her.
With only a few months left to finishing school, his wife was killed in a traffic accident and he had a nervous breakdown. He was unable to finish his schoolwork and forced out of his apartment. Since then, the man has lived without zest. A perfect example of the idea of depression as anger without enthusiasm. He seemed to repress all of his emotional energy becoming paranoid in the process.
“Are you sure they are talking about you? Perhaps you are still adjusting to coming home to an empty house. Death can be quite traumatic. Adding the loss of a job you’ve had for a long time and I could understand your feelings.” The doctor while appearing to not listen was still involved with his patient for at least three more sessions and his insurance ran out. With his wife’s death, Ben’s new job didn’t offer coverage for this type of therapy.
“Tell me how the new job is working out? Are you settling in okay?” This will probably keep him talking for another ten minutes.
“Crimey, I hate that place. The kids, those homeless bastards, drive me flippin’ nuts. I am not cut out for watching a homeless shelter, halfway house, or whatever the bloody hell they call the place in polite company.” This was the most emotion Ben had shown since he’d come into the office. His doctor stopped doodling and paid more than cursory attention. Emotion meant he was feeling something. This was a good sign.
Dr. Grumman sat up and looked at Ben more closely. Ben was a middle-aged black man who had lived in Cornwall most of his life until he married and moved to London. His wife, an insurance agent was their primary breadwinner and while he talks about her sainted nature, he admits to her being a bit overbearing from time to time. “Isn’t there anyone in this new job you like? I mean you prepare food for the entire place, their staff, the students, there isn’t a single person you have taken even the slightest bit to?”
“It’s not like that. The kids seem to be an okay lot but when they come together they lose any manners they seem to have individually. When they do that, I become the butt of their jokes since I am the only person dealing with food and preparation there. The kids have to do some time in the kitchen and I am stuck training training them. When they don’t listen, I end up having to talk to the floor manager. And him, if he were run over in traffic I wouldn’t miss ’em.” Ben’s face got tight and he stopped talking. His wife was killed the same way. His statement cut him deeply.
“Since we are almost out of time, I am going to renew your prescription. I want you to stay on your dose and keep going to work. I want you to make an effort to work with the young person in your kitchen. You don’t have to be friends, I just want you to be friendly. I know it’s been hard for you. But put yourself in their place and see if you can find it in your heart to expand your perspective. Think about someone else for a change and I’ll see you again next week.” The doctor got up and reached out his hand. Ben stood up, noticed the doctor’s hand, and shook it perfunctorily.
“Doctor, I wanted to tell you about a dream I’ve been having.” His face was as serious as Grumman had ever seen him.
“Ben, can it wait? I have another patient outside?” Grumman hated putting him off like this, he genuinely liked this simple and pleasant fellow.
“Sure thing guv, I’ve sat on these dreams for a couple of sessions, I figure they will work out just like everything else. We can talk about it next week.” Ben smiled painfully and slid past the doctor on his way out the door. He wished he could have remembered to talk about the dreams earlier in the session. They were vivid and disturbing. Right now, nothing a pint wouldn’t handle. Ben Fisher went to a local pub and put the dreams out of his mind.
A man in a long coat with wide-brimmed hat walked in behind him and took a table a few feet from his. Their eyes never met, but he never stopped watching Ben for the entire evening. He noted his drinking habits, his speech, the fact his eyes would look at women and then turn away painfully; lust in his heart, shame on his mind. He never spoke other than to the young waitress who served him. Though the pub was crowded, no one intruded on his table. He gave away the other seats to patrons and drank quietly until Ben Fisher decided he needed to go home.
He followed him, staying out of Fisher’s sight, though in his current state, he would not notice much. His apartment was a modest place was off the main road. He passed through a close and piss-soaked alley, his broad shoulders nearly touching both sides of the narrow passage between two aging buildings. He remembering how much he hated visiting London, it reminded him of his claustrophobia.
Ben Fisher reached his apartment unmolested. And then the man in the hat waited. He didn’t have to wait long.
A black dog appeared on Ben Fisher’s apartment steps. One second he wasn’t there, and then he was. He was a massive specimen, square in the chest with a large head and powerful jaws. With only a momentary sniff in the wind, the dog took off at a brisk pace down the street. The Man in the Hat turned his collar up and followed as quickly as he could.
The dog moved soundlessly up the street and turned into a section of town best left by decent people after dark. It stopped and smelled the air and trotted with purpose, as if it were on the scent of a particular target. People who saw it jumped out of the way, surprised at its soundless approach and massive size. A few people even got on their cellphones to report the animal especially since the recent news.
Imagine their surprise to note the animal disappeared from sight in the time it took for them to make their call. Flustered, half hung up in embarrassment, the other half continued their report determined to have someone take them seriously. They never noticed the man who followed the hound, who slipped equally smoke-like between passersby amazed at the animal’s speed.
The man was grim and determined. He had failed to stop this creature for two nights in a row. It had already claimed three previous victims. The police assumed it was a man who used a large dog for a weapon. The victims were always young toughs, often homeless, found savaged and robbed in poorer sections of town. The only witnesses were unreliable, claiming a dog of immense size and strength killed the men and vanished in a mist.
Last night, the police were able to confront the creature. It did not go well for them. Though none of them died, most were savagely mauled and two of the eight were in critical condition. The Man in the Hat had arrived too late to stop it. He didn’t know what to look for. Now he did. Tonight would be different.
The dog had vanished. In his moment of reverie he had taken his eyes off the beast. Damn.
A blow struck him from behind, something massive, slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground. The weight stayed on his back and he could feel the cold breath of the animal as it stood there and growled menacingly. He could feel his cursed mark pulsing with anticipation.
The beast walked around toward his face and kept within inches of him. It made eye contact and held it. Feral, wild, unbridled rage coursed through those eyes.
The man fixed his hat and stood up, never breaking eye contact. “Ben Fisher. I would like to offer you a job.”
Anger without Enthusiasm © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved