Today will mark the 27th time I've seen Dr. Steel since I moved out of the city and into the peaceful countryside. Two months have gone by and I still can't stand the silence. Or the bugs. Mosquitoes, spiders and every creepy crawly imaginable has decided to lay siege to my new home. I've already ran through all the bleach I had stockpiled.
Rats scurry across my spotless floors leaving behind tiny muddy footprints. The mosquitoes are trying to drain me dry, but it's the spiders I hate the most. They lay eggs in my ears while I sleep. One day I'm going to be eating cereal and a whole army of them are going to start pouring out of my head.
"Ms. Smith, Dr. Steel is ready to see you now." Gwen called from behind the receptionist's desk. Her long red hair was pulled up into a fancy bun that I never could seem to replicate with my own dull brown hair. I picked up the duffel bag advertising Barry's Gym and moved toward the office door.
"I'll give you a call later today Gwen. We can go over my duties as your maid of honor then."
"B-but, I," she said, rising from her chair as I was moving through the door.
"Oh I'm so sorry, can't talk now. I know you're about to take your lunch break so I'll see you in about two hours." I swiftly closed the door before she could say anything else. I knew once Gwen got going I'd miss half of my appointment.
Dr. Steel's office was located on the second floor of a recently closed pizza shop. The building was old and you had to use the stairs in the back of the building to even reach the office, but he was the cheapest therapist in town. The brown carpet, which I fear was supposed to be white, is surrounded by faded grey walls. I wish he would let me clean up in here. He probably leaves it like this on purpose, just to watch me twitch every time I come through the door.
A plain brown desk sat in the corner, mostly unused by Dr. Steel during sessions. He preferred to sit face to face with patients in the two padded chairs set up in the center of the room. The leather looked new from a distance, but they can't fool me. Whoever decorated in here probably got them in a yard sale. Germs and bacteria just lying in wait for their next unsuspecting victim.
I place my bag beside the chair and gingerly sit down. I'll have to wash these clothes in the sink I installed behind the garage when I get home. No sense in infecting the whole house. Dr. Steel was already bent over his clipboard and scribbling away. From this angle I could see that the bald spot in the center of his head had grown another inch.
"Good afternoon Ms. Smith. What seems to be the emergency?" He finally lifted his head to face me. Dull blue eyes stared out from behind wire framed glasses.
"Emergency? Who said anything about an emergency?"
"My receptionist said you called in this morning and demanded an emergency session. She said you were crying over the phone."
"Oh doctor, you know Gwen. She must have been joking around." I laughed at the very idea; me crying over the phone like all the other hysterical patients he has to deal with.
"Right. Gwen you say," he paused to write some more on his paper, "What would you like to talk about today?"
"Before we get into that, what are you wearing?"
He looked down at his clothes before looking back at me with confusion on his face. I don't know what his problem is. At every appointment I've had with Dr. Steel he has always worn a suit. Granted, he stuck out like a sore thumb in this tiny office, but at least he looked professional.
Now he's wearing a red t-shirt with some sports logo on it and cargo shorts. There are traces of dirt on his knees from who-knows-where and his grey streaked hair doesn't have an ounce of gel in it. The stands are sticking up in every direction. He looks like a startled porcupine and I just can't take him seriously.
"Mrs. Smith, today is Sunday and Sunday's are usually my day off. I was at home relaxing when I got the emergency-"
"I did not say it was an emergency." I interrupted him before he could blame his poor state of dress on me.
"Nevertheless, today is my day off, but I came in to speak with you. Besides how I am dressed, is there something you want to talk about?" He steepled his fingers and gave me his patented listening face. I wanted to yell at him to stop pretending. If he didn't want me as a client he should just so say. He's probably just in it for my money.
"The reason I requested a meeting today is because the employees at the Stop and Shop on Main Street are trying to poison me." I crossed my legs, foot idly tapping in the air and waited for his strategy on how to fix this reoccurring problem.
"The grocery store employees are trying to poison you? What made you come to this conclusion?"
Shocked, I could feel my mouth gape open for a moment before I quickly closed it again. With my luck a fly would pass by and make a nest behind my tongue. Dr. Steel didn't even look surprised. If anything he looks bored, like he's about to let a yawn loose any minute.
"You don't believe me, do you Dr. Steel?" My eyes darted to the corners of the room. Surely I'm on a hidden camera show. Why else would he take a threat against my life so flippantly? Unfortunately, the corners only held traces of cobwebs in them. Damn spiders.
"It's not that I don't believe you Hannah, but claiming that someone is trying to kill you is a substantial claim. It's not to be taken lightly and I just want to get all the facts straight." He leaned forward in his seat and took a few quick notes. What I wouldn't give to see what he writes about me in that thing.
"Do you think I'm crazy?"
"No Mrs. Smith. You are not what we classify as crazy."
"Well that's a relief." I laugh a little at the thought. I think he's lying to me. "I mean, no one want's to be crazy. Right?" I chewed on the skin beside my fingernail while he continued to write on that infernal clipboard.
"In this business we don't use those labels. There are simply some people who have a disease of the mind. It's not contagious, nor is it the fault of the person it affects."
A disease would make sense. Infecting people, controlling their actions. Well, controlling everyone but me; I'm not diseased. I always make sure to sanitize everything. Maybe everyone else is infected. That would explain their antagonistic behavior around me.
"Is there another reason you came in today Ms. Smith? You look tired. Have you been getting enough rest?" Dr. Steel must have x-ray eyes or something. I know I put cover up under my eyes this morning.
"I've been having trouble sleeping." I conceded with a huff. Abandoning the now bleeding skin around my nail, I folded my hands into my lap.
"How long has this been going on?"
"Just a couple of nights." I lied, I haven't slept in weeks. If I washed off this makeup I'd look like a raccoon.
"What do you usually do before going to bed? Is there anything stressing you?" He asked, pen poised.
Stress! Is there anything stressing you? Oh, I want to punch him for that, but I'm a lady. I refuse to act in such a vulgar manner. Just wait, he'll get his. I repeated this to myself until feeling calm enough to answer.
"I usually watch TV for a while and then I try to write a couple pages in my novel. Normal things. I usually go to bed around 10:30 at the latest."
"Do you still work at the gym as a receptionist?" He asks, casting a short glance at the bag beside me.
"Yes. It's still the only place hiring in this town. Writing is more of a hobby; I know it won't lead anywhere." I don't tell him that I write about him; that when I go home I write down all the things he says or does. I don't tell him that I'm judging him too.
"What's on your mind right before you fall asleep?"
An involuntary twitch runs through my body. Uncrossing my legs, my left foot starts to bounce up and down. I wasn't expecting him to ask that.
"It feels like there's someone in my room. Watching me. But when I turn on the light the room is empty."
"Do you think that's a real possibility? Someone breaking into your house and watching you?"
"No," yes, of course, "it's just that if I don't check, to be absolutely sure, then he could actually be there. Waiting."
"Waiting for what?"
"I don't know. For me to fall asleep I guess." I searched the corners of the room again, watching for shadows. Hoping he didn't follow me here.
"Do you know who it is or can you describe him?" Dr. Steel capped his pen and went back to staring at me. Did he not think what I have to say worth writing down or worse; did he already know?
"I-I don't know. He's normal I guess, wouldn't really stick out. An average body with two arms and legs," I began hesitantly before meeting his eyes. "He could be wearing glasses."
"He could be anyone for all you know." Staring, he's still staring.
"Yeah," I whisper in a hushed voice, leg bouncing even faster.
"What about him makes you so nervous? Besides the fact that he's trespassing."
"He appears from the shadows and he always brings an ax with him. Its blade is a rust stained silver. His hands are stained with blood. I always have my eyes closed, but I know he's there. Slowly walking toward me." Trying to explain myself brings back the sensation of being alone at night. Of being helpless. Is that a shadow behind Dr. Steel?
"It's a game to him. If there's anything sticking out from the covers, a hand, foot, elbow, anything; he'll cut it off. He'll swing the ax down right along the edge of the blanket."
"So he kills people. Chops off their heads and limbs in the middle of the night." The pen is back.
"Except for the head. It doesn't count if the heads exposed." Why doesn't he seem surprised about this?
"It's too easy; I would die with one swing."
"Isn't that the goal of the game? Death."
"No, it's not that simple. Death is quick, permanent. There's no challenge in it."
He sighs a little and I swear he just rolled his eyes, "Don't you think you're being paranoid?"
"Paranoid! You think I'm making this all up?" I half-shout at him, rising from my chair. Anger rushes through me, boiling the blood in my veins. I start to pace across his office, footsteps stomping on his dirty carpet.
"I'm sorry Ms. Smith, that came out wrong. I believe in you. I didn't mean to sound so callous." Clipboard finally banished to the floor, he holds both palms toward me. Trying to calm me like I'm some kind of wild animal.
"No, I'm sick of this. No one ever believes me! Your just lying to me," my pacing becomes more frantic, words and spit spewing from my mouth, "you're just jealous that I'm in Gwen's wedding and you're not!"
"Ms. Smith I'm not jealous," he sighed out while leaning back in his chair pinching the bridge of his nose, "and I thought we went over this last month. Her name is not Gwen."
"Liar! You're a filthy liar; as filthy as this damned carpet. You know what I think," I stopped pacing to suddenly drop back into my chair, finger pointing at his face, "I think you're the one."
"What?" His bushy eyebrows scrunched together, but he can't fool me. He knows exactly what I'm talking about.
"You're the one stalking me and breaking into my house every night. Trying to slice me up one body part at a time."
"No, I done with you," I said in a level voice, reaching down to grab the duffel bag I had packed for this exact situation. Dr. Steel was silent as I unzipped the bag, hand closing around a rough surface. Standing up, I pulled out the ax I bought at the store yesterday. Both hands now holding tight to the wooden handle.
"Now hold on Ms. Smi-; Hannah this isn't you," he jumped out of the chair and started to back away, "let's not do anything crazy." He flinched right after the words left his mouth and I stopped him before he could say anything else.
"Let's play a game."
updated by @americymru: 11/30/16 01:46:35AM