Nothing about the room seemed friendly, especially the thin man in the farthest corner of the room. He was standing near a large box that was pumping out something that sounded like a violin. The room was almost pitch black, but this didn’t seem to bother the man in the corner. The only light in the room was coming from the door that sat ajar. A young man was poking his head into the room, but he didn’t say anything. He thought that the light would make an obvious enough difference in the room to get the man’s attention.
“Welcome,” the man hissed.
The younger of the two almost gasped. He had never heard a voice that was filled with so many cruel intentions. This was not the doctor that his brother had recommended. Perhaps Callum was simply in the wrong room? He checked the number that the receptionist had written on a slip of paper. Callum almost groaned. The number was correct, and now he was stuck in this dark room for the next three hours.
“Shut. The. Door,” the doctor uttered.
“Sorry,” Callum said.
“Let us get one thing straight, boy. While you are in my room, you shall refer to me as Doctor Brusco, or just Doctor.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor Brusco,” Callum apologized quickly.
“Forget that. You shall call me Doctor,” Brusco snapped.
“Whatever you want, Doctor.”
“Now that we have dealt with that, let us begin. Sit,” Brusco commanded as he gestured to a long couch.
Callum laughed a little. He was completely surprised at the doctor’s actions. He hardly seemed like the type of man to stereotype his entire profession and anyone who worked in it. The doctor seemed so professional that even the Queen of England would pale in comparison to him. Everything from the couch to the doctor’s black turtleneck sweater screamed stereotype.
“Is something funny?” Brusco inquired.
“Kind of,” Callum chuckled.
“What is it?” Brusco interrogated.
“You’re stereotyping every psychiatrist that has worked beyond 1940,” Callum explained.
“I see. For your information, I am a firm believer that every human being should return to the roots of everything they do. They should sew their own clothes, and they should send only the women to buy groceries. This goes the same for everything else as well. I am not as young as I once was, but when I was young no one would have permitted a psychiatrist to have a bowl full of salt and vinegar potato chips in the middle of a glass table. Everyone would lie on a sofa in a dark room, and they would think about their thoughts. They would proceed to share them with their doctor. Have I made my point?” Brusco asked.
“Yes,” Callum said slowly.
“Good. Now lie down, and stay quiet until I ask you a question,” Brusco compelled.
Callum shuffled his feet over to the couch. He sat, and then he positioned himself so that he could lay down. He rested his head on the short pillow that was provided. Callum looked over at Brusco. The doctor was scribbling something on a clipboard, but Callum could not see what it was. He almost asked, but he remembered what the doctor had told him to do. After a few moments of silent waiting, Brusco finally spoke.
“Why are you here?” he asked sullenly.
“My brother recommended that I go to therapy after my wife passed away,” Callum said, his voice shaking slightly at the end.
“How did she pass?” Brusco questioned.
“Does it matter?” Callum retorted.
“Everything matters!” Brusco scolded. “Why would you be here if it didn’t matter?”
“I didn’t even want to come. My brother made me do this,” Callum said bluntly.
“Quit having pity for yourself. Whether you want to be here or not, I’m going to attempt to help you somehow,” Brusco explained.
“Alright, alright,” Callum said.
“Good. Now tell me. How did your wife pass?”
Callum thought about it for a moment before he said, “Brain trauma. She fell and hit her head too hard.”
“How did she fall?” Brusco asked.
“She lost her balance on our apartment steps. She had too many things in her hands, and she just fell,” Callum explained.
“I see,” Brusco said as he wrote something on his clipboard. “How long ago did this happen?”
“A couple of months ago. It seems like it was so long ago,” Callum sighed.
“Of course it does,” Brusco said as he stopped himself from rolling his eyes.
Callum wanted to spit into Brusco’s stupid little wrinkled face. He had no right to speak to Callum that way, especially after what he had been through. This doctor was one of the cruelest people that Callum had ever met, and he hadn’t even been in the room for more than fifteen minutes. Callum hated everything about the doctor. He was especially bothered by the way his mouth always stayed as straight and thin as a pencil no matter what.
“How often do you visit your wife’s grave?” Brusco asked.
“A few times a week,” Callum said through gritted teeth.
“Interesting,” Brusco said sarcastically. “How much time do you spend in your apartment?”
Callum almost laughed. He hadn’t been in his apartment since the day his wife had fallen. He couldn’t bring himself to climb those terrifying steps, and even then he would have to walk through the rooms and look at everything that was hers. Every single book and piece of paper that she had touched would just be another painful memory of what was once a peaceful and quiet life. Callum could never look at that apartment again.
“I haven’t been there since the day that she died,” Callum told the doctor.
“Really? Why? Isn’t that where you live?”
“Why would I go back to somewhere that has so many memories of my dead wife?” Callum asked, his voice getting louder with every word until he was almost yelling.
“Why wouldn’t you?” Brusco replied calmly.
Callum sighed. He was fighting a losing battle, but he kept on pushing forward. If he was ever going to get anywhere with Doctor Brusco, he was going to have to cooperate a little more. No matter how much the doctor bothered him, Callum was going to have to deal with it. He needed help to get over his wife, and he couldn’t do it alone.
“There are too many memories of her,” Callum said slowly. “They’re not bad, but they scare me because I know that she won’t ever be back to make more.”
“I see,” Brusco said. This time his tone changed as if he understood and cared about Callum’s problem.
“What does it feel like when you think of her? Specifically when you are alone?”
“I feel like I’m the last living being on Earth. I feel like I’ll never find someone to love me ever again.”
“Pitiful,” Brusco said. This time his cruel tone returned. His words came out as merely a low hiss.
Callum grunted slightly. He glared at Brusco, and then he shut his eyes. He thought of his wife and everything that they had done together. Suddenly he saw a blinding white light, and Callum was standing in a courtyard. A young woman with long red hair was sitting next to a fountain. Her face was buried deep in a large book, and a backpack sat on the ground with its contents thrown askew.
Callum looked down at himself. His hands were smoother than they were in Brusco’s office, and his attire was different. He was wearing denim jeans and a purple letter jacket. He had white Jordan’s on, and his head felt different. Callum plunged his hand into his pocket, and he pulled it back. His phone wasn’t there! Neither was his wallet!
Callum sprinted to the fountain. He looked into the crystal clear water, and he gasped. His hair was shorter than when he had last inspected it. The sides were shorter than the top, and along with his different hair Callum’s face was peppered with acne. Callum nearly fell into the fountain. This was what he looked like when he was in college, but not when he was at Brusco’s office!
Callum looked up, and his eyes met the young woman’s. Her eyebrows were pushed together as if she didn’t understand what was going on either. She stood up and began walking over to Callum. Once she was finally close enough, Callum nearly screamed. It was his dead wife, Tristin!
“What’s wrong?” Tristin asked. “Are you okay, sir?”
“Um...no! I’m perfectly fine!” Callum exclaimed.
“Are you sure? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Tristin told Callum.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
Callum turned and walked off in the opposite direction. How could his wife be there? How could he be back at college? He was twenty-six years old, not nineteen! There were so many questions that he needed answers too, but he had no idea how to get them. His questions all melted away when the bright white returned, and he found himself standing back in Doctor Brusco’s office.
Callum was facing a tall lamp in a corner of the room. He whirled around, and he was facing the doctor. Brusco had a bewildered look on his face, but he also seemed to be intrigued. He opened his mouth to speak, but he closed it after a second. Then Brusco stood up, and he began to walk to Callum. When he reached his patient, he put his hand on Callum’s shoulder.
“What did you see?” Brusco asked.
“How do you know that I saw something?” Callum retorted.
“You were moving around the room with your eyes closed, and you were mumbling to yourself,” Brusco explained.
“Why?” Callum asked.
“How do you expect me know why if you will not tell me what you saw?” Brusco barked.
Callum sighed before he said, “I was in the past. I was in college again, and I was looking at my wife. It was almost like the day that we met, but it was different this time. She said different stuff about me, like how I seemed shocked to see her.”
“Naturally,” Brusco sighed.
Callum glared at the doctor before he returned to the couch. He sat on it, but he didn’t lie down. Instead he watched Brusco until he sat down across from him. Callum was about to speak, but he stopped when Brusco started to write something on his clipboard. He looked up at Callum and finally spoke.
“It was a flashback,” Brusco said. “By definition it means to be involuntarily transported back to the past, but it generally happens in a way where it interacts with the area that the victim is in. That was not the case when you experienced your flashback.”
“You’re right. I was in the courtyard that I met Tristin in,” Callum said.
“You said her name. Good. That is a slight improvement, but not a major one,” Brusco told Callum with a slight hint of happiness.
Brusco stood up, and he walked around to the back end of the couch that Callum was sitting on. He trailed his index finger along the back of Callum’s neck. The latter stiffened slightly, and he sucked in air. Goosebumps appeared on Callum’s skin, and his hands shook slightly. Brusco jerked his hand away, and he immediately began writing on his clipboard. Then he returned to his couch and looked at Callum. His expression sullen, yet there was a sense of sadness.
“Post. Traumatic. Stress. Disorder,” Brusco said. His voice cracked at the very end.
“What did you just say?” Callum whispered.
“You have posttraumatic stress disorder,” Brusco repeated. “I’m sorry. This is not uncommon in people who have lost a loved one in a violent way.”
“You’re joking, right?” Callum asked. “You’ve been treating me horribly the entire time that I’ve been here, so why wouldn’t you pull a joke like this?”
“I am afraid that I am not joking. Not in the slightest way. You have exhibited all three of the symptoms, whether you have told me about them, or you have physically presented them to me. You avoid where your wife died, and where you two lived together. You had a flashback, and you became tense, and you were startled when I touched you a moment ago.”
A tear slid down Callum’s cheek. He closed his eyes and breathed deep, but he soon burst out in an uncontrollable rage. He reached to Brusco, and he slammed his fist into the doctor’s mouth. Brusco fell back into his couch, and he put his hand over his mouth. Streams of blood slipped through the cracks of Brusco’s fingers.
Callum was on his feet in a second, and he was screaming at Brusco, “You are the most horrible person that I have ever met! You treat me like garbage, and then you tell me that I have a disorder! Is this how you treat everyone? Is this why you live in the dark like a creature of the night? Just tell me already! Why are you so mean?”
Brusco leapt to his feet and said, “I do not try to be mean, but I don’t try to sympathize either. If I did, I would fall to pieces every time that I had a patient. Your story is just one of many horrible situations, and your wife’s death isn’t even one of the bad ones. I try to block out all emotions by making myself an unlikeable man. My wife died twenty years ago in a plane crash. Do you know what that did to me?”
Callum just glared at Brusco, but the doctor continued to speak.
“It ruined me. I was homeless for six months because I could barely find the will to live. She was everything to me, and I let my life become ruined because I loved her too much. After I finally pieced my life back together, I promised myself that I would never become attached to anything again, otherwise I would fall back into that dark place that I was once in. I have no friends, Callum. None of my relatives even know where I live, or what I do. That’s the only way I can survive. I had to make myself into a hated monster that lives in a dark cave. That is how far I have to go to keep living.”
“I don’t care what you have to do to live!” Callum screamed. “The only thing that I care about is getting my wife back, and there is no possible way for me to do that!”
“Calm down,” Brusco whispered. “Let me talk to you. Let me tell you about my wife, and you can see if she was anything like yours. Comparing the two may help you heal. First of all, her name just so happened to be Trista. It sounds like Tristin, doesn’t it?”
“Don’t give me your sob story, Brusco! Let me ask you a question, though. How far do you think that I will go to survive?” Callum questioned as tears streamed down his face.
“I don’t know,” Brusco replied slowly. A tiny, crystal clear tear fell from his chin, and he could have sworn that he heard it hit the ground. That was how quiet it was after Brusco answered Callum.
“I would kill to survive.”
Callum walked to the music box in the back of the room. On top of it sat a tall, glass vase. He slammed it on the ground, and he snatched up the largest piece. He moved quickly through the darkness. He reached Brusco in a matter of seconds, and he grabbed the doctor’s throat in a death grip. His eyes met Brusco’s, and he almost released his victim. At the last second a voice in his head told him to finish it. Callum smiled maniacally, and he plunged the shard of glass deep into Brusco’s shoulder.
The doctor gasped, and he fell to the floor. Callum kneeled down next to him and looked him in the eyes again. He wiped the blood on his fingers cross Brusco’s face. His smile grew, and then he stood back up. As the young psycho made his way to the door, he looked back at Brusco.
“You failed, Doctor,” Callum said. “You aren’t going to die from that wound, but you won’t recover either.”
“I haven’t failed,” Brusco hissed. “It is you who has failed. You are letting yourself become a monster far worse than the one that I had to become.”
“That’s the best part,” Callum laughed, and then he was gone.
Callum had left, and the room was once again dark and gloomy. Brusco dragged himself to his feet, and he made his way to the window. He gazed down at the streets below. Dozens of people were walking in different directions. Brusco opened his mouth to scream at them so that they could escape, but no sound came out. He let out a sob, and then he fell to the floor.
There wasn’t a phone nearby, so he couldn’t contact anyone. He would have to drag himself to his receptionist’s desk, and he would have to call the police from there. That was the only way Brusco would be able to save the people outside. That would be the only way he could stop Callum from murdering dozens of people. That would be the only way he could stop the approaching trauma.