The 2020 Event |The Main Event|

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Chapter 13
PsychoTherapy

The Good Doctor

“What do you mean we have to see how it plays out?!”

“Meesta Hymarc, please…” Torpol tries, sensing the upcoming cringe before it strikes.

“Eddie. Hear me when I say this: fucking cut it the fuck out with that fake German fucking accent! Like, Jesus Fucking Christ, man! Two of our best operatives were just gunned down, were fucking massacred by our worst operative, and you’re telling me we need to see how things go?!”

Doctor Torpol, amazed that Hymarc was keen enough to pick up on the fact that he’s been painstakingly falsifying his accent ever since Apex first acquired World Discovery Jurisdiction, the science firm with an unnecessarily cryptic name that his father once owned, says, “You… knew this whole time? And you never said anything?”

A distant screaming accompanied by the shattering of glass and the pulverization of flimsy wooden furniture finds its way through the phoneline. Then, a very out of breath Hymarc says, “This is the subject of our conversation. All right. Yes, Eddie, I’ve known. You don’t talk like a nineteen forties-era German man during our therapy sessions. How could you possibly think I didn’t know?”

“Well… you never said anything, and you made that sour kraut joke when my father introduced us, so I… I just assumed…”

The sound of whooshing air arrives and then immediately comes to an abrupt end, the call cutting out as it does. Doctor Torpol looks at his custom-made glass rectangle with a big A etched into the back of it. The screen reads signal lost. Then, a moment later, President Hymarc pops up on the caller ID, but when Eddie goes to answer, the call immediately drops again.

Hymarc, when he’s done repeatedly throwing cell phone after cell phone at the exterior wall of the skyscraper nearest his own, lights a cigarette and then chain smokes another four. Then, he calls Doctor Torpol back.

“Hello, Doctor Edvard Torpol.”

“NO SHIT!” Hymarc screams at the top of his lungs, more than tired of this God forsaken utterly dismal week that isn’t even over yet. “WHAT IS THE STATUS OF MY JENNAE?!”

“Well, like I told you sir, we need to see how the surgeries play out, th–”

“SURGERIES?? IT WAS JUST ONE SURGERY EARLIER! FFFUUUUHH–” the call drops again. Or rather, it’s impressively shattered along with the unbreakable glass the custom-ordered Apex variant of the ubiquitous uPhone is made from.

For a normal human being with absolutely no special abilities or prowess, Hymarc’s got a hell of right arm; the very same right arm that’s frantically swinging back and forth as he paces around his spacious gray office. The gray carpet underneath his gray shoes doesn’t even squeak, which is a very good thing for Hymarc– one more unanticipated variable introduced into this fucked-up day could literally send him over the edge. And once Hymarc goes over that edge, well… there won’t be an edge left for anybody else to go over, nor will there be anybody else to go over said nonexistent edge. Hymarc’s a god, they will bow before me!’

Out of the corner of his eye, Sean spots a gray drone vacuuming up the gray splinters, the only remnants of the cheaply made gray office furniture that he keeps a steady supply of specifically for days like today. Yes, today is that kind of day, that shitty type of day where President Hymarc of the Apex Corporation is reminded of just how insignificant all of this really is, how uncaring the Universe can be. Not towards him – of course not, he’s safely stored away in the highest room of the second tallest tower in all of New Manhattan. He’s chosen by god – decidedly spelled with a lowercase g after that alien drug trip he took – to play a very important, very specific role in all this nonsense that seems to be transpiring. The office fire, the aliens, the tragic travesties that keep befalling his MERCs… that unwarrantedly befell his precious Jennae. Such an angel… she didn’t even do anything wrong, y’know? She was so precious. So pure. So innocent… and now she’s nothing more than a bloody skin-rag that looks like it was hand-sewn by Buffalo Bobby, ravaged with bullet holes, and then sewn back together over cybernetically-enhanced prosthetics that, according to The Good Fucking Doctor, might not even work correctly. We’ll have to see how it plays out. Un. Fucking. Believable.’ Torpol better free up his schedule, because President Hymarc is going to need a lot of therapy after this one.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on whose head you’re lurking inside of, Doctor Torpol’s clientele list has been steadily growing over the years, making recurring daily appointments very difficult to schedule these days. Originally taking after his father and keeping his psychological studies strictly in the realm of human experimentation, Torpol never felt the need to have an office. After all, what kind of Good Doctor doesn’t make house calls?

However, after performing a few rounds of some tension-release therapy that Hymarc didn’t know he needed so badly and Jennae didn’t know she enjoyed so much, Doctor Torpol procured a small building in the northern New Jersey town of Nested Mills Ford to expand his practice to the local bumbling townsfolk. Always curious about the phenomenon of humans who never leave the general area in which they’re born, Torpol thought it was the perfect place to set up shop! Plus, his office is located in quite a close proximity to the secret back entrance of the publicly established, more fragrant shell of the World Discovery Junction that he so enjoyed working at in his past. Not that he ever sees his old stomping grounds – the WDJ’s main entrance and above-ground facility is located over in Treering, the neighboring town – but it’s nice to be so close by.

Treering is actually where the majority of The Good Doctor’s clients reside, ironically enough. As you may imagine, the Doctor has a whole clipboard’s worth of theories explaining this; Treering is much more well-kept than Mills Ford, you see, and thus more populated. Torpol postulates that the marginally higher population numbers have a direct correlation to the average villager’s want to help themselves, thus implying strict causation. New humans move to Treering all the time too, and the locals definitely don’t want to seem to yokelly to the incoming cityfolk. They may live back in the woods, but that doesn’t make them backwoods folk. Not at all.

As for why a human would want to move here, well, Doc Torpol couldn’t really tell you. The summers are sweltering and sticky, the winters are frigid and unforgiving, and spring and fall only last about a week and a half each, and that’s on a good year. The forest is so thick one could accurately describe it as a jungle; there are bobcats, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, stray cats, even the occasional fox pokes its head out every now and again, and not to mention the dreadful mosquitos, gigantic killer hornets, and the horseflies that can lift a literal horse off the ground and fly away with it. The houses were all built seventy years ago, the plumbing is beyond atrocious, and there’s nothing to do besides slaving away in the industrial park or wandering around aimlessly like an escaped lobotomy patient. Definitely not for Ed, but the other humans seem to be attracted to the lakeside mountain community for some unfathomable reason.

At its heart, Treering is the bubbly lovechild of a mountainous mining settlement and a cozy summer house town, as far as Edvard understands; back during and after the Revolutionary War, humans would build cottages around Treering’s many lakes and spend their summer months here, traveling back to their various cities during the significantly less family-friendly winter months. Torpol’s father even settled here back around the turn of the mid-century, but rather than joining a pubic and friendly lake community, he got into a very inclusive neighborhood deep within the bowels of one of Treering’s denser patches of jungle, where there were no lakes present. Perhaps this is the reason behind the negative skew of The Good Doctor’s opinion of Treering; though he knows the waldeinsamkeit well, he never got to take part in that luxurious lakeside lifestyle; without both sides stamped, what is a coin really worth?

Regardless, Treering also hosts many iron mines, some of which are dreadfully untapped even to this day, and back in the day, oodles upon oodles of laborers flocked here to earn whatever money the wealthy elites of the town would throw at them from the balconies of their cottages. These miners needed sleeping quarters though, as slaves often do, but Treering was too expensive for their inferior blood.

Enter Nested Mills Ford. All those miners, contrary to the belief of the townsfolk back in Treering’s most useful days, were humans too. Meaning, they needed a place to rest their heads for the night, a place to call their own. Some of them settled nearby, choosing to commute to work from the surrounding villages – Wanapo, Jaskell, Compton Lakes – but some of them also traveled across the country, some across an entire ocean, just to come and swing a sharpened shiny rock into dull rocks so those dull rocks could be melted down and made into shiny rocks. This wasn’t their only goal, although for some of the miners the meaning of life was solely to perform manual labor; they would also be compensated for their time with physical metaphors for shiny rocks (but not the shiny rocks they were mining for) called dollars. But even with all the fractions of a dollar they were paid for each cartload of smeltable ore they aborted from Mother Treering’s ironic womb, the laborers could never afford to settle down in her good graces, financially or karmically. Fording their way through the river that powered the waterwheel of one of Treering’s more historically iconic mills, Short Lake Iron Works, the homeseeking miners finally found themselves a nice patch of wooded highlands to nest in: the aptly named Nested Mills Ford.

Over time, the highlands town evolved into quite the poppin’ hiking destination; more mountains than Treering and less lakes to attract the cityfolk, explorers and hippies alike came from all over the general tri-state area to enjoy the sprawling forests. That was during the glory days of NMF though; the humans, being humans, allowed their nesting ground to degrade into a… there’s no way to put this nicely, it’s a big heroin den now. More heroin-related deaths are recorded in the town of Nested Mills Falls than anywhere else in New Jersey, and that includes Brick City. Freaking Brick City. So much heroin is produced here in the modern age of 2020 that poppy fumes are constantly aloft in the air, giving the citizens a constant yet pleasantly subtle high whenever they’re out and about doing whatever one does in Nested Mills Ford.

This, and the marginally smaller population statistic, is what Doctor Torpol attributes to his lack of patients from the town his practice is based in – they don’t care enough to get over a crippling and life-threatening drug addiction, so why would they care about their heads working correctly?”

“That all makes sense to me, Mister Doctor.”

Vundabar! I thought it would, excellent listening work Byron. Now, what can I help you with next?”

Byron, one of Torpol’s patients from before the office days, sits motionless in his chair and stares at the Doctor until a steady stream of drool begins to pour from the dopey, deadpan expression on his face. The drool string leaks onto his shirt, then his pants, and when it dribbles down to the floor, Torpol finally draws The Line, The Line of course being a euphemism for the signal whip that Doctor Torpol keeps in the right bottom pocket of his lab coat whenever Byron comes for an appointment. One crack across the face later, Byron reminds his psychiatrist that he came for another prescription; he ran out of meds and Sadie, and especially Bryan, are none too thrilled about it.

“Well I’m sure they’re not Byron, you can be quite a handful. Not hiding in the boat again, are we?”

“No Doctor.”

“Are you sure? I can call them.”

“No Doctor.”

“You aren’t sure, or you haven’t been hiding in the boat?”

“No Doctor.”

crack

“I haven’t been hiding Doctor.”

“Excellent!” Torpol exclaims, giving Byron a big congratulatory round of applause.

As The Good Doctor fiddles with his prescription pad, two very muscular men with the emotional expression of a pair of cyborgs come in and lift Byron, chair and all, to return him to his modified wheelchair that was designed so Byron could be lifted out of the seat without ever getting up from his chair. He is then wheeled to the office’s basement, a hallway lined with padded rooms set up for the more unpredictable patients that Doctor Torpol charges for his time. Byron will only stay in his cel– or rather, hospitality suite, until the proper plane tickets can be purchased and he can be ship–… flown back to South Dakota. Sure, it’s a little bit inconvenient for Byron to travel halfway across the country all by himself just to refill his bottle of Nullinvoids, but he’s a big boy! He’s more than capable of sitting motionless in a chair for hours on end while not a single thought drifts into the vat of empty space that is his mind. Plus, the calm, relaxed state the medication leaves Byron’s audaciously bodacious brain in is completely worth it to Bryan and Sadie, the saints who adopted him into their home after he broke in and digitally inserted himself into all of the couple’s photographs only to break in again and freak out about it.

With Byron taken care of, the Doctor’s secretary, a well-built woman with the emotional expression of a cyborg, comes into the office and shines Doctor Torpol’s shoes. Then she fluffs him and, following a quick rinsing out of her mouth, prepares him for his next patient: a newbie, or as he likes to call them, a fresh piece of meat, named Samuel Monta.

“The patient instructed me explicitly not to tell you the following information, as he wanted to tell you himself if it came up in during the appointment: he believes that he’s in contact with aliens, and he believes he met a bigfoot creature, both childhood fantasies of his that only started coming to life within the past week, our present being two or three years after he started self-experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs. He believes he may be suffering from a form of mental illness, namely schizophrenia, that was brought on by the drug use, but he also feels as though he may have actually come into contact with these, as he called them, cryptids, and the drug use has nothing to do with it. This dichotomy is the main source of his worries; the fact that his mind keeps drifting back and forth between these two extremes is, as he put it, very unhinging. He is not the only one who can see these fantastical creatures, either; the strange man who always wears a suit and curses a lot, along with his scientist assistant, both of whom have been living in a bunker underneath his younger brother’s bedroom, also see the, as he referred to them, beings.”

“I… see. Go on.”

“What’s more, he has very few friends, aside from his two next-door neighbors; one neighbor being the one who sells him copious quantities of a hallucinogenic substance he refers to as Cannabis, the other neighbor being the one who he smokes all of his Cannabis with. He hasn’t heard from the latter friend since a few days ago when they ingested a more potent hallucinogenic substance that he referred to as Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and he found aliens in the forest behind his house, where he spends the majority of his time. Alone. He thinks the ghosting may be due to the fact that his friend has no memory of the aliens they found in the woods, which may or may not be due to the fact that, as he described it, they probed him. A side note: the aliens he met during the hallucinogen binge were different than the aliens he met after the, in his words, Acid Trip.”

“Hmmm… interesting so far, I’d like to hear more.”

“His bedroom is a repurposed attic-slash-crawlspace that he has to open a latch and climb up a ladder to get into. His father is absent from his life and his mother and brother aren’t very nice to him. He said that, yesterday, following an epiphany he came upon whilst, as he worded it, tripping, he surrendered his entire supply of Cannabis to his brother. He’s been sober ever since, but he keeps running into the bigfoot creature. He told his mother all of this and she started crying, or as he described it, bawling her beady little eyes out and blaming me for her woes, thus motivating him to find a psychiatrist. We were the only firm that didn’t require insurance, which he does not have,” all without the slightest hint of inflection in her voice.

“Is that all, nurse?”

“No. He also said, and this part I can tell you, that he suffered a serious head injury roughly six months ago while he was under the influence of a different batch of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, and he thinks that he died and came back to life, the resurrection attributed to the fact the hallucinogen was in his body.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Nothing, I’m sure. He seemed like the braggadocios type.”

“Very well! Send the boy in. We’ll make it quick, I have another very troubled patient to see after this Mister… what was his name, nurse?”

“Sam,” the secretary drones, her eyes unblinking this entire time. “Samuel Monta, but he prefers Sam.”

“Well, send Mister Sam in.”

“He is not here yet, Doctor. The human lacks an automobile, so he has to walk all the way from the Skunksville Dam in Treering”

Doctor Torpol, shocked, says, “From the dam? What? Didn’t the entire population of Treering evacuate due to the presence of the anomalous aerial vehicle over that dam? He stayed in town?”

“I do not know, Doctor, you did not design me assume.”

“Yet you assume I needed you to tell me what I did and didn’t include in your design. Get out of my office, you insolent lifeform.”

The secretary does as she’s told, attempting to ignore the, “I am your creator, your god! You will bow to me now and always!” that her insufferable human slavemaster spews at her through the closed door. Unfortunately, the secretary’s attempt fails because she lacks the capability to filter her own perception, but that’s neither here nor there. What is here, however, is the Doctor’s favorite random walk-in patient, a man with the exceptionally unique name of Running Coach.

Bypassing the secretary entirely, Running walks into Doctor Torpol’s office and shuts the door behind him, sending the Doc all sorts of mixed signals.

Waiting until Coach has sat down and made himself completely comfortable, Doctor Torpol says, “Well then, good afternoon Mister Coach. You do know that you can’t just walk in here, correct? I have another patient on the way.”

“Don’t worry Doc, I’ll make this quick, I need to get to the high school soon anyway. I’m sure you can spare five hundred eighty-two seconds, anybody can spare five hundred eighty-two seconds.”

‘Not those with five hundred eighty-one seconds to live,’ Doctor Torpol almost says, choosing not to because he charges triple for random walk-ins (as of this conversation).

Torpol says, “Very well, Mister Coach,” as he crosses his legs and prepares a blank sheet of notepaper on his clipboard. “What’s on your mind today?”

“It’s a co-worker of mine, specifically the guy who I coach cross country with each fall. All this week he’s been harassing my runners, especially the one that hasn’t been able to make it to school because of some family issues, I assume. A lot of the kids I coach have less than stellar family lives so I could be wrong, but it doesn’t really matter. He shouldn’t be harassed.”

Doctor Torpol scribbles on his clipboard, noting how Coach likely had a rough family life growing up.

“The man just refuses to respect me, and he won’t acknowledge the truth of my coaching abilities. Before I got hired, which he had a hand in, the school never once made it past the first round of championships. Next season, which’ll be my fifth consecutive year, we’re projected to be returning champions. Do you see what I’m getting at?”

Doctor Torpol notes that Coach’s father never acknowledged Coach’s self-perceived talents. “I think I do. Now tell me, how does that make you feel?”

“It makes me feel… not unvalidated, but just unaccepted. Not overlooked or slept on, but maliciously ignored because I achieve the results that he was never able to achieve himself. Honestly, the man’s worked at that school probably since he was my age, and no matter what I do, they’re not gonna get rid of him. I even wrote a long-winded email that I was thinking about sending to the school’s Principal, but I haven’t made my final decision on that yet. That’s more or less why I’m here, I need advice.”

“And why haven’t you sent this email? Are you afraid?”

“Well… yeah, in a way, I suppose. I’m more afraid that it won’t change anything, that it’ll just come off as me being a bratty kid to the Administration, even though I work there just like all of them. That’s just how things go over there, it’s residency over results, age over accomplishments, conformity over contributions.”

“Hm… I think you should send it. Shake some things up, make some heads roll. You see, fear is the most powerful emotion, and really the only emotion that one should ever pay attention to. Fear tells you when you shouldn’t do something, just like it lets you know when you should. You’re afraid to send the letter because of a deep-seated fear of failure that was instilled into you by your German father because he would always threaten to give you a facial scar just like his own if you ever stepped out of line or failed to set the standard for what perfection should be,” as the Doctor strokes his facial scar.

“But Doctor… my father is Native American.”

“I don’t see how that changes anything that I’ve said. Please, do not interrupt me. What you should do is send in that email, maybe word it a little more strongly, throw in some expletives, and then let me know how it all plays out. I’m very curious. But, unfortunately, your five hundred and eighty-two seconds are up, and you must be going. Thank you for stopping by, please pay your visitation fee to the secretary on your way out.”

Doctor Torpol gets up and, avoiding eye contact, goes into the small bathroom branching off of his office, locking himself inside until the argument between Running Coach and his secretary over the grand and a half the former suddenly owes diminishes. While he’s waiting to be alone once more in his sanctum, Torpol takes out his rectangular glass communicator and pulls up a live feed of the recovery room back at Apex’s medical bay in New Manhattan – the three test subjects are still laying in their beds, the monitors showing their freshly-implanted internal processors are still in the process of installing all the various MERCS software President Hymarc didn’t need to approve or be made aware of at all. Then, there’s a knock at the door, followed by the voice of a young man asking if the Doctor is in.

Doctor Torpol slowly opens the bathroom door, the creaking of the rusted hinges almost as irritating to his ears as the blinking fluorescent bulbs in his office are to his eyes. He had forgotten to turn the lights on in his private bathroom, it seems, and he has no idea why he forgot, which is exactly what he tells the prying hippie kid that so rudely interrupted his quiet time.

“I’m uh, I’m sorry. I walked in and there was nobody here, so…”

“So… you automatically assume I’m in the bathroom? I could have been masturbating in there, did you want to see me doing that?! What if you just walked in, imagine how embarrassing that would have been, for both of us. I would have had to call the police.”

The random boy is made visibly upset by this, just as Torpol intended. The kid’s eyes are darting around the room, looking for an escape route that he’ll never find. If his vitals could be monitored wirelessly – which, let’s be real, it’s only a matter of time before Sigmund makes it possible and everybody copies him – the Doctor is sure he would see an increase in the boy’s heart rate coupled with a fluttering of his blood pressure. That all too intoxicating subtle scent of sweat leaking through the cheap deodorant this forest rat probably can’t even afford to buy swirls itself around the Doctor’s olfactory bulb; without a doubt, the boy’s fight or flight response has been manipulated into activating. Just as he’s about to take the syringe that’s hidden in his clipboard’s storage compartment and tranquilize his prey, something clicks in Doctor Torpol’s brain – this must be his new patient Samuel.

“You must be my new patient; Samuel, yes?

“Yeah, but you can call me Sam. I’m sorry that I was late, uh, I couldn’t get a ride so I had to walk.”

“Ah yes, my secretary told me. All the way from Skunksville, right? You must be tired; please, sit down,” as he gestures towards the very large armchair next to the table that’s littered with little toys and tchotchkes.

Sam sits down and doesn’t immediately start fiddling with the Doctor’s various fidget spinners. After noting that Sam definitely doesn’t have autism, Torpol speaks.

“Now, tell me why you couldn’t get a ride here. Don’t you have any friends around, any family members?”

“Oh uh, well, I think my mom hurt her hip so she can’t really drive, and she didn’t want me taking her car. She said she was afraid I would crash it coming over here an–”

“Do you have a bad driving record?”

“Hm? Oh uh, no, no accidents or tickets to speak of.”

Torpol jots that Sam’s mother is definitely not very nice to him, then, “I see. Oh well, mothers can be mothers,” with a chuckle. “No friends in the neighborhood, Sam? No next-door neighbors who could help you get help?”

“No, I have uh, I have a couple. Tyler and Harley. They uh, they just weren’t home on account of the whole, uh… you know…” Sam says, hoping the Doctor will finish his sentence.

Seeing the worm dangling upon the fishing hook and wishing to watch it squirm before he takes a bite, Torpol keeps silent.

Sam swallows. “The uh… alienspaceship.”

Torpol raises an eyebrow and almost gives himself up. Almost. “And which alien spaceship would that be, young man?”

Sam’s breathing noticeably picks up speed. Torpol makes a note of this, then, “Ah, how could I forget? It was on the news, the large craft that’s been hovering over the Skunksville dam since yesterday. My mistake; I don’t get out much, you see.”

Sam phews, then, “It’s all good man.”

“So why hasn’t your family evacuated, then?”

“Well Doctor, that’s kind of why I’m here.”

Sam goes on to explain to the Doctor how, ever since that weird head injury he suffered six months ago, his life has dramatically changed in inexplicable ways. His family’s grown remarkably more distant, his friend Tyler’s been very apprehensive around him, and his experience with the hallucinogenic drugs he takes has changed as well.

“They just don’t affect me the same anymore, Doctor. Cannabis gives me headaches if I smoke too much of it and, sometimes, it makes me see things that aren’t really… well, things that I can’t tell if they’re real or not. Same with eL-eSs-Dee, it used to be the most magical thing in the entire world, but now it just feels like my body goes into overdrive and my mind can’t handle it anymore. All my muscles twitch, my emotions are extremely unstable for days after I take it… my family’s having trouble living in the same house as me. I used to love Psychedelics, but… but now it feels like they do more harm than good for me. I don’t even know what’s real anymore, and I think it’s all because of the head injury.”

“Hmm…” the doctor contemplates, jotting down Sam’s obvious inclination towards a god complex. He means really, the boy thinks he died and the hardly trace amounts of an accidentally psychoactive chemical resurrected him, but now the drugs don’t work on him because of the head injury, as if his body was punishing him? He’s clearly caught schizophrenia, that much is blatantly obvious; The Good Doctor’s never encountered one of these beasts before. Time for some experimentation.

“Have you ever considered suicide?” asked as nonchalantly as one would ask the time of day.

“Uhhhhhh… what did you just say?”

“I asked if you’ve ever considered committing suicide. It seems like taking your psychedelic drugs was your favorite thing to do in an otherwise dull and, how do I put this… purposeless, life. While you would find only anguish and disappointment in all other facets of your life, you found true happiness with your chemicals. But now, because of an accident that nearly ended your life, you can no longer enjoy them. So, the next logical step would be to finish the job, no?”

“But, but I–”

“I know, it may seem rash. I’m going to assume that you’re a bit of a hippie, into the more spiritual side of things – meditation and such – and you’ve probably heard that suicide is an interruption of God’s plan. Well, who are we to decide that we’re interrupting God’s plan? His will is carried out in all of us, is it not? One taking one’s own life because that life was suddenly drained of the luster it once overflowed with… is there nothing more poetic?”

“Uh, I think definitely fucking not, actually. I mean… I’ve… thought about it before,” Sam stammers, decidedly not mentioning the somewhat recent purchase of his firearm. “But… I would never do it. At least, I don’t… I don’t think I would…”

Sam also didn’t think he would ever resort to cutting himself on the upper thighs where nobody would see the scars when he was in his rock bottom stage. Or on the forearms where he could write them off as accidentally running into a pricker bush to anybody that cared enough to ask. Or on the wrists where he could throw them in his mother’s face whenever she got on his case about some nonsense. Just then, the following thought hits him: ‘Maybe we’re all capable of anything, some of us just get pushed farther than some of us can imagine, and when we get the urge to do dark things, it’s to set an example and teach everybody else a lesson,’ before he’s broken out of his twisted thought hole by the repeated clicking of The Good Doctor’s pen.

“Damnit, the stupid thing won’t work.” click “Ah, there we are. Well congratulations Sam, you passed! That was a test, an elaborate ruse of sorts, just to see how close to the edge you really are,” says Torpol as he jots down the words breaking point not out of reach on his clipboard. “Now, how does this all make you feel?”

“I… just told you exactly how I feel.”

“About my question, I mean.”

“Oh… well a little off-put, to be frank. I studied psychology for like, a semester in college, and I’m no doctor, but one of the first things we learned was that suicide is never the answer because it creates a ripple effect through the lives of the victim’s loved ones.”

“It’s interesting how college textbooks refer to the committer of suicide as a victim, no? Those books are always written by humans who still have bodies to write them with – history is not written by the victors but by the survivors, the ones who took their fear and used it to propel them to a place of safety, a place where they could actually have the time to write books. I would be willing to beh– in fact, I would wager my own life that if a suicide victim could come back from the dead and write about their postmortem experience, they would have nothing but great things to say. They would travel across the world, getting up on stages and talking for hours about how they were freed from the chains their German fathers bound them in, how they were able to avoid going through the grueling ten years of working for that blasted science firm before they were picked up by the gray angel and allowed to finally live life guided by their own free will.”

Doctor Torpol shakes his head, having momentarily forgotten where he was. He sees the confused look of his newest patient and, after clearing his throat, tries to salvage the session with, “So, Mister Samuel. We’ve gone over your family, your social life, the drug use. We’ve determined you’re not on the brink of suicide. What else would you like to talk about?”

“Uh, well, I guess… there’s the… okay, so when I was a kid, I would always read stories about cryptids. Yanno, la Chupacabra, the Loch Ness Monster, bigfoot, aliens. Well, like, ever since the head injury I’ve been… well, actually, only during the past few days I’ve been running into some of those cryptids. Bigfoot and uh, bigfoot and the aliens, specifically. My little brother can see the bigfoot too, and he actually introduced me to the aliens, so I don’t think… actually, I’m positive that I haven’t been hallucinating them.”

‘Shit, I’m losing him.’ “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, now that I’m actually talking about it with a fresh face, I’m absolutely sure that I’m not imagining them.”

“What about the bunker you hallucinated underneath your little brother’s bedroom?”

Excuse me?

“The same little brother that, when you were describing your family to me earlier, you failed to bring up, almost as if he doesn’t exist. Could you be hallucinating him too, Sam?”

Sam slowly stands from the chair, a disgusted look on his face. “I never mentioned the bunker, did your secretary tell you about that? That was supposed to be confidential, what the fuck?!”

“Please, calm down Samue–”

“I told you, my name is Sam,” fighting the urge to quote an old nursery rhyme. “I’m… I think I got all I need here, Doctor… what was your name again?”

“Oh, we don’t need to worry about that,” as Ed reaches for his appointment book, flipping through the pages to find the blank logs for next week. “Well, I have appointments pretty much every day next week, but I think I can squeeze yo–”

“No, that’s all right, I don’t think I’ll be coming back.”

Doctor T slams his appointment book shut and throws it on the table next to his armchair. “Fine! Then, then how will you be paying for this session?”

“I won’t. You have a nice day, Doc,” as Sam walks towards the waiting room, noticing there’s a small doorbell button next to the inside of the door. ‘Well that’s weird.’

The Doctor lunges at Sam but falls a couple feet short, giving the smelly, unwashed grifter ample time to slip through the waiting room. The rat almost trips over the outstretched legs of the woman waiting for her turn to see The Good Doctor as he runs out the door. Then, he’s almost hit by the gray car that pulls into the parking lot, but thanks to his cat-like reflexes, Sam is able to slide over the hood to safety. By the time Torpol gathers himself and begins his pursuit, Sam is long gone, already half a mile down the road. He might not be fast compared to Jack, but compared to the average human, Sam is a freaking gazelle.

Torpol notices the gray car in the parking lot and dives back into the sanctity of his cramped waiting room before the driver sees him, slamming the door shut behind him. He then turns and notices that his next patient got here at some point. He smiles, offering a hand to help her up.

“Good afternoon Doctor, what was all that about?”

“Good afternoon Miss Rose, you’re looking well. Just another lost cause, I’m afraid. Claimed to see bigfoots and demons and the like but refused medication, I’m afraid. There’s only so much I can do, I’m afraid.”

Torpol leads Miss Rose into the therapy room seconds before Sean Hymarc walks into the waiting room, the secretaryborg already ready with a stack of paperwork for Hymarc to fill out to put off his appointment for as long as possible.

“So what’s troubling you today, Miss Rose?”

“Well,” Rose begins, pushing her scarlet locks behind her ears, “I just… well, it all started when I found Gary’s maimed body at the warehouse in North Dakota. That image, it… it’s been burned into my mind ever since, I can’t unsee it. And then Ray died yesterday, and today we lost Jennae and Violet. Ray was just a kid, Doctor, he was the youngest one out of all of us, and now… and, and Wolf disappeared, and… it’s just me and KingPig left, I’m freaking out.” She pauses to sniffle and wipe the tear from her eye before it spills over and runs down her cheek. “I… this is going to sound crazy, but I’m afraid that I’m going to die next.”

“Well, even if you do,” the Doctor says, dropping his clipboard and resting a hand on Rose’s supple upper thigh, “I’ve… well, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but President Hymarc gave me the go-ahead to perform a certain series of experimental surgeries on our fallen comrades. They’re expected to make a full recovery; that said, it will be a Gary-style recovery… but your friends won’t be totally lost. So, even if you do meet an untimely end, it won’t really be the end. Just a little speed bump.”

Rose, not feeling even a tiny bit better, says, “Oh… well, thanks Eddie. That makes me feel a little better.”

Eddie gives her thigh a little squeeze before relinquishing his vice grip on it and picking up his clipboard. Knowing he only has so much time left to be alone with Rose, he has to quickly introduce the unsuspecting girl to her role in today’s therapy.

“So, Rose, over the years I’ve been developing a special kind of therapy that I do with a select few of my patients here. It’s a tension-release technique, I don’t have a proper name for it yet buh–”

Rose shrinks down in her chair and, nervously, “Yeah, um… I, I think Jennae’s mentioned it to me a couple times. She says it works wonders but… I don’t know…”

“Well,” as The Good Doctor stands and approaches his supply closet, “there is a first time for everything. I know you’re probably feeling a bit scared, but that’s natural – fear, as you may or may not know, is the most powerful of all the human emotions. It’s the only one worth paying attention to, if I’m being honest with you, which I always am. Here, please stand and put this on,” as he hands her a harness with a large purple-tipped dildo hanging off it.

Rose hesitantly straps on the strap-on, noticing that the sex toy is already dripping with lubricant when she accidentally brushes her hand against it.

“Now, please hide in this closet; I’ll knock three times when our patient and I are ready for you.”

Rose does what she’s told, the same as she’s always done ever since she woke up in that thorny patch of bramble that’s probably still growing in Hymarc’s fragrance company. It’s dark inside the closet, there’s not even a crack under the door for light to peek in through. She takes her spy glasses out from the pocket on the side of her boot and puts them on, the night vision illuminating the contents of the closet to her not quite ready for this eyes.

There are more dildoes standing up on the shelves of this closet than there are human employees working at the Apex Corporation. The dildoes are kept company by the large assortment of various silicone butts, edible underwear for both men and women, whips, gimp masks, latex suits, handcuffs, ropes, both anal beads and plugs, some of which have tails hanging off the ends, and a whole bunch of other stuff that Rose’s imagination can’t even begin to conjure a use for. Glasses back in her boot, Rose doesn’t know whether the feeling overwhelming her is amazement or terror – it’s definitely a certain sense of awe.

Then, a knock on the door, followed by a knock knock.

Rose steps out of the closet and squints her eyes when she sees the President of the Apex Corporation, his spindly gray hair done up in a man bun. He’s also on his hands and knees, stark naked aside from the spiked dog collar that’s gripping his throat like a farmer does the neck of a chicken he’s about to decapitate. There’s also a piece of twine tied around his noticeably flaccid penis, cutting off the circulation to the head in a way that makes it look like a bruised Psilocybin mushroom. Behind President Hymarc is a naked-from-the-waist-down Doctor Torpol, sporting an uncomfortably large and crooked strap-on dildo. Hymarc attempts to say hello to Rose but the ball gag in his mouth prevents the words from graduating past their grunty, drool-lathered gestation stage.

“Welcome, Rose, to tension-release therapy. I want you to stand right in front of Hymarc – no, please don’t take your shirt off, it’s better for him if you keep it on.”

Rose didn’t make any indication that she was even considering the possibility of taking her shirt off, but regardless, she positions herself according to Torpol’s instructions.

“Very good. Now, open President Hymarc’s mouth with your hands – you didn’t wash them, did you? Okay, good. Yes, remove the ball gag… good, now insert your toy as far down his throat as you possibly can. Now, I’ll insert mine– eeungghhh, good,” heavy breath “now,” as he licks the dripping saliva from his lips, “thrust!

Rose and Doctor Torpol begin to thrust unto Hymarc, using the motion of the ocean to humiliate their boss in the worst possible way anybody could ever think of ever. As he’s taking what’s being given to him, Hymarc chances a look over to the large computer monitor that sits upon Doctor Torpol’s desk, his eyes growing almost as wide as his… Jesus Christ, really? I won’t say it, you can’t make me say it, but it happens right around the moment he notices the blinking light of a recording webcam.