"He's available, ain't he?"
"Wait here." The large woman lifted herself from the indented chair and pushed open the wide oak door, it closed behind her and she didn't reappear for several seconds.
"He'll see you now..." She said and smiled courteously, it wasn't genuine but no one would care.
"Thank you." He said and shuffled inside, his hands bound and dangling just below his naval.
"Sir..." He nodded in greeting and took a seat, the walls always seemed to be closing in on this small office space, eggshell white and covered in framed photographs and signed accolades. Always closing in...
"Take a seat Brandon." He smiled at his patient. "Drink?" He gestured to the small bookcase where above sat a pitcher of ice water.
"I'm fine thanks boss."
"Well then, you arranged this meeting, you've been quite persistent I must say, not really taking no for an answer even though we have had so very many long chats." He said and reclined back into his leather chair, his hands resting on his lap, fingers interlaced. Brandon studied the man sitting before him, the old suit that had at one point most certainly cost more money than he could possibly fathom, his receding hair skipping the grey stage and turning white. His eyes, eyes were everything Brandon thought. He looked for as long as he could before it became far too uncomfortable.
"Brandon... what is it that you wanted to discuss?" Dr. Richard Graeme asked and shifted in his expansive seat.
"Jus' wanna talk is all." Brandon also adjusted in his seat almost taunting the doctor. "Best if I were free though." He said and looked down at his cuffed hands.
"You know I can't do that, rules are rules Brandon and you're going to have to accept that. What is it you wanted to say? We've had so many very long conversations and nothing seems to change, what can I do for you?" The doctor pulled a small yellow notepad from his top drawer and clicked open his pen. He looked up and watched the man carefully, dressed in a white tee-shirt and stretchy grey pants, the lingering stubble on his patients face seemed to never leave even after a shave, the eyes were tired and desperate.
"I'd be speakin' if only I was free, you know-" Brandon lifted his hands. "I ain't gonna hurt you sir, I'm a Christian see. I'm a changed man, I won't do nothin'. Promise you that sir."
"Rules. I will not speak of this any longer. Either you have something legitimate to speak of or you can return to your room Brandon. I have enough things to do today and I don't take kindly to you wasting my valuable time, just being honest of course.
Brandon thought on this for only a moment and leaned forward in his chair, the chained hands falling between open legs. "Alright then. I'll speak, I'm a Christian boss, I won't do a thing."
"I understand that but I can't undo those cuffs, sorry." Richard said. He remembered that three months ago he was informed that his primary patient had undergone a transformation, he was 'born again' no longer the man he once was. Phooey, he thought to himself, these folks never change. Just make it through one more day Rich, one more day. Then, you're free. They might not be, but you will be!
"If you have something you want to say... say it." He said with a slight edge in his tone. Tired of all the stories, all the lies.
"Well, best be that I begin then..." Brandon said and smiled, that familiar twisted grin, those sparkling white teeth, that deep dark secret behind those light green eyes
"Ready when you are." He said and lifted his pen, ready and waiting.
"Well it's like this see, it wasn't me. See sir, I don't be deservin' bein' here sir. Not a little bit, I should be free sir, a free man. I'm a Christian sir, changed my ways I did."
"I'm not having this conversation, you can leave now Brandon." Richard stood but Brandon continued before he could remove him from the room...
"Bettin' you just wanna hear about her? Just all 'bout her though ain't it? Every time, same thing, stop me if I be wrong 'bout that one..."
"Her!" Brandon shouted, the doctor's hand moved toward the hidden red button that would summon immediate help if his patient lost touch with reality, it was a common theme in this position.
"Who Brandon, who was she?"
"Emily. She was everything. Her flowin' black hair that sometimes drifted in front of her eyes, oh her eyes, they was real pretty. Dark as night they were, sometimes it seemed they even grew darker like coal, like all she needed was a corncob pipe and a button nose." He laughed, Dr. Graeme did not.
"Anywho, she was real good to me, we was close see. We talked without ever even openin' our mouths. I was nine when we met; I'm still not real sure what she was... never did ask, she was like maybe not from 'round here see... So, we used to hide out, find a tree in the woods and stay away from my parents, they was always tellin' me to come in for dinner, maybe come in and do chores, hadn't done the dishes in a time so I get it. We would lay together, under that big ol' weepin' willow, only 'bout ten minutes from the house. Think I loved her I think." He stopped. Richard studied the man, watching the eyes carefully, they were deep and thoughtful.
"And?" He asked hoping to jumpstart the man just enough to get him back on track but not so much as to receive an aggressive response, that was all too common here.
"Well see sir I'm a Christian sir, a changed man I wouldn't do none the things folks been sayin' I do. You see that right? You know I'm innocent? I didn't hurt nobody..."
"Good, real good. See she was a good one, we was close but problem was when her eyes were there brightest she was good when they was dark, that's trouble is what it is. Just plain trouble, don't wanna be close then..." Brandon sighed.
"Anyway when she wasn't all dark and scary, she scared me see? When she wasn't dark we was happy together, we ran and stuff, ran in the woods, listened to the breeze through the trees, watched the birds fly, we was good together. But-..."
"But what Brandon?"
"Well, when her eyes went dark, it wasn't all the time but it was real common, then, bad things happened to folks, even animals, like pets and stuff..." He dropped his head above his knees and breathed heavily for a brief time.
"What happened?" Dr. Graeme asked and began jotting quick notes down onto the yellow pad. He looked up from the paper and saw the lifeless eyes staring blankly back at him from the chair.
"Brandon?" Nothing. "Brandon?" His finger slithered toward the red button-.
"Yes? I'm a Christian sir, wouldn't hurt a bug sir, not even one them ugly buggers."
"Are you alright Brandon?"
"What happened with Emily?"
"She's a killer boss, a real killer..."
"First was my pop. Dad you'd say I guessin'. He was workin' out back in his shop. We was just sitting together in my room, she was listenin' to the radio then real sudden like, no warning or nothin'. She had asked, 'where's your dad?' Strange I guess, but I told her, wasn't gonna lie, hell she'd know probably, best to be honest see. Sorry, I reckon I shouldn't curse, I'm a Christian, a born again person no longer a sinner sir. Sorry."
"It's okay." Richard said fearing his patient wouldn't finish his story.
"Well so I tol' her, downstairs out back in the shed, he worked back there, was real handy always fixin' things and stuff. He fixed my bike! Was real good bike picked up good speed in town too!"
"Well so she wanted me to go with her, I didn't quite know what she was gonna ask him but I went with her, didn't want her wanderin'. So we found him, there he was, I called him pop but bigger folks called him Travis, I wasn't allowed to call him by his first name, that wasn't 'respectable' or somethin' like that. He was a good man, a good pop! Always spendin' time with me, well... mostly when he could that is. I understood he was a busy guy puttin' bread on the table for us, even though we rarely ate just bread." Brandon stopped and wrinkled his forehead in thought.
"Well we walked right in there, it was plenty loud, think he was grindin' somethin'... he was always running something in there. Somethin' real loud. Anyway I said 'hi pop', didn't matter much though, she was quick, like a snake, we had plenty of them in the tall grass not much for danger but speedy little devils. She sprinted at him like a flash of lightning, it didn't take long, the twitchin' stopped..." He stopped and burped loudly, it echoed in the small room.
"She hurt your dad?" Dr. Graeme asked.
"Sure did, well more than hurt! Damn near killed him without the near!" He chuckled. "Only funny now, been so damn long trapped in here. I miss him I really do sir."
"Tell me what happened, when Emily attacked?"
"It was quick, super speedy. Like a snake..."
"I know that, what then..." The doctor asked, slightly annoyed.
"Well she went for the throat, lot of animals do it that way, much quicker I'm guessin'. So she grabbed a screwdriver from the peg board before dear ol' pop had a chance to say a thing. Maybe a Philips, could have been a flathead... hmm."
"Doesn't matter Brandon. Just the important details please." Another scribble onto the yellow page. It was beginning to fill up with words, some legible, some not.
"I reckon you're right, don't much matter. So she shoved that thing deep down into the front of his throat" Brandon lifted his cuffed hands and pointed to the spot of impact.
"Went in clean and quick, she yanked it free and it was painted red then after. He sputtered a bit but not for long and fell to the floor grasping at the hole, probably couldn't breathe now that I think 'bout it." Brandon smiled; his eyes took on a strange shadow for only a second.
"Strange thing was that Emily, her deep black eyes staring into nothing; she licked the wound, like a damn dog! She licked up the trickle of blood, licked it! Believe it or not, I'm not lyin'! I'm a Christian..."
"What then Brandon?"
"Well then we ran off, ran into the woods, don't really know what happened after that, kind of blank in my mind, can't picture it."
"I see, are you sure you don't want a bit of water?" The doctor again pointed to the sweating jug.
"I'm fine. Should I go on?"
"Of course, please do..."
"Well next was my mom, that one's a bit tough to talk 'bout, loved her dearly see. She a good woman, she'd be happy to see that I'm a Christian now, a changed man, wouldn't hurt a fly."
"She'd be proud."
"Real proud sir. She was upstairs at the time, pop's body was still stinkin' up the shed well probably not stinky yet 'cause it happened the very next night. Emily's eyes turned again, went all dark and such and we was on our way out from the trees. There was almost somethin' in there, something in the woods that like sort of recharged her? I don't know if that's right but it seems right. So we opened the front door and Chance barked a couple times, he was a good mutt but Emily wasn't havin' it. She leapt onto the poor thing and like the predator she was, learned 'bout predators on the nature channel, anyway she rode around on that mutt, sunk her teeth into the neck but it didn't seem to bother Chance much, a couple yipes was all... She finally snapped the neck, it was real loud, an' I can still hear that awful snapping sound in my mind, real clear. I hear it when I sleep too, strange as that is. Poor beast didn't stand a chance against Emily..." He stopped and wiped away a forming tear.
"Tissue?" Dr. Graeme asked, Brandon declined.
"Couple more yips, some yaps and finally that tail didn't wag no more, there was a bit of blood from where she bit him, I know it's strange to think about... she bit him! But that's what happened I remember real good. The fur around the spot where she got him good was matted with blood and it was sickening, I felt a bit of tummy trouble at the sight but she wasn't done! She wasn't done! Ain't never full, always hungry. So we climbed the stairs, she was much faster than I and reached the top as I was still 'bout midway. Ma was asleep, often was at that time of day and I pulled at Emily, told her no but she didn't listen none, it didn't matter, nothin' was stopping what was coming!" He stopped.
"I... I don't think I can tell the rest doc, I'm a Christian see, I wouldn't do anythin' to nobody."
"You're safe here, you can speak. It's awful but sometimes it's best to speak up."
"I reckon you're probably right bein' a doc and all." He took a deep breath, held it then released it. "Well, it wasn't as quick, I can say that. She put up a fight, that was mama for ya! Never a quitter for sure. Emily won though, she always won..."
"So once we was in the room it was dead quiet, not a peep and Emily didn't talk much when she was- well you know. Workin? Nah, huntin'. That's it, hunting alright. So she crept up, silent as a ghost! Speakin' of ghosts, did I ever tell you 'bout that one in the tub from well, like when I was five or so?"
"You sure have, but right now Brandon, I'd like to stay on point with Emily alright?"
"What you writin' doc?"
"Notes. You know that Brandon, I'm always taking notes, just part of the job alright?"
"Guess so. Well I came up behind Emily, tried to pull her back but like I said, it didn't matter much. She crawled on top of my sleeping mother, real careful not to wake her, I remember finding it hard to breathe but I don't know why. Anyway she put her hands on her then; you know how they do that CRP, no CPA... CPR! That's it, you know how they do the hand thin'?" Brandon tried to interlace his fingers to show the doctor. "Anyway, jus' like that. So she just held her hands there, not like CPR though, they was on my ma's throat, stopping the air see. Can't go long without air... So she tossed and turned a bit, pretty violent see. She looked at me before the light in her eyes went away and I couldn't stop it boss, couldn't do much of anythin' at all! She died and Emily's eyes returned to their more normal look just a bit, that strange evil look seemed to always be present but what can you do right?"
"Not sure Brandon, not too sure."
"So my parents was both dead now." He said without emotion, years of therapy had silenced the screams. "Next was James, good kid, I went to school with him. I was in class see, following the teach. Well Emily popped into the room, nobody really seemed to care and she tol' me to come outside to the hall. I told teach I wasn't feelin' real good and asked if it fine that I go to the bathroom. She let me, I was pretty trusted, wasn't a bad kid." He smiled again, that crooked grin that hid so little. "So Emily was tellin' me to go into the supply room, wasn't sure if that was allowed but I followed her. That's when I saw James, bit younger than me but in the same class. Blonde hair and a bit chunky but that don't bother me none. Anywho, she was awful interested in that big blade you know the one? The one that chops the papers? Makes a real clean cut..."
"I know the one."
"Yep, big ol' thing. Attached to a table see, table has lines on it like to cut right... So when James was gatherin' up some colorful papers she shoved him underneath the damn thing and, well, I don't think I gotta tell you what happened after that? It was pretty nasty boss."
"Do you remember what happened?"
"'Course I do, guy wouldn't forget a thing like that. Little kid all torn up, not much to forget. She sliced him clean, head nearly fell right off! Like that scary pumpkin headed man in the stories folks tell... Most blood I ever did see. Damn room needed a good cleanin' when we left. Not much I could do though, she wasn't listenin' to me."
"I see." Another scribble.
"Yes sir." Brandon stopped.
"What about your sister? Michelle? If I'm not mistaken..."
"You ain't." Brandon said.
"What happened with her Brandon?"
"Well that one I don't like much to talk 'bout it. Sorry." He crossed his arms as best he could.
"I think perhaps you should talk about it..."
"I guess you probably have a bit of a point there but not sure if I'm quite ready for that see."
"What happened to her Brandon? Before or after your mother?" Dr. Graeme stared at the man in the seat, his discomfort evident and not dissipating with the unblinking eyes of the studying doctor.
"Same time really, ma was sleepin' not like sleeping forever yet though, but we found her just after Chance took to the skies see." He adjusted uneasily. "She was always in her room, didn't come out much, always playin' with them damn dolls and such. Brushin' the hair like they was alive or somethin'..."
"It's a bit hard to think 'bout sir. Well... I remember Emily heard her I'm thinkin', we wasn't even near her but almost like her ears perked up like Chance's used to before, well you know... So, I tol' her she ain't botherin' nobody, can let her be but Emily sets her mind to somethin' and well, it happens whether I like it or not. Michelle was a good sister; three years younger than me, real cute when she giggled, especially if she leaked out milk through her nose... know how I mean?" Brandon laughed and contorted his face in an attempt at humour.
"I see Brandon, I know what you mean."
"Bettin' you got your own little ones runnin' about huh?"
"Good on you! Well we was quiet, always real quiet before it got real loud! She was doin' just that, brushin' them dumb dolls. Emily took her quick. Stuck her fingers right into her eyes see, there was a bit of a pop! But, nothin' more, no screamin' or nothing. Once the blood began to cover Emily's hands she finished it real quick with the usual snap! See sir, I'm a Christian, wouldn't never do such a thing these days, Emily might but I reckon that's her problem, not mine..." He said and smiled wide.
"What did you both do after this?" Another note.
"She made me leave, we was runnin' for quite a time before comin' to another town over passed the Grande River, you know the place?"
"Sure." He said disinterested, if he really needed the specifics he had a thick file with Brandon's name on the cover.
"Yeah we set up out there, she still hunted, nearly every night but never hurt me, we was close. We did another one in that place, that's right we. I helped, well she tol' me to so I listened, real yuck! But it was quick; it was always real quick boss. I wouldn't do those things now see, I'm a-..."
"Guess you knew that then. Well yeah was a lady, worked at gas place, we was hungry needed somethin' and Emily had a way of tellin' me things without movin' them lips of hers. So we did it quick, she was behind the counter and Emily put her down first but didn't finish it, wanted me to get a chance, I didn't boss, really didn't want a chance. But, there's not really an option with Emily see, she says, I do, sorry 'bout that one sir. Simple as that see? So, she had a knife, can't quite remember from where, it was a small thin' probably found it in the shed when she killed my pop. So she put the cold thin' in my hand, I was shakin' like a leaf but I managed. It went in slow, bit more challengin' than I had thought it would be. She cried, lots, tears runnin' down all over the place but that stopped when her eyes rolled back, they was all white then, and the blade was all the way in, right to the handle! So I pulled it out, blood was real warm, went cold quick but we left after that, I don't even remember if we ate anythin' now that I think back..." Brandon took a moment to relive the moment, to remember.
"I see." Dr. Graeme said, disgusted, but he wouldn't allow that emotion to reveal itself in his tone. He had listened to much worse but Brandon was certainly in the top ten list of terrifying story tellers.
"Do you doc?" He asked honestly. "I really hope you do see it. Well we was always on the road, town to town we even rode in one of them big ol' trucks you see haulin'. Guy was nice but Emily wasn't. She killed him at the end of our trip, left him in his own blood...."
"So we made it here, well wherever here is. See I was picked up, they couldn't find Emily, she was hidin'. She was a good hider. Probably climbed a tree or somethin' like that one there..." He pointed behind the doctor to the desolate yard where only one fir tree stood, its branches slowly moving with the fresh air, freedom.
"I see." He said and turned back to his patient.
"She was real good at bein' away when she needed to, wasn't real good for me though, some little kid tossed into the 'system' didn't know what that meant at the time but I kind of understand now. I remember all them flashy lights when I got picked up, nice folks but they was a bit rough. Anyway, next thing I know, I'm here... I guess that's all, actually, I guess there's a bit more. See when I was in, locked in a small room, well, she was there with me. Don't quite know how she got in there but she was." Dr. Graeme began to feverishly write, hands rushing over the yellow paper.
"So she didn't really like that guy that came 'round at times." He stopped.
"What's wrong Brandon?"
"You can go on... I would like to hear more." Richard said. A lie most certainly, no sane human would enjoy listening to the tormented ramblings of a murderer.
"I know. It's just, I feel like you don't really care what I say, you never listen, just lookin' at that damn paper." He said, his eyes growing darker. Dr. Graeme told himself it wasn't real and that his own mind was playing tricks but it didn't relax him like it used to, a stiff drink might help once Brandon was secure again.
"I'm always listening Brandon, I wouldn't ignore you. I have to write these things down, how else can I help?"
"I guess you're right there, but... how can you help?" He smiled. "So anyway, the guy that brought us the gross food was next. Emily didn't like him, didn't trust him. I didn't disagree or agree, see, I'm a Christian. Well, she pulled him in real hard, into the small room with the bars on the windows, and well, he hit his head on the toilet and fell asleep, she worked on him throughout the night, when I finally woke up the entire room was bathed in red. He was long dead but torn to shreds, not like the others, there was flaps of skin and pieces of him all over the little room. Real gross if you ask me, I remember folks bein' awful angry 'bout it. I even spotted an eyelid on the light! Not sure what I'm supposed to do about that, I didn't kill him!" He yawned. "So I was moved about, but it was all the same, she always followin' me..."
"When was the last time you saw her Brandon?"
"She never leaves doc." He said and stared vacantly out the window.
"Anyone else Brandon?"
"Nope, just Emily..."
"What's that?" He asked, thoroughly interested in this new development.
"I killed her sir, she ain't no fly but that's alright." He said and grinned. Dr. Graeme studied his patient with a confused look on his worn face.
"So she was always huntin' but you knew that so I told her I was done with it, screamed at her. Grabbed her by the throat but her eyes turned right before my very own! Turned to stone they did. I squeezed harder! Didn't matter much though, she squeezed right on back! It was a long struggle but eventually, I won... I think so anyway."
"She died?" The doctor leaned in to listen, he literally felt on the edge of his seat.
"Sure did, well perhaps it wasn't quite that simple." Brandon smiled once more, his eyes seeming to wander on their own. "See doc, I've been practicing for quite some time, I've been gettin' real good!" He said happily.
"Good at what Brandon?"
"Pain." He said without another sound.
"Pain you say?" He felt uneasy.
"Yeah, real good at holdin' it, takin' it... real good at sufferin' and such."
"I don't think I understand Brandon..."
"Well you will sir real soon sir..." Several audible cracks filled the room, they echoed clearly while Brandon dislocated his fingers and forced them out of the handcuffs, they were bloodied and bruised but the beast was free! He lifted them to the doc and wiggled the mangled things while the doctor gazed on in wonder. Another sinister grin passed over his face.
"See doc, Emily's alive and well, she's out there now right out by that tree but Emily ain't the problem doc..."
Dr. Richard Graeme jolted to the reality of the situation and his hands sprang for the button, the magic button, he dropped the pen as he went but Brandon was much faster and slammed him to the floor. Blood trickled down into the doctor's open mouth from Brandon's injured hands. Richard tasted copper. Brandon picked up the fallen pen and grasped it securely between broken fingers and as he slowly shoved it into the man's neck he leaned down close and whispered:
"I'm a Christian doc, wouldn't hurt a fly sir, I'm a changed man..."