Brain Dead

by Roger Marchant

My thesis wasBehaviour patterns. A wide subject, goodness knows, but as my partner had said, with the rather patronising attitude of someone whose PhD is safely hanging on the study wall, the wider the subject, the shallower the research required. Then a sideways glance. Fair dinkum, youre a weirdo. Yeah, well, weird is as weird does. Now where on earth had that come from?

Ive always hated this room - all tight closed windows, tatty old furniture and dark brown panelled walls. Today, a summer storms humidity turned my depression into distress, reinforced by the realisation that against all advice from my peers I had made a dreadful, perhaps fatal, blunder in choosing this particular tutor to supervise my post-graduate work. Pompous git theyd called him.

Even at the very first session I had suspected something seriously wrong and after much soul-searching had promised myself that this would be the last meeting. Why? Because I was scared. No, much more that that, I lived in dread of entering his dark cell to exchange opinions with this, well, this creature. Dont ask me why - my fear was illogical. But something was there. What was it I noticed every time we spoke? Must be subliminal. But what? And why?

When I entered, he had his back to me as usual, slumped in the old leather swivel chair that seemed to be his permanent abode, gazing at the rain beating down through the grove of despondent trees that graced our scruffy little quad. My latest chapter was in his hands and judgement was nigh. I sat on one of the grubby chairs, mute, ignored and petrified, heart banging against shallow breath.

After a period nicely calculated to maximise my apprehension he gave a perfunctory wave of the A4 sheets. Without turning he started to speak. His voice was monotonous and, as always, overly pedantic.

You must understand that every human intellect has its reptilian segment. And in a few people - those one might describe as being only minimally affected by genetic modification - this primitive part, when aroused or in extremis situations, can revert to a state where it recognises the old enemy, an enemy long since assimilated into society, the outlander or different one. The response is an immediate attack by pre-human means.

For example, biting. Think Silence of the Lambs.

The old chair started a slow turn towards me.

Those affected have several recognisable characteristics well known to psychiatrists and police. Slightly longer canines is just one. When these people kill an outlander they experience a strong feeling of success and accomplishment followed by an overwhelming sense of release then relief. Only their modern rationality prevents the episode from being implanted upon their recoverable conscious memory.

In other words, they kill, enjoy and then forget.

In a tsunami of adrenaline I was across the room and upon him. Snarling, mtutor jerked back, eyes of mindless frenzy reflecting my - our - emotion. As he opened his mouth towhat, howl?I saw exactly what had unsettled me so.

As canine locked upon canine it was a case of dog eat dog.

Roger Marchant 2015

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