By R. C. Carpenter

"And how long have you believed this, Mr. Silverton?" the man jabbed at his paper, writing furiously, his voice calm and monotonous but inside he was wild with excitement. This patient had been a regular for nearly a year, telling him stories of how he knew when people were going to die and where their bodies would be found that day. But this! This was something extraordinary! To think, his first true glimpse at the workings of a human mind gone schizoid.

Mr. Silverton, a gentleman in his early thirties, lay spread on the sofa, his hands folded across his stomach, staring at the wall. He had asked for the sofa each time he came to visit his shrink or otherwise the man might never have used it except when the receptionist was after hours. Mr. Silverton sighed, a heavy deep sigh that was letting him think, letting him lay out exactly how to speak to the shrink over his shoulder.

He was a healthy man, naturally so considering this was the late years of the twentieth century where famine and disease was nearly wiped off the face of the earth entirely. He was always dressed in a neat business suit when he came to see the psychiatrist; he was a paralegal, or so he claimed. Sometimes he would forget he was training to be a lawyer and the aspiring personal psychiatrist would have to remind him and ask him why he spoke so freely about such intimate secrets that could easily land him in jail. To which Mr. Silverton would reply, "My lawyer is present, Mr. Causwell."

His long, thick chestnut hair was tied back over his shoulder and made him look like some Spanish Don Juan from a cheap dime romance novel with his large fiery charcoal eyes that were set far apart and scanned the room caressingly every time he entered. The psychiatrist knew that at least two of the three secretaries that worked on his floor were unconditionally infatuated with Mr. Silverton, but he wasn't going to tell Mr. Silverton that and ruin his best patient's depression by making him feel better about himself!

Again, Mr. Silverton sighed, his Briton accent clearly carved in each syllable, "I have not believed it all my life, but despite, it has been true."

Mr. Causwell nodded mutely, his pen nearly sparking flames from the thin pad of yellow lined paper on his lap. "So you don't believe this? This is something some else told you? A childhood friend perhaps?"

"No," Silverton shook his head, the few strands of brown hair that hung over his forehead now dipped into his eyes, "All my friends had no idea of what I am."

"How about your mother, Traye? Does she know about this?" Causwell loved to bring in the family members for usually it ended up he had another patient under his wing to mend with his special glue and take their money from so sweetly. Traye was a very wealthy man and he always paid each month in full by the second week. And for a small fee, Causwell could work around his patient's busy schedule and always fill him in for a nighttime appointment per his request.

Again, Traye's head was shaking against Causwell's words, "My mother was dead long before any of this happened to me."

*Drat,* thought Causwell. "How about any other members of your family? Surely someone knew of your state?"

A pause hung in the air like incense and it perfumed the moment heavenly. Traye was thinking, thoughtfully he was thinking, about his past and a time long ago he had ceased to remember. "Yes..." He finally said, "Yes, I believe my brothers knew about it."

*Now we're on to something!* Causwell perked up, but his voice remained flat and uninviting, "Would you like to schedule a meeting for all of us? You can bring in your brothers and we can talk about this notion of yours."

Traye shut his eyes, "My brothers are dead."

*Shit.* "I'm sorry to hear that," Causwell continued to scribble, a low mumbling despair caught under his voice, "Mr. Silverton, are their any relatives of yours who are still alive who might be willing to come with you here one day?"

Traye sat up, his pale smooth face glistening, "Perhaps. If I could contact them."

"Why don't you do that," Causwell didn't look up, didn't notice his patient's readjustment.

"But, I don't think that any of them would understand why I come here to you."

"Mm-hmm, why's that?" Causwell asked, uninterested.

"Because I've always been the strong one, you see," he laid back down, his suit wrinkling against the squeaky leather couch, "I could handle anything."

"Sometimes," Causwell began to doodle, the appointment for the group session already lain out on his sheet for Friday, "People expect us to do the impossible. But, Traye, you don't *have* to do the impossible. You don't have to be the 'strong one' as you put it. It's okay to just be yourself. That's what I'm here for. I'm here for you, Traye, so you can be yourself when no one else will let you. I'm you doctor."

A low rumble filled the otherwise silent room and only the gentle hum of the fluorescent lights was left when it disappeared. Causwell looked to his patient, "You're hungry, hmm?"

A thin smile, the first he had seen on his manic-depressive, crawled on the pale lips. Causwell laughed slightly to himself. "Why don't we call it a night and you go down to the lobby, grab yourself a bite to eat at the BK or something."

Causwell began to rise and so did Silverton. The patient looked directly at the younger man, "How about we go out to dinner," he paused, trying to recapture the doc's words, " 'For a bite'? My treat. It's the least I can offer for everything you do for me."

*I get your money, buddy, I don't need your hospitality,* Causwell thought indignantly. But he smiled, almost winced but refrained from making his distaste for the idea known, "Right. Sure. We can do that. Um," he thought for a second, "You're my last patient for the night, so let me just lock up in here. Go sit in the waiting room, I'll be right out."

The man nodded, his eyes shimmering, and he went out of the office.

Fifteen minutes he kept his patient waiting in the receptionist's area, hoping he'd tell whichever one of the cute ladies who was behind the desk that he was famished, he had to leave, and that they could try some other night. But no one paged him. No one knocked on the door. No voice spoke over his intercom on his desk saying that Mr. Silverton would be back again in two days, and with company.

Causwell leaned against the large glass window that reached from the floor to the scooped ceiling, the fluorescent lights now out and the howl of the wind against his fifteenth story office his only distraction from his thoughts.

It was a nice office, all white and pristine and with very little in the way furniture like what he had seen at his colleagues places. It had a sort of art deco look to it even though he was at the bottom of the food chain as psychiatrists go. He was a family practitioner. He dealt with suicidal teenagers who had lost their boyfriends and cried themselves to sleep. He had an alcoholic and a masochist. He had a boy who had chronic bed-wetting. He had a compulsive liar as well. He also had Traye Silverton, manic-depressive who had 'visions' and claimed to be a thing of myth.

By far, Traye was his most intricate and interesting patient to date.

But J. C. Causwell longed for the big cases, the real stuff. He wanted the mass murders, and the patricides, and the child rapists. He wanted the cop killers and the pyros and the veterans who were POWs with metal in their heads that made them have split personalities and then he would get to sedate them and send them off to the squirrel farm.

He wanted a piece of the real action. He wanted the big wigs at the conventions to look at him and say, "Hey, I know you! You do good work! Keep it up!"

Of course, that wasn't going to happen with broken families and ladies who felt their cats didn't love them being the daily buzz around the office. The only thing going for him was the strange man in the waiting area, and that didn't say a lot.

He sighed, tossed the cigarette he was going to light back onto his desk and headed out into the receptionists area, grabbing his fine tailored jacket from its hook.

The lights were all out. The pretty blonde who usually sat with her mini-skirt-clad legs highly crossed whenever Causwell exited was not there. A slight wash of fear colored his face as he scanned the darkness, "Melanie?"

A low voice answered him, "I sent her home, Mr. Causwell. I told her you would lock up."

Causwell turned to the shadows, now afraid. He stammered, his calm monotony shriveled like a grape in the sun, "W-who's there?"

Gracefully, carefully, a man stepped from the darkness, a glossy magazine sliding from his hand onto the white glowing table as the shadows that covered him melted from his face. He smiled, a genuine smile that made the impermeable J. C. Causwell stumble backwards into the painted wall, an inkblot painting dropping from its nail. A small shriek escaped him as he looked to the floor but he was at once embarrassed to see a falling picture had affrighted him. He looked at the blot. Black blots red drops. He never much liked inkblots. He thought they were petty and warped. He tried not to look at them, afraid to divide his own psyche.

"Please," the low voice asked genuinely, soft and seductive as it moved closer still, "Don't scream. I never expected you to scream; you who are always so logical. So rational."

A thin white hand, glowing in the stale darkness, moved fluidly up to touch Causwell's cheek. He whimpered and slid along the wall, trying to reach the desk, trying to call security. The young man clutched at his jacket, "Get away from me. What are you?"

White teeth glittered as another smile flew to the lips. "I told you what I am," the intruder sighed, "No, of course you didn't believe. You never take me seriously. All you think about is my vast wealth I have locked up. But... I thought I could trust you, Causwell. I wanted to trust you. It seems your kinds are all alike. You're after fast cars and money and voluptuous girls who are easily impressed by your degree and your casual charms," then the sweet voice admitted almost shamefully, "I was taken under your spell, Causwell, if for only an instant."

He didn't know what to think. In fact, he wasn't thinking at all. He stood there, bent against the wall, listening to every word ringing true in his ears. But he caught on to the accent. It was British.

"Mr. Silverton, Mr. Silverton, please," he begged, "I don't know what you want with me. Please, anything. A refund? I can get you a refund, if that's what...what you'd like?"

The strange man laughed. "*Re-fund*?" he mocked, "No thank you. I had hoped to get a 'bite to eat', Mr. Causwell."

His gentle hands took hold of the frightened man's shoulders. Causwell shook, utterly horrified. Something not of his world had entered the protective little realm he had created for himself. Nothing interesting or new ever happened to him. Not on the fifteenth floor. Not to a twenty-six year old psychoanalyst. Not to J. C. Causwell.

"What are you?" he asked again, a bit of strength now backing his words.

"Don't you know that already?"

Yes, he did know. He knew Mr. Silverton had told him. But this was not Mr. Silverton. This was someone much different. It was a dark thing, an evil thing. His eyes flashed to the tiny red button the secretaries used to call security. It had never been used. His practice was too bland. Too boring.

Well, this was enough excitement for him, thank you very much.

The creature watched as the man's hand shot to the button. It went down and stuck there. Causwell smiled, laughed, he felt triumphant. He'd be out of the psycho's arms in two shakes!

"They're coming, Mr. Silverton. The guys down in security are going to come up and get you. They'll take you away and lock you up like the loon you are!" he shouted at his captor like a child who had told his mother.

But Mr. Silverton just smiled, his lips locked together and creating a thin line across his gaunt face.

Causwell's head snapped back and forth as if it were that of a mouse caught in a trap, searching for some bit of twig to pry him from the jaws that held him. And Mr. Silverton continued to smile.

"Come along, Julian. I'm famished," Silverton was polite, not rude or even slightly sarcastic, "I want to repay you for listening to me. I know it was not always that interesting, I know that your notes weren't always nice, but you do have a knack for sketches, Julian."

The tall superhuman with the British accent slowly scooped up his psychiatrist, casting him like a load over his shoulder. He opened the door to the office and with one might shove flung Julian to the sofa.

As he tried to rise, Causwell suddenly felt a hand pressing him back down. His swiveling chair rolled up beside the matching white-leather sofa and Mr. Silverton sat in it, his legs crossed over and his hands steepled, just like Causwell did every meeting. Only this was not the Traye Silverton who came into his office every few days. This thing was brimming with vitality. He had a craftiness to him worthy of his gallant exterior. There was something dangerous in the way he gazed at the man on the sofa, gazed almost lovingly. His eyes grappled with Causwell's, connecting and joining, telling him how much he loved him. He loved his deception. He loved his greed and his vanity. But that was all ending tonight.

"Why don't you tell me about your childhood, Julian?" he mocked.

Causwell couldn't understand how this thing had known his name. All of his legal papers read J. C. Causwell and nothing more. Only his birth certificate and his high school term papers read otherwise. He had dropped his name legally when his mother had passed on. She had wanted a girl. She had wanted a Julia.

"Tragic, tragic. A mother's own greed can lead to many things," the new Mr. Silverton stated coolly.

Causwell made a small, meek squeaking noise, one of disbelief and shock and he wondered where security was. "How did you do that? Are you some kind of psychic?"

But the creature only laughed through closed lips.

"God, what the hell are you, Silverton?" he clutched at his jacket defensively as if it were a shield.

"I've had enough of this, Julian," Mr. Silverton pulled Causwell closer, his fingers digging into the crisp blue work shirt, "My name is *not* Traye Silverton. I am *not* a paralegal."

Causwell was about to make a snide remark but he held it in, he even refrained from thinking it.

"I am grateful for your interest in me, but if only you could have taken my words for what they are," the creature drew Causwell onto his lap, "If only you could have listened instead of rationalizing and deducing and trying to con a few more bucks out of me."

And as Causwell rethought his casual dismissal of the words that Traye Silverton had so nervously told him, he began to call out to the only gods and saints he knew: the local PD.

But the man who was not Traye Silverton clasped a strong white hand over the shouting mouth and pressed the frightened man to his chest.

"Hush, little one," came the low pinging voice, "The time is at hand. I cannot tell you any more. You lost my trust. I tried to make you see. I tried to let you understand for yourself. But you're just like all the others. You're a disappointment. You know what is going to happen, I suppose. I've seen the moving pictures and those works of fiction that spread lies as much as they spread fear. Think on that fear now. Do you fear me, Julian?" the strange white-faced creature looked to his prisoner.

The head from under the hand nodded vigorously.

"Good. You've decided not to lie to the end. Perhaps if there is a heaven you might be redeemed for that one noble act."

And Julian's mouth was gaping and his eyes looked as if they were two corks in a bottle, ready to pop from their secured sockets. He had heard flesh ripping and he knew it was his own. He capped his own scream before it hit his throat. He was going to die. He knew he was going to die.

He held onto a few happy thoughts, like the times he had told women he was a Hollywood producer and they would flattered him and give him their numbers. And he thought about his best friend out in Chicago and how glad he had been for him when he found out his friend was going into the Peace Corps. He thought about his first wife and their little boy. He would have smiled at being able to get away from that bitch and child support but his veins were tearing and a rip of pain emitted from his throat as if reverse Novocain had been injected through his body.

He found that even the happiest hours of his life were not enough to make numb the feeling. The creature he had known and treated for almost a year was crushing him under a strength that Causwell never would have guessed even flowed in him.

The creature sat the young man up, his eyes groggy and disconnected from reality, his head floating from the lack of blood. But Julian felt himself being lifted upwards. He felt himself being thrown with inimitable force. And in his last real moments, Julian Causwell saw the inkblots on his white walls and the burst glass of the window screaming all around him like beautiful flowers in the Sahara. All he could see in the blots were grinning mouths with long spiky eyeteeth jutting out at their corners.

And then he felt the ground below him pressing against him like a dozen elephants. And everything was black.