© 2003 by Richard S. Crawford; 955 words
“So. Tell me when this began.”
The patient sat passively on the sofa and did not respond. The patient never responded. Five sessions so far, and not a word. Doctor Heller had figured from the start that the dead would be notoriously difficult to treat, but he had faith in Thanatotherapy and would not be dissuaded.
“You’re very reserved,” he said. “Is everything going well at home?”
Still the corpse on the couch said nothing. There was no sign of movement, no hint of activity at all. It was male, mid thirties, anachronistically dressed in a beige leisure suit and two-toned shoes. His mother had horrific taste. And Heller thought that the undertaker should be arrested for participating in whatever conspiracy had created the outfit.
Heller tapped the end of his pencil on his desk and glanced out the window at the stars and the blood red moon that hung heavily near the horizon. This was getting ridiculous. He wasn’t getting paid nearly enough for this kind of pointless activity.
It’s not pointless, he reminded himself. No therapy is pointless. Every patient matters.
He sighed. “We’re going to have to discuss your unwillingness to communicate. Your mother is getting very worried about you.”
Heller cleared his throat. He always felt awkward around silent patients. Years of schooling and a PhD just can’t prepare you for every situation.
There was a knock on the office door. Normally Heller would have gotten annoyed at the intrusion, but now it was almost welcome. “Come in!” He glanced at the patient, and didn’t bother apologizing.
The door opened and a tall, statuesque woman stepped in, her pale turquoise evening gown dragging on the floor behind her. The dim lights in the office did nothing to hide the fact that her skin was pale, almost white as a birch tree. Her black hair was perfectly coiffed.
“How is my son doing, Doctor Heller?”
Heller swallowed. He had been dreading this. “I’m afraid there’s been no progress, Ms. Angstrom. He’s still reticent and withdrawn.”
“Doctor Heller, when we began you assured me that –”
“These things take time! You can’t rush this kind of therapy. Your son has been through a lot, you know. Death is never easy.”
“As you will observe, Doctor, I myself had no trouble adjusting to the change in life. So what’s wrong with my son? Why hasn’t he gotten over it?”
“I don’t know, but given enough time, I –”
“Doctor Heller, please,” Ms. Angstrom said, holding her hand up. “I don’t want to hear it. This is the fifth session, and there’s been no change. Do you remember our agreement?”
Heller’s heart thudded in his chest. He remembered. “Please, just let me try a few more sessions. Thanatotherapy is still an unexplored field, there are so many variables.”
“No, Doctor. You may have done your best, but I suspect this was just a ploy to extend the inevitable.”
Doctor Heller stood up so fast he bumped the desk. He pulled open one of the desk drawers and removed a cross which he held up in front of him. “Get back!” he cried. “I’ve been preparing for this day!”
“Oh, pish posh. Surely a man of science as yourself should know better than to believe those old wive’s tales. Crosses don’t affect us. Or holy water. Or garlic. Now, let’s get to it.”
The window was unbreakable. And Ms. Angstrom was too fast, and was on Heller before he even reached the door. He was strong, but she was stronger, and she pulled his head back and revealed his neck. Things got cold for Doctor Heller.
When it was done, Ms. Angstom dropped the doctor’s corpse onto the floor, then went over to the sofa where her son lay. “Come, Simon,” she said. She picked him up and heaved him onto her shoulder. “Let’s go find a doctor who isn’t such a quack.”