I sat in the room, journal in hand. The air con was broken and it was exceedingly warm. It’s typical; we’re finally given good weather, and I was soon to be stuck in a room with five killers, who were coming for the new government initiative – Killers Anonymous. I sipped on my coffee from the Vendor. Disgusting stuff. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have a Nespresso Zenius. They’re only four-hundred pounds.
Why am I here? I thought to myself. What was really motivating me to go through the same mundane things every day? The same train. The same people. The same petty issues. I came from a family of psychiatrists; fourth generation. It wasn’t even my meeting; it was Richard’s. Anne was in labour, and I owed him a favour. I didn’t care for the clients – as long as they didn’t hurt me or themselves in the meeting. I’d much rather be a lawyer or in Real Estate.
My thoughts were interrupted when the door opened... “Morning, Doc. I’m Freddy.”
I simply nodded and he took a seat. He looked as if he were auditioning for Where’s Wally? Despite the third degree burns that covered his face, the jumper made it hard for me to take him seriously as a killer. They’re always depicted very differently in films. He looked as if he was carrying scissors in his hand, great, not another self-harmer.
We weren’t alone long, when in walked a Nun!
“I’m sorry Sister, I think you have the wrong room. The chapel is down the corridor, on the left.”
My first client laughed at me and shook his head. The Sister sat down and just stared.
“That’s Valak. She’s a real psycho.” he cackled, mimicking the crazy sign. She looked up at the ceiling, before one of the boards fell over my first client’s head. But before I could offer my assistance, there was a knock at the door and a man, covering his face, poked his head around it.
“I’m sorry, but could we close the curtain? I erm, I don’t like the light.” His accent suggested he wasn’t from here. Hmm, coming from a far to seek help, so as not to be seen by people he knows.
“The sunlight hurts my eyes...” He began to sing.
“Ugh! Make it stop!” Freddy cried,
“Anyway, you sissy! At least I’ve stepped out of the dark.” He closed the curtain and the man at the door walked in,
“would you shut up? It ́s bad enough being here without you going on.” Now, I know he said he didn’t like the sun, but that man needed some Vitamin D. He was so pale! He looked almost dead.
“Hey Drac, how’d you get here without bursting into flames?”
Great, they knew one another. I was hoping everyone would be strangers, it always helps the opening up process of the Twelve Stages.
“I don’t burst into flames, dear boy. Anyway, I flew. Economy, sadly” he winked.
‘Client Three: Has taken drastic measures to seek help.’
But I now had three out of five. By this stage, I was keen to begin. It was an uncomfortable atmosphere; especially as they knew one another. They sat in silence and stared at me. I tried making conversation, but they were very literal and short with their answers.
My last two clients arrived together. A man and a small boy. Highly inappropriate. “I’m sorry sir, but you can’t bring your son into the meeting. It’s meant to be a safe space for us to talk.” I informed him.
“My son? Please! He’d be a lot more -”
“Shut it, Hanni.” The boy snapped.
“I ain’t a boy either you blind fuck!” Great, a kid with mummy issues. Two textbook cases in one room.
“You never liked him, did you, Ray?” Freddy laughed. The boy’s eyes seemed to go black. “Suppose it ́s nice, not being known.” Freddy continued, and the boy leapt out of his seat towards him, knife in hand, until the pale man intervened. It’s lucky he did; I froze. “Seriously you blood sucking fuck, let me go!”
‘Client Five: uses profanities to let out anger. Over compensating with swears, to help stop violent streak. Perhaps sought help before, and is using previous aids.’
“Please could you leave the knife over there? It shouldn’t even really be in here.” I think I masked my nervousness well, until he threw the knife into the wall and it just hung in there. I admit, I did let out a little cry. If William or Tristram had’ve heard me, I’d have never lived it down at the golf club.
Anyway, now they were all present, it was time to switch on my psychiatrist persona.
“Now everyone is here, I’d like to go around the circle. Introduce yourselves and tell us why you’re here. Why you’re seeking help now. And remember, this is a safe space. Give everyone their time to talk; no judging. To start with, I’m Gary.”
They all remained quiet, looking at the ground. “Well, someone needs to start. How about you? Why are you here, Freddy right?” the scarred man looked up and grinned evilly, making me shudder.
“Alright, erm. My name’s Freddy and... I’m an alcoholic!” Everyone burst out laughing and the Sister high fived him. It was at this point I began writing notes.
‘Freddy: Jokes to hide his insecurities. Typical Reaction Formation behaviour.’
“Okay, okay. I’m Freddy and I’m a killer. It’s now that I’m seeking help because, well, because I’m thinkin’ of shakin’ up a few cocktails at this new nightclub in town. I want to be a Cocktail Master. They’ve offered me free training too! But of course, it’s night work. And my killing activities take place at night. But I don’t get a kick out of it anymore... plus no pay.”
The pale one smirked, so naturally, I decided to put him on the spot. I didn’t like singling people out, but he needed to realise who was in charge of the meeting.
“So, you. Why are you here?”
“My name is Dracula. I’m a killer in the sack.” He laughed, winking to the Sister.
“I have never been happy with my life and I can ́t stop this addiction. I ́ve tried everything, I just want to have a normal job at the Pizzeria in Town, but the tomato sauce reminds me of blood. And I also have a fear of, erm, ga...” he began to mumble.
“Garlic. He’s afraid of garlic.” The man who the boy referred to as ‘Hanni’ replied. “Now me, I love tomato sauce. Slathered all over some roasted, erm, Pork?”
“Yeah... Pork. Good one Hanni.” The boy smirked.
“I’m Chucky, but my friends call me Ray. I’m not a killer, I’m more of a, thief?”
The pale one rolled his eyes dramatically and looked at him.
“Yes, a thief of bodies. Well, that was your plan anyway. Still a boy though, I see?” he laughed.
‘Chucky: Peter Pan complex.’
“That’s a good start, Chucky. So why have you chosen to come here today?” I was expecting him to mask the truth. That would’ve been consistent with his over-confident persona. But, his confession wasn’t funny. He stared at the floor, his legs swinging as they dangled from the chair.
“I want to go back to the man I used to be. I hate being this small. I want to join the circus in Blackpool, but like everyone else, they think I’m a child. So, they won’t employ me. The Endresz family will only allow children from their own family.” He sighed.
‘Chucky: Subject to Labelling Theory.’
Dracula smirked. “A circus? I didn’t think freak shows were allowed anymore?”
“Dracula, please. This is a safe space.”
“You keep saying that, but, ugh, never mind.” Chucky was getting frustrated, so I tried to move everyone along.
“And you, Sister?” I asked flatly.
“Excuse me doctor, there’s a difference between a nun and a sister...” ‘Hanni’ proceeded to tell me. I don’t expect to be spoken to like that, when I’ve given up my morning to speak to these people.
“And there’s a difference between me caring and me getting paid to do this. She grimaced at me, she probably didn’t understand that even therapists are human as well.
“So, who would like to go next?” I asked.
“I’ll go. My name is Hannibal, for starters. Not Hanni. I too am a doctor, Gary. It’s nice to have something in common with someone here.”
I didn ́t have a chance to take in his appearance because he seemed so... so, normal. The others wore torn, ripped and even outlandish clothing. But Hannibal was in a suit. He was calm, smiling. I wasn’t sure if this was an act, or really him.
So, I nodded, but Dracula wasn’t as agreeable. “What do you mean? We are all killers. Apart from this Gary mortal. No offence, sir. We all have it common! Know your place, stop trying to make out you’re something special. You’re as bad as that idiot, Leslie
Nielsen, who made me look like an idiot. You’re a killer, Hannibal. Simple as.”
“You are the Merlot to my Chianti; I am deep and rich, whereas you Dracula, are soft and
supple.” Hannibal smiled.
‘Hannibal: Would benefit from Aversion Therapy.’
“Aww, the great Hannibal Lecter reduced to coming to a place like this, all because his flesh lust got him caught. Like Freddy, gets rid of anyone who can’t fight back. Little Chucky, the one doll freak show, who will never become a real man like me...” Dracula began.
Chucky looked over at Freddy and nodded. He found a use for those scissors; he sliced through the curtains with them and the sun streamed in. Dracula fitted before turning to ash. How was I meant to explain that away?
“I’m sure vlad he’s gone!” Chucky cried with laughter.
Valak smiled, then a hymn began to play.
“No phones please,” I said, looking around. But there was no phone in sight. She stood up. The room went cold.
The only light, was the sun peering through the cuts in the curtains.
Valak stood up.
“Ugh! This happens every time I try to speak.” She huffed. My eyes widened and I sighed with relief.
“I didn’t mean to scare any of you. I’m sorry.” She bowed, kissed her cross and sat back down in her chair.
“Unfortunately, this is why I am here. I admit, I have killed in the past. But I was watching a programme – Call the Midwife – and something inside of me just clicked. I want to be a midwife more than anything!”
‘Valak: Bad past, but has a good support behind her to change.’
“Well that sums it up I guess, you’re all pretty much textbook cases.” I said simply and closed my notepad. They all looked at each other, exasperated. They turned to look at me once more.
“Look Dickhead, we’re all paying for this session, aren’t you meant to help us out?” Chucky asked, shuffling uncomfortably in his seat.
‘Chucky: Challenging the authority, compulsive behaviour since being possessed in the body of a doll. Note to self: do not confront directly, will only rile him up further.’
Hannibal was sat calmly, looking at his nails. He hadn’t said as much as the others, but I could see the doctor was examining everything. One doesn’t need to speak when one already knows the answers, and I could tell he already knew something about me. He was waiting for an opportune moment to say it.
I think he was waiting for something to happen, I hated the fact that there was someone smarter than me in a room, where I’m meant to have control. The thought made me audibly grind my teeth as I looked at Hannibal, he smirked and continued his attention on his nails.
‘Hannibal: clear narcissistic behaviour, possibly a God complex? High analysis skills, high IQ and calm demeanour. Difficult to read, he plays on the fact that he knows more than I. Enjoys watching people struggle. Classic psychopath.’
“Look you’re all here because you did something and now you need my help to sort yourselves out. Right, well... addictive behaviour is pretty easy, I’ve read a few cases in my studies and the majority of the time they work.” Once again, they all turned to each other, Freddy scraped the side of his seat with his claws as he stood up.
“Studies? We’re not fucking nut cases in one of your stupid books! This is really happening, if you were dreaming, I would’ve killed you by now.” I knew Freddy’s behaviour straightaway, my father always had one of these types in his office.
“Yeah, I’ve seen your type, preppy rich boys. You had it so easy in your life, didn’t you? Doing what daddy wanted so he would be proud of you? Tell me Doc, you think your dad would be as proud of you, if you did the thing you wanted? Would he welcome you with open arms?”
How did this suddenly become about me? I was losing control of them and the meeting. I stood up to my full six-foot height. I could see Hannibal smirk out of the corner of his mouth,
“And what, may I ask, is so funny?” I gritted my teeth again.
God, I couldn’t stand him!
He finally stood up, dammit - he was tall too! He smoothed over his suit and walked towards me, standing face to face with me.
“Clearly doctor, you have unresolved issues with yourself.” He stated calmly and I had to stop myself from breaking out into a sweat.
“Alright, sit back down and we can have a real group discussion okay?” I stumbled on my words, but Hannibal didn’t put up a fight as he sat back down and everyone looked at him in shock.
“He spoke.” Freddy mumbled to Valak, who wasn’t paying attention as she was turning her Rosary Beads.
“You know I noticed...” Here we go again!
“Whenever you’re nervous, you tap your leg three times. Why is that?” Hannibal smiled, everyone looked to me for an answer. I knew why. I’m guessing Hannibal had an inkling too...
“Why don’t you tell me?” I challenged as I sat down, he crossed his legs and relaxed back into the chair.
“You had a pet. A dog I’m guessing, and you used to gesture to it by tapping your leg. A nervous, quiet child at home, you took comfort in the company of a dog that provided you with the one thing you didn’t have growing up. Friendship.” He was good, I’ll give him that.
“Wh -- how the hell did you know he had a pet dog from all that?” Chucky spluttered.
“They taught this in Psych 101, it’s basic Attachment Theory, Ray. Wouldn’t you say so, Doctor Gary?” Hannibal replied, looking up at me, grinning smugly.
“Are you fucking kidding? He could’ve had a pet fucking goldfish!” Chucky was getting wound up, he wasn’t the only one; I was beginning to derail in a room full of serial killers. Great.
“I can see that look in your eyes Doctor, what’s on your mind?” Valak asked.
“I think maybe you need help, Doctor. Let’s swap seats.” Hannibal grinned.
“Enough, I’ve taken a few notes on your behaviour and I think I may have a few suggestions that can help with your, problems.” I said, my hands were shaking as I opened my notebook.
They were right. I did live a privileged life, but I wasn’t happy. Was my father happy? Of course! I was a mirror image of him in his youth. I was the ideal son, doing everything his father wanted. But did he ever ask me what I wanted from my life? No, but it wouldn’t matter either way because those dreams would have been crushed into a mere speck of dust, and brushed under the worn-out rug of hope.
“This session was essentially a test, to see if you would all come. The fact that you did shows some level of dedication, which we need to continue working on. That is, if you want help and you’re willing to put in the time and effort?” A few nodded, Hannibal smiled at me, but I knew he was hoping I would tick him off as ‘not nuts’ - so he could roam around a free killer once again. But Chucky wasn’t having any of it.
“You mean you were testing us from the beginning? Are you fucking kidding me? And you expect us to trust you? I’m outta here...” he jumped off his seat and stormed out the room, I could see the others shake their heads.
“He’s always been a hot head.” Freddy said grimly, as he turned back to me with a new look in his eye.
I’d managed to keep three out of the five clients – better than anyone expected. “I think, doctor, it wasn’t a test for us, but a test for you.” Valak commented.
A test for me? The cheek of it!
“You immediately made assumptions about the type of people we were as we walked in, yet others, tend not to pass judgment. The idea is to help those who seek help. So why give up on something you never started doing?” Hannibal continued and my eyes sunk into my notebook.
They were right, was I helping? Was I even happy doing this? I was raised to be compliant all my life. Maybe it was time to break away from duty and step into happiness. I looked up from my notebook. I took my pen, clicked it and pen touched paper, as the sun glimmered through the ripped curtains.
If they could change, then so could I. “Right, let’s get started.”