Adam stopped at home to change out of his uniform before heading to the Payton Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. He realized as he was giving himself a once over in the small mirror above his bathroom sink that he had forgotten to take the anxiety meds Dr. Adler had prescribed him. Adam had a large collection of pill bottles and days of the week dispensers courtesy of his elderly parents. He popped open the days allotment with a deft movement of his thumbnail, and snapped it closed again.
Adam felt fantastic.
had met Dr. Adler a year and a half ago, Adam was suffering from intense
night terrors, paranoia, memory blackouts, and... unusual urges, all
the result of severe brain trauma from a near fatal car accident that he
ironically couldn't remember. Adam knew he should be overwhelmed with
concern and anxiety over the morbidly cheerful specter of his daughter
flashing her pearly whites to sell toothpaste a year after her death.
He knew that his lack of urgency was wrong somehow, that his casual
acceptance of this mystery was some manifestation of his illness. Adam
also knew that the tongue and teeth and skin in his sandwich cooler
should have elicited a much stronger response from him, he knew all of
these things. He was no stranger to how people were supposed to be. He
had been a student of humanity his entire life, brain trauma
Adam snapped open the pill case again
and emptied the small white and red capsules into the toilet, watching
for a moment as tiny bubbles arose from their seams before flushing them
away. Adam looked at the remaining week's pills, and left them safely
enclosed in the dispenser. He knew how people were supposed to be.
he arrived at the Payton Center, the receptionist waved him through
with a pursed lip smile. Had she been friendlier before? He stepped
into Dr. Adler's office.
"And you're absolutely sure
it was her? I can look into this, I can contact the agency that posted
the ad" Adam couldn't quite tell if the good doctor was overstepping
out of concern for him, but Dr. Adler's agitation was good cover. Cover
for what? Adam coolly wondered where these instincts were coming from.
"I had another dream last night", Adam offered
abruptly, the good doctor stopped writing for a moment and looked up
quizzically. "Emily's mother was in this one, the shadow got her."
Adam surprised himself with the offering, he tilted his head down but
kept his eyes on Dr. Adler to see how he might react. Adam's nightmares
in the past had involved this shadow tearing into people Adam hadn't
known. A few adults and children, the children were the worst because
the shadow seemed to take a more true sadistic pleasure in them.
Adler resumed writing a few notes in his small spiral notebook and
looked up at Adam. "And how did you feel seeing her hurt?"
"I couldn't stop it", replied Adam, "I couldn't help her."
"You wanted to help her, though?"
was taken by surprise for a moment. He hadn't wanted to help her. The
glimpses of nightmare he remembered offered him a deep sense of
satisfaction and comfort that was as far from terror as anything could
Adam buried his head in his hands, "I tried to help
her, it was like the others, I couldn't stop it." Even as he feigned
distress, Adam saw the shadow chuckling admiringly at his performance
from the corner of his eye.
"Let's go back to Emily",
the doctor wrested Adam's attention away from his shaded friend, "What
did you do after you saw what you thought was her picture? Take me
through it, step by step, you went home, correct?"
home, I went to sleep" Adam answered. Had he? He felt more alert
than he'd been in months. He hadn't gone home and gone to sleep.
"You went home and went to sleep" Dr. Adler repeated, recording in his notebook.
right", answered Adam, "Home and to sleep, after taking my pills."
Adam suddenly remembered that he had also forgotten his pills the night
Adam's shadow creature, the stuff of his
nightmares, was more alive than Adam had ever remembered him being.
Instead of using the techniques the doctor had taught him to curb the
creature, Adam's eyes followed the shadow as it flitted around the room,
settling behind the good doctor. Why was Emily and Adam's picture in a
frame on the doctor's desk? Didn't he have other clients?
you went home, took your pills, and went to sleep. And then you got up
this morning, concerned about what you had seen, and called me"
Adam hadn't called him until he'd found the human parts in his sandwich cooler, "Yes, I woke up and called you."
The shadow shook with laughter and swung a black circle pendant back and forth mockingly. Adam smiled back.