The center was dark save for a lone light in Dr. Adler's office. Adam hadn't expected to see the secretary at her desk, but he was startled to see that the desk itself was not there. Gone also were the few chairs, tables, and lamps that had adorned the small waiting area.
"Come in, Adam," the doctor called from his office. "We've got the place to ourselves, and I've got a lot to tell you"
walked through the door to find Dr. Adler pouring champagne into two
fluted glasses. The doctor chuckled weakly, "We may as well celebrate
the end, though it's come a lot sooner than I'd hoped"
that interfere with my medication?", Adam asked, and again Dr. Adler
chuckled weakly. "Adam, there is no more medication. I know you've
been taking it only sporadically of late," Adam opened his mouth to
protest but Dr. Adler nimbly bridged the gap, "it doesn't matter, son,
there is no more medication, no more treatment, no more hypnosis. In
fact after today we will likely never see each other again."
drank the champagne quickly and poured himself another glass, his broad
shoulders slumped. He sat heavily on the only seat left in the room,
the couch on which he'd taken so many after session naps. Dr. Adler sat
on the desk looking down at the tall man. "You were perfect for the
program, I want you to understand, Adam. You wanted this, and we wanted
you.", the doctor handed Adam a manilla envelope. "Go ahead, open it.
That is your permission slip, if you will, authorizing the company to
tinker with your brain. You wanted to get well, Adam. Though to be
fair we did have you over a barrel."
Adam had taken the
papers from the envelope and stared at a gray and black photocopied
picture of his aged parents. They looked back at their son from beneath
a still layer of dark water, those familiar circles carved into their
skin. Not exactly how he remembered finding them, or was it? How had
Dr. Adler gotten this photo? Beyond this picture were more, pictures of
Emily and Adam sitting on the bench in the hospital courtyard where
he'd spent so many months healing from his accident. Each picture was
labeled, "Week 1", "Week 2", on and on in the doctor's sharp and tidy
"Empathy replacement therapy", the doctor
pressed on, "Adam I need you to focus on what I'm telling you, it may
sound ridiculous, but you know it's true. You know it's true because
you've never gotten better. Not really.", The doctor looked down and
away. "What we tried to do, what I tried to do," the good doctor
sighed, "you did so well. It just didn't work, Adam, I was wrong, and I
can't protect you anymore." Dr. Adler cleared his throat and squared
his small shoulders, "Adam you have to protect yourself now, you have
Dr. Adler looked at Adam's confused
expression and softened. Adam had reached the picture of Emily's
mother. The photo wasn't ten years old or five years old, oh no. It
was far more recent. The woman was a bloodied mess, and the next
carefully cataloged photo was the image of the whore's teeth and tongue
in the bottom of the Savage sandwich cooler. An inky shadow rolled
slowly across Adam's eyes.
Dr. Adler went on.
there are bodies in your basement. You murdered your parents, you are a
predator. You were selected for this program because you displayed a
gift for emulating emotion, and because you were careful enough to not
have been caught. Oh you were a sharp one, Adam. The best we'd seen.
We thought, I thought, that you could be taught empathy and that a
broken past could be replaced, swapped with something healthier and
cleaner. This isn't repression, understand, though that is a small part
of the process. I've been working on creating simultaneous memories. I
thought we could break you and put you back together the right way.
Adam, Adam? I need to know that you understand me. I was wrong, you
weren't broken. What we've done has broken you."
chest and shoulders moved up and down rhythmically with each breath.
He had reached the final picture, though it was in black and white Adam
knew that the boys wore kelly green tee shirts and running shorts. Adam
could also see that he was among these tough boys, standing tall in the
back. Not all of team green made it into the group photo that year,
several of them were in the infirmary, having had nasty fight in the
night. None of the boys would say what had happened, though Adam's
knuckles were a shade darker than his uniform. Why had Adam thought
that he was team red?
"Adam, you don't have anything
to ask? Anything to say?" Dr. Adler looked at his hulking guest
quizzically. Why hadn't the boy spoken up?
Adam raised his eyes to Adler without lifting his head, "Is Emily real?"
Adam, Emily is an actress. I believed if I could make you connect with
a child, develop a bond," And here Dr. Adler's last sentence ended.
Adam had shattered the champagne bottle on the desk and slid it with a
twisting motion into the neck of this father who had unmade him. Dr.
Adler gripped Adam's neck and stared, his mouth opening and closing,
stuttering and sputtering, "Ba ba ba ba ba ba", and then it hung limp.
Adam mused for a moment at the spout of blood the bottle neck had
created before getting out his pocket knife and going to work.
he had finished fixing Dr. Adler, Adam rolled him into the area rug and
loaded him onto the van, along with all of his files.