Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Creature

Shortly after three AM he came downstairs and caught his wife running away. She turned to face him, still gripping the screen door, eyes flickering from the artificial glow of the small TV. It was difficult to imagine her as the woman who would hike over a glacier with a broken forearm a mere two years from this moment. She looked frail, built of cold fingers, thin wrists, and irresponsibly wild hair except for her eyes which were glowing white hot from an eerie inner furnace or the reflection of the TV. He flipped on the kitchen light, walking to the fridge in his matching pajamas. He owned seven pairs, one for each day of the week, even though he found them itchy and restrictive. Adherence to routine had saved the lives of so many of his patients. It was easy to imagine him as the author of Psychopathological Explorers of The Delusional Mind, right down to the thoughtful pose for the book jacket. She was tall and thin, he was taller and thinner. Together they looked like two lost locusts.

"Lime sherbet?" He asked, opening the freezer. The cottage had never been as silent, the television remained muted, and the chubby June bugs halted their clumsy assault on the window. It seemed entirely possible that they were the only two people awake in Wasaga Beach. He carefully placed two scoops in a dessert bowl while his mind blazed with plots to get between her and the door. They both knew that if she ran he could catch her before she reached the main road. They both knew she had stopped taking her medication.

The children were asleep. It might work in his favour if they were awake. He pulled a chair out from the kitchen table, allowing it to drag across the floor, sitting as casually as possible under the circumstances. If he hadn't woken up, if he hadn't had a craving, the woman he loved would be gone.

“Out for a walk?” he asked.

“No,” she said, watching him. He had yet to make eye contact.

“You could have lied.”

“I'm leaving.”

“You've made up your mind?” He waited two full spoons for an answer. “If you've made up your mind why don't you go?”

“You can't watch me all the time.” He considered this. That wasn't true. She could be committed again. They could start over in the long hallways, large pictorial schedules, and padded rooms.  He didn't want that; he wanted his wife.

“Can I talk to my wife?”

“I'm your wife.” she responded. He took a slow bite, leaving the spoon in his mouth, letting the flavour melt. He should have destroyed that picture. It was optimistic to think it could be buried beneath Polaroids and VHS tapes in the basement. She was compelled to find it. How many days had she snuck away to search the corners of this cottage? He watched her take her medication -how had she deceived him? These were errors in professional judgment and they stung him to the core. He smiled. He was practically the greatest psychopathologist of the delusional mind, once the German died he would be the unequivocal leader in his field. He had an outside shot at the Nobel. And it was he who had kept a promise to a lunatic for love. He was determined to redeem his error. The proper way to show his commitment would be to destroy the picture that held so much power over her mind. Shred and burn that image to set her free.

“I'm not going to force you to take any medication.” he said. “I'm here to remind you that you chose to take the medication. It was a long process and a choice that you made several times with a clear head before we-”

“Shut the fuck up.” she said, regretting it. She knew he was weighing her words, observing, dissecting and diagnosing them, building an expert opinion that would lead to her freedom or imprisonment. In an instant she saw the horrible labyrinth of medical literature that had always been between them, a grotesque maze of twisted steel corridors, her strongest convictions marching in endless circles, stepping over emotions, starved to death for attention. She looked at her husband, a man who loved a version of her deeply. In her hand she held the drawing, a deteriorating piece of gray construction paper marked by pastel crayons almost thirty years ago. The picture of the creature.

“What about Matty and Vicky? You're going to walk out on your family?”

“I already have.” she said. He shrugged, .

“You're still here.”


“There must be something keeping you here.”

“You're not my first family.”

“You're sick. You need a safe place to rest and your medication.”

“I had a family in Oregon. A husband and two kids.”

“You've never been to Oregon.”

“I had a child in Oregon when I was seventeen.” She watched him finish his sherbet. “It's not a 
delusion. I had a family and I had to leave them and I have to leave again.” He looked at her. “You've always known that my records didn't add up. The medical-”

“What are you going to do? Say it. I'd like to hear you say it.”

“I'm going to find this.” She held up the picture.

“What is that?”

“You know what it is.”

“I'd like to hear you say it. I think it would be good to hear it out in the open.”

“This is the creature that I saw when I was seven,”


“You know where.” He kept his clinical silence, demanding her to continue. “In the forest. When I was in the car I looked out the window and saw it in the forest.”

“How old were you?”

“I told you.”

“Will you say it again?”

“I was seven.”

"If that's sounds normal to you then there's nothing I can do.” He said. “Did you want to leave a note for the children?"

"Tell them that I have to find it."

“Here.” He pulled out a chair. “This will take two minutes. I'll write the note, what should it say?”

“I have to find it.”

"Find what?" She gestured to the drawing in her hand. "I know," he said "but how do you want to tell them?" She paused, unable to say it aloud. He felt her hand on his leg. He put his arm around her as she started to sob.

"The creature. I have to find the creature."

“Why not sleep on it and we'll talk in the morning?" She sat up."The creature is going to be out there tomorrow." He was playing a dangerous game, reinforcing her delusions. "Come back to bed and we'll talk with clearer heads in the morning."

"I'm leaving." She walked back to the screen door. He tried to follow but he could not. He looked down. His leg had been handcuffed to the thick ornamental trim of the table. Panic ran through him. He might be able to free himself. He may be able to crack the oak table. If he could reach the bottom drawer he could get the meat cleaver to break the chain. It would take too much time. She would be out of sight. He couldn't reach the phone. He could yell for the neighbours. He prepared to yell.

"Goodbye." She turned to leave.

"Mom?" asked a voice from the stairs.