HISSAC Highlands and Islands Short Story Association and Writing Competition



A patient, half laced with fear, half with rage, made a stage of my desk today. He stood full upright on my notebook, large as life and laughing.

‘Doctor,’ he said. ‘I’m lost. I don’t know what I am. I am a walrus, you are the egg man, or maybe the other way around.’ ‘Mr Jones, kindly get down from there and I’ll be glad to listen.’ He climbed down from his theatrical stance and frowned like a scolded three year old.

‘I think I’m losing my mind. If a mind is what I had to lose? I don’t believe in reality and my sanity is all at sea.’ ‘I see,’ I said. ‘When did all this begin?’ ‘That’s the thing,’ said Mr Jones. I was singing to the Sunday radio when I noticed I was singing a different song. The wrong one, as it would seem to the rest of the world.’ ‘I’ve never heard of that before, what did you sing?’ ‘I sang of freedom in my own words, but the curds floated away and Miss Muffet refused to sit. See? It’s happening again. Am I ill? Pass a pill of reason or a ration to relieve my hunger for answers,’ he pleaded.

I was aghast at what seemed a blast of psychosis from nowhere, punctuated by inflated gestures and gesticulations so abrupt, I jumped with each flail in fear. ‘Come here, my dear fellow. Stop your bellowing and steady. When you are ready I will examine you, remove your shirt.’ He was hurt and bleeding, a heart carved on his left breast and a chest with broken glass protruding. ‘Who did this,’ I asked.

‘God,’ he gasped as I touched the first shard. ‘Hard lessons had to be learned and I have burned in the pit of hell for mine. The demons have dined on me and my flesh has fallen from my frame. I’m to blame you know.’ ‘For what,’ I asked the wretch. ‘For stretching her neck.’ ‘Who’s neck?’ ‘The cherub child. The mild and meagre, easy eager, lady in my life,’ ‘Your wife?’ ‘Squeezed the life right out of her,’ he replied.

I was taken by his confession, and my growing tense obsession of this man was breeding in the feeding frenzy for more. ‘Miss McKenzie, hold all my calls,’ I intercomed to pause the day.

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘So she’s dead then and you killed her?’ ‘Killed her, milled her into powder with my power-chipper and sprinkled her like stars on the dark mountain path.’ He laughed and began to suck his thumb.

I was numb to the tragedy and ignoring his malady, became more nosy than professional. ‘This is no confessional, but go on.'

‘What’s wrong with me, doctor? Am I off the rails? Can these frail bones bare another day?’ ‘Look at it this way, do you feel mad? ‘Yes,’ he answered. ‘Then you are unlikely to be mad. Sad at your circumstance maybe, but mad, no. I don’t think so anyway.’ ‘I was fine yesterday, but the guilt has built since the blood was spilt and I can’t cope. I was hoping you might help. SPIDER!’ he yelped and leapt from his seat, and used my laptop as a swatter. ‘I forgot her for a minute and the memory brought the bugs. Slugs eat eyes you know, and they grow their young in the back of the skull. That’s what snot is, slug slime.’

He was a sublime maniac, and I was revelling. His travelling from real to wild abandon stretched each tendon of my curiosity. The reciprocity between us was exquisite and his visit was a highlight in my normal blighted workaday world and as I savoured he wavered for a moment and asked,

‘Where is my wife? She’s late. I hate it when she’s late.’

I could see his memory was drifting and the sifting of his yesterdays moved his eyes with rapid flicks. All the slick learning I had done had one purpose, to cure, but I was not sure wanted him well. I like him hell bent on madness and his sadness was my sucker. ‘Let the fucker dangle,’ I thought to myself and smiled; the child in me who stripped the spiders legs and put pegs on the ears of cats, shot rats and fed them to smaller children undefended.

My joy ended with a buzzer beckoning. By my reckoning I was close to climax till the axe of interruption broke my train. ‘Miss McKenzie! Have you no brain? I said no calls.’ ‘I’m sorry Doctor Hall,’ she said. ‘Mrs Jones is out here distraught. She’s looking for Mr Jones, may she come through?’

‘You lied to me Mr Jones. Mrs Jones is here, no dead. How dare you lead me on.’ The door opened. ‘Anything wrong?’ asked Mrs Jones. ‘Your husband has been raving and depraving me with lies.’ ‘No surprise really, he nearly killed himself today. Didn’t you?’ Mrs Jones asked her hubby gently. ‘He was trying to save our cat from a tree, when a bee stung his neck and he fell through the conservatory roof. If you need proof that my Mr Jones is a hero ask Nero, our moggy at home.’ ‘Why let him roam after such a fall?’ I asked. ‘Let him? Not at all. He ran from the scene like a screaming flame. I hold myself to blame. I went to get a ladder but the madder side of Mr Jones rushed on without. I shouted but his haste nearly wasted him before my words were heard. He flew like a bird but landed like a rock with a shocked cat safe in his hands. ‘He said you were dead,’ I said, unable to hide my disappointment. ‘His mind has come disjointed and his story is erratic. The bats in his attic have gnawed the wiring and his tiring tirade has upset my day. Take him away.’ ‘Your day? What of his? Nearly his last and a bastard for a saviour in you,’ she charred her admonition. Poor Mr Jones, in this condition and no-one to turn to but a quack. I’ll take him back from your low care, and be aware, Mr Jones needs to be more patient, but you, fowl physician need to be far more doctor.

With that, they left. Bereft, I put my head on my desk and with a limp finger pressed a button and called out, ‘Next.’