How Monsters Are Made
by Jack Pettie
Appointments were behind the usual fifty minutes. The waiting room was cramped and too warm. The air conditioner was on the blink, leaving two oscillating fans to keep nine people with mental issues from going over the edge. That was except for Victor Reynolds.
Victor sat marinating in sweat in his usual spot at the end of the leather sofa. He didn't seem to notice the stifling heat. He was, however, acutely mindful of the others waiting there. They were fidgeting like market fryers in a cage, shifting in their sticky seats, using magazines for fans, wiping away salty perspiration glistening on their pulsating necks. All he could think about was which ones were the monsters and which were the prey.
It's all in the eyes, he thought. I have to get use to looking for the evil in their eyes.
Victor was still reeling over last night. He had finally followed through on one of his missions, had done what needed to be done. Yet it hadn't satisfied his craving. He felt like a vegan who'd rediscovered the sinful taste of a Big Mac. The reasoning side of his old brain knew what he now loved was an abomination. But the most primitive lizard part of his new monster brain had reacted out of instinct, and it felt great. But now he was confused. Was "doing right" really the way it had to be? After what he'd accomplished, how could evil not have a loophole?
Victor took a drink from the bottle of water he carried. He hoped the good doctor could show him how to curb his new gluttony before it got out of hand. But before the doctor could help him, he'd have to tell her what he'd done last night. And for the doctor to begin to understand his actions, he'd have to tell what took place thirty-seven years ago. That was the one thing he'd never shared that with anyone.
This would make the forty-second therapy session for the forty-seven-year-old handyman. After years of struggling with the memories of an abused childhood, Victor had decided a year ago that he'd see if a shrink could help with the nightmares. But most of all, he hoped to find some peace from the guilt over Claire.
So far, he'd opened up and shared every issue that Dr. Waters had brought up. Except for what happened to Claire. He just couldn't bring himself to share that. What he'd let happen had sentenced him to a life of torment...torment he felt had been rightly deserved. He had never told the story of what occurred that blistering summer afternoon and never intended to. The events of that day was sinister data he fought to keep locked away in the deepest crevice of his brain. Ah, but his prankster memory projector always seemed to find an excuse to betray him and switch itself on. Then, like a bad seventies horror flick, grainy images would begin flickering on his mind's silver screen. And the scene most haunting -- a sobbing Claire lying across her bed, saying she never wanted to see him again. Victor didn't know if he'd ever be able to share this most painful thorn in his soul.
Just then, Dr. Waters's called to her receptionist over the intercom. "Carol, you can send in Mr. Reynolds now."
"Yes ma'am," answered the receptionist.
The receptionist led Victor into the session room and he took a seat in an over-stuffed brown leather recliner.
A few minutes later, the fiery-haired Dr. Waters entered carrying a can of Diet Coke. "Good afternoon, Victor," she said, taking her seat across from him.
"How are you doing today?" She took a sip, then set the can on the round glass coffee table positioned between them.
"I'm good," Victor answered, trying not to sound too overjoyed.
"You seem like you're feeling well?"
"Oh I'm okay," he said, brushing lint off his pants leg.
"So you're not depressed. Is that the case?" Dr. Waters said, picking up the note pad and pen off the end table and placing them in her lap.
"Haven't been for two days now," He answered.
"Would you like to talk about it?" She clicked the pen.
"Remember when you were a kid during summer break and it finally rained after being so hot? How you wanted to go outside and get soaked? Remember how great that felt? Well, that's how I'm feeling."
"Since you're in such a good mood, would you maybe like to talk about your childhood today?"
Victor looked at her with annoyed eyes. "Doc, I tell you something new every time I come in here. But you know how I feel about that part of my life." Nevertheless, he knew that she had to know what happened in order to take his therapy to the next level. She had told him several times that she believed whatever had occurred that day might've planted the seed in him that grew into the antisocial personality he was now. He knew she wouldn't give up and, after all he did want to get better.
"Victor, I know that I've been asking you to discuss what happened between you and your little girlfriend--"
"She wasn't my girlfriend. She was my best friend. There's a difference."
"I'm sorry, best friend. But the reason I keep pressing you, is I think that, if you talk about what happened, it would relieve you of the hostility and pent up rage that you've been carrying around all these years."
Victor said nothing, but his breath quickened as he glared down at the flickering red candle on the coffee table.
Dr. Waters leaned forward, resting elbows on her knees. "I know this is hard for you, having never talked about it before. But that's just it; whatever took place that day can't hurt you anymore. And talking about it in a safe place such as in this room with me, I promise, will bring relief to the heavy load you've been carrying."
But after last night, I feel like the world's weight has been lifted from my shoulders, Victor thought. He raised his eyes to meet hers. "So, you wanna know. You can't just let it lie, can you?"
Before she could respond, he added, "Well, this doctor-patient confidentiality you've been talking about for the last four months better be the truth."
She quickly jotted, Does this mean he hurt Claire in some way? "Victor, I promise. Whatever we discuss will never leave this room."
He was tired of holding it in, tired of the guilt. Maybe it was time.
"Okay." He switched positions in the chair. "Claire and I were ten when it happened. She was six months older, so naturally she was the boss. But on this day, I begged her into doing something I wanted to do. Something I had to do..."
Dr. Waters noticed his eyes swell with tears.
Victor cleared his throat. "There was this old couple who lived on our street. The kids on the block called her Aunt Rose and him Uncle Kelly. He was retired, but she worked. They didn't have any children themselves, but Aunt Rose loved kids. She'd keep cookies baked up, candy and soda pop on stock, and they had some board games and toys, in case us kids came over. Looking back, I know she really loved having children around." He paused. "But Uncle Kelly loved them in another way."
"Victor, what do you mean by that?" Dr. Waters softly asked.
"He ... um, you know." Victor couldn't say it out loud.
"Did he touch you?"
"Yeah." Victor sighed. It was a relief to finally say it aloud. But now his anger was building again. "Tell me, Doc, why did I keep going back?"
"Quite often children return to their molesters because of the attention they receive. Some return, fearing reprisal if they don't. Maybe their abuser has threatened them in some way."
Dr. Waters scribbled angrily on the notepad: Uncle Kelly = monster. Jack = ? She hoped this wasn't what Victor had been keeping from her.
His eyes were fixed on the flickering flame. "What happened to Claire was my fault.
"It's quite normal for child to feel guilt. But that's all in the past."
"But why did I..." He covered his face with trembling hands and began sobbing. "...take Claire to his house."
"I'm sorry. Why did you what?" Dr. Waters didn't understand.
"I led her into the freak's grasp."
A dry silence filled the hot room.
Dr. Waters was stunned, but now she realized why it was so difficult for Victor. All the years, he'd been blaming himself for something that had been out of his control. He had been a child under the control of a skilled, manipulative adult.
Finally, Victor raised his head. He wiped tears away with his shirt sleeve. "Remember back when kids were booted out the door after breakfast and not let back in the house until lunch?"
"Oh, yes, the days of drinking from garden hoses," she concurred with a smile.
Victor continued. "We lived on one of the oldest streets in Mesquite. It didn't get paved with asphalt until the summer of the bi-centennial. Out of twenty homes on the block, only half had central air and heat. Uncle Kelly and Aunt Rose owned one of them. This by itself was enough to make a heat-stricken kid want to go hang out at their place. But then you add a couple of cute dogs, snacks, toys, and board games, and you had the perfect summer break oasis."
Victor snorted at the evilness of it all. "Anyway, that's what Uncle Kelly told me to tell Claire. Because of what he was doing to me, I knew what he intended. So, for a month I kept making up excuses for why she couldn't come. Truth is, I never asked her. Then one day Uncle Kelly got angry with me and said if I didn't bring her to his house, he would kill my mom and dad. So I had to, right?"
The doctor stopped writing and looked up. "Victor, a child relies on his parents for everything. So yes, in your mind, you were doing what it took to keep them safe. Plus children are raised to obey adults. So I'll say again Victor, you weren't at fault."
Victor took a drink of water. "I kept reminding myself that Uncle Kelly said all he wanted to do was play board games with Claire and me. And at first that's how it went. Uncle Kelly asked if we wanted some milk and cookies. Of course, we said yes. Then he asked Claire what her favorite game was, and she said Yahtzee. And of course, he had it..."
Dr. Waters jotted down, Well-equipped. Well-rehearsed. How many other victims?
"We started having fun, he kept feeding us cookies, and my worries left. That was until my father called from next door, telling me to come home for lunch. Then the fear came back. I didn't want to leave Claire there by herself, but if I didn't go straight home my ol' man would've given me the belt. By now, Claire was high on sugar cookies and into the game, so my leaving didn't seem to bother her. And it didn't help that Uncle Kelly was acting all grandfatherly, by putting his arm around her shoulders, saying, 'Oh, we'll be here having fun till you get back.'"
Victor pounded the armrest with his fists. "If only I hadn't left. I should've taken the beating."
"Remember, Victor, you were only a child," Dr. Waters said.
"But I knew better than to leave her there alone with him."
"But your father called you. You had no choice."
"I was a coward," he growled at the candle flame, the grip of his fingers almost puncturing the leather armrest. "I ran home and my parents were waiting in the driveway by the car. My mother told they had to go the hospital and visit with a sick friend. Then she said for me to make sure I did the dishes before going back outside. I went in the house and the sink was heaping full, so I threw my lunch out to the dogs and cleaned the dishes as fast I could."
Victor paused, and Dr. Waters saw the candle flame dancing in his pupils. Then the shadows on his face got darker and he now peered through paper-thin slits. The age-wrinkles deepened around his eyes, turning a pain-laden face into that of a beast.
"I was only gone twenty minutes," he said low. "I ran back to Uncle Kelly's and I didn't bother with knocking. I just barged through the door. I scrambled through the house and into the dinning room, but Claire was gone. Uncle Kelly was sitting sideways at the dinning table, facing me with a relaxed expression on his old wrinkled face. He was drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette. 'Where's Claire?' I demanded. 'Oh, she had to go home,' he answered with a grin. I looked around the room and saw the table was standing askew. Claire's glass was turned over and milk was dripping off the table. I followed the drops down and saw the dice-cup and dice scattered on the floor." Victor's voice was a low agonized growl.
Dr. Waters watched Victor's chest swell with a deep breath, then exhale. His body shook with rage. She looked at the wall clock. They were ten minutes over. "Victor, would you like to take a break? We can pick it up here next week."
He didn't hear her. In Victor's mind, he was ten again and standing in that dimly lit dinning room looking at his Dr. Frankenstein -- the one who'd made him the monster he was today.
"I thought about the things Uncle Kelly had done to me, and I ran out of the house to Claire's home next door. I leaped onto the front porch, looked through the screen door, and saw Geneva, Claire's mother, in the kitchen. I yelled through the screen if I could come in. Then I entered and ran to Claire's bedroom. The door was closed, so I opened it slightly and peeked inside. She was lying on the bed with her back facing me, curled in a ball and crying. Hearing the door creak, she turned saw me, and screamed at me to leave, that she never wanted to talk to me again."
Victor began sobbing again. "I-I, didn't know what else to do, so I went home. I was lost without Claire. She was my only friend and I had betrayed her. I hated Uncle Kelly for what he was doing to me. But now he'd hurt Claire..."
"Victor, did you tell anyone?" Dr. Waters asked
"No. I was too afraid he'd harm my parents."
"So what did you do?"
"Nothing. I did nothing. Claire moved away not long after that and everything was as it never happened. Except in my mind."
"What happened to Uncle Kelly?"
"A month after Claire moved, he died one night in his sleep. Can you believe that? No telling how many children he molested and God just let him pass away peaceful."
Now Dr. Waters glared at the candle flame. "Well, I hope that there's a place for people like this Uncle Kelly. But you know--"
Victor interrupted. "I thought about it many times, what it would have been like to kill him. How I could do it, how painful I could make it for him. My favorite way was, was to drive a stake through his heart like a vampire. I mean, that's what pedophiles are...vampires. They suck the innocence from children..."
"Victor, it is quite normal for victims to fantasize about hurting their abusers," Dr. Waters said.
"What about when you're grown, and you still fantasize about killing?" Victor asked.
"That too is normal." She paused. "But what you mean is killing Uncle Kelly, right?"
He slammed his hands down on the arms of the chair. "No. I mean every time I hear about some poor child being abused or abducted. It makes me so angry, I want to go find the monster who did it and ... and rip their vampire heads off their shoulders."
Stunned at the amount rage Victor was showing, Dr. Waters quickly said, "Adults tend to fantasize in a more graphic and extreme nature. It's because they've grown and have experienced more hardships, witnessed more acts of violence. But Victor, this is very unhealthy." She took a sip of the Coke.
"I killed someone last night." Victor's tone was as calm as if he were talking about going to the store.
Dr. Waters chocked on her drink. Through the coughing, she struggled to say, "Did you say you killed someone?"
Their eyes met in long silence.
Dr. Waters sat frozen. She'd stopped writing, stopped choking, and almost stopped breathing. Was he telling the truth, or was this just another of his fantasies?
Finally, Victor said, "I guess now you're going to call the police?"
"Is that what you want me to do?" she asked, clearing her throat.
"Why, no. But don't you have to?"
"Do you have plans to harm anyone else?"
"No," he lied.
"Well, like I've told you before. Unless I have the intended victim's name, or if you tell me you're about to harm yourself or another person, what you say in this room is confidential. If I go to the authorities I can lose my license." Then she pointed her French manicured finger at him. "But if you get the urge to kill again, you have to promise to call me before you act."
"So, what now?"
"First, explain what took place."
Victor sat up straight in the chair. "You see, I've been looking up registered sex offenders online for a while now. You know, the ones in my area, just in case one moved into the apartments where I live. There're a lot of children living there." He paused. "Well, there's this guy that was just put into the system, and he was living in my zip code."
"What made him different from the others in your zip code?"
"He sexually assaulted a little girl. Isn't that bad enough?"
Dr. Waters didn't have a counter argument for that last statement. Instead, she asked, "What did you, I mean, how did you murder this man?"
Victor gave the doctor a grim looked. "Doc, I don't think you want to know the details."
"Victor, I've been doing this for fifteen years, and I've talked with many people who have murdered. Nothing you can say--"
"I cut off his head, then reached down and ripped out his monster heart."
The doctor was silent as she fought back the taste of vomit. "Victor, what did you do with the body?"
"I left it and the head in his home?"
"What did you do with..." She hesitated.
"The heart?" he said, picking up her thought. "That, I believe I'll keep to myself."
Dr. Walters half-closed her notebook, but scrawled a single word before withdrawing the pen from the page:
© 2010 Jack Pettie
Bio: Jack Pettie has been writing full time for three years. His work has been published in an anthology for North Texas writers and in the webzine, Yellow Mama. He has recently completed his first novel, a thriller, and is seeking representation.
E-mail: Jack Pettie
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