Sunday, 26 August 2012

The talking cure

Dr. Fraud sat down in his wheely desk chair, and bounced up and down on it a couple of time.  The hydraulic lift in it was leaking very slowly, so each bounce forced the chair a little bit lower.  After five bounces he had the chair back down at the right height, and was wondering how it managed to creep up to its top height every evening after he went home.  He looked at his desk, checking that everything there was where he left it, and it was.  So it clearly wasn't anything too untoward going on.  He decided to make sure that he locked his office when he left this evening.
There were two large packages in his in-tray, both brown-beige boxes with Amazon stamped in large letters all over them.  He stood up again, and his chair whooshed up behind him to its full height.  Oblivious to this, he picked the first box up, grunting slightly with the effort, and scrutinised the address label carefully.  After a moment of squinting and trying to move the heavy box the right distance to his face he put it down again and got his glasses out of his breast pocket.  With them perched on his nose he could easily read the label and check that the package was addressed to him.  There had been an awkward incident a month early where his secretary had ordered something from a company called Amazonia and it had been put in his in-tray by accident.  She had come in while he was holding up lingerie-for-the-larger-lady in mild horror, wondering which of his patients had slipped their restraining order this time, dropped his tea on the carpet and screamed a thin, high-pitched whistle of a scream like a suicidal kettle at full-boil.  At this memory he looked up and checked the carpet near the door: yes, he could still see the wretched stain.
He tried to sit down again, and discovered that the chair was too high.  As he bounced it down to the proper height he wondered if there was someone hiding in his office.  Surely that was a mad thought though, wasn't it?  Shouldn't his patients be making wild accusations like that while he reassured them that they were just mental?  Wait, not mental.  Dr. Horncrumb had been quite explicit that they were to use only those definitions of mental health prescribed by the BMA, and not the ones Dr. Fraud was trying to popularise through his own book.
Behind the egg-timer that he used to track the progress of his meetings was a grapefruit knife that he'd repurposed as a letter-opener.  Technically he shouldn't have it in the office at all as it allowed a dement – that would be a patient whose view of the world differed significantly from other peoples – access to a weapon, but in his experiences the worst patients brought their own weapons with them anyway.  He sliced through the tape and glue holding the box together, and peeled it open to reveal three heavy books.  Each one appeared to be leather-bound, and there was a vaguely musty smell around the whole box.
"Madeleine Strum is here to see you, Doctor," said the intercom on his desk.  His secretary's voice was soft and sensual and she did specialist phone-line work in the evenings.  He pressed the button on the intercom and replied,
"Five minutes, please."
His secretary would undoubtedly assure Miss Strum that the doctor was locating her case-notes and reviewing their previous session before he had to start charging her, but in truth his computer was still playing up and he would once again be encouraging her to talk until her narcolepsy kicked in and then having her removed from the building by security.  He suspected this was making her abandonment issues worse but he was having a hard time caring about her.
He picked up the first book and carefully wiped dust off the dust-jacket.  Was that ironic?  English wasn't his first language, and certain concepts seemed to be too hard to describe.  The English seemed to think that ironic was obvious, but he'd never been able to work out what they meant by it.
The title wasn't on the front cover, but on the spine, which also required the dust to be cleaned away from it.  In faded gold lettering it read "Unausprechlichen Kulten", and the author's name, in much smaller, non-gold text was "Von Juntz".  Dr. Fraud sucked his breath in over his teeth, making a whistling sound.  He hadn't ordered this book, and he was positive that Amazon wouldn't retail it even if they could find a source for it.  Who had sent it to him, and how had they known...?
There was an invoice in the box, under the other two books, but it wasn't written in an alphabet that he recognised.  He wasn't even sure which of the characters were supposed to be numerals, and looking at it for more than five seconds gave him the beginnings of a headache.  With a growing, and darkening, suspicion, he checked the titles of the other books: "Cryptozoonomicon" was not on a forbidden list at least, but was certainly hard to locate, and "Glossolalgia", while probably the key to understanding the invoice, was supposed to have had all its extant copies burned.
"Madeleine Strum is here, Doctor," said the intercom again, with just a whisker of impatient in the voice.  Dr. Fraud sighed, and instructed his secretary to send her in.  The books would just have to wait until later....
"Madeleine," he said, standing up to greet her.  Behind him, his seat whooshed up to its full height again.  "Madeleine, I'd like to try something a little different today.  I'd like you to read the first couple of pages of this book out loud to me."  He handed her Glossolalgia.

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