Working title … is a spoiler. Never mind.

I’ve got this novel that’s consuming me and insisting on coming out. So, in lieu of the Ben-Day Spot commentary I promised, you get an excerpt of the rough draft.

This thing is seriously flowing better out of me than anything has in a long time. Usually I can only write long hand. This one? I can write it on the computer. I can write it long hand. It comes best when I voice record it.

Again, this is a rough draft, with next to no editing. If people like it, I’ll post more (that means you have to comment.)

ETA June 2013: Content notice for this and all other parts: discussions of crime, mental illness, personality disorders. Anything beyond that will have an additional content notice.

            Dr. Thomas Neill looked over the file of his newest patient. No known name. He had been in the institution for two years following a spree of rather gruesome murders, among lesser crimes. He had been dubbed John Doe #3 upon admittance, and would, when necessary, answer to John. The patient was unresponsive and uncooperative during therapy sessions, and, in general, to the three doctors before Neill, nothing but a time sink. Neill had no expectation of better results, but it was his job after all, and despite the number of years, still his calling.

The diagnoses from the former doctors ranged from extreme autism, to schizophrenia, to possible multiple consciousness disorder. The one repeated diagnosis was alexithymia. All these diagnoses were primarily based on the patient’s recorded behavior during his crime spree, which varied greatly from his current state. The typical result from a session was the patient repeating “Give me back my face,” apparently referring to the make-up he wore during his crimes, and no other words. He would not discuss his life outside the institution, his crimes, his motive, of anything else.

With a sigh, Neill closed the folder and rose to go his first session with John Doe #3.

Neill watched as the patient was brought in. As according to protocol, his hands were cuffed and chained to a heavy leather belt. His feet were shackled. He shuffled in between two guards, with no emotion on his face, which was apparently normal for this patient. He was tall, over six foot, and thin which added to the appearance of height. He had finely formed features, although he was average looking. Neill imagined him as the quiet neighbor no one expected anything from. He had dark skin – probably mixed race – and short neatly cut wavy hair. He sat down and the ankle cuffs were attached to a ring in the floor. The guard yanked on the chain, testing it, and nodded to Dr. Neill. The guards left, leaving him with his new patient.

Neill watched him for a moment, seeing if he would speak. He did not.

“My name’s Doctor Neill. I’m your new psychiatrist.”

The patient didn’t respond.

Neill continued. “I’ve been looking over your folder.”

The patient spoke up in a robot-like monotone. “Give me back my face.”

Neill decided to make the best of that opening that he could. “Your face? What precisely do you mean by that?”

The patient’s hand twitched toward his chin, not hitting the limit of the cuff. “My face,” he repeated, still in a monotone, “give it back to me.”

“You mean the make-up you were wearing when you were admitted?”

The patient’s eyes narrowed microscopically for an instant, then he nodded abruptly.

Neill spoke. “I wouldn’t be able to do such a thing without the head doctor’s authorization. I wouldn’t be able to justify such a request without a possibility of results. So I would need your cooperation first.”

The tip of the patient’s tongue moistened his bottom lip, very pink against his dark skin. “I want my face.” The ‘s’ sound was held just a moment long, the first hint of inflection Neill had heard.

“You could start with your name,” Neill suggested.

The patient hesitated a moment before replying, “They call me John here.”

Neill pressed. “But is that your name?”

The patient shook his head almost imperceptibly and stated, “Call me John.”

Neill understood the frustration that pervaded the notes of the previous doctors. This was certainly the most uncooperative patient he had dealt with yet, even in this institution that seemed to let any difficult patient slip through the cracks, offering them the minimum required care.

He tried again. “I’m not interested in what they call you here. I’d like to know your name,” he said gently.

The patient didn’t respond. Neill was unable to get any sort of information for the rest of the session and it was spent in mostly silence.

A soft tone chimed, indicating the end of their time and the guards return. Thirty seconds later the door opened and the guards came in. The opening procedure was reversed and the patient was escorted out.

Neill sighed and rubbed his head. He had hoped that perhaps the previous doctors’ failures were due to their lack of interest. He had met two of the three and discerned that their sole interest in this institution and its patients was the rather high, reliable paycheck. It was an easier job than a private psychiatric practice and potentially less stressful as long as you followed proper procedure. Unlike other criminal mental institutions, this one was well-known for its low escape rate and lower rate of staff endangerment. It was not, however, well-known for the recovery rate of its patients / inmates. But such a thing was not expected.

He rose and left, taking his notepad with its scant half page of writing, mostly doodles, with him. He had no hope for the next session to be any more productive, but, after all, one could never tell.


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