Dr. Fifer had just walked through the door of his house, he was a creature of habit so the first thing he did was go to his office and check his voice messages. He was considering getting a cell phone so he could be reached by his patients easier, and he would have already gotten one, if they weren't the size of a brick. As always there was a little red light flashing on his answering machine. “Jacob,” he said to himself.
Sure enough, Jacob had called, just as Dr. Fifer had thought, but there were also two others who had called. With one fat finger he pressed the button to replay his messages. As the tape rewound, the doctor took his shoes off and pulled a cigarette from the pack he kept in his drawer.
If his wife knew he was smoking, she wouldn’t be happy. She knew he had them in his desk drawer, but she didn’t know that he smoked them as well. When he started buying smokes again, he told her it was for the patients who smoked, he said “It makes them feel at ease. Makes it easier for them to tell me their problems.”
Of course that was true, to an extent. He bought them more so he could still smoke, while his wife thought he had quit. It worked well for his patients, because it does make them relax, and it helped him to not have to face the withdrawals, which he knew was something he didn’t want to do.
The tape had stopped rewinding and started to play with a loud, annoying beep.
“Dr. Fifer,” the timid voice of Angel Vance said, “I am having some trouble.”
Of course you are my dear, Fifer thought, you are a paranoid schizophrenic.
“I have seen those people, you know, the ones I’ve told you about. They have been watching me and I need to talk to you about it. I keep trying to remind myself they aren’t real, but they look so real. Please call me when you get this. I hope they didn’t bug my phone.”
Fifer chuckled a little. He knew she was going to be fine. There are a few patients which he would have to call back if he didn’t want them to either kill themselves or someone else. There was a high-pitched beep and the next message started.
“Doctor… I-I-I’m having those thoughts again,” Jacob’s voice came from the gray plastic box. His breathing was slow but also wavy, it hitched every time he inhaled causing him to have a sort of stutter to his breathing.
Fifer was looking at that strange painting he had bought. It was a disturbing piece; it appeared to be more of a photograph than a painting, of a monster coming from an old stone tunnel. It was painted by an artist he hadn’t heard of before buying the piece, but once he had, it made him curious to see what other works he had. They were hard to find, most people would tell him to leave once he mentioned the name Pickman, but with an unraveled diligence he found some more of the obscure artist’s work.
The piece he had was of a humanoid creature with long spindly arms which ended in claws. Each of the long nails was dripping blood and there was blood around its gnarled mouth. That being said, there were a few, well many, which were more frightening than the one Fifer had in his home office. There were also a few which weren’t nearly as morbid, and a few, which was the biggest surprise after finding all the other paintings, which seemed to be of normal people, albeit their faces seemed a little odd. The latter, Fifer had concluded, were earlier works of the demented artist.
When he had first seen that painting hanging in an antique store, he knew he wanted it. Not for any other reason than his own personal amusement. However, upon bringing the horrid thing into his house his wife needed a more suitable answer for his action; thinking quickly, he said it was to help his patients, the beast in the tunnel represented their insanity. If he could have them confront the monster that lurked in the darkness of that tunnel, it would be easier to confront the monster which resided in the annals of their minds.
Now that Jacob was talking, his attention had moved from that monster that hung over the fireplace and back to the box playing his patient’s voice.
“That picture you showed me… it-it fucked me up even more. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, all day, all night. For the past three full days. I need to talk to you, doc, please call me back once you get this. I am thinking some awful things again, and this time I don’t know if I can fight them back myself.”
Fifer had crushed the butt of his smoke into the glass ashtray. He knew that Jacob was psychotic, a dangerous psychotic. The urgency in Jacob’s voice made him pause the messages and pour a tumbler of brandy. His mind went back to their last session, the session when he showed the painting to Jacob. Forced him to look at what was hiding in the shadows of that subterranean tunnel. Told him that was the same monster that was haunting his mind. Now, Fifer was wondering if that was such a good idea.
Psychiatry isn’t really an exact science, Fifer knew that when he had started. The methods have been barbaric in the not too distant past, but now, with the advent of electroconvulsive therapy and the wonderful medication which has come out, the doctors of the mind can leave the ice baths forever. However, Fifer had some progress with ice baths and would still like to use that means of therapy from time to time. Not only that, he had seen some wonderful results with insulin comas and if it wasn’t frowned upon now, he would still be using them. Needless to say, there are some very suspect ideas which had been used in the past, and there will be more to come. Fifer was hoping to find a way to cure the mentally insane without the expensive medications.
He pressed play on the box and Jacob’s voice had filled the room once more.
“Doc, it's Jacob. I am hearing voices. Well, maybe they aren’t voices, but something. They are scratching at the walls. Trying to get into my house. I went for a walk and saw them. They knew I saw them, but I don’t know if they know I know. You see, they wear masks. They want to look like normal people, but they aren’t. I think I may have to kill them. Please call me. I don’t think I can wait much longer. They were watching me on my walk. I think they know. I will not let them kill me. And if they try I’m going to take as many as I can with me.
“Before you ask, I have been taking my meds. They just don’t seem to be working. I need some guidance, should I start shooting?”
The call ended with a louder click than before. He must have slammed the phone on the hook. Fifer ran his hand through his beard, and thought for a moment. “The meds don’t seem to be working,” he said to himself, and nodded while sucking on his upper lip. Another beep, another message. This time, however, it was a woman’s voice.
“Hello Dr. Fifer, Alexis here,” her voice was slow and monotonous. “It’s been two weeks and I still feel the same. The world is still the same drab place is has always been, I think I may need a stronger prescription. Okay, just wanted to let you know. Bye.”
Fifer smiled a little. He always thought that if someone had depression, it was Alexis. She sounded so much like the donkey from Winnie the Pooh. He also laughed because he really thought the pills would work for her; he had a feeling they wouldn’t do anything for Jacob, but Alexis shouldn’t have had any problem with the placebos. Another of his tests he was running on unsuspecting patients, this one, at least, had shown a lot of positive tests with others. Fifer was curious how many people could really be cured with nothing more than a sugar pill, and how strong their ailments would have to be before that would no longer work.
The next message, also the last, was once more Jacob. His breathing was labored and his speech was frantic. It was almost inaudible, and Fifer had to play it twice to understand exactly what he had said.
“Listen, I got one. He came to my house, knocked on the door. These things are so cunning, it was disguised as a little girl selling cookies. I have her tied up. I have to prove she is a monster, but the mask is on too tight. I have a knife and am about to peel away the mask. I just wanted to let you know that I have one. I will call back to let you know what I find. If you get this, call me as soon as you can. I hope they haven’t gotten to you yet. You’re the only one I can trust. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have learned these things were walking among us. Be safe doctor.”
Fifer finished his drink and looked at the phone, per policy, he had to report this to the police. That didn’t seem like a good idea though, if he did that then Jacob would never trust him again. His mind was already made up well before this last message though, and when the phone rang once more, as he stood up, he paused. He let the machine pick it up, it was Jacob.
“She, or should I say it, was a monster under that mask. Nothing more than a red monster waiting for me to let my guard down. Only then would it have stuck. I think they know now, so I am going to send as many back to hell before they kill me. Just wanted to let you know, these monsters are everywhere. You can tell by the eyes. Their eyes have little silver specks in the black part. Look at everyone’s eyes before you trust them. If they are wearing sunglasses, don’t trust them. It is the only way to truly know if they are a monster or not. Good luck doctor, and God bless.”
Fifer knew Jacob was going to kill many people tonight, he knew from the beginning he would kill people at one point or another. It was just a little sooner than he had planned. It didn’t matter though, everything he had wanted Jacob to do, he had done. Now he just needed to play the last message and call the cops in a few hours. Maybe Jacob would still be on his killing spree at that time. But, by then, he would have sent a lot of them to hell, as he put it.
The doctor walked to his office door, smiling. He thought it was ironic, he knew he was a little crazy, and the crazies never suspected it. He also felt so incredibly cunning, knowing now he could get the people who see him to do his dirty work. As he turned the doorknob he felt like a god. Not a soul alive was as smart as him in that moment.
He jumped a little to see his wife on the other side of the door. She hadn’t been there before, and it was a little disconcerting. Maybe she had known he was smoking, if she didn’t before, she did now. He reeked of smoke and booze.
She didn’t seem to notice, or at least she didn’t seem to care. “It’s time for dinner, dear,” she said. Their eyes met and he saw the little silver specks in her pupils. Once he found that very sexy, now it seemed sinister. A shiver ran up his back as he took a step back.
“What’s for dinner?” Fifer asked.
She didn’t say anything, just smiled.