And when was the first time you felt like that?
The inmate looked away from the window framing the moonlit hills in the distance, and turned his attention back towards the doctor and the claustrophobic little room.
"I'm sorry what?"
"I said when was the first time you felt like that?"
The inmate paused, then slowly made his way back to the couch, the manacles clinking with each little shuffle step he took. He glanced once at the window and then gently leveled his empty burning gaze upon the bureaucrat.
He sat and stared at the chains that bound his wrists to his ankles and almost whispered to himself.
"When have I not been afraid."
The doctor pursed his quizzical lips.
The inmate leered at him.
"I remember when I was I child, I would hear the night calling to me. I used to think everybody had that experience but..." he glanced back towards the black widow, "I remember I thought milk would calm me down..." his pinky twitched reflexively, always surprised not to feel the twirling ring that was supposed to be on his wedding finger. "I don't know why I thought that. Warm milk was some childhood sedative they pushed on us. I would fantasize about running out into the night, into the woods-"
"That's right" the doctor interrupted. "You were born in-" He glanced down at the holopad on his lap.
"Maine" the inmate finished his thought.
"Yes that's right Maine. And you found comfort in the woods?"
"Not really. More like the idea of them. But there weren't any woods in the city, no natural place to flee except the giant cage park which the drug dealers and whores would defile nightly. That place was a death sentence after dark. At least that's what mother told me. But I would leave the apartment; walk out into the snow, there was some peace there. I always found peace in the snow. I would stand across the street from some brightly lit window and look into it; as if gazing into the eye of the home, the window to its soul."
"The window to its-" the doctor chuckled softly as he made another note, "that's clever. Go on."
"I would make myself as still as possible and I would watch."
"I would watch the people; the scene unfolding, whoever was there, whoever was on display. I would become one with the cold and the dark and the silence and I would watch them. I imagined their lives, their closeness. Sometimes I would study the house and figure out how I would make my way inside. I would start on the street and then move step by step to a ledge, a gutter, a balcony; but I always found a way inside."
"And did you ever break into any of these houses?"
The inmate glanced at the doctor who was busy looking at his notes, his eyes broiling with barely concealed rage.
"No. It wasn't like that. I never would have done something like that. I just fantasized about it. I would juxtapose the warmth and safety that must be inside with the cold and danger of being in the shadows on the street in the night; or the terror of being at home with mother. But I felt strangely comforted by the night. I remember when I was young, I was terrified of the dark. I would walk up the winding staircase of the old dilapidated Victorian house we lived in, imagining that hands were reaching out for me from the darkness. But as I grew older I realized there was something different about me. I didn't want to be afraid of the things in the dark; I wanted to be the thing in the dark.
The doctor raised his eyebrows and looked up from his notes.
"You wanted to cause people fear?"
The inmate stood and once again slowly shuffled his way over to the window, looking out over the vast horizon of dark wilderness.
"No. I wanted to control my fear. I realized that all of the things I had endured as a boy; the abuse, the terror, the depredations; had filled me with the only antidote available."
"And that was..." the doctor queried.
"Hate?" Asked the doctor curiously. "For your abusers?"
"Yes" the inmate's eyes drifted off beyond the snow covered fields in the distance, "but it was more than that, it was a hatred for all abusers, for all of the things lurking in the darkness, for all of the monsters. But I no longer wanted to run from them. I wanted to be them. I wanted to destroy them all by being the most ferocious among them, the most loathed, the most feared, the most revered. I wanted to be their master."
The doctor set his holopad down, sensing he was making real progress. "And that's why you...did the things you did?"
"Yes" replied the inmate, his eyes glassy and dull, their hazel hue flickering with an inner light. "I swore I would become a dark lord of myth, one that would bring order, one that would bend all the fiends to my will. If that meant unfettered ruthlessness, murder, betrayal, then so be it; if it meant guile and charm, then so much the better. I didn't care."
"No" intoned the doctor, "apparently not."
The inmate smiled, betraying a hint of wickedness.
"That's what I like about our little sessions doctor. You keep me honest. You remind me with your barely veiled judgement of who I am, what I am; what I'm capable of achieving beyond these walls, and the cost to my soul."
"You...think you can really accomplish anything beyond these walls?"
The inmate stared out the window into the distance. "Oh yes my dear friend. I'm going to accomplish so much. I'm going to subdue the most feared dragon of the realm, bend him to my will, destroy him, and usurp his place. I'm going to replace them all. When I'm done the whole world will be saved; there won't be a single monster left...except one."
Suddenly there was a knocking sound.
"Senator?" the muffled aide's voice came through the door. "Senator I'm sorry to disturb you sir but, we just got the call; Senator, it's the President."
The door slowly opened and a crack of light expanded into the dark office revealing the great mahogany desk, the plush leather chair, and the solitary shadowed figure standing behind it. The aide knew better than to interrupt the Senator when he was...well no one really knew what to call it; meditating was the euphemism most often used around the Capitol. But there were other things whispered as well, darker sentiments about the hours the Senator stood motionless in his office, staring out the window overlooking the Capitol. Some called him the "gargoyle", leering down from the parapets of the country's most sacred temple. The aide waited not sure what to do. She saw him standing there, rigid, frozen in space and time, motionless except for his peculiar tick of furiously twirling his wedding band with his pinky.
One of the interns came up behind her. "Is he..."
"Shush" she scolded him. "He's obviously very-"
"Ellen" the Senator's jovial voice suddenly broke the tense silence. "My goodness I seem to have drifted off yet again into the joy of watching the sunset. Lights!"
The command immediately dispelled both the physical darkness and the gnawing psychological apprehension that had begun slowly creeping into the hearts of the young assistants.
"What's this about the President calling?"
The Senator threw Ellen one of his most gracious and playful smiles. Her face lit up at being allowed such an intimate exchange during what would surely be a defining moment in history.
"Yes Senator, the call you...might have been expecting just came through. Sir, the President has requested you meet him in the Oval Office." She cast a warm smile of her own at the man she had come to regard as the best hope for a brighter future.
"Well then I mustn't keep that old dragon waiting."
Ellen and the intern exchanged smiles as the Senator moved out from behind his desk and began walking towards the door; as he passed them he winked and smiled, "Wish me luck."
They beamed with pride as he slowly brushed past them and started down the hall. The intern shook his head in wonder.
"Wow. I mean, to think, he's gonna be the new Vice President of the United States. He might even be President some day."
Ellen nodded with hopeful approval.
"He's a great man. Someone who could really make a difference. I don't know, I've just always felt like there was something about him. Something...destined for greatness."
The intern sighed. "Man what I wouldn't give to be that rich, to be that powerful, to be that...I don't know, to be that...."
Ellen watched as the Senator slowly continued down the corridor; his feet shuffling in that strange little gait which characterized his walk, like he couldn't quite take a full step without pain; and finished the intern's thought.
Copyright © 2017 Short Stories by Christopher Daniel Barnes - All Rights Reserved.