Part 32 – Creature Comforts
The creature within the room smiled displaying a double row of razor sharp teeth as it closed the door behind me. It was short, about half my height, and moved with an uneven shuffle. It’s body was a patchwork of green skin and tufts of purple hair. A collection of skin and bones, it looked more like an artist’s crude rendition of a gremlin or a goblin than a living-breathing being. I thought for sure it would jump out an attack me, but it merely stood there looking upon me with it’s grotesque wide-toothed grin.
“I’m Dr. Mansfield,” the creature spoke, it’s voice was soft almost melodious and I peered at it my mouth agape. It’s voice seemed an odd match to its grotesque visage and sank my teeth into my bottom lip. I took in it’s features, the slightly widened hips and the pair of disheveled lumps on it’s chest and realized that I was looking at a woman.
“Uh, Calista,” I replied, rubbing the back of my neck.
The doctor slammed the door shut behind me and hobbled toward a desk bathed in the shadows toward the back of the room. “I apologize, but I’m afraid that my eyes are quite sensitive to bright lights. I hope the dark doesn’t make you uncomfortable.”
I shook my head, watching the doctor jerk behind the desk, and disappear from sight. It lurched back into my sight a moment later, scratching and clawing its way up the desk and onto what looked to be a cross between a standard rolling office chair and an infant’s high chair.
When she was positioned atop it, she waved me toward her with both hands and pointed toward a seat on the opposite side of the desk. I complied, still feeling a little nervous around this odd little creature, but bolstered by my faith in Carrie. She worked with these people, I don’t think she would let me anywhere near them if she thought they were dangerous. Though the doctor’s appearance was grotesque, she was just the victim of a particularly unfortunate twist.
As if sensing my fears, she smiled, this time without showing her teeth and laughed. “I promise I don’t bite… much.”
I peered back at her, eyes wide before a smile touched the corners of my lips and I let loose a low throaty chuckle. Though it wasn’t terribly funny, it did much to release the tension and I was more than a little glad about that. At least, she seemed to have a sense of humor about her situation, which was more than I could say had I ended up looking like her.
“I’m going to be upfront with you, most of the therapists here rely on computer tests for this part of your exam, but truth be told I’m a little old-fashioned and prefer to interview you face to face. There are a lot of facial and vocal cues that most people make without realizing it and I can learn far more from that than any computer test. Truth be told, the holoscreens hurt my eyes. Since, I’m going to be asking you about yourself, I only think it’s fair you know a little about me.”
I didn’t speak, instead nodded and studied her face. She regarded me with a blank expression. She didn’t speak at first. Instead, she thrummed her clawed digits on the desktop. Finally, she exhaled and began to speak, her voice a little more than a soft murmur. “I’m sure you’ve surmised that I’m twisted, like yourself. I was born in the South and was raised in a time when the twisted weren’t as well publicized and most people believed us to be little more than an urban legend.”
I blinked, caught off guard by this admission. She must have been among one of the earliest generations of twisted. Her appearance was so strange, that I couldn’t begin to guess her age, but for her to have been alive during that time she wasn’t exactly a spring chicken.
I leaned forward already eager to hear more. “My father and mother were both survivors of the Antarctic Flu outbreak. At the time, nobody understood what caused people to undergo twists, and I grew up a more or less ordinary life unaware of the fate that awaited. It happened about midway into my teen years, my younger sister was terrified of the goblin she claimed lived in her closet. We didn’t get along particularly well and I thought it’d be funny to play a little prank on her. I waited inside her closet one night prepared to jump out when my father did his nightly check for the goblin. Unfortunately, that night when he did so, he found me… looking like this. I had underwent my twist,” She motioned down at herself and let out a long sigh.
“I fled, terrified of what I had become, and even more afraid of what my family would think. I never returned. I learned to fend for myself, living in abandoned homes, and dark alleyways. Anyplace where I could remain hidden. I discovered a unique power within myself, I could for short periods of time, make myself invisible. I made use of my trick to feed and clothe myself by stealing whatever I needed. I wandered from town to town, and state to state. I had little contact with other people, but the times I went out to retrieve what I needed to survive I began to hear murmurings of the twisted, and a place where some of them began to gather.”
“Spiral!” I blurted out, biting my tongue when I realized I’d interrupted her, but she only nodded and continued with the story.
“Although I was still only in my late teens, I had already grown quite cynical. Even now, I’m not sure what convinced me to come to Spiral, but when I did, I discovered that the stories were true. Unfortunately, even the other twisted were afraid of me. A few showed me kindness, however, and a family whose son whose twist was nearly as severe as my own took me in. For the first time in years I had found a home.”
“My new adoptive family encouraged me to go back to school and so I did. I completed my high school education and that might have been the end of my schooling had it not been for something quite unexpected.”
She paused a slow smile spreading across her face. “I hadn’t thought of my family in years. They seemed part of another life, and I did not believe I had any hopes of ever seeing them again. Why give myself false hope? So you can imagine my surprise when one day, I encountered my father. He recognized me at once and I fled from him fearing what he would do having found the creature that had ambushed him within his daughter’s closet. At first, my fears seemed confirmed as he chased after me, but then he called my name.”
I fought down my fear and confronted him. It seems my family had puzzled out that the goblin in my sister’s closet and I their oldest daughter were one and the same. In retrospect it seemed obvious. Their arrival in Spiral however was a coincidence. It seemed… that my sister had also undergone her twist. Though not severe, by most standards the change was significant enough to drive my family from our hometown. Like me, they had heard of Spiral and fled here hoping for sanctuary. They had not expected to find me there, and had all but given hope of seeing me again.”
“Reunited with my family, they encouraged me to interact with other twisted and I met many with stories similar to my own. No longer content to live in the shadows, I decided to do something with my life. I thought, perhaps, I could help others like myself and so I did…” She grinned clasping both hands atop the desk. “I won’t bore you with the rest of the details. Suffice it to say that I had to work hard to get my degree and get where I am now. I have been counseling twisted ever since.”
I eyed Dr. Mansfield and studied her knotted features. Her story had been interesting enough to keep my attention and the parallels to my own were obvious, but as she gazed back at me I wondered why she had felt the need to tell it to me.
“Now, why don’t you tell me about yourself?” The question hung on the open air and I paused realization dawning on me. She’d told me her life story to put me at ease. Probably in the hope that I would be more open to telling her about myself. Well, I shrugged, if that was her intent I guess she was about to get her way.
The moment I started talking I could hear her scribbling something on a notepad, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started giving her a little bit of my background, telling her about being raised by a single mother and my friendship with Megan. Before long I jumped headlong into the story telling her everything starting with my twist and ending with my arrival in Spiral. It was no easier to share than the last time, but I did keep myself from breaking down in tears.
Again, I refrained from mentioning Jeff and my confrontation with the jackasses in the convenience store. I worried, that as a trained therapist, she’d pick up on the omission, but if she did she said nothing about it.
The doctor leaned back in her chair and I stopped waiting for her to say something. When she did there was a slight quiver to her voice. “I am sorry for what you’ve been through. I can’t promise you it will get any easier, even among the twisted you will stand out in a crowd, but now, at least, it sounds as if you have the beginning of a support system.”
Next, she questioned me on specifics of my story, mostly about my feelings of rejection first from my mother then the people of Clearville, and my emotional state during those events.
She cleared her throat, and leaned forward. “Unfortunately, we don’t have as much time as I’d like. I fully encourage you to seek counseling. The sort of trauma you’ve experience has a way of coming back to you years later if you don’t address it.”
I nodded, but didn’t otherwise reply. She continued speaking a few reassuring words and reiterating the value of psychological counseling before moving on to other things. She started by asking me, what changes I might have noticed in my personality and behavior. I told her everything I could think of which wasn’t much. Mostly I told her about how I liked to wear feminine and revealing apparel, and how I’d been more emotional since my twist. She nodded and jotted in her notepad.
She asked about my trick and how it worked. Personally, I didn’t see how that could be relevant to my emotional state, but the doctor didn’t give me any indication how nor did she illuminate me as to why she’d asked the question.
She followed that up by reciting a number of different words and asking me to say the first thing that came to my mind. That went on for several moments, and she again paused to write something down.
Next, she asked me a series of questions, and state on a scale of one to ten how much I agreed with them. Most seemed harmless enough, but there were a few that gave me pause. I never would have expected her to ask me if I liked intending people harm or that I thought people were out to get me.
When we finished she scurried down the side of her chair and came to stand beside me, smiling and placing a hand on my wrist. Though her appearance was still grotesque I was no longer disconcerted by it. She truly wanted to help people and I could see no reason to fault her just because she happened to resemble a creature out of someone’s nightmares.
“Please do consider counseling, the sort of things you have been through can be detrimental to your mental health. I only work at the clinic here ten hours a week, but I do specialize in situations like your own. I have an office a few blocks away. The front desk can give you the address and phone number.”
I nodded and smiled back to her. “I’ll, uh, talk it over with Carrie.”
“Carrie,” she repeated, rubbing her chin. Though she hadn’t said much when I mentioned my father’s identity. I got the sense that she had been quite surprised. Of course, she must know Carrie if they both worked at the clinic, but there was something more to it.
She pulled her hand away, and started to move away before turning back and regarded me both arms folded across her chest. “Would you mind asking Carrie to come speak with me?”
“Is, there, uh, something wrong?” I asked rising to my feet.
“No… Often times when I speak with a patient, I find it beneficial to consult with their parents. Not only can I make my recommendations to them, it’s helpful to coach them in how they might best help their children adjust to their new situation.”
I nodded, regarded her one final time, and left the room. I had dreaded the psychiatric evaluation the most, but it had been by far the most rewarding of the three. Yes, I had been forced to once again lay myself bare, but after speaking with her for the first time since my twist I felt a little more like my old self.