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July 15, 2011
Curious case today. Very curious, indeed. In fact, since this afternoon, I have been sitting quietly in my study, sipping from a dwindling supply of Chardonnay, reconsidering everything I ever thought I knew about the intricacies of the human mind. Started out simple enough. Boy, 16, blonde hair, green eyes. Handsome, I suppose, though not in the typical teenage football-star way. More of a subtle attractiveness. Of average height, slightly underweight. And pale. Waxy complexion, gaunt expression. There was a look in his eyes that suggests an underlying layer of resignation, as if he has ceased to care about what happens to him. An expression of guilt, perhaps? Or something else? After seeing what I have seen today, I am inclined to think the latter.
He entered with his head down, his hands jammed into the pockets of his jeans. His light, straw- colored hair hung down over his eyes, hiding his face in shadows. He took a seat on the sofa, crossed his hands behind his head, and flipped his hair up so I could see his face. I was surprised. This was not the face of a killer, but of a tired and weary soul that has been tossed about upon the stormy ocean of life and weathered the adverse tides.
He looked at me in stoic silence, I at him. There was something captivating about those bland, forest-hued eyes. It was as if they were nothing more than a dam, holding back a roaring deluge of emotion. I looked at him for a period of time that was undoubtedly much shorter than it felt, studying the one before me. There, amongst the lines on his face, I read an emotion I could thankfully identify- regret. Here was something, at least, that I was familiar with. Something common to almost every adolescent in a similar position. Not for the sin for which he was here, of course- no, not that- but the fact that he had been attributed with that same sin and made to be held accountable for his atrocities.
Finally, I broke the optical connection, looking down at the patient’s information. “Mark Beauchamp, is it?” I asked. I leaned forward from my seat, hand outstretched. “My name is Richard Trimble. My friends call me Rich.” My patented don’t-worry-I’m-a-friend smile was in position, my demeanor lax. I was doing nothing to belie the underlying disgust I felt for the murdering child monster that sat before me… or so I thought.
Mark looked down at my hand with barely discernable contempt. “Well, Dr. Trimble,” he said, and I was shocked to detect a hint of mocking condescension in his voice. “I don’t particularly care what your friends call you, seeing as I am neither counted amongst their undoubtedly miniscule numbers nor wish to be. I am well aware what you think of me, and I can assure you that my opinion of yourself is only marginally better. So let us drop these pretenses, shall we? I am your ‘patient’, you are my ‘counselor’, so let us speak freely, unhindered by unnecessary falsity and feigned politeness.”
My fingers curled back as I withdrew my hand. I fought to bite back a retort, a battle I thankfully won. During my tenure as a teen psychologist, I had been physically attacked, bitten, even urinated upon… but nothing but this boy’s brief yet venomous speech had ever elicited the shear unbidden anger I felt at those words. Flustered and taken aback, I looked down at my clipboard, not because there was anything of particular significance there, but because I could not bear to look at those eyes. I felt quite certain that whatever ounce of regret I had read upon those alien features had been nothing but a trick of my own mind, desperate to relate something about this heteroclite boy to the world I was familiar with and understood.
When I looked up at Beauchamp, I jumped slightly in my seat, though he did not seem to notice. The boy was no longer staring at me with those unfathomable eyes, but was stretched out upon the red leather of the sofa, apparently watching the fan whirl around and around in its infinite rotation. The regret had returned to his face, stronger, and I was sure of its existence this time. And it was mingled with something else: sorrow. And not the worthless, self-pitying sorrow I had seen so often, but genuine, empathetic sorrow. The sorrow one feels at the pain of another human being.
“Mark?” I asked, and I pretended not to hear the slight tremble in my voice. “Mark, are you alright?” This was a stupid question of course, and I berated myself internally for feeling pity, however fleeting, for the monster before me.
For a short while I was utterly convinced he would not answer, when he finally spoke. “My girl. She was my girl. But it all fell apart in an instant, like a dandelion puff in the wind." This time, his voice contained none of the subtle, razor-edged sarcasm that had tainted his previous speech. He paused, and I knew he was somewhere far away, far beyond this world. The Twilight Zone, perhaps. "I didn't kill her, you see," Mark said, still lying back on the sofa and staring straight up at the ceiling. His voice was calm- almost manically so, in fact, as if a wave of madness lurked behind his mask of composure, ready to burst forth at any moment. I said nothing. I only sat there in my chair, marveling at the sudden transformation.
Beauchamp shook his head. "No, I didn't kill her. He killed her. The other one. The dark one." For one brief moment, his tranquility dissolved, and his bright green eyes crackled with lunacy. And then, the calm returned as quickly as it had left, and the boy was once more as placid as a pond on a warm summer's day. "You don't believe me," he said, turning his head slightly to look at me. "I know that. I can see it in your eyes. The almost nonexistent look of disgust on your face when you look at me. He's crazy, you think. You just sit there in your nice chintz chair, nodding and smiling and thinking about the nice fat wad of cash my parents are handing you to sit here and listen to me."
A flicker of uncomfortableness crossed my features. I knew what the boy was saying was true. I did think he was crazy. But now… I don’t know. It’s the most likely answer, of course, but I wonder. I don’t know. I just know. Maybe we’re all crazy.
Mark turned to look at me, and I did my best to meet his gaze with equal equanimity. The ghost of a smile seemed to flicker upon the boy's thin lips. Those eyes once again began to heat up, seeming to crack, to let through some of what was hidden beneath. "I may not have a PhD in human psychology, Dr. Trimble, but if you would be so kind as to oblige me, I would like to wax philosophical for a short while.
"You see doctor," sneered Mark, enunciating the last word with the utmost sarcasm.
"Inside of every human being there is another person. A dark side, if you will. In most people, he is caged by the soul, trapped deep within our subconscious. But he is always fighting to escape, scrabbling at the bars of his prison. And sometimes, no matter how hard we fight to deny it, doctor, he shines through. He’s the one that laughs wildly when some teenage sexpot gets carved up by the guy with the chainsaw in a low-budget slasher flick. He’s the one that watches in morbid fascination as an earthquake that killed thousands flashes across the evening news, drawing some sick satisfaction from each mangled corpse buried beneath the rubble. He’s the one that fuels our obsession with pain and death, something that we’ve possessed since the dawning of our species.
The smile became more pronounced as he spoke. He sat up, that bright fervor I had suspected lay hidden within those inscrutable eyes showing through more and more. "Of course, you don't take any of this seriously, do you? I'm crazy, remember?"
I looked at the boy, and I could see that he believed with the utmost conviction that what he said was true. That was when I began to wonder. To really wonder.
He brushed the hair out of his eyes and began to speak again. “Your whole life, your whole career, all your studies… they all mean nothing, doctor. The human mind is a worthless thing. The brain, for all of its astoundingly intricate workings, is nothing but a vessel. A vessel, doctor, for our souls. The soul, not the mind, it the true source of our being. And our soul is a battleground. A bloody warzone where two separate beings, two beings who we think of as one, fight for dominance. In most cases, I believe, the side we would think of as ‘good’ wins out. For the most part, I believe, we are able to keep our darker side caged. Trapped.”
He paused again. “How do you know these things, Mark?” I asked. My voice was trembling. I was trembling. Somehow, these things he was saying, these insane, impossible things, felt true. “Tell me how you know these things.”
He ignored me, continuing on with his explanations as if I had never spoken.
"But sometimes," Mark said, and the spark of madness was becoming more and more prevalent in his eyes, turning them into blazing gems, dancing with thinly-contained lunacy. "Sometimes, doctor, he escapes. He escapes to the forefront, and he becomes the dominant one, and we end up with the Mansons, the Hitlers, the Jack the Rippers. Sometimes, Dr. Trimble, he wins."
He lapsed into an awkward silence, and I tried to gather my thoughts. I met with limited success. Mark sat there, not talking, and the madness slunk away from his eyes, leaving them dull and lusterless. When he spoke again, his voice possessed none of its former fervor.
When he spoke again, his voice was empty, as if he had reverted back to his former, apathetic state. For this, at least, I was grateful.
"When I was younger, Dr. Trimble… I don’t know, eleven or twelve, I think… anyways, it doesn’t matter. So when I was younger, I would have these… well, I guess you could call episodes. I would get violent. I can’t explain it, really. It was like I was somebody else. Now I know that I really was. There was one incident in particular that sticks out in my mind. Our neighbors, the Joneses, had this cat. Stupid, scrawny thing, with scraggly fur and a gimp leg. They called him Mr. Cuddles, God knows why. One day, I was riding my bike home from my friend Jimmy's house, when I saw the cat sitting there on the side of the road, licking its dirty haunches. There had been incidents before, but this was by far the worst. I- or I should say he- got off my bike, and then picked up a couple of sharp rocks from the side of the road. I was scared. I didn't know what I was doing. It was like being possessed. I was looking through my eyes, seeing what he was seeing, feeling the hard, jagged surface of the stones in my hands, feeling what he was feeling, but I couldn’t stop it. I heard myself begin to laugh, and then felt my arm whip forward as he chucked one of the rocks at the cat. And then another. And another, until finally Mr. Cuddles was only a bloody lump of fur and flesh lying dead on the curb. I was in the back seat and he was at the wheel. I watched in horror at what he did, powerless to stop him. I was just along for the ride. When it was all over, I stood there, panting, and I had a splitting headache. I buried the cat out behind our house, where no one would find it. No one ever suspected that I had anything to do with Mr. Cuddles’s disappearance. I never told anyone. And then, he went away. For a while, at least.
Mark stopped, closing his eyes. His voice was as flat and hollow, devoid of all emotion. He took a deep breath, and then said resumed.
"He- the other one- came back the night after the school dance. Me and Shannon… well, we got in a fight. I don't remember what it was about. I know it was something stupid. Sex, maybe. I dunno. I don’t think so, but I can’t say for sure. The whole night's a blur, now. Anyway, I could feel it. I could feel him as he slipped slowly into the front seat, feel him relishing his chance to let loose all that bloody hatred that had lain dormant for all those years. He hit her. I hit her. She cried, she begged, she screamed for help, but he… we… wouldn't stop hitting her. I wanted to scream. Every blow that my fists laid upon her was like a blow to me. She was my girl. My girl.
"She ran away, all the way back to her house, her dress in tatters. He ran after her, called her a bitch and a… worse things. I called her worse things. I was horrified at what he had done. What I had done.”
He was a miserable sight, and I began to once again feel pity for the boy… for that is what he was. A boy. A boy who was lost and confused and bearing unimaginable pain. A boy with a monster within him. The same monster, perhaps, that lies within us all. Or if not the same, then of an almost identical nature. I started to speak, but he interrupted me.
"The next day, at school, I tried to talk to her. She wouldn't even look at me. No one would. No one would look at me. They all knew. Even my friends… when I tried to talk to them, they found some excuse to drift away. I felt dirty. Diseased. Contaminated. Some of us, doctor, can’t keep him caged. I’m weak. I’m pathetic. I passed her in the hallway and saw that her eye was black. I felt terrible, as if I had been the one to beat her. Because, I know, deep down, I was. I am him, and he is me. We are one and the same. Two halves of one coin. It is this duality that defines us all, and no amount of pitiful denial will change that. I knew then that it was over. And so did he.”
"That night, I was lying in bed, flipping through the channels, when it happened. He sat up, turned off the TV, and went downstairs. I tried to stop him. I knew what he was going to do. But of course, I was powerless. Like I said… I’m worthless. I’m weak. He took a knife from the kitchen and walked outside, blade gleaming silver in the moonlight. A felt the cool plastic of the hilt clutched within my hand. His mind- our mind- was filled with anger and bloodlust. Her father wasn't home. He took the key from beneath the place she had shown me, shown me when she loved me, beneath the welcome mat, and we went inside."
Slowly, discretely, emotion began to seep into his voice, and his eyes danced with gleeful insanity. This was not the sorrow I had seen before, but a sick and poison delight. He sat up straight, looking at me. I felt my heart speed up, felt cool fear wrap around me. His face slowly split into a wide grin.
"I killed her," the dark one said, his smile as wide and wild as that of the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s classic story. "I stabbed her. I watched the blood pour out of her breast in a crimson ribbon, and I laughed." He stopped, letting out a childish giggle. "And I didn’t just stab her… I mutilated her! I ripped that bitch to shreds. How she screamed!" he exclaimed, his voice rife with glee. "It was music to my ears, Dr. Trimble. She was his girl, but now she ain't no one’s girl. She's dead, doctor. Dead as old Jacob Marley, dead as a doornail, dead as King Tutan-frickin'-khamen. She's gone, Dr. Trimble, and he's gone, too." He giggled again, enjoying his own private joke. I was frozen in place by the horrific demon before me. Here was the monster at last, brought to the forefront for the whole world to see. This, I thought, frantically. This is what lives inside us all. This.
"He's gone, she's gone, hey-hey, that rhymes, so what the hell, it's just as well…" His grin widened even more as he saw the look on my face. "Could that be fear I see, Dr. Trimble?" he inquired mockingly. "I assure, you, there's no need to be afraid. I’m only as sane as the rest of us. Granted, that’s not saying much- this is one sick, screwed up world we live in, isn’t it?”
That was when the laughter started. It was high, mad, raucous sound. It was the way one might expect Satan himself to laugh. That laughed stretched out into eternity, dragging me into madness, pulling me under, until finally I thought I would simply crack. Somehow, in an instant of boundless mercy, the cackles subsided into sobs, and the grin left the fiend’s face until he was once again only a boy. Lost, confused, and ready for his hell to end. He sobbed and whimpered for a few minutes before speaking the last words I heard him speak before he left my office.
"She was my girl, Dr. Trimble," he said, and his voice was brimming with unbound sorrow. "My girl. My girl."
So here I sit, writing in this journal by the light of a small lamp, finishing up what is either my third or fourth bottle of wine. I have not done justice to what I saw and felt today- it would, I believe, take a writer far beyond my mediocre skill to truly convey what I have felt. I am after all, a psychologist, not an author… but even that means nothing now. I am quite convinced that the boy was right. The mind exists only to contain the soul… and that, I am sure beyond the shadow of doubt, can never be understood… and nor, I believe, after witnessing what I have, should it be.