Hermann Schultz was tired, very tired.
He laid in the driver’s seat in his Corvette, keys in the ignition, staring into space while trying to stay awake. He was at his therapist’s office in the parking lot, he got there early and chose not to go in right away due to his tenuous and often comical relationship with the receptionist. He instead chose to take a nap. Now that he was an hour late, he contemplated either going in and dealing with the receptionist, who would no doubt screech at him for his tardiness, or starting the car and going home, perhaps making a grilled cheese sandwich when he got there.
The latter option sounded really tempting, but he would still have to pay for his therapy session without attending and he was already low on money as is. The receptionist would also continue to be a problem even if he were to come back another time. Finally, he admitted that he desperately needed it.
Another car pulled in the parking lot, his guess would be that this was the client that had an appointment right after his. Knowing that, he quickly took the keys out of the ignition, locked the car, and headed inside.
He took the elevator up to the 5th floor, the smell of old magazines filled the air as he opened the door to his therapist’s office and staring him right in the face on the other side of the counter was the receptionist.
“I know I’m late! I want to see Dr. Fisher!” Schultz said with authority.
“Your appointment was an hour ago, Mr. Schultz.”
“I know that, but I need this now!”
“You’ve needed this since you were born, I think,” the receptionist said with a rictus grin.
The receptionist was old, in her late 70s, her name was Liza Renard and she had been working at this office since the 1950s. How she kept her job was a mystery to even herself as she constantly teased patients, especially tardy ones. She saw something, perhaps determination, in Mr. Schultz and decided to throw him a bone, so to speak. Before he could comment on her witty remark she said, “Have a seat, I’ll let him know you’re here.”
“Ahhhhh, Hermann! Good to see you! Please have a seat.”
“Thank you, and it’s Mr. Schultz,” he said as he sat on the sofa.
“Right, Mr. Schultz,” Dr. Fisher said with a smile.
Dr. Fisher’s office smelled like old books as various books were scattered on the bookshelves. It was the only part of the office recently painted, and the fumes also filled Dr. Schultz’s nose. The only saving grace was that the window was open and a flower pot was on the windowsill.
“Sorry about the smell,” Dr. Fisher said still smiling.
“It’s fine….wait…..how did you….” Schultz said in confusion, but was cut off.
“My job is to read minds, Mr. Schultz, I could tell that you were upset about my room arrangements, and it wasn’t hard to deduce that it was the smell.”
“Before we continue on, I would like to start with the positive things going on with your life. Afterwards, we can move on to why you’re actually here. I would like you to think hard, tell me what joys have graced you recently.”
“….Well, um, I guess this is quite strange, but despite the stresses of my job, I’ve enjoyed my time with one of our subjects….”
There was a pause, Dr. Fisher nodded with a smile knowing that Schultz was gathering his thoughts to try and explain exactly what he meant.
“Well, you see, I work at the National Institute of Mental Health, otherwise known as NIMH, but I guess you know that. Anyway, we work with subjects, usually mice and rats, and experiment on them in controlled environments. We usually get our specimen from the wild to study their behaviors and how they communicate. We then give them these special injections that give them the capacity to communicate with us.
“There was this one subject we had, whose name was William Brisby. He suffered from some sort of rare mental illness that we have yet to decipher. And the strange thing about William is that he’s not entirely alive or dead.”
“What do you mean?” Dr. Fisher asked with a smile that spoke of unbridled interest.
“This information is all classified, so there’s none of this getting out…”
“Yes, Mr. Schultz. Confidentiality is only exempted when I feel there’s an emergency to yourself or others,” Dr. Fisher said in a serious tone.
“Alright, well we took Mr. Brisby into Vietnam just after the war.”
“Wait, why did you take a mouse to Vietnam?”
“That’s the interesting part, we brought him to check on one of our associates, Debra Barnaby. Debra, along with a group of soldiers, were integrating into a village independent of the Viet Cong as it was thought to be cursed; so much so that the Viet Cong wouldn’t dare disturb it. And the United States wanted to know what was going on.”
“Now, I don’t know all of the details, but it was rumored that the soldiers were given a kind of special injection. A lot of these operations were kept secret from me, only those with high enough clearance could get a hold of the details. My late associate, Darius VelJohnson, probably knew what was going on…..Anyway, the soldiers were experiencing weird hallucinations, and some of them even were able to levitate objects according the reports Debra sent in while watching them. When it came time to extract them, the President took no chances and sent out an executive order to have them eliminated and reported as KIA. A spec ops team were sent there to do so….and were never seen again.”
“Interesting.” Dr. Fisher said.
Dr. Schultz groaned, “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“I never said that. I can tell that you’re a complex person, Mr. Schultz. Being complex is great when it’s controlled. For now, I want you to take it slow and easy…”
Dr. Schultz opened his mouth as if to speak, but words failed to come out…
“Did I say something?” Dr. Fisher asked.
“No, it’s just….I better get going. I’ll tell you the rest of this story later. Remember, none of this gets out, or it will be both of our heads.”
“Not a word spoken here today will get beyond these walls. I can assure you.”
Dr. Schultz was heading for the door, but before he could leave, Dr. Fisher spoke.
“Remember to make another appointment for next week, Mr. Schultz. Oh, and since you took up another patient’s time and forced me to work overtime, your bill will be doubled.”
Dr. Schultz frowned and said, “Fair enough.”
Well now I’ve done it!
Hermann was entering his midlife. At age 45, he never dated, mated, or even kissed another human. Never in his first 43 years of living had he received therapy, either. It was after all of the stress of these seemingly implausible events that he felt he needed it. The first couple of sessions were just about his humdrum life, but now after spilling the beans about his job, he knew things were going to get serious.
This therapy session was his first in 4 months. He knew that starting this job…fooling a mouse into thinking he’s talking to a god…would finally put him on the spot and on edge. It was an opportunity to get a promotion, to see the higher ups of NIMH. It was also something of a curse. Hermann didn’t like to torment other creatures. He loved animals growing up and couldn’t deal with the abuse they often went through.
But this isn’t an animal, it’s a human…it has a human brain…and an animal brain. That’s worse isn’t it? It’s on the top of the damn food chain now. It has the qualities of both man and beast. It has the senses and adaptability of an animal, with the capacity for knowledge. That such a thing can exist is both exciting and terrifying…utterly terrifying.
He was also working with an AI named Anna, a weird specimen and one of Dr. Rosiv’s creations. It was in fact Dr. Rosiv that Schultz wants to work with the most. Schultz was a fan of Rosiv during his undergrad years in college. He would obsessively read Rosiv’s books and texts regarding the human mind and how it can be better tapped into. When Schultz finally got the opportunity to work at NIMH, he took it. He wanted to get close to the one he looked up to the most.
And yet he never was able to meet him in the first couple of years working at NIMH, but now was his chance to finally do so. This promotion was his ticket to being the one that would work closely with Rosiv on his next project.
I should stop thinking so hard. Let me turn on the radio.
Hermann loved soft rock, so he tuned in to 108.2 FM, the best of the soft rock radio stations.
What came out of radio speakers was Claire De Lune played on both violin and piano.
Confused, he turned on the next best station, 93.4 FM.
Claire De Lune came out of the speakers yet again…
Claire De Lune.
Claire De Lune.
What the hell…?
He turned the radio off and turned onto his apartment street, pulling into the lot.
As he got out of the car, he could hear scuffling going on in the distance.
“Hello?” He yelled.
He then ran to his apartment door and fiddled with the keys. No one seemed to be around, yet the noises got faster and faster.
He unlocked the door, ran inside, and barricaded it with his sofa.
The noise stopped at the door. He could hear strange whispering going on…
Again, nothing but strange whispering that could not be understood.
He looked through the keyhole and saw what looked like people in army uniforms coated in blood.
The door started to crack.
Terrified, Schultz made it to his bedroom and opened his dresser drawer. He looked for his 44 Magnum pistol, but it was nowhere to be found.
The door was broken and fragments of it were scattered across the sofa.
Schultz furiously looked in his wardrobe for any kind of weapon he could use. He could hear the footsteps becoming louder. He grabbed a coat hanger, but then he could feel the breathing going on behind his back. Before he could turn around he was butted in the head with what felt like a rifle.
He then became unconscious.
“It sounds like Partuna’s men to me,” the investigator said.
Hermann Schultz told his bizarre story to the man who sat in a wooden chair by his bedside at Brookville Hospital. The owner of the apartment found Hermann unconscious on his bedroom floor with debris scattered about. He woke about two hours after arriving to the hospital with a big bruise on the top of his head. His eyes bloodshot and droopy, he was still very tired…and scared.
It was an hour after he woke that the investigator came in at the request of the apartment owner. He was short, about 4 feet 6 inches, and sported a peculiar beard that resembled a boat anchor. After hearing Schultz’s story the conclusion he made frightened Hermann. He had heard the name Partuna before, he and his men are anarchists who have taken over TV stations and radio transmissions warning the world of a dangerous government uprising. He (or they) have been blamed for the sudden death of a United States Senator. No evidence was found at the crime scene to indicate that anyone had been there, all except for a calling card: a bloody dog tag with the name ‘Partuna Armagan’ found in Senator Kelly’s throat.
”A-are you sure?”
The investigator nodded, “your description of the men matches up with our records. They like to dress in army uniforms coated with blood and intercept radio transmissions. It was the same with Senator Kelly Remington, we found his body on a desk with a radio playing classical music that wasn’t a part of the normal broadcasting for the station. We don’t know how they do it, we can’t seem to track where they are intercepting the signals. It’s quite….something.”
”What will become of me? I need a place to stay….”
”Do you have family nearby? A relative? Close friend?”
”No, I was hoping you could provide me with some living arrangements.
The investigator looked blank-faced for a moment. “Let me make a phone call…”
Hermann was allowed to be checked out of the hospital the next day. His head still ached, but he was able to walk normally. Before checking out, he called his work secretary and explained the situation. He was told to call back once he reached his new home and was ‘well-rested’. He was told by the nurse that if he had experienced any spikes in pain to call the hospital as soon as possible.
His new home was located on the other side of town, near the subway stations. This was thought to be most convenient for him as he would be without a car until the investigation settled down and NIMH was only a few blocks away from a subway station.
The only downside for him is that he wouldn’t be living alone….
They want me to stay with another person?!
This person, a woman named Amanda, was to become his housemate. Hermann had never lived with anyone outside of his own parents and siblings and that was over two decades ago.
”You look agitated,” the taxi driver said.
”I suppose you don’t get paid enough to be a therapist, otherwise you would’ve asked me if I was alright.”
The taxi driver laughed hardily, “I don’t think they pay you nearly enough for whatever job you’re doing either.”
He couldn’t argue with that.