Day 1 - BriefingI stood in a room, behind the separator glass, you know, the type that enables one side to view the other side, but not vice versa. Yes, that one. I have always wondered where I could get one of those. It is a nifty thing to have in one's own home, but I digress.The superior briefed us. Tiny drops of spittle flew out of his mouth when he spoke, did he realize that? I also wonder if he knew that his veins stuck out visibly when he shouted. The others do a good job of pretending to listen to him.You see, we were all psychiatrists or at least we were training to be one. Today, our first assignment began. We would all have our own subjects, our patients, and we would each evaluate their mental health just as a judge would judge the best dog, or the best horse. And when all is said and done, we would hold a meeting - to compare notes and decide collectively, their freedom.Superior droned on and on about procedures that we have known a thousand times over and my mind starts to wander. Who could really blame me? And that was when I get this oddest sensation ever, a sort of prickling in the back of my head. My primal instincts call out to me, I was being watched.At that moment my back was facing the glass, naturally, I turned around.He was staring at me. Even through the glass, this man could see me. He, one of the subjects, a case study, or perhaps I should say mine. Apparently, superior did not take too kindly to people looking elsewhere when he talks. That was how this man seated in the other room ended up as my first patient.I glanced back at my subject once more. Curiously enough, his head was bowed.Day 2 - IntroductionIt was introduction day. Of course, we were given files on our subjects, as per standard procedure, but a formal introduction was common courtesy and it gave us clues on how to approach our subjects.The clock ticks.He drums his fingers on the metal table. I switched on my tape recorder.A video camera in the room tapes the whole interview, but I preferred to keep my own records.He watched me."What is your name?""Dante. You may know of the Divine Comedy.""Abandon all hope, ye who enter?""Exactly." I must admit. He intrigued me. The nib of my pen scribbled against grainy parchment. The clock continued ticking, and the tape ran.Day 4 – Rorschach Inkblot TestI did an inkblot test once, as a child.I was an impressionable child with an active imagination. Too active I think; that was probably the cause of me being sent to a child psychiatrist. I have long since forgotten what my results were, though I do seem to recall that it was not favourable.I could still remember the look on her face. I wonder if the exact same one would appear on her face if she had known that I have taken after her choice in career…Enough about me.Dante's answers were perfect, or perhaps what I meant was that they were normal. As normal as a human being could get.Nobody is perfect.I held up another card. He reached out, my gaze followed his movements. Fingers closed around a glass of water. He lifted it up and took it to his cracked lips. He took a big gulp, it almost seemed like he swallowed the truth with it."I see a coat of arms." He was lying. His upper lip curls up when he smiles, exposing a small gap of white teeth, is it wrong for me to find that endearing?"Are you sure? Look closely.""A coat of arms." He repeated himself firmly. He kept his gaze on me. His eyes told me he was lying. It was something else entirely that he saw.Day 7 - DreamI had a dream about him.We were in a room. There were no doors, no windows, no lights. Just the two of us together, alone.I could see nothing, but I could hear him.He stepped nearer, the noise echoed. I stepped back, tried to get away from him, and I kept stepping till my back hit the wall, and I could retreat no further.His hands gripped my arms in triumph; his hot breath flushed my skin. He leaned in, the rustling of his clothes loud, and he whispered into my ear.I could not understand him, and I told him so. He nibbled my ear, maybe as retaliation or maybe in agitation, I did not know. The coarseness of his unshaven facial hair pricks my skin; an unfamiliar want brews in my stomach.It was as if he sensed my feelings. He kissed me. I tasted blood between his cracked lips.Then I woke up, panting, and I felt strangely cold.Later that day, Dante interrupted me halfway through our routine interview."Tell me, Doctor. Do you dream often?" He drawled his words lazily.I paused."All the time." My voice, scarcely a whisper, sounded awfully loud in that room.Day 8 - ReplacementI asked that someone replace me for the interview, only for today.Superior was reluctant, but agreed after I explained that I wanted to see how he would react to someone else. I was not fibbing, I did want to know his behaviour towards another, just not in the way I imagined superior assumed.I watched safely behind the glass. I asked that she take in my tape recorder so that I could have a copy. She relents, if reluctantly. The interview began."Hello.""Hello. Are you my doctor for today?" The look on his face suggested surprise."She's sick today, I'm afraid. Don't worry. I'm not about to eat you." My colleague offered him a reassuring smile." I'm sure I won't do anything that will warrant you eating me." He chuckled obligingly at her little joke. His display sickened me. "I do hope she gets better soon. I'd hate to see my favourite doctor sick. Although… after today, I may just have a new favourite." He winked at her."I'm sure we'll get along just fine." She laughed.I could almost hear my colleague giving him mental ticks and singing his praises. Her face said it all. In fact, as the interview proceeded, I could pinpoint the very moment she started to ponder why he was even here in the first place. She was transparent and gullible. Foolish, incompetent woman, I could have slapped her.What I viewed in front of me, was no longer a professional psychiatrist-to-be and her patient, but rather a puppet master gleefully manipulating his marionette.He glanced at me briefly. He knew what I was up to and he was showing off. My fist clenched automatically. I hated that he infuriated me. I looked away.For the rest of the interview, he was polite, pleasant, charming and perfectly normal. Truly normal, not the fake normal that he does with me.My colleague questioned me after she emerged from the room. She, the one who acted like a schoolgirl with raging hormones, had the audacity to doubt my judgment. Fool.Day 9 – Private meetingDante requested that I be allowed to see him in his room. Apparently, he was not feeling well.I suspected that superior and the others were all smitten by him by now. They actually allowed me to be alone with him. Surely that was against the rules.I entered the room and remained by the door - one can never be too safe - and shut it behind me. He smiled the smile that I liked, as if approving of my action.I wanted to wrench the door open, just to defy him; I barely refrained myself from acting as such.He patted the spot right next to him on the bed. I made no move.His patting grew insistent, his muscles tensed visibly and his smile hardened. An irrational fear struck me and I hesitantly sat at the place he designated for me."Are you afraid of me, doctor?""You tell me. Do I have any reason to be?" He reached out. I nearly flinched. He must have noticed. He stroked my hair, taking some between his fingers, playing with it, teasing it."I am just a man, doctor.""Humans are the worse monsters there are." I answered reproachfully."Is that what they're teaching you now?" He looked amused."It is what I have observed over the years." He clapped then, he applauded me."You may just be right, doctor." His eyes took on a dangerous glint. I exited. He did not stop me.He left a sour taste in my mouth. I am just glad that I do not have to face him any longer. The tedious interviewing process had finally ended. All that was left now to do was the dissection of evidence and discussion.Good riddance.Day 11 – Observation and EvaluationToday, we observed and evaluated each other's patients.In the conference room, we gathered. I sat quietly while the others blabbered about their patients. Some complained, some moaned, some whined, only a meager few had any concrete comments on their subjects.I glanced at my watch, the superior was late.The door burst open, speak of the devil.Superior bustled in, files and discs stacked in front of him. I am surprised that he can even see ahead of him. Some rushed forwards to offer him a helping hand. He looked at them appreciatively. I will avoid from stating the obvious. And so the judging started.The first one up to the execution block was a literal psycho.On the first day alone, she flew across the room and tackled the intern in charge of her. She was later dragged out of the room, nails drenched in blood. The intern screamed in agony as he clutched his face, and she exited, her hysterical laughter bouncing off the corridor walls.A shudder went through the audience, and we all peeked discreetly at the one empty chair in the room. Heads bowed then, the sound of scrawling ball pens on paper filled the room.The second video played. I concluded that he was suffering from depression and was probably suicidal. His smile seemed too forced, his body language was guarded and his voice was calm, but I have heard that kind of calm before, it was the calm of a person who had settled all worldly matters and was ready to go. I dutifully jotted my remarks in my notebook.Then Dante came on. I watched in silence.I did not need to watch the recordings again. I had been through it. But I just could not look away. Dante was the model of sanity. It was like that interview with my colleague that fateful day. The day I decided that she was an idiot savant, only without the savant bit.The tapes showed that he was polite, charming and pleasant. And normal.The tapes lied. The monstrosity of his nature was not revealed.I could not believe what I had just watched.Heads nodded favourably for him, I had no doubt to the contents of their notebooks. I could not believe what I had just witnessed. I closed my eyes and tried to will the images away.They haunted me.Day 12 - DiscussionToday, the jury makes the decision. On the day after tomorrow, the execution will begin.We were left to discuss what we had saw yesterday and to decide who needed further treatment and who was just 'misunderstood'. When we finish, the superior will state his professional opinion, and we will in turn be scored by him.I pinched the bridge of my nose. A sick feeling had manifested itself in me. I wanted nothing more than to lie in my bed and curl up into a ball.As expected the first was a unanimous vote, further treatment was needed. On the second, it was a split down the middle.Surprisingly enough, Dante was not the next one on the list, though this only made the dread grew.One after another, the subjects were discussed, their private lives dissected, their manners scrutinized.They had left Dante to the last. I should have known. This was the so-called leaving the best to the last, my stomach churned."Do we even need to discuss him?" One of the guys said.Yes! I wanted to scream.The others laughed, they were obviously in cahoots with him. How could they not see that this was no laughing matter?"Let's see a show of hands." What show of hands? We did not need a show of hands before. Surely they could not just decide this so dismissively.Today, I found out how disappointed I could be in the people I worked with.One by one the hands were raised. A cold chill ran through me.For once in my life, I was at a loss for words. I froze.Day 13 – The day before tomorrowThe room made another appearance. No window had magically appeared, and doors remained unseen.I realised then, it was a stupid time and place to make a realisation, but I did. I realised that I was not meant to escape.Even in dreams I am betrayed. My subconscious offers me up like a lamb to the slaughter.There is a change though, this time there was light. First there was darkness, then there was light.A single shaft of light shines on a squatting figure. Dante.He looked up at me, he smiled. He stood up, slowly, maybe he thought sudden movements would startle me, and he spread his arms.Did he think himself an angel? My angel?"What do you want, Dante?" His eyes glinted and it looked predatory.He clapped. He was mocking me, that much I could still tell. I flinched, too exhausted to disguise it.He shushes me, even though I made no sound."Good question. I want you.""Why?" And I almost hit myself for asking that."Want doesn't have to have a reason." He walked around the room, pacing it, circling me.I was his prey.Then his arm was around my waist, he pulled me close. A hand crept up my shirt. I made no attempt at resistance. His touches burned."I can be your saviour, or your executioner. The choice is yours to make, my dear."His tongue ran over my ear and he nibbled it again.I had no way to run.Dante always accepted sacrifices.Day 14 – He walks freeHe has managed to fool them, including the superior, all of them, except for one - me.He will never fool me.Today is the day he walks free. Today is the day he escapes what should await him - proper psychiatric treatment. This is a dangerous man, and they have let him go.I have lost the battle.I remember the last smile he gives me. His cute smile no longer holds the same appeal as it once did.He is right, I am afraid of him, more afraid than I am of anyone or anything. And yet, I cared for him, again more so than I have cared for anything.This is probably a sign that I should quit my job while I am ahead.I think he knows where I live. I think he knows everything about me.Wait, what is that? I hear something.My breath quickens.I'm afraid my panic attacks may be coming back; they have not, for a long time.My heartbeat is starting to race, and I try, I'm gasping.I try to remember what my lovely teacher used to say to calm me down. It always worked. It will now. I try hard to remember.Kyrie Eleison.That is it. I remember now.The sound comes again.Kyrie Eleison.I have to go now. There's someone knocking on my door.God have mercy.
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