One day, he remembers what he has lost. And suddenly, his life, his goals and his sins don't matter. The only thing that remains is a feeling of coldness in his heart. Because his winter has begun.
The thing about doctors is that they are not supposed to exist. They are here to save our lives. But shouldn’t saving lives be a crime? If God is the one who created us, then shouldn’t He be the one to decide if our life should be saved or not? What if I was to die tomorrow but some idiot saves me from death, what would God do then?
I wonder how people haven’t come to realize this simple commandment after all these centuries. Maybe I should do something about it. Perhaps draft a petition and…
“Mason, what ARE you doing?”
I jump slightly and look at my mom, who is standing over me and frowning rather unattractively. “Will you stop that?” she fairly shouts.
It’s then that I glance down and understand why I have been feeling so dizzy for the past few minutes. In my state of deep observation, I had tied, rather firmly, a thread around my wrist. The weird thing is, I don’t feel any pain. In fact, my hand has never looked prettier. The nasty purple tinge really brings out the veins under my skin.
“Sorry, Mom,” I say, unfastening the piece of thread and throwing it on my pillow. “I didn’t know I was doing it, I swear.”
My mom is one of those few people who believe it when you swear to something. So I do it all the time. It’s a safety measure. My dad, on the other hand, will beat the crap out of me if I tried to manipulate him in any way. And I’m speaking in metaphors here; he doesn’t actually hit me. He probably wants to though.
I jerk back in surprise when mom kneels before me and takes my hands in hers. I’ve never really been very comfortable with physical contact. I watch her warily for a while but finally relax when she starts rubbing my hands to resume the blood circulation.
“What were you thinking about?” she asks.
This is it. This is my chance to make her understand the level of crime doctors are committing these days. If I am to start small, why not start with my own mother?
“Mom, how do you feel about doctors?”
If she is confused about the abruptness of this question, she does not show it. “I think they are very kind people, dear. Why do you ask?”
I stare at her. Poor woman. She is so misled it breaks my heart.
“I think they should be banned.” Mom looks surprised but waits for me to elaborate. “They aren’t supposed to save lives, are they? That’s God’s thing. Doctors are committing blasphemy and I think they should be stopped.”
This is not the first time I’m seeing mom look so alarmed. She reacted the same way when the family discovered that Charlene is diabetic.
She looks to be fighting for the right words. Finally, she says, “You shouldn’t say things like this, Mason. Medicine is a noble profession.”
I just shake my head and decide that I would get through to her later. I feel exhausted.
Now that I think about it, it did not take much time for mom to report our conversation to dad. I understand that the controversy I’ve sprung up from mere moments of observation is very significant to mankind but there is really no need to take me to Madison for this reason.
If you’re wondering, Madison is my human diary. She talks to me about stuff and sometimes gives me tablets that she says would make me happy. Most people address her as Doctor Madison but she’s not really a doctor, she’s more of a friend to people like me whose creative genius and unique perspective is misunderstood by the world. Dad’s been taking me to her for years now.
Presently, she is not in her office, so dad and I are waiting for her to arrive. Dad is throwing me guarded looks which I don’t understand. It’s not like I’m about to jump up and throw a tantrum. I don’t do stuff like that, not even when I have reason to. I’m generally very docile.
“What is it?” I ask exasperatedly after dad does it again.
“What is what?”
I shrug, not in the mood to elaborate further. Speaking tires me. I would rather not talk at all. I wouldn’t mind living a silent life.
Out of the corner my eye, I see Madison enter the office and I sit up. She’s holding a half-eaten hot dog in her hand and looks surprised to see us. “Hello,” she says brightly. “Did we set an appointment?”
Dad shoots me another one of his wary looks before replying, “Could we talk for a minute, Madison? It’s about – uh – a friend of mine.”
Madison frowns but nods in response. Both of them disappear in Madison’s cabin, leaving me to mull over this strange situation. Why bring me here when dad wants to talk about some friend of his? I thought we were here to inform her about my recent revelation. I was hoping she would help me in drafting the petition. Apparently not.
I’ve been waiting here for no more than two minutes and I already see them coming out to the waiting area. Dad looks troubled but Madison smiles her usual smile which I politely return.
“Hi Mason,” she says.
“Hi,” I say automatically. “You have a hole in your shirt.”
Dad looks offended by that but Madison just laughs. “I know. Looks funny, doesn’t it?”
I nod passively. It’s not funny to me.
“Let’s go chat some,” she says then, nodding at my dad who indicates that he’ll wait for me. I shrug. I don’t care if he leaves. I can find my way home.
“So,” begins Madison after we’ve taken our usual places in her cabin – she on the couch and I on the floor beside her, stretched out casually on the carpet. “How have you been, buddy?”
“Okay, I guess. What did dad say? Friend troubles?” For some reason, I find it funny but it’s probably not.
“You can say that. But I want to talk about you.” I glance at Madison. She has turned rather serious. “What’s going on with you? How’s school?”
“Okay, I guess,” I say again. I can sense Madison’s exasperation but I honestly don’t have anything to say. Nothing interesting ever happens at school anyway. Still, for Madison’s sake, I try, “We learnt about Hannibal Lector in literature class the other day.”
“What?!” Madison looks disturbed. “They teach you about Hannibal in school?” I shoot her a curious look. Why does she look so upset about this? Madison is weird sometimes.
I shrug and mumble, “I think he’s okay for a sociopath. Interesting character.”
“He’s a villain, dear,” states Madison. “He might be interesting, yes, but he’s definitely not okay.”
“So…what do you want to talk about?”
I sit up instantly, quelling the whispers in my head and happy to finally get a chance to talk about what I really want to talk about.
“I have recently had a very bitter epiphany…” I begin and then proceed to tell her in detail about the sin doctors commit by saving their patients’ lives.
Looking back, I think I managed to make her understand. By the end of my speech, she was frowning and the usual twinkle had disappeared from her eyes.
She even agreed to help me petition the ban on doctors. I was so happy that I didn’t even notice the whispered conversation between dad and Madison and the worried looks dad threw me all the way home.
It’s Friday and dad says we need to go to the hospital. He won’t tell me why but he says Madison will be there, plus the whispers in my head are telling me we’re not actually going to a hospital, but to a health spa. Although…I do wonder what exactly happens in a health spa. The whispers have been growing louder and louder for a while now, especially at night when they know that everyone’s asleep.
The hospital has turned out to be an hour’s drive from our house, which only manages to heighten my anxiety. The river below the bridge that we’re passing on is beginning to call to me. I glance at my dad. Is there a way I can trick him and jump out of the moving car? I look at the river again, trying to decide how and when I’m going to make a run for it when suddenly I catch a glimpse of a sprawling white piece of architecture in the distance and my blood runs cold.
“Dad, have we been here before?” I ask abruptly.
“No, son.” I rub a palm to my forehead, feeling a nagging doubt settle at the back of my mind. As we draw nearer, the nagging comes in full force. All of a sudden, my skin is clammy. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Madison is waiting for us at the main entrance. She waves us over and leads us straight up to the second floor and through a door marked ‘Dr. Helen Mistfield’.
Dr. Mistfield is a short slender woman with greying hair. She looks up at me through her big round glasses and smiles – the criminal! “Nice to see you again, Mason,” she says. Hmmmm…didn’t dad say we’ve never been here before? Maybe Mistfield used to work somewhere else and that’s where we met, or maybe… dad’s lying?
He’s lying… he’s lying… he’s lying…
I close my eyes and take deep breaths. Damn these voices!
Without warning, I turn tail and speed out of the room, wanting peace. Maybe I should bash my head against the wall. It might be a nice shock to the person – or should I say persons or better yet, poltergeists – inside me.
“Mason! Mason, wait!”
I stop and turn to see dad jogging after me. He takes my elbow and gently pushes me onto a random bench, slumping down beside me. He says nothing, merely covers his face with his hands and sighs loudly.
Finally, he looks at me and mumbles, “Dr. Mistfield says you’ll have to stay here for a few weeks.”
Making a right effort not to raise my hands and clamp my ears shut against the noise in my head, I ask, “Why?” I can feel the strain in my voice.
“You’re sick, son. Dr. Mistfield can help you.”
I fire my next question, “Am I going to die?”
Before he answers, I yell, “No way!” scooting away from him in fear. “I won’t sin! I won’t sin!” Didn’t I already decide I was never going to let a doctor or anyone, for that matter, save my life? I feel betrayed…
Dad looks shocked. “Calm down. You’re not committing a sin –”
“But Mistfield is!” I interrupt rudely.
“Son!” Dad says a little too loudly and I start fidgeting. Something is not right here. The familiar feeling of foreboding returns but I can’t pinpoint it. Dad continues, “You’re not dying. You’re just sick and I think Mistfield can help. Madison thinks so too. Come now, we all need to talk.”
I have no intention of returning to that blasphemer – I’m going to jump out that window the moment dad turns away. I tag along behind him, all the while keeping my focus on the open window. But my focus wavers for one second and that’s all it takes for my brain to explode. Explode with memories that are probably not mine. But they are! I know they are.
Time stops as I look intently at the familiar door. The plaque on it reads ‘ECT’. I don’t know what ECT stands for but I do know what goes on behind that door. How, you ask? Because I’ve been in there, experienced what happens inside that room, feared it…
And I’m back. I remember everything now, all those suppressed memories… it was nearly 6 years ago… I can place the nagging feeling now, can understand the clamminess of my skin.
In that instant, I have another bitter epiphany. I realize I’m never going home. I’m going to die here. This is the end. This is my winter…