The following is the first chapter of one of my novels, entitled ‘Edge of Reality’ …
Stanley Rue and Doctor Vivian Eldridge sat opposite each other at the far end of a spacious hospital treatment room. In truth, it was an office, Eldridge’s office. But she was so new to the role that there hadn’t been a suitable office made up for her before she’d commenced her position. Instead, she had ended up taking what would normally be a group consultation room as her now regular work space, and as a result the decor of her new office still possessed the remnants of a less than private and personal space. Colourful posters designed to engage children still hung on the walls, a slap dash pile of pamphlets for family therapy sitting on a small table pushed into one corner.
The dull light of the day ebbed in through the tall window behind the Eldridge’s desk, tapping her gently on the back as she shifted her posture a little more upright, facing the seated Stanley over her wide desk.
Doctor Eldridge was sharply dressed, wearing a traditional white lab coat over a perfectly tailored grey suit skirt and jacket. On her legs were thick black tights, her feet within deep brown ankle height and heeled boots.
His face only mutely visible to her, Stanley was sitting a little hunched, wearing a fluffy white dressing gown over drab looking checkered pyjamas. On his left foot he wore a pastel pink sock, on the right foot a bright purple sock. He wasn’t wearing any shoes.
Eldridge looked keenly across the desk at Stanley.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Eldridge said, the clinical wisp in her voice clear.
Stanley was turning his hands over in his lap, the spot where his eyes were presently fixed upon. The words reverberated through the air and there was a pause as he looked up from his hands, turning his attention away from the prim doctor and instead towards the window behind Eldridge. Outside the window a bird sat mutely on the branch of a large tree, the feathered creature peering into the room with inquisitive attention, its eyes right on Stanley.
“My family think I’m unsafe,” Stanley said slowly after a moment, not yet looking at Eldridge.
“You’ve done some things that have made your family members feel unsafe,” Eldridge replied.
“Nothing I did had anything to do with them.” Eldridge looked down onto her own lap, consulting her notes briefly before continuing.
“I understand you drove your father’s car into a tree …” the trim looking doctor went on, “while he was in it.”
“He wasn’t listening to me. It seemed like the only thing to do at the time that would get his attention.” Eldridge straightened up in her seat again after Stanley’s words.
“You tried to kill yourself, Mr Rue.”
“That … was a mistake,” Stanley said, a sombre wake bobbing in the air behind his words.
“You tried to stab yourself though the heart with a kitchen knife,” Eldridge reiterated.
“It wasn’t sharp enough,” said Stanley, darkly jovial. “Next time I’ll check.”
“Next time?” Eldridge replied, clear concern in her tone.
“Look, right now this is best place for me, I know that,” Stanley said, a little stern, “but I don’t intend on living here forever. There are things I have to do.”
“Well, Mr Rue,” Eldridge said, holding her ground, “that all depends on you, and how you respond to treatment and medication.”
“Medication?” Stanley said, a trite of worry in his voice now. “I’m not taking any medication.”
“You’ve been placed here – ” Eldridge began to say, before Stanley cut her off.
“I placed myself here.”
Eldridge was only slightly perturbed at being interrupted, continuing on after no more than a baby sized pause.
“Be that as it may – even for self admitted patients, Mr Rue, once here, this treatment isn’t voluntary. If, after time, you begin to show improvement, the medication may be able to be taken back to a lower level.”
“I don’t need medication,” Stanley said, a firm stamp intoned onto the end of his sentence.
“Once again, Mr Rue, that may not be up to you,” Eldridge said with a superior air.
“We’ll see about that … And can we cut it out with the ‘Mr Rue’ bullshit? I know you know my name’s Stanley.”
“OK … Stanley.”
“And I can call you Vivian then?” Eldridge struggled to mask her surprise at Stanley’s question, her reply dealt out in a rush.
“How did you know my name was Vivian?”
“It’s on your ID tag.”
Stanley motioned to the photographic identification card attached to Eldridge’s white coat. She looked down hurriedly, touching the card suddenly as though she wasn’t even aware it was there. A calmer look then spread over her face as the fingertips of her left hand slid over the shiny plastic.
“Well, I think in this case, in the interests of our professional relationship that is, that you should still address me as Doctor Eldridge.” Stanley shrugged his shoulders.
“Whatever you say, Doc,” he said in a flippant manner. Eldridge crossed her legs as though it were a professional action, consulting her clipboard again as she did so, and then cleared her throat with a tiny puff of air.
“So, for our first session, I would like to try some simple visualisations, in order to help me get to know you. And for you to build a picture of what you want to get out of our visits.”
“Visualisations?” Stanley uttered, a clear note of incredulity in his voice.
“It’s a simple exercise, just to help you relax a little into your new surroundings.”
Stanley raised his right eyebrow a touch, Eldridge completely oblivious to his skepticism. Stanley shrugged his shoulders again.
“Close your eyes, please …” Eldridge said. “What’s the first thing you see?”
Stanley still looked unsure, but closed his eyes anyway, taking a small but purposeful breath along the way. Eldridge peered at him with almost surgical precision.
“The very first thing,” she went on. “Even if other visions and ideas are clouding it afterward, just the first image that comes into your head.”
“OK. Are you sure?”
“You said the first thing.”
Eldridge balked, glancing sideways at her files and then back at her handwritten notes as she held the clipboard even more astutely on her knee.
“I’m sorry, Stanley, but I’ve got nothing here that says anything about you having a daughter.”
“She hasn’t been born yet,” Stanley replied in a short monotone breath, without missing a beat. Eldridge faltered once more, this time Stanley fully aware of it, even though his eyes remain closed.
“And how do you see her?”
“You mean where do I see her? What is she doing?”
“Ah, yes, that’s right.”
“She’s not doing anything. She’s standing, looking at me.”
“Looking at you?”
Stanley’s thoughts fell into a dreamlike state. As his vision dipped away from the present, his focus was now on a young girl with long pinky purple hair, standing quite still, in the midst of a deserted forest clearing.
“She’s always looking at me,” he added, his mind still wandering, his eyes still closed.
“And you can see her face? Clearly?”
“Would you like me to describe her in detail, Doc?”
“But how would you be able to do that, if she hasn’t been born yet?”
Suddenly Stanley opened his eyes, staring right back at Eldridge. She blanched a degree under his sudden piercing eyes, but held his sharpened gaze all the same.
“Her face is all I see. Every last hair on her head, every last freckle on her nose … I’ve known her face for a very long time …”
Eldridge seemed to hold her breath, as a curious suspended silence gripped the room. Eldridge’s body tingled and fired, her eyes locked onto Stanley’s, utter sincerity in his stare. Finally she heaved a breath before continuing with her questions.
“And how does it make you feel, when you see these … things?”
“It’s like I’m a boat, a rusty old barnacle ridden boat, lost out at sea. And her face … Her face is like a ghost calling out to me from the shore. Calling me home.”
“What – what’s her name, your daughter?” Eldridge said, grappling back her composure.
“Magenta. Her name’s Magenta.”
Stanley kept his keen look on Eldridge, and the young doctor now appeared more self-assured, as though she had just labeled Stanley nicely in her head, and now only needed to find the right sized box to put him in.
“I see … OK, I think we can leave it there for today.”
Stanley said nothing but looked around, his eyes finally pointing out of the window again. The bird which was there before had returned, the small creature now peering intently in at Stanley once more. The two exchanged stares for a moment before the bird suddenly flew away and Stanley got to his feet, leaving the room without so much as a backwards word to Eldridge.
Eldridge sighed and got to her feet, the sound of her new patient’s disappearing heels growing softer and softer from outside her open office door.
She looked around the room a little tiredly, before noticing something. On the wall that contained the window Stanley was looking out of, and that which she had had her back to the whole time her and Stanley were talking, was a series of posters charting various colours. They were leftovers from her office’s previous life as a more multipurpose space, the posters exactly like what might be seen on a classroom wall. One of the colours featured, and the poster that Eldridge’s eyes fell onto then, was the colour ‘Magenta’.