Too Much Reality

A short story. Let me know what you think.

Doctor Alice Fletcher wasn't listening.

Her current patient was a middle aged bank clerk who could talk for hours about how his wife didn't love him, his friends didn't respect him, his colleagues didn't value him and his children didn't want to see him. About himself, in other words.

He liked to say his problem was that people didn't understand what he was about, and couldn't relate to him. Privately Alice was sure everyone did understand, and that was why they didn't want to relate to him. The only thing he was about was himself. It was all he talked about, all he cared about, all he knew about.

God! What was his name? She'd forgotten again. She gazed at her psychiatric diplomas on the wall, and weighed up the pros and cons of pronouncing him sane, cured and happy, versus losing whatever he was paying her to sit in the same room pretending to take notes.

Only five more minutes till I have to throw him out. Just hold on till then. They I can have a nice cup of coffee and open that new packet of chocolate biscuits before the next patient.

She became aware that he's stopped talking. She glanced up.

"Well?", he demanded. "What should I do?"

Jump of a cliff you tedious windbag, thought Alice. Aloud she said, "It's not my job to tell you what to do. Only to let you find out for yourself how you feel."

"Yes but...what do you think?"

I've no idea what you're on about and I don't care. Now leave me alone. "I think we've made some important progress this week, and this is a good point to end today's session. You need to think about what we've learned, and build on it next time."

She stood up and held the door open for him. He walked out looking confused and trying to hide it. She nodded and smiled at him as he left, and closed the door firmly.

Alice let out a deep sigh. She didn't feel well - hadn't felt well all week. It could be mild food poisoning, probably from that restaurant. Her husband had taken her out and they'd spent far too much money on far too much food and far too much wine. And then they'd...well, it had been lovely. It had all been enormously sweet of him but...somehow typical she'd spend the next week suffering for his kindness.

The intercom bleeped. "Detective Wheeler is here to see you", said Madeline's voice through the tinny speaker.

Alice frowned, "I've got another patient in five minutes. Did he make an appointment? I'm rather busy."

"Detective Wheeler is your next appointment, Doctor", said Madeline in her best 'talking to an idiot but making an effort not to sound patronising' voice. "It's about Mr West. You agreed the police could interview you this morning."

Did I? You're probably lying to me, you old cow..

"Send him in, Madeline."

The door opened and a podgy grey haired man in a neatly pressed suit and trenchcoat walked in.

He even looks like an inspector from the TV. I bet he drives an old banger and he's got a rubbish lovelife.

"Good morning Inspector", said Alice professionally. "Please come in and sit down. Or lie on the couch if you prefer."

"Thank you, I'll just sit." replied Wheeler. He had a voice that matched the rest of him - neat, careful, and past it's prime.

He sat, carefully. "I understand Mr Greg West was a patient of yours, Doctor Fletcher."

"Was? Has something happened to him?"

"I'm afraid so. He shot a man with a pistol at point blank range, and then turned the gun on himself."

There was a long, surprised pause.

"You're quite sure it was him? And they're both dead?"

"Yes...and yes. There were several witnesses. You'll probably read about it in the evening papers."

"I...see. And you want me to tell you why he did it."

"Well, if you could maybe shed some light on what he might have been thinking.

Alice was silent

"Did he have any real enemies? Did he talk a lot about killing?"

"No enemies that I knew of, and...no, not the way you mean. He talked about other people dying all the time - it was why he was referred to me, but..."

"But...?"

She sighed. "I'd better start at the beginning."




Gregory West was a thin man of 26, with strawlike hair and sharp features. He had a look that you'd describe as 'intense' if you liked him, or 'beady' if you didn't.

After introducing herself, Alice glanced through the notes she'd been given, before speaking again.

"You've been seeing Doctor Gibson for six months, and he referred you to me. He says you believe you have some kind of precognitive ability, and you were sent to him because you kept trying to warn people about the future. Is that right?"

"I know when people are gonna die."

"How do you know? Do you hear voices?"

"I just know. Whenever I meet someone. Always know."

"Can you give me any examples?"

"Yeah. When I was seven my mum was stung by a bee on her throat. She choked to death. Took her ten minutes. Allergic reaction they said. I was there. I knew it was going to happen. I'd always known. I thought she knew too. I thought everyone knew. I tried to tell my dad later but...he hit me till I stopped."

"I see. You know what..."

"Yes, I know what all you psycho types say. You say I was deeply hurt by seeing my mum die and my dad abusing me and I made up a fantasy of knowing. I'm not stupid you know. Anyway it keeps happening."

"Like when?"

"I had a friend at school. Martin. He was always climbing things. I told him if he climbed up on the school roof he'd fall off and smash his head. He didn't believe me. Then a couple of months later he did it. His head was spilled all over the playground. At the funeral they said it was an accident. But I knew."

"Were you there when he climbed up on to the roof? Did you go there with him?"

"What, you think I pushed him? No, I wasn't there. I was off school. You can check."

"And was there anything more recently?"

"I had a job interview. Didn't get it. Met the manager. Evil old bastard. Tried to break my hand when he shook it. Blew smoke in my face. Always smoking. I knew he'd die of lung cancer. Two years time."

"And? Did he?"

"Not yet. It was only a year and a half ago. But I read that he was in hospital."





Wheeler interrupted her. "So you didn't believe him?"

"No of course not! One quarter of my patients think they've got supernatural powers, one quarter think everyone's whispering about them behind their backs, and one quarter think their girlfriends are CIA spies."

"And the other quarter?"

"They just want someone to talk to. So far as I could see, Greg West was just a confused young man with an overactive fantasy life. It was my job to ascertain whether it was a dangerous fantasy, and if it was, help him get rid of it."

"Hm. Did he tell you when you were going to die?"

Alice smiled grimly. "Oh yes, he tried to pull that one on me. He told me I'd die in childbirth in a little over a year."

"I take it you think that's unlikely."

"Five years ago my husband and I decided to stop having fertility treatment. I can't have children, Inspector."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did you tell Mr West that?"

"No! I never discuss my life outside of this office with my patients. It would be grossly unprofessional. Besides, it would drive me stark staring bonkers if I let some of my patients into my life."

Wheeler smiled. "Are psychiatrists supposed to use terms like stark staring bonkers?"

Alice fought to keep her mouth from twitching. "Only when talking to policemen. And each other. But Greg West wasn't like that. I think all he really wanted was for someone to believe him. Which of course I was never going to do."

"Mmmm. And all this happened...when?"

"Four months ago. I can get the exact date if you need it."

"Later, if it turns out to be important. Right now I just want a general picture. You were telling me what happened the first time you met Mr West."

"He gave me a few more examples of people he'd known who'd died - or he thought were going to die. It was quite clear he was very skilled at rewriting his memories to give himself advance knowledge. Foreknowledge after the fact, I suppose you'd call it. Prophecy in hindsight."

"And how many other times did you see him?"

"Only four or five. Each time he told me a series of his death stories. The deaths were all different, but the stories all really the same. It was odd how many people he'd known who'd died. Assuming he had known that many. I began to suspect he'd not known anyone who'd died, apart from his mother. I thought he might be inventing the whole thing. In fact I was going to suggest that to him on his next session...

"But he never turned up. Now you're telling me that's because he killed a stranger and then himself. I'm sorry Inspector, all I can say is...he thought a lot about death and...maybe it went too far."

Wheeler nodded, as though unsurprised. "Well, Doctor Fletcher, I'm sorry to have taken up your time. I think you're probably right - it's just another murder suicide by...excuse me for saying it, but someone who's not quite right in the head.

"I'll see myself out. Good morning, Doctor."

...and he left without ceremony. Alice got up to put the kettle on for a nice hot cup of coffee. The intercom buzzed.

"Mrs King is her for her weekly appointment, Doctor Fletcher."

Madeline's voice had its usual edge of being ever so slightly patronising.

Oh fuck it. And fuck you too, Madeline.

"Send her in."




Three days later, Alice had got a colleague to prescribe her some pills for the queasiness, and she was enjoying her third cup of coffee with chocolate biscuits of the morning. Then Wheeler unexpectedly dropped by.

"Back again, Inspector? Are you sure you won't take the couch this time?"

"Thank you, but no. There's been some, ah, developments in the case of our friend Greg West."

"Go on."

"He left us a note which...sort of...explains what he did. He sent it by email and we get hundreds of crank messages a day, so it took a while to surface. And it turns out the man he shot was a big time gangster from the north, planning to expand his little drug empire down here. Name of Ricky Flynn."

"Oh! Sounds like Greg did you a favour."

"Well...you wouldn't hear me say it on the record. But the thing is..."

"...yes?"

"The message said he met this girl in a pub, hit it off with her and...knew this fellow Flynn was going to kill her in a week. So, he decided to kill Flynn before he could kill her. We don't know where he got the gun from, and we can't trace any connection between him and Flynn. I don't suppose he mentioned any criminal associates or connections to you at all? Or a young lady named Samantha who might be mixed up in it?"

"I'm sorry Inspector. Greg was a rough type, but not like that. And if he had, I think I'd have told you."

"Hmmm. Well it was just a thought. Looks like there's going to be a big enquiry now, and we won't be able to keep the press out of it. So I'm just saying, you'll be asked to testify...and if some journalist gets wind of the supernatural angle...well, they might start to bother you. Just thought I'd warn you."

"I see. I think I can deal with coroners and newshounds."

"Okay. I'd better be on my way."

Wheeler turned to go

"Oh Inspector?"

He half turned back.

"Yes?"

"What happened to the girl?"

"It looks like she's...disappeared."

Wheeler reached the door.

"There is one other thing Inspector."

Wheeler turned again.

Alice opened her desk drawer and took out a small strip of paper. It was stained with a line of bright pink.

"You remember how Greg said I'd die? And I said he was wrong because I couldn't have children? Well I've been feeling sick recently so this morning I bought this test kit and...

She held up the strip.

"I'm pregnant."

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