I finished college at five the next day and walked straight to the psychiatric clinic. I was over an hour late (my appointment had been for three forty), but I had forgotten about my History lesson, for some reason. I felt that I could not miss it again as I had been absent on Monday. Anyway, I was unable to see Dr. Lloyd-Jones as the type of person who would have stuck very rigidly to the appointment system – though I fully expected the disapproval of his horse-headed receptionist.
I got it, alright. I followed her immaculately filed nail down the list of names until it stopped, accusingly, at mine. The lovely looking receptionist shook her yellow mane fiercely and snorted, staring at me. She was wasted in Timperley, she was made to be a soap opera extra in Dallas. I smiled at her blandly.
“Your appointment was an hour and a half ago, Miss Smith,” she said reproachfully. She seemed to have taken my lack of punctuality as a personal insult.
“Yes, I know,” I explained patiently, “I’ll apologise to Dr. Lloyd-Jones, don’t worry.”
The receptionist tossed her head again, her arrogant stallion blood bubbling to the surface.
“Miss Smith, I’m afraid you can’t possibly turn up this late and expect to see the Doctor. It’s out –“
I turned to see Dr. Lloyd-Jones grinning at me from the doorway of his office. He stepped back, gesturing theatrically for me to enter the room. “I’ve been expecting you. Come in. Come in.”
I went in, shooting a final, triumphant glance at the receptionist. She looked away, tossing her head as if she didn’t care, but I knew that she did. I grinned and rubbed my hands in glee, entering the doctor’s den.
“Sorry I’m a bit late,” I said, sitting down in my familiar cushioned chair and glancing at the grey brain floating in its solution of formaldehyde. The room was pleasant in the late afternoon; the sun streamed weakly in through the window, throwing it’s slanting beams across the desk and floor. Dr. Lloyd-Jones shut the door and strolled round behind the desk, smiling faintly, his hands in his pockets.
“Late? Are you?” He glanced quickly at his watch. “Dear me yes, you are a bit.”
As I had thought, he showed not the slightest concern, unlike horse-face.
“Ah, well. Let’s begin then! Like a barley sugar?”
I took one politely and returned to my chair. There was a long silence which I felt unable to fill; I had nothing to say… nothing that is, which would not lead me to mention Thomas, either directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally. It was strange, this knowledge that you must avoid a certain topic at all costs… suddenly my entire range of conversation dried up… it was not that I could not talk about anything except Thomas… but it certainly felt that way. I sat there, chewing on my barley sugar, examining my Doc Marten’s critically. Dr. Lloyd-Jones also sat in silence, chewing and watching me above the pyramid formed by his fingertips, which were pressed together pensively.
“Well, how do you feel?” he asked finally.
I looked up sharply, my eyes meeting his. He sniggered.
“I’m… very well, thank you,” I answered awkwardly. There descended yet another long, still pause. “How are you?”
“Oh wonderful, wonderful.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones smiled widely, swinging on his chair, his teeth flashing in the sunlight. He seemed reluctant to talk about himself today, even though I was also reluctant to talk about myself. The doctor continued to stare and smile at me, drumming his immaculate fingers on his desktop. I wondered if we were just going to sit here in silence until it was time to go. The idea began to appeal to me; but the doctor seemed suddenly gripped with the desire for conversation – or perhaps monologue, for I didn’t enter very actively into the discussion at first.
“You say you feel better?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“And you’re… sleeping better?” The doctor said raising his eyebrows inquisitively.
“I’ve already said I am.”
“And…” Dr. Lloyd-Jones leaned across the desk resting his chin carefully on top of the tank containing the hideous, yet fascinating portion of cerebral anatomy. “Tell me Alison, how is your vampire?”
I gazed into those piercing, permanently happy eyes, sucking on my barley sugar frantically. This was an entirely new strategy, where, if anywhere, was this leading to?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I stammered finally. I found that I could not meet the doctors’ dancing gaze any longer.
“How strange.” He whirled round on his swivel chair, pushing with his pointed shoe like a child on a roundabout.
“And you told me, only the other day, that you had seen a vampire in your dream. I wouldn’t have thought that you would forget a vision of such a creature in a hurry.”
There was no malice in his voice, but I felt trapped. I remembered Thomas’s effortless lies and fabrications the night before to Cassandra; and I thought desperately, why couldn’t I do that? Why must it always be so difficult for me to protect Thomas’s skin? Mercilessly the doctor continued in his casual tone, still spinning like a child’s toy behind his desk.
“Also, I read in your notes that you – let’s see " He ceased to turn, bending over my case notes idly, “- you were very persistent in your claims that you had seen and had contact with a vampire.”
“Who told you that?”
Dr. Lloyd-Jones smiled indulgently.
“A reliable source.”
I was silent. I couldn’t think straight.
“Is it true?”
“Of course, it’s not bloody true!”
“Well, why did you say it then?”
I sighed; I didn’t understand why I couldn’t handle this. I wished that Thomas were with me now to tell those terrible lies with ease and grace.
“Look, why do you think I’m here? I’m ill, aren’t I? I thought that I saw a vampire… it was in my head.”
“You’re sure about that?”
“Look, what is this?” I stood up and approached the doctor’s desk angrily. He continued to lean towards me, watching and smirking insolently, I banged my fist down on the table in front of him, and he winced slightly. “I thought you were a doctor! I thought that the idea was to make me better! So, why are you trying to convince me that my… hallucinations were real? Why are you trying to confuse me?”
“Am I confusing you? I’m sorry.”
Dr. Lloyd-Jones picked up a silver fountain pen from beside the photo of his family and began to roll it back and forth, along the desktop. I watched it, fuming but mesmerised. The doctor coughed sharply. “Do sit down, Alison, you’re making me quite nervous.
Still watching the pen, I sat down. I felt numb, and yet utterly confused. Here I was trying desperately to deny the existence of someone I knew existed, to a person who was trying to convince me that the someone really did exist. No wonder I was confused.
“You’re wrong anyway,” the doctor told me, picking the pen up and holding it between his delicate white fingers, as if it were an ancient archaeological treasure. He stroked his neat black moustache thoughtfully, smiling gently beneath it. “I am not a doctor so I am not trying to make you feel better. As a psychiatrist, I am attempting to make you see, perceive and cope with the reality around you.”
“Does that include vampires?” I muttered, sullenly.
“If that is part of reality, then yes.”
“But it’s not!” I cried, exasperatedly. “Anyone can tell you, vampires are not real!”
“Only because they haven’t seen one.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones swivelled in his chair until he was facing the print of The Nightmare. He gazed at the Gothic monstrosity, pensively. “Once you see something with your own eyes, it becomes part of reality.”
I said nothing. This conversation seemed to have taken a definite, dangerous plunge into the murky depths of philosophy. Questions concerning the reality of existence were always best left to experts like Descartes and Plato, I had always thought. I wanted to leave, but at the same time I didn’t. Here, at last, was someone who was prepared to believe in Thomas, but I couldn’t say anything… I had promised. ‘Never trust a psychiatrist’, Thomas had told me ominously; so I was forced to keep silent whilst the doctor gazed at Fuseli’s painting, smiling to himself.
“I would be quite prepared to believe in your vampire friend, you know, I am no sceptic,” he told me quietly, pressing his fingertips together in front of his chin. “If he is a part of your existence, then don’t deny his reality. Don’t you think you owe that to him, at least? I would very much like to meet him, I find I believe in him already!” He giggled, delighted. “May I meet him?”
I stood up. I was suddenly convinced that this desire to meet a vampire was linked with the doctor’s morbid obsession with death that runs like a vein of Blue John all through his satanic family. Those stuffed creatures became menacing, pressing on the sides of their tanks, infected with that vampire un-deadness. And would Thomas’s hollow body be propped on a hat stand and placed in the most favourite position, just inside the front door? No… I could stop this; I must not allow the doctor to see Thomas as any cost. Though I didn’t know how to even begin arguing against Thomas’s existence now, perhaps the best move would be to simply leave quickly. I walked to the door and opened it. When I looked back, the doctor was still gazing blissfully into the depths of the painting on the wall.
“No, I’m afraid you can’t meet my friend,” I said quietly. I hesitated, wondering if I was being firm enough.
The doctor didn’t even look up. “Goodbye then.”I shut the door quietly behind me and left the clinic.
Now go to Chapter Nine...