This is the 129th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
Survivor, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 8th April 2013
Word count: 908
“So,” the psychiatrist said.
“So,” Chris repeated.
“Why are you here?”
“I don’t know. It’s not my choice. I figured I’d be in prison by now,” Chris said.
“Under normal circumstances you would be,” the psychiatrist said, “However the admiral managed to talk down the Achilles Alliance ambassador. The ambassador didn’t want you arrested you know, he wanted your head on a platter. So tell me what happened?”
“I’m here because I acted inappropriately,” Chris said.
“What you did was a symptom, not the cause Chris,” the psychiatrist turned over a page in the file, “Why are you here?”
“I locked the Achilles Ambassador in a cupboard, and wouldn’t let him out, and I fought with security to stop them helping him,” Chris said frankly.
“Politics,” Chris said frankly.
“No, it wasn’t politics. Does politics involve locking people up in cupboards?”
“More than you realise, what do you think prisons are for?”
“Okay, fair point,” the psychiatrist said, “But it was more personal than that, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Chris said.
“You’re lying Chris. I should warn you, I’ll always know when you’re lying,” the psychiatrist said.
“I know,” Chris said sinking into his chair, “I’m the head of security for this whole building, I’ve brought you people in when we’ve had to question the crazies plenty of times.”
“Then have enough respect not to lie. Tell me why this was so personal.”
“You already know,” Chris said, “You have the file.” The psychiatrist said nothing, and just sat looking at Chris, until Chris sighed deeply, “Okay, okay, what you want to hear is that he was the man that tortured me in the war for Eplsilon Eridani, right?”
“How did that make you feel Chris? That’s what I want to know.”
“Well, isn’t that obvious? I hit him, and locked him in a cupboard.”
“No, that’s what you did, not how you felt. Okay, tell me how it was you first met,” the psychiatrist said, changing directions. He watched Chris sit there, staring blankly into space. “Are you reliving what happened?”
“I was part of a mission to break into an Achilles Star Cruiser and recover certain things they’d acquired we didn’t want to have. I got seperated in a firefight and sent my squad off the ship. I was captured, taken to a space station they’d captured on the fringe of the solar system. I spent two weeks locked away, my only contact was a flap opening up to bring me food. I didn’t realise it, but that was the best of my incarceration. Then I was brought into to see Lieutenant Carmichael, we spent a lovely few weeks, he tortured me. I still bear the scars, parts of my body are missing. The president himself, before he was president, lead the team that eventually got me and the other prisoners out.”
“That wasn’t so hard,” the psychiatrist lied, “So when you met with the Achilles Ambassador, how did you feel?”
“Vengeful,” Chris said.
“Oh, I think you know you felt something far greater than petty vengeance,” the psychiatrist noted.
“No, I’m fairly sure I wanted him to suffer, if only in dignity,” Chris said looking away.
“Chris, you’re not the first person to have been through this in thousands of years of human civilisation, and warfare. If you wanted vengeance, you would have reached for a gun and shot him. You would have hit him, and then pummelled his face until he was unrecogonisable. Maybe you’d have paid everything you had to have his ship accidentally shot down as it approached to land. No, you put a barrier between him and the world. Don’t you think it might have been because you were afraid?”
“Afraid of what? A plumped pompous arse?” Chris said rising from his chair, and pacing.
“You tell me. I mean you have plenty to fear, what you went through, I’m told it’s some of the most intensive non-fatal torture humankind is capable of inflicting, and it took weeks. Is that what you fear? Or did something else happen during those weeks that you fear? I suspect the latter, but tell me I’m wrong Chris,” the psychiatrist.
Chris spun around to face the psychiatrist, “What do you know?” he spat.
“I know the sight of a man filled with fear. I know your job, your existence, they depend on what you say today. I want you to say the truth,” the psychiatrist said.
Chris’s face turned red, and then it blanched, and he sank into the chair once more. “Is it already in your file?”
“No, but I can see it already,” the psychiatrist, “You’re suffering post traumatic stress disorder. But there’s more.”
“They broke me,”` Chris said. “I told them everything they wanted to know.”
“No you didn’t. They didn’t win the war, you never gave up codes. You answered their questions,” the psychiatrist said.
“I don’t know, and I don’t know what to do. Since the war finished, this job was all I’ve had,” Chris said.
“It’ll take time, but you’re wanted here. I will help you, and you’re going to choose to help yourself. What’s broken can be repaired, you’ve already done that once, we only need to make your repairs stronger. Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” Chris said, “Yes I think I do.”
“Well that’s step one. We’ll take it from there,” the psychiatrist said holding out his hand, which Chris took firmly.