Friday, 2 March 2018

The Day the World Went Black.

Ben patted his pockets for the tenth time, where the hell were his keys? He'd checked the bowl by the front door, the kitchen table, the pants he'd worn yesterday, his jacket, under the couch cushions and on top of the TV. He was going to be late for work. Where the hell could they be?

"Daisy! Daisy," he yelled up the stairs and heard something being mumbled from under the duvet so he shouted again. "Did you put my keys someplace?"

There was a heavy sigh followed by the soft padding of naked feet on the landing.

"Where did you leave them?" she asked sleepily as she reached the top of the stairs.

"If I knew that I wouldn't be looking for them, now would I?" he snapped. She plodded down the stairs, her blond hair a messy cloud. She reached the bottom step, paused, and lifted his keys out of the bowl with the tip of her finger. He had checked there. Twice! She gave him a dirty look as he took the dangling bunch.

"They weren't there earlier," he said embarrassed.

"Huff," she puffed and turned her back on him before drifting back upstairs for her second sleep. He stormed from the house, late for work and he knew the traffic on the freeway would be terrible. That was a bad start to a day which got steadily worse. It was a day crowned by actually losing his car. He searched the multi-story car park for twenty minutes before finding the car five spaces from the exit. He never parked in that part of the building! How could he forget where he left his car?

When he got home he vented his frustrations at Daisy, not that she listened. She'd given up even pretending to listen these days. It surprised him when she raised her head and asked, "Why don't you get Dave to check you over?"

"I'm not sick!" he snapped.

"I didn't say you were but it's not like you to lose things. Cant do any harm to check," she said then shrugged her shoulders and went back to eating. The rest of the meal passed in sulky silence but he was sure of one thing, he wasn't running to Dave about a set of lost keys.

Over the next few days, there were more...slips. He filled out the home insurance renewal, stuck it in an envelope for posting but when it arrived they said it was blank. After that, his presentation went wrong. He'd spent hours working on a proposal for a new client but when he presented it the slides were a mess. Full of misspellings and errors, it looked like a five-year-old had done them. There were other things but nothing as bad as the presentation. Normal stuff like being sure you put something one place and finding it somewhere else. Small or big, these slips were starting to worry him and it was making him cranky. Daisy and himself were constantly at each other's throats. It all came to a head the day he arrived home to find Daisy and Dave waiting for him.

"What's she been telling you?" he demanded before they had a chance to say anything.

"Daisy is worried and from what she told me she has a right to be," said Dave, sitting forward on the couch, stabling his fingers like some dime-store headshrinker. God damn Daisy for dragging Dave into this. She had no right, no right at all.

"It's nothing. Have you never made a mistake?" he asked, his tone grumpy and defensive.

"Of course. Now and again, but Daisy told me these incidents are becoming more frequent and then there's your behaviour to..."

"What behaviour?"

"Aggressive, depressive, irrational," he listed coldly, each word like a slap to Ben's face.

"Jesus! You're making me out to be a looney!"

"Easy, Ben," Dave said holding up his hands soothingly. Ben realised he had been shouting and in doing so he confirmed at least two of his friend's accusations.

"Sorry," he said and let out a deeply held breath. He rubbed his hands through his thinning hair to steady himself. He knew his moods were swinging a bit but was it any wonder? He put his briefcase on the coffee table and flopped down into an easy chair.

"All I...we're asking, is that you come in and let me check you over."

"And what will you be checking for?" Ben asked sitting back in the chair.

"There could be hundreds of reasons for your sysmptoms."

"Such as?"

"Stress, depression, exhaustion, hormone imbalance, the list is a long one."

"Alzheimer's?"

"You would be abnormally young to develop Alzheimer's, but it's not impossible," said Dave, clearly reluctant to discuss the subject.

"What about brain tumours, or just going nuts?" said Ben angrily.

"Stop being ridiculous," snapped Dave.

"I'm not being ridiculous, I've been doing my own checking!"

"On Google, I bet?" Ben said annoyed at the suggestion. "Most often the simplest answer is the right one. Why don't you take some time off work? Relax, take time to unwind? It's not like you need the money." Dave was talking about Ben's inheritance. He wasn't rich but two million dollars from a maiden aunt he had barely known was better than a kick in the ass. The truth was he liked his work, it give him a purpose for his days. Being stuck in the house day in and day out would drive him round the twist.

"I'll think about it," Ben said sounding less than enthusiastic.

Dave stood up and gave him a steely look. "Think about it all you like but be in my office at ten tomorrow. I'm charging you for the session whether you show up or not."

"Alright, you bully. Are you leaving?" he asked seeing Dave getting out his car keys.

"You're not my only patient you know," said Dave with a wink as he bent down to kiss Daisy reassuringly on the cheek.


***

The following day Dave gave him a full service, bloods and everything before sending him back to work. Two days later Dave was on the phone at stupid O'Clock in the morning. Ben wasn't even out of bed when he answered the call. "You're blood tests have come back. You need to come in to see me before work."

"That doesn't sound good."

"There is nothing definite, but there are a few indicators...look, it would be better if you came in."

"Don't nanny me, just tell me what it is."

He heard Dave exhale loudly as he thought about what was best to do. Eventually, he began speaking. 

"You have unusually high levels of Adrenocorticotropic Hormone or ACTH." 

"And what's that in English?"

"Its a hormone produced in the Pituitary Gland, part of the brain."

"Jesus," said Ben sitting up in the bed. Daisy rolled over to watch him talk.

"I don't know what it is. It could be nothing but I would feel better if we got you CT scan."

"I guess. If you think I should."

"I do and I've pulled a few strings to get you in early next week."

"Is it cancer?"

"It might be nothing. I'll email you the time for the scan. And Ben..."

"Yea."

"Don't worry," he said and was gone off the phone. Ben threw back the covers and sat on the side of the bed. How could he not worry after a call like that? The rest of the day was a blur. He couldn't help typing in Pituitary Gland Problems into Google and it made terrifying reading.

***

Between that, and the day of the scan, he had a few more senior moments. People commented on it at work. His moods got worse and he made Daisy cry a few times by being overly sharp.

When he arrived at the hospital for the scan he found Dave waiting for him. "What are you doing here?"

"What kind of a friend would I be if I wasn't," Dave said giving him a hug. Ben was never so happy to have Dave by his side. The day was punctuated by periods of waiting in between efficient bursts of testing. At the end of it, Dave discussed the results with the consultant before coming to see Ben. 

"Good news, there's no tumour or cancer, but the area is inflamed. You will need to take a course of medication to bring your hormones into balance and improve your mental state."

"Mental state?"

"You've been exhibiting signs of depression which is likely down to your hormone imbalance. Antidepressants will help."

"I'm not depressed."

"You're brain is a complex system and its not running properly at the moment. You need to take the medication if you want to get better."

Ben didn't like the idea of being medicated but he trusted Dave. "If you say its for the best, its for the best." Dave wrote a prescription before he went back to his practice. Ben left the hospital and filled the script on the way home.

Over the following weeks, Ben's condition got worse, not better. He felt strung out, more confused than ever, and his temper was all but uncontrollable. He went into melt-down-mode at the drop of a hat. In the end, he had no choice but to go see Dave again.

"These pills are doing nothing but making things worse," explained Ben after telling Dave he was going to stop taking the medication.

"You can't do that. You'll be taking a huge step back if you stop at this stage. It could be just a bad reaction to this drug. I'm going to move you onto something else. You should see a huge improvement."

Ben filled out the new prescription and like Dave had predicted, things improved, well they did up until the blackouts started. The first one was just a few lost hours on a Saturday afternoon. Daisy had gone out shopping when he started feeling funny. The next thing he remembered, he woke up on the couch and the house looked like a tornado had hit it. He tried to straighten up before Daisy got home but she knew something was wrong the minute she got back.

That night the dreams started, the most horrific and vivid dreams he'd ever had. He woke up crouched in the corner beating himself around the head and screaming. Daisy was right in front of him, in floods of tears, as she tried to calm him down. There was a bruise on her cheek which was growing darker by the second. He was still panicing when the paramedics arrived. Daisy had called them for him but they seemed more interested in her face. In the end, Daisy made them go away by promising Ben would see his doctor first thing in the morning.

***
Ben got to Dave's practice first thing but had to cool his heels in the waiting room until Dave's first patients had gone through. When a nurse finally showed him into the examination room, Ben was shaking and as pale as a ghost. His head was spinning and he could feel reality starting to slip.

"Crikey, you look like hell," said Dave easing Ben into a chair. He took a tumbler from his desk and passed it to Ben. "Here, drink this."

"I don't feel well. There is something really wrong with me he said once he finished glugging the water, not that water would help him. "You got to help me, you've just got to!" yelled Ben, dropping the glass as he grabbed Dave by the shoulders. He tried to get to his feet but his brain was hit by a vision so harsh it was like being kicked in the head. He staggered and felt Dave's hands go under his armpits but that was when his world went black.

Ben came around to the feel of handcuffs being snapped over his wrists. He panicked and tried to get away which only earned him ten-thousand volts from a cops tazer. As he shuddered on the ground he saw a bloody Dave being helped out of his office.

"Take it easy with him," said Dave through his split lips. "It's not his fault, he's a sick man, a very sick man." His friend's pleas fell on deaf ears because Ben was hauled roughly to his feet and frog-marched to a waiting state cruiser.

What happened next was all so muddled in his mind, it felt like it was happening to someone else. The court appearance, being remanded to custody and then sent to the state lockup. Some court-appointed lawyer had represented him when he was so out of it he couldn't put two words together. When that same lawyer came to see him in prison he broke the news they were trying to charge him with assault with intent.

"What intent?" demanded Ben, "I can't even remember doing anything!"

That started his hand-me-down idiot talking about a diminished responsibility defence. Ben's next court date was set but Daisy still had not been to see him. Perhaps the cops wouldn't let her come. He'd been there a week when Daisy finally arrived.

Ben was shown into a visitor cubicle, Daisy was already seated on the other side of the glass. He smiled at her but she just glared back at him as he picked up the handset hanging to his left. Daisy paused for longer than he liked before doing the same.

"It's good to see you sweetie," he said.

"I never thought I'd be seeing you in a place like this," she said coldly.

"Me either. I have no idea what happened, you got to believe me," he said, desperately needing to hear some comforting words. Instead, she asked a question.

"Are you still having the blackouts?"

"Not since that day, a few terrible dreams, or hallucinations, or whatever they are, but even they are going now. I actually feel a lot better."

"Are you still taking your medication?"

"Yes. I must be getting used to it."

"That's good," she said and looked down sadly.

"When are you getting me out of here?" he asked leaning forward, placing his hand against the glass as if he were trying to touch her face.

"That's why I've come," she said, but her voice held no joy. "I don't want you to come back to the house."

"I told you, I'm getting better. I'd never hurt you, you know that, right?" he said, trying to put every ounce of sincerity he possessed into his words.

"You don't get it. I don't want you coming home...ever. You're not the man I married, I don't know who you are."

"What are you saying?" he demanded, his voice rising enough to make the guard at the end of the room rise out of his chair.

"I want a divorce, I've already started the application. The papers will be served, any day," she said and wiped away a tear.

"You bitch!"

She took the phone from her ear when he screamed it again, "Bitch!".

She dropped the handset and rushed away as Ben attacked the glass, screaming and hammering it with the heavy plastic handset. The truncheon blow caught him below the ear and sent him sprawling sideways. Back to black again.

***
The prison gate rattled back so slowly, Daisy felt they were doing it deliberately to extend her torture. She just wanted it all to be over and get as far away from this place as she could. She promised herself she wouldn't cry before she saw Ben but she couldn't help the tears from coming. He had been in her life for as long as she could remember and now that was over. 

Outside the gate, Dave was waiting to collect her in his sleek new Cadillac. He reached over and popped the pasenger door for her. Once she was in he pulled away.

"How did it go?"

"He went crazy, started screaming and smashing the glass," she said sadly.

"To be expected I guess," Dave said matter-of-factly, as he maneuvered the car out of the prison car park. 

"I still feel guilty about it all."

"You shouldn't, it was the only way."

"The money?"

"And me!" said Dave with a cheeky smile. "We won't have to sneak around anymore, I can have you as much as I want now."

She leaned across and kissed him deeply while he tried to keep one eye on the road. Having him all the time was the only reason she had done any of it. Even on the day of her wedding she knew she was marrying the wrong man. It always should have been Dave.

It had started by accident. A look, a touch, an unspoken desire until the enevitable happened. A lingering touch turned into lust, into love. An intertwining of two paired by destiny. Ben was all that stood in their way.

It was Dave that insisted she should have half the inheritance Ben refused to touch, it was he who masterminded the plot but it was she who had made it happen.

She was the one who hid Ben's keys and then moved his car with the spare set. It was she who had replaced the insurance forms with blank ones then sent them in. It was she who messed up his presentation in the middle of the night. She had done all that but then Dave had a hand in things as well.

He had given her the pills to exchange for Ben's. Dave had given her the liquid LSD to slip into Ben's drinks and told her how much to give.

She had been so nervous that first night she nearly called it all off as she watched Ben slip into unconsciousness. Dave was waiting outside in his car, in case she gave him too much. Dave had been the one to land the punch on her cheek, and even though she pretended not to see it, there was a sparkle of joy in his eye when his knuckle connected.

She had given Ben a half dose of LSD the day he went to Dave office so he would be confused and dazed for the final act. Before Dave had let Ben in she had entered the exam room through a side entrance and hid in a closet. She overheard them talking and knew Dave had given Ben something to knock him out. As Ben lay slumped in the chair, they had sex on Dave's desk. It was quick and brutal but he was the man she wanted. When Ben began to stir, Dave made her pick up his timber nameplate and hit him with it. Before she swung he stopped her and said, "Remember, not the nose!" She had hit him gently once but then remembered the sparkle in his eye that day in her bedroom so she added a measure of intention to the blows.

"Enough!" Dave said after taking a couple of hits and he pushed her away. He pinched his burst lip to draw more blood and smeared it over Ben's hand and shirt. Daisy had slipped out the back door as Dave got Ben to his feet and shoved him groggily out into the waiting area before throwing himself on the floor to wait for help to arrive. 

They had done all of that and now they were free. The divorce would go through and she stood to gain one point six million. Dave already had his eye on a lovely place out on the coast. He had put down a deposit and financed the purchase under his own name, until the money came in that is. When it did they would clear their debts and live like they had always wanted to.

Dave looked over at her and flashed her one of his devilish smiles. "Only we matter now," he said and went back to watching the traffic. Daisy noticed the way one corner of his mouth curled up while the other stayed still. Light danced in his eyes and she had only seen that look once before, it was the moment he drew back his fist and took aim at her face. Daisy felt a shiver run down her back but she shook it off. Nothing was going to wreck this for her, nothing.

The End




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