“Tell us about normal, Ben?” asks Dr Grey, looking like a man rejuvenated, as he glances sideways for approval from the silent Governor. “In your own words, of course…”
I try to stay calm. The three people in the room are transmitting a mixture of emotions at me. I’m very sensitive to that. It’s probably what led me to study spirituality. You can’t always trust feelings to represent the whole truth, but they always transmit a certain level of power.
Dr Grey, for example, is radiating resentment at me. He shouldn’t be, given that his superior in this situation is giving him some very strong backup. The Governor is leaning back in his black leather executive chair, its gleaming metal sub-structure bent at an impossible angle to accommodate the stretch created by the heels of his calf-leather shoes being on the far corner of the interview table. The Governor is not radiating resentment; he’s projecting the feeling of impending revenge at me. Quite why this is coming at me, in such thick waves, is a mystery. I’ve known him less than a week, yet I seem, already, to be an enormous irritant.
Is he, perhaps, as trapped as I am? It’s an interesting thought… If I could just find out what frightens him I might stand a chance. Such drivers as revenge are always a sign of something much deeper at the level of fear. My blazing knife flashes white in my mind, having mentally carved ‘I will not crumble‘ on my left arm, in a carefully staged psycho-drama the previous night, though now I confess to being a little ashamed of it…the mental ritual, not the resolve.
“Ben?” I return my gaze to Dr Grey, angling my head, obligingly. “We’d like an answer, please…” he says, reasonably.
“Of course–sorry!” I sneak a glance at the Governor who has decided to pick his elegant nails in disgust at my inability to focus. “Normality…in my own words, yes?”
“Yes, Ben,” Dr Grey says. “You’re an intelligent man. Tell us your view of normality.”
“In my own words?” In the flicking of nail on nail I can hear the Governor snapping one of my fingers in his mind; but he says nothing. The chair, however, has stopped wagging from side to side. Its occupant is rattled. What is it?
Time to change the tempo, I think to myself – one of my few weapons. “Normality is a subjective thing!” I say with gusto, leaning forwards to speak so they can see my enthusiasm as I place my hands on the pock-marked black plastic surface of the table and spread out my fingers in a deliberate copy of the Governor’s handiwork. The clicking of nail on nail ceases and I don’t need to look at the man to know he is staring at me with a particular intensity. ‘..shorten all this by shooting you in the back of the head…‘ is the fragment of a sentence I actually hear in my mind.
This is new… I don’t recall ever doing that before–actually reading someone’s mind in a literal sense; but then, perhaps no-one, not even Yellow Eyes, has ever hated me this much… and perhaps I’ve never been this frightened before, even if I’m not showing it.
Without looking at the man holding my life between his well-manicured fingers, I continue my exploration of ‘normality’.
“We can subscribe to another’s code of normality, but I believe the question is directed at a deeper level, so I will not insult you all with a veneer of an answer.”
Dr Grey is actually leaning forward with his hands on the table, too. He looks delighted that his pet madman is actually using the language of a psychologist. I wonder if he knows what danger he’s in? Not from me, of course, but from the ex-mercenary in the corner who has now clocked the fact that I have led a series of gestures to which his stooge has subscribed.
Time to press the advantage, then… “Normality is something we adopt, the product of a pain-reward system that society imposes with differing degrees of severity…” I blast the last word, mentally, into the room, knowing it will bounce of the psychic walls and cause havoc. “You can’t blame society, of course,” I say quickly and apparently apologetically. “We can’t have a civilisation full of individuals or we’d have no Saxon crosses left…”
Dr Grey’s head drops and hangs between bitterly disappointed shoulders. He pushes back from the table and takes a breath to speak, but the Governor cuts him off. “Do you think we use severity in here, Ben?” he asks, in a voice that is precise and terrifyingly soft.
I turn to look, conscious that a wall of rage awaits me, but what I see is unsettling beyond any attempt at composure. From his suit pocket, he’s taken a pair of surgical nail clippers and is holding them up in his right hand, pretending to use the inset nail file to smooth his manually-torn nail edges.
It’s not a question. Its not even something that Dr Grey is capable of responding to, though he begins to mouth a weak response into the carefully crafted and deadly silence generated by his controller.
It is a question that an elegant lady in very smart heels can answer; and she does so with the most perfect gesture I could think of. Miss Goodnight – miss Golding the golden one, my grateful mind sighs, as the tension leaks from my knotted fingers, has got up and, stealing centre stage, reaches into her handbag to take out a ladies’ disposable nail file. She clicks across the few feet between her former seat at my left and the extended circular base of the Governor’s arse and slides it to him over the polished surface of the table.
“Here,” she says. “Try this…you’ll find it’s much more appropriate…”
<See index below for other parts of this story>
———————————————————–< to be continued-
Ben’s Bit is a continuing first-person narrative of the character created by Stuart France and Sue Vincent, which may bear some relation to the author of this story, Steve Tanham, their fellow director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. In the latest of their books, Scions of Albion, Ben is arrested for his overly enthusiastic part in a mad escapade, and the other two are nowhere to be seen . . . For more, enjoy their Doomsday series of books, and the new series (Lands of Exile) of which the first book, But n’ Ben, is now available.
Index to Ben’s Bits:
The Silent Eye School of Consciousness – a modern mystery school.
All contents ©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016