The office is very poorly lit, colored with brown and beige; wood or paintings, everything reminds me of coffee. The chair I'm on is brownish too, padded with arm rests and leather finish, the desk is wooden and everything on it seems dead. This is a depressive psychologist office if I've ever seen any.
The bald man sitting at the desk is already taking notes and looking bored, even though we're not started yet.
He looks at his watch, then at me, then at his note pad, "Tell me about yourself."
No lead up, nothing to build any kind of mood or trust. I'm really paying for this?
"Like, what? My name…"
He nods, "Yes, your name, where you are from, your job, anything you think about."
You're a fucking moron and I want my money back. Don't think that's what he meant.
"My name is David, I'm twenty-four, I'm a student at the UAT here in Quebec, I study Engineering, Metallurgy and Electronic, pretty much."
He takes that in note. Yeah, I'm having trouble making a real career choice; Started out in arts, hated it.
He admits I don't look the artist type.
Guess he's right; I have no piercing, barely any visible tattoos and I never wear any sort of flashy or brand clothes. I think marking one's body shouldn't be done for aesthetics alone; the mark should represent something, tell a bit of the wearer's story or be a way for them to assert control over their body.
I don't have that much history; A Native American arrow tip on the back of my left wrist to represent when I rated fourth out of a hundred in my school's archery competition, a tribal-styled paw print on my left clavicle to symbolise the time when I tried to save a Labrador cub from parvovirus and failed, and, finally, a thin, black and thorny vine wrapped around my left forearm, to remind me of someone I hurt by trying to get too close.
No Hollywood-like love story gone wrong or anything, just something I saw as casual flirting and fooling around that got too far and ended up causing more harm than I expected. All sorted out now, but I still got the tattoo to remind me I am responsible for my actions.
The man in front of me seems genuinely interested when I tell him about it, the tattoos as much as the relationship, and actually stops writing for a second to listen more closely.
He tucks the pen behind his ear and ponders for a few seconds. "You practiced archery?"
"Yeah," I nod once, leaning back in my chair, "it was that or urban exploration and urban exploration pretty much sucks in a two-thousand people town."
He nods at that and fetch his pen back to note it, "Have you ever gone bow hunting?"
Huh? Why? Because I can shoot a bow I would necessarily use it to kill stuff? I don't even own one! I just know how to use it and never did so outside a firing range with someone counting scores.
"No." Is all I end up answering. Don't feel like being a smartass right now. Rarely ever feel like being a smartass, really.
He writes something and taps his lower lip with the pen twice, apparently in deep thought. Well, seems I got his attention now, whatever it is that got him interested, however, I got a feeling it's not just the diagnostic of a rare mental illness.
I'm weird, I won't deny that; ever since I reached puberty, I've been getting aggressive, violent and, well, territorial. I blamed it on been a teenager, hormones and all that, but it never stopped, so here I am, seeking medical help.
He checks something in a drawer and looks back at me, a strange glint in his eye. "I'd like to ask you a few questions to determine something, if you don't mind."
Why would I mind? I'm paying him for just that purpose! "Sure, go ahead."
"Good, answer only by yes or no, you do not need to go into details…" he fetches a clipboard from the drawer and readies his pen before starting:
"First question: Have you ever suffered from physical violence in your childhood?"
Not from my parents or family, but I was pretty badly bullied, as a result of always being the new kid, "Yes."
He notes it and nod, seeming to have expected it, "Second question: Did you ever feel guilt over something you did, although no one knew about it?"
Well, there's that tattoo on my arm that says I did, but that wouldn't be true. I don't feel shame or guilt or remorse, I did not intend for things to go that way, I can't change it, so there's no use beating myself over it. The tattoo is really just a bit of a memo. "No."
Why does he looks like he's enjoying it? "Third question: Would you consider yourself a keen predictor of other's behavior?"
Would I? I'm rarely wrong about people, but people are fucking boring, so that's no feat. I'm often told not to judge people too quickly, but they just give away so much of themselves in the way they talk, act and dress… "Yes."
"Fourth question: Do you have older siblings?"
Huh? Yeah, I got two brothers and a sister, all my elders, but that's kind of a break from the previous questions, or maybe it's totally related and I just don't get how. That's likely too. "Yes."
"Fifth question: Do you often use violence in reaction to stressful situations?"
I fought a lot as a kid, rarely won, but hey, and I usually get angry where other people around me get scared. Not a big difference, truth be told; I still do stupid shit when things go bad.
Then again, things don't go bad all that often, really. "Yes."
"Sixth question: Do you perform well at contact sports?"
He seems amused at how quick that came, "Seventh question: Do you often get called out on your caustic and dry humor?"
Boy, do I! When the dog I was trying to save died, I cracked a joke, don't remember what it was, not a funny one, just supposed to lighten the mood. Everyone else in the room practically yelled at me for it, called me heartless and shit, even though none of them did half the shit I did to save that pup. "Yes."
"Final question: Are you willing to cheat to achieve your goals if you feel they are more important than morale?"
Uh, sure, if the goal is more important that morale integrity, then it's not cheating, it's getting shit done. "Yes."
I'm seeing a pattern here, although I'm not sure what it's supposed to be.
"Have you ever heard of the two percent?" He suddenly asks me, apparently deciding to lay it out plain.
He scoffs and shake his head, "Not quite; there are researches that indicate two percent of the population are born killers, predators." I don't like where this is going, "This is just a surface scratch and there are no certainty here, but I think, with what you told me that we can assume you are a part of that group…"
Yay me. I don't want to join the army or become some kind of hired killer, so that's not really the greatest news ever. Don't get me wrong, that sounds cool and all, but I won't suddenly grow all Rambo because some bald guy with a fancy suit told me I'm a predator.
"So," I speak after a few seconds of silence, "can it be cured?"
He laughs, the kind of genuinely amused laugh grownups have when you ask stupid questions as a kid.
"It's not a disease," He finally explains, "it's a genetic marker, emphasised by your early environment." He pauses for a second, trying to find the right words, then rephrases, "It's who you are, like being color blind, dyslexic or having ADD."
"Dyslexia doesn't make people want to rip off other people's head." Just feel like I should point that out.
"No, it doesn't." he concedes, reviewing his notes once or twice before leaning on his desk to think about it for a whole minute.
He seems torn over a dilemma, giving me meds or not, maybe? I don't know if I'd take pills, I don't feel like I need chemical therapy; I'm just angry.
"I know a man in the UK," he finally announces, though I fail to see how that's relevant, which is really the theme of this conversation, really, "He thinks people like you are the next step in human evolution; higher IQ, better physical condition, less physical defects, so on." Uh huh… If that guy had been in Germania, I'd have yelled 'Ubermensch!' "I don't agree with his theories, but he did get some fascinating results and is offering a substantial reward for people like you willing to work with him…"
Makes sense, if we're so rare…
There, you'd think a reasonable man would just tell him to fuck himself, but I'm a student and I won't live in a god damned studio my whole life; substantial sounds really sweet when your fridge is yelling at you to go buy stuff or unplug him and end the suffering.
"Ten thousand U.S. dollars for spending a month in his clinic, near manchester, undergoing medical evaluations and answering any question he might have. Transportation and housing are provided, food and clothes as well."
A month long vacation does sound nice right now, especially paid vacations.
I'll need to get some things ready… Not sure what; College doesn't resume before another two month, my summer job, at the town's dog shelter, really doesn't pay much and it's borderline charity work, so nobody will really mind if I disappear. Just need to tell mom and my brothers.
It's times like this you realize you could disappear for a whole month and only a handful of people would notice. Out of these, only one would care…
The phone rings twice and my oldest brother, Jonathan, picks up, his voice slurred and tired. He runs night patrols for Toronto's police force, so he most likely passed out on his couch after his shift.
"Hey, Jo!" I greet in response to his incoherent mumbling.
"I have a gun, Dave, what do you want?" Well, isn't he just adorable? I remember the times when we played Nerf, air-soft and paintball together, in that order, really. I guess real gun would be the logical continuity.
"Just letting you know, I'm…" What? Going to become a guinea pig for cash? "Going in England for a psychological research thing."
He seems too tired to be surprised, "Good for you, don't sign anything without reading it first and all that shit." He then advises, almost amused, "And don't forget to tell mom."
No kidding? That woman would kill me if I forgot to tell her about something like that. Hearing me talk, you'd think my father's dead or doesn't give a shit, but he's actually well alive and we're in excellent terms, but sometime after I turned eighteen, he and I had a talk in the car, on the way to the army recruiting center.
I was sick of school and decided the Canadian Forces would be the best course of action, as you can guess, it didn't happen like that.
I don't remember his exact words, but he never disagreed, he just told me I was my own man now, that every decision I made was my own and that, from this point onward, I would be whoever I choose to.
I do remember one sentence he said: "The day you'll die, nothing will matter as much as being proud of who you've become."
How does that relate to not telling him about the trip I'm about to take? Well, he made it clear he trusts my judgment and that he doesn't want to influence my choices, so unless I want to drop by for a coffee or need help with something, he prefers I let him out of my decision making and tell him only after the deeds.
Mom, however, wants to be updated on my every step and always has something to say about it.
My brother hung up on me at some point, so I dial my mother's number and wait through almost six rings. She's not asleep, she just can't find the wireless phone. She has a fixed one, but never use it, no matter what. She wouldn't use the thing if her life depended on it.
"-lo! Allo?!" She practically yells in my ear, making me cringe and face palm at the same time.
"Hey, M'man, c'est Dave…" My brother and I speak English far more often than French, but our mother is a fierce defender of the French-Canadian heritage, which is a fancy way of saying she gave up trying to learn English.
"Salut mon Coeur! Comment ça va? À tu soupé? Je fais du poulet, si t'en veut! Hey, as-tu parlé à Rachelle? Y parait que son chum l'a laissé la semaine passée, mais j'ai pas réussi à l'appeler…"
Yeah, I don't understand much of what she says either, don't worry.
"Mum," I sigh, kind of eager to get this over with, "je vais passer un mois en Europe pour une étude psychologique…"
She goes on to say it's a bad idea to travel alone, that I should be careful it's not a scam, that if I need money that much, I can always ask her and that this is all my dad's fault.
Don't get me wrong, I love my mother, just not that much.
I end the call and check the time on the microwave oven, in the opposite corner of my shoe box.
Well, I call it shoe box, but the guy who sold it to me called it a 'Modern and economic habitation space'.
Let me make something clear; I'm afraid I'll set my bed on fire whenever I use the oven. Shoe box.
In any event, it's four-thirty pm; plane leaves in an hour, but the airport is ten minutes away on foot and I don't have any luggage. I would bring some, but they said it wasn't necessary.
I don't know how the brits see things, but to me, clean clothes and toothbrush are somewhat necessary for a month long trip…
Well, ten thousand bucks is worth wearing ugly and/or dirty clothes. Let's get out there.
I doubt the building's elevator has ever work and if it did, it was likely steam powered at the time, but it doesn't really matter, I live on the third floor and keep in good shape; a few flight of stairs won't kill me.
Well, figuratively speaking, they will if you push me hard enough and in the right direction.
Not many people in the streets today; a few cars pass me by on the way to the airport and two pedestrians walking side by side part to let me squeeze between them.
The airport is small; only one runway and I once had a three house bigger than the control tower.
Still, the Lear Jet waiting for me on the runway (not a commercial plane, they don't come here, an actual plane came all the way here just to get me) seems like a good start to this thing.
I climb up the stairs and a pretty brunette with short hair and an impeccable uniform welcomes me aboard.
Odd, she has a Royal Air force uniform. I spent some time in the army Cadets and reserve when I thought I wanted to join the army, I know ranks well enough and that beret on her head has a Major insignia.
"Pilot?" I ask her, halfway up the ramp.
She's taken aback by that, somehow, and for a brief second, she's scared of me. Just a small and irrational fear, but it's unmistakable.
"Yes!" The fear is replaced by pride and I spot an heavy Scottish or Irish accent. They're not the same thing, I know, but English isn't my first language, so give me a break. "I just graduated, actually," she admits, stepping aside to let me in, "No one ever told me I'd be flying VIPs on my first day."
That's where the fear thing came from; who the fuck am I? I'm not military, as far she can tell, didn't salute her, but I knew her rank. I'm not a diplomat, otherwise I would have had some sort of escort, and I'm not an average jack, otherwise I wouldn't be getting a military pilot in a classy plane to pick me up in the ass end of nowhere.
If I were her, I'd bet on a Black Operator or Spy or something, so as I sit down in the first seat on the right and look around the empty cabin, I also proceed to introduce myself:
"Name's David," we shake hands, hers is cold and moist, "I'm apparently genetically programmed to be a killer," try to say that casually, "that's rare enough they would send you to get me."
She seems okay with that and announces we'll be picking up a dozen more passenger before heading to Manchester and will arrive in a dozen of hours, give or take, so I should make myself at home.
Everything is looking good so far, although nobody said anything about the army being involved… Most likely cheaper that way, and if what the doc said about people like me is true, then I can see why the military would be interested.
Imagine being able to increase those traits, or to give them to every soldier; heightened intelligence, faster recovery from injuries, improved mental stability, better hearing, better smell, better eyesight, although I think those three are bullshit, I can't deny that my vision is excellent, I'm not deaf and I can tell people apart fifty, fifty-two percent of the time just with the perfume they like to wear. Doesn't make me all that better than anyone, I have buddies with much better hearing and eyesight, many are much tougher and faster than me and I still didn't win that archery contest, so, then again, maybe I'm just a guy with pent up frustration and social issue and his whole 'Next step of evolution' theory is shit.
Never been in a plane before, so I make sure not to miss the takeoff, checking outside the porthole as the city speeds away. We quickly climb up and it disappears in the clouds almost instantly.
Right, what was I thinking? Clear skies in this cesspool? I'm lucky whenever the cloud cover doesn,t turn to fog!
Well, I guess I'll be taking a nap now, a twelve hours nap.