11:59 PM December 31st. New York frolicked on every channel, unaware that a thousand miles south of the dropping ball Jorvyn McKale was sliding between worlds.
“Jor, you’re going to be late.” Anika’s voice bounced around inside his head.
“Tell me about it, Anika.”
“My shoes got eaten.”
“By the one eyed Grastien salamander?”
“No, by the Voog sludge the fucking salamander chased me into. Apparently one eyed doesn’t equate to tiny brained.”
“Well, it is a very large eye.” The concern in her voice was tinged with amusement.
“Now you warn me. Tell FireSpring the package is in the usual spot at Cross Point. And I need new boots.”
The featureless gray rippled before him and he stepped through into his room. There was a time, not too far removed, when he had regarded the room as a prison cell, called it a hell box, and fought the guards at every turn to avoid it. Tonight it was his refuge.
The ruined socks melted away in the last bit of swirling gray. He winced when raw spots on heel and toes, thanks to the Voog, met the cold, concrete floor. The paper thin booties he slipped on as he hopped to the bathroom offered little protection.
Jorvyn had just enough time to use the toilet and dive under the sheet of his narrow cot before a thin shaft of light made a curly haired silhouette on the wall. When the light went away and silence returned he relaxed.
“Happy New Year, Anika.”
“Happy New Year, Jorvyn.”
Jorvyn was relishing the rare luxury of picking apart a fresh cinnamon roll, complete with real icing, and dipping the pieces into his half carton of skim milk when the grey metal door opened with a whining creak. He didn’t bother to look up.
“Not done yet, lemme lone.”
“Mr. McKale, if I could just have but a moment of your time.” Dr. Cobb, Cornhollio to staff and resident alike, was old and stuffy and clearly wished he’d been born British.
It was as if the Hospital Board had searched the world wide to find the most stereotypical shrink and tap him to run their nut house; or Long Term Residential Care Facility, as they liked to print so fancily on the letterhead. Everyone, inside and out, knew the only truth to the title were the first two words.
Jorvyn looked up and froze. Dr. Cobb was not alone.
If Dr. Cobb was a typical shrink the man next to him was anything but. His broad shoulders strained the lab coat seams. High and tight crew cut perched atop a face that had probably made him an instant favorite of the female staff. He looked like he’d be more at home on a movie set or a rugby pitch.
“Mr. McKale, this is Dr. Mason Riley. He’ll be taking over your treatment.”
“I’m here sugar.”
“We may have a problem.”
“You might have to cancel my meeting with the Cherooth underlings. It seems I have a new doctor.”
“Yeah, it’s that doc I’ve seen from a distance over the last few weeks. You know, the one I said was staring at me creepily. Now I finally have a name to put to those frosty eyes. Find out what you can, please, about one Doctor Mason Riley.”
“Sure thing, sugar.”
“Are you a black woman today?”
“Yes, I am. A big, beautiful black lady with flame red hair and purple eyes. You like?” She sent him a mental image and he nearly snorted roll.
“Disturbing, yet dashing. I am, sadly enough, still a skinny white boy with dirty blonde curls and dirty hazel eyes.”
“You’re handsome to me, sugar.”
“Thank you dear. Oh crap, gotta go, their lips are moving.”
“Be careful, Jor.”
“Sorry doc, couldn’t hear you over the screams of the cinnamon roll.” He popped the last bit into his mouth and chewed as if crushing a rebellion.
“Didn’t I tell you he was one of our more colorful residents.”
Doctor Riley nodded but said nothing. The intensity of his blue gaze lifted the hair on the back of Jorvnyn’s neck.
“Any dreams lately, Mr. McKale?” Cornholio asked.
“Sure Doc. A one eyed salamander chased me into flesh eating sludge.”
“How did that make you feel?”
“Like I need to get better footwear.”
“I see. What do you think you were running from?” Cornholio wasn’t even pretending to take notes.
Jorvyn leaned back in his chair. “I dunno, Doc. Isn’t that why I’m here, to work on my delusional issues?”
“Yes, and you’ve made some progress.”
The new doctor finally spoke and Jorvyn wished he hadn’t. “May I see your feet, Mr. McKale?”
“Oh hell no.” By the twitch in Dr. Riley’s eyebrows Jorvyn realized he’d said that out loud.
Cornhollio’s cell went off and Jorvyn jumped. “Sorry, I’m needed in the cafeteria. Mr. McKale, I expect your full cooperation with Doctor Riley.”
“Your optimism is charming Doc., misplaced but charming.” Dr. Cobb sighed and headed out the door with a look to Doctor Riley that could have been good luck or good riddance.
“Why do you want to see my feet?”
“I study psychosomatic and somatoform disorders. You occasionally show physical injuries that mimic your dreams and can not be explained by accident or intentional injury.”
Jorvyn drained the last of his milk. “You’ve read my file.”
“I have but I’d rather get the bulk of my information from you. So, may I see your feet?”
“Mr. McKale, I will be gentle,” Doctor Riley said in a tone Jorvyn suspected was supposed to be soothing.
Milk droplets sprayed out as the carton sailed towards the doctor’s head. The empty coffee mug followed soon afterwards. Both narrowly missed their target and fell to the ground, one with a splat and the other with the clatter of heavy duty plastic on concrete.
Jorvyn waited for the guards to be called. Instead, Doctor Riley hooked the meal tray with a finger and pulled the remaining projectile weapons out of reach.
“Let’s try this again. I’m Doctor Mason Riley and I’m going to be your doctor.”
Jorvyn gave him a one finger salute. “Nice to meet you Doc. I’m Jorvyn McKale and I’m going to be your worst nightmare.”
Doctor Riley smiled and Jorvyn felt ice sink into his bowels. Unfortunately, Jorvyn only knew one way to get rid of a new doctor. It would cost him the rest of New Year’s Day’s festivities but that couldn’t be helped.