Nest of the Basilisk



Lawrence B was currently Nigel's most interesting patient, and was shaping up to be his most challenging in years; the only one of late that piqued his curiosity for what could go wrong in a young man's mind between birth and his present age. Something had gone terribly wrong for Lawrence, twisting his emotions and sense of self grotesquely out of shape.

Nigel noted Lawrence's outfit for his second evening appointment, thinking of the young man's clothing choices as costumes that portrayed characters in different eras, making Lawrence a walking, talking time-traveller. He wondered at this affectation; what it meant, what it represented for Lawrence, what story lay hidden beneath the fabric. Perhaps Lawrence was choosing his garb to try to escape the present day, to be somewhere and somewhen else, unwilling to reveal his true, current self. Time would tell.

When Lawrence walked through the open door of Nigel's office, he saw the young man was sporting a white t-shirt and heavy blue jeans folded up at the ankles to reveal shiny black combat boots. Lawrence had topped it off with a black leather jacket and pomaded hair. Nigel smiled, remembering his first black leather jacket, thinking at the time it would cocoon him in a tough-guy aura, but only got him beat up after school behind shop class when he tried it out.

"Hey Doc." Lawrence said with a smirk as he walked slowly around Nigel's therapy office, giving a wide berth to the two chairs that faced Nigel.

he sees them as a trap to be avoided, but what does he fear will happen if he sits?

Nigel understood that Lawrence didn't trust him yet, but would it time.

like taming a wild animal - 'softly, softly catchee monkey'

Though well-appointed in clean clothing, his skin clear of blemish or stain, Lawrence gave the impression of being soiled and unclean. His personality was oily and elusive, his eyes dark and scanning for danger like a reptile. Such a delightfully curious specimen.

"Hello, Lawrence. How are you feeling today?"

"Pent up. I need some action, daddy-o. Maybe bird dog a queen for some backseat bingo." Lawrence said as he stood close to the window staring down at Stanley Park, his eyes unblinking, his gaze like one hypnotized.

or a predator awaiting an opportunity to attack

"Do you have a girlfriend?"

"Naw. That's so L7, man. No chick could keep up with me." Lawrence said.


Lawrence formed an L and a seven with the thumbs and forefingers of each hand connecting them.

"L7 - a square, daddy-o. Dig it?"

"Very clever."

"Yeah, too bad you lost whatever hip you may have had back when rock was soft and didn't roll." Lawrence laughed, then he lost the 1950's banter like a switch had been thrown in his brain; "You ever wonder how many bodies are buried down there?"

"Buried bodies? Where do you mean?" Nigel said, Lawrence once again abruptly shifting the conversation into a random direction as he did during his assessment session, but Nigel was intrigued by his jump from 'girlfriend' to 'dead bodies'.

"Stanley Park." Lawrence said.

"Is that what you think of when you look at the park?"

"Not every time."

"But tonight."

"Yeah." Lawrence said, "Look at it. Acres of woods, miles of trails, trees so thick even a police helicopter can't see through them. You could dig a grave in there without anyone knowing, bury the body deep so it didn't stink when it started to rot."

Nigel looked out at the dark shadow of the park, trying to see it through Lawrence's eyes.

a repository for murderous sin

"Tell me you haven't thought of it." Lawrence said, turning his gaze to rest on Nigel.

eyes that pierce deep, penetrating to the bone

"I mostly see the park for what it is; a place people go for long walks, picnics with family, bike rides around the sea wall. And of course the thing I have to drive through to get home every evening." Nigel said and regretted saying it immediately as he saw Lawrence's face brighten.

"So you live in West Vancouver." he said, "High up in one of those mansions? Or down low in one of the high rise apartments?"

"Does it matter where I live?"

"To you it does. A man needs to be happy in his home." Lawrence said, "Are you happy in your home, Doc?"

When Nigel didn't answer, Lawrence turned back to the window and scanned higher at the lights that climbed up the sides of the mountains of West Vancouver.

"Naw. You're not an apartment cat, but I doubt you can afford a mansion. You've never published have you, doc?" he asked.

"How would you know that?"

"I googled you."

"Do you believe publishing a book results in wealth?"

"I'm sure you've come across some crazy cats in your time. Crazy is always a good seller. You should write a book about us."


"Yeah, Doc. I'm one of them."

"The crazy cats."

"Yeah. Could be a best seller."

"I'll keep it in mind."

Lawrence gazed across at the lights of West Vancouver, beyond his shadowland of unmarked graves.

"Not an apartment cat, not mansion-rich." Lawrence pondered aloud, "So somewhere else. Somewhere in-between."

Lawrence sighed.

"It's sad, really. Being in-between."

"I'm curious, Lawrence." Nigel said, moving the conversation away from where he lived, "When I mentioned a girlfriend, you seemed to associate it with dead bodies. Any significance there?"

"Is that some Freudian thing, Doc? Like word association?" Lawrence laughed, "Like you say 'carrot' and I say 'I want to fuck my mother' — oopsie!"

"No, nothing like that."

"Good, 'cause I don't want to fuck my mother."

"So what do girlfriends have to do with dead bodies?"

"Well, they all end up that way eventually, don't they?" Lawrence said.

"We all do I suppose."

"Not me." Lawrence said, turning away from the window to slowly wander the room, running a finger along the spines of Nigel's books, touching the frames of his artwork. The same idle actions he performed during his assessment, but this time with more surety as he grew familiar with the surroundings. Nigel let the silence stretch out between them.

"Ever think about it, Doc?" Lawrence said, his voice softer.

"About ... ?"

"Killing a girl? Looking into her eyes as that twinkling light in them goes out and she becomes nothing more than meat."

like the small corpses that wash ashore on Dundarave beach

"I can't say as I have." Nigel answered quietly.

"Come on, Doc." Lawrence turned and grinned at him, his eyes hooded and mirthless, Nigel suddenly feeling uncomfortable, his eyes flitting to the panic button under the lip of his desk.

a lot can happen in four minutes

He saw Lawrence's eyebrows raise as his grin became leering.

"You're afraid of me." he said, "You think I'm dangerous."

"I've never thought that, Lawrence." Nigel lied, then; "Why are you being so provocative tonight?"

"Provocative. That's a good word." Lawrence said, "Provoke. Evoke. Am I provoking or evoking? Maybe evoking while I provoke or provoking as I evoke."

Nigel waited for Lawrence to decide how the session was going to move forward.

When Lawrence moved swiftly, it startled Nigel until he saw him slide into to one of the chairs facing him, his back straight, hands clasped between his knees.

"What should we talk about?" Lawrence asked.

Nigel waited, unsure if Lawrence was playing a new game.

"Come on, Doc. I'll just ramble all night if you don't rein me in." Lawrence said, "You lead and I'll follow. What should we talk about?"

"I noticed you've dropped the fifties' patois you began the session with." Nigel said, "Any reason?"

"Sustainability I suppose. Or maybe I'm feeling more comfortable with you. Letting the mask slip a bit." Lawrence said, "It's a big thing to let someone inside your head."

"Are we getting inside your head?"

"Not all the way. I mean, really; have you ever been allowed to thoroughly explore someone's mind? Even your own?"

"Most of my patients allow me access to their inner thoughts once they begin to trust me. But am I self aware? Yes, I believe I am."

"How can you be? We all reconstruct ourselves to appear as the person we want to project into the world in whatever situation we're in. Think of it; if we all laid bare our naked personalities and urges, the chaos would bring devastation to society."

"You believe we're all struggling to contain urges that are destructive?"

"Of course we are." Lawrence smiled, "And that begs the question, Doc; are you sure you want me as a patient?"

"Why not?"

"People around me tend to give in to their inner demons. I have that effect on people."

"I don't think there's much likelihood of that."

"You don't, huh?"

"I can assure you my personality is well established and solid." Nigel said evenly.

"Fair enough. Lead away."

"Last week you were telling me something of your family. I'd like to explore that more in-depth." Nigel said.

"Oh, that."

"Yes, that."

"What do you want to know?"

"You spoke of your sister being the golden child, while you were-"

"The designated patient." Lawrence said and grinned his oily grin, "See? I'm learning your lingo."

"You see yourself as the family barometer? The one whose behaviour measures the health or dysfunction of a family?"

"Dysfunction." Lawrence rolled the word off his tongue as though tasting it, "Is a family dysfunctional if a casual inspection indicates that it turns happily on its pins like a well-oiled machine, all the gears clicking happily away. But if you lift the shiny chrome hood the gears are all grinding and wearing down toward a complete and critical failure?"

"I would say it might."

"Then I am that critical failure."

"That's a harsh self-assessment."

"But it's true."

"Was everything about your family of origin that grim?"

"What else could you say if a family appears to be normal on the surface, with just the right amount of praise and physical affection between parent and child projected outward for the audience like a Hallmark movie of the week? Yet when the curtain falls and you peek backstage you see a the darkness was only papered over like an ugly, stained wall in an old house. Is that grim enough for you?"

"Is that how you see your family? A facade hiding darkness?"

"Like actors on a rotting stage, Doc. Mom and dad and sister playing their roles earnestly, convincing the audience to suspend disbelief to the point that they care more about these characters than the blood relations in their own families." Lawrence said, "And there's the bad seed like there's always a bad seed, the black sheep, an archetype the audience loves to hate. The source of all things wrong in the system, the only mar on a lacquered perfect picture of wholesomeness and love."

"Was that how you saw yourself or how they saw you?"

"I never saw myself. I only saw them."

"No inward searching by someone as intelligent as you?"

"Thanks for the compliment, Doc. But I mean it literally; I never look in mirrors. I have none in my apartment, can't bear them."

"There's one out there in the lobby." Nigel said, "Inside the main door."

"I know, but the lights are off out there. I never look at it."

"What are you afraid you'll see?"

Lawrence laughed.

"Don't you know, Doc?" he asked, "I'd see my own destruction."

Nigel made a note to unpack that statement later.

"Your sister was the favourite and you felt that."

"Yeah. She was daddy's princess."

"And your mother?"

"Mother had only one thing on her mind; to survive long enough to die painlessly at a reasonable age before she got too wrinkled. She hated funerals of old people, bleached out hair and wrinkled sagging skin. Mother was afraid to die, but terrified of dying old, so she saturated herself with the most expensive aged elixir money could buy to dull her world and shelter her mind from the reality of the life she chose. She floated through the minutes and years, the proper wife of a proper man who provided her the proper lifestyle she dreamed of as a girl." Lawrence said, for once his eyes staring at nothing, perhaps looking within for the first time in front of Nigel.

"They were high school sweethearts, he the quarterback, she the cheerleader." Lawrence spoke as though seeing the memories floating above his clasped hands, "She dutifully waiting for him when he went off to school, chaste to the world and biding her time, making herself available to him when he returned for holidays, for spring and summer break. He was the only one she ever spread her thighs for.

"Then came graduation and her football star going to work for her father in the insurance business. My mother playing the perfect fiance, standing beside him, laughing politely at all the little biting comments made by all the carnivorous wives in the firm. She was the perfect bride at the perfect wedding and ten months later gave birth to the perfect daughter."

Lawrence looked up at Nigel and paused, then;
"Did I tell you my sister had a gap between her front teeth and her eyes are set apart just enough to be exotic but not grotesque?" he asked and Nigel silently shook his head.

"They fixed her teeth but they couldn't fix her eyes or her brain." Lawrence said, "See, by the time mother was married to father, she was so saturated with her elixir that my sister and I were soaked in the juices of her fetid polluted womb as well. Our bones were wet with it. We were born wrong. For dear sister it was mitigated by dozens of patient and well-paid tutors, seeking accommodations so she could take her exams with her tutors at her side to 'keep her calm' as they whispered the answers to the questions. For Lawrence it made him the bad seed. A flawed and hopeless freak of the family."

Lawrence fell silent.

"When you speak of elixir, what do you mean?"

"Isn't it fucking obvious, Doc?" Lawrence asked, "Booze. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. My sister was stained by it, a birthmark on her brain, and I was blemished with my acerbic personality and curiosity for the macabre. I embarrassed them with my flights of fancy into the dark side of humanity. That is why father hated me so much. It's why mother was ashamed, balanced on the tightrope between her booze and her borderline functionality. It's why my sister resents me as much as I resent her."

Lawrence rose and walked back to the wall of windows and stared into the night.

"You know what my father said to me once?" Lawrence asked, "He actually said; 'I wish it had been you'. But he would never acknowledge the twisted blessing it was for him. He could hate and abandon me knowing I would make my way through life without accommodations, but my sister's never-to-develop brain made her a loving child. Daddy's little girl. The daughter who adored him and showed it in all ways."

"Can you give me a clearer picture of their relationship?

Lawrence turned and stared at Nigel with barely contained contempt.

"Oh for god's sake, Doc. How thick are you?" he asked, "He fucked her every night after mother's elixir wrapped her up in its numbing arms and carried her off to dreamless sleep. There were mornings I could smell the cum on my sister's breath."

"Your father had an incestuous relationship with your sister?" Nigel had been feeling a growing disquiet while Lawrence unfolded his tale and was rattled by hearing it spoken with such vulgarity. Nigel thought of his own sister and the too-close relationship she had with their father, but rejected the thought that their's was incestuous.

"My sister was his surrogate wife from the time she could bleed right through to adulthood." Lawrence said, "There were times I wanted to kill her."

"Out of jealousy?"

"No, to put her out of her misery."

"Was she miserable?"

"I don't think she knew how to be. Confused, yes, miserable, no. She doesn't have the intelligence for it."

"Did it stop when she became an adult?"

Lawrence laughed bitterly, "They married her off to a translucent rising executive in the firm. A man with the endless patience to care for her and an intense desire to rise in the insurance business, to one day replace my father as CEO. For all I know father still fucks her when the pale one is away on business."

"That's terrible." Nigel said, "A mentally compromised young woman being taken advantage of."

Lawrence looked at him curiously, returning to his chair, sitting to study Nigel's face.

"She drools in her sleep. She can't do a child's word search puzzle without help." he said, "Loving father was the best thing that ever happened to her. He paved the road for his princess with gold and promises, having her tutored not only in academics, but social graces and politesse as well, hygiene, fashion, make-up, he gave her everything she needed to wrap herself up in a fancy ribbon and transform into a wedding present. She was given to a husband who would cherish her not for who she was but for whose daughter she is."

"And for you?"

"Scraps. Boarding schools. An education away. 'Sorry you had to miss christmas, Lawrence, but you would have been a fifth wheel in Aspen'." Lawrence said, staring down at the carpet, "I'm so sick of telling this story."

"Who else have you told it to?"

"Just you." Lawrence said, looking up into Nigel's eyes, "Just you, Doc."

Then suddenly another shift.

"Did you know dentists can tell if a girl has recently sucked a cock?" Lawrence laughed, "It causes palatal petechiae and bruising of the soft palate, hematoma if she sucks too hard, and if she wears braces? Holy shit, the DNA almost glows in the dark when she smiles."

It was all Nigel could do to absorb it all, he'd stopped taking notes minutes before, but the entire disclosure was seared indelibly in his mind.

"Well, look at the time." Lawrence said and Nigel saw it was almost eight-thirty, they had gone past his usual fifty minute session limit.

my, how the time flies when you're having fun

"We on for next week, Doc?" Lawrence said as he rose and moonwalked backward toward the door.

"Yes. That will be fine." Nigel said as Lawrence stopped in the doorway, "Next Thursday at seven-thirty."

"Perfect." Lawrence smiled, "Maybe next week we can talk about my invisible friends." And he was gone.

Copyright © 2024 Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, British Columbia

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