First published in Static Movement (2008)
Three words cycled through Ellen’s brain, growing louder with each pass, as the two doctors entered the room. Unable to move her legs or talk, she laid still. Sweat beaded on her forehead at the sound of his voice. She slowed her breathing and tried to remain calm, but the words were relentless. Three words. Three powerful words. It’s him, again.
She watched Dr. Brown push his black-framed glasses up with his middle finger, while he explained how the x-rays, blood tests, and MRI showed nothing physically wrong with the patient. Ellen studied the other doctor. He reviewed her chart with a nonchalance that made her uneasy. She closed her eyes to erase his face; but she could still see him, dancing a grotesque jig with the three words, his blond ponytail keeping the beat.
“I’ve never seen an actual case, but this appears to be some form of conversion disorder,” he said to Dr. Brown, who indicated he was unfamiliar with this diagnosis.
“We think it’s a psychological defense mechanism, usually brought on by severe stress.” He referred to the chart. “I see the rape kit they administered in the ER was positive. Such an event could trigger her symptoms.”
Ellen gritted her teeth and willed the three words to go away, but they continued their assault. She wanted to ask for help, to scream, anything to get him out of the room, but couldn’t.
“Let me spend some time with her,” he said. “Research shows that suggestive therapy often eliminates the problem.”
“You’re the psychiatrist,” Dr. Brown said. “I’ll check with you later.”
Ellen watched Dr. Brown leave the room. Her body tensed when the remaining doctor sat on the edge of the bed and brushed a shock of red hair from her cheek. She flinched, her eyes wide with fear, and tried to pull away when he took her hand in his.
“What a surprise. I didn’t expect to see you again.” His smile turned to a frown, his blue eyes lost their humor. He leaned closer. “I guess you didn’t enjoy our time together as much as I did.” He glanced around the room to make sure no one had entered. “You know I can’t allow you to get better.”
Before he could move away, Ellen’s hand flew cobra-like to his neck, her fingers clutched his throat with a strength she didn’t know she had. She watched his eyes grow wide and saw blood creeping down her fingers from where her nails dug into his soft flesh. She clenched her teeth and increased her grip. His tongue dangled from his mouth. She felt him go limp and let his weight roll her on her side as he slumped to the floor.
She released her grip and let her arm hang over the side of the bed. Unaware of her actions, she curled into a fetal position and stared at her rapist. She saw his nostrils flare and his chest rise and fall. Three new words replaced the others. Three words more damning than the first. He’s still alive.