“It would be very helpful if you could explain the significance of Mr T and tell me something about yourself? And why you feel you should consult with me. This will give me something to go on. Your telephone call two days ago was rather brief, though I am certainly interested and must admit to being rather curious.
“The name Mr T comes from way back,” Felix explained. “I am nearly 40, after all, but years ago, not long after I had left school and around the time I’d gone to university, I was a bit overweight. Well, a bit more than just a bit. Quite podgy actually. I had never really been athletic and was in quite poor physical condition. And somewhere around my middle, I was, you know: fat! Tubby. So I was christened with the name Tubs. Later this became Mr T."
“Did you mind that name?" asked the psychologist.
"Not really,” he replied after a brief pause. “It wasn't a name I was called out of malice or anything. In fact, I liked it as it sounded rather a respectful way of addressing me."
"Is there a reason for that?" Riding queried.
"What do you mean?" Felix asked. "Why I consider it is respectful to be addressed that way or why I feel I should be addressed like that?"
"Isn't that the same thing?" Riding asked.
"Not necessarily. I think it depends on your point of view. It is more respectful and, yes, I do feel I should be offered respect. I know that allowing ‘Mr T’ and still expecting respect don’t really go together, but...."
Felix left the comment unfinished as he felt like he was being tested, but supposed Dr. Riding had to make a professional assessment about him somehow. To see how crazy he really was.
"You know what it's like with friends? We all have names other than our real ones. The ones we were christened with. I expect you had one?" he ventured.
Riding sat motionless obviously with no intention of answering, though her sharp grey-blue eyes were locked onto his face giving him the unnerving feeling that he was being studied. He felt a brief, but very intense feeling of foreboding that seemed to be gone almost as suddenly as it had appeared.
"Can you describe to me any physical problems you experience?"
"I get dizzy sometimes,” Felix replied. “Usually when I stand up after sitting for a while or climbing lots of stairs."
"Is that why you stumbled into my office?"
Felix realised that she had noticed his clumsy entrance through the doorway into her office.
"Yes." he said.
It wasn't totally honest, but he did feel a little light-headed when he stood outside her office, before Heather Riding had come into view as she'd opened the door. Dressed as she had been provided a picture definitely worth studying. Felix’s had been completely distracted when he’d experienced a mixture of light-headedness, shock and surprise. The thought drifted into his mind that these sensations could all be responsible for each other.
"There is an elevator," Riding was saying, "if you prefer."
"I make a point of not using an elevator if the floor isn't too high up. It's a fitness thing I have. Lifts are for unfit people.”
"You do look very fit now, I must say,” Riding commented.
Felix appeared to consider that statement, but said nothing.
"Would you like some water?"
"Yes. Thank you." He responded.
She stood up and moved elegantly over to the water dispenser, where she filled a plastic cup and returned towards her desk, deftly placing the cup to his right on the corner. Riding continued moving around the desk and back towards her seat.
Suddenly, Felix seemed to alter his demeanour as he continued and a serious look spread all over his face.
“Dr Riding. I will be frank with you. I am truly worried.”
Heather Riding moved slightly forward in her chair and raised her hands with the palms touching each other and elbows resting on the desk, the middle fingertips lightly pushed into the angle of her chin in a very relaxed and interested-looking pose. Felix looked startled. He had never seen anyone with six fingers on each hand even though he knew such people existed. Hexadactylism or something, he recalled.
“You possibly imagine I'm a hopeless case,” Felix offered, “but I've had so much patronising humour levelled at me over recent months that it seems whenever I say something unusual or out of the ordinary the accusation of conspiracy theorist rears its ugly head. Any implausible comment I make, however detailed it may be, is simply rejected. Nearly always out of hand without any explanation of why it sounds so ridiculous.”
Felix paused briefly. Riding waited in silence.
“This concerns a combination of events and thoughts that I do not understand,” Lightfoot continued. “I am a scientist. An astrophysicist, actually, and I know that what I sense is very real. I feel threatened, though I don't know by what exactly."
Riding waited. Expressionless.
“My colleagues just imagine I’m being irrational. Usually, people think I'm a bit crazy if I mention conspiracy theory as though life on planet Earth is ordinary and everybody’s always honest. In my view this is as far from any kind of existence on Earth as you can get.”
Lightfoot reached for the cup of water Riding had placed on the desk in front of him. He didn’t drink from it.
"Sometimes, I momentarily feel as though I am somewhere else, but it normally doesn't seem to last very long. When I am aware of being back to where I am, the memory is like a dream that simply evaporates. It's transient and so volatile that even though I know I have been dreaming, I cannot remember anything about my dream.”
"That is not unusual," Riding commented.
"Maybe, but it is only that it’s like a dream and that's the closest I can get to describing how I feel,” Lightfoot continued. “If I don't write something down immediately I am almost certain to forget it. Dr. Riding, I am interested in your professional opinion about something specific.”
“People think of car accidents as being something that involves speed, but it doesn't have to. How fast must a car be travelling to cause a fatal accident with somebody just walking?" Lightfoot waited for a response.
"Well, perhaps twenty miles an hour?" Riding suggested after a moment.
"Or less. Ten miles an hour or even less than that. Five miles an hour if a half a ton or so of car runs over you."
"Perhaps,” Riding encouraged.
"Take the other day. It's really quite scary to think about it. Even now. I was walking along the pavement in the middle of the town and about to cross the road. It was around noon. Normally it’s a fairly busy time, but not on this particular day. I stepped out into the road, carelessly without looking, but for some reason stepped back onto the pavement. If I had stepped out, I'd have been hit by a car that was moving quite slowly close to the kerb. I'd have been knocked over and probably crushed against the ground. One of those accidents. See how easy it'd be?"
"Do you mean someone tried to kill you?"
"I don't know. But it would have been so easy. Something made me step back away from the road at that moment. I don't know why, though I am still here. It wasn’t my imagination, either. I have followed my intuition in recent years as I have learned to trust it and never to question it. It seems to look after me like a Guardian Angel or something. I imagine you're beginning to think I'm a sandwich short of a picnic."
"No. No. I meet people with all sorts of worries and concerns. These are always very real to people. I try to identify the source of the problem to help those people help themselves. Help you to help yourself. It's interesting that you should say that you are aware of your intuition," Riding offered. She paused and then added, "I have an interest in this whole area as I suspect there is a link with human psychology and communication. The traditional viewpoint is how we deal with ourselves and not the link between different people. Telepathy and such things."
It was Lightfoot’s turn to wait in silence, but listening intently.
"Do you feel able to articulate your feelings?" Riding asked.
"I don't know, but I can try," he said after a moment. A thoughtful look appeared on his face as he looked at the cup in his hand from which he then took a sip of water.
"When you touch something very hot, you don't think about it, just withdraw your hand very quickly. You won't question or analyse the sensation because if you did, you would almost certainly get burned or scalded. It’s the same if the surface was freezing cold or even colder. Solid carbon dioxide is much colder than ice. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between this and the something very hot, though you would instantly know it was harmful just by touch."
"OK. Go on," Riding encouraged.
© Louis Brothnias (2010)