“What exactly do you dream?” The psychologist spoke without emotion, as was his customary manner, always calm, always placid. His office was placid. His life was placid.

“What do you think?” She tried to get comfortable, but it was no use. There was no comfort to be found in his office.

“I can’t imagine, I’m sure. Let me guess. Wealth? Power? You seem to have a thirst for it.”

She couldn’t argue, she did have a taste for the fine things and in her life, she’d known the finest. Parisian opera, the Royal Theatre of London, she’d lived in palaces, castles, and fine manor homes. She still maintained an impressive collection of Ming vases in the London flat. The rest of the Oriental goods, now where were they? It was hard to keep up with it all. She had houses in many countries under many names.

The padded restraints on her wrists and feet cast a humbling shadow on her usual wants. She could be anywhere in the world right now. She could, but she wasn’t. Now, she just wanted to be free and it looked like that would never happen. She took a deep breath and sighed. There was no use in lying at this point. “I dream of being normal.”

“Normal? In what way.”

“Don’t kid, Dr. Avery. You know what I am. I know what you are. Don’t you dream of being something else?”

“Of course. But, we’re not here to discuss my dreams.”

“What do you think you’ll discover?” Her voice betrayed her. She wanted to be hateful. She wanted to be full of venom and mystery, but Dr. Avery knew too much. It was his advantage with her, but a disadvantage with others. His problem stemmed from the fact that his peers would never believe him. Any physical exam he administered returned completely normal.

“Rowena, you aren’t getting out until I retire, then the next doctor will likely reverse my findings. I can protect everyone for a little while. As long as I have that power, I will use it.”

“Why do you care?” She tried to work the restraints loose so she could move. “So what if a stranger dies here and there? No big deal. Happens all the time.”

“Not because of me. If I let you go, I become your enabler, your helper-”

“God, you are a doctor.”

“You can make this difficult or easy. We know the realities without discussion. I know your hunger for people.”

“Yes, yes. And all the queen’s horses and all the queen’s men couldn’t put me back together again.”

“What’s that about?” He looked squarely at her. The light from his laptop gleamed on the lens of his glasses.

“It’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell it to you sometime.”

“Why did you kill her?”

“Why not? Seemed like a good idea at the time. I was starving.”

“How often do you need to feed?”

“Depends on my last meal.”

“What happens if you don’t?”

“I’ll die, in time.”

“How unfortunate.” He almost smiled. How unfortunate. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the interview was she couldn’t feed from him. Those damned drugs had done something to her. She could feel that damned pain, but couldn’t feed.

“So, how do you do it? Surely, you can tell me that much.”

“How do you eat? Is that a mystery? You know, you might try asking something a little more original.”

“When were you born?”

“1395.”

“Where?”

“Italy.”

“Why did you come to America?”

“Oh, it was all the rage… Besides, I’d already been everywhere in Europe and most places in Asia. I was married to the Japanese Emperor Momozono briefly. Unfortunately, he died at 21. I’d already drifted everywhere else.” The lights in the hall outside dimmed. It was bedtime for everyone else. All the nice, normal humans prepared for bed, enjoyed slumber, rested, but she was being interrogated.

She knew Dr. Avery was fascinated with her. He was consistent, if unable to manipulate her the way he wanted. She couldn’t deny his tenacity. He was a worthy opponent. If it were a war, she would have to commend his nobility and persistence.

Their initial meeting was a chance encounter that night. She should’ve known a woman of that affluence wouldn’t be traveling alone. She hadn’t been. Dr. Avery’s wife just entered the building first. By the time she feasted on her life force, Avery had found them.

It was tragic in many ways. She’d never had any interest in spouses or children. She lost her first husband and only son to a vicious repeat of the Black Death in the Fifteenth Century. She didn’t want to live after that, but she changed into a spirit eater shortly thereafter. The sudden change took centuries to grow accustomed to. It had been a protracted, and sometimes colorful, life. She still would have rather died with her husband and son. Their sickness skipped over her as if she weren’t even there. She nursed them both, half-hoping to go with them. She didn’t.

Dr. Avery would never admit what he knew about her, he couldn’t as a professional. His status as an expert psychologist in obscure mental maladies meant she wouldn’t see freedom for a long time. He created a dozen different psychoses, neuroses, and other terms she’d never imagined.

There was no movement forward or backward. He wouldn’t reassign her to another doctor because she was healthy. Any other doctor would see that after an examination. She was marooned in a realm as bad as Bedlam. Well, perhaps that was an overstatement; she’d visited Bedlam on several occasions. Treatment of the mentally ill today was nothing like then, although it had degraded considerably since state institutions were virtually abandoned.

She wiggled her arms again and the chains clanged against the steel rungs that held them. She continued to answer questions even though she had no real answers. Dr. Avery was looking for logic where there was no logic. He was looking for reason when any reason had eluded her knowledge. He was looking for an answer to whatever it was that old woman did to her. Whatever it was she said. The old Sicilian woman with one eye cursed her to roam for eternity.

She still could remember her words, but her dialect was archaic. It was ancient even then to her young ears. As time passed, they grew fainter and fainter. She had no logic. She had no reason. She just was and she would continue to be, centuries after Dr. Avery was long dead.

 

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