Interlude 1

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Doctor’s notes, Subject #24170. Alias: David. Session 2.

Notes and recommendations of attendant therapist, Natalie Sharpe:

In the week since our previous session, David has continued to exhibit no noticeable changes indicative of deviant manifestation. The observation period has been closed and the all clear provided early due to special circumstances. David’s father works with the office of -REDACTED TO ENSURE ANONYMITY-, and has given assurances that he will provide notification should David begin to demonstrate deviant abilities. David’s parents have noted a few marked improvements in his day to day behaviour since beginning to sleep in their bed and resuming school. They note that he seems less angry, more generally talkative and that while he still cries regularly, invariably following his still frequent nightmares, he no longer attempts to hide it from them. His mother continues to list a concern, however, in that she feels he may be hiding something from her. Such concerns are valid, and often true, but caution has been advised. Children in David’s situation often hide things from their parents more because they do not feel ready to address them yet than due to any need for deception.

With regard to concerns raised last week over anti-social patterns forming, the scenario seems unlikely. Upon his return to school, David immediately resumed his highly social behaviour, going so far as to have made a new friend by the end of his first day back. It is possible that he wishes to form a new social group for the purposes of self redefinition, but that remains conjecture.

Transcript of audio-visual session recording taken down by supervisor Sullivan is as follows:

A knock sounds on the door, Doctor Sharpe turns in her chair to face it.

Doctor Sharpe: “Come in.”

The door opens and David enters, accompanied by his mother. The two hug briefly.

David’s Mother: “Are you sure you’ll be okay? I promise I’ll be right outside.”

David: “Yeah, I’m sure. Love you Mom.”

David’s Mother: “Love you too, sweetie.”

David’s mother exits the room, closing the door behind her. David turns to face Doctor Sharpe, still standing close to the door, as he did before.

Doctor Sharpe: “Hello David.”

David: “Hey, Doctor.”

Doctor Sharpe: “How are you feeling today?”

A pause.

David: “Better, I think. A little bit at least. I’ve been sleeping better.”

Doctor Sharpe: “That’s good to hear, David. Are you still having thoughts about what happened?”

David: “Yeah, every night, pretty much, but when it wakes me up, Mom and Dad are there and they help me feel a little better.”

Doctor Sharpe: “That’s good to hear, David. Your parents told me that you tried sleeping alone again on Tuesday.”

A pause.

David: “Yeah. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t.”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “Do you want to talk abo-”

David vehemently cuts Doctor Sharpe off.

David: “No.”

A pause.

David: “Sorry. It… it wasn’t fun.”

Doctor Sharpe nods.

Doctor Sharpe: “That’s fine. Your parents also told me you’ve made a friend.”

David: “Yeah, Nathaniel.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Well, would you like to tell me about him, David?”

David: “He’s… Fun, I guess. Kinda dorky, a little lonely. He seems just as messed up about stuff as I am sometimes and that… kinda helps, I think. We’ve been watching anime together.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Oh yes? Anything I might have heard of?”

David: “Uhh, no offence, doctor, but I’m pretty sure you don’t watch anime.”

Doctor Sharpe laughs.

Doctor Sharpe: “You’re right, I don’t, but my roommate in college watched them all the time. I couldn’t help but pick up a few things.”

A pause.

David: “Spacefighter X.”

Doctor Sharpe grins.

Doctor Sharpe: “Never heard of it.”

David: “Course not, it only came out last year.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Let me guess, giant robots fighting in space?”

David: “Well, yeah, but there’s politics and stuff, too.”

Doctor Sharpe laughs.

Doctor Sharpe:My roommate used to assure me of something very similar.”

David scowls.

Doctor Sharpe: “Well, that aside, I think we’re getting a little off topic here, David. Why don’t you tell me a little more about Nathaniel?”

David: “Yeah, okay. He’s… he’s nice, you know? Not that fake kind of nice that you get from teachers or people who just want you to like them. He’s… I dunno, kind? He came to my house yesterday to hang out and I was busy playing castles with my sister, so instead of pulling me away, he just grabbed some pillows and joined in. I mean, what kind of person just randomly gives up two hours of time just to make a five year old happy?”

Doctor Sharpe: “You did.”

David: “Well, yeah, but she’s my sister.”

Doctor Sharpe: “True enough. I don’t think we’ve discussed your sister yet, have we?”

A pause.

David: “Not really, no. I… Sorry. That’s kinda personal. We’ve only had one session, and I-“

Doctor Sharpe raises her hand.”

Doctor Sharpe: “It’s fine, David, we can talk about something else, if you prefer. How have you been finding your life back at school? You went back on Wednesday, correct?”

David: “Yeah, it’s good. I was starting to feel way too cooped up at home. Kinda bums me out sometimes, though. I wanna play games with my friends, but my mom said if I fell, it might make the skin patch come off and I… yeah.”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “I wouldn’t worry about that too much, David, If you use a new one every week or so, the adhesive should hold up against a scrape or two. There’s nothing stopping you playing ball games with whoever you want.”

David sighs.

David: “I know, but… Nerves, you know?”

Doctor Sharpe: “Yeah, I know.”

The two are silent for a time. Doctor Sharpe moves to her fridge for a soda and offers one to David, who declines. Doctor Sharpe returns to her seat.

Doctor Sharpe: “Have you thought any further about what you would like to do with regard to your markings?”

David shakes his head.

David: “No. I mean, yeah, I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t decided yet. I… I think I wanna get rid of them, but I’m still not one hundred percent sure. There’s… stuff.”

Doctor Sharpe laughs slightly.

Doctor Sharpe: “Not feeling like sharing much today, are you?”

David opens his mouth to reply, but Doctor Sharpe raises a hand.

Doctor Sharpe: “It wasn’t a criticism. This whole thing is a process, and it works best when you feel comfortable enough to share things without being pushed.”

David nods.

David: “It’s just… there’s some things I really want to figure out on my own first, you know?”

Doctor Sharpe: “I do. I’m here if you need help with any of them, though. Okay?”

David: “Yeah.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Well, then, is there something else you’d like to talk about with me, or would you rather we called this to a close for the day?”

David hesitates for a time, opens his mouth to speak, then closes it again. Doctor Sharpe watches quietly, hands folded in her lap. After a few minutes, David sighs.”

David: “Not right now. Sorry.”

Doctor Sharpe: “It’s fine, David. You can hold off of telling me until you’re comfortable doing so. Would you like to go back to your mother?”

David: “Yeah, please. Sorry.”

Doctor Sharpe: “It’s not a problem, David.”

David nods, before exiting through the door and closing it behind him.

Doctor Sharpe opens her desk, retrieves a hand recorder, and begins recording.

Doctor Sharpe: “Personal notes, patient number 24170, session two. Patient appears to be recovering well on an emotional level, his resumed social activity and decreased signs of stress at home are both good signs. Hearing his description of Nathaniel, the relationship seems healthy, and the traits mentioned point towards an additional source of support in his recovery. If David is indeed trying to redefine who he is in the aftermath of his assault, this new connection seems a healthy start. Side note. I feel the need to address a possible conflict of interest. Nathaniel, the boy David recently befriended, is my -REDACTED TO ENSURE ANONYMITY-. I feel it is possible that this could be an issue going forward into future sessions.”

End of recording.

Notes and recommendations of supervisor Sullivan regarding case #24170:

No new notes to record. Concerns regarding a possible conflict of interest have been explored and factored. No action required.

Report Concludes.

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Prologue: David.

Doctor’s notes, Subject #24170. Alias: David. Session 1.

Notes and recommendations of attendant therapist, Natalie Sharpe:

                David (Pseudonym provided by parental request, to be removed if deviation abilities are confirmed) has displayed mild to moderate behavioural change since occurrence of primary event, sexual assault by an unnamed individual. Behavioural changes are concerning, but within expectations. Parents report that David has been angry, withdrawn and largely non-communicative since the event, frequently displaying signs of recent crying, but never doing so in their presence. Subject discharged from hospital three days previously, no signs reported of physiological or metaphysical manifestations: weight, body temperature and brain activity all normal for a child of his age. Mild decrease in muscular strength flagged as concerning, possible sign of type two manifestation, but no corresponding change in bodily density. Listing shock and physical trauma as probable cause, overall risk graded as low.

                Behavioural changes are cause for possible concern, if antisocial patterns develop, could lead to greater risk of harm in the event of deviance.

Personal note from attendant therapist: ‘While I am aware that the social and emotional wellbeing of the child is not the concern of this examination, I still feel a moral obligation to point out the need for sensitive treatment of this issue for the sake of his development into the future.’

                Be advised, David has been noticeably skittish with all adults besides his parents since the event, more so with males than females.

Transcript of audio-visual session recording taken down by supervisor Sullivan is as follows:

David enters, standing by the doorway for several seconds. Notably, his marks of purity and pain, obtained during the sexual assault in question, seem to have been covered, presumably with makeup. He lifts a hand to the side of his face, apparently reassuring himself that the marks are still covered.

Doctor Sharpe: “Hello, my name is Doctor Sharpe, Natalie, if you prefer. What’s your name?”

David: “Don’t you already know my name?”

Doctor Sharpe: “Yes, but I feel it helps if you have a chance to introduce yourself to me, rather than me just knowing these things.”

Both David and Doctor Sharpe are silent for a short period of time.

David: “…David.”

Doctor Sharpe: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, David. Have a seat if you like.”

A pause.

David: “Do I have to?”

Doctor Sharpe: “No, you don’t have to. If it makes you feel more comfortable to remain close to the door, that’s perfectly understandable.”

A pause.

David: “Is this the part where you ask me where on the doll the bad man touched me?”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “I take it your parents let you watch Law and Order then?”

David laughs.

David: “Sometimes.”

Doctor Sharpe laughs as well.

Doctor Sharpe: “Just let me note that down here, it’s very important.”

David appears to grow mildly agitated.

David: “Is it?”

Doctor Sharpe: “No, it’s not. I was joking David, you can relax.”

A pause.

David: “I already told the other doctors, I don’t know who he was.”

Doctor Sharpe: “That’s not why we’re here, David.”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “We’re here to make sure everything’s okay with you, to make sure that what happened didn’t hurt you permanently.”

Doctor Sharpe stands, retrieves a soda from the fridge and offers one to David, who accepts.

David: “The doctor at the hospital said I was recovering fine.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Not that kind of hurt, David.”

A pause. Doctor Sharpe opens a second can of soda and walks with it towards David. He flinches slightly as she approaches. Doctor Sharpe hesitates, before placing the can on the floor and returning to her seat. David mumbles something too quietly for the recorder to pick up, before retrieving the soda, returning to his position by the door and drinking. David looks out of the office window for several minutes. Doctor Sharpe watches David in silence.

David: “I… I remember it sometimes.”

Doctor Sharpe: “I imagine you do, yes.”

David: “H-he said it would stop hurting after a while, but it didn’t.”

A pause. David begins to cry, wipes his eye on a sleeve, takes three deep breaths and continues.

David: “I keep remembering it when I try to sleep. It keeps me awake, makes it harder.”

Doctor Sharpe consults her notes briefly.

Doctor Sharpe: “Your parents didn’t mention any sleep problems.”

David shakes his head.

David: “I didn’t tell them.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Why not?”

David: “I didn’t want them to worry.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Trust me David, they’re already worried.”

David: “I know.”

A pause.

David: “Is there anything you can do to help me sleep? I’m really tired.”

Doctor Sharpe: “There are a few things we can try, yes.”

David: “Can you give me some pills or something? Something to make the memories go away for a while?”

Doctor Sharpe: “Pills are certainly an option, but we don’t really want to depend on them, especially not at your age.”

David crosses his arms and frowns.

David: Imitating Doctor Sharpe, “Not at your age.”

Doctor Sharpe raises her eyebrows.

Doctor Sharpe: “You’re twelve, David. Too many pills could cause problems.”

David: “So could not being able to sleep.”

Doctor Sharpe: “There are other things we can try for that besides sleeping pills. For instance, you might find it easier if you tried sleeping somewhere where you felt safe. Maybe your parents’ room?”

David: “But that’d make them worry even more!”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “It may sound strange, David, but having you close by might be enough to help them worry less.”

David: “That’s stupid.”

Doctor Sharpe shrugs.

Doctor Sharpe: “Yeah, adults are stupid sometimes.”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “Have you spoken with anyone about your markings?”

David moves his hand to the side of his face, brushing a finger against the point where the mark of purity sits.

David: “It still feels weird having them there.”

Doctor Sharpe: “That’s understandable.”

David: “Does it feel weird for adults when they get them?”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “It can take some getting used to, yes. I remember when I got my mark, a lot of my friends used to tease me about it, they kept asking me who the lucky boy was. I imagine it’s a little harder for you though. Most people get them by choice, after all.”

David: “I guess that makes sense.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Have you spoken to anyone about your options in that regard?”

A pause.

David: “One of the doctors at the hospital said they could bleach the skin, cover them back up or something. I’m not sure how I feel about doing that, though.”

Doctor Sharpe: “That’s understandable. Would you like for us to talk it through together? It may help you decide how you feel about it.”

A pause.

David: “Sure.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Good, I’m glad. Well, first of all, there is the social aspect. How do you feel about interacting with your friends and family members with the markings?”

David: “It… it feels weird, sort of like everyone’s staring at me for having them.”

Doctor Sharpe: “That is a concern, yes. People in your position often find that the presence of the marks attracts a degree of unwelcome attention. As you are probably aware, the purity marks usually appear when an individual loses their virginity. In kids your age, this can often lead to a degree of unwanted questioning, how do you feel about that possibility?”

A pause.

David: “Not great. I… I’ve been sort of hiding it from people whenever I leave the house.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Yes, I noticed you had them covered up. Did your mother do that for you?”

David: “Y-yeah.”

A pause. David hesitates for some time, staring at the floor, before raising the cuff of his sleeve to his cheek, seemingly in an attempt to wipe the makeup off. Doctor Sharpe speaks before he has a chance to start removing it.

Doctor Sharpe: “You don’t have to take it off if it makes you uncomfortable David. I promise, I am not going to judge you.”

David seems relieved, quickly returning his hand to his side.

David: “Thanks. It… I know it’s not good to lie, but…”

Doctor Sharpe: “No. In this case, I think it’s perfectly reasonable. It’s a very private thing you’re trying to deal with and you don’t want your peers to know. You aren’t doing anything wrong.”

A pause.

David: “Thanks, Natalie.”

Doctor Sharpe nods in acknowledgement. David shakes his head.

David: “Eww, no, sorry. Calling you Natalie feels weird.”

Doctor Sharpe laughs slightly.

Doctor Sharpe: “I guess I can understand that. Moving on, do you have any problems or concerns about the idea of covering the marks that you’d like to talk about?”

David: “Yeah… I… I’m kinda worried about… what if it doesn’t look real?”

Doctor Sharpe: “I can assure you David, the process is very thorough. I’m sure the doctor showed you some pictures. Besides, no one is going to question it much if your face doesn’t look exactly the same. To be honest, most people don’t pay that much attention.”

A pause.

David: “Could they do it in time for me to go back to school?”

Doctor Sharpe: “Probably not, if you decided to go that route, you’d probably have to keep wearing makeup, like you are now. As I understand it, the surgery has a bit of a waiting list.”

David: “So then how do I stop my friends from finding out? I mean, I know I can cover them and stuff, but what if it rains or something?”

Doctor Sharpe nods.

Doctor Sharpe: “That is a valid concern, David, but not as much of an issue as you might be thinking. We usually supply skin patches to people in situations like yours, to help hide the markings for the time being. I was informed that these ones should be a decent match to your skin color.”

Doctor Sharpe opens her desk drawer and rifles through it for a few moments, eventually finding the patches in question. She stands and moves to place them on a table in the middle of the room. Doctor Sharpe returns to her desk to allow David to take the patches without coming into contact with her. David takes the patches and examines them for several seconds.

David: “They look all weird. They feel wrong, too.”

Doctor Sharpe: “I know. These aren’t as realistic as the surgery will be, but as long as you keep them under makeup, they should hold up fine until the replacement surgery. That way, if it rains and your makeup gets washed away, you’ll have time to excuse yourself and go get help.”

David: “Are… are there any downsides? Is there something bad the surgery might do?”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “It… it depends on what you call a downside. For one thing, if we clear the skin, it stays clear. The marks won’t come back the next time you have sex.”

David’s expression changes to one of disgust.

David: “That’s fine. I don’t ever want to do it again anyway.”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe: “You may feel differently about that when you get older.”

David: “I don’t care. Right now I never want to do it again. It hurt.”

A pause.

Doctor Sharpe nods.

Doctor Sharpe: “Well, you can make that decision when you come to it. Even if you decided you didn’t like it, the markings could be tattooed back on eventually, if you wanted.”

A pause.

David: “Sure.”

Doctor Sharpe: “Well, I hope talking about it helped you see everything a little more clearly. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?”

David shakes his head before looking over his shoulder at the door.

David: “No, I think I want to go back to my mom now. Sorry.”

Doctor Sharpe: “I understand. To be honest, I think you did very well for a first session. I’m glad. Until next time, David.”

David: “Yeah, bye.”

David opens the door and exits the room.

Doctor Sharpe waits for the door to close, then sighs. She produces a hand recorder from her desk drawer and begins recording.

Doctor Sharpe: “Personal notes, Patient 24170, session 1. Patient exhibits no observable signs of deviant cognitive changes. His emotional intelligence seems unusually well developed for a twelve year old, although not to any degree that might indicate some empathic ability. I suspect he is simply ahead of his age group in that regard. His reaction to the concept of engaging in sexual activity at some point in the future is, while understandable, still concerning. Action may need to be taken to prevent him from forming unhealthy or inaccurate attitudes towards sexual activity on the basis of his negative experiences.”

End of recording.

Notes and recommendations of supervisor Sullivan regarding case #24170:

                Doctor Sharpe reports no visible or cognitive evidence of deviance manifestation. An all-clear will be issued pending the results of a two week observation period. Doctor Sharpe requests permission to pursue additional sessions with David on a pro-bono basis for therapeutic purposes. Permission will be granted provided the all-clear is received. On a related note, Doctor Sharpe may be too emotionally susceptible to engage in higher level work. Requesting approval to restrict her to positions with level one clearance only.

Report concludes.

James walked out of the office, deep in thought. Talking with Doctor Sharpe had given him a lot to think about. His mother, Sarah, got up quickly, moving towards him with that same look of poorly hidden concern she had been wearing for days now. She looked exhausted, deep lines etched into her face, drawing the pale skin taut.

“How was it?” Sarah asked, reaching out a hand for James to grasp as she made her way towards the receptionist, a large woman seated in the only comfortable looking chair the waiting room had available.

James didn’t answer immediately. He was too busy gathering his thoughts in an attempt to make some sense of them to be fully aware of his surroundings.

“It was… fine, I guess,” he answered eventually. “It was good having someone I can talk to about… stuff.”

James could tell by the way her grip tightened around his hand that something he had said was painful to his mother. Even so, she kept her face carefully controlled. The boy waited patiently as Sarah spoke briefly with the receptionist, before leading him gently from the doctor’s rooms.

“You could always speak to your father and I, you know?” Sarah said quietly as they walked towards the car. “We’re your parents after all, we care about you.”

James sighed. Guilt was a hard thing to deal with, even when applied unintentionally.

“I know, Mom. It’s just… There’s some stuff I don’t want to talk to you about because you’re my parents. I… I’m scared you’ll… look at me different.”

“We won’t,” Sarah replied in that same gentle voice. “I promise.”

‘You’ve been doing it all week.’ James bit back the words, refusing to say them because he knew they would only hurt his mother. Unfortunately, it seemed his silence was equally hurtful to her. She gripped his hand tighter, as if to remind herself that he was still there. James gritted his teeth, angry with himself. He had no idea what to say.

“Hey,” Sarah spoke eventually into the silence, her voice quavering slightly in betrayal of the cheer she forced into the words. “Wanna go get some ice cream on the way home?”

James shook his head, forcing a smile.

“No thanks, Mom. Can we just go home? I promised Bex I’d help her build a spaceship today.”

James wasn’t sure what he would have done without his sister there. It was amazing just how grating people talking soothingly became after a solid week. It had eventually reached the point where he thought it would drive him mad. The only escape the world had offered was Rebecca. At five years old, she lacked the subtlety to pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t. When everyone else around was spouting hollow sounding platitudes and half-heartedly promising that nothing was different, Rebecca wanted to build spaceships with her older brother. James had no words to express how thankful he was of that.

Sarah smiled, slightly more genuine this time. Seeing James spending time with his sister had seemed to reassure her recently.

“Sure thing kiddo.”

The two drove home in silence, freed from the social obligation to converse by the blessed presence of the radio. Sarah let James pick the channel. Arriving home, James tracked down his sister, marched her into the small playroom the two of them grudgingly shared, and proceeded to dump the entire contents of their Lego collection out onto the floor. Both James and Rebecca understood the universal truth that Lego was simply better when it was in a jumbled heap. The two then constructed the grandest spaceship of which they were capable, complete with engines, living quarters and, because Rebecca was five, Dumbledore’s office.

Later, at dinner, James told his parents about his nightmares, including what Doctor Sharpe had said about sleeping somewhere he felt safe. Both Sarah and Peter, James’ father, had agreed to let him sleep in their room without hesitation.

That night, James got a decent night’s sleep for the first time in a week. When James woke in the dark, whimpering and mewling quietly, his parents gently shushed him back to sleep, reassuring the crying boy that everything would be alright. For the first time that week, James believed them.

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