The Demons Within

Copyright© 2017 by Vincent Berg

Hardships often prepare ordinary people

for an extraordinary destiny...

C.S. Lewis

“It’s terrific hearing from you. How’s the cold and dreary Northwest? While we miss you, I understand why you had to get away. Every day, numerous broken people seek us out, requesting assistance. Call me selfish, but I prefer you surviving rather than sacrificing yourself, though I appreciate your frustration at being unable to help.”

“The city is delightful, Toni. Despite being a new-age yuppie enclave, there’s a different perspective here. The Seattle hipsters pay me scant attention. While they recognize me, they’re reluctant to confront and ask me embarrassing questions I can’t answer. It’s still more notice than I prefer, but the media largely ignores me and I’m allowed the escape of relative isolation. Of course, that’s partly because it’s too cold for the homeless in the streets this time of year, and I stay away from the shelters.”

“That’s probably better for everyone,” she consoled. “That way, you won’t disappoint anyone and you won’t agonize over your inability to intervene. At this point, we’re likely doing more than you can. The clinic is coming along slowly, but we’re already dealing with record numbers of people. We’re offering real-world solutions based on what you revealed about the nature of these conditions. We’re not achieving the results you did, but we’re still making a difference in people’s lives.”

“Well, you can thank Dr. Punjab for that, wherever he is now. If it wasn’t for his arrogance, there wouldn’t be a clinic. With it, we can at least research how you mere mortals can combat mental illnesses.”

“You’re right about that. Your alternating ‘feeding and starving the demons’ technique is having amazing results. Well, not your level of amazing, but for those of us stuck on this physical plane, it’s astounding.”

“Considering how late I stumbled across it, you’re lucky to have it at all. It was entirely possible we wouldn’t have anything to show for my efforts.”

Phil took time while on the phone to consider those around him in an outlying Seattle street. He couldn’t discern a single demon, dragon, fairy or other imaginary creature. As much as it was a relief, it also felt like a crushing load, knowing he couldn’t aid those seeking his assistance.

That’s why he was forced to flee not only Philadelphia, but every other area as well. Everywhere he traveled; people recognized him and begged for his help. Yet all he could do was shrug, apologize and move on. He found it easier to relocate, hoping those in remote areas wouldn’t notice him. However, with his face plastered across every TV and newspaper across the world, anyone suffering from a mental disorder memorized his features.

Toni’s project, dubbed the “Walker Clinic” in his honor, was directly related to Dr. Rajai’s arrogance and Dr. David’s belligerence. Once they discovered he didn’t have a tumor, the hospital pressed him for a settlement. He refused, insisting he was comfortable enough on his own. However, he warned they’d need to settle with the millions cheated out of a cure of their afflictions.

After the trial was already underway, Emma and Ethan released Jacob’s video of their capturing the dragons, and dozens of people released similar videos taken the day before. While Phil was correct that there were protests from the medical ‘experts’, the visual representation of what he fought triggered a massive wave of support. The video was successful because it supported the widespread claims of his successes, something the experts couldn’t account for.

Amid cries for retribution against the hospital, they turned on David and Rajai—despite their arguing their positions in court. Rajai was let go, and given the controversy, no other hospital would grant him operating privileges. David, apparently struck by how misguided his advice had been, simply resigned, retiring to his house in Utah. Since then, Rajai had disappeared from sight, and David hadn’t released any statements. There were rumors Rajai returned to India, where he’d emigrated from, but they were unconfirmed. No Indian hospitals would admit to either employing or conversing with him. There were also stories that David had suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s, or at least that’s how they explained his failure to appear on camera, but again, no one ever backed that claim up with any documentation.

Facing that opposition, it didn’t take long for the hospital corporation to reconsider their initial offer. Faced with thousands of irate calls and demands for Congressional action, they cut him a check for seven million. The fact District Attorney Williams launched an investigation into their conduct, helped matters along. Although Phil didn’t feel he suffered any financial loss, he reluctantly accepted, with the stipulation they invest an additional ten million to build a new mental health facility.

While not enough to cover the extensive construction costs, it was a decent start. It covered Toni’s staff and guaranteed the necessary loans, but they had to finance the rest with contributions. The hospital was glad to pay it, because not only did it resolve the case, it cast them in the role of supporting Phil’s initial position.

Even though most of Philadelphia’s shelters stood largely empty, there were plenty of people who traveled to the city after reports of his trial were broadcast. Between the sick and those connected to those suffering from a mental illness, there were significant numbers willing to contribute to Phil’s cause.

“So how’s my old business? Is anyone still bothering with their leaky pipes anymore?”

“You’d better believe it, although I don’t take your lamentations seriously. The shop has been phenomenally successful, even before you walked out of the hospital. Everyone with a connection to mental illness funnels their plumbing issues through us. We’re opening three new branches of ‘Miracle Plumbing’ with more in the works. Since I’ve got my hands full with the Clinic, Mom is handling that end of things. Not only does it keep her busy, the steady feedback about what a godsend you were provides her with a sense of satisfaction she missed while you were together.”

“Yeah, we tried to make it work, taking that extended vacation together. However, the constant attention overwhelmed her.”

“She really needed to be a part of something, not just tagging along in your wake. Now, she can lord it over everyone who avoided you before.”

“It may give her a sense of purpose, but it was a drain on me. I couldn’t look them in the eye, knowing I’d let them down by not anticipating the negative response from the medical establishment.”

“Believe me; no one blames you, though they keep hoping for additional insights. Just like with Alice, realizing it’s not in their heads gives people the strength to go on. With our techniques, they’re able to withstand the ravages of their afflictions without resorting to the mind-numbing medications. They still rely on the drugs, but by carefully lowering the doses with more careful management, they’re coping better.

“Melissa is now the toast of the psychiatric community. She’s running from one international conference after another, promoting what you taught her. She’s our official tie into the existing psychiatric establishment, and the one we’re using to wean people off their current drug levels.”

She paused, and Phil knew she was timing another big announcement. “They’re talking about a major motion picture about your life. There’s already interest in a book deal, but without you to interview, that’s on hold. Every month that passes, their offers continue to grow.”

He chose to ignore the implied suggestion. “How about Emma and the others? Are they doing well?”

“As you know, they’re all playing significant roles in the clinic. Ethan, Jacob and Alice personally meet with our clients, explaining the procedures before turning them over to Melissa. Hell, even Hannibal is busy, visiting prisons across the country, helping address how they deal with mental issues. Tina and Floyd are consulting with various police departments about how to reorganize their mental-health outreach programs. Despite how everything ended, you’ve made a major impact in millions of people’s lives. We’ll reach even more once the Walker Clinic opens.”

“It’s too bad Jane and I could never make it work. After all our troubles, she idolized me, but the constant scrutiny disturbed her as much as it did me. Whereas she’s deals with it during business hours, we couldn’t go anywhere without people demanding my help.”

“I know. That’s why you decided on us not accompanying you, thinking it would be easier disappearing without an entourage. But as I said, everyone has our own tasks and each day is filled with new challenges. Part of Jane’s problem was that you used to handle everything. Now, with so many things needing our constant attention, we’re all actively involved in your mission.”

“Well, I’m glad someone is, though I feel like the mission passed me by, bobbing in its wake.”

“Don’t believe that for a minute. By the way, plan on another online discussion. We’ve got more questions about potential techniques, as well as some new theories about how these beings achieved what they did. Besides, everyone you helped has moved on, resuming their lives and contributing to your quest in their own way. Each one extends your reach that much more. They add a tremendous amount of excitement and enthusiasm and are dying to do more. We practically have to fight them off at the door.”

“Just don’t let them wear you down,” he cautioned. “Keep your private life to yourself. That was something I never managed, and it cost me dearly in the end.”

“So you claim now, but I know, if faced with the same opportunity, you’d do it again You’ve always extended yourself for everyone around you. Now, there are thousands extending themselves, as well.”

“It sounds like you’ve got things well in hand, but this conversation is beginning to draw attention. I’d best wrap it up. Let’s talk on Tuesday. I’ll make a conference call at three in the afternoon. Prepare all your questions and I’ll try to answer what I can.”

“Okay. Take care. We miss you and hope we’ll get a chance to see you soon. You’ve changed everyone’s life, but received so little in return.”

“It was never about me, honey. I’ve always had plenty. I can’t ask for anything more, though my disappointment stems from my inability to give more. Anyway, say hello to everyone, and I’ll talk on Tuesday.”

“Don’t worry; they’ll be waiting for your call. These sessions are the high point of everyone’s schedule. Stay out of trouble and under the radar. I suggest a quiet fishing trip if the city is too busy for your consideration.”

“I’ll consider it,” he said as he ended the call, shaking his head over her enthusiasm. It seemed everyone gained something other than him, as all he carried was disappointment.

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