Speaking With Your Demons
15: Coming Clean

Copyright© 2017 by Vincent Berg

You must accept the fact that others
don’t see what you do.

Louise Bourgeois
“The Walker Institute, Toni Walker, speaking.”

“Toni, it’s Dad. We need to talk.”

“I’m glad you called. I have important news. Ethan and Emma are home packing. They’ll arrive in Seattle tomorrow morning to see what you’re up to. Even if you can’t tell us everything, we have to understand the treatments before people start demanding answers. Since you haven’t been forthcoming, we decided it was better discussing it with you directly. But I wanted to give you a quick heads up in case you need to clean up loose ends before they arrive.”

“Geez! The timing’s not great, honey. I’m calling to inform you that I’m going public shortly, and a full spread will appear in the Seattle Times, tomorrow. It’ll undoubtedly be picked up by the major news agencies, which means you’ll be inundated with phone calls seeking your response.”

“Damn, though I’ve got to say, I’m not terribly surprised. It sounded like things were getting tense, and you’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. No word to anyone until minutes before the shit hits the fan. By the way, the sculptures arrived today. While it’s one thing seeing that much detail in a photograph, it’s another thing entirely having one staring you in the face. After seeing the dragons—no matter their size—I can see why you kept getting injured. I’m not sure how you survived.”

“I came close to it several times. As it was, they scratched my skull and tore up my cheekbones pretty badly.”

“Well given those sharp claws and wicked fangs, I’m surprised they didn’t rip your throat out.”

“Believe me, they tried, but I always managed to move faster than they did, protecting my delicate soft tissue while still defending myself. The reason they kept attacking my head was that I wouldn’t allow them to reach my sensitive eyes.”

“So how much will you reveal?”

“Everything,” Phil admitted, “although I won’t detail the work the school is doing, for obvious reasons. I’ll mention that they’re conducting a study, but will stress that it is confidential. That’ll bring every news agency in the country to the university’s door, but they’re prepared. The student body is incredibly tight lipped. The reporter who forced the issue was scouring the campus, trying to uncover what I was up to. The UW students kept him well away from us, allowing us to prepare. However, we can’t hold him off indefinitely, so it’s time to come clean and admit I’ve regained my abilities.”

“Aside from the publicity—which I know you hate—how much will this impact what you’re doing?”

“It’ll be difficult, as they’ll want to follow me everywhere for a lead on what I’m accomplishing. What’s more, they’ll want demonstrations. In addition, most of the local mentally ill will descend on the city—they’ve been reasonable up until now. More will arrive over the next several weeks, overwhelming the city’s resources. I’m meeting with the Police Commissioner, who’ll have to apprise the Mayor afterwards. They won’t have much time to prepare, so the commuters will hate me.”

“I wouldn’t worry about them as much as the medical community and drug companies. They have a vested interest in you not upsetting the apple cart. As you’ve noticed, your revelations threaten most of the scientific community. They’ll have to admit that everything they’ve taught for the last century is completely wrong, and hundreds of thousands’ livelihood will evaporate. Expect attacks to come from all corners.”

“That’s not the full extent of the problem. We also have several renegade creatures—the most dangerous and unpredictable ones.”

“You mean the dragons?” Toni asked. “You’ve dealt with those before.”

“No, I’ve got a decent working relationship with the dragons I’ve encountered. They’re a tough crowd, but listen to reason. No, these are berserkers, those I warned you about, the creatures behind PTSD. They’re schemers who specialize in ambushes. They lie in wait, hardly moving until they surprise their victims, provoking them to react violently. I’ve got several dragons scouring the city searching, but so far we haven’t had any luck.”

“Is that wise?” she asked. “If they’re so clever, and their cultures are sophisticated, they might construct weapons which they could fire on the dragons in flight.”

“Nah, I don’t think that’s likely. While they undoubtedly know how to build sophisticated tools, they can’t work with physical objects. Most of their tools came with them. Plus, the dragons fly pretty high. I suspect you’d have trouble hitting them with a high-powered rifle, given their small size. It’s been overcast lately, if we get many clouds, they’ll have to stick low to the ground, which complicates matters. Not only would they be open to attack, but they also can’t see as much of the city.”

“I know you aren’t excited about Ethan and Emma showing up, and you’ll have your hands full when they arrive, but at least you’ll have some extra hands.”

“I’ve got quite a few hands already. Between the people at the university, the creatures assisting me and the people I’ve helped, I have a small army. My biggest problem will be losing my obscurity. While everyone recognizes me, they realize I like my privacy, and since I wasn’t able to affect much change, they left me alone. Now I’m going to have trouble walking down the street without being accosted by people demanding I do something.”

“Still, as much as you’ve been resisting it—not even telling your friends and family for fear we’d leak the news—you knew it was coming for some time. If anyone is ready for this, I’m sure you are.”

“I’m not sure any one is ever prepared for this level of notoriety. However, I don’t have much time. Let me lay out the basics and after my interview, I’ll have the reporter fax you a copy of the story before it goes to print.”

“I’ll give Emma a call, too. You should have her email them so they can get it before they take off. That way they’ll be prepared when they land. Otherwise, they’ll be walking blindfolded into a lion’s den.”


When Leslie opened the car door after pulling up, Phil was already waiting. Although Abe and Meg had wanted to accompany him, he’d stuck them with babysitting Debbie as they visited the homeless shelter they used to stay at.

“I see you’re prepared. We’ve got the car all warmed up and ready to go,” she offered, patting the seat and scooting over.

Before saying anything else, he leaned forward. “What’s your name?”

The driver of the unmarked car—an Uber call—glanced in the rearview mirror. “It’s Paul, sir.”

“Forget the ‘sir’ nonsense, the name’s Phil. How’re the compulsions?”

“Actually, they’re much better. Since learning they’re the result of creatures from God knows where, any time I feel one, I resist. I refuse to surrender without a fight now.”

Realizing this might take a little while, Phil turned to Leslie. “Here.” He passed her a couple photographs and a business card. “We’ll discuss them in a second.” He then turned back to their driver.

“I’m glad you’re doing better, but don’t discount your compulsions entirely.” He stopped to poke one of the man’s creatures, to ensure it was paying attention, before continuing. “These beings were originally sent here to serve a purpose. However, they’ve lost their way. We need to retrain them in how to succeed.” He tilted his head, glancing at his shoulder. “Okay, guys, while I talk to the pretty lady, cover the details with Paul’s ... accountants.”

“Accountants, really?” Paul asked, as he pulled out. “Everyone else gets exciting dragons and demons, and I get a bunch of bean counters?”

“Their creators had a sense of humor. If it makes you feel better, they’ve got bigger pot bellies than I do, but not as large as the devils.”

When he turned back, Leslie was staring at him. “Your story grows stranger all the time.” She raised her eyebrow, holding the two photos aloft. “Are these what I think they are?”

“They sure are, the first is a devil by the name of Mizo. The second is a dragon by the name of Slavsin. I included a dime besides each so you get a feel for the scale of the creatures. The card is for my daughter, who’s in charge of the Walker Institute in Philadelphia. She’d appreciate getting a copy of your story before it appears tomorrow morning so she can prepare for the media onslaught it’s likely to unleash.”

“Are these real? How did you get them?”

“I constructed a crude mold using a quick-acting foam insulation which someone turned into sculptures for me. He also carefully painted them according to my descriptions—which weren’t completely accurate. If you’re interested, now that this is no longer secret, he’ll probably sell you copies of each.”

“You better believe I’m interested. This is fantastic. This makes the theoretical real, making it difficult to reject out of hand.”

“That was the idea. There are also a couple of entertaining videos, where I demonstrate these are actual living creatures. We filmed them so I could prove what I was doing, but now that it’s out in the open, there’s no sense keeping it secret.”

“Wait, so you’re admitting that you’ve regained your abilities, the same you lost a year ago when they operated on your brain.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. As you can imagine, after what I experienced, I decided not to flaunt my capabilities, but took time to do some research before I was eventually exposed. Previously, I’d strike out whenever someone’s life was threatened, which got me into a lot of trouble.”

“Hold on, there are all sorts of question behind those few sentences. You’re suggesting, because you decided to ‘take it slow,’ you left people’s lives in jeopardy?”

“No, not quite, but I’m more careful about uncovering conflict. I wanted to realize what I was dealing with, and whether there were better alternatives to publicly fighting them.”

“Before we follow that thread, how long have you had your abilities?”

“Only a matter of weeks, almost a month.”

“It sounds like you’ve accomplished a lot in an incredibly short time.”

“Alas, you can’t keep this kind of thing secret for long. Tobias was completely wrong about most of his assumptions, but he forced my hand. Unlike you, the only time he asked me to confirm his salacious reports was when he confronted me in the street, shoving a camera in my face. He was only interested in a reaction shot, not an honest response.”

“But he was correct that you were active again.”

“Yes, but that wasn’t the result of legitimate research, he noticed my activities and simply made unsubstantiated assumptions. However, his examining my every move prevented me from getting anything accomplished.”

“So you say that you’ve taken a slower approach this time. Have you learned anything new?”

“Absolutely. The time I had undisturbed made a huge difference. I’ve completely changed my methods. Instead of battling the creatures in the streets, I’m now reasoning with them, compromising and teaching them how to succeed while aiding humanity. You see, these creatures aren’t evil, they serve a definite purpose. Only they’ve lost their way. I’m helping them to find it again.”

“And what is that way?”

“They were created to help not just humans, but a wide variety of sentient beings across the cosmos. They provide three main purposes, pointing us in the directions we need to move, getting us to think creatively and helping make us more human. They were never intended to disable us. Instead, they teach us humility and help us to grow and relate to our common man. A great leader who’s in it for nothing but his own advancement, helps no one.”

“Sounds like several of our own leaders.”

“Possibly, but by making us suffer, we learn empathy, and through that how to reach a wider variety of people.”

“So you say you’re teaching these demons how to work more efficiently. How do you accomplish that? How do they become better at what they do without hurting us?”

“I take away their stick and give them a carrot.”

“Pardon?”

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