Mindset – Part Three
Another man stood up. This man looked at Cyril like he wanted to pick him up and throw him across the room. Cyril held his gaze for a moment, and looked away.
‘Yeah.’ Cyril glanced up, and let his gaze wander around the room. There were a lot of seats, and people making notes. The chairs were covered with a faded red material, while most everything else seemed to be made of dark wood.
‘You contend that you became aware of a disaster, survived it by remaining in your basement for five months, and living off supplies.’
‘Can you explain the nature of this disaster to me?’
‘I don’t know if it was nature, but I guess it could have been some kind of disease.’
‘I mean, what did you understand the disaster was, when you decided to hide away from it?’
‘Well…’ Cyril found himself staring at a pattern in the wood in front of him. It looked a little like an apple.
‘Mr Dumont? The disaster?’
‘Oh, sorry, ah… like I said, it wasn’t very specific. There were reports of explosions, power supplies being cut off, people with strange symptoms…’
‘Were there any descriptions of these symptoms?’
‘How would that fall into the category of “not very specific”?’
The man looked up, towards the big man in his seat, the one with the cape. ‘Sir…’
‘Mr Dumont,’ the big man said, ‘please just answer the questions as best you can.’
‘Yes, sir.’ Cyril recognised a voice of authority when he heard one. ‘No, no symptoms really described, I guess. Except maybe… no, nothing I can recall.’
‘Thank you. And, after the radio broadcasts stopped, you assumed the disaster kept going? That people were still, uh, symptomatic?’
‘I can’t think of another reason for the radio not to work. And besides, I heard them. The groans. Day after day… it was horrible.’
‘When you emerged, did you notice anything unusual about the people then?’
‘Well, yeah, I mean, they attacked me. People don’t usually do that.’
‘Anything else which would have led you to be certain they were… monsters, as you put it?’
‘Well, they survived for months without eating.’
‘How did they look?’
‘Deformed, starved… hungry.’
‘And when you were saved, as you put it, you have no recollection of storming a supermarket, shooting people, being shot by police?’
‘Police? There were no police. They must have been survivors. Like me. I can’t have been the only one.’
‘You woke up in the hospital.’
‘You are now in a court of law. Society has not broken down. Savage once-human monsters do not roam the streets. Look around you, Mr Dumont.’
Cyril looked up, gazing at the people despite himself. The eyes seemed to drill into him, and he felt a desire to run, to hide himself away. He clasped his hands together, felt sweat beading on his brow. His hand began to shake, again.
‘This isn’t… I…’
‘How is any of what you’ve seen since you awoke consistent with what you’re saying? Mr Dumont, I put it to you that this disaster scenario you have constructed is a lie. Deep down you know it. You harboured fantasies of a lawless world, where a man like yourself could survive, pitting yourself against monsters. You built up supplies and weapons. You convinced yourself it was happening. But you know, in your heart, that it was all an illusion. You hid away, and when you emerged, you murdered nine people, and injured four more. You smashed their heads in, shot them, massacred them. This disaster fantasy of yours is little more than a defense mechanism created by a mind trying to avoid guilt for what it has done!’
Cyril’s head was between his hands, and his whole body was shaking. He began mumbling to himself, over and over.
‘No, no, no… no, no no… monsters… had to protect myself… had to…’
‘You cannot hide anymore, Mr Dumont. Your little story is done. Over. You are a murderer, and you know it. No more pretending.’ The man’s voice softened, and Cyril felt him nearby. His eyes were closed, and he was rocking in his chair. ‘Let’s cut through all the lies, shall we? It’s time to take responsibility, to atone. The people you killed deserve it. Hell, you deserve it. What do you say?’
‘I… I didn’t kill anyone!’ Cyril’s voice broke, and tears rolled down his cheeks. ‘They were monsters I tell you, out to tear me apart!’
He opened his eyes. The man was there, but now he, too, looked at Cyril with those hungry eyes. His flesh was torn, rotting, and his teeth were black. He approached with arms outstretched. Cyril looked up to see the other people, all of them the same. Faces contorted, torn, dying. He screamed, and collapsed to the floor.
Cameras flashed in Tanya’s face. She waited for them to subside, adjusting her earpiece while the crowd milled and bumped. Taking up a position on the stone staircase, she gave her cameraman the signal for ‘do I look ok?’, and received a thumbs up in response. Billy held up a hand, to indicate the feed was going live in three, two…
‘Thank you Geoff,’ she said to the man in the studio. ‘I am here outside the court where Cyril Dumont has just been acquitted of the murder of nine people. It is thought that his mental state played a large part in the jury’s decision, and they took only two hours to come to a unanimous decision. Five News understands Mr Dumont will now be remanded for psychiatric care at a the Mordenwood Secure Treatment Facility.’
‘Have you had any reaction from the families of those killed, Tanya? How do they feel about this outcome?’ The voice in her ear buzzed away.
‘The overwhelming attitude seems to be one of relief that this is over, but one or two people have expressed anger and frustration. They simply do not believe Dumont’s story, that he believed there had been a global disaster, leading to some kind of zombie apocalypse. They believe he should be facing prison, and possibly death. Other, however, see a man with a deeply troubled mind, a man who will likely spend the rest of his life coming to terms with what he has done.’
‘Thank you very much, Tanya.’
Billy hefted the camera down, and switched it off. ‘Short and sweet.’
‘Yeah, but there’ll be more later. I’m going to do an interview with a psychologist in an hour. Dr Holden, I think.’
‘You need me for that?’
‘No, they have their own people. You looking for something more to do?’
‘Any work you got.’
‘Well, let’s see… Cyril will be leaving the court at… four. We’ll need some shots of that.’
‘Great.’ Billy started putting his camera away in its case. ‘You think he’s really crazy?’
Tanya chewed on a granola bar she’d pulled from a pocket. ‘Hmmm… it’s hard to say. If he’s not, he’s a hell of an actor. But if he’s not, why shoot all those people?’
Billy pondered this for a while. ‘For fun, I guess. Some people need an excuse to be violent. Anyway,’ he said, lifting the camera case, ‘I’m off to find some lunch. I’ll meet you here at half three?’
‘Sounds good.’ She waved as he walked off. Tanya took another bite of the bar and chewed it slowly, gazing at nothing in particular.
previous: MINDSET – PART TWO
more by RICHARD SHURY
Richard is a big fan of science fiction, but dabbles in other genres. For more short stories and longer self-pulished works by him visit Richard Shury.
For his articles on the issues of our time, or just day-to-day musings visit his blog rashury.co.uk.