by Kevin Mercurio
My name is Anne. I am writing this letter because I am scared, for the circumstances that have led to the present have revealed a new perspective that cannot be unseen. I cannot begin to understand the reason for ending his life. This is why, when questioned by the authorities, I concealed the surveillance tape of the session between Dr. Nash and Mr. Belario. For the last six days, I have been analyzing the recording along with my personal interactions between the individuals that day. Here, I will begin my recount with the arrival of Mr. Belario.
Mr. Belario arrived for the final session of the day. He was quite the peculiar man. However, this underlying characteristic could not be attributed to his physical appearance, nor his personality. It was moreso that he brought with him an aura of unease and uncertainty. It was, through his presence, that he stole your undivided attention, almost as easily as the force of gravity on a fallen object. In essence, Mr. Belario resided in the metaphorical region of the uncanny valley.
Mr. Belario hung his light gray overcoat and greeted me upon arrival. He was charming, as always, curious about my dull day as the secretary of Dr. Nash. This time, I was able to describe a particular incident that occurred that day to him, to which piqued his interest. It was a patient, or rather the husband of a patient, and how, as he waited for his wife to complete her session, was delicately teasing and flirtatious towards me. He often came up to the counter and grabbed my hand, smiled and expressed how lovely my eyes looked as the sun reflected off them from the window to my side. This made Mr. Belario chuckle softly. He let go of my hand and went to seat himself in the waiting area until Dr. Nash was ready for him. I had not realized he had held my hand for the entire time I was speaking.
After about ten minutes, Dr. Nash appeared in the waiting area and called upon Mr. Belario. They shook hands and initiated some small talk before leaving me alone to my work. The two, in their white-collared shirts and navy-blue pants looked almost indistinguishable as they walked down the hallway. Turning the corner at the end of the hall, they disappeared into Dr. Nash’s office.
Now, it is at this moment that I will communicate with you my interpretation of the surveillance tape. I cannot send the tape to anyone as I am afraid of losing the only copy in existence. If in the event that someone wishes to see it, I will consider playing the recording for them.
The office itself was quite a large room, though minimalistic in regards to its content. In the middle of the room, you immediately saw the archetypical leather patient’s chair beside a matching upright lounge chair to which the psychiatrist can sit towards the right of the patient’s head. Behind that was a large, wooden desk, usually stacked with patient files and writing pads. At the front of the room, closest to the door, was a long bookcase stocked with classical literature, psychology textbooks, poetry compendiums, various novels and novellas. There were no windows, and thus calming yellow light was produced by a lamp towards the right of the psychiatrist’s chair.
“Please take a seat, Mr. Belario, so we may begin. We are already 30 minutes behind schedule.”
“My apologies, Doctor. As I was leaving my house, I overheard a conversation between my neighbours that escalated rather quickly. I suppose I should have either chosen to act or leave, but instead I chose to remain silent and listen.”
As I was watching the session for the first time, I paused here because I was rather confused. In our town, there are very few people who live within audible range of each other. Mr. Belario was no exception to this.
“Tell me about this schism between your neighbours. What was the topic about?”
“It was hard to focus for I had that feeling again, where I could not tell whether the voices were of reality or imaginary. However, this time I am certain the quarrel was authentic.”
“To what gave you that impression, Mr. Belario?”
“I saw them this time. Their vehicle had broken down in front of my house. They yelled for 45 minutes about whether they should ask me for some assistance. I was not surprised, since the man of the couple was a quadriplegic war veteran, and the woman had no sense of automobile knowledge.”
“Did they see you? Did they finally ask you for help?”
“It surely must have been obvious of my presence. I had been standing quite plainly on my front porch. It’s how I obtained this scar on my forearm.”
Mr. Belario began rolling up his sleeve to expose his right forearm. Indeed, there was a large wound still fresh in its healing stage prior to scab formation.
“That is very strange. How did you manage an injury like that by standing on your front porch?”
“I obtained it during the period of time I was helping them.”
“I suppose you scraped your arm on a piece of metal when providing assistance on the vehicle?”
Mr. Belario rose from his chair and walked towards the bookshelf. He ran his hand over the books, finally grazing his fingers along their spines as if reading their titles in braille. He picked one out.
“This is a great novel, Doctor. The Bell Jar by Victoria Lucas, an original. Have you had the opportunity to read?”
“I have not, yet, Mr. Belario.”
“The story is simple though perplexing in its scope. Its purpose, presumably, was to articulate the workings of a fictional mind through language. In a regular story, there exists a protagonist and an antagonist. Here, Esther Greenwood plays the former, but there really is no antagonist. The title, The Bell Jar, was to solicit the reader an understanding of her state of utter depression.”
“Have you been feeling depressed, Mr. Belario?”
“Certainly. It arises here and there ever since my daughter passed away, as you know, Doctor. I sometimes feel as if I were placed in a bell jar such as the one Plath described Esther being trapped in. If depression is depicted as the inevitable waste you produce, the waste accumulates to the point where the bell jar is just a complete pile of fucking garbage.”
He paused. On the screen, I noticed that Dr. Nash was rather taken aback by that final comment. To me, that moment had been the first time Mr. Belario displayed a violent temperament.
“I just tried to help them. I tried to explain to them that their battery was unusable, that their engine oil was depleted, and their gasoline was non-existent. They would not listen! They became furious with me and the man actually tried to take a swing.”
“That is interesting. What happened next, Mr. Belario?”
“I was able to calm the situation. In fact, I brought them in to my house for some tea. We had a lovely chat. They were able to call a friend and pick them up without hesitation.”
“That was very nice of you, Mr. Belario. You were able to take control of a potentially dangerous situation and handle it with positive outcomes.”
Mr. Belario shook his head. “That was not the reason for why I was late, Doctor. That incident really occurred weeks ago.”
“Okay. Then why were you late this afternoon?”
“Because I gave myself this scar.”
Mr. Belario had been walking around the room, and finally came back to the patient’s chair beside Dr. Nash. That last statement was dictated with such nonchalant finesse that I felt my spine quiver.
“What was the reason for inflicting such an injury upon yourself?” Dr. Nash followed with equal nonchalant dictation.
“There was something inside of me. I could feel it. I woke up this afternoon with a severe pain in my right arm. The odd part was that it was not stationary pain. It was moving. I could see the pain move throughout my arm, like a moving object underneath a carpet. I panicked. ‘Had a parasite crawled into my body during my slumber,’ I thought. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. ‘Just do it, quickly now,’ I kept telling myself. It was at this moment the bump stopped dead in its tracks.”
“Right in the centre of your forearm?”
“Precisely. Do you want to see it?”
“Your forearm? I can see it now.”
“No, the creature.”
“Do you have the creature that was in your arm?”
Mr. Belario reached into his shirt pocket and revealed a clear vile the size of his palm. Inside the vile looked like a translucent liquid that submersed a spikey, opaque occlusion. It was such a strange phenomenon: ghostly white in colour, like a parasitic alien. He handed the vile to Dr. Nash for further inspection.
“This creature was removed from your forearm?”
“But how is this possible?” Dr. Nash’s attention stayed focused on the vile in his hand.
“Because it is not real, Doctor.”
“What do you mean it is not real?”
Mr. Belario rose from the chair and walked towards the bookshelf once more. This time he was not browsing the selection but rather in search for a particular book. He pulled one out and began fiddling through the pages. It was difficult to ascertain, but the book looked to have a yellow crucifix on the cover.
“Do you believe in miracles, Doctor?”
“I believe there are occurrences to which the present knowledge cannot justify. But with further investigation, the phenomena can be explained through the laws governed by the universe.”
“Can you provide some real examples of what could be considered miracles?”
“The beginning of the universe, for one. The state of consciousness. These come to mind the fastest.”
“What about artificial intelligence?”
“What is intelligent life but the ability to choose whether to obtain the resources to remain existing. This is not a miracle but merely a breakthrough in technological development."
“What I believe just occurred here was indeed a miracle. I am certain that, although I produced this gaping wound in my forearm in order to remove the cause of the severe pain, and although I have placed this creature in a vile to show to you here today, that it is not real.”
“But it is real, Mr. Belario. I can see it with my own eyes. Surely anyone who walks into this room can use their senses to conclude that this creature is a part of reality.”
“You are correct to assume that, yes. In fact, if this encounter was recorded in some story, the reader would make the assumption that this creature, based on the laws of the story’s universe, could actually exist, within the universe of the story. But in their reality, such a thing would never exist.”
“I am confused. Are you suggesting that reality is subject to interpretation based on the perspective of the beholder?”
“Correct. Think, Doctor, we are both logical, rational men. Yet I was able to give you the opportunity to view life through the perspective of my own consciousness. Look at the vile again.”
I glanced at Dr. Nash, who turned his head from Mr. Belario to the vile in his left hand. The white creature that was suspended in solution was not there. Excluding the preserving liquid, it was an empty vile. Dr. Nash was astonished.
“That is remarkable. But how?”
“You, and all people, have the ability to adapt, to view true reality. I believe there is no objective reality, only true reality. A reality which is devised constantly by our waking consciousness produced by chemical reactions in our brain. If you look at the vile, and chemical reactions in your brain produce what is perceived as a white, spikey, alien-like creature, than you will see a white, spikey, alien-like creature. If it does not, then you will see an empty vile. The same applies to all obtainable sensory information like hearing and feeling.”
“That seems to be selective to certain objects. Why can I not use this ability to make existent things non-existent? Or vice a versa?”
“You can. But the question is not whether this book in my hands is real or not. The only question is whether in fact I am real or not.”
“And how would you investigate that, Mr. Belario?”
Mr. Belario reached into his shirt pocket and began pulling out a long piece of rope. The piece of rope extended 30, maybe 50 feet in length, impossible to have been able to fit snuggly inside his small shirt pocket. Dr. Nash just stared at the rope in bewilderment as he continued pulling it from his pocket. Mr. Belario walked over to the window behind the desk and began fastening the rope to the curtain rod.
“I just tried to help them,” Mr. Belario said.
With one final knot, in front of the shocked Dr. Nash, Mr. Belario stood on the desk chair and --
“Anne, your leisure time is up.”
Anne quickly closed the journal. So quickly, in fact, she had unraveled her bandage and exposed the scar on her right forearm.
“Oh Anne, you have to be careful. This wound will never heal unless you take care of it. Let me bandage it up before your session.”
As the nurse finished and stepped out, Dr. Nash walked into the therapy room and smiled.
“Hello, Miss Belario. Please take a seat in the patient’s chair, we will have our session now.”
“What is real? How do you define real? If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
– Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix)