“So, why are you here today? Or why do you think you’re here today?” Scott said. He was tan, short, with curly hair and square glasses. He was wearing a red-striped shirt like a peppermint. His office was a small square, with orange walls and a few miscellaneous landscape images. A fan buzzed above his head inside the ceiling. Its hum was the only the sound other than Mike’s heavy breathing.
“My wife made me come in. I’ve been angry recently, snapping on her and such,” Mike said. He was about 40, with big carpenter arms, a small belly, and nearly bald head, which he kept hidden with a Twins baseball cap. He was wearing a grey short-sleeved shirt. His arm hair still had bits of sheetrock from his day job. His wife wanted him to take a shower before he went to visit the therapist. He didn’t want to. He wanted to leave all the dust and sweat on him. He didn’t know why.
“What is your wife’s name?” Scott asked.
“What have you said to Gloria recently?”
Mike pushed back in the chair. It was shallow and wide. It was designed to not let him fall asleep or be uncomfortable.
“Oh, just been short-tempered, called her a bitch and few other things,” he said.
Mike leaned forward. It was like he couldn’t speak unless he rocked his body first.
“I wasn’t really mad at her for anything, it’s just been this thing that’s been happening to me at night, it has me all on edge,” Mike said. He put his head in his hands, which were callused and dry.
“Yeah, yeah, I can mention it, right? This is therapy after all,” Mike said more to himself than the therapist.
Scott smiled. He was getting to the center of the storm sooner than he expected. He thought it would be longer. Mike could barely look him in the eye.
“Of course, Mike. It’s just like in the movies. I can’t share anything about these sessions to anyone,” he said.
“It just sounds a little unbelievable, that’s all. Like I sound crazy for what was happening,” Mike said.
“Well, did you tell Gloria about it?” Scott asked.
“I tried to, but she gave me a look and it was like I felt embarrassed.”
“I see, well, I’ve been doing this a long time, Mike. I have heard many things, it is sort of my job and I enjoy it. Feel free to say what you want.”
Mike breathed out deeply, like a hurricane was trying to relax before it made landfall.
“Okay, okay, here it goes. Gloria has been on me to get more exercise. Heart disease runs on my side of the family. And even if I work a physical job or whatever, she still wants me to do something. So, at night, I have been going on little walk/ jog around the neighborhood,” Mike said.
“Where do you live?” Scott interrupted.
“Oh, in Robbinsdale, just behind North Memorial Hospital,” Mike said.
“So, I’ve been going on these like half-hour treks right around 8:30. Well, close to the end of my route in the neighborhood there is some woods I run by and it is the strangest thing, but for the last few weeks I’ve been seeing someone standing in the trees,” Mike said. He stared at Scott, looking for a reaction, but Scott just nodded his head.
“Like another person?” Scott asked.
Mike smiled like he was embarrassed.
“I think so. They have weird clothes on. I mean they have some sort cloak on or something.”
“Excuse me again, did you say a cloak?” Scott said.
“Or like some sort of big coat with a hood. They’re giant too, like massive, taller than me and wider. I couldn’t see their face or anything like that, just, just one other part,” Mike said.
“What other part could you see?”
Mike shifted again uncomfortably.
“There, uh, well, ribs actually.” He said.
Scott tried not to raise his eyebrows, but he did anyways.
“Ribs? Like the bones? Was it some sort of costume?” Scott said, looking for logic.
Mike suddenly felt like a kid trying to explain himself to an adult.
“Not like a costume, like it had ribs as part of its, well, body. They were gold too. They sort of glowed,” he said.
Scott again raised his eyebrows.
“I, I can tell by how you’re looking at me that for even a therapist this sounds crazy. Well, I have seen that thing every night since I stared doing this walking routine. Whenever I bring friends along, or my wife, or kids, or whatever, it never appears. When I do it though. When I go out by myself for a stupid little walk it always appears in that woods, in the same exact spot,” Mike said.
“Do you hear anything? Does it move? Have you tried talking to them?” Scott asked.
“Yeah, of course, I tried yelling to them, but then they sort of like mix into the trees and I lose track of them. They’ll then reappear. I wish they would just do something other than stare at me. It makes me feel really, really uncomfortable.”
Mike laughed to himself.
“It is almost like they want me to be scared. Because once I do act scared or run away from whoever or whatever it is, they actually vanish. It is almost like they’re studying my reaction, this thing. Does that sound crazy?”
Scott nodded his head but also said, “No.”
Mike laughed again, only it was fake and shallow.
“Why would it want to see if you were scared?” Scott asked.
“I don’t know why.”
Mike took another deep breath
“But I certainly am.”
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