“I’m here to help you, do you understand?”
The man had a calming, gentle voice and his face, behind his large black spectacles, was kind. He could elicit a response with nothing more than a well timed pause and an encouraging smile. The prisoner before him was known to be recalcitrant but he’d worked with him over several weeks and felt that they were finally getting somewhere.
“I know that the terrible crimes you committed were in response to a fear that lies deep within you; do you think that you can share that with me Peter?”
Dead, cruel eyes stared back at him. Peter had demonstrated a penchant for violence since early childhood, according to the notes that he had read before agreeing to meet with him and his attacks had escalated over the years until he progressed to murder. 11 women were dead; brutally tortured until their poor broken bodies just couldn’t take any more.
“Perhaps you can you write it down for me?”
He was quite shocked when Peter began to scrawl on the paper before him but said nothing for a few moments, hoping that he would finally get to the root of this man’s problems.
“That’s it Peter, well done, just write down those things that you really fear and we will be able to find a way to set you free”
He leaned forward a little in his cold, metal chair and attempted to read upside down. It was not difficult as Peter had only written one word, over and over again – ‘Fire’. Of course! This was the key, his parents had died in a fire and the local police always thought that Peter had set it but had never been able to prove it and, as he’d only been 7 at the time, what was the point? However, if Peter had set it, why was it his deepest fear?
“Were you there Peter? Did you see who started the fire?”
Had this been the trigger for all his subsequent violent behaviour? Had he witnessed an arsonist setting a trap for himself and his parents? Could that really be enough? He thought again about the terrible crime scene photos that he seen and he wasn’t convinced…
Peter had paused in his writing while he’d watched the emotions flash across the other man’s face. ‘People are so stupid’ he thought and he smiled to himself, a twisted grimace that brought no light to his dark eyes. He was scared of fire, not because of his parents, they’d deserved to die, but because he hadn’t been able to control his one and only experiment with it. He’d thought that the blow torch he’d found in his father’s shed would be so much fun but the flames found the edge of a table cloth and it was all over far too quickly. He’d immobilised both his mother and father with his baseball bat, what a great birthday gift that had been, but instead of being able to take his pleasure with their prone forms, the fire claimed them and the game was over. Yes, fire terrified him; it took away his control…
It was almost as if he could hear the flicker once more, feel the heat as the red and orange tongues licked at everything they found. He remembered the pain as the fire had streaked across his left hand and it jerked involuntarily.
“Do you see now Peter? Are you finally facing your fear?”
He looked up to see the man smiling at him but it was no longer kind and gentle, it was predatory, the satisfied smile of a hunter that’s finally caught it’s prey.
Peter could feel the flames now, dancing around his feet. He pushed the chair violently and stood up, backing away from the table. He looked down and saw that his white, prison issue trainers were smoldering. He flung himself onto the floor and tried to tear them off but the melting rubber stuck to his hands and began to burn. He screamed as he watched the flames begin their dance and felt the pain as it started to spread……
“I’m sorry Inspector but there’s really nothing I can do with this one, he’s finally tipped over the edge and I don’t think anything will bring him back now”
He turned back and passively observed the prisoner who was now writhing on the floor in apparent agony although no-one could see any immediate cause.
“What happened?” The inspector asked as he indicated to his men that they should take Peter to the psyche ward; if he was any judge this prisoner would end his days there.
“He finally faced his fears” The man looked tired but satisfied
“How did you get him to do it?”
“Me? Nothing. I just gave him the pencil”
A gruesome little tale once again inspired by Fandango and his one word prompt