As the bright spring afternoon melted into evening, Dr Shearing’s office grew darker. As did Lee Madison’s thoughts.
‘13 Ghosts?’ said Dr Shearing. He pulled sharply at his shirt cuffs. ‘I can’t say that I’m familiar with that particular film, or Mr William Castle’s oeuvre as a director, to be honest.’
Lee Madison cringed as Shearing spoke. The psychiatrist whistled when he pronounced the letter‘s’ and the sound almost perforated Lee’s ear drums.
‘Oh it was massively popular at the time. There was even a remake a while back,’ said Lee. ‘All flash-trash and CGI, though.’
The egg stain on Dr Shearing’s paisley tie had distracted Lee so much he’d had to turn away to look at the silent television in the corner of the room. Images of corn fields rolled across the screen.
‘But The Tingler was his most famous film,’ continued Lee. ‘He set up a gadget in the cinema seats that gave people little electric shocks when The Tingler appeared on the screen.’ He turned to Shearing and grinned, beamed.
‘A monster that lives on fear, you say? Quite clever actually,’ said Dr Shearing, who was sweating even more than usual. ‘A slightly Freudian shadow cast, eh?’
He took his ballpoint pen and scribbled on a yellow post-it-note that he then stuck inside his worn brown briefcase. He clicked the briefcase closed and looked at Lee.
‘So, you said you were about seven when your own particular ‘Tingler.’ appeared?
Lee nodded to himself. Glanced at Shearing.
‘I think so. We were on a school day out . I was running down the side of a cliff with a group of other kids when I started to panic. Imagined myself crashing down to the ground below. My head smashed to pieces. And then the panic took control of me. So, I decided to see what would happen if I just let myself fall.’
‘Everything went black and red. I came to near a swimming pool and a teacher was shouting at me while she bathed my face in chlorine stinking water. I was off school for weeks. Never really got into the habit of going to school after that, to be honest.’
‘And The Tingle returned when?’
‘Off and on. When I saw the school bus turn the corner, for example. I just wanted to throw myself under it. Or if I saw a sharp knife, I felt the urge to run it across my tongue.’
Shearing repressed a grimace.
‘And when did this stop?’
‘Well, it didn’t. It got worse when I was a teenager. The Tingler was like a cowl wrapping itself around my head. Smothering my brain. My thoughts.’
‘And nothing could stop it? Ease it?’
‘Sex took the edge off for a while. But that didn’t last long.’
‘So, that is when you started drinking?’
‘Yes, the booze helped. And then the drugs.
‘Their affects wore off pretty quickly. And then, one night, just after Christmas, I was walking down a path, late at night. It was freezing. I saw an old man shuffling in front of me. Almost slipping over on the ice. In a flash, I realised that I could just kill him. And it wouldn’t matter. No one would know. I could get away with it without a problem. The Tingler almost strangled me.’
‘And so I picked up a brick , ran up to him and smashed his head to pieces like a soft boiled egg.’
Shearing gulped. His mouth arid.
‘And what happened to The Tingler after that,’ said Shearing, looking uncomfortable.
‘It was gone for aquite long time after that. But, it was always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Of course, it crept further forward. Until eventually it was at the front of my brain.’
‘A singular truth, Doctor. There truly are no consequences.’
Lee swept up a pencil and stabbed it into Dr Shearing’s eye. Again and again. Pushing it up toward his brain.
And The Tingler slipped away from his body like a shadow during night time. Only waiting for the break of dawn.