My New Normal

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chris explains how his life is forever changed after a strange event occurred one night on a dark back road.

My New Normal

 

A short story by Ed Smith

Inspired by true events and pure imagination

 

 

In a partially lit unused medical room, the metal folding chair let out a defiant creek as I tried to make myself comfortable. An already impossible task as the rest of the people in the circle looked at me with keen interest. I use the word people loosely here. I’m not really sure how to describe them and when I glance around, they make me feel… uneasy I suppose.

My name is Chris Hannon and until five weeks ago, I was a normal guy just living a normal life. Well, as normal as I thought it was. A good job, a nice apartment, a girlfriend; all totally normal. And now... now I have a therapy group that meets once a week on Tuesdays at a remote hospital at the edge of town.

It’s just about as creepy as it sounds but I digress.

In the span of one evening, how I knew the world to work was taken away from me. I can walk, I can talk, I can think, hell I can even sing. But ask me to tell you what I see is a completely different matter.

I close my eyes tight and open them again. The world from time to time slips away from me since the accident. At least that's what I tell myself when I see things that don’t make any sense. Dr. Moore tells me it'll be OK. I just need to re-adjust my way of thinking. He tells me some of the things I see are real and some aren’t, I just need to filter out what’s what. Oh, yeah and my favorite part, “Chris, this will take some time.” He is always reassuring when he says that line, but how much time? He doesn’t know the answer to that. Apparently, no one does. I’m a special case.

Dr. Moore has asked me to come to this particular group session as he is very eager for me to share my experiences, “Chris any time you’re ready we’d all love to hear your story of why I invited you to join us.” His voice brings me back to the circle again. “Don’t worry no one here is going to judge you.” He's incredibly reassuring but I’m not feeling it.

“I might Doc!” Wendell spoke out of turn. He didn’t help the situation, especially as he is part of the reason, I’m here in the first place.

“Wendell, we talked about this. Please refrain from talking tonight.” Dr. Moore scolded him.

I quickly looked around the room. Everything looked ok. I can deal with what I call normal way better than what Dr. Moore claims it to be.

He said I have a social disorder that is somewhat common although most people who do have it usually grow out of it by their late teens. I sadly was not one of them. He also regretted to inform me that there wasn't any kind of medications or types of proven therapy that would help me. I just have to work through it.

He did feel there was a way I could resolve my issues in a more meaningful way instead of trying to live in fear of what I might see when the changes occurred.

What he actually meant was listening and talking to people who were part of my problem. That way I could see how normal they truly were.

The upside, if you can call it that was everyone in the group had issues of their own. So, a bunch of people each with their own social disorders is trying to reach a better understanding of their place in the world by spending time talking about it with other people who have social disorders? This was almost laughable.

Take Gary for example. He was a tall man with shoulder-length dust brown hair. He always sipped his coffee while he stood behind his chair in the circle. At first, I thought the reason he never sat down was part of his problem. The guy was always standing, you offer him a chair and he ignores it completely. I think a couple of the people in the group keep doing do it on purpose just to be annoying. Wendell in particular.

Gary flipped his hair to the side with a shake of his head. His eyes seemed to stare into the room somewhere in front of him. He claimed to be from Australia but sounded and looked like he was a Native American.

Gary had something called NPD. I don’t know what it is but everyone groaned about it when he talked about himself. And that was what he mostly talked about. Himself. Or how other peoples’ problems referenced back to him. He was kind of a narcissist in my opinion.

A pale-skinned girl called Ali twitched three times while playing with her long wavy black hair. She kept her face hidden behind the long dark strands with a single eye peeking out from time to time. Right now, I could only see her shiny black hair spilling from her head and over her curled-up legs. I found it unsettling how her hair seemed to flow around her when she moved. It was like she was from a horror movie.

It's also important to mention that Ali only spoke in this weird long drawn out sing-song voice kind of like a human talking to a whale. I think she was afraid of water or drowning or swimming, maybe it was just taking baths.

With the look of youthful innocence, Cindy-Mae beamed at me her lips curled into the most adorable smile of encouragement.

Cindy-Mae a slender young-looking girl with perfect blond curls framing her child-like face. She looked like a 16-year-old with the voice of a small child. But when she would go off about her co-workers at the firm where she worked for any number of reasons, the language that came out of her mouth would embarrass a seasoned construction worker. She clearly had anger issues. This led to fits of rage with her yelling and shaking her fists. For me the real trouble was her voice, it was so childlike that it just made it comical to watch her rant.

Wendell Kroker leaned back in his chair. Muscular arms folded over his chest always pulling tight on whatever shirt he wore that day. His face wore his usual mixed expression of irritation and curiosity. He was obnoxious, crude and by far the mouthiest person I ever meet. If it was on his mind it came out of his mouth with ZERO filter.

He says it’s because he was from the Bronx. He commonly barked in his thick accent, “New York makes you hardened person! You either get it or you can get lost!”

Now, I’m not sure why he’s in this group but I can tell he has a bit of a sensitivity issue to something. He hated me always staring at his ears for one thing. But I couldn’t help myself there huge in comparison to anything I had ever seen before. And it didn’t help that he kept his greasy hair cut short and flat against his small head. It made his ears look even bigger.

Lastly, he doesn’t like his name. When Dr. Moore calls him Wendell, he always corrects him “It’s Mendel…!”, which was followed by one of a hundred comments along the lines of, “Geesh Doc you got sumtin wrong wit your brain?”

I mentioned Wendell was part of the reason, I was even in this group in the first place. Not saying he was the direct cause but I think if it wasn’t for him, I would still be living a different life right now. Still employed and dating not to mention any need for therapy.

Finally, there is Dr. Moore. He was a kind-faced old man. He always wore a nurse’s smock and loose fit pants. Everyone in the group looked like they had just walked in off the street but Dr. Moore always looked like he just came from some Emergency Room television show.

He nodded to me in encouragement. I had been in the group for a few weeks now. I didn't feel comfortable repeating my story to anyone. I had a hard enough time talking to him about it, probably because he took me seriously.

“Come on, spit it out! We ain't got all day!” I had past Wendell’s, I mean Mendel’s, patience threshold not that he had one to start with. Wendell blurted out, “Look if you don’t want to tell em what happen, I’ll gladly do it!” He became silent with a quick glare from the Doctor.

I cleared my throat one last time and dove right into it. What did I have to lose anyway, my freedom, my life, maybe my sanity? Or any mixture thereof… but then the story flowed out from my lips.

 

*****

 

One night a just over a month ago, on a long back road I was driving home. My girlfriend Allison and I were coming back from this out of the way bed and breakfast she liked to stay at. When we left she wanted to drive along the coast and take a few of the lesser-traveled roads.

The radio was on playing a commercial for something I would never need and Alisson had fallen asleep next to me on the passenger side. I felt the road thump my tires now and again as we traveled the windy forest road.

Suddenly what I can only describe as a goblin appeared in a cloud of smoke not two hundred feet in front of my car. (I figured it was a goblin because he was green and had big ears with a long nose. Just like in most of the video games I play.) He was dressed in a long hospital gown that blazed white in my headlights. He turned just in time to see the front bumper of my car race up to hit him.

I just went on driving. That didn't just happen I told myself. There is no way a goblin just appeared in front of my car. Besides, there was no thump sound of me colliding with anything.

"Hey buddy?" this irritated voice came from the back seat.

I looked in my rear-view mirror to see the goblin sitting behind me looking rather cross. "What the heck is wrong wit you?" he continued. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know what to say as I stared hard at the road.

"Do you always run people over when ya drivin?" Again, I was frozen looking quickly from the road to the mirror and back again.

He was still there. How was that possible?

"Hey! Do…you… speak… English? Are… you… deaf?" The little guy was getting worked up.

I looked to my girlfriend still asleep but getting restless from the yelling goblin. I shook her and she looked at me for a second, then turned her head the other way closing her eyes again.

Suddenly my view of her was blocked by the goblins face, his thick eyebrows contorting with every word he said to me, "Hey, keep your eyes on the road or you might run down some other unfortunate soul!" He smacked me on the back of my head forcing my attention back to the road.

But I retorted, "Hey if I ran you over how come you’re in my car?"

He hung over the front again, "Maybe I'm the ghost of the guy you just hit and I'm annoyed enough ta haunt you forever, you son of a... UNICORN!" he shouted next to my ear.

What the hell is he going on about now.... then I yelled as I swerved the car, "HOLY-CRAP-THERE’S-A-UNICORN-IN-THE-ROAD!" with squealing tires I just barely missed its’ long sparkling tail as the car rushed by.

I refused to stop or slow down. I just couldn’t believe any of this was happening. Hell, what would I tell my girlfriend if she woke up? Sorry I needed a moment after avoiding an imaginary creature at 45 miles per hour while talking to a dead goblin in my back seat? Yeah, that would have gone over well.

The goblin leaned back in his seat, "Nice, now you’re one for one in your kill streak, Mac!"

"WHO ARE YOU...!?" I yelled but then my girlfriend moved in that irritated way she has when I’m disturbing her sleep.

I switched to a quieter voice, "Who are you, and why are YOU in my car?"

"Well, you just tried ta kill me..."

I couldn't stop asking, "And where did you even come from? And how can I see you? Am I having delusions? Oh, god did I fall asleep at the wheel and this is all dream!?"

"Hey, buddy I ain’t no disillusion! I'm as real as anyone else is."

On I pressed, "How can you be real? How can you even exist?"

The goblin again leaned over yet again, "How can I be real? I'm as real you, your girlfriend, postal workers, people from Canada, and TROLLS!"

The car tires squealed as I dodged through a group of ten-foot-tall green hairy looking things that all watched my cars tail lights leave them behind.

The goblin now near my ear, "Do you need me ta drive? I know you are up now in your score 2 ta 1 but apparently, you’re very distracted by sometin and havin a tough time focusin. I do have a license." He patted his white gown, “Well, not wit me but I do have one.”

Great! The goblin says I’m having a tough time driving. I just need to get home and rest. This is all in my head and I won’t tell anyone else about it. Ever!

Fingers snapped repeatedly near my face, "Hey! Hey! You even listenin ta me?"

I pulled the car over to the side of the road near the main highway on-ramp. A few other cars and something I think was a person on a flying carpet holding a lantern sped by us into the distance.

I turned to look in the back seat at the goblin still there. "What’s going on?!"

The goblin looked confused, "What da heck do you mean?"

I got a little frantic, "I mean how can you even be here? Goblins aren't real. Unicorns aren't real. Am I crazy? How can we even be having this conversation?"
The goblin's face became a flat expression as he leaned forward, "First off…".

"OUCH! What the hell?" I yelled after he smacked my face.

"Felt, real didn't it?" He seemed rather sure of himself. "Second of all, YES everything else is real! It always has been, and Third," He held up three fingers, "You almost ran me over, so I just teleported into your car is all." He looked around, "Not bad either. A 2010 model?"

I closed my eyes hard and opened them again, the goblin was still sitting there. "Look, if you could just drop me off at the liquor store past the next off-ramp I would appreciate it. Late night snack run. Hospital food is da worst."

My mind reeled from such a simple yet insane request; I’m not going to drop off an imaginary creature in a nightgown at a strip mall so he can go shopping! "Get out of my car," I said forcefully.

He looked hurt, "What? Hey, you owe me, buddy..."

I owe him now? Like hell I do.

This was getting way too strange, "I can't take it! Get out of my car now!"

"Hey, you listen ta me..." He started again.

"NO!" I was mad now, "GET OUT!" My girlfriend made that noise again but this time I had to do what I had to do to get rid of this… problem.

The goblin started to say something and then stopped. He scooted his way to the passengers’ door and opened it. He looked at me again in a sort of confused pleading manner and I just pointed my finger outside. He hopped out onto the dirt and slammed the door closed.

I watched him yelling obscenities at me never letting my eyes lose sight of him as I pressed hard on the accelerator. His white gown turned red from the cars’ rear lights then faded into the darkness as I raced away from him. I turned just in time to be thrown forward in my seat as my car crashed into something. I looked through the cracked windshield just for a second and saw what I thought was a large sandaled foot moving up into the darkness pulling part of my front bumper up with it.

 

I passed out after that.

 

This is the story I later told my girlfriend as we sat with heavy jackets in the chilly air leaning against the highway safety rail while watching the tow truck lifting my car onto its flatbed. The front smashed in and fluids still trailing out from underneath.

Several emergency vehicles were nearby including a police car, all with their lights flashing in the night. Cars sped by; my girlfriend just hugged me close. I’m pretty sure she didn't know what to say to my crazy story. Hell, I didn't know what to say to it either.

The Officer approached us with a clipboard in his hand. "Sorry to bother you both but I have a couple of questions for you." Great I said to myself he’s going to ask me how much I had to drink. I had one drink with dinner and that was hours ago, but I’m sure he’ll use it as an excuse to harass me over the accident.

To my surprise, he then held up some photos, "Have either of you seen any of these folks tonight? They managed to escape from Feyward Mental Institute near here. Now I’m told they’re harmless so we’re just trying to round them up and get them home safe and sound."

My girlfriend looked at the photos first saying she didn’t recognize any of them while she casually handed them to me. I slowly looked over the four black and white printed pictures. I almost passed out again when I saw the third picture.

There was the goblin from the back seat of my car smiling back at me with eyebrows raised high and a sheepish grin on his face.

 

*** **

 

Dr. Moore was pleased that I finial told my story to the group, “That was well done, Chris.” He looked around the room, “Does anyone have anything they would like to ask Chris or add?” No one spoke, and Wendell only grunted because he wasn’t supposed to talk. Dr. Moore tried to spur them into talking to me. “Gary. What do you think of Chris’s issues?”

I looked around, nothing looked normal anymore. Gary was not a man standing behind a chair, but instead, he was half man and half… I don’t know a horse? He flipped his hair again and at the same time, his long dust brown tail flipped as well. He rolled his eyes in disgust, “I don’t know what this has to do with me. I mean if he can’t even see me for who I am and how I’m amazing what does that do for my self-conscious?”

Cindy-Mae piped up in her child-like voice. But instead of a young child before me, I saw a two-foot-tall woman in a well-tailored business suit, curly hair up in a bun, with translucent wings fluttering in irritation. “You mean he can’t see me either!” Her voice rose to a shrill, “Just like at work! I show up before the boss gets in. I make sure all his mail is in order, his meetings are scheduled, and that his Mocha Chi Latte isn't too cold by the time he arrives! Then all he can do is complain that I'm not doing a good enough job!?!”  She spun up into the air.

“Cindy-Mae, calm yourself.” Dr. Moore’s cool voice broke in. “Like you, he has a problem and needs help addressing it. He can see you for who you are, it's just not always that easy. But I think with all our help he will do much better.”

Cindy-Mae began floating back down to the chair, her face went from red to a light pink as she sat back down, “Sorry.” Then to me, “Sorry… that just brings back memories of…”

Wendell couldn’t contain himself, “Memories of what? Your Family, your boyfriend, your dog…” but instead of a short man sitting in the chair, it was a goblin. He was, in fact, THE goblin from my story. Cindy-Mae turned to look at Wendell her eyes burning with anger as he counted off a list of things on his green fingers, “…Your last Christmas party, a day at work, going to the dry cleaners, the show you watched last night…”

“That’s enough Wendell.” Dr. Moore had to stop Wendell from going into one of his sarcastic rants. Wendell mumbled something about Mendel and sat quietly. “Cindy-Mae please continue.”

She put her head down defeated with nothing else to say, her curls bounced in a sad but cute way. I suppose all fairies might be like her, but I was not entirely sure what I was seeing right now. I hear them say faerie, then fey, then sprites, and brownies? What the heck are all these strange names they keep using?

Dr. Moore looked to Ali who didn’t look any different than before. I guess not all of them were… causing me problems. Her head of hair moved from looking at the Doctor to looking at me. Then like a whale, she asked, “DO you FEEEEELLLL any PAAAAIIIN when IT happens?”

Dr. Moore smiled at me, this was one I could answer, “No. I feel completely normal but I just see things I have never seen before.”

“Seeeeee THINGS? Like WHHHHHAAAAT?” Ali asked.

“Um well.” Great now I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to offend anyone here. They all seem touchy about their own life issues and now some new guy is challenging their very existence. How do I explain my situation without upsetting them?

Wendell slapped me on the knee, “Hey buddy! The lady there asked you a question! Why don’t you tell her da way you told me the night we met?” He leaned back in his chair all smiles ignoring the Doctor’s glare. What a smug ass.

“When I look at you Ali, I see a woman…” She flexed her toes and then I saw the purple webbing between them. Ugh.

Like I said in the beginning, I had a job but they let me go citing conflicting mental issues. I had a girlfriend who thinks I’m some kind of racists freak because I can’t see what I can only call FANTASY creatures. Leaving me with a weekly therapy group that meets at a strange place called the Feyward Institute. That group includes a faerie, a goblin, a centaur, a mermaid, and me, a human. Oh, and Dr. Moore is apparently a gargoyle but he says that’s only at night.

 

This is my new normal.

 


Submitted: January 15, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Ed Smith. All rights reserved.

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