New Fiction: The Vocalist (Conclusion)
January 20, 2002
Concluding our tale of THE VOCALIST
Over the course of his four-and-a-half years of psychoanalysis, the Scallion’s therapist had formed a variety of conclusions about her patient that were DSM-IV ordinary. Their client/patient relationship was not entirely dissimilar to most client/patient relationships. Dr. Keri-Lynn Contrada would listen patiently, taking occasional notes and gesturing nonchalantly, as her client Arnie Drake discussed his hopes, fears, dreams, failures, and ambitions both past and present.
A strict Freudian, she was aware of Drake’s Scallion persona, but considered it a harmless role-playing fantasy centered around what she described as Drake’s “need to demonstrate a masculinity that is shrouded in fear and doubt,” and was “most likely due to feelings of sexual inadequacy and longing for his mother’s love.” Many of their visits were conducted, at Drake’s insistence, via telephone. Contrada believed, accurately, that this was due in part to Drake’s nervousness around the opposite sex. As such, she had on several occasions recommended Drake to a male colleague. However, Arnie explained to Contrada that he felt a genuine rapport with her and believed his therapy to be “working.” Several weeks into therapy, she’d given Drake her home phone number and stated that he could call her at home in the event of an emergency, an offer she would soon and often lament. Drake subsequently phoned her residence on dozens of occasions, asking such dumbfounded questions as, “Does my costume project a subliminal air of femininity?” and “What does it mean when I dream that strange men are force feeding hot dogs to me in the shower?” She’d reached two separate theories regarding this particular dream: 1. Drake desired to cleanse himself through the consumption of the impurities of the world while simultaneously ingesting its impurities. 2. Drake was latently homosexual. The second conclusion had infuriated Drake whose voice on the other end of the telephone had reached an almost hysterical proportion. He’d shouted the words, “incompetent psychoanalytic proprietor of deceit and lies” before ripping the phone from his apartment wall. Drake sent a bouquet of roses to her the following day with a note asking that she forgive his “unexpected burst of uncharacteristic, albeit justified, anger.”
After three years of therapy, Contrada realized that Drake would most likely be a client for the remainder of his life—a thought so overwhelming to Contrada that she set upon herself the goal of either relocating her practice to another city or switching occupations within one year’s time. Shortly thereafter, the insanity of the statements Drake uttered during their sessions rapidly increased. He’d often make remarks to Contrada such as, “There is no Drake—there is only the Scallion,” “I am master of all things onion,” and “One day, the world will bow before me!” These sessions were so emotionally exhausting to Contrada that she, herself, sought counseling.
Her therapist was named Brad Sitzman, whom she’d described to a friend as “textbook gorgeous.” Brad only wore designer clothes, which he would purchase from overpriced catalogs or tacky Web stores. During sessions, he would sometimes sip Knob Hill whiskey through a coffee stirrer; he spoke often of whiskey. They eventually crossed the client/patient barrier—crossed it, knocked it down, and had sex on it multiple times. Shortly thereafter, Arnie’s visits to Contrada became fewer and fewer and he spoke more and more frequently about a project that he swore would “make the populace rise from their arm-chair recliners and take notice.” Eventually, Drake ended his sessions with Contrada, though he’d committed her cell phone number to memory in the unlikely event he should ever wish to discuss world domination and foot-longs. Contrada’s relationship with Brad continued both professionally and personally; their discussions of things both Freudian and L. L. Beanian were extraordinary.
The silence of Keri-Lynn Contrada’s apartment was broken at 11:45 p.m. She reached a weary arm across textbook-good-looking Brad’s sleeping body and snatched her cell phone from the nightstand. At first she only heard a strange humming sound, electric.
“Hello?” she queried sleepily.
The voice on the other end of the phone was quiet and nervous as it spoke: “Dr. Contrada.” She recognized the voice instantly and looked wearily at the clock radio.
“Arnie, it’s late. What do you want?”
“Arnie Drake is no more. There is only the Scallion,” the voice replied, though the conviction with which it resonated the words seemed less than genuine.
“As I told you during the many many many sessions we had together, the Scallion is only a persona in your subconscious mind that you are choosing to make real. In Freudian terms he’s your ID equivalent of evil. There’s--”
“Dr. Contrada. I did not call for psychobabble.”
“What is it you want, Arnie?”
“I am experiencing a morality crisis the likes of which no one, I assure you, in the world has ever had to contend with, and I very much need your advice.”
Dr. Contrada rubbed the sleep from her right eye and sat up in bed. Her naked back pressed against the metal headboard, sending shivers throughout her body and further rousing her from her sleep state. Brad snored softly. In his dreams he floated on an Eddie Bauer raft across the Knob Hill Ocean bound for J. Crew island.
“I’m listening,” she sighed.
Marcia drove the Honda Civic as skillfully and rapidly as possible without recklessly endangering herself or others. The police would momentarily be arriving at her residence, apprehending the villain known as B&B, providing he hadn’t tried to tried anything stupid like getting out of the bathtub (She’d placed the hair dryer on its lowest setting on his chest to ensure that he did not attempt an escape). She hoped the police would also reach B&B’s mansion, where Trevor was being held captive—before leaving her apartment she’d phoned Peter McMurphy, police captain of the 23rd district and one of a handful of individuals privy to Trevor’s dual identity. She’d informed McMurphy of the dilemma and he’d promised to dispatch uniformed officers to the scene as well as EMT personnel “just in case.” She’d never liked that phrase and it had caused her throat to tighten when McMurphy said it. As she brought he Honda to 65 MPH across Central Avenue, she hated the adage more than ever before.
He’d been expecting advice. Nothing more. Nothing less. He’d wanted only to know what she, as a respected professional, thought he should do. And she’d listened to him quietly and patiently given the hour of the evening and her current disposition, but lost all patience when Arnie uttered the words “sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter.” It was as if he’d said, “Look, I’m from Saturn, plain and simple—I’m a Saturnian.” She’d laughed—laughed!—promptly advised him to do what he thought was best for “onionkind,” and ended the call.
The Scallion sat on the edge of the roof and stared at the silent cordless telephone in his hand. “Infernal wireless communication device of the damned!” he shouted, and hurled the phone into the darkness of the night.
Several feet distant the Vocalist, whose onion-induced tears had loosened the electrical tape by which his mouth was bound, finally managed to shake free the tape by moving his head back and forth in rapid succession (leaving him momentarily dizzy—though he realized the dizziness was more likely a result of the poison fruit he’d recently consumed). Nonetheless, he was free to act and the Scallion was in such a state of self-reflection that he’d failed to notice Trevor’s newfound semi-freedom (his arms and legs remained chair-bound). Trevor rebelled against the dizziness and forged a quick plan of action. He would first need to disrupt the Scallion’s equilibrium with a carefully constructed C sharp. Immediately thereafter, he would disable his opponent’s electrical device of destruction by eliminating its power source (A flat) before unweaving the fabric of the ropes by which he was bound (D sharp minor and G, respectively). Trevor closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He slowed his breathing and inhaled/exhaled several more times not unlike a diver preparing for a race. His mind focused on the first note—A flat. He rotated his head slowly counter-clockwise and loosened his neck muscles. He heard the note in his mind—A flat. He opened his mouth and, mentally relaxing his vocal chords, unleashed the sound upon the Scallion.
Except…the note was inaudible.
There was no sound.
The Scallion remained oblivious to the voiceless Trevor. His mind was focused fully on the sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter--his sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter. She’d laughed at him, but he knew that somewhere out there, in the city, she was comfortably resting. And he would have the last laugh, not she. An alarm sounded on the Scallion’s weapon indicating it was fully charged and ready to be fired. He reached a gloved hand for the “go” switch that would forever change the world. Arnie paused, remembering the reason why he’d phoned Dr. Contrada. His mind raced and in seconds and his decision was final. He turned toward Trevor.
“I’ll not do this deed. No. Not today. Not ever, I suppose. Not…like…this.” He threw the kill switch and the engines of the glorified shrinking ray slowed and died. “No. When I do act, it shall be in a manner befitting my name and--”
The Scallion paused, at last noticing that Trevor’s mouth was no longer bound. He recoiled slightly in anticipation of an attack—but none occurred.
“You—you can’t attack me. Your voice. Something’s happened to your voice, hasn’t it?”
Trevor’s silence confirmed the Scallion’s suspicions.
“The Vocalist has no voice! But you’ve freed yourself of the gag with which I’d bound you. Am I to understand that you ingested the poisoned apple?”
Trevor nodded ever so slightly.
“I had to stop you,” Trevor said, his voice barely a whisper.
“But you failed, little man. And now you are going to die.”
“Maybe. But at least I tried.”
“Tried, died, it all sounds the same, you know. I won’t lie to you. The poison acts rather quickly and the resulting death is extremely painful. It goes against my ethics, but I will shoot you if you’d prefer, though honestly, I behoove firearms—they lessen us all.
Trevor was beginning to feel the poison’s effects—daggers shot through his stomach and were he not bound to a chair he would have doubled over in pain. As he was bound, he merely dropped his head and clenched his teeth in agony.
“I’ll be off then. Much planning to do. Much--”
The pain was immense, and Trevor closed his eyes for an instant—a heartbeat—during which two sounds occurred: 1. a rush of air. 2. the crash of bone against brick.
When he reopened his eyes he saw standing next to him not the Scallion but a lean, tall female. Her breath rose and fell fast and heavy. She was dressed in a black spandex top and matching shorts; she wore red sneakers and white ankle socks. Her hair was short and black and her face was partially masked by a red stylized “E” which she’d apparently applied using face paint. The Scallion lay unconscious against the wall edge of the rooftop; his body lay in a twisted position that, if he were conscious, would no doubt have been extremely painful to hold. Trevor realized that his hands and legs were no longer bound to the chair. He looked up at the mysterious young stranger and began to realize what she’d done. His vision became hazy and his stomach burned as the poison’s effects escalated. From a distance he heard what he thought was the wailing of cats and his thoughts momentarily turned to his feline Jones. He then thought of Marcia and wished he’d been able to say goodbye. The stranger spoke to him in a manner so fast that were his mental receptors not interpreting on an altered level the words would have been so much gibberish. There was no pause between words and sentences, the lot running together like a fast-moving freight train.
He looked at her in confusion, slowly comprehending the words. Realizing the speed at which she was speaking, she forced herself to slow her speech.
“Are you okay; is there anything I can do?
“Poisoned,” he replied, faintly. “I’ve swallowed poison.”
“Help is on the way.”
“Who are you?” he managed before falling from the chair. He saw a momentarily blur and she was there, catching him before he fell to the roof. She sat him down gently on the rooftop. She’d moved with inexplicable speed.
“Help will be here soon. Police. Paramedics. I’ve been monitoring police reports. They’re coming.”
Trevor’s eyes were becoming two crescent moons.
“I’m kind of new to this area and new to this whole scene.”
His expression was blank; her meaning did not register.
“You know, crime fighting. But I think I like it. I mean, I’m only 17, but it’s kind of, you know, cool.”
“What’s your name?” Trevor whispered.
“Electronica.You know, like the music. For now, anyway. Well, I have to go, the police are here. Maybe I’ll see you again. I could use some pointers.”
She vanished faster than he could see and for a moment he wondered whether he’d imagined the entire incident. But from his vantage point, lying on the roof, he could still see the Scallion—still unmoving—and he knew it had been no dream. The last thing he saw before being consumed by darkness was an image of several shadowy figures approaching him. He thought he’d heard his name being called, but the blackness took him by the hand and carried him away before he could be certain.
They’d pumped his stomach and repaired the damage that had been done. Michael, his friend and physician, oversaw Trevor’s recovery which, actually, was rather brief.
Two weeks later, over a breakfast consisting of coffee, croissants, and eggs lightly scrambled, Trevor and Marcia began planning a summer vacation. They talked about San Francisco and Paris. Marcia had visited Paris in her youth and longed to return to the captivating metropolis. The morning newspaper was spread out before them as they scoured the travel pages comparing airfare rates. While sipping coffee, Marcia noticed a headline in the newspaper’s “A” section; it read: “Who Is She?” and was accompanied by the subhead, “Mysterious Masked Heroine ‘Electronica’ Foils Bank Robbery.”
“Here’s another one,” Marcia said.
Trevor looked at the headline and reached for the scissors which rested on the bureau next to the breakfast table. He carefully clipped the article from the newspaper and placed it into a newly purchased scrapbook.
“She’s out to make a name for herself,” he said.
“So it seems. She’s made the front page nearly every day for the past two weeks.”
There was a brief lapse in the discussion and Marcia returned her attention to the newspaper’s travel section.
“It’s gone now, you know,” Trevor said indifferently.
“You know. My ‘power.’ My Vocalist power.”
“Oh. I don’t know what to—that is, how do you feel about that? I mean, are you okay with it?”
“I think so. Actually, I feel like I can begin to live again—to be normal, you know. It was an obsession.”
“It was a passion—to help others.”
“I feel good knowing she’s out there—she’s young, but really good. And I saw it in her eyes—that same passion. She’s taking a liking to the “business.” I think she’ll do okay.”
“Will you miss it? I mean, the whole masked costume thing?”
“No. I guess I’ll miss making the tapes—you know, the shower tapes.”
“Silly. There’s lots of other things to do in the shower,” she said, smiling. “C’mon, I’ll show you.”
They left the kitchen and ascended the stairs to the shower. The travel section would keep.
NEXT: The Promise: A Love Story
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