BY ROBERT BISHOP
Copyright is held by the author.
“IT’S THE moon, Doctor Comfort,” Taylor Samilton said. He lay on the leather couch, eyes closed, hands clasped across his chest, feet together, toes pointing straight up.
Doctor Comfort sat in the soft leather chair near the couch. “Why do you say it is the moon, Taylor?”
Taylor opened his eyes and looked at the psychiatrist. “What else can it be?”
“I don’t know, Taylor. Why don’t you tell me?”
“You’ll think I’m nuts.” Taylor looked away.
“Of course I won’t,” countered Doctor Comfort. “Tell me about the moon.”
“The moon is trying to pull my eyeballs out of their sockets.”
“Really?” said Doctor Comfort, taken aback by Taylor’s response.
“I knew it,” cried Taylor. “I knew you’d think I’m a whacko.”
“I do not think you are a whacko, Taylor. If you say the moon is trying to pull your eyeballs out of their sockets, I believe you. Tell me when you first noticed the moon trying to do this.”
Taylor jumped off the couch and began pacing about the office. “It started several months ago, during a full moon.” He stopped pacing and looked at Doctor Comfort.
“Please, Taylor, return to the couch. It’s better for you there.”
Taylor plopped onto the couch.
“Taylor, if I am to help you, I need you to start from the beginning.”
“Of course, Doctor. Sorry. It started months ago. I went to bed at my usual time. I opened the window and didn’t close the drapes. The full moon was shining so bright in the sky, like a huge orange ball floating just above my house. It was beautiful. It was so close I thought I could touch it. I even reached out my hand. That’s how close it looked.” Taylor stopped talking.
“And then,” prompted Doctor Comfort.
“That’s when it started.”
“Very good, Taylor. That’s when what started?”
“When I felt the moon tugging on my eyeballs.” Taylor Samilton covered his face with his hands and sobbed.
“Can you describe the experience?”
“It started as a gentle tugging. At first, I thought I had allergies, you know, or maybe something came in through the open window, some dust or something, or maybe pollen. Then it got painful. I closed the window and the drapes but that didn’t help.”
“I see,” replied Doctor Comfort.
“The tugging and the pain returned during the next full moon. Now, every time there is a full moon I can feel it trying to yank my eyeballs out of their sockets. Do you know what that feels like?” Taylor raised himself up on one elbow. “It hurts!” He glared at Doctor Comfort then collapsed onto the couch and lay still. “I know the moon wants them.”
“The tugging on your eyes occurs only during a full moon, but not during a crescent, half or gibbous moon?”
“Yes, only when the moon is full. I can’t make it stop.” Tears rolled down the sides of his face. Doctor Comfort handed him a tissue.
Taylor wiped his eyes and blew his nose. “The pain is almost unbearable.”
“But you’ve survived, Taylor, and you still have your eyes. How did you manage that?”
“Now, when the moon is full I go into the bathroom, close the door and turn off the light. That reduces the pain but it doesn’t make it go away. I sleep on the bathroom floor until the full moon starts to wane.”
“Hmm, interesting,” said Doctor Comfort. “Why should the moon want your eyes?”
Taylor leaped off the couch, stormed around the office then threw himself onto the couch. “It isn’t the moon, Doctor. It’s the man in the moon. He wants my eyes.”
“The man in the moon?” Doctor Comfort repeated stupidly.
“Haven’t you ever looked at the moon? Haven’t you ever seen or heard about the man in the moon?”
“No. Why does the man in the moon want your eyes?”
Taylor sat up and swung his legs off the couch. He gripped Doctor Comfort’s upper arm and squeezed. Doctor Comfort winced. “The man in the moon doesn’t have eyes. He just has those big black circles, like empty eye sockets. He wants to put my eyeballs in those empty sockets so he can see.”
“Taylor,” Doctor Comfort said gently, “you are experiencing a condition called pareidolia.” He pried Taylor’s fingers from his arm.
“It’s a very common psychological phenomenon.”
Taylor interrupted. “Are you calling me a psycho?”
“Of course not. Often the mind thinks it sees a familiar pattern or shape in some object where no pattern or shape exists. Common examples of this phenomenon are seeing animal shapes in clouds, or, in your case, seeing a face on the surface of the moon. Some people even carry it to the extreme and see the face of Jesus on a piece of burnt toast.” Doctor Comfort smiled. “You don’t have anything to worry about, Taylor. You’re going to be fine.”
“What about the moon pulling on my eyeballs and the pain I feel?” He gripped the doctor’s arm again and squeezed.
Doctor Comfort grimaced and tapped Taylor’s fingers. Taylor released his grip.
Doctor Comfort massaged his arm. “The mind is very powerful, Taylor. Sometimes it makes us feel or see things that are not there. Your mind has convinced you the moon is pulling on your eyeballs when it really isn’t. I believe you are experiencing anxiety attacks.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Taylor, I’m sure. I’m going to write you a prescription. Take the medication as per the directions when you feel stressed or anxious about the moon.”
“Then I’m not a whacko?”
Doctor Comfort laughed out loud. “No, you are not a whacko, Taylor. You’re really quite normal.”
Taylor Samilton took the prescription, thanked Doctor Comfort and left.
One month later, on the second day of the full moon, two men arrived at Doctor Comfort’s clinic.
“I’ll tell Doctor you’re here,” said his receptionist when they showed their badges and asked to see him.
“Doctor Comfort?” the taller of the two men asked when Doctor Comfort came out of his office moments later.
“Yes.” Dr. Comfort sounded perplexed.
“I’m Detective Stansberry. This is Detective Plemmons,” the taller of the two men said. “Homicide,” he added.
“Yeah, homicide,” said Plemmons. He whipped out his ID card and shield and showed Doctor Comfort.
“We need to talk about one of your patients,” Stansberry said.
“I see,” murmured Doctor Comfort. He ushered them into his office. “Please, have a seat.” He indicated the chairs in front of his desk. Detective Plemmons lay down on the couch and said, “I’ve never been in a shrink’s office before. This is pretty cool.”
“You never know, Doc, could be a future patient of yours.” Stansberry raised his eyebrows and tipped his head toward Plemmons.
”Good Lord, I certainly hope not.” Doctor Comfort frowned and looked askance at Plemmons. “What may I do for you gentlemen?”
“You had a patient named Taylor Samilton,” said Stansberry.
Doctor Comfort held up his hand. “I’m sorry, but I cannot discuss my patients with you, not even names. Confidentiality is an absolute.”
“Not if the patient is dead,” said Plemmons from the couch.
“Taylor Samilton is dead?” Doctor Comfort looked stunned.
“Yup,” said Stansberry.
“When? How?” Doctor Comfort’s skin turned the colour of old mayonnaise.
Plemmons raised himself on one elbow and said, “Samilton was found dead, flat on his back in his front yard. His eyeballs were missing. Other than empty eye sockets, there wasn’t a mark on him.” Plemmons fell back on the couch and closed his eyes.
“Oh, dear,” said Doctor Comfort, clearly distressed by the information. “Who found him?”
“A neighbour early this morning,” said Stansberry. “The neighbour also told us Samilton was seeing you. What for?”
“Taylor had anxiety issues, Detective. We were working on them.”
“We’ve got a few questions to ask. Maybe you better tell your secretary not to disturb us.” Stansberry edged his chair closer to the desk.
One hour later Detective Stansberry stood up and roused Plemmons, who had fallen asleep on the couch. Plemmons staggered to his feet.
“Thanks for your cooperation, Doctor,” Stansberry said.
“Yeah, sorry to disturb you,” Plemmons mumbled. “You were a great help.” The two detectives left.
Later that night, with a glass of scotch in hand, Doctor Comfort went outside and stood in the centre of his front yard. He took a sip of scotch and looked up at the full moon.
The man in the moon winked at him.
Robert P. Bishop, a former soldier and teacher, holds a Master’s in Biology and lives in Tucson, Arizona. He is the author of three novels and four short-story collections. His short fiction has appeared in Active Muse, Ariel Chart, Better Than Starbucks, Bright Flash Literary Review, Clover and White, CommuterLit, Corner Bar Magazine, Down in the Dirt, Fleas on the Dog, Ink Pantry, Literally Stories, The Literary Hatchet, Lunate Fiction, The Scarlet Leaf Review and elsewhere.