Sophia Paulson was a fantastic performer. Her body was sculpted and toned by hours spent with physical trainers, her wardrobe was the latest to grace the pages of the fashion industry’s most recognizable trend setting publications. She adorned her near flawless oval face with thin wire frame glasses that added a subtle complimenting component of intellectualism to her sex appeal. She was a young upstart. She had gone to the best schools, had met the right people, and at the relatively young age of 32 had established herself as a respectable practitioner in the field of psychology.
There were tumultuous undercurrents of stress running beneath the well crafted facade however. She had been able to hide them most of her life from just about everyone she knew, everyone except her fiancé. Her engagement, once a countdown to the day she would finally have the final piece of her perfect life, had now become an indefinite and agonizing period. In her attempts to expedite the process she had accomplished just the opposite, and driven him away. Now things appeared more uncertain than ever, and the always cool and collected Sophia had finally shown her vulnerabilities and insecurities. She was aware of just how attractive such qualities made a person appear. Unfortunately it had ran into a vicious cycle. Every time she called or texted she was sure she had just the right thing to say to make this all go away, but afterwards she always walked away with the feeling she had made things worse.
She parked her car in the lot behind her office and took one last look in the vanity mirror to make sure she hadn’t overlooked any detail in her morning routine that might leave a crack in her mask. She couldn’t allow personal issues to stifle her performance, not today. She had caught a tremendous break when the gods of psychology had decided to drop a career making opportunity right in her lap.
This big break came in the form of a fifteen year old boy who absolutely believed he was the living embodiment of Adolf Hitler. This delusion had grown in the boy’s mind seemingly over night and had consumed him completely. There were always people who believed they were the reincarnation of Napoleon, Genghis Khan, etc etc, but this seemed more like a possession. The boy never broke character, never had a moment when he was just Tim again, and not the dead German dictator.
His parents were people of means and had been to the best psychologists in the city, one of them just happened to be an old mentor of Sophia’s. He decided to pass this little gift on to her in the form of a recommendation. Sophia understood what this meant. If she could make any headway with him she would have bested the old masters of the field, and even if she didn’t, well, then she would have something on which to write a monograph, and maybe one day perhaps a book.
She assumed the latter to be more likely, as a teenage boy who believed he was Hitler had very little prospect of recovering, and probably just had a lifetime of institutionalization and anti-psychotics to look forward to.
She stared for a second at the phone interface on her dashboard and endured yet another round of the mental tug of war that would decide whether or not she would call her wayward fiancé. Eventually her rationalizations overcame her better judgement, “Call Tyler,” she said aloud. “Calling Tyler” the computer toned back in its synthetic female voice. She took a deep breath and gripped the steering wheel. Each moment of silence between rings was more agonizing than the last. Finally she heard the voice mail greeting, and quickly disconnected the call.
When Sophia walked into her office she saw a silhouette standing in front of the window on the far side of the room. The lanky shadow turned towards her. It was her new client. Anticipation over came her icy professional demeanor. She was curious to finally meet this young Fuhrer.
“So, you’re the doctor.” he said.
“Yes I’m Doctor Paulson” she replied, “and you must be Tim.” He sighed. “Yes unfortunately this is the situation in which I seem to have found myself.” He stepped out from the shadows and revealed himself. Sophia was slightly disappointed. He was tall and lanky. His attempts at graceful movements were foiled by his wiry frame, his acne marked face was adorned with large bifocals,and he had poofy curly hair. “A Jew fro” Sophia thought to herself, amused. He wore a navy blue sports jacket, complete with a white silk shirt, a black tie… and cargo shorts? Sophia had to take a minute to think about that wardrobe choice.
“Would you like to take a seat?” She asked. “Let’s dispense with the psychoanalytical formalities,” he hissed. “I’ve been through this enough already. We can just operate for the rest of the hour under the assumption that I am Hitler, the man chosen by destiny to purify the master race, and you cannot convince me otherwise.”
“What makes you think I’m here to convince you that you are not?” Sophia asked trying to mask her coy tone. He scoffed, “Don’t try it, you think I don’t understand what it is you do?” She didn’t answer “If you know anything about my work, and I know you do, then you know I know a thing or two about psychology, and a thing or two about pageantry for that matter.” He said as he took a look around the office. “I and my subordinates in the party have made more contributions to the field than you can ever hope to. The expensive office, the oak desk, the degrees hanging on the wall, all of its just decorations in an elaborate display designed to project your authority. I am impervious to these manipulations, as I am a master of them.”
She had to admit she was a bit thrown off her game. Sophia had always been well aware of the power of a well crafted image, and that knowledge was present in every action she took. She suspected that was true of just about anybody, but it didn’t do much good when the person you needed to believe the facade could see right through it.
“So you don’t think you need to be here?” she asked as she eased in her chair. Sophia was counting on such a narcissistic personality to be a talker and she had guessed correctly. “This new form has taught me the true nature of what I really am,” the boy began. He took a few steps over and raised his his hands to the sky “I am an eternal force created by will alone. A force that is meant to keep coming back again, and again until my battle is won. I am an eternal shepherd that will never cease to seek out and guide his flock!” He punctuated the statement with the clench of his fist. “There is a lot to be done in this new world. We have all become entangled, and if this continues, that which is good, that which is pure will be corrupted and disappear forever, and God in heaven has sent me to make sure that does not happen!”
Sophia kept her composure in the face of Tim’s diatribe. “You believe you’re on a mission?” Sophia asked. “I don’t believe. I know”. He replied. “The challenges before me are new, but the goal is still the same, and now I have an assortment of new tools at my disposal to once again bring me back onto the world stage.”
“What tools are those?” Sophia inquired.
“Something called the internet. Apparently it is connected to everyone in the world. Back in the days of the National Socialist Party computers worked on punch cards. They were of little use except to the bureaucracy. We agitators had to stand in the streets with our papers and pamphlets. Now I have a direct link to a worldwide audience. I must admit I have much to learn about utilizing this new technology, but I am learning.”
“What do you need to learn? I imagine you grew up with a computer, probably have a smartphone.” Sophia retorted.
“Those were all things that belonged to the one they call Tim. He is gone now.” He replied.
Sophia decided to try a different tact “When did you first realize who you were?” She asked. He ignored the question.
“What happened to your ring?” He asked.
“Excuse me?” Sophia said clearly taken back by the question. He strode over to her desk and picked up a picture of her and Tyler. “In this picture is this your husband, maybe fiancé?”
“Yes,” Sophia nodded. “Well here you have a ring. Now you don’t. What happened?”
“I don’t discuss my personal lives with patients”. Sophia said firmly. He laughed, “Fair enough. You know, during my time in Landsberg prison there were those in the party who tried to replace me. Every upstart who had ever written a pamphlet was gunning for my position, and their pathetic ambitions nearly tore us apart. So rather than fighting them I simply backed away. I resigned from politics. and let them continue with the silly belief they could get anywhere without me, and when it became obvious they couldn’t they came crawling back.
Let me tell you though it was not easy for me either. It is in my nature to lead. I wanted nothing more than to get behind the podium again to resume my fight, but I knew I had to keep up the appearance of ambivalence if that’s what I wanted to do, for, as I believe you know, appearances are everything.”
He finished his story with a sly smile. By the end of the session with Tim Sophia had made about as much progress as she thought she ever would. She recommended Tim stay on the regimen of medications prescribed to him, and even had a few of her own to add to the mix.
When she left her office that evening she got in her car and scrolled through the phone book on her dashboard display until she landed on Tyler’s name. She sat for a moment. As she contemplated calling him, Tim’s story echoed through her mind. “Delete contact.” She closed the contacts list and drove home.
Forcing herself to refrain from contacting Tyler was a bit like withdrawing from a drug. She looked for every reason to justify picking up the phone but it was the words of that teenager, of that boy Nazi, that kept her from dialing. She had to appear not to miss him. Time began to ease the pain, and the facade of silent indifference took every ounce of her will but eventually Tyler became just a nagging thought. It was not too long before it was Tyler reaching out to her. When he finally called she let the phone ring, looked up at the ceiling, and silently thanked Hitler for his advice.
This has been “Hitler the Dating Meister” by Nick Johsnon, the ninth installation of our Fractured Retina series.
Nick’s work has appeared in a number of publications including; Skive magazine, Sleepy Town Press, Third Flatiron Publishing, and the award winning Crooked Cat Publishing in the United Kingdom. His stories are his attempt to address the sickness called the human condition. See more from Nick here.