“And how are you feeling today, little one?”
My patient, Mr. Birch, asks me the same thing during every session. That’s twice a week – Mondays and Thursdays – for the past few weeks. At this point it’s mostly out of routine that he still asks, and to be quite honest I am starting to get just a little bit annoyed. I’ve always been really short and I’m fairly convinced that both of my biological parents must have been very short too, although I have never met them. It’s not really something I’m ashamed of, but Mr. Birch likes to point it out anyway. He’s been one of my most difficult patients so far, not because he calls me “little one” every chance he gets, but because of his highly defensive personality that came with the childhood trauma. It’s something I’ve been trying to tap into and help overcome. We’ve been at this for a bit over 3 weeks now, but there’s been little progress, as I just can’t seem to connect with him on a deeper level.
So far, I’d say he has connected more with my assistant, Darla, who is always in the room with me during our sessions. It was a special request that Mr. Birch made, insisting that he feels very uncomfortable being alone with me in my dainty little lounge, and that someone else should be there with us. Unfortunately, Darla is the only other person in my employ. Lately I’ve been thinking about not having Darla around in our sessions anymore, as Mr. Birch has been trying to interact with her more than me. This could prove detrimental to our progress. When I’d ask him any questions, he’d always deflect or sometimes completely ignore me. Then he would turn to Darla and ask her something else or talk to her about mundane things. Darla, remembering our purpose, would try to revert the focus to me so I can maintain Mr. Birch’s attention.
“I’m okay, thank you for asking,” I reply.
Mr. Birch shifts his weight and turns to Darla, who is sitting next to me. “But let’s talk about you, Missy. Did you sleep well?” He scribbles something in the little notebook that I gave him. It was my idea to help him write his thoughts down whenever he feels that he can’t say them out loud (something that happens often).
“I slept just fine, Mr. Birch. Oh, you’ll have to excuse me, gentlemen. I think I need to go to the lady’s room. I’ll be right back,” Darla says as she starts to stand up beside me.
“We’ll wait,” I say to her.
All of a sudden, my entire body starts going numb and I suddenly feel limp. I stare in horror at Mr. Birch, who seems to be ogling Darla’s rear as she’s walking out the door. I try to yell out, but I can’t move my mouth. My throat feels really dry, and my eyes start to feel sore. I realize that I can’t even blink at all. I can’t move a muscle. Mr. Birch just nonchalantly crosses his legs, and starts scribbling down some more on his notebook, completely oblivious to my current state. A few seconds later, I fall over on the couch, my head hitting the soft cushion with a very slight thud. That’s when Mr. Birch looks at me, furrows his eyebrows, and reaches out. He grabs me by the shoulder and casually props me back up against the couch like it’s no big deal. He then leans into his chair and continues to write in his notebook like nothing happened.
I have so many questions. What is going on? Did Mr. Birch drug me? Is Darla in on it? What do they want from me??
I must be hallucinating because this doesn’t make any sense. I hadn’t even eaten or drunk anything all morning so how could I have been drugged? I start to think of everything that has happened leading up to this moment, searching my mind desperately for answers, but I come up empty.
It’s only been a few minutes at this point, but it feels like hours of being stuck in this horrible paralyzed state. Finally, the door creaks open and I see Darla come in by the side of the room. She glances my way but doesn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. She then sits in her usual spot next to me. All of a sudden, my paralysis vanishes. I blink my eyes rapidly as I turn my head to Darla. I want to yell at her to run and call the police, but the only thing that comes out of my mouth is, “Welcome back, Darla.”
“Thank you, Doc,” she replies.
I look over to my patient, Mr. Birch, and he seems very uneasy. He sits up straight, uncrosses his legs and puts on a very stern face.
“Darla, I think it’s time to really start addressing this addiction,” he says, using his outstretched hand to point to me.
Darla laughs a bit dryly and responds, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
I turn to her and put my hand on her shoulder to ask what this was all about. That’s when I notice it. My hand is really small. I look down at my body and I am… small. I’m not just a short guy, I’m a very, very small person with tiny hands and tiny legs and a tiny torso. But that’s not the most disturbing part. I look… wooden. My entire body is made of smooth, pale, polished wood.
I’m not the psychiatrist, and Darla isn’t my assistant. She is my ventriloquist, and I am her addiction.