art by Stephen James Kiniry
by Edward Gary Kratz
Arnold Gold walked in timidly, holding a cardboard sign. "This says knock and come in."
Robert Brewster was sitting behind a desk. "Sorry for the chaos. We're just relocating. Construction is not quite complete. And my secretary is on her break. But we'll get by."
"I'm Arnold Gold."
"Dr. O'Malley said you'd be coming. Please sit." Brewster pointed to a leather chair before his desk.
Arnold was tall and unnaturally thin. Before he sat, he scanned the room nervously.
The cell phone on Brewster's desk rang. "Pardon me a moment," Brewster picked it up. "Yes. He's here now. Don't worry, it will go fine." Brewster turned and smiled. "Dr. O'Malley."
"Checking that I'm here?"
"I see. But you can't help me. No one can help me." Arnold stood up.
Arnold sat down. "Isn't that information confidential? I'm not your patient yet."
Brewster tapped his hand on the desk. "It's your choice, Mr. Gold. But if we must be technical, you did sign a release form for all your personal information when you agreed that I review your case. I'm aware of your concerns, and I assure you that our sessions will be confidential."
"They better be. I shouldn't be telling anyone. Shape shifters are not to reveal their secrets."
"So you haven't told anyone else?"
"Of course not."
"Of course." Brewster said. He smiled.
"You think I'm crazy." Arnold Gold said, fidgeting like he was debating leaving.
"I don't make judgements."
"I am a shape shifter. I can prove it to you if necessary. Lately I have been tortured by excessive transience. I cannot stay fixed. I drift through shapes with unstable alacrity. One minute I'm a cold cruel cougar, the next I'm a loving lab. Then I'm an elephant, not a large one of course, maybe a baby. Then I'm a mouse. One shift to another. This goes on and on. A veritable merry-go-round of change. I am afraid that I won't be able to control it, and I will start drifting between forms in public."
"Our kind requires privacy to survive."
"You don't believe me."
"I believe your great fear is that you will reveal your deepest secrets, that is, your shape-shifting ability to strangers."
Brewster folded his hands over his ample belly and walked out from behind his desk. "Let's try an experiment. Please rise, and let's put your chair here before this mirror on the side of my closet door."
Arnold rose. The professor took the chair. Arnold sat down.
"Do you see yourself?"
"Excellent. You fear you will lose all control and go about shifting willy-nilly."
"While looking in the mirror, make a shape shift."
"You think I'm mad."
"I want you to see what happens. For the purposes of not destroying my chair, or my office, might I suggest a small creature? You had mentioned a mouse."
"You don't believe me."
"I believe you believe. Shall we try the experiment?"
"Okay. You'll see." Arnold closed his eyes and concentrated, and then there was a mouse sitting on the chair.