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By Shadrick Beechem


I had been sitting in the waiting room for thirty minutes. An obese woman in the chair next to mine tries in vain to comfort a child who has been screaming for several minutes, a child obviously suffering from some malady involving the ears, throat, or nose, given that was the trifecta specialty of the doctor we were all in that small tan room to see. Despite my recently impaired hearing, the crying is enough to drill a piercing note of rage into my soul. The insufferable circumstances of this moment have coalesced with the other events of this depressing day to act as a sort of “icing on the cake”, which is enough to send me into one of my fugues. I whirl out of the chair, grab the wailing infant and punt it like a football, where it is sent rocketing through oblivion. I then turn to face the woman, her bloated cottage cheese face looking at me in surprised terror, for a moment transforming into some obscene feline mutant, a form which has haunted my dreams so often now, and then I slit her throat with the small pocket knife I always keep on me, plunging it into her carotid artery, her warm blood spilling out over my hand. I then turn the blade on myself and–
      “Adler? Stewart Adler? Dr Ochs will see you now.” A nurse in purple scrubs pops out of the kiosk to tell me this. I open my eyes, and an involuntary shudder steals over me as I am snapped out of my rage induced fantasy.
      “Did you say Adler?” I ask, my voice muffled and hollow sounding.
      “Yes,” the nurse says, speaking up as she registers that my malady must be of the otitis origin, but even still she sounds a couple hundred feet away, luckily I’ve gotten good at reading lips recently.
      I walk down a long hall and enter a small room where I sit on one of those padded examination tables with the annoying crinkly paper on them, where I wait another fifteen minutes. I stare at the posters showing diagrams of the inner ear and nasal system, and a dozen small plaques for various pharmaceutical companies. Occasionally the swirling diagrams of the interior ear transform into those strangely terrible mosaic patterns I’ve come to associate with madness.
      Eventually, Dr Ochs, a slender man in his fifties with thin wisps of hair bouncing on his mostly bald scalp walks in. It is my third time seeing him, as my damage is extensive. Two weeks ago, I had an encounter with a strange group, a group who has subtly been ruining my life in mysterious ways ever since I happened upon their existence. A group who is responsible for heinous, terrible crimes, murderers who work within the boundaries of this reality it seems. A group who let me live, despite me witnessing one of their macabre rituals. The only malaise I can clearly attribute to them is the unseen assailant who walked up behind me and boxed my ears hard enough to rupture my ear drums, effectively stunning me and ruining my career in one fell blow. I was knocked out after that and relocated back to my home by unknown means of transport sometime later, and everything else that has transpired since then has been so strange and abstract in their mysterious origins that I am not sure that the deep depression I have sunk into since that fateful day is the cause of these strange phenomena or the result of it.
      As the doctor explains to me I have developed something called a cholesteatoma while crudely peering into my swollen cauliflowered ears with an otoscope, I imagined taking one of the purple pens marked Merck Inc. and shoving it deep into his own left ear, so that perhaps he could be on the same page with me in terms of my suffering.
      These exquisite, vivid daydreams of violence seem to seize me at the smallest inklings of frustration, and on days like today where the universe has decided to actually test my patience with a fusillade of small of annoyances, it requires the greatest display of willpower to not act on these abhorrent impulses. I was never a sufferer of these extreme urges until after the night I lost a good portion of my hearing and eventually even more of my sanity. Being a man with a lifelong cannabis and opioid habit, my demeanor has always fluctuated between blissful apathy and spurs of artistically driven hope as I become involved in whatever fresh musical endeavor that has given me the teasing illusion of “making it” some day.
      “It appears your right ear is just infected now, but with some ear drops that will clear up. But for the left? Well, it looks like we are going to have to perform another surgery to see if we can’t remove the abscess and seal shut your eardrum for good this time. Now I must warn you Mr Adler, there is a good possibility of permanent hearing loss with this procedure as we will be working directly on the auditory bones, but it is the only course we can take at this route. If we leave it to fester, the abscess can grow and begin to press on your brain, which can cause vivid hallucinations and facial spasms. It appears very large already, so the surgery needs to happen as soon as possible. Talk to one of the ladies at the front desk and we will set you up for a date to come in. Now I must ask, Mr Adler, how on earth did you manage to do this to yourself? I only see this kind of injury in football players or air force pilots.”
      “A freak accident,” I say, not entirely sure if that is the truth or not.