“I’ve been seeing new things.” There was a brief pause then. “It’s like my subconscious is trying to show me something.”
There was no reply.
“I’ve had nightmares for so long,” he confessed. “But after I…experimented with the chloroform, they got worse. And when I got a face full of illegal street drugs a few weeks after that, well…” He let his voice trail off. “I know, I didn’t tell you about that. Maybe I didn’t want you to worry. Or maybe I didn’t want you to think I was incompetent, or that I take too many risks, or that I obviously have a death wish.” He sighed. “But since then, my dreams have become even more intense. More real. It’s like something was unlocked inside me and I can’t lock it back down again. Even when I’m awake it still feels like it’s there.” There was a tremor in his voice when he spoke again. “When I was being held captive by John Watkins and I tried to profile him, it actually felt like I could slip inside of his head. Like I could almost see what was going through his mind. And it…scares me.”
There was still no reply. He hadn’t expected one; the older man was still in a coma, after all.
“Listen,” he said. “I don’t know if you can hear me, and I don’t know if or when you’re going to wake up. I just wanted to get some things off my chest.” He cleared his throat. “I have to go now. Just…” He shook his head, unable to say any more. He wondered if he could borrow some of his mother’s Quaaludes to help him get some rest tonight, or to at least keep the dreams at bay.
That night, Malcolm Bright did sleep. But it was not restful.
He saw the girl in the box. In this dream she was holding a younger version of himself hostage, and she had a knife at his throat. He could tell she wasn’t real. His father, on the other hand…he seemed very real, more real than the rest of the dream-images, and Malcolm listened as the Surgeon tried to explain himself to the apparition.
“Why did I put you in a box?” Martin Whitly asked. “Because…” he frowned. “I wanted to.”
“Martin,” she snapped, but he interrupted her.
“No. Listen, listen.” He clenched his fist. “I’m not being flip, that’s the truth. Anything else is – is a guess.” He stared at her, starting to sound desperate. “No, it-it-it’s this brain I was born with, or because my mommy didn’t love me enough, or maybe she loved me too much, or because daddy did horrible things to me. Because, because, because. What does it matter if the end result is...the same?”
He gazed at her for a few moments, but then, for the first time, he seemed to catch sight of Malcolm – the adult version – as if he could tell he was there. The Surgeon blinked in surprise, and in recognition…and then he smiled.
“I just realized something,” Dr. Whitly mused, his demeanor instantly shifting. “Oh, this might be a nightmare. But it’s *my* nightmare. And I’m not a regular person. Am I?”
“No, you’re not,” said the dream-vision of his younger self as he smiled back at his father. “You’re a predatory psychopath.”
“That’s right, I am,” he said proudly. “And what does that mean?”
The child appeared to be considering his response. “That you’re always in control.”
Martin Whitly sounded quite pleased, and very much in control. “Yes. I am. You know, I once told my son monsters don’t exist. But that was a lie. You know the truth, don’t you?” He shifted his eyes from the dream-woman to Malcolm, and the profiler again fought back the sensation that this was really his father and he knew Malcolm was actually there, eavesdropping on what was happening inside the older man’s head.
“What are you going to do?” the girl asked.
“I’m going back to my family, of course,” he replied angelically, with one last glance at the real Malcolm. “They need me.”
Malcolm Bright awoke to the sound of his ringing phone the next morning. With trembling hands and a sick sense of trepidation, it was as if he’d known exactly who was calling and what they were going to tell him. It would be Gil or someone else from the station, saying that his father looked like he was on the verge of waking up.
He wasn’t wrong.
And when Malcolm arrived at his father’s bedside, addressing him as Dr. Whitly, his father finally did open his eyes. He looked almost relieved, gazing up at his son in wonder. As if he’d somehow known what Malcolm had seen overnight.
He smiled at him then, a predator’s smile. “My boy.”