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Winners: Kevin Horsley - In Two Minds

Warning: This piece of fiction contains strong language.

Kevin's use of slick and witty prose, combined with sharp dialogue and a well executed twist where just the building blocks of this story, allowing the character interplay and depth of history shine through, despite the tight word count.

Shortlist - Flash Fiction 500

The Doctor will see you now.

In Two Minds

Kevin Horsley

It didn't work out.

Upon entering the room, he asked me to take a seat. He opened his hand to the chair opposite. I sat immediately. I knew where the chair was. It wasn’t exactly my first time in the room. However, his direct manner had this way of eliciting obedience on my part. And irritation.

In a way it was obvious why, particularly here. I should call it his office, but it was decked out like a 19th century drawing room, painted in what he’d described as “warm, comfortable colours that patients don’t feel challenged by”.

To this day, I still can’t get my head around it.

We went over pleasantries. Old ground. Nothing that raised alarm. And then he asked about my job. Whether I’d thought about taking time out. I’d said no, not really.

‘What’s the reason you go to work?’ he asked. ‘Why do you cling so… strongly to it, do you think?’

I wanted to punch him. ‘Strongly?’

‘Yes… why?’

I told him why. I said, ‘The same reason everyone goes to work. It gives me purpose.’

His face wasn’t smiling, but his eyes were. I could always tell. And somehow I’d derailed his question and now he had a point to settle. That was how he worked. He danced around the issue at hand.

He said, shifting forwards, ‘In this day and age there’s more than just the one reason. And I don’t think you speak for everyone.’

In my mind I was delivering punch after punch to his bearded face.

‘No shit,’ I said, ‘Come on. Enlighten me.’

‘Out of boredom. Out of the love of their job. It’s not a job to them. It’s their life.’ A tight-lipped grin emerged. ‘Having a job is better for your finances too. Anyway, I put this to you: what if you didn’t have your job? Where else might you find purpose?’

‘Ahh. I see where you’re leading me. You want me to say “children”. Maybe you’re right. I’m a woman. A woman with a womb. And I’m not getting younger. Yes? I should have kids. I should contribute to the great supply of tiny humans and feel real achievement.’

He studied me. With a smooth singular movement he leaned over the arm of his chair, found a glass of water, brought it to his mouth and replaced it, still studying me.

‘You’re being passive aggressive.’

Oh fuck me. ‘Oh fuck me!’ I said. ‘Are you reflecting your own lack of purpose? On account of your male genitalia? You know, just because you can’t carry children, doesn’t mean you’re less of a person…’

‘Why are you like this?!’ he burst, suddenly animated, conducting his arms in front of me like I was a musical score he couldn’t articulate.

I inhaled, carefully, fully, ‘Because, Darren, you’re a psychologist, but you can’t even broach the subject of having kids with your own wife! Something tells me even therapy can’t fix us.’

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