This Book Is Full of Spiders (John Dies at the End #2)

11,060
07.03.2019

I lowered the magazine and said, “That’s … not a bad theory actually.”

“They called it the mark of the beast. But they don’t need a mark. They reveal themselves as beasts, with time.”

The door to the office creaked open and out walked a gorgeous teenage girl. For a baffled second I thought this was somehow my therapist, like maybe she was filling in today. But of course she was just a patient and Dr. Tennet was behind her. The crazy woman in the waiting room stood and thanked the doctor and walked out with the girl. The lady hadn’t been there for treatment. She was just giving her daughter a ride.

Right off, Dr. Tennet asked, “What happened to your eye?”

“Got in a fight with John. He said counseling was a waste of time and I told him I’d be damned if I’d hear him insult you and your profession.”

“You look like you haven’t slept.”

“How can I, with what’s going on? Have you been watching the news today? Do you know if they found Franky?”

“He wasn’t expected to live, was he? Did you know him?”

“What? No. Why would I have known him?”

“You called him Franky.”

“Well I went to high school with him. But that was years ago. I didn’t have anything to do with what happened if that’s what you mean.”

“Not at all.”

“Because I didn’t.”

“I’m sorry if I made you feel accused.”

I glanced out the window at the exact moment a green truck rumbled by on the street outside.

“Why are there so many army trucks? This all seems like an overreaction, don’t you think?”

Not letting me change the subject, Tennet said, “I would like to come back to what you talked about last time, about having to hide your true self from the world, and feeling like you are powerless to become the type of person who would not have to hide. Just now, you seemed to feel I was accusing you. I’d like to talk about that if we can.”

I stared out the window and chewed a fingernail. Man, I did not want to be here. In this office, in this town, in this life. I wanted to just walk out. I knew at some point the cops were going to scoop up John—he’d appeared on goddamned television right in the area they were trying to quarantine—and that meant eventually they’d come get me, too. What the hell was I doing here?

Because you have nowhere else to go.

I said, “I don’t know. Twenty-four hours ago I’m sitting here trying to justify believing crazy things, and one day later the whole town has gone crazy. So, in my mind the rest of the world has now caught up to my craziness which means I should be set free.” I rubbed my itchy eyes and said, “There are real monsters, doc. I’m too tired today to say anything else.”

He said, “I read some of the things you and your friend posted on the Internet. Sometimes you speak of yourself as if you are a freak, or a monster.”

“Well, metaphorically. I mean, aren’t we all? The woman in the waiting room just now basically told me the same thing.”

“An incident like last night always brings out those kind of feelings, I suppose.”

I considered for a moment, then said, “Can I ask you a question, doc?”

“Of course.”

“What would you say if I asked to use your computer there, on your desk? Right now, without you having a chance to delete anything.”

“Of course, there is confidential patient information that I couldn’t—”

“Let’s say I could promise I wouldn’t look at any of that. In fact, let’s say I just want to look at your Internet browser history. How would you feel about that?”

“It would be an invasion of privacy, of course. And I have credit cards and logins—”

“I’m talking about the porn, doc. Would I find nasty schoolgirl porn on there? Maybe interracial stuff? Incest fantasies?”

“I feel like you’re trying to get a reaction from me. If you’re not feeling like going through with the session we can continue on Monday—”

“No, listen. When I’m with Amy and I ask to borrow her computer, she passes it right over. No questions asked, no hesitation. She could sit there and look over my shoulder and watch me sift through every single file, and she wouldn’t flinch. She has nothing to hide. It’d be the same if I had a machine that could peer into her mind—she’d be fine with it. She’s comfortable with what she is. But, on the other hand, if she’s visiting and she asks to use my laptop? Man, there is so much depraved shit on there that if she saw it all, she’d call the cops. If she could see what goes through my mind when I see another girl walk by, she’d burst into tears.”

He nodded. “So you feel like you have to hide a part of yourself, and she doesn’t.”

“I’m saying it’s like that with everybody. There are two kinds of people on planet Earth, Batman and Iron Man. Batman has a secret identity, right? So Bruce Wayne has to walk around every second of every day knowing that if somebody finds out his secret, his family is dead, his friends are dead, everyone he loves gets tortured to death by costumed supervillains. And he has to live with the weight of that secret every day, that tension gnawing in his guts. But not Tony Stark, he’s open about who he is. He tells the world he’s Iron Man, he doesn’t give a shit. He doesn’t have that shadow hanging over him, he doesn’t have to spend energy building up those walls of lies around himself. You’re one or the other—either you’re one of those people who has to hide your real self because it would ruin you if it came out, because of your secret fetishes or addictions or crimes, or you’re not one of those people. And the two groups aren’t even living in the same universe.”

“You believe you’re Batman.”

I closed my eyes. “What did you say the hourly rate for these sessions was again?”

“I mean you’re in that category, you feel like the people around you would react badly if they knew what you really thought and believed.”

“Not because they’ll think I’m crazy. They already think that. But because of how they would react once they knew the truth. You know how people are. That’s what you write books about, right? Group panics and all that?”

“You think the truth would cause mass hysteria.”

I shrugged, and nodded toward the window. “Look out there. You’ll see.”

He said, “That’s actually more true than you know. Don’t repeat this, but it appears I’m going to be called in to work on this case. The hospital shooting, I mean.”

“What, like as a profiler or something?”

“Oh, no, no. I’d be offering my assistance in dealing with the public. It’s the panic that is the primary concern, you see. Making sure no one gets a hair trigger, some poor soul waiting by their back door with a hunting rifle, shooting at a shadowy shape in the backyard that turns out to be their neighbor. Fear can be fatal and, as I suppose you see on my bookshelf, I’m … something of an expert.”

I thought, That has to be nice, to have a job where fear is something that happens to other people.

I stared out the window and said, “Do you ever get scared, Dr. Tennet?”

“Of course, but you know these sessions aren’t about me—”

“And besides, in your world, everything has some harmless explanation, right? It’s always bees. Even this thing with Franky. Your job will be, what, to go up to a bank of microphones and assure everybody that it’s all bees?”

“You feel like I was being dismissive of your fears. I apologize if so.”

“So does anything scare you, doctor? Anything irrational?”

“Of course. Here, I’ll volunteer my most embarrassing example. I feel like I owe it to you, to make up for the bee story. Are you a fan of science fiction?”

“I don’t know. My girlfriend is.”

“All right, but you know Star Trek, and ‘Beam me up, Scotty’? How they can teleport people around?”

“Yeah. The transporters.”

“Do you know how they work?”

“Just … special effects. CGI or whatever they used.”

“No, I mean within the universe of the show. They work by breaking down your molecules, zapping you over a beam, and putting you back together on the other end.”

“Sure.”

“That is what scares me. I can’t watch it. I find it too disturbing.”

I shrugged. “I don’t get it.”

“Well, think about it. Your body is just made of a few different types of atoms. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on. So this transporter machine, there is no reason in the world to break down all of those atoms and then send those specific atoms thousands of miles away. One oxygen atom is the same as another, so what it does is send the blueprint for your body across the beam. Then it reassembles you at the destination, out of whatever atoms it has nearby. So if there is carbon and hydrogen at the planet you’re beaming down to, it’ll just put you together out of what it has on hand, because you get the exact same result.”

“Sure.

“So it’s more like sending a fax than mailing a letter. Only the transporter is a fax machine that shreds the original. Your original body, along with your brain, gets vaporized. Which means what comes out the other end isn’t you. It’s an exact copy that the machine made, of a man who is now dead, his atoms floating freely around the interior of the ship. Only within the universe of the show, nobody knows this.

“Meanwhile, you are dead. Dead for eternity. All of your memories and emotions and personality end, right there, on that platform, forever. Your wife and children and friends will never see you again. What they will see is this unnatural photocopy of you that emerged from the other end. And in fact, since transporter technology is used routinely, all of the people you see on that ship are copies of copies of copies of long-dead, vaporized crew members. And no one ever figures it out. They all continue to blithely step into this machine that kills one hundred percent of the people who use it, but nobody realizes it because each time, it spits out a perfect replacement for the victim at the other end.”

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