Samuel woke up shrieking, drenched in cold sweat and gasping for breath as if the air in his room had congealed to suffocate him. Soon tears were rolling down his eyes but he couldn’t recall much except seeing an ominous-looking shadow of someone and a broken mirror. It was the same shadow that followed him every hour of the day and night since the last one year, after Emma, his two-year-old daughter’s death. He had stopped writing completely since then and Dr.North was dead to him.

The following evening, while walking to his apartment on those linear roads after dinner, Samuel’s gloominess took over the gridlocked city as the lights started to withdraw one street, one light bulb at a time. The unannounced blackout emanated sudden nyctophobia meshed with a feeling of morbid fear of an unknown catastrophe into the city. As the smell of weed filled the dreaded air, Samuel again felt a shadow hovering over him with an unhinged gait trying to overpower him. He sensed dark brooding eyes staring at him, which sent shivers down his spine. The very next moment he stood stupefied, experiencing an overwhelming feeling of impending trauma.

Suddenly, it wasn’t a shadow anymore when someone tapped him on his shoulder and told him “What are you doing? Keep moving man. Don’t you see how crowded these tourists have made this city?” Samuel timidly stepped aside suddenly realizing his mistake and went and stood near a corner wall, not intending to disturb the careen of the overcrowded city.

It wasn’t his fault though as imaginary shadows had become his permanent companions resulting in corrupting even his basic senses. Also, it was that time of the year, the month of tragedies. It was July again. He lost Ron, his cousin, and Emma in July. It was just a few days after Samuel’s second bestseller, The Generous Dr.North, was released in mid-July 2016, when Ron committed suicide by overdosing after coming back from the alcohol rehabilitation center.

Samuel was tormented by the coincidence because, in his book, Dr.North was an intern at a drug rehabilitation center who killed his patients by poisoning and overdosing them, and then making it look like a suicide. He was liberating his patients from their miserable lives. He was a master weaver of lies and his glib charm hid his sadistic inner side. The uncanny and scary similarity between Ron’s death and his book made Samuel depressed and sad. He had a bitter history with Ron, but he never wished for him to die. The bestselling book didn’t have an author who celebrated its success.

What happened at the time of his third book however changed him forever. The previous two books were best sellers but now the readers and his hard-earned fans demanded more. He wrote Dr. North’s Scissors where torturous abortion specialist Dr.North, killed babies who were aborted late into the pregnancy by cutting their spinal cords with scissors. These babies were born alive and killed. Nobody could match the guts Dr.North had, to kill those tiny bastards. The heart-wrenching details of remorselessly killing portrayed Dr.North at his worst best. Just around the time, the book was in print and due for release, a devastating tragedy struck Samuel’s family. He lost his daughter Emma to a congenital heart defect. The bestselling book had lost its author again to sorrow and remorse.

He had slowly come to terms with Ron’s death reasoning it as an unfortunate coincidence but losing Emma left him intensely hollow and full of insurmountable grief. The excruciating pain fuelled by a sense of failure to protect Emma was a grievous blow and he blamed himself for her death. The disasters in his real-life were tragically coinciding and overlapping with what he was writing in his books as if Dr.North had taken control over his life. He immediately ended everything he had to do with Dr.North and stopped writing completely. Mournful and baffled, soon he was caught in a quagmire of self- doubt and irrational fears, and the shadows started appearing. He tried to breathe and stay afloat by moving to a new city but life was getting sinister, lonelier and unbearable.

At that very moment when he stepped into a corner wall and let the crowd zoom by, he saw a skinny old guy wearing a long t-shirt and a rope tied tightly in place of a belt limping towards him wearing shoes with gaping holes. He then started setting base next to where Samuel was standing, laying down a bedraggled blanket, few plastic bags slightly ripped form sides, a soiled plastic cup with some coins, a book, and a cardboard cut out that had “damaged my past to ruin my future” written on it. Samuel’s mobile light exposed his eyes to the homeless man, and the instant he saw him, the homeless man said in a very apologetic tone, “ Everyone has a dark side man, I let my demons ruin me, but you don’t let your shadows get larger than you.”

Furious but fatigued and too startled to reply, Samuel walked away without uttering a word, and his mind was inundated with thoughts about the homeless man and what he said and meant. How did he know about the shadows following him everywhere? How did his old weak eyes peer through his soul even in that darkness? How did he know about Samuel’s dark side when Samuel was yet to uncover that face? Did he also know that Samuel killed his dad’s dreams by not becoming a doctor like him? Did he know about six-year-old Sam harboring feelings of revenge against Ron, who had lured him into the pool only to teach him how to swim but let him sink to the bottom? Was he also aware of the tall guy at camp who made Samuel lick him all over his body and hurt him badly when he resisted? Did he see in Samuel’s eyes that he hates all happy parents and children in the world after losing Emma?

By the time he reached home, the fault leading to the blackout had been identified and fixed and the nonstop city was lit again, recovering at a frantic pace. That night, Samuel started writing again. He had decided to confront the shadows finally.

I have been robbed of my sunshine my Emma. She wasn’t supposed to go before me but she did and I couldn’t do anything to save her, even after being in the most medically advanced country. I am angry with the doctors, the medical community, and the research people, angry with anyone who after spending years and billions of dollars in the name of research couldn’t do anything to save Emma. She had a weak heart and science had no answers. I was helpless, as usual, but Dr.North was not. He controls and gets what he wants. He isn’t a loser.

I wanted to blame somebody for Emma’s condition and death and landed up sabotaging my relationship with Amelia. It wasn’t her fault or anyone’s fault that Emma was sick, but still, I blamed her for all the misery in our lives and the consequences were calamitous. My irrationality triggered by my negativity damaged my relations with my friends and family, and I ended up losing my thoughtful wife Amelia.

Ron’s recidivism was bringing disrepute to the entire family and he was the reason I wrote about Dr.North as the overdosing killer doctor at a rehabilitation center. Ron had hurt me and failed me when I had trusted him completely. I wanted revenge and I didn’t want to see him anymore. I wasn’t ready to forgive him for the swimming incident. Everyone made fun of me and called it my mistake. How I hated Ron.

Dad always wanted me to aim higher and become better than he was. He wanted me to be the best at sports, music, and debate, and just about everything like he was. When I fell, and struggled and just couldn’t do something, it didn’t matter that I gathered my courage to do what he wanted me to. I was a loser in his eyes always. I could have never become a doctor as good as him, so chose not to. The disappointed look in his eyes told me again that I was useless and despicable.

The Shadows are real. They are as real as my fears and helplessness ever since Emma was born with that heart defect. They are as real as my hatred for Ron who left me in the pool and made fun of me and put the blame on me. They are as real as my angst for that man in the camp who hurt me badly. They are as real as my guilt of not fulfilling dad’s wishes and hurting and disappointing him.

The demons of my unfulfilled dreams, my rage, my discontentment because of all those rejections, my animosity, my secret fears, and past trauma kept getting fiercer and poisoning my mind to create an insidious and dangerous psychotic imaginary extension of myself as Dr.North. He was created out of all these emotions, all these vulnerabilities. He was my dark side that could never come out otherwise. He is the voice I never had, the aggression I could never show. The victims in all the books were weak and exploited like I was in real life. Making Dr.North overpowering and strong gave me a sense of control and made me feel powerful. Dr. North was manipulative and shrewd, what I wanted to become in real life. 

These demons got an outlet in the form of Dr.North till the time I was writing, but the moment I stopped, they started haunting me as shadows trying to possess me.  I was suffocating my feelings and exacerbating my problems and creating more demons.

Samuel started writing his next book Dr.North Strikes Again because the shadows had to go back to where they belonged.


==>This is an entry for Artales-17, #DrNorth, an ArtoonsInn writing event.

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Anushi Batra

Anushi Batra is a full-time mom to a toddler, world traveler, and aspiring photographer. A die-hard SRK fan, she needs her daily dose of Bollywood songs and strong coffee to kickstart her day. She loves nature, the smell of earth after the first rain and to keep reinventing herself. She describes herself as a learner for life and is now keen to learn the art of writing and discovering herself in the process.
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