One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition with my own team. You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!
Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…
Benjamin Hope is the author of gothic fantasy novel, The Procurement of Souls, and a number of short stories which have been published in speculative fiction journals. The sequel to The Procurement of Souls, A New Religion, is due for release at the end of 2019. He blogs regularly on the writing process and offers up recommendations in 60 words for novels within speculative and gothic fiction. He also occasionally guest lectures at universities on public speaking. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and daughter. Find him at http://www.benjamin-hope.com or follow him on twitter and Instagram @BenjamHope.
‘Do you know why you are here?’
Marina Dreski appraised the man who sat the other side of the broad mahogany desk asking the questions. He was ruddy-faced, his features made all the redder by the contrasting cropped white hair, beard and forked moustache that enclosed them. Half-moon spectacles teetered perilously close to the end of his arrogant nose and he wore a sour expression. He was a large man. Not fat exactly but doughy, and trussed up tight in a tweed three-piece and silk bow-tie. A cigarillo smoked itself away in a crystal ashtray on the kid-leather desk inlay. Framed as he was by a studded ox-blood leather armchair and row upon row of towering recessed books, she saw how everything was designed to intimidate. She knew the sort; she’d met plenty like him before. Not of his styling exactly but of his sentiment. Everything was about the power they held over women and he was letting her know that she was his now. He might as well have cocked a leg and pissed over her. We’ll see, she thought. She suspected that her intolerance of men like him was the reason she was there in the first place and he wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle.
She smiled and met his narrowed eyes head on. ‘Why don’t you tell me?’
‘You’re here,’ the man said, ‘because I saved your neck from the gallows, Marina. And I like to meet all my new in-patients one-on-one.’ He returned the smile but she saw the sneer behind it. It crept into the crow’s feet that webbed at the corner of his eyes.
He is fat, she decided. After all, those creases were more than just age-lines.
‘You understand who I am?’
A fat bastard? She shook her head.
‘I’m a doctor, Marina, a doctor of the mind. I’m Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Liev Aberman. And you are here because I believe you are criminally insane. A lunatic, of the sort I haven’t seen in a woman before. You are here because you interest me, Marina, and it is my –’
‘Is this because of the ear?’ she interrupted. ‘He was too close. I didn’t like it. I didn’t eat the thing.’
Dr Aberman leant forward and drew on the cigarillo, sending the sweet smoke spiralling about her head. It was meant as another intimidation but she breathed in deeply through her nose, her slender nostrils flaring with satisfaction.
‘Can I have one of those?’ she asked.
‘You interest me,’ the doctor said again, ignoring her request. ‘I read the police report. You bit that man’s ear clean off, yet showed no sign of hysteria in doing so. There were multiple witnesses. A sudden, vicious and cold attack, I believe someone attested.’
‘I told you, he was too close.’
‘Did he try to touch you, intimately?’
‘No. I had asked him to move already. I’ll admit I have a temper.’
‘You also killed a man, Marina.’
‘Stop saying my name. I don’t like it.’
‘You stabbed him in the groin, I understand.’
‘He did try to touch me.’
‘But only once,’ he continued, ‘one deep, hard thrust that penetrated through to his bladder.’
‘He started it.’ She knew what he was doing, but she felt her heckles rising nonetheless.
‘The point is, you weren’t frenzied in this incident either. It wasn’t an hysterical attack. You were not being led by a fit of female emotion. On the contrary. It was deliberate and brutal. An act, research tells us, more fitting of a male psyche. That’s why I had you pulled from prison. That’s why you interest me; you’re quite unlike all the other female patients in my care. You feel anger; you express it through violence. And yet –’ here Marina noted the leer ‘– with your appearance you seem almost to exploit your feminine sexuality. I find myself intrigued. Indeed, I hope to learn a lot from you. Perhaps in time you will trust me enough that we might learn from each other.’
‘And if I refuse?’
‘Don’t be petulant.’ Dr Aberman’s tone turned brittle. ‘You are criminally insane, not a moron. You understand the situation here perfectly well.’
‘You don’t own me,’ she spat, rearranging herself in her chair so that her manacled hands might meet each other better. She’d had enough.
‘That isn’t strictly true, Marina.’ He spoke her name again with emphasis. ‘I pay the constabulary a fee; they release an individual into my care to do with as I see fit.’
Marina swallowed down her hatred for this man and focussed her energy on digging out the metal splinters she had secreted under two of her fingernails. ‘I think you might be scared of me,’ she said, pulling the first piece free with a snarl.
‘No, I am not.’ Again he took a long drag of the cigarillo, as if to prove his nonchalance and sat back in his leather throne.
‘But you have me cuffed to this chair, anyway?’ And there was the second.
‘A standard precautionary measure for all our violent patients.’
‘And my boots,’ she said, working the lock on the cuff with a well-practised thumb and forefinger, ‘why did you remove those? I liked those boots.’
‘I’m not sure you qualify for day release quite yet. You’ve only just arrived.’
Marina pushed a foot out ready to weight-bear and slipped a hand free of one of the cuffs. ‘You know, Dr Aberman, you’re right about one thing. I don’t feel overcome with emotion at all. The fact is, I just can’t stand men like you.’ At that, she sprung across the desk, slamming a palm against his forehead with one hand and driving the ashtray hard into his larynx with the other. He didn’t even have time to try and breathe in before she’d interlinked her fingers behind his head and pounded it against the desk three times. The cigarillo rolled off the edge onto the carpet. She picked it up and inhaled its woody smoke as she made for the door. ‘These are good,’ she said.
If you’d like to get in touch, you can find Benjamin Hope on social media:
Benjamin Hope entered The Procurement of Souls into SPFBO, which you can check out by clicking on the cover which will lead you to its Amazon page:
You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!