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When he was very young, he liked to run away from his nursemaids to play a game called Doctor. He’d catch a bug—sometimes a beetle or a grasshopper, but his favorite participants were spiders—and set it down on the tabletop. That particular tabletop was always covered in the assorted debris of his parents’ card games and late nights. He’d select a pair of dice, and, clutching them in his childishly plump hands, throw them upon the floor as hard as he could. As soon as they stopped bouncing, he counted the dots facing upwards, and picked the one with the highest value. Placing the die on the table, he’d carefully pin down the bug with one hand, and with the other, he’d start picking off its legs, one for each dot on the die. If the bug ran out of legs before he was done, he’d simply move on to the antennae or wings.


The summer he turned fourteen, his dad appeared at the country house, the first time in two months that either of his parents had checked in, handed him the keys to the Mercedes, and wished him a happy sixteenth birthday. And told him not to scratch the paintjob.


He presses the pedal until it touches the floor, watching the small white sedan in front of him with the concentration of a hunter stalking its prey.

When the family lawyer shows up, white-faced, he reaches into his pocket (it is slightly difficult, due to the fact that he is strapped onto the gurney), and picks out the keys. He tells the lawyer to tell his dad that he’s sorry he scratched the paintjob. The lawyer takes the keys and wishes him a happy sixteenth birthday before going to talk with the dead girl’s family.


He doesn’t like his name. It is John Johnson, a bland name. He is John, the son of John, who was the son of John, and so on, into obscurity. It is meaningless to him. He prefers another name.


The girl is beautiful and interested. He buys her a drink, and she sits by him.

“What were you like as a kid? I bet you were the most charming boy in town.”

“I’d like to think so. The one thing I remember the most, probably, is playing Doctor.”

“Doctor? I loved to fix up my dolls and my cat, though I can’t say the cat was too happy with me. Who did you bandage up? A teddy bear?”

“Spiders. I loved to play Doctor with spiders.”

“Spiders? What do you mean? Was it the name of your dog or something?”

“Spiders have the most legs. I liked to play with them the most.”


The library is cold and still. He likes the silence of it, how nobody cares to meet his eye.


He rolls his shoulders back, feeling his bones crack. The speaker is up at the podium, droning on about the bright future ahead for the graduates of this grand old school, a polished collection of scions and debutantes. He thinks instead about the past, about the night before, and one corner of his mouth tilts up. He cannot wait to get back to the Madame’s house—she knows that he is a valuable customer, and does not complain if he is a little rough with her girls. Soon they start calling names, and his fellow students go up to receive their diplomas, in an unending line of black robes. “Johnson, John,” the speaker calls, and he steps up, grasps the man’s sweaty palm with his own, and tucks his diploma into his robes. He doesn’t bother to look out at the crowd of spectators. There is nobody there for him.


A package comes in the mail for him. The uniformed doorman hands it to him as he steps inside after a long summer night of celebration. He takes it up to his penthouse, and rips it open. “John,” it says. “Congratulations on your graduation. I expect you to gather some experience before coming back to work at the family firm.” The signature at the bottom is hastily scrawled. He tosses the letter away, and heads back out again.


“This is a very impressive resume, Mr. Johnson. A chip off the old block, eh?”

“Please, Mr. Johnson is too formal.”

“John, then?”

“Call me Doc.”


She surveys him, her posture as regal and poised as always, but her son is utterly unflappable. Settling the dainty teacup into its saucer, she sighs a little and pats his hand. It is cold, and she feels as if she should draw away, but guilt makes her turn his hand over and grasp it instead. She asks after his health, and he says that he is fine, the same as when she saw him last. It assuages her guilt a little, and she is able to flee again, away to sunnier weather and a sunnier life.

The First Time

Her upper lip curls when she sees him, her eyes a glinting green that tells him he isn’t good enough for her. The table breaks easily over her head, as if it was a made of Popsicle sticks and glue, and she collapses onto the floor, staining the lush, pale carpet a deep crimson. He stands over her for a moment, looking at those glassy green eyes staring blankly up at the ceiling. She is not good enough for him, no better than an insect. Then he remembers something. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a pair of dice left over from a game earlier that evening. He tosses them to the floor, and picks up the die that displays four dots.


He accompanies his father to the church. His father has not set foot in it since his wedding, and he himself has not gone in nearly as long, but now a public display of penance is needed. His father was foolish enough to be caught, and the affair has set the gossips aflame. He lets a sneer twist his lips. His only religion, his only philosophy, is never to get caught.


The newspaper details the latest killing in gruesome detail, how the arms were carefully, cleanly, detached from the body, and how the die, two dots facing up, had been set precisely next to the corpse.

“How vulgar,” he says distastefully, and his latest girlfriend nods in agreement.


“My firm has sent me to examine the body. We represent the defendant.”

The man working the reception desk waves him through lazily.

The morgue is cold and still. He likes the silence of it, how nobody can meet his eye.


The news anchor swivels in his chair to face his colleague and deliver this next tidbit of news to the masses.

“Say Anna, have you heard that Johnson of the firm Johnson, Heever, and Sullivan passed away earlier this morning?”

The anchorwoman purses her bright red lips in affected shock. “What a tragedy. He was a brilliant man.”

“His place in the firm has been taken by his son, another brilliant Johnson, lately of the firm Cromwell & Goldman.”

The Last Time

He looks over the bloody scene with regret and pride. He will be unable to continue this pleasure—there is simply no time anymore. He has his father’s firm to run and his legacy to surpass. When he is done, there will be no one alive who will say that he has not done better than his old man did. However, he is determined to go out in style. He carefully sets the die, one dot facing up, next to the severed blonde head of the corpse.


The woman peers at the old man, lying twisted in the giant, canopied four-poster.

“Do you have any regrets?” she asks. She is young and pretty, his mother’s grandchild through her second marriage. She has come to stay with him, and in her he finds his own detached way and imperturbability.

“Only that I was not a better Doctor,” he replies.

Join the Discussion

This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

SouthernBell99 said...
today at 3:11 pm:
This seams like an Edger Allen Poe poem. I like it. Keep up the good work
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KestrelThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 6, 2012 at 10:16 am:
EW EW EW EW very well written and creative, i applaud it. Creepy as all get out though, though that is obviously the point. 
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Athena19This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm:
Wow this was really creepy! I'm glad he's not a real person!
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Sara said...
Nov. 18, 2010 at 12:10 am:
Wow, haunting!
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