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Mental Case

I'd been in Atlanta for a little over a week, and it was hot because it was fucking Atlanta. I’d still hadn’t gotten used to just standing still in one spot and ending up covered in sweat, or how much sweet iced tea I seemed to be drinking.

I was practicing my invisibility trick, standing in the shade in a park with old trees while the crowd meandered past me and I ate an ice cream cone. I was surfing on a sea of minds as they passed into an out of my radius of control, which at this point seemed to top out around thirty meters or so.

Families and their conflicting and often contradictory muddle of interests and desires meandered past, headed for sightseeing destinations.

A woman walked by and checked her watch, and wondered if her husband was growing suspicious and tried to come up with a good reason why she was going to be getting home late.

A couple musicians strolled past, meandering around her and leaving behind a trail of cigarette smoke, one wondering if they were going to get that gig, the other wondering if his dealer had any pot.

Then a sandy-haired man with a puffy face came by carrying a backpack, and his head was full of murder thoughts. Visions of him with handguns in both hands, barrels blazing like a John Woo movie, gunning down everyone he could see. The backpack was full of guns, he had an almost painful erection, and he knew that in just a few minutes it would be time to enact his plan of revenge.

I dug deeper and fell into step behind him, shadowing him. He glanced back once, nervously, looked right through me, because I was filtering out his image of me in his mind’s eye.

His target was just ahead: a school for gifted children, that had not accepted his daughter. The daughter his wife would never let him see, because she knew he was fucking crazy. He had tried to atone for his crimes (beating his wife half to death in front of his daughter) by making sure that his daughter got into the best school she possibly could.

The nice letter from the school administrator had felt like an insult: “Every year Graham East tries to maintain an ideal teacher to student ratio for the best possible learning experience for our children. We are sorry, but we are unable to accept Danielle to admittance at Graham East at this time. You are welcome to apply for next year. Good luck!”

But by next year Danielle would be a bit older, a whole other year before he could prove what a good father he was. A whole year with only two supervised visits a year. He had called the administrator on the phone several times, the last time she had politely but firmly told him never to call her again, that there was nothing he could do.

Oh yes, there was something he could do all right. Once he’d cleaned out the student rolls a bit, they would surely find an opening for his daughter.

This was the mind of Emmet Case. He was the definition of a sociopath. He had feelings, but they were centered around himself, and his daughter. There was nothing but a hard raging ball of hate for his wife, a ball he sometimes mistook for love, and a great antipathy towards everyone else. But for his daughter he felt the thing closest to affection he truly could feel. It’s not what you might think of as love, but he recognized her as a piece of himself and in a way her future would be the only thing that could validate his existence. Who she was would somehow save him, and give his life meaning.

The only way he could survive as a good human being was if his daughter rose beyond him to be the very best that she could be. Starting with going to a very good school. She was smart, he knew she was smart, and as soon as Graham East just took her in, they’d see it, too.

But they hadn’t even given her a chance. He did not even care about those other kids he was going to gun down. It offended him that there were so many of them who, he felt, probably did not even realize how lucky they were. Whose parents had bought them into the place, and who always got everything they wanted.

He didn’t care that everyone would hate him, that he would likely die in the attempt, and that he would never see his daughter again. He actually thought, and was convinced, that as horrible as it was, they’d just clean up the mess and when his daughter applied to go to school there again they’d accept her now that the administrators had been taught a lesson and needed more students.

Because the problem, he felt, was just that they did not have enough openings to give his daughter a fair shot. That was his job, and once he did his job, he could die knowing that his daughter was set for the future. She would think of him as her hero, who had freed her from the shackles of her old life.

What his daughter didn’t know yet was that while she was away at school, Emmet Case had already put a bullet in her mother. Then he had sex with her corpse. Then, feeling guilty about it, he had cleaned up her corpse to try to hide it from investigators, so his daughter wouldn’t have any icky memories of him. Killing her mother was doing her a favor, a favor she probably wouldn’t understand at first, but would love him for in time when she realized how much he had done for her.

Sorry, I’m just trying to establish for the record that Emmet Case had both an understandable, albeit abnormal psychology, as well as being a thoroughly unredeemable piece of shit.

Now just imagine you had to watch it in real time, complete with the physical and emotional sensations of the perpetrator to go along with it. I got as excited as he did about it, that’s how this works, and that’s why I hate things like this. Afterwards, when I come back into my own head, it’s hard to separate how the person felt about it from how I really feel about it. Emmet had enjoyed fucking his dead wife, and now my memory of it was of the enjoyment of a man hate-fucking the cooling corpse of the woman who had once been his wife.

It made me feel sick and uncertain about myself, and it only took me a few seconds of walking behind him to get that far, and even as the headache was coming on, I already had another pill popped in my mouth, and dry swallowed to try to catch the pain before it got too great.

He walked briskly up to the front steps, beginning to reach back into his backpack for the first two guns.

Then I stepped forward from my head and into his, and stopped him.

We stood there on the street together, him staring at me without seeing me, and me just eating my ice cream cone, getting a firm grasp of his thoughts.

Then I scripted the shit out of him. Or rather you could say I con-scripted him.

This guy had committed to wiping out a school full of children and teachers, had already killed his wife and his child’s mother, and would do nothing for his daughter at this point besides further traumatize her.

He was a blight in the crop of humanity.

He was a fucking disease that no one would miss.

I’d done it once with Mitch, and like anything that’s appalling, it gets easier every time you do it.

I edited him like he was a piece of software. A piece of broken software, that still had a use, so long as it was no longer capable of independent thought.

By the end of it I had a slight nosebleed, but nothing like what I’d had in the past. Like I said, I was getting stronger.

“What can I get you, boss?” he asked me.

“A cab, fuckface,” I replied. “Get me a cab. Then punch yourself in the balls.”

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