Inner Demons

Larry Lutsky
8 min readJul 5, 2021

The hall had become a long, winding labyrinth with colorless walls and a fog that made it hard to follow the path. I shuffled along for what seemed an eternity until I saw the light that signaled the beginning of a new corridor. When I reached the end, I saw the sign of a door directly in front of me that read “Ronald Jones, MD.” I knocked on the door and a voice said to come in. I opened the door to find a middle aged man in a neat suit and tie behind a desk who motioned to a chair in front of his desk. “Hello, I presume you are David Morin, my 10 o’clock appointment,” he said in a clipped British accent as I sat down. I nodded and he looked down and pored over a chart on his desk and slowly began shuffling the papers. After a long pause he looked up and asked how I was feeling today. I shuffled my feet and fidgeted, thinking how I can express the fog, the utter colorlessness of everything around me, and the loss of memory. “I used to remember when the walls had color, and the hall to get here didn’t seem to go on forever, and now there is this fog that makes it hard to navigate,” I said in a halting cadence. He nodded and managed a faint smile. “Yes, I understand. The medication does that. It’s a very common side effect, but it tends to wear off after a while.” I see your previous psychiatrist put you on 500 mg of Butiron, which is bit more than I would prescribe. At any rate, my plan is begin now to gradually reduce the dose and at the same time begin intensive psychotherapy, three times a week. Let me explain. What happened is that you experienced extreme trauma and you blew out at your weakest point, like a car tire when you increase the pressure until it blows out where the tire is most worn out. When you first came in here the memories were so painful that psychotherapy couldn’t help. Luckily, now through recent medical breakthroughs we have a drug that can block memories from the time of the trauma and give your ego time to heal and get reinforced through psychotherapy. Then we can cut back the medication until you gradually get back the traumatic memories, but in a therapeutic context when you have to resources to process what happened. Does that make sense?” I nodded and he continued, “Do you remember who was President of the United States in 2148?” I thought hard but I could not remember anything before 2152, the year I was sent here. After a long pause, he said “If you can’t remember that, can you tell me who is the current president?” That was easy. I told him it was Donald Somers and he nodded his head in agreement. Then he handed me a card for my first appointment with the new psychotherapist scheduled for the following Monday.

I walked in to the psychotherapy office of Dr. Brian Kelly, a rather grim, austere looking man in a pin striped suit, who nevertheless seemed to exude a kind of empathy one usually finds from someone in that profession. “I understand that your dosage has been cut back to 400 mg this week, he said while looking up from his computer. Have you noticed any improvement in your memory?” “I still can’t remember much, except I recently woke up with a vague memory of having visited the White House once. It must have happened before I came here, but I don’t know if that happened when I was a kid or more recently. I think my parents took me to Washington DC once, but my recent memory was of my having been there as a middle aged man. Did that happen? I wonder if that’s why Dr. Jones asked me if I knew who the President was in 2148. Maybe that was when I was there.” Dr. Kelly pondered for a while and said, “I think Dr. Jones asked that because he wanted to establish if you have any memory of 2148. If you did, you would probably remember who was president then, right? People would have talked about it back then and you would have that memory.” That sounded right to me, but I still puzzled over the meaning of my recent recollection. At least the fog was beginning to lift and my medication was reduced further to 300 mg. Now I was able to take a good look at myself in the mirror and the reflection I saw back appeared to be an older man than I supposed. Somehow I thought I was 52, but I looked at least 72. Was I here longer than I thought? I realized I didn’t know which year I was born, so it was impossible to determine my age even though I knew the current year was 2155. I had asked many times before, but I was told I would find out when the time was right. Maybe the drug that had blocked my traumatic memories also blocked memories of my childhood. It was like I was born a middle aged man.

Dr. Kelly appeared to be in a cheery mode today. His face immediately brightened when I strolled into his office and sat on his couch. “I think we have made some progress in the past few weeks. Last time we really made a breakthrough when you remembered visiting the White House. Now we have to explore why you were there. You said you remembered being a middle aged man at the time, so we can rule out that your parents took you there. Do you think you could have been working there?” I supposed that was possible. I don’t remember my occupation and it could have been one that could lead to employment there. “Maybe I worked for President Somers when he was Vice President? I remember meeting with him for some reason,” I said. Dr. Kelly smiled and said, “Or maybe he worked for you?” “How could that be unless…” my voice trailed away. The frightening thought hit me with a thud. Was I president in 2148 and had a nervous breakdown of some sort and congress removed me from office which put Vice President Somers in office? Dr. Kelly then showed me a picture of the White House in ruins, and asked if I remembered the bomb destroyed the White House and left me as the only survivor. Memories started flooding back to me as I could hear the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff telling me that our air defenses had been violated and our jets had not been able to shoot down what was apparently enemy aircraft. I felt the utter terror as I realized we probably only had minutes to live and then the sound of bombs exploding on the roof, the building caving in, and diving under the only protection I could find in a passageway under the floor. When I woke up in the hospital I learned that my wife Emma and three sons had perished and the Vice President who was in Europe had already been sworn in as the new president as I was deemed incapacitated by the trauma. “Yes, I do remember that now,” I told Dr. Kelly. “I remember the bombing and waking up in the hospital. I don’t think I was ever told who attacked us or why.” “That’s a discussion for another day,” he said as he opened the door indicating that our session had ended.

The next day more memories flooded into my head. I remembered the campaign of 2148 and how I ran for President on an aggressive policy against our arch enemy, China, who had overrun much of Southeast Asia in the previous decade due to the appeasement policy of my predecessor. I recall pounding on my desk during my first debate when describing the dire economic consequences that would occur if we allowed China to continue to expand. We needed to strengthen our military alliance with Russia who was the first line of defense with their long border with China. My opponent, Dan Cauthen, had advocated negotiations that had long failed to produce any meaningful agreement. The moderator at our first debate asked what I would do if China’s border war with Russia escalated into a full scale invasion of Russia. I said it would never happen under my regime. I would threaten a military strike against Beijing and carry it out if necessary. The public was fed up with the policy of appeasement and that lead to my landslide victory that November.

My thoughts were broken by a nurse who told me that I had a visitor. Who could this be? I had no family since my wife and three children were killed in the attack, and no one had visited me since I have been here. The nurse said the visitor wanted it to be a surprise and I was to meet him in the visitor lounge. As I approached the lounge I saw a solitary figure standing through the window. Could it be who it appeared to be? It was an elderly Chinese man who looked like the premier of China when I was President. He must have been retired for years as he was already elderly when I was president. When I entered the lounge he had a sad look on his face and seemed too overwhelmed by emotion to speak. I strangely enough had no emotion at all, just a dead feeling inside. I supposed that was the effect of my medication which blunted the effect of all emotions. After a long pause, Lao Ping started to speak, his head still looking down. “Mr. President, it was very hard to make this trip. I wanted to see you earlier, but Dr. Kelly told me you wouldn’t have been able to process what I’m about to say until now. I don’t know how to express my extreme remorse over the events of 2152. I want you to know that I did not order that attack. I did everything I could to stop it. My military chief told me that it had to be done and I didn’t have full control over the government. It was not like in America where a civilian is the commander in chief of the armed services. In our system, the military commanders can take action in cases of a dire national emergency as long as they have the consent of the politburo. I spoke out against it, and after it happened I was removed from power. America and her allies never believed it and still think I gave that order and then refused to take responsibility for my actions when it backfired. But I want you to know the truth and to express my sincere condolences for the loss of your family.” I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes began to water. It was the first gleaming of an emotion since I’ve been here. “Why did your military want to attack us?” I asked. He continued to look down as he replied. “They thought you were ordered an attack against us. They had seen what they thought we incoming ICBMs and they had to launch a counterattack before they could be sure. Instead of launching a nuclear attack which would have destroyed both countries, they decided on a surgical strike on the IS government starting with the White House. We managed to penetrate your air defenses and were planning to also hit the capitol and the pentagon. But after the White House we found out that it was a false alarm. Frankly the rhetoric between our countries got out of control and escalated to a level neither of us could imagine at the time. I’m glad that relations between our countries are much better now.” “I’m glad to hear they are better too,” I said. I also regret that set I the tone that may have contributed to this tragedy.” We hugged until the nurse came by and said it was time for my medication. I could feel the release of my inner demons for the first time since I was here. I couldn’t wait to tell Dr. Kelly.