They pulled him from the room with the padded walls. They forced him into a straitjacket, and pushed him forwards. He was silent as they marched him through the corridors and into the room. The door was firmly closed and locked behind him.
More guards remained in the room, not to keep him safe, but to prevent him from harming the other man.
The other man was small but sly, a psychiatrist. He sat in a swivel chair, while the man in the straitjacket had a small plastic one.
"So, how are we today, Charlie?" The psychiatrist smiled, his teeth an unnatural shade of white.
"Fine." The other man answered. His voice was flat, emotionless.
"Well then, let's continue where we left off last session. Do you feel ready to tell me yet?"
The man was surprisingly lucid, for the first time in months. "I'll tell you everything, but only if you send these men out. I don't want them to listen. Nasty little..." His hand clenched and unclenched reflexively as he muttered.
The doctor signaled to the guards to leave the room. He could always call them back. They unlocked the door and left, once again locking the door behind them.
"Good. Now, where do I begin?"
My name is Charles Richards. I am forty six years old and I have made some very bad choices. I had a job, working in an office. It wasn't much, it wasn't glamorous, but it was enough. I got by. My family got by. I had a wife, Milly, and three children, Jake, Beatrice and Jennie. They were the best family any man could have. Oh, they had their moments, but so does any family. When it came to it, we stood together.
Or so it had always seemed in the past.
One day, I came home from work and just slumped into a chair. I sat there for a while, letting myself relax and become calm. The next thing I remember is waking up. No, not waking up: there was no drowsiness. Perhaps I should simply say I regained consciousness.
I was in a bright white light. Looking around me, I could see nothing else. There was no indication of how far this light went on for.
I've always been quite emotional, and so naturally I began to panic. Who wouldn't have, in my situation?
I took a few steps forward. I could see nothing but this white light.
Suddenly I could see myself. Turning around, I could see myself there also. Spinning round, I could see myself in every direction. Reaching out my hand to one, I realized what they were. Mirrors. Hundreds upon hundreds of mirrors.
I began breathing fast. Looking down and above my head, I was trapped like a rat in a mousetrap. Until that moment, I had never thought of myself as claustrophobic.
A voice called from nowhere.
Hello, little one.
I tried to speak but something was preventing me. I could open my mouth, and breathe, but no sound came out.
Oh, you can't talk. Don't waste your breath, and don't worry. I only want to help you.
I was helpless; I had no choice but to listen.
You are not rich, but neither are you poor. Look into the mirror, and I will show you your future.
Staring into the silver backed glass, I saw clouds begin to form, and then clear, leaving an image of a person, a man. He was working at a desk, his head lowered. A voice called out, and the man looked up. It was myself. I was looking at myself.
I recognized my boss walking over, and shaking me by the hand. Straining my ears, I could hear him speaking. He was offering me a promotion! I could not believe my ears. This was no ordinary pay rise, but an entire new position. I would be the second most important man in the business.
The vision changed. I was at home, and I was arguing with Milly.
"You will not accept the job!" she screamed. "It's hard enough already, with you gone for hours as you are, leaving me alone to support our children, and you want to stay away for even longer?"
"I -- it's to support our family," I blustered.
"If you accept the job, I'll file a divorce." She was not shouting now, but whispering. Somehow it seemed more dangerous, more...venomous. "I'll take the children and have you removed."
"But -- Milly..." She had never acted like this before. "I can't leave you. You’re the only light in my life."
"Don't give me that nonsense," she snapped. "You're not taking that job, and that is final."
The vision faded.
The voice came again.
So, you see, what the mirrors show you is true. You will be fantastically lucky, a rich man, but you will turn it all down for your beloved wife. Or will you change the path of Fate itself, will you defy your Wyrd?
The light faded. As everything darkened, I heard the voice whisper one last time in my ear.
Only you can step off onto the less traveled path...
"So what did you do?" the psychiatrist asked. He already knew, of course, but he wanted to hear what Mr Richards had to say.
"I did the only thing I could." He smiled, grimly, not seeming insane at all. "I stepped onto a new path, the only way I knew how."
Court Case -- Charles Richards, #62750921
Subject placed on trial for the murder of his wife, Milly Richards. He was found lying in a chair, holding his wife's hand as she died, whispering the phrase "And now the paths diverge."
He was found not guilty on reason of insanity, and was transferred to Rothschild Asylum in Sussex.
Case has been closed.