The Behavior Specialist: A Tale of Terror

There was a certain logic to his pattern of employment.

He would only take a job if it met certain shall we say; criteria. The job had to be one where he could work with a client alone as changing a pattern of behavior in a child with severe aggression required “pairing” with that child and it was critical to be a one-on-one experience.

The job also had to be at the home of the client. Any child that had aggression issues especially if they were non-verbal, would not respond well to change and he knew that oh so well, so, that condition had to be met for any success to be possible.

Thirdly, the job had to be attainable. He had received his share of wounds and marks over the years as a behavioral therapist so knowing that the behavior he would be hired to work on and alter could be actually attained was paramount.

When he had received the call from Mrs. Traywick about her son, Boston, she had been crying. She had cried for a long time and he understood but he honestly had tired of it very quickly. He calmed her by telling her he understood, that he would need Boston’s records and would have to make a full evaluation before he could commit to working on his behaviors. She had agreed and within the week, he had Boston’s records delivered by private courier and had reviewed them.

Boston, an eight year old boy with bright red hair and very striking blue eyes, had been diagnosed originally with a mood disorder. He had exhibited periods of extreme violence and had also shown tendencies to collapse into an almost catatonic state. He had judged these, by the evidence provided in the official records, to be the result of an advanced Emotional Disturbance as well as probable chemical imbalance. Mrs. Traywick had made it quite clear that she was against using medications for Boston as not to pollute his blood, which the Doctor thought was a trifle off at first but then attributed to the climate of the day, so he had decided that the best course of action was to work with Boston one-on-one with behavioral therapy designed to identify triggers to behaviors and then negate them through reinforcement.

When he arrived at the Traywick house, he had not expected it to be so large. It was set off the main road by at least two miles and the grounds, unkept and unmanaged seemingly for a great deal of time, grew wild and scraggly. The house itself was large but not imposing. Two floors, almost a strange Victorian-Progressive style and shuttered windows.

He rang the bell and, after some time, a small woman answered. She was drawn and gaunt, lookinng as if she had seen little sleep or rest in years. Her hair had been noticeably pulled as it was unkept and gathered to one side and her entire visage was that of one who has little left to give.

“Mrs. Traywick?”, he softly said…”Yes?”, the gaunt woman answered; “I’m Dr. McThomas, We spoke on the phone…uh, about your son? Boston?”

“Yes” she said; in a voice that sounded like it took all she had to speak. “Please, come in…and please forgive the house. I can’t keep anyone to help and it’s a mess.” “Do not worry, ma’am.”, I said, “I’m sure all will be fine–may I see Boston?”. She stiffened.

Slowly she nodded her head and a look of sheer terror broke over her face. “Doctor?”, she said..”I need you to be prepared…Boston is indeed very special but he has such issues with his anger and I just cannot….” she faded out and I placed my hand on her shoulder to reassure her. “it’ll be fine…where is he then?” I said. She pointed to the top of a small staircase off to the left of a foyer that was in a terrible state of disrepair. From the tantrums and aggression I suspected.

As I climbed the stairs, I noted that there were no decorations, pictures, wall hangings or any kind of decor whatsoever in this tomb of a house. It was very dark and I could understand immediately that Boston must indeed have strong sensitivities to noises, or smells, or lights and that these would not work in my favor so any reinforcer including these elements was right out immediately.

I approached a door at the top of the stairs. There was only one door. It seemed as if the entire second floor consisted of only one room which I made note of as odd but pressed on anyway, anxious now to meet this young man.

As I opened the door, I saw, sitting in the middle of the room, a small boy with, indeed very bright red hair but with eyes closed. Tightly. I closed the door very quietly as not to make too much noise and possible startle the child but the click of the lock immediately caused a reaction. Boston opened his eyes.

His eyes were a beautiful blue. To say they were piercing would be selling the short. They were as ice in a glacier when lit by the sun. “Hello, Boston.” I said and smiled, “I’m Dr. McThomas..I’ve come to see you and try to help you learn some things”. I expected at that point a rush of aggression or a violent outburst but instead, and strangely, he just sat there and a smile crossed his face. He did not move nor make a sound.

“Boston?”, I said again, “Are you OK?, I’d like to talk to you”. The smile stayed but began to turn to something else. As did his eyes…something terrible. The smile became a dark, toothless, hole before my eyes and the eyes, once blue, turned as black as coal. I felt their glare hit me like a stone across the face of my mind. “So…you’ve come to fix me too?…” came a voice from all around me yet not from the hole that was once a mouth. It seemed the voice was inside my mind itself.

I could not move I could not run. I could not do anything but stand there and look into those storm clouds of eyes that penetrated my soul. “The other teacher tried too…and she escaped just now…thank you for taking her place, she was useless anyway to me. I sucked her dry already”, the voice said.

It was then I knew. He had hired me himself. It was his voice speaking through her saying all the right things so that I would take the job..under certain conditions….so that I would be one not to push medication to “pollute his blood”; and that so he could have a younger host on which to feed awhile.”Now you’ve got it” said the voice in my soul….”You will teach me, as I feed on you; and when you are too old, and sick and tired and worn out and tasteless…you’ll call another and I will live on…” I wept..for I knew it was true. I had no one one on the outside. No family t miss me or anyone to give a damn if i went missing; he knew this already and had hunted me. Selected me. I was his….

That was 20 years ago. Now, this day; with withered arms and fingers like those of a scarecrow in an Autumn breeze, I dial the phone…and talk to Dr. Carruthers, in a voice that’s mine but his..because he’s hungry again. And I am empty.

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