When I opened the front door I found a man standing there, arm raised about to knock. He jumped back and said ‘Oh I beg your pardon’. He was dressed in a suit, smart but crumpled, and wore a grey fedora that seemed slightly too large for his head.
I locked the door behind me and as I slipped th keys in to my pocket he introduced himself as Dr Syumers, of the Royal Huntington Psychiatric Hospital. After that he said straight away ‘I’m sorry to come to you directly like this but I thought it better you see. I have a responsibility to my patients of course, but of course I have a responsibility to the care of others also.’
He spoke quickly; patient confidentiality, ethics, consent, imminent danger.
‘I’m sorry’ I interrupted, ‘I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about.’
‘It’s one of my patients you see,’ he said, ‘In our last session, Tuesday afternoon of last week, we had a break through.’
‘A break through.’
‘Exactly, yes. I have counselled this patient for many years now, but this was the first time he ever succeeded in mentioning the name of the man that he had killed.’
‘I’m sorry, but I am actually late for work.’ I said, and walked down the driveway. My shop was twenty minutes walk away and Sophie had gone home sick the afternoon before.
The psychiatrist followed after me.
‘The man’s name was Thomas Klee.’
I didn’t stop walking, but I did turn to look at the doctor; ‘What’s you point?’
‘That’s your name’ said Dr Syumers.
‘This is my name. Yes.’ The sun was hot already and I could feel my shirt beginning to stick to my chest. ‘It sounds to me as though your warning is a little late though. You said ‘killed’, and I, as you see, am alive and well, and late for work.’
‘This particular patient suffers from an extremely acute form of regressive temporal hallucination. To wit, in the mind of the patient, time flows in reverse. The past is the future, and the future the past.’
Now I did stop, ‘You’re saying he remembers the future?’
Dr Syumers laughed, a high pitched giggle, ‘Oh no, of course not.’ He ran to catch up as I began walking again. ‘He cannot of course see the future, but that’s not to say there aren’t, um, degrees of, flexibility. He has been surprisingly consistent in envisaging his own actions. Uncanny really.’
‘A man predicts what he is going to do, then does it. Hardly groundbreaking I should think.’
‘Interactions I should say then, with others. But in his mind he is not predicting, he is remembering.’
‘And he remembers what?’
‘He remembers.’ Syumers frowned slightly, ‘He remembers killing a man.’
‘A man called Thomas Klee? There must be dozens with the name.’
‘There are, more than a dozen in a fifty mile radius of this city. And, apart from knowing that this Thomas Klee lives or works in this area, everything my patient remembers about this man has not happened yet. Consequently it is impossible to determine which is the correct Klee.’
‘So why did you come and warn me?’
‘You are not the only Thomas Klee I have got in touch with’ He smiled towards the ground, took off his fedora and fanned himself with it before looking back up at me. ‘I have a list of Klee’s, some I have found already, some I am still to find.’
Now I paused for a second time. The effort that this doctor was going through, seeking out numerous men of the same name, was concerning.
‘Forgive me Doctor, but it seems an awful lot of effort on your part for something that hasn’t happened and possibly, probably, will not happen.’
‘This man has been a patient of mine for more than eight years. I have practised psychiatry for more years than I care to think back on. Understand-’ he put his hands together for a moment in front of his chest, ‘I would not do this on a whim.’
‘What is your patient’s name?’
Dr Syumers looked embarrassed, ‘My apologies Mr Klee but as I said before, patient-doctor confidentiality prevents me from disclosing the name of my patient.’
I was suddenly fed up with this conversation. Tell me my life was in danger and then refuse to tell me the name of the supposed killer. Ludicrous. ‘Well, thank you for the warning Dr Syumers.’ I said, ‘I appreciate the time and effort you’ve spent coming to see me.’
‘Please,’ he reached inside his jacket pocket and withdrew a white business card. ‘Please, my details are all here, the number and address of my office. The few things I can tell you of the Thomas Klee my patient dreams about are that he is a man who limps from a traffic accident and that he had a sibling who died of cancer.’
‘Neither of which can be said about me.’
‘At present, at least’ said Dr Syumers with a surprisingly sad smile. ‘Please, my card.’
I took the proffered card from his outstretched hand and then, with a small bob of the head, Dr Syumers turned and walked back in the direction in which we had come.
I watched him leave with a sense of disbelief, an absolutely astonishing story. I exhaled, not realising I had caught my breath inside me, and looked instead across the road. The shop sat there, squat and solid and resolutely grounded in reality. There was stock to check and Sophie was ill, hell, it was going to take hours getting everything in order. I slipped the card in to my pocket as I crossed. It was going to be long day.