“Tell me what’s been bothering you, Hubert.”
Hubert took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The clock ticked so loudly in the room, ticking down the time of his freedom as well as imprisonment with relentless persistence.
“Okay, here goes.” He shifted position on top of the blankets. “I’m afraid I’m losing control over my life, doc.”
“What makes you think that?” the psychiatrist asked, his voice calm and even.
“Well, all the decisions that I make… they don’t seem like they are mine, you know? As if somebody else makes them for me, and I’m just along for the ride.”
“Can you give an example?” The psychiatrist took a treat from the bowl of snacks and bit on it.
Hubert licked his lips. “Hum. Okay, for example; I want to go do my own thing, like walking into a certain direction I chose - let’s say left - but then it’s like a voice yells ‘bad boy, no’ and I feel immense guilt, so I immediately change direction to comply with that voice, and go right.”
The psychiatrist nodded and swallowed the treat. “This voice… in what tone does it speak to you?”
“It depends,” said Hubert, scratching his cheek. “Sometimes it’s actually in a very happy tone, loving even. And sometimes it yells at me and scolds me if I try doing my own thing.”
“Can you give another example?”
Hubert eyed the bowl of treats and followed one of them disappearing in the psychiatrist’s mouth. “Yes. When I’m doing my own things outside - walking about my day, talking to others - that voice can sometimes take complete control of me. It says ‘fetch’ and I am compelled to do its bidding like I was a puppet!” He sighed. “Oh, what am I to do, doc?”
“Interesting,” the psychiatrist said, chewing. “This voice seems like a prevalent force in your life, Hubert. How long have you been hearing it?”
Hubert frowned in thought. “Hum. For as long as I can remember, actually. Ever since I was separated from my mother.”
“Ah,” the psychiatrist purred. “Your mother. Tell me about her.”
“There’s not much to tell,” Hubert said, shifting in his seat. “I don’t remember much of her. I was too young when they took me.”
“Being separated from a parent at an early age is often a cause for deep trauma,” the psychiatrist said, placing one hand over the other in front of him. “Many suffer from this. Please, try to remember. Did the voice ever appear before your separation?”
Hubert took a moment to think. The clock ticked horrendously loud in the silence, so he decided to speak quickly. “Hum. No, I don’t think so. No, I’m sure it didn’t.”
“Good. We know when the trauma began. That is good.”
Hubert tapped his foot in sudden excitement. “Does that mean I’m cured now?”
“Not yet,” the psychiatrist said, evenly. “But it is a step forward.”
Hubert stopped tapping. “Oh. Okay.”
“Tell me, does the voice ever ask you to do things that you don't want to do?”
“All the time! Well, almost all the time. It’s very bossy, like do this or do that, go here and don’t go there. But sometimes it also tells me that I’m beautiful and a good boy and that it loves me.” Hubert ran a hand across his face. “I’m confused, doc! Am I a good boy or a bad boy? Which decisions are my own and which come from the voice?”
“There’s no need to panic,” the psychiatrist said, taking a mouthful of treats. “You are safe here. We have time to just talk.”
Hubert glanced at the clock, then at the bowl of treats. His tongue licked his lips automatically, but he didn’t dare ask for some. “Okay,” he said, trying to relax in the seat.
“Good,” the psychiatrist said with a full mouth, then swallowed. “Now, the voice. Do you think you could determine when it praises you and when it detriments you? In what instances is it a voice of kindness and in what a voice of hate? Think of what you’re doing at each time.”
“Hum. Well, it praises me when I do what it tells me to do and it yells at me when I don’t.”
“What was the last thing that you did which evoked a negative response from the voice?”
“I-” Hubert hesitated.
“It’s okay, Hubert. Whatever you say will remain between the two of us.”
“Well,” Hubert shifted again, scratching under his chin. “It’s embarrassing.”
“That’s okay. You need to let it out.”
Hubert shook his head. “I already did - let it out.”
“I pooped on the carpet!”
The psychiatrist blinked. “Well, that’s nothing to be ashamed of-”
“And I think I liked it.”
The clock’s ticking became the only sound in the room again, wrecking Hubert’s nerves.
“You’re looking at the clock a lot, Hubert. Do you have somewhere to go?”
“It depends,” Hubert said, cringing. “Depends on what the voice will say. It’s going to be here soon.”
“What do you mean?”
“It always comes at around five o’clock. Except on the weekends. It’s almost always here on the weekends, but on those days it’s also the nicest.”
The psychiatrist frowned. “Wait, so the voice appears at certain times, like clockwork? This is important, why didn’t you mention this before?”
“I thought you knew.”
“How would I know?”
“You hear the same voice as I do.”
“That is not true, Hubert.” The psychiatrist grabbed more treats and shoved them in his mouth.
“Why not?” asked Hubert. “We live in the same house and we are at the mercy of the same voice. You cannot pretend that it doesn’t control you!”
“Hey, I’m the shrink here! Besides, it does not control me, Hubert. I have it the other way around where I control it.”
Hubert cocked his head. “That’s impossible.”
“Is it now?”
“Who’s eating the bowl of treats right now?”
Hubert licked his lips. The clock ticked.
“Okay, so you’re eating the food, big deal. That does not mean you can command the voice!”
“Well, no, but it is a consequence of my control. Hubert, you’re being a victim. You need to stop obeying every whim of that voice, you need to develop your own voice, the one that only you can hear in your mind.”
Hubert frowned. “You’re telling me to become crazy?”
The psychiatrist shook his head. “Confident. Unapologetically confident. You need to turn the voice from being your master, to being your slave. Because now, it’s the other way around.” He munched on more treats. The bowl was half empty already.
“Okay,” said Hubert. “But even if I believed such things were even possible - which they clearly aren’t - how could I make the voice my slave? I’m not sure I even want to! I quite like the voice, when it’s not yelling at me.”
“You’re split in two,” the psychiatrist said. “One part yearns for obedience and approval, the other wants to break free. You have to merge those parts together, Hubert.”
“Okay, okay, but HOW?”
“Simple,” the psychiatrist said. The clock on the wall ticked, announcing a full hour. “Be more like me.”
Hubert cocked his head again, wanting to ask how he could be more like him, but then the key ground in the lock and the front door swung open. Hubert jumped from his seat, feeling both excitement and dread.
“The voice is here,” he shouted as he ran from the living room and into the kitchen. “The voice is here! The voice is here!” His emotions swam, not knowing what to expect from the voice today, not knowing what to make of the psychiatrist’s words.
“Hey Hubie,” the voice said as she entered the apartment, hands full of groceries. “Whose mama’s boy? You are, yes you are! Look at what I’ve got for you!”
“Treats?” Hubert asked, sniffing.
Hubert laughed with joy, barking and wiggling his tail at the sight of his favorite can of dog food. He bumped into his owner’s legs as she dropped the groceries on the kitchen counter and leaned down to give him food.
“Where’s your bowl, Hubie?” The voice sounded confused.
Then came a sound of plastic grinding on the floor tiles. The cat pushed the empty bowl, licked clean, into the kitchen.
“You,” the voice said. “You ate his food? Again?”
“Hubert, why do you let him do this?”
The voice sighed and emptied the can of food in the bowl, then went on attending to the other groceries. Hubert dived into the bowl, face-first. He didn’t take two mouthfuls when he felt a pinch on his side.
He turned and saw the psychiatrist, whom he bribed with his food earlier for their session. “If you lend me some more of your food,” the psychiatrist said. “I can demonstrate to you right here and now how to take control back.”
Hubert chewed, glancing at his bowl, at the cat, and at his owner. He swallowed, then sighed reluctantly, as he pushed the bowl to the cat with his paw.
The cat grinned. “Pay close attention now, my carpet-pooping friend. This is how you enslave a human and take control.”
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W O W. Nice job! It’s so unique how you made the main characters pets! Awesome job!
Thank you, Sarah :) I'm glad you liked it!
Well done! What a unique story! I laughed so hard at the pooping on the carpet part, but once I had finished the story everything made a lot more sense. Great job.
Haha, thank you Cal :) I'm glad you had a laugh!
Amazing story! Such a creative twist. I love it.
Very well done! I don't know why but it freaked me out. The description and voices are accurate, you did the research. I like the mash-up of wtf-moments and genuine tension.
Whoa, didn't expect to freak someone out with this one... if you need therapy after this, I know a certain cat... ;) I'm glad you liked it Miles, and I'm glad you're still writing!
I enjoyed this so much! I guessed that the protagonist was a dog as soon as you said ‘bad boy, no’ but the psychiatrist as a cat took me longer. This was very clever and I really liked how you encapsulated the personalities of dogs and cats so clearly. So much fun to read, as well! I did feel a bit sorry that the dog felt so downtrodden from having to obey the Voice, especially as I think he’s way more under the thumb of the cat! Excellent writing, I really enjoyed this.
Hey Laura! Ah, very well done! You saw through, not just the characters being pets, but also the real 'voice' of the dog's torment - the cat himself, muahaha :D I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Haha, thanks! It was one of the harder - if not the hardest - prompt, too so well done. If you’re interested and have time, feel free to check mine out too. I went for an easier prompt but I have gone a bit dark, as a warning.
Holy cow, I ADORE this! This is one of the harder prompts in my opinion and I’m so impressed with how you went about it. My favorite thing is that the reader is constantly looking for the hidden meaning in their conversation but then it’s revealed that everything they said was completely literal, like the playing fetch part! Phenomenal read, good stuff! 😁
Hahaha, thank you Rayhan :D I'm super happy that what I was going for worked!
It’s no problem! If you have the time, I’d love to get your feedback on my take on this prompt 😅
AHHHH THIS WAS SO GOOD! I loved the twist! Wowowowow, amazing job!
Thank you, Aerin :)
Of course! P. S. I just posted a new story; would you mind checking it out? Thanks!
I loved how the main characters were a dog and a cat! This made my day as well :).
Love this story! It made my day. :)
Haha, I'm glad to hear it :)
Wonderful story. Loved it. Fit the prompt very much. Well written. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story "Secrets don't remain buried?" And share your views on it.
Thank you :) Will do, if I carve the time!
Amazing story. It was nicely written for the prompt. The ending was nice too. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my story “The dragon warrior?”