I am most happy to welcome D.W. Carver again, here to tell us about his thriller, Nightmares and Other Therapy, available on Amazon.
Blurb: Michael couldn’t understand the nightmares that made him violent on waking, mostly because he didn’t have the courage to think his problem through. Eventually, pressured into entering a mental hospital by his employers he thought that here he would find answers and a way to a better life. He was never more wrong.
Excerpt from Nightmares and Other Therapy
Friday March 4th 1960
Philip stepped back from the urinal as the groaning started.
He turned round fast. Only one of the stall doors was closed and he took a cautious step towards it. The noise came again but more
animal than human. The sound ran cold lines down his spine and he wanted to run but the pain in that cry held him there, and then it changed.
He asked, “Hello?”
The noise stopped.
Philip moved closer to the door. He could hear what sounded like snuffling, as if some large creature had its nose to the other side of this pitted wood.
He said, “Don’t mess about.”
The snuffling stopped and a human voice began to cry, one he recognized. Philip looked into the stall to his left, saw he could easily climb over the partition if he stood on the porcelain bowl then the paper holder but he had always wanted to kick a door in and there was never going to be a better opportunity. He stepped back, raised his right leg and slammed the sole of his shoe into the panel beside the slip-lock.
* * * *
Whenever Michael Porter needed to make purchases at a pharmacy, he looked for that brown bottle with the red and green label: his life changing cold remedy. He knew it to be a waste of time, they hadn’t made the brand in years and it never was popular but that didn’t stop him.
Finding a new one didn’t become important until three years after the event it represented in his mind. By then the original had disappeared although he did ask about it once when Smithson and Company let him into the building again. It wasn’t the easiest request he had ever made, knowing at least two security guards would be following him every inch of the way as he searched. Despite that, it felt worth the effort: rummaging among his dumped belongings in the storage cupboard, things so familiar he wanted to vomit, just to make sure his catalyst was beyond finding.
For many years he had used keepsakes as a memory aid: old toys, his first school cap, a sixpenny piece with a hole in it. Although he knew that he would need to buy in high voltage support to forget the weeks around his stay in Hadenley Hall, gripping that bottle or its twin always felt as if it might encourage those memories to be stronger or more accurate somehow. His eldest grandson, catching him one day, eyes closed in his favorite chair with a broken lead soldier held in both hands, had demanded a reason and Michael gave it. Later, the boy showed him a survey from the Internet, maintaining that his grandfather’s collection proved that he had serial killer tendencies. Michael acknowledged his interest with a crocodile smile and reminded him he had to sleep eventually.
Once the boy’s comment, even with a grin behind it, would have eaten away at him, ruined days or weeks but not anymore. If his grandson had known enough to ask, Michael could probably have given him the month, certainly the year, when thoughts of that kind ceased to be a problem.
They enjoyed their last dominance over his mind in the shag end of winter, nineteen-sixty: Dirty snow on the ground and a semi-permanent fog hanging round his family home in Upney, the lowest lying part of the borough. Not the best way to see his town as it clung, dull and crumbling, to the eastern borders of London, but the region had peaked fourteen hundred years earlier when Barking was the accepted capital of southern England and just surviving still, Michael thought, had to be worth something. Not that it mattered to him a great deal. He rarely looked further than his own self-obsessed thoughts in those days. Then, he still needed reasons and particular villains outside himself to blame for the disaster his life had become and in service of that near obsession, at the age of twenty, he considered two things pivotal.
The first happened at age five on a warm spring day or so his memory insisted. He couldn’t remember the exact events that lead to his torture, but it would certainly have been fuelled by the continuing problem with his father about being a “mummy’s boy”. It probably involved not wanting to get his hands dirty or close to worms in the garden, or refusing to go down to the allotment with his grandfather, or maybe to a football match. Any of these were guaranteed to produce anger and contempt in his father. Whatever the cause, his uncles were around at the time and their wives and girlfriends were not.
The new conscription laws had caught all of them in nineteen thirty-eight. They spent the following seven years in various armed services and had come out hard and unforgiving. Not much different to the way they went in according to Michael’s grandmother, just more casual about it. His father, saved from war service by working in a reserved occupation, was the worst of them although Michael didn’t know it then. They all admired “manliness”, which seemed to him at a later time to involve working long hours, smoking forty cigarettes a day, farting a lot and keeping their wives short of money and affection. At five, he was only aware of the cigarettes and farting. He had no idea these men felt uneasy with emotion or kindness and when he did grow old enough to be aware of this, still didn’t understand their reasons although it gave him the opportunity to despise them comfortably. Of this day, whatever the primer, he had one permanent, vivid memory: his father sitting in the big almost-leather armchair, unfiltered Players cigarette smouldering between brown fingers and laughing while his brothers squatted around Michael and destroyed his life, explaining in quiet voices what would happen to him at age eighteen just a few years ahead.
He never forgot the big faces and the smell of beer and tobacco or those words. The army would soon rip him from his home. The army hated mummy’s boys and would make a man of him. The army was going to take away everything that represented safety and send him back, years and years later, a real man like them. Michael had laughed from horror, and this was misunderstood and set their taunting up a notch. From the time they let him run away in tears, looking for comfort that he didn’t find, he started a countdown to age eighteen and didn’t experience another safe day in his childhood, or so he always told himself.
The second moment, with his other villain, occurred two or three years later. This time, a late summer afternoon edging towards sunset, he lay on his bed, shorts and underpants round his ankles, masturbating hard. There were vague memories about the badness of his “thing” at that time, shouted into him by his mother, but the need had become urgent and Michael succumbed. He didn’t hear the bedroom door open.
The first hint of trouble was his mother’s blotchy and furious face looming over him. She called him a “filthy little turd” and “another dirty fucker in the making” then snatched up his wooden hairbrush from the dressing table, flipped him over on to his stomach and started to thrash his buttocks. It went on and on with Michael begging her to stop and getting his knuckles skinned as he tried to protect his bare flesh. She gave up when he urinated on the eiderdown.
They never spoke about it afterwards as he had never spoken to his father about the conscription torture. At times of deep self-pity or especial whimsy as a teenager, he liked to dig deep into these episodes, pretend he looked forward to being free of his parents at eighteen but it never worked. Occasionally he chose to believe this meant he loved them deeply. At other times his always hovering fear of being unprotected while in their company showed that as a lie, but he could never face reality: their indifference to him.
A few months after the beating, Michael began to suffer from violent nightmares that found him, two or three times a week, screaming on the bedroom floor in a fight with his covers. A punch in the stomach that he couldn’t remember afterwards, stopped his mother coming in to calm him. A cut lip and a bloody nose four days later, again leaving no memory, brought the same result with his father. After that, left alone with his terrors, night became as frightening as day and the days were bad enough.
Scared and on guard, he staggered through his school years, including two in the sixth form and somewhere during that time sexual fears joined the other problems. Whenever he was “full”– the way Michael thought of his sexual needs as a teenager–and tried to relieve himself, huge anxiety scampered in as if it had been waiting for the invitation and killed his arousal. That wilting frightened him badly, opening his mind to fears about being different and he started to monitor his thoughts for signs of madness. Inevitably he found them.
About The Author
D.W. Carver worked for several years as a community mental health counsellor in East London, England and much of his writing comes from those years, helping obsessional people and those suffering from anxiety disorders.
Excerpts from reviews of Nightmares and Other Therapy
“For starters I really enjoyed how this book was written. The tone and pace of the book made it all the more enjoyable…….Although this isn’t necessarily a happy book, I’d still recommend it. It’s well written and is very thought provoking….. The characters are a lot of fun….It was unique and the major plot point that separates this novel from the others on the shelf. The split persona between Michael and his imaginary friend is extremely well-done…..It was well written, with believable and realistic characters…..Fast paced thriller/chiller that kept me up late into the night. Very original story line…..Those who like a good thriller will enjoy Nightmares and Other Therapy.