Have you ever felt like you just don’t… belong? Sure, I guess I have. I suppose everybody has felt that way at some point in time. For instance, I can think back and recall a time in my life in which an AA meeting wasn’t so comfortable as people admitted to hardcore alcohol addictions, sliding into a drug-addled catastrophe as things became worse, and my humble self, thinking, “My story isn’t shit. I drink on occasion and got a little out of control a handful of times. Do I even deserve to be here?”
Or, let’s consider that time I joined the newspaper club in middle school and sat next to that beautiful goddess Emily What’s-her-name. Yeah, every day was a festival of shared blushing and praying I didn’t do something stupid beyond belief. I have felt like I didn’t belong, but David Hembleson took that to a whole new level.
David was my hundredth patient. It was close to the time in which I would be able to retire and I decided to welcome one last client into my life to try and understand their story. I was told, back in college by a professor whose name doesn’t matter so much anymore, that listening was key to everything when it came to therapy. If you don’t listen, don’t really hear with all your senses, you can never fit yourself into their shoes. And, in turn, they won’t open up.
So why did it matter so much to mention that David was my hundredth patient? Because there were hundreds of battles fought since I finished school to become a therapist. I lost patients for all sorts of reasons – they got better, they grew out of specific issues at home and realized they didn’t need to lead the life they were, they found new therapists, they moved far away… and, unfortunately, a couple even died at their own hand. David was special because he would be the last person I would ever take under my wing. Because of this, I wanted to know his story.
I’m not the kind of guy to get straight to the point without a little background information, but I knew where things were headed the moment David walked into my office, and my assumptions were oddly correct. I understand that David must have dealt with a lot in his life, maybe even seen some things.
To put it loosely, an “otherkin” is a person that identifies as something non-human. You may still have questions but, if you still don’t understand, it is basically a person who thinks that their spirit is that of something that is not a human, sometimes for spiritual or emotional reasons. I had heard of the mystery of otherkins prior to my meeting David so, when he shuffled into my office wearing a jumpsuit that looked like it had… ears… and a tail, it was safe to say I knew where things were headed. He looked at me with a far gaze in his eyes and sat across from me, laying his hands out on the desk on top of one another, and licking his nose in an odd fashion. I was more off put than in a state of hilarity over the matter.
Now, close to my retirement, I had become a bit lazy. Instead of checking the case reviews beforehand, I got to understand the client for the first time when they entered my room. This means that, before the meeting, I only knew David’s name. No preparation. Only consoling him where needed as he spewed about his life and getting to know all of his realities.
Understanding his personality and putting myself in his shoes, as I did best. That’s why I didn’t find it odd and didn’t question him when the first thing out of his mouth was, “They let me wear my costume today. It’s a special occasion.” I didn’t ask him who “they” was – I simply responded, “That’s always nice, David. I hope you feel the utmost of comfortable today. So, tell me a little about yourself.”
He said, “What do you want to know?”
“Start at the beginning.”
David Hembleson shared a last name with his mother but not his father – this was because his father was absentee. Never married, his mother Clara admitted to David later in life that he was an abuser and “toxic” to the family, so she sent him packing. This was not against his will because he unfortunately went willingly and didn’t care to keep in contact with his own son. This isn’t to say that it put a strain on David, because as he explained it, he never really knew him anyway. He was gone when he was four.
Suffering from the effects of the break-up, Clara turned to sweet old Southern Comfort for, uh, comfort. David rarely saw his mother other than horizontal on the couch, staring into the lulling screen of white noise on television. If he did hear from her, she was barking out demands about keeping the house clean and he was sadly following them. That was, until, David felt she could fight on her own two feet. This is when he decided that he was going to move in with his girlfriend, Sammy, who had an apartment on the outskirts of town. Her childhood had been a bit wrecked as well and they found comfort in each other without the use of alcohol.
As they were both working and trying to get it together, David was feeling more and more displaced. This displacement not only took place within his home life but also at work, where he was a cashier at a music store. He explained that, at times he felt like bundling up into a ball and sleeping on the floor or eating straight off of plates instead of with utensils.
The sudden changes in his lifestyle confused him and he wasn’t sure how to deal with the changes. He believed it was stemming from a childhood friend he had made while he was going through some hard times with his parents, and it was plaguing his thoughts.
When asked about the childhood friend, David told me that the friend was only prevalent for a handful of years and that his name was Barky. He was David’s dog. When David was feeling at his lowest of low, Barky could sympathize with him. The dog would apparently follow him all over the house and, as his parents yelled back and forth amongst each other on the telephone, would lend his back for scratching and wag his tail to show that he was still there. David said that it was the only other thing he was able to bond with in his life, something he didn’t even get when he was with Sammy.
I pried for more details regarding Barky, but David told me with a solemn look on his face that Barky had run away only some short years after they had brought him home. There was a day in which his mother came in from the backyard covered in dirt and David had asked her what she was doing outside at such a late hour. She only sighed and said, “I chased Barky down the street. He ran away… he’s gone.” There were always questions and suspicions but it never went any further than that.
Sammy began picking up on the strange antics of her boyfriend and suggested that maybe he speak to somebody about his problems. Of course, he refused, saying he had everything together. And things continued on like this for quite some time, only now he was trying his hardest to keep the antics hidden away from Sammy so no questions arose.
David got the call when he was at work that Sammy’s grandmother had taken her to the hospital for contractions, two weeks earlier than expected. David had denounced cars in his new lifestyle, and so he walked to the hospital and ended up being two hours late for the birth of his beautiful daughter. He had also apparently been wearing a dog suit much like the one he was wearing as I spoke to him. Sammy and her grandmother took one look at him and exchanged nervous looks, but nothing was said on the fact. His newly mothering girlfriend made excuses at to why he couldn’t yet hold her and he ended up getting pretty pissed about the fact, rightfully so. They got into a heated argument behind closed doors in which he screamed at her, “Why can’t you just let me be who I want to be?” to which she responded, “What, some furry fucking dog creature?” When David heard this, he explained that he lost control and was overtaken with a black rage pent up inside of him. He started barking at her like a dog until he was pried out of the hospital room.
“Did you ever see your daughter again? That had to have been a very difficult thing to experience, David. Nobody wants to be kept from parenting their child.” I gave him a look of pure sympathy, which I felt from the bottom of my heart. Though his story sent some chills up my spine and he should have considered the help he was offered, I understood what it felt like to not want to live the life you lead. There were many different opportunities thrown at me in life in which I wish I would have hopped right into and taken with the utmost of confidence. However, I also believe life leads you where it wants you to be… and so, maybe, I made the right decisions for myself and my sanity.
David looked back at me with this fierce look of hatred as he recalled a memory. “I did see Natasha again. But I also saw Sammy, too. With her new man.”
Apparently, when Sammy had done and said what she had, David had taken some time to himself to cool off. He wondered frequently if the decisions he was making were wrong, if his brain was all wrong, if everything he had learned in life was just wrong. He knew he had to take some steps to get back into the swing of things. To hold down his job without suspicion and being reprimanded by his boss constantly. To make amends with the only people who had loved him throughout this entire time, even knowing his past. To be a good father and teach her values so she didn’t end up walking in his footsteps. But there was just this overwhelming urge to be something he didn’t think he yet was. He wasn’t comfortable or satisfied if he wasn’t doing just that!
And so David did some watching. He trekked into Sammy’s yard frequently to watch what was happening at the house and to feel a closeness he wasn’t sure he would ever get back. One time he overheard her talking loudly on the upstairs phone about how she wished she had some help and hadn’t gotten pregnant to a loser like David. This was almost the final straw for him. But instead of knocking on her door, he went and took a massive shit on her front porch and then waited until she exited the apartment that day and stepped right in it with disgust.
One day, Sammy invited another man into her home. David didn’t think too much of it until he saw him kissing her upstairs through a window, with Natasha sitting there laughing away, and the blinds getting pulled. That’s when he knew something was up and that he had been replaced. It was all he needed to see. Something within David changed and he believed he didn’t need to wait a moment longer. He acted right then and there.
“I shouldn’t… have done it. I should have let them go.”
David ran upstairs and knocked on the door, pounding away, unafraid of the neighbors hearing and coming to Sammy’s rescue. Instead, he tried the doorknob and much to his relief, it twisted and he welcomed himself inside. Natasha was babbling right inside the door in her bouncy seat and the outline of the male figure was standing, naked, in the back hallway with Sammy wrapped around him.
“What are you doing, man?” the naked guy, standing about as tall and firm as David, asked. He dropped Sammy down to the floor and she screamed when she realized it was David standing there decked out in the doorway in his dog costume. “Who the fuck are you?”
As the man squinted, David got down on all fours and reared. He went straight at the naked man and started biting him everywhere he could think of. His teeth tore into him coming every which way as David beat the shit out of him simultaneously. He kept screaming, “I claimed my property! She’s mine! Mine! Mine!”
“You bit Sammy’s new partner, David?” I asked with concern flashing through my eyes. His expression was unchanging as he nodded.
“I didn’t just bite him. I killed him.”
David confided in me as he explained that Sammy’s new man barely even put up a fight as he was dealing with so many bites and bruises. David kept tearing and ripping and beating until he was nothing but a bloody pulp. Then he turned to Sammy, who was staring at him in horror with tears streaking down her face. Probably wondering what was going to happen to her next.
Just as David was turning to walk over to his daughter and retrieve her from the mess, she opened her mouth in a horrified “O” herself, and exclaimed, “Daddy?!” David claims that he smiled and said, “Yes, I’m Daddy!” until he noticed that Natasha was looking right past him and at the corpse of the man who had been having sex with his ‘property.’ David ripped right into his daughter’s neck and severed her jugular right in front of Sammy’s eyes.
“You… killed your daughter?” I asked, suddenly realizing I was stuttering and shaking in my shoes. I watched David nod slowly again, and reached down to sort through his papers right in front of him.
David was an inmate. That’s why he was so happy about being able to wear his suit again that day. He had been used to the prison clothes for months.
“But don’t you think that… perhaps, you might have been wrong? Perhaps it wasn’t something you were born with. Perhaps you were born into the right body after all and environmental factors changed things, disrupted a very crucial part of your life. Say… owning a dog. Barky.”
“Barky showed me the way things should be,” David replied. “You know, Barky changed my life; he saved me. I wanted to live in his footsteps. He protected me from a very dark period of my life.”
But Barky was a good dog,” I stated in return. “And you, you aren’t a good dog.”
“I was a good guy for too long. I think I had to take chances here in my second life.” He stopped for a second, gathered himself, and then continued. “Sammy came to visit me in prison when I was out of the mental ward, you know? After I had admitted that I purposely did what I did and wasn’t sorry for it.”
“And what did she say?” I asked, intrigued.
“She told me that she loved me. That she did love me but she couldn’t love me anymore after what happened. She told me that she thought giving me all that love would stop me from where I was inevitably headed, but that her plan had backfired. She told me that she needed a man, and not a pet. And that she may have even understood me if I hadn’t taken things so far. She asked me if I missed Natasha.” He sat for a second, thinking about things, a million thoughts clearly tossing through his mind. “I don’t miss her, though. I miss my dog. I miss my life. It’s hard being something you aren’t every day of your life.”