Black Petals Issue #101 Autumn, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
BP Artists and Illustrators
Dig Deep, the Therapist Said: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Dinner Club: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
God of the Winds: Fiction by Scáth Beorh
Head Pot: Fiction by Spencer Harrington
His Deadly Muse: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Patrick Hatrick: Fiction by Bruce Costello
Squawking Chimes: Fiction by Robert Pettus
The Courier: Fiction by Billie Owens
The Midnight Sonata: Fiction by David Hopewell
The Wolves are Coming: Fiction by Mauri Orr Stone
Abduction: Flash Fiction by Laura Nettles
I'm Your Garlic:Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Ho/Ma:i - (Ho-maaa-ee): Flash Fiction by Rani Jayakumar
Mona Wants to Die, but She Lets the Weather Decide:Flash Fiction by Riham Adly
The Cookie Crumbles: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Right Knife: Flash Fiction by David Barber
A Devilish Matter of Disinvitation: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Abhor the Light!: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Shadow House-A Writer's Retreat: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Accursed Personae: Three excerpted Poems by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler
Remember When We Watched "Kill Bill" Together: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
I Die, You Die: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Northbound Train: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Haunted Liquor Cabinet: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Candlelight Killer: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Wooden Soldiers: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Curse of Verse: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When a Star Dies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker

Hillary Lyon: Dig Deep, the Therapist Said

Art by Londyyn Thomas © 2022

Dig Deep, the Therapist Said


Hillary Lyon



“It is imperative for your emotional well-being,” Doctor Tauber intoned as he slapped his empty pipe against his open palm, “that you locate the source of your misery, and root it out.”

“Yes, Doctor,” I mumbled in monotone with downcast eyes.

“Don’t merely agree with me, as if you were some mindless automaton!” The Doctor paced before me, hands clasped behind his back, pipe clenched between his teeth.

I cleared my throat and repeated his words. “I will locate the source of my misery, and root it out.”

“Understand, you will forever lack self-confidence, and any hope of happiness, until you find the well-spring of this malaise—and rip out that demon devouring the center of your being! Grasp it and with all your strength, rend its shell until you locate the rancid core. Then you must tear it apart until it threatens you no more.” He nodded to himself, evidently pleased with his florid instructions. “I speak metaphorically, of course.”

“Then what do you advise?” I turned my head so the good doctor would not see the tears of frustration welling in my eyes. I came to Doctor Tauber for help, and he speaks to me like a vampire hunter from a Gothic novel.

“Aha! I was waiting for you to ask—that is the first step towards becoming the stronger person you yearn to be.” Doctor Tauber leaned in so close to my face I could smell the scent of stale tobacco on his breath. “You must dig deep,” he whispered theatrically. “Fall to your knees and dig deep, with all your strength—dig! Do not be afraid to thrust your bare hands into the moldering soil of your soul. Then you must grab the problem by the throat and tear it to shreds!”

“Where exactly do I—” It was all a bit confusing. How do I use my hands to dig into my soul? How do I grab hold of an emotional problem, then physically tear it apart?

Doctor Tauber straightened his back and clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “That is for you to find out. I cannot tell you where to go.” From his vest pocket, he pulled out an antique pocket watch. “But you will know when you get there.” Holding the watch in the palm of his hand, he popped open the lid. Without looking at me, he continued, “And wherever you arrive, it is of utmost importance that you dig, and dig deep, to extract, to excise this parasitic evil from your life.”

“Yes, Doctor.” I sighed. This assignment! Where do I begin?

“Don’t ‘yes doctor’ me,” he snapped. “Say you will do it! Say you will dig out and destroy this toxic thing eating away at your soul! Say you will do it!”

“Yes, Doct—” I stopped myself when I caught the dagger from his eye. “I will do it.”

“Say it louder, and with conviction!”

“I Will Do It.”


“I. WILL. DO. IT!” I shouted, surprising both of us. Doctor Tauber smiled. I realized at that moment I’d never seen him smile. His cheeks flushed and bulged, his lips flared. It was odd.

“Thus, your words will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is yet another step on the path to becoming your own person.” He snapped his pocket watch shut. “Our session has ended. I will see you next week, same day, same time.” He placed his chubby hand on my back and gently pushed me towards the door. “I expect to hear a report of your glorious success.”

* * *

Almost a week later, in the middle of the night, I woke from a fevered dream. Thunder rumbled in the distance; the night air was heavy, still, and smothering. In my dream, Doctor Tauber presented me with a map—a ragged piece of creased paper with crude lettering and dotted lines which would lead me to my destination, the treasure spot marked with a glistening red X, as if the good Doctor had dipped a finger in a pool of blood to use for ink. Dig here, the map instructed.

I jumped out of bed and ran to my desk. As best I could, I recreated the map on a page of blank printer paper. Fumbling and hurried, I had to get the details down before the dream-image evaporated. I succeeded.

“Yes!” I hissed happily to myself. I glanced at my bedside clock; it was just after midnight. Now fully awake, and with a mission, I hurriedly dressed and grabbed my car keys and phone. I mapped out my destination on the phone’s GPS; satisfied I had found the quickest route, I gleefully trotted out the door.

* * *

Parking was not a problem, as I pulled up beside the low stone wall. At this time of night, no one would be anywhere near here. Though the ornate iron gate was shut and locked with a sturdy chain, I had no difficulty entering the grounds, as I easily climbed over the wall.

With map in hand, I scanned the area before me for landmarks which would lead me directly to my damnable X. Ah, there is the gnarled ancient oak tree, and farther on, stands the towering ancient marble statue of the Angel of the Battlefield. So righteous, yet glum, she pointed the way for me with her stone sword. And so, a few yards farther, through a meticulously trimmed hedge, to the far corner of this green and well-manicured place, resides my cursed X.

I pushed through the rain-wet hedge, stumbling when I came out the other side. Now on my knees—just as Doctor Tauber advised!—I crawled over to the slight green mound under which my evil, soul-crushing treasure was buried. Not treasure, I corrected myself, but tormenter.

Roughly inserting my fingers into the soft, moist earth, I dug—again, just as Doctor Tauber advised!—frantically, with dogged determination. Deeper and deeper I dug, throwing off lumps of sod, clods of dirt, until at last I reached the cheap wooden lid shielding my diabolic X. How insulting that a flimsy barrier such as this should come between me and my wholesome emotional health! In a rage, I pounded on the lid, at last splintering the wood. With my own, now bloodied hands, I tore the barrier apart, opening a gaping hole with which to view my hideous X—and my X was hideous, indeed. Just as I remembered.

“How dare you haunt me with your incessant mockery and belittlement!” I raged, grabbing a large, sharply pointed splinter from the lid’s debris. “After all this time, you still undermine my self-confidence with your snide asides, slander my self-image with your vicious criticisms!” I reached down into the dark hole in the lid and roughly grabbed my X, pulling the monster up partially through the gap.

“You are through torturing me, through making me sick!” I cried as I went to work with my splinter-dagger, stabbing and sawing away until I was close to mad with exhaustion. “This ends now!” I labored on through the cold drizzle of night, until dawn at last opened her sleepy eyes, until victory was mine.

I had succeeded in ripping out my poisonous X by the roots—shredding every ropy fiber, severing every physical connection, until the monster was no longer attached to reality.

* * *

I entered Doctor Tauber’s office without knocking, and trotted over to his desk. Pushing aside the small stack of reports he was reviewing, he peered over the tops of his glasses, looking me up and down. I was a bit early for our weekly session, but I was too excited to wait.

“Ah, I see you have made some improvements!” He chirped. “Look at you: Standing tall, shoulders back, eyes bright. Your newly regained self-confidence emanates from your soul like a beautiful shining aura!”

He leaned forward on his desk and folded his small, plump hands. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, engaging in a sort of little-kid-anticipating-his-birthday-party dance. “Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts together in a bountiful bouquet—and tell me what has changed.” He motioned for me to take the analyst’s couch, but I shook my head. This was too momentous for a soft and cushy sofa! I remained standing.

“Doctor, I—”

“What is that in your hand? What are you carrying?” His eyebrows crawled together like worried caterpillars. Raising his glasses, only now did he truly assess my appearance. He pursed his lips disapprovingly at my sweat-streaked face, at the grass-stains on my pants.

“Where have you been?” He whispered, more to himself than to me. “What have you done?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Done? I did what you advised me to do!” I presented my damned X, my dirt-caked fingers holding the monster’s head by its matted hair. “Dig deep, you said, and rip my problem out by the roots!”

I dropped the head of my once-soul-crushing tormentor on his desk with a graceless thunk, scattering his papers and flinging bits of graveyard dirt across his therapeutic career. It rolled towards him and stopped short of tumbling into his lap. With both hands trembling, he pushed back from his desk, mouth agape in horror. “I didn't mean—I did not advise you to—”

He continued to sputter, his mind reeling and crashing into the dull, unimaginative walls of psychiatric convention. “No, no, no!” he cried as he raised his hands to his balding head. “We must—I must call the hospital, the authorities—you need more help than I can offer—you’re unwell—this is—ghastly—you must be—” 

Au contraire, Doctor Tauber,” I chuckled, “I am so much better now!”

Hillary Lyon is an SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, whose poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She founded and served as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Hillary also writes short stories, and when she’s not writing, she creates illustrations for horror and pulp fiction publications. Having lived in Brazil, France, Canada, and several states in the US, she chose to settle in Tucson, Arizona.

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