The Killer Question – Part Thirteen

For the first post, click here.

He hasn’t aged well, but his apparent frailty only serves to make him more frightening. If you had sat me in this bleak interview room in front of some hulk-like man, it would have been less intimidating than being surveyed by this particular brand of piercing leer. I try to push the words “Unnatural” and “Evil” out of my head. Beneath the wrinkled skin is a mind that would take pleasure in my destruction, whether physical or emotional. Maybe he prefers the latter, and that’s why he saved me.

“You look less like a librarian than I thought you would, especially after the moth line. Tell me, is that how you deal with men normally? Keep the expectations low?”

I ignore his bait, as I ignored the sorry-looking flower head. I had questions lined up, but I’ve already decided to pull out of the study as soon as I’m home. I’ll make up any excuse, or maybe even tell my supervisors the truth. I’m in trouble already. I may as well say what I want to say.

“I don’t think I’m special.” The words fall from my mouth, but my lips are so numb I don’t feel them. They’re so quiet I can barely hear them. His eyebrows draw together. “You keep saying that I want to know why I’m so special. I don’t. Whatever reasons you had for saving me, they would have applied to any child who was in my position. I’m not different.” I speak more loudly, but in a flat tone.

He smiles and there’s a moment when our eyes connect that I think I know he’s going to break me. Whether it’s through looks, or words, or physical violence, it doesn’t matter. I know that when I leave the room, he’ll have left his mark, something that will never go away.

The Killer Question – Part Nine

The first letter can be found here.

Dear Mr Empwood,

I have no response to your last letter.

However, it would greatly aid the progress of this study if we had a face to face interview.

Either the study can continue as previously described, or you can take part in a face to face interview instead of completing two of the surveys.

How would you like to proceed?

Yours,

Ms E. Atkinson.

The Killer Question – Part Seven

See the original post here.

Dear Mr Empwood

I am glad to hear that you are willing to take part in the study. The surveys and instructions have been mailed to your prison supervisors. I know that the formalities can be tedious, but they are necessary. The corruptibility of “good” people is exactly what I study, Mr Empwood. There are a lot of factors which influence a person to commit crime. Deindividuation, genetics, their parental models (or lack thereof), do you think any of those factors apply to you? Or do you think that some people, including yourself, are simply “villains”?

I refuse to believe the latter is true in any case. Until we stop categorizing people as good or bad and start appreciating how complex the human mind really is, we will never truly understand why some people commit violent crimes and others do not. More importantly, we can never hope to rehabilitate criminals successfully until we understand exactly what motivates such behaviour.

Your supervisors inform me that you are a model prisoner. I know that the prison has a rewards system in place, is that what motivates you? You have your theories about me, I have my theories about you.

You say Sid’s survival was merely down to luck, but you let him slip through your fingers. You knew where he lived and could have found him again before he found you. Your prison supervisors claim they’ve never had trouble from you since that riot. You prevented me from being harmed by another prisoner.

Are you “repenting”?

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson.

P.S. I drink neither Pepsi or Coke. Just the smell of cola drinks makes me nauseous.

The Killer Question – Part Five

See the first letter here.

Dear Mr Empwood,

I gained both my degree and my master’s in Psychology at the University of Exeter, under the tutelage of the very skilled and able professors who work there.  My interest in Psychology, especially surrounding violent crime, developed during my teenage years. Unless I am mistaken, you met my father while he was incarcerated. It was after his death that my desire to understand the motives behind his crimes began.

You may already know that the Stanford Prison experiment was the very study which highlighted the need for certain ethical guidelines to be compulsory, and its aftermath produced the foundation for the rules we follow today. Let me reiterate, you may withdraw from the study at any time you wish. You do not need to give a reason and your decision will not affect your treatment. Your concerns are taken seriously.

I cannot say I have a “favourite” victim of yours. However, your behaviour after murdering Hayleigh Jones was unusual and inconsistent with your other crimes. Your other victims were simply left in their beds. After strangling Hayleigh, you dressed her in her wedding gown and left her outside the church she was due to be married in three days later.

Was this simply to gain attention? If so, you certainly succeeded. It was the murder which sparked the media frenzy which did not end until well after your capture and imprisonment.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson

P.S. I’ve always preferred moths to butterflies. They’re much less ostentatious.

The Killer Question – Part Three

Read the previous letter here.

Dear Mr Empwood,

Let me assure you that nobody intends to treat you as anything less than human. We have strict, ethical codes and practices which we must adhere to at all times. I am not seeking some kind of power trip and I am not trying to judge you as a person, Mr Empwood. I am trying to understand you, human being to human being.

If your aim is to give the public your side of the story, there are journalists lining up to hear your views. I’m a psychologist, and the wrong person to share your story with the world. If, on the other hand, you are interested in being part of a project that will shape future policy with regards to criminal rehabilitation, your participation will help us immensely.

I’m not going to play games with you and I’m not sure what you want me to tell you.

Would you like to know more about myself and my qualifications?

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson

The Killer Question – Part One

It’s finally September, which means I’ll be back at university in a few weeks time. I’m actually (as sad as it sounds,) really excited about going back. I think it’s going to be a good year. I do have time for one more project before I get busy with coursework and lectures and revision. I’m doing a collaboration with Inkwell Knight, which will consist of a series of letters between a psychologist and a man convicted of several violent murders.

We should be posting every five days, but we’re keeping everything quite flexible as we’re both quite busy.

We both hope you enjoy the project.

Dear Mr Empwood,

I am currently a post-graduate student at the University of Exeter, and undertaking a research project on the topic of criminal rehabilitation, specifically on how perpetrators of violent crime recall their actions. I have discussed this project with my supervisors, your prison supervisors, and with the UK’s board of ethics, who have agreed this project can be pursued with your consent.

You were chosen for this study based on your crimes and your admission of guilt in court not because of anything that occurred after you were imprisoned. The project will involve me asking you for written accounts of the crimes you committed, and also asking you to fill out various surveys both before and after writing these accounts. It will also involve me asking questions related to your treatment and activities within HM Prison Wakefield. This will be supervised by prison employees.

You are not in any way obliged to take part in this study, and your decision will not affect your treatment at HM Prison Wakefield. You may discontinue your participation in the study at any time. All of this information, along with my contact details, is listed on the consent form, which is attached.

Your participation would really help me, not that I expect you’re capable of much empathy after what you did, but then

I think you owe it to society

What was it about me that made you do what you did?

Yours sincerely,

Emma Atkinson.

The Library Book Project – 18 June 2010

To read more about the library book project, click here.

I take the brown bottle out of the paper bag and place it on the kitchen counter. I stare at the label. The paper bag crackles as I scrunch it into a ball, and the noise seems to be obscenely loud. I throw it in the bin, almost angry with the bag for making such a racket. My mouth is dry as I walk back to the counter, where the bottle sits. My expectations aren’t heavy but my desperation is. The brown glass shows my face, contorted like my emotions. I’m not even strong enough to summon self-hatred, just more self-pity that rains down from the clouds of my consciousness, free flowing and plentiful.

I struggle to even open the bottle. After a couple of attempts I laugh at myself. I sound hysterical and wounded. The noise is so pathetic it spurs me on, and eventually the cap gives way and I’m looking at the little white pills. These are not my saviours, I know. But they might help. And at this point I’ll try anything, anything at all. The doctor thought they might work. But they might not. And I wonder if I can wait long enough to find out.

Because I can’t do this. It is now 5 o clock. He will come home in an hour and I will make dinner and then I’ll clean up and then we will watch TV and then we will lay in bed together without touching. I will lay there and think. And think. I will try not to shake as I cry. If I wake him, he’ll be annoyed. Silly woman. Yes, yes, I am a silly woman. Nothing more. The thought makes me want to consume every last tablet in this bottle, so I can escape.

I can’t escape.

I’m trapped behind this face. This face is not depressed. This face calls the children and chirps cheerfully down the phone at them. This face goes to work and natters with the office staff. This face is a regular at the local library.

This face swallows a pill.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

There’s nothing wrong.

You’re not trapped here, you can go outside, she thought. In fact, that’s a great idea. Let’s go to Tesco and get some lemonade.

The air outside seemed just as cloying and stale as the air in the house. She pushed her thumb through her keyring and twisted the keys round and round as she walked on the damp pavement. Dirt seemed the surround her. Abandoned plastic sacks of rubbish were strewn around like urban boulders. The grey sky hung above her, a great, unwashed bed sheet.

Despite the filth, she wanted to keep walking. She wanted to go past the shop and keep going, until she felt better. But she knew that she couldn’t walk forever.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy had taught her to treat her mind like a machine. Find the faulty thoughts and replace them, like they’re a worn out part. She searched and she searched and she could find the problem. It was between her breasts, a tight sensation that reached her throat and made her feel like she was choking.

She didn’t know what was causing that.

Sometimes there is no ‘why.’

Taking Back The Crown: Part Six

Sonya landed on her back, in the main room of the training ground, panting. Seta must have already been inside the room. Within seconds he was standing over her, looking at her injury. He yelled to someone outside the room to get the medic.

“Seta?” Sonya’s voice was weak.

“Yes? What happened to you?” Seta was trying to sit her up so he could look at the laceration on her back.

“I don’t think my mother’s coming back.”

“Do you have any other family? A home to go back to?” He was now attempting to stem the blood pouring from her wound. Sonya shook her head.

“It’s not safe.”

When the medic had used his magic to treat Sonya’s wound, she was taken upstairs to a small room with a slightly thicker futon than the one she’d been sleeping on.

“Whose room is this?” Sonya asked.

“It’s yours now.” Seta explained. “You can stay in this training ground and learn our ways. I’ve seen you meditating and doing your exercises, you’re capable of graduating from this school.” He paused. “I… I thought the elders would resist. They don’t like strangers. But… they trust me. And they have a feeling about you, they said.”

Sonya sat, silent, for a few moments before responding. “Thank you. For everything. But why?”

Seta frowned. “You’re just a child. You shouldn’t be on your own.” He told her to get some rest, and then left.

Sonya buried her head in her pillow. Just a child! If he knew who she was, he wouldn’t say that! She was a Litian heir. She possessed magical power that other magicians could only dream of. No injury could kill her. She felt like a fraud, pretending to be defenceless when in reality she was just a coward who didn’t know where else to go. Ashamed, she cried until she finally fell asleep.

Friday Fictioneers – The plight of Miss K. Zebra

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Copyright – EL Appleby

For anyone who wondered what the “k” in “misskzebra” stood for. Don’t judge me too harshly, I did come up with the name when I was 12, and have been using it since. If you want to take part in Friday Fictioneers, look here.

 

 “Name please?” asked the receptionist, who looked at me over her glasses with eyebrows raised so far, they looked to be in danger of flying off her face.

 “Konfuzed Zebra.” I replied, nervously dragging a hoof across the floor.

 “Confused… Zebra…” The receptionist said it slowly as she wrote on her notepad. I could see she was spelling it incorrectly.

 “You’re spelling it wrong.” I said. She huffed as she crossed it out. “It’s spelled K-O-N-F-U-Z-E-D Zebra.”

 “Dr. King will be ready in five minutes.”

After I’d awkwardly shuffled to the waiting area, she muttered, “It’ll take more than a psychiatrist to sort you out…”