Side Effects

Dorian Blue #short story

He tapped his fingers against the soft leather of the armchair, staring at his feet. The woman across from him scratched her pen vigorously across the pages of her notebook, enraptured. Her black hair was slicked into an immaculate bun, her eyes dark, yet open. Holly Dao, M.D.

“Do you need a moment?” he asked her.

She lifted her pen, her gaze and smile flashing back to him. “No, we can move on.”

“Okay,” he said, wringing his hands.

She said nothing, closing the book and setting it aside.

“Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions?”

She replied in a polite laugh. “You can continue your same train of thought, if you’d like, or anything else that comes to mind for you.”

Hm,” he said. He stared at the minimalist, but inviting space. The walls were beige, but not the dreary kind. All the surfaces had at least one potted plant and the framed pictures were of tranquil landscapes, or blooming flowers.

“No worries at all,” she said, her crisp blouse settling on her shoulders. “What would you say brought you here?”

He shrugged. “My friend, Tasha. You know her. She thinks I have a lot of problems, which I do, so she asked me to give this a shot. She’s close with my girlfriend, but she doesn’t really trust me. I guess she hopes that if I do this, I won’t break Zahra’s heart, or something like that.”

“That must be a lot of pressure.”

“She is right. I don’t ever want to hurt Zahra, but I could. I just don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Don’t know that you’re doing…what?”

“I’ve tried to keep myself closed off from other people for a long time, to save them the trouble. But now, I’m trying again and it’s not easy. What Tasha doesn’t understand is that it goes both ways. Zahra has trouble too and we work together on it.”

“Zahra is important to you, then?”

He nodded, his shaggy brown hair falling around his eyes. His eyes were flecked with shades of blue and green, like spots on an eggshell.

“If I may ask, how long have you been together?”

“About four years now, which is kind of hard to believe. I feel like I’ve known her much longer than that. She’s really…my person. And she, she seems to understand why I have to do what I do. It doesn’t scare her, like it does everyone else. She feels sorry for me, sure, but she gets it.”

“And you do what, exactly? Are you referring to a job?”

He laughed. “I thought Tasha would’ve told you.”

“What I talk about with other clients is confidential.”

“Oh. I guess that makes sense. Psychoanalyzing isn’t easy, I bet.”

She quirked her eyebrow. “That’s a bit of an old fashioned term, Mr. Lazarus. These days, we prefer a variety of other methods in my profession.”

“I know, therapy,” he said. “Old words die hard in my brain, I guess. I cling to them. And you don’t have to call me that, Mikkel is fine.”

“Of course,” she said. “I’m sure that memory can be a difficult thing at times with the amount of years you’ve lived.”

“You could say that,” he said, reaching inside his pocket. He took out a cigarette, twirling it in his fingers.

“I’m afraid you can’t smoke that in here.”

“Oh, sorry. Force of habit.”

“It’s all right.”

Now unable to partake, he leaned back, staring at the ceiling. “This is the first time I’ve actually done this.”

“It’s always good to start,” she said.

“I mean, we’re just talking.” He looked at the unused cigarette, then pulled out the crushed up pack, putting it back in and shoving the whole thing back out of sight.

“Yes, but you can be candid with me. I can help you with anything you wish to discuss, with no judgment.”

“We’ll see about that,” he said. His sweater was threadbare, verging on falling apart. It complemented his day-old eyeliner and mud-caked sneakers.

“Why is that?”

“I know you won’t say it, but you know some things about me. I see bad things, do bad things. Not because I want to, but that doesn’t matter much. I have to slog through it for, let’s see, about one hundred twenty more years.”

“You’re held to that?”

He nodded. “Part of an agreement I made many years ago.”

“For what reason?”

“Well, that’s another entire can of worms. But, I guess you knew what you were getting into.”

She nodded. “I have other clients who are similarly…”

“Not human?”


“Technically, I’m half human, same with Tasha, but that’s not the side that brought us all this trouble.”

“So, how would you describe yourself?”

“The son of a demon, for one, and an outcast.”

“What has made you feel like an outcast?”

“Well, I died one time. I came back, obviously, but it wasn’t easy. It cost me.”

“Cost you how?”

He laughed with no humor, lifting up one finger at a time as he spoke. “My time, my soul, my morals…I could go on.”

“I see,” she said, toeing the line between patience and trying to get at the heart of what he was saying.

“What is it like, being a mortal and having to deal with people like me?”

She smiled, though her face was guarded. “Quite interesting, but I see it as my life’s work.”

“How did you get into it in the first place? Most humans don’t even know we really exist.”

“My father started this practice and he taught me everything he knew. He saw it as a field of study that has never been formally explored. How does one approach the struggles of a being whose life goes on and on?”

“Good question. Do you think you’ve figured it out yet?”

She chuckled and shook her head. “All research builds to a certain point, but it doesn’t necessarily have to reach a conclusion. It chips away at it.”

“Good point. I’ve never gone to school, so I wouldn’t know.”

“But you’ve learned how to read?”

“Of course. I was taught.”

“By a parent? Or a friend?”

His eyes darkened. “Someone I thought was a friend, at the time.”

“Can you clarify what you mean by that?”

He sighed. “Look, that’s a long story.”

“That’s okay,” she said, leaning back.

He slapped his knee, looking for a way out. “If I’m going to talk about my past, I should start with my sister, not him.”

She nodded. “We can go at whatever pace you’d like.”

“Do you have any siblings?”

“An older brother.”

“Then your situation is the reverse of mine. I had a younger sister and we were all we had for each other. My mother was there…physically, but never truly cared for either of us. We were from different fathers, but it didn’t matter. We were united in misery.”

He stared at the space behind Holly Dao’s head, sinking into the past. Leonora. When all else had been dark, his sister was a shining light: blonde hair, green eyes, and all. She knew him better than anyone else, including the ins and outs of his moods and the everything that made him laugh. He did the same for her, providing for her when their mother disappeared for days at a time, or had only debt to her name. As he had detached himself from humanity, he never left her behind. Even still, he carried her in his heart, never to be forgotten to the sands of time.