A Step Too Far: A Step Too Soon?

A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.

Dr Ellis’s waiting room.

“You know why we’re here Dr Ellis.”

“Yes, it’s about the disappearance of my patient Mr Pool.”

“He had an appointment with you on Monday of this week and he hasn’t been seen since. We believe you were the last person he had contact with. We’ve already spoken to your secretary. Now we’d like to hear you version of events.”

“I’m afraid this is a complete mystery to me. He was here one minute, and then gone the next. I have no idea how he left or where he is. I’m absolutely flummoxed.”

“Okay, well we need to wrap some detail around that. In my world there is no such thing as a mystery. Mysteries are simply circumstances which haven’t been investigated properly. That’s why we’re here.

Can you tell us about your professional relationship with Mr Pool?”

“I’m his psychiatrist. I’ve been treating him for a number of months, and I had thought we were making good progress.

Essentially, he is suffering from two conditions. The first is numerology OCD. This is where the person becomes obsessed with numbers and their meaning.

In a nutshell, Mr Pool believes that the secrets of the universe are bound up with numbers, and if you can find the right key, then you can unlock those secrets.

Are numbers a construct of man? Or, would they exist even if we did not?

He also has a persecution complex. He believes that something bad will happen if he reveals the truth about his numbers.

In terms of his treatment, I have been encouraging him to reveal his secrets. He has to face his fear if he wants to recover. And then, when nothing happens as a consequence, his brain becomes less sensitised and the fear dissolves away. This is a proven and widely practised pathway to recovery.

But aside from his mental illnesses, he is actually a fascinating character. And quite frankly, I have been blown away by some of the things he’s told me. He has some amazing theories. You can’t help but wonder if there’some substance to them. And indeed, you can’t help but wonder if he is mentally ill at all.”

“Theories? What sort of theories?”

“Well, there have been a number of them. For example, he believes that his calculations have revealed how the universe first came into existence. His theory is that the Big Bang was caused by a previous universe imploding. In other words, he argues, not for a Many Worlds state of affairs: but for a ‘Many Attempts’ scenario.”

“You’ve lost me. You’ll have to explain Many Worlds?”

“A Many Worlds theory suggests that there are a number of universes instead of just one. In other words, we exist in a multiverse. Now he rejects that theory totally. He insists that a God, or some other force, is attempting to create a particular type of universe. He argues that these universes then self-destruct and he has found the mathematical proof of that. This happens when we deviate radically from a certain mathematical blueprint. Then, the process starts all over again. The universe ends in an instantaneous and implosive manner. And it is that singularity, which then leads to an explosive Big Bang.”

It’s easy to get lost in calculations: it’s easy for calculations to get lost on us.

“Okay, let’s assume I follow all that, which I don’t, why would revealing his findings cause a problem, for him, or anyone else for that matter?”

“Well, basically, he’s torn. He feels passionately that there is a limit to what human beings should know, and a limit to the technology we should exploit. He is torn between searching for answers, and then wanting to shout them from the rooftops. He believes that when we get to the stage where we know too much, that can be one of the reasons which triggers a universe to self-destruct.

“Right…well… I’m sure that’s all very interesting. But I’ll be honest, I’m not on that sort of wavelength. We really need to focus on the events of Monday of this week. Describe for me if you will, the session you had with him. Something must have gone wrong? Something must have upset him for him to take off. Did you have a fall-out?”

“No, nothing of the sort. But he didn’t just take off. He disappeared.

Now I’ll admit, we had reached a fairly crucial stage in his treatment. He told me that he had discovered the ‘life equation’. Or in other words, the formula which would allow the creation of life. Naturally, I told him he had to reveal this to me. This is a crucial part of ‘Exposure Therapy’. But he was very resistant. He refused outright.

I asked him to reflect on his decision if he wanted treatment to continue. And in the end, we came to a compromise. He agreed to write the equation down and seal it in an envelope. I had to leave the room while he did this so that’s exactly what I did. When I returned, I found the envelope sat on my desk, but no sign of Mr Pool. He had disappeared. All that was left, was a strange burning smell in the room. The windows were sealed shut, and there’s nowhere where a person can hide. My secretary will confirm that.”

“Where’s the envelope now?”

“It’s right here in the office safe.”

“Did you open it, the envelope I mean?”

“No I didn’t. And I’m not going to lie to you, I was very apprehensive about doing that. I was shocked by his disappearance. It didn’t make sense then: it doesn’t make sense now. Mr Pool is a strange individual. I’ve never known anyone like him. I was scared. And if you lived through something like this, you’d be scared too.”

“Open up the safe Dr Ellis.”

“I’ll will if you insist. But I’m not going to stay in the room if you’re going to open the envelope.”

“Open up the safe Dr Ellis.”


“Are you ready for a cup of tea Doctor? Oh…there’s that funny burning smell again! Did those nice detectives leave?”


Secrets are meant to be kept: try to resist the burning desire to tell.

4 thoughts on “A Step Too Far: A Step Too Soon?

      1. Christmas is about spending time with family and friends. It’s about creating memories that will last a lifetime. Merry Christmas to you and your family!


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