Annie sat at her desk, having finished filing the last of the test papers away. It was hard work doing all that filing, but she was glad she didn’t have to do the marking. Even glancing at the higher level physics made her head hurt. There were sometimes when she thought Dr. Heeley a great genius for being able to teach it, but there were times when he also seemed mad. The line between greatness and madness is sometimes very fine. Either way, he scared her. Working for him wasn’t bad, and she did feel sorry for him. I can’t be easy living with his illness, actinic prurigo, also known as hereditary PMLE. Never being able to see the sun, otherwise he’d come out in hideous blotches and swell up. Poor man. It was just; some of the things she heard from the office were, unsettling.
For the last month or so Dr. Heeley had been spending more and more time at work, locked away in his office. He had only every really popped in for a few hours a day, do pick up some papers, give his lectures and provide office hours, but now, something had changed. It was almost like he was hiding something, or hiding from something. Like he didn’t feel safe at home anymore. This was only made stranger by the fact that he didn’t take any papers from her whenever he did emerge, so, if he wasn’t working, what was he doing in there? She had chanced to see a large, old looking book open on his desk, any time he emerged. What could be possible need from that? He was a Physics lecturer, not a history Lecturer. Either way, whatever he was doing. He didn’t seem to be having much luck. He was always sullen and dishevelled, that was, until two weeks ago. When he had the argument.
It was an evening like any other. Dr. Heeley had finished his lecture for the day and was relaxing in his office, when Annie heard him shout at a start, as if something had startled him. She was about to get up and check on him, before he stuck his head around the door.
“Everything’s fine. Just carry on. Nothing to see here.”
He slammed the door behind him as he disappeared back into the room. She heard him talking in a hushed voice to someone. Even though no one had gone into the room and they were on the third floor, so there was no way anyone could be in there with him. She pressed her ear to the door.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing here?!”
There was no answer
“I’m fine, clearly and I told you not to bother me at work.”
“I’ve been busy here. I haven’t had much time to spend at home.”
“No, I haven’t”
“Ok, I have.”
“Why?! Because I need some time alone. That’s why. This is the only place I asked you never to come and here you are. I can’t get away from you”
Silence lingered in the room for a moment or two. Not even the Dr. Spoke. Annie was getting scared.
“Ok. That sounds ok. That would actually cheer me up a bit.”
She heard a dull heavy thump. Like someone dropping something on the Doctors Desk. The image of the book sprung to mind. She heard pages turning and quiet, bored mumbling. It must have been five minutes since the Dr. spoke. She decided he must have been reading and returned to her desk, disturbed, but otherwise fine.
Half an hour later she heard a smashing from the Doctors’ Office
“THIS IS POINTLESS!” She heard him roar
“What I mean is I’m not learning anything. All you’re doing is reading it to me and hoping I memorise it. I NEED TO BE ABLE TO READ IT!”
“No you haven’t. You showed me one useful thing. ONE. How am I supposed to make any real progress when you won’t give me leave to discover anything for myself?”
“PATIANT! I HAVE BEEN PATIANCE. I HAVE BEEN NOTHING BUT PATIANT. YET YOU STIULL HOLD ME TO RANSOM.”
“No, no you’re not. I’m warning you. I will go to her”
“Yea. That shut you up right and quick didn’t it? Not so jolly now are we”
“NO LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING. I will gladly walk into the fires of hell. I will take a dump on the princes’ desk. I will burn this city to the ground before I give up. Now, either you help me, or I go to her. She will soon see the truth and she will do whatever it takes to sort this out. I don’t care if it costs me my life, because in the end, you will be robbed of your victory as much as I will. Now. Will you help me?”
The pause last for what seemed like an eternity. Annie’s once again pressed her ear to the door for fear of missing something. Some hideous terror gripped her, for though she knew what she’d hear would scare her, it felt as though not hearing it would kill her.
“Good. Finally something we can agree on. Now, where were we?”
She heard him take his seat and begin turning pages again. The mumbling came soon after words, though now she could hear a hint of interest in it. She returned to her desk.
4o minutes later, she heard something which terrified her more than anything else she’d heard that night. Doctor Heeley, laughing. An Insane, high-pitched manic laugh, like all reason within him had been shattered and he found it funny. His door burst open and he literally danced out. Cane tapping in rhythm to his joy.
“I did it Annie. At long last I did it. After the best part of a year I’ve finally done it. She helped, but it was I how did” he stressed the last “I”.
“Dr. Heeley, I don’t unders-”
“Here” He cut in. “Here’s a check for a thousand dollars”
He produced his check book. She looked at him stunned. He glanced up at her grinning madly
“No you’re right. 5 thousand dollars” he quickly wrote out the check and pressed it into her hand. “Get out of the city. Get out of New Orleans”
“What, why?” she asked, very confused.
“Because. I can read the book. Granted only a few pages here and there, but still it’s a start. So you have to leave the city soon. Before it is destroyed” He turned and looked back into the room “Thank you so much. Thank you” he headed towards the door.
“Dr. Heeley, I don’t understand. Before what destroys the city?”
He stopped at the door to the hallway and glanced back at her. Smile wider than should be possible.
“Me” He vanished, dancing and laughing. She left New Orleans the next day.