EPISODE FIVE: IN FREUD WE TRUST
For the next half an hour a sense of quiet reigned over the waiting room as each of the occupants mused silently on their own preoccupations. Carol took to reading, with a surprising air of concentration, some kind of glossy magazine. Michael chose to pour over his map of the landscape, seeking out alternative escape routes. Martin disappeared once more into the background and I concerned myself with pondering over what I might actually say to my family, friends and boyfriend when I finally made it home.
This somnolent state of affairs was eventually interrupted when the door to Freud’s office unexpectedly opened and disgorged his patient, a middle-aged woman with a disconcertingly wide-eyed expression. There was a nervous pause whilst Carol disappeared for a brief conference with the doctor before she re-emerged and I found myself ushered into the great man’s presence.
His room was much brighter and airier than I had expected with a large open window dominating the far wall. The walls on either side were stacked with shelves filled with books and assorted objets d’art. I noticed the couch, broad and soft and piled high with cushions, looking all too enticing. And, stationed at the head of the couch, was a chair containing the man himself, Dr Sigmund Freud.
He looked, well, Freud-like, with piercing eyes, receding hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He wore a thick woollen suit and toyed with a half-smoked cigar in his left hand. I stood awkwardly in the middle of the room whilst he casually consulted a set of notes. Finally he looked up and addressed me with a frank, open smile. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable Miss Everingham?”
I perched rather self-consciously on the edge of the couch. There followed what seemed to me a rather prolonged pause.
“Before we get started I think it’s only fair to tell you that I really don’t have the time to get into the full psychoanalysis thing,” I finally felt compelled to say. “I’m sure it’s all very interesting and everything but I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to get into a full examination of my psyche. I just want your help with a rather specific problem I’ve got.”
There was just the merest wrinkling of Freud’s brow. “And what problem might that be?”
“I need to get home.”
“Back to Bristol, in the real world. I need to find my way out of the landscape of the imagination.”
The Freudian brow wrinkled just a little further. “I’m afraid I fail to see how I can be expected to help you with that Miss Everingham,” he remarked coldly. “I am neither a map-maker nor a cab driver.”
I shook my head impatiently. “I’m not talking about that kind of journey,” I replied. “I just figured that as this is the landscape of the imagination I need to consider a more imaginative way of getting home. And, thinking about it in purely narrative terms, then the key to the way home has to lie within the nature of my own personality. I just need you to figure out which element of my character it is that I’m missing so I can fill in that blank and get back home.”
Freud may well have developed a certain professional skill in maintaining a neutral expression but even he struggled to contain a look of distinct bewilderment at this.
“I’m not explaining myself very well, am I?” I conceded. “Perhaps if I started from the beginning.”
Freud turned to his desk and, picking up a box of matches, set about re-lighting his cigar. “I think that might be best,” he replied.
So I settled back onto the couch and proceeded to relate the entire story of my journey into the landscape of the imagination, starting with the announcement of Sturridge’s visit to our university. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to offer a particularly structured narrative. No matter how hard I tried to remain concise and direct I still found my tale wandering up narrative cul-de-sacs or getting bogged down in interesting yet irrelevant details. Still, Freud bore it all without interruption, listening carefully with an inscrutable expression throughout.
I’d got as far as detailing the events of Salzburg when I was interrupted in an entirely unexpected manner. I’ll confess I had been digressing slightly on the subject of Fritz’s aversion to ladies underwear which, whilst not strictly essential to the main thrust of the narrative, I nonetheless thought likely to be of some interest to my therapist. In fact, so engrossed was I in my theorising that the raised voices in the waiting room may have been audible for some time before I first noticed them. Certainly, when I finally looked up Freud was staring intently at the connecting door with a worried frown.
I paused, sat up and joined him with a curious stare of my own. An unidentifiable but unquestionably angry voice rose to a disturbing crescendo then abruptly stopped. There was a tense pause and then suddenly the door burst open and in the doorway stood one of the strangest looking individuals I have ever come across.
He had all the general requirements of human anatomy – two arms, two legs, a head, neck and torso – but these came in such unlikely proportions as to make him appear no more than a caricature of a human being. He can’t have been more than about four feet tall but even so his arms and legs were of such spindly dimensions as to appear designed for someone of a much smaller stature. His broad shoulders and slender figure were oddly accented by the sharply cut suit which he wore. However, most striking of all were the beady black eyes that glared out from beneath tufted eyebrows in the centre of a frankly enormous head.
Not surprisingly both Freud and I were initially rendered speechless by the appearance of this unexpected intruder. There was a moment of silence whilst we goggled and he looked us slowly up and down. During the pause I had just enough time to notice the bewildered faces of Michael and Carol standing in the waiting room beyond the doorway.
Eventually the stranger fixed his intense glare upon Freud and drew back his lips in a twisted approximation of a smile. “Ah, Dr Freud I presume,” he announced in an outlandish mid-European accent. “At last, we come face to face.”
Freud goggled for a few moments more, evidently at a loss for an appropriate response. Eventually he settled upon, “Excuse me?”
“You have ignored and insulted my friend for too long now Dr Freud,” the stranger continued. “Now I am afraid you must pay for your insolence.”
Freud bewilderedly rubbed his forehead. “I’m sorry, what are you talking about? Who are you?”
“I am Svankmeyer,” replied the intruder with a melodramatic flourish. “And I am an associate of Mr Martin Croft.”
“Who?” retorted Freud.
To be fair, if I hadn’t at that moment spotted a beetroot like face poking out unwillingly from behind an armchair in the waiting room, I might not have connected the name myself with the timid young man whose appointment I had commandeered. They certainly seemed an unlikely pair of comrades.
Svankmeyer though did not take Freud’s confession of ignorance well. “This attitude will not do Dr Freud,” he insisted, his voice rising dramatically. “My colleague and I will not be ignored!”
“I think there may have been some sort of misunderstanding,” I interjected, endeavouring to bring some sense to the proceedings. “It was me who swapped appointments with your friend out there. Now, I’ll agree I may have been a bit longer than I anticipated but it was all very amicable.”
Despite giving away at least a foot and a half in height the diminutive Svankmeyer performed the not unimpressive feat of appearing to look down on me. “You should not have interfered young lady,” he announced disdainfully. “I’m afraid I shall have to add your name to the list of enemies of Svankmeyer and Croft.”
“Now, hang on,” I protested. “I don’t see how there is any cause to be making enemies of anyone.”
Svankmeyer puffed out his meagre chest. “Very soon this whole town will have cause to regret the fact that they ever dared to demean a friend of the great Svankmeyer,” he declared haughtily.
I’m afraid I gave way to a low chortle. “I shouldn’t think so mate,” I responded.
“I shall crush you all like the insolent insects you all are,” Svankmeyer insisted.
This time I was unable to resist a full-throated laugh. “Oh yeah? You and whose army?”
Svankmeyer narrowed his hefty eyebrows and juddered slightly until I was afraid he was going to explode in a burst of fury. But, somehow mastering himself, he sighed theatrically instead. “Very well,” he said calmly. “You have brought this on yourself.”
He reached inside his jacket and drew out what looked like a small walkie-talkie with two large red buttons on the front. With a flamboyant gesture he extended the aerial on the device and stood with his finger poised over the top button. At this stage I have to confess a small knot of apprehension did begin to grow in my stomach. It seemed absurd to be in any way disturbed by such ridiculous bluster but then I would never have expected him to back up his threats with gadgets.
“You will all rue the day you tangled with Svankmeyer,” he loudly proclaimed. Then he stretched out his bony finger and pressed down the button.
There was a moment of hushed anticipation before the air began to fill with a mechanical whirring sound. In spite of ourselves, we were all holding our breath as the noise swept closer and closer to the building. Then there was a sudden change in pitch and, rising up from below, there appeared at the first floor window of Freud’s office a machine that looked something like a flying tank.
Freud and I both took an instinctive step back. “What the…?”
The machine was sleek and black and soon filled most of the window, casting a large dark shadow across the office.
It was at this point that Carol made a rather ungainly dive for the safety of her reception desk. Martin Croft shook his head unhappily and ducked back down behind his brown leather armchair. Michael hesitated for a moment, then drew his sword and took up a defensive posture by the doorway. I made a mental note not to be so swift in future to taunt small, demented megalomaniacs.
Svankmeyer beheld the consternation being spread by his machine with a satisfied smile. “I am Svankmeyer and I will be obeyed,” he announced confidently to nobody in particular. And then he pressed the second button on his gadget.
There was a crunching of mechanical gears and a door in the side of the craft slowly rose. For a moment nothing could be seen inside except a great gaping blackness. Then there was a shuffling sound from within. There was a nerve-racking pause and then, to everyone’s astonishment, a small white rabbit appeared in the doorway of the machine. It sniffed the air uncertainly for a moment and then hopped down into Freud’s office.
He was quickly followed by another rabbit and then another and another. In all shapes, sizes and colours they emerged, cheerfully scurrying out to explore the environs of the office and waiting room.
I turned in confusion to Svankmeyer but he was standing motionless with the same satisfied smirk on his face. Finally, when he judged that enough of the beasts had been disgorged from his craft he cried out to the rabbits with a dramatic flourish of his arm, “Kill them!”
Of course the rabbits did no such thing. They simply continued to hop inquisitively about the rooms, nibbling at anything they could get their teeth into.
Svankmeyer’s triumphal smile faded just a touch. “Kill them!” he cried out again.
The rabbits continued to ignore him.
He gave the nearest bunny a nudge with the point of his shoe. “Kill them now,” he urged.
The rabbit in question merely hopped away to a safe distance and resumed it’s systematic sniffing of the carpet.
Now everyone was turned to look at Svankmeyer. His furry eyebrows dropped gradually lower and for a moment I wasn’t sure whether he was going to try to hit someone or simply burst into tears. Instead, he issued a resigned sigh and muttered to himself, “Not rabbits then.” He looked up defiantly at Freud. “You have not heard the last of this,” he insisted.
Still far too stunned to make any sort of move to stop him, we all simply watched as, tripping over one or two rabbits along the way, he walked over to the window with as much dignity as he could muster. He paused there for a moment, waving his gadget menacingly and called out, “I am Svankmeyer and I will be obeyed!” Then he clambered aboard his flying machine.
The door in the side slowly lowered, the engines growled and the machine flew off into the distance, taking the extraordinary Svankmeyer with it.
As soon as the drone of the engines had faded all eyes turned to Martin Croft in anticipation of some kind of explanation for this incredible intrusion. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to maintain an accusatory glare with a horde of rabbits swirling about your feet. So we put aside our questions until Svankmeyer’s abandoned animals could be rounded up.
This proved to be nowhere near as straightforward as might be imagined for, not only did the rabbits show no inclination whatsoever to return to captivity, but it was difficult to know quite what to do with them when they could be got hold of. Eventually, with the aid of some lettuce hastily purchased from a greengrocer just down the road, we managed to lure them into the basement where they might rest until a more permanent solution to their re-housing could be worked out.
That task completed though, it was undoubtedly time to interrogate Martin.
“Just who is this… Svankmeyer?” demanded Freud, pronouncing the name with a marked distaste.
“And just what does he mean by filling my offices with rabbits like that?” added Carol, throwing disgusted glances at nibbled cushions and soiled carpets.
Martin sunk back into the security of his brown leather armchair and murmured something incomprehensible.
“C’mon Martin,” I insisted impatiently. “Just what is this all about?”
“Oh I wish I hadn’t let you take that appointment,” Martin muttered unhappily.
“What? All this was just because I jumped the queue?” I replied incredulously.
“Svankmeyer tends to get upset if he thinks other people are taking advantage of me,” Martin explained apologetically.
“Why should he care so much?” asked Michael. “How did you come to meet such a strange chap?”
“I didn’t meet him. I made him.”
“I made him,” repeated Martin. “That’s what I do – I’m a puppet-maker. I used to have a little workshop of my own before I came to the landscape. Making props for the theatre, traditional toys for kids, that sort of thing. Svankmeyer was one of my creations, just a side project I decided to carve for myself.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. “So then how did he come to be whizzing about the place in strange flying machines, threatening people with rabbits? That’s not your average puppet.”
Martin sighed unhappily. “Well then I came across the door in the wall,” he replied. “And I was curious to see what was on the other side. But I suppose I was also a little bit afraid. So when I finally decided to step through the door I brought Svankmeyer along with me, like a kind of security blanket.” Martin gazed around at us imploringly. “He was just meant to be something to cling onto,” he added hastily. “But, of course, the moment we were on the other side he just, well… came to life.”
“Most intriguing,” murmured Freud.
“I suppose it makes perfect sense really,” mused Michael. “After all, Svankmeyer is a creation of your imagination. It stands to reason he would find life in the landscape of the imagination.”
Martin shrugged embarrassedly. “Of course it seems obvious now but I guess I never really thought it through,” he confessed. “And even if I had I don’t think I could ever have anticipated he would turn out to be so, well, aggressive.”
“Frankly I think you’ve only got yourself to blame there,” I felt obliged to point out. “If you didn’t want him to turn out a raging megalomaniac then perhaps you shouldn’t have created him so short.”
Michael cast a dubious look in my direction. “So your theory would be that his behaviour is entirely due to his height?”
“It’s classic short man syndrome,” I confidently stated. “All the major tyrants of history have been lacking a few inches. Napoleon, Hitler… Noel Edmonds. Alexander the Great, apparently, was practically a pygmy.”
“Whatever his reasons, he wants locking up – the little menace,” harrumphed Carol, still surveying her waiting room in disgust.
“He’s just a bit over-protective of me, that’s all,” insisted Martin. “I’m sure he doesn’t really mean any harm.”
“He did say ‘kill them’ several times,” I protested mildly. “I’m not sure those are the words of someone who doesn’t mean any harm. Even if they are addressed to a bunch of rabbits.”
“It’s all my fault really,” sighed Martin. “Svankmeyer gets a bit frustrated because he thinks I’m weak-willed. I guess I have always been a little lacking in self-confidence.” Martin paused and looked up as though he expected to be contradicted but nobody was likely to argue the validity of that statement. “I did try self-assertiveness classes once but I had to give them up after a couple of weeks. To be perfectly honest, I found the teacher a bit intimidating.”
I stifled a vague urge to giggle and offered up a sympathetic smile instead.
“That’s why I wanted the appointment with Dr Freud,” Martin continued. “I thought perhaps that if he could help me gain a little self-confidence then perhaps I could persuade Svankmeyer that he needn’t be quite so… forthright.”
Martin turned a pleading gaze upon Freud. Freud chewed thoughtfully upon his extinguished cigar for a few moments. “You wish me to help you gain sufficient confidence to control a creature of your own creation?” he clarified.
Martin nodded sheepishly. “I guess that’s about the size of it.”
“Tell me Mr Croft,” said Freud. “What was it that first spurred you to create the puppet Svankmeyer?”
Martin blushed and looked down at the floor. “He was just a bit of fun, that’s all,” he replied hurriedly.
Freud maintained his piercing glare. “Really? Nothing more?”
Martin hesitated. “I suppose you could say I made him as a sort of alter-ego,” he reluctantly conceded. “He would sit on a shelf in my workshop and I would imagine that he might say all the things that I never quite dared.”
“Ah, now we get to the heart of the problem,” announced Freud with an air of satisfaction. “A clear case of displacement of the id. It is a more common problem than one thinks.”
“But can you help?” asked Martin urgently.
Freud mused thoughtfully for a few seconds. “It seems to me that Mr Croft has invested rather too much of the stronger elements of his personality in the creation of this puppet,” he replied carefully. “It would appear that Mr Svankmeyer has taken over all of the id, leaving Mr Croft with an excess of superego. The only solution I can see would be to bring the two together in analysis in an attempt to redress the balance.”
Martin’s face fell. “Oh, I’m quite sure I’ll never get Svankmeyer to agree to therapy,” he said unhappily.
“Then perhaps, under the circumstances, Mr Svankmeyer’s attendance must be compelled somehow,” suggested Freud mildly.
“Would that work though?” asked Michael. “Surely you can’t force somebody into analysis.”
“Normally I would say that any analysis that is not entered into whole-heartedly by the patient is doomed to failure…” For some reason at this point Freud chose to throw a pointed glance in my direction. “But I believe this to be a special case. Perhaps something can be done, if only Mr Svankmeyer and Mr Croft can be brought together.”
“I suppose I could always ask him…” began Martin hesitantly.
“You must do more than ask, you must insist,” asserted Freud.
Martin pulled anxiously at the sleeves of his jumper. “I’m not sure he’ll actually listen to me. Perhaps if you were to come along…” he said hopefully.
Freud shook his head firmly. “I am a psychoanalyst, not a bounty hunter Mr Croft,” he maintained. “I cannot be expected to spend my valuable time chasing around after reluctant patients.” There was a pause and then he turned his steady gaze upon me. “Perhaps Miss Everingham and her friend would be able to offer you their assistance instead.”
Martin immediately switched his imploring eyes in my direction. I squirmed, feeling that I’d been somewhat unfairly placed on the spot. The idea of trying to persuade the demented Svankmeyer into therapy was not an appealing one. “I’d love to help,” I demurred, “but I was just in the middle of a rather important consultation of my own.”
“Oh, I don’t think your problems run all that deep Miss Everingham,” countered Freud with an enigmatic smile. “Why don’t you take a break to assist Mr Croft and we can easily pick up where we left off when you return.”
I floundered for a moment or two, desperately trying to conjure up some plausible excuse. I looked to Michael but he only offered up a casual shrug of the shoulders as if to say, ‘it’s your call’. I glanced again at the desperate expression on Martin’s face and gave in. “Fine then,” I sighed wearily. “Why not? I should be delighted to spend the rest of my day convincing Svankmeyer of the joys of therapy.”