Science Fiction by Jack Bragen

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was fine as a shape-shifter and an immortal until doctors got their sanitized, ignorant hands on me. The first thing Doctor Baker did, when he assessed me with his feeble mind, was order up some Haldol to be administered by force if necessary. Everything changed when that mind-disabling medication took effect.
My senses were deadened. I could barely move. My torso felt stiff as a board. And I realized that my shapeshifting ability was mostly blocked by the antipsychotic drug. For the first time in centuries, I was scared.
It was group time, and I fidgeted in my chair because of the medication’s side-effects. I looked around the room and realized others were also fidgeting — and they clearly didn’t want to be there.
One man stood up from his seat, was irate and wasn’t making any sense. Immediately, the directing psychiatrist told these two burly psych techs that he was to be taken away. They got on both sides of him, each man grabbed an arm, and they walked off with him.
Finally, it was my turn to speak. “I really feel better and I would like to go home,” I ventured.
Dr. Baker asked, “What made you beat up the man on 50th Street?”
“He was pimping an underage girl, he was overly assertive with me, and I told him to go to hell.”
“Are you a customer of prostitutes often?”
I said, “Never! That guy is scum and he was barking up the wrong tree.”
“Settle down, Mr. Stiles. Let the medication take effect. You’re a little angry today and we want to see you calm down.”
I wanted to say, you’re a prick and a sorry excuse for a doctor. But it was going to be impossible to get released if I continued on this angry track. I would need to simulate a crisis and then “a meaningful recovery.”
“Sorry, Dr. Baker.” It took considerable effort to feign regret.
The psychiatrist apparently didn’t buy it. “I will meet with you today, Mr. Stiles.”
The meeting with the evil psychiatrist didn’t go according to his plan. I had some stored reserve power and I was able to telepathically zap him into a stupor. Then I took control over him. Dr. Baker, while he was under my power, issued an order to release me from the hospital. To top it off, I made him write me a prescription for marijuana.
My attempt at escape almost worked. Baker had a more powerful consciousness than I anticipated, and came back to his senses too soon. I stood in front of the nurses’ station expecting to be let out the front door of the unit. But then, the head nurse’s intercom buzzed.
“Got it, I’ll do so right away,” the nurse said into his phone.
I found myself flanked by the two gigantic psych techs, and I was escorted to a locked room.
“Behave yourself or we will tie you down to the restraint table.”
The door was shut, a formidable door of solid wood. I took a seat on the restraint table since no other furniture was in the room. The room was appointed with a toilet, but no sink or drinking fountain.
What now?
I was tired, and I realized my options were limited. I decided it was time for a nap, and I laid down on the restraint table putting both hands under my left ear, since no pillow had been provided.
In the next meeting with Dr. Baker, he had reinforcements in the room, and by this time, the antipsychotic meds had obliterated most of my abilities. So be it. I still had my wits, surprisingly enough. I would use the situation to my maximum advantage.
Dr. Baker spoke. “How did you cause me to have a lapse in memory and to write a release order? Are you a trained hypnotist?”
I replied, “No. I am an extraterrestrial. We have abilities.” I was feigning having delusions. I am not really an extraterrestrial.
Dr. Baker stared at me very intently. “Bull,” he said. “Where did you learn this ability?”
I said, “There is a training complex on Mars.”
The nurse and the psych tech in the room both chortled involuntarily. Baker glared at them. “Sorry,” the nurse said. The psych tech didn’t apologize, but stopped himself from laughing.
Baker looked at me. “Maybe a bit of electroconvulsive would zap some of that smartass out of you.”
I replied, “I demand to speak to an attorney.”
Dr. Baker picked up the phone on his desk and put it in front of me. I picked up the receiver and realized I didn’t have a phone number to reach anyone, much less an attorney. I put the phone back on its hook. The nurse and psych tech mumbled faintly in a tone of sarcasm.
“Not really from Mars?”
I said, “You can’t give me electroshock without my consent.”
“Are you sure of that?”
I didn’t reply. I was flabbergasted. Dr. Baker smiled.
Baker said, “I want the truth and I want it now.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I answered.
“Yes you do. You have abilities. Where did you get them?”
I replied, “You want me to talk? Then tell these two goons to leave the room…”

Poster art courtesy Madness Network News
Poster art courtesy Madness Network News

“I could train you.” I paused. “But only in return for my release.”
“Why should you trust me?” It was a typical question for an antagonistic psychiatrist.
I said, “I don’t trust you, but what other chance do I have of getting out of here?”
Dr. Baker replied, “Good thinking. You could train me in return for the slight possibility that I’ll release you.”
“I need to be off all meds for two weeks,” I said. “I won’t make any trouble.”
“You got it.”
Again I met with Dr. Baker. After two weeks without medication, my powers were almost fully restored.
Baker said, “I heard you got a nasty shaving cut. Where is it?”
I rotated my head to show all parts of my face and neck.
“Wow, nothing is visible. Did you heal that?”
I said, “Let’s try you on a shapeshifting technique. I will guide you through a process, and at the end, you will have shapeshifted to look like me.”
“Wow.” It was all Dr. Baker could say. (What an idiot, I thought.)
Within a few minutes, I guided Baker into a trance and got him to look like me. Then I told him to sit in my seat, which he did. I used my power to give him a telepathic zap, which caused him to become completely unconscious.
Then, I shapeshifted to look like Dr. Baker, and I went into the little closet he had in his office and put on one of his shirts. I sat in his chair, and pressed the intercom button.
“The patient needs immediate electroshock,” I said.
Two psych techs entered Doctor Baker’s office.
One of them asked, while rubbing his chin, “Um, how big of a zap does he need? He already appears out.”
I replied, “I tranquilized him because he was out of hand. He needs the biggest jolt that the equipment can deliver.”
The psych tech paused. “Are you sure?”
I replied, “I’m late for a lecture and I don’t have all day to argue it. I’m the doctor, remember?”
“Got it. We’ll carry out your orders immediately.”
“Contact Dr. Johnson and tell him he is on duty. I have to go.”
I picked up Baker’s giant set of keys from his desk drawer. The psych techs carried Baker away, believing he was me. I made it as far as the parking lot, where I saw there was a parking space reserved for the hospital director. I got in the car and drove five blocks to a bus stop. I shapeshifted again to look like a nondescript doctor, and boarded the bus.
When I got home, I realized that the landlady had been taking care of my cat. I expressed profound gratitude. I got a few necessary items, got in my car, and headed out of town.
I had done this a couple of times before — change identities, that is. If you are an immortal, you learn to do that. People don’t understand, they don’t like it, and they want to have what you have. I wondered what it would be like to live in Southern California…
On television I saw a news piece of how a psychiatrist had accidentally been given a lethal level of electroshock. There was mention of an escaped mental patient, and a picture of my face as it had been before I moved to the Los Angeles area. My new appearance took some effort at first, but eventually became my default appearance.
The End