“What were you like before the creature attacked you?”
Venatio hesitated for several moments, a look of vacancy occupying his eyes.
“What do you mean?” he responded finally.
“Did you have a job? Some kind of routine? Any friends?”
Venatio shook his head slowly, squinting his eyes.
“It seems so long ago… Yeah, I had a job… I had a routine. I was an EMT. I collected little ceramic dogs… I’d go to the movies once a week. I ate out at this little Thai restaurant around the corner from my place every Thursday evening. I was an adjusted, productive member of society, doc.”
Lumen’s eyes lit up and he leaned forward, raising his hands.
“Hang on a second. Let’s talk about your job. You were an emergency medical technician. Your job was to help people in pain. To heal them.”
“Not really heal them. Just prevent them from dying long enough to get them to a doctor.”
“Nonetheless, you chose a career devoted to the preservation of life. Did you enjoy your work?”
“Look doc. I see where you’re going with this. I used to save lives, and now I’ve been arrested for murder. I’m telling you though that there really isn’t much of a difference between then and now. I’m still interested in the prevention of harm and the saving of lives. If I can stop Dolor, I’ll be saving countless lives and preventing immeasurable suffering.”
Lumen’s hands returned to the table and he leaned back again.
“But until you catch Dolor, you plan to continue euthanizing its victims?”
“Obviously you don’t think much of euthanasia, do you?”
“I’m not here to approve or disapprove. I want to know what you think.”
Venatio slouched in his chair and stared at the ceiling.
“I worked as an EMT for seven years,” he began in a bored monotone. “Not once did I consider ending any of my patients lives. I went to every call believing everyone could be saved. It didn’t matter how much they suffered. Sure, I would give them pain killers or something if I could, but what mattered most was keeping them alive as long as possible. That was what I had been trained to do.”
Venatio paused. He fixed his eyes intently on the psychotherapist.
“When I was attacked,” he continued, his tone no longer bored, but grim. “I gained a new perspective on pain. I realized that there comes a point where life just isn’t worth the pain involved. Maybe there’s an afterlife, maybe not, but either way, life is supposed to be about… a lot of things, but not suffering.”
“You don’t think life should include pain or suffering? What would you say to people who would tell you that without suffering, joy would be meaningless?”
Venatio considered his words for a moment before replying.
“Pain is definitely part of life. I’m not talking about everyday kinds of pain. Getting dumped, flunking out of school, breaking your leg, those are all normal forms of pain that we’re meant to deal with.”
Venatio’s tone now became menacing
“There are other kinds of pain though. Like the kind of pain a Cambodian farmer feels after stepping on a landmine and seeing a mushy mess where his body used to be. Or the kind of pain Dolor leaves you in.” Venatio grimaced. “That kind of pain is not supposed to be part of life. No one should have to endure it.”
A heavy silence choked the room. Lumen cleared his throat noisily.
“You endured it and survived,” he began cautiously.
Venatio looked away and did not respond. Lumen shifted uncomfortably in his seat before forging on.
“When you were arrested, there was more than enough morphine found on you to have eased the vagrant’s pain. Why didn’t you treat him?”
Venatio looked back at the psychotherapist.
“Let me tell you a little story, doc,” began Venatio, having recovered some of his bravado. “Before I was attacked, I came across two patients who I now suspect had been victims of Dolor. They were clearly in incredible pain and they begged me for drugs. I was a primary care paramedic, so I wasn’t allowed to administer much in the way of medication. The first one, we weren’t far from a hospital, so we were able to get him to a doctor quickly. The patient was immediately given morphine. I saw the doctor do it. It was the kind of dose that would put a healthy person in danger, but on this guy, it should have put him in a happy place. It didn’t. He claimed he was still in horrible pain. I guess the doctor was afraid of overdosing him, because he didn’t give him any more, at least not while I was watching. I asked the doctor about him later on and he told me the patient had only lasted a few more minutes after I left.”
Venatio paused, nodding his head slowly, recollecting what seemed like difficult memories.
“Despite all the patients I’d seen,” he added quietly. “That guy really stood out in my mind. My partner felt the same way.”
Straightening up in his chair, Venatio recovered himself and continued.
“The second victim was a woman, just a few days later. My partner and I both recognized the state she was in. We knew we didn’t have much time, but we managed to keep her conscious until we got to the hospital. I stuck around while the doctor gave her a bigger dose of morphine. She lasted longer than the first one, but she ended up in a permanent vegetative state. I used to visit her once in a while. She certainly wasn’t saved and she could still be suffering. Who knows what’s going on in her head? She might be stuck in an unending nightmare.”
Venatio seemed surprised at his own words, as though he hadn’t really considered the implication of what he had just said. He slipped into reflection again. Lumen scrutinized him, reading the turmoil on his face. Finally, Venatio turned his head away and finished his story tiredly.
“I could have doped that vagrant, but what would have happened when the morphine wore off? He would have eventually run out and would have had no way of getting more. What then? No. I’ve learned my lesson. The only sure relief is death. I might as well just save the morphine.”
Venatio sighed. His head drooped toward his chest.
“For yourself?” prodded Lumen.
“Yes. To help me hunt the creature. For the sake of all of Dolor’s victims and intended victims. I can save some from their fate. For the rest, I can provide vengeance.”
Lumen hesitated, looking unconvinced. As the silence grew, Venatio looked back at the psychotherapist. Accurately interpreting his expression, Venatio tried to justify himself further.
“It’s not just about me, doc. This isn’t just a personal vendetta. The creature has killed countless people over God knows how many decades. Hunting it is about more than just vengeance; it’s about justice. It’s about protecting the life of its next victim. Do you have any idea how many lives I’ve seen this thing destroy? Can you fathom the amount of anguish and suffering this thing is responsible for? It must be stopped.”
Lumen paused for a few moments as he flipped a page on his clipboard.
“What about a relationship?” Lumen continued.
“That never worked out for me.”
“Family? Didn’t you have anyone you cared about?”
“My folks passed away when I was twenty-one. I have a brother, but he joined the Navy, moved to Halifax and I lost touch with him.”
“Don’t you want to go back to where you were? Pick up your career where you left off, get back in touch with your brother and live life again?”
“I can’t go back to a normal life, ever. I am no longer a normal person, not after what Dolor did to me. Dolor didn’t kill me, but it ended my life.”
“I don’t think it is your injuries that prevent you from returning to a normal life. I think it is your hatred that hinders you. What if you were to just let go of it? What if—”
“I can’t let go, doc. Hatred is the only thing that keeps me alive. It sustains me. Finding this thing and destroying it is my purpose. It’s my reason to keep going. If I let that go, I’d have nothing left. Except pain.”