Fiction about the hypocrisy and lack of meaning in life.
The Caterpillar of Doctor Weiss
The doctor looked at me strangely. He was dressed in white robes and leaning confidently behind his desk. He looked like any specialist in internal medicine who had amassed great benefits from his practice.
- "What are you complaining about?," he asked me slowly.
- "Well, I don't particularly want anything," I replied.
He looked slightly puzzled and said nothing. Then he stared out of the window. Outside, nature was spilling over and new life was beginning. Somewhere on one of the plants crawled a very large, clumsy and colorful caterpillar. It was so fat that it hardly moved. But it diligently continued on its route. It chased its target and somehow kept its balance so it wouldn't fall.
- "You know your problem doesn't seem to me to be serious?," replied Dr Weiss, "On the whole, I have met with far more serious cases in my practice. You're just in a mild form of depression or something. Perhaps I should refer you to another specialist."
- "That would be the best thing to do," I added, "That sounds reasonable.
His office was more than well-equipped, and I clearly sensed that behind his confident exterior, this man had hidden himself there simply because he didn't know how to fit into society otherwise. On his walls were hung numerous diplomas and certificates. Somewhere in there were certificates for multiple language courses, from which I deduced that Dr. Weiss was a polyglot.
- "Well, that's generally it," the specialist briefly finished his talk and started writing some prescription.
- "Doctor, before I leave, I want to ask you something," somehow I suddenly got excited.
- "Tell me," he turned around with a slight annoyance.
He was a foreigner who had come for a year's specialisation in the capital and he was just a bit bored of dealing with routine cases like mine as it was somehow below his level. He was dreaming of his former glory. He wanted to be the center of attention again.
- What's the difference between a man and a caterpillar?
Had thunder crashed it would hardly have made any impression on him. Doctor Weiss really wondered what to answer. Not that he didn't know the answer, but he was hesitant.
- "You see," he began, "the caterpillar is very ugly from our point of view. Its existence was not so important. She is a pest and a parasite. And man is the apex of nature."
- "Yes, but a butterfly might come out of it," I persisted.
- "There's the problem," Dr Weiss became very serious and somewhat grim, "you don't know. She's just a gluttonous consumer."
We shook hands and parted. I got out and started the car. I saw Vitosha in the distance. The slopes of the mountain were covered with snow. I carefully drove down the road. Doctor Weiss had a nice little cottage that he had bought with his hard earned money. He was just wondering what to do with all his wealth and liked to do things he enjoyed. He didn't seem to be married, but he didn't seem worried about that fact either. His deep understanding of life was simply being good at his job. That was enough for him, and it filled him to the brim.
Driving down the highway, I noticed I was still wearing my summer tires. It could have been trouble, so I slowed down and sort of condescended, aware of my infraction.
A deer came out in front and I just about ran her over.
I swerved slightly and stopped. The rain was spitting, but the car was well insulated and there was no danger to me.
Deep down, though, I realized the doctor was right. The caterpillar could have come out her prettiest butterfly, and it could have gotten uglier.
I had to get back to work on the construction site. It occurred to me that he had reached the pinnacle of his career and now he was just wondering what to fill his time with while I had yet to accomplish anything.
The boss scolded me and kind of got upset after I told him about my little road accident.
- "I wish he had taken the subway at least. You wouldn't have done Hollywood stunts on the way," he quipped and shuffled off somewhere without bothering with me any more.
Deep down, I suspected today would bring a surprise.
On the way back I stopped at a hospital where I was working as an orderly, as construction work was seasonal.
Doctor Weiss popped up right behind me. He seemed totally absorbed in something - as usual.
- "I didn't expect to see you here, Doctor," I tried to be polite, "You're not used to leaving your office."
- "You are right. I live a little detached from reality," the doctor mumbled and left.
I returned home and tried to prepare my dinner. Nothing special - some vegetables and meat. Prices were rising day by day so vegetables dominated the menu.
There was a rumble of thunder somewhere in the east. Quite a grey and dull day. I realized that I had forgotten to pay my bills and went to the appropriate institutions. And again I came across Dr. Weiss. Here I now understood that there was nothing accidental. Twice might not have been coincidence, but three whole times!
- "Are you following me?," I countered.
- "There is no such thing," the doctor excused himself and disappeared again somewhere.
A few days passed. I had to go to his office again for some medicine. When I looked at his villa, it was empty. It was as if no one had ever lived there.
There was a small envelope on the door. I opened it and read.
"My dear patient,
Thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that there are more important things than money and profession. Helping others, for example. When you dropped in on your boss, you could have bailed, but you helped your co-workers and stayed after hours. When you went to the hospital, you were fined for being late and subsequently had to make up work again. When you bought your dinner, you left some of it for some hungry kids at the shelter near you. And I stay and waste my time with nothing and no specialization. I should be much more useful to society. And do something to live again. It's not you who's insane, it's me, your doctor. You don't need a diagnosis. You're perfectly healthy!"
Then I walked into the yard behind the cottage. The garden was extremely strange and full of rare Japanese plants. Apparently Doctor Weiss loved Eastern culture.
I continued along the beautiful gravel-strewn path, surrounded by exotics. The doctor, who had specialized in the United States, knew well what aesthetic taste meant.
I found him prostrate in the middle of the garden, like a sack of potatoes. His face expressed a recent death. The doctor lay as pale as a beaten dog. Evidently Bulgarian reality had not borne with him. As well as many foreigners by the way.
There was a note on his chest:
"Death steps in at this hour.
I feel it now.
And I have no hope,
I just can't stop it!"
The poetic note seemed rather strange, but I inwardly decided it was high time to deal with the whole harsh reality. It was really scary. The Doctor had glazed over his eyes and had a peculiar grimace on his face.
I thought to myself, "Watch what diagnoses you make, Doctor." Then naturally I called the police. The cops came quickly enough. They all knew their duties well. Once they had cordoned off the area, the forensic doctors arrived.
They took him to Forensic Medicine, where they did an autopsy.
- "I wonder what he really died of?," wondered one of the forensic doctors. It doesn't look like a violent death to me, nor a heart attack or stroke. Why is his face so uncovered as if he had seen a ghost.
It was scary even looking at his face for any longer. But somewhere in there they knew that death was not accidental. They just didn't dare share their fears out loud because no one would believe them.
It took them months to figure things out in detail.
Finally they called in one of the luminaries of science, Academician Komorodsky, who came directly from Russia. When they asked him for his opinions, at first he looked at them very seriously and slowly said:
- This doctor has fallen victim to his own patient. No more, no less. The problem is that the laws of your country are such that he cannot be sued because he follows a certain social pattern of behaviour. To get him to give himself up, we simply have to force him to show his true self and leave his comfortable shell.
The deadly corona virus was the formal cause of death according to the medical examiners. So trivial and so convenient.
They laid the eminent doctor's corpse in the ground and threw a few shovels of dirt on top of it. Soon the coffin was nowhere to be seen.
I decided to leave the country. I might have been discovered at any moment, and that would have been extremely unpleasant. Deep down I knew that the Doctor had fallen victim to his own little illusory world. But I wasn't completely innocent. Perhaps I had unlocked his self-destructive impulse with my own recklessness.
I had erased the footprints. Left misleading clues. I'd burned the doctor's letters, too, and disposed of the ashes. I had pushed or moved absolutely nothing else. But I was calm. Hell of a calm. There was no danger of being caught, even if they had any suspicions.
Then I just got ready and left. Forever. And Dr. Weiss realized what could come out of a caterpillar. Posthumously!
The scientist had been so absorbed in his work that he had missed something so simple. No, the caterpillar had no chance of turning into something beautiful, but would continue its perfect mimicry, keeping its balance on the leaf. And the public was to come to terms with that fact - at least while it zealously stood in its cover on its way up.