Peggy had always been suspicious of truth. Truth hurts. But as she tiptoed away from the bedroom, with another tray of untouched food, she realised truth could do more than pinch a bit. The truth was killing Dennis.
In the kitchen, she scraped the lasagne into the bin. Perhaps she should call Dr. Cameron again. Dennis hadn’t touched a bite for over three days now. Ever since his last session he’d only lain on the bed, muttering about Cold Fusion. All Dr. Cameron’s assurances had come to nothing — it seemed Dennis couldn’t live without his theories.
She held out another hour before dialling the doctor’s office. There was no reply. It probably didn’t matter — she knew what Dr. Cameron would say, anyway.
“There’s nothing I can do, Mrs. Sanderson. I’ve cured hundreds of these cases, but I can’t do anything unless your husband talks to me and you give me your full co-operation.”
Peggy knew what full co-operation meant. It meant locking away Dennis’s dossier on 9/11 and his photos of the grassy knoll. It meant giving short shrift to any conversations about whether digital TV was an elaborate system of mind control. Full co-operation meant she had to be strong. The brisk lady at Conspirators Anonymous had been very insistent; Peggy had to trust Dr. Cameron. Ever since the Come Clean and Carry On campaign, there had been too many cases like Dennis, and the only way to cure them all was to make them face facts. Literally.
At six o’clock Peggy tried to interest Dennis in a cheese and pickle sandwich, without success. He stared at her with a haunted expression, eyes feverish.
“It wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald,” he said. “JFK — it wasn’t Oswald who shot him.”
“I know.” Peggy patted his leg. “You always said it wasn’t him, and you were right. We all know that now, remember?”
Dennis let out a little moan of despair and pulled his knees up to his chest. “They took the moon landings, Peggy.” He began to rock back and forth. “The moon landings! Is nothing sacred?”
She wouldn’t have admitted it, but sometimes Peggy wished the governments of the world hadn’t decided to see if honesty really was the best policy. Life was simpler when they kept their secrets. Not that she would’ve believed it beforehand. Come Clean was what they’d all been waiting for. When Obama’s real birth certificate had been produced, Dennis had cried with joy, and as for the exposé on the assassination of Martin Luther King — the excitement had given him palpitations. It wasn’t until months later that Dennis became morose. He started spending hours at a time trawling the internet for new theories, only to find they’d either been confessed or disproven before he’d got there.
Peggy’s first attempts to cheer him up had worked well enough. Their 25th wedding anniversary trip to the NASA exhibition, ‘Moon Landings: We Really Had You There’, had been a big success. Dennis even remained cheerful for a whole week following his birthday tea with one of the Roswell aliens. Peggy had begun to harbour hopes he might take up gardening or chess. But when she’d found him watching the Come Clean channel on mute and crying over a photograph of David Icke, she knew he needed help.
Her desperate call to ConAnon had led to an appointment with the eminent Dr. Cameron, who, with breezy arrogance, had assured Peggy that Dennis would be planting dahlias and pruning currant bushes in no time. Six session on however, with Dennis more depressed after each visit, they had reached stalemate.
On his last visit, Dr. Cameron had paced the bedroom, cajoling and threatening Dennis, while Peggy watched them from the corner. When, after 20 minutes, Dennis still hadn’t acknowledged the doctor’s presence, the man had had enough. Growling about the damage Dennis was doing to his reputation, he’d stormed out of the house. Despite Peggy’s pleas, and her promise to pay him double, he hadn’t returned. And now, he wasn’t even taking her calls.
In desperation, Peggy had tried to breathe some life into Dennis by indulging him again as she had in the old days. But it was too late. He wouldn’t even allow her to mention Area 51. When she’d tried, he’d turned a pained look on her and said, “Everybody knows about the UFOs now. Everybody.” And he’d started to cry.
Peggy knew time was running out. ConAnon couldn’t help her, and indulging Dennis’s old theories was no longer any more use than quashing them. She needed to give him a reason to live before all this openness and honesty took him to his grave.
In the morning, Peggy entered the bedroom carrying a plate piled high with sausages and bacon. Dennis was curled in the foetal position staring at the wall.
“Sit up, Dennis, we need to talk.” Peggy set the plate down next to him. “I’ve realised something about Dr. Cameron. Something fishy.”
For the first time in days, Dennis focussed on Peggy’s face.
“Dr. Cameron was meant to cure you,” Peggy said. “But how have you felt after his visits?”
Dennis shifted into a sitting position. He looked at Peggy suspiciously. “What are you getting at?”
“Don’t you think it’s odd that the man who’s meant to be helping you is making you feel depressed? It’s almost as if he wanted you to get worse. As if he wants you to lose the will to live.” She raised an eyebrow. “And who recommended him?”
“Exactly. And who set up ConAnon? Who might want to hurt you?”
Dennis’s face slowly cleared. His cracked lips stretched into a smile. “You don’t mean…?”
“That’s right.” Peggy nodded and handed him the plate. “I do mean.”
“The government!” Dennis grabbed a fork and speared a sausage. “I knew something had to be going on.”
Chloe Banks lives in a quiet corner of England with her husband and a childish sense of excitement. When not trying to get words to behave themselves she spends her time tramping on the moor, eating pudding and avoiding celery. Her first novel, The Art of Letting Go, is represented by The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency and is currently trying to seduce a publisher. You can find Chloe on Twitter @ChloeTellsTales.