Merrylands Clinic stood on the outskirts of the city. The original red stone house with its great yawning windows had been demolished and replaced with an anonymous looking white building, hugging the ground, two floors high with neat lines to fit its clean and clinical purpose.
What his wife called plant music, comforting and soothing oozed out of speakers, as John Scoulder shifted awkwardly in a pink armchair.
"Detective Scoulder?" A rather small man touched him tentatively on his shoulder. A dark mass of hair exploded from the top of his head in an unruly riot of curls. "I am Dr Sutherland. I understand you would like to ask our patient a few questions."
John disentangled himself from the chair and stood up. "We have already pieced together most of the events of this morning. We just need to confirm a few things."
"I am not sure if Mr Jonah is going to be of much help. He has been through a particularly traumatic experience and is quite delusional. He is under sedation…perhaps in a few days."
"Traumatic experience" was one way of putting it, thought John. Being swallowed by a whale, spending three days floating around in its gastric juices before finally being spewed up on the beach certainly qualifies as a traumatic experience. The presence of the whale in the area had been in the news over the last few days. Marine biologists spewed out theories of a combination of war sea temperatures, the ideal composition of surface algae and the unusual tides in that area of the coastline enticing the huge mammal so close to land. Cameras had been on hand to record Mr Jonah actually being vomited on to the beach, in glorious techni-colour.
John had heard from the ambulance team about Mr Jonah's delusions. He had been demanding to speak to someone in authority. He had a warning to deliver. God was going to destroy the city because of its extreme wickedness. He certainly cut a frightening figure, with his wild talk and the remnants of whale vomit clinging to his hair and beard.
"We need to know if Mr Jonah is serious about someone destroying the city. We have done a background check on his identity. He has links with the Middle East, although we can't tie him in with known terrorist organisations. Has he specified…?
"Detective Scoulder, Mr Jonah says that God is going to destroy the city, not some right wing extreme paramilitary organisation." Dr Sutherland used a tone of his voice that John often reserved for his children, the patient and longsuffering tone that suggests one is dealing with a simpler mind. "In my experience, an event such as the one Mr Jonah has lived through often ignites a person's faith in a higher being. Having come close to death, and realising how little control they exert over events, they create a God in their imagination who is in control. It is a defence mechanism."
"You don't believe in God I take it?" asked John.
"You mean that you do?" A raised eyebrow in his direction made John feel uncomfortable.
John's wife went to church every week, and although he had never seen the need to attend, he respected her beliefs. He loved that his wife sang as she did the housework, prayed with their children at night and always had a kind word to say about people.
As he stood beside a man who had argued away the existence of God so logically, John felt sadness well up in him. Is this how far we have come as a nation? That if a man says that God spoke to him, he must be bundled up and taken to the nearest mental health clinic and sedated, especially when he arrives by way of a whale's vomit.
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