Swedish author Karin Tidbeck‘s latest short story, I Have Placed My Sickness Upon You, is now up at Strange Horizons.
Then came that Thursday in February when I stepped into my psychiatrist’s office and was presented with a goat.
I was in treatment, but it wasn’t going well. I suffered from recursive treatment-resistant depression or, possibly, bipolar II disorder—my doctors wouldn’t settle on a diagnosis. Whatever you called it, it was hell. Over the years, I had tried every combination of the usual substances: MAOIs, tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants, SSRIs and SNRIs, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety medication. They mostly gave me side-effects. I was bloated and sweaty and twitchy, but still depressed. The doctors were trying to get me into ECT, but I was reluctant. This is where the goat came in.
Dr. Andersson was in the office already. She took a chair in what was supposed to be the cosy corner: two armchairs, a little table with a box of tissues, a vase of flowers. On the wall hung a painting of a moose cresting a hilltop. Dr. Andersson looked like she usually did. Today, her bowl haircut and shapeless green muumuu were complemented by a necklace of wooden zebras. She was holding a leash. At the end of the leash, standing beside her chair, was the goat. It was small, reaching up to my knees, and jet black with floppy ears. It was nibbling on the armrest. I sat down in the opposite chair.
“This is your new treatment,” said Dr. Andersson. “It’s the latest in experimental therapy. I thought we might let you have a try, seeing as you’re a bit hesitant about ECT.”
“I see,” I said.
Dr. Andersson adjusted her glasses. “Do you know the origins of the word ‘scapegoat’?”
“Sure,” I replied. “Old Hebrew stuff. A goat sent out into the desert for everyone’s sins.”
“Exactly.” Dr. Andersson scratched the goat behind the ears. “This is a Sadgoat.”
I looked at the goat. It looked back at me, its horizontal pupils narrowing.
“I’m confused,” I said. – continue reading.