The idea of killing my wife appeared in a daydream, though the daydream wasn’t my own — it belonged to Martha Clitheroe.

A mouse of a woman, Martha, sat on the opposite side of the therapy circle, though it was impossible to make eye contact. Hunched shoulders, bowed head and oversized knitwear shielded her spelk-like form. I’d seen her somewhere before. I was certain she worked at Hills Pharmacy up on the high street. Even there I’d never heard her speak, so it was rather a surprise when she raised an apologetic hand to share the wanderings of her mind with the group.

“Take your time,” encouraged Ruth, the therapist, followed by the typical spiel, “we are all here to support, not judge.”

 I must admit I felt the niggle of failure that Martha Clitheroe had the chops to share her daydream before I did. But how could I confess my pathetic fantasy? It contained no dancing unicorns or lottery wins, just a desire to feel safe and live a regular life with a wife who possessed a regular temper. A daydream that, despite Ruth’s assurances, would most certainly be judged and identify me as far smaller than even Martha Clitheroe.

“It always starts the same way.” Martha’s eyes remained fixed on the bobbled sleeve of her lambswool cardigan as she spoke. “There’s a beastly customer who comes into the pharmacy where I work and demands pills. My hands shake as I prepare the prescription and that’s when I drift uncontrollably into a daydream.” Her tiny voice crumpled. “My mind wanders to a place of darkness. I see myself replacing the pills in the bottle with a medication that could stop the customer’s fragile heart, dead. And I’m smiling.” Martha shuddered. “Shouting brings me back to reality. The customer’s furious, aware I’m daydreaming instead of making up their pills. They scream at me, humiliate me, and all I can do is escape back into the most terrible dream.” Woollen cuffs blotted Martha’s tears. “I’m on a final warning at work — a complete liability. I don’t know how to stop the daydreams and now you must all think I’m a monster.”

The circle was silent. Even Ruth appeared lost for a therapeutic cliché. The mouse had roared and that niggle of failure returned. My daydream never involved taking revenge on my wife — how I envied the visions of Martha Clitheroe.

There are a number of empty seats in the circle now. Murder isn’t exactly a good endorsement of Ruth’s radical daydream therapy — though I have to say, it worked wonders for me. Martha’s beastly customer, I recognised immediately as being my beastly wife. I pictured Martha’s face, smiling, lost in her daydream as I placed the drug she mentioned into my wife’s pill bottle. Diminished responsibility was the plea. Ruth provided a report; the circle signed witness statements.

Unaware she is not the culprit, Martha Clitheroe serves a short custodial sentence for my crime. But she’s finally free from the darkest of daydreams.