By CelieWells All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Scifi

Chapter 1: The Harvest

I have never been successfully hypnotized. Dave and I took a trip to Atlantic City a few years back; I embarrassed a hypnotist that was working the boardwalk. The guy was convinced I was planted in the crowd to screw with him. I wanted to play along. Something so simple, others were able to be hypnotized, act like chickens, and make weird sounds but not me. It’s a damn good thing that guy didn’t get me to go under. Who knows what I would have done to that crowd of people.

“Okay let’s get started Calynn. We have a nice couch, a fluffy pillow, and a dark scarf to cover your eyes. Let’s make sure your vision is completely obscured; it should help you be less aware of your surroundings. I invited a few people to help us today. Ann, of course, she is experienced in such matters, and Lynn her protégé.” Carl explained his process calmly, all the while, speaking directly to me as if no one else was in the room.

Carl has a kind face but a burdened expression. He looks like a man who has seen and heard many things he would rather forget. You could see the fascination and excitement in his eyes, but there was also some reservation. We had a long discussion the night before about the process he would use. My controlled mind would slip into the background and allow my raw, unfiltered mind to surface.

Carl explained how as my ability returned to its normal level that it might become impossible for anyone to hypnotize me. I suppose there are hidden places we never go and a level of submission that we never succumb to. I was afraid to see what festering mass lay at the bottom of my vault of secrets.

Gerald was there to observe and coordinate the recording of the session; he looked worried and hadn’t been silent about the fact he wanted to proceed medically. His wants must have been overruled by Richard, or maybe it was Carl that convinced him to try a new approach. It was hard to tell who was in charge these days.

Gerald outranked Richard, but Carl was a civilian; I had no idea where he fell in the pecking order. So far, the brain expedition was just like any of Gerald’s experiments except for the needles. No drugs and no needles this was already better in my opinion.

“Okay, Carl I’m as ready as I’m going to be.” I sighed openly as I closed my eyes and nestled myself down into the firm, leather couch. I could hear chairs scooting as everyone shuffled around the room, making their last-minute adjustments.

I will be the first to admit that I hate being blindfolded and I am not comfortable sharing my deeply hidden horrors, but if it has to be done, I’m glad to be with this group of people. I was thankful David wasn’t here to see any of it.

There was probably no way to rattle Carl. Gerald had seen way too much of my body and soul for me to be embarrassed by him hearing anything regardless of how awful. Ann deals with dead people and is most likely beyond shock.

Lynn, I am not sure of. I hope she has had some life experience to prepare her. If not, I may be providing her with that life experience today. I reconciled all the opposition in my mind piece by piece and began to breathe slowly, calming myself and trying to relax.

“Calynn the only doorway is in front of you. No one else will enter while we are working. I won’t allow it. You are safe. You are in control of the room. Nothing will happen without your cooperation. You have my word. You won’t harm anyone. I won’t allow that either.” Carl seemed to know exactly what my last reservations were and what to say to soothe them.

Once I was calm, Carl took my hand in his and began lightly brushing the skin on my arm. I could feel the bristles of the fancy clear brush he was using. He explained how he needed to really link me to my body firmly for a short time, get me out of my head so he could sneak past my heightened senses.

Self-preservation for someone like me is complicated. Carl explained it would remain even after the implant was in place. It is a wall, a boundary that's never crossed. Survival skills are necessary for people who live with unusual occurrences. It’s the ability not to tell normal people when something exceptional is happening around them.

The ability not to casually mention you can see their aura drip from every surface they touch, or that transparent people talk to you at all hours of the day and night. Oh, and by the way one of your dead relatives has a message for you. There is no way to work a warning from a person’s dead uncle into a casual conversation. Besides, no one would believe you unless what you do is physical. Moving a salt shaker through thin air gets people’s full attention. They believe you once you show them proof, but now they are excited and terrified. To be feared is a dangerous thing.

“Calynn can you hear me?” Carl questioned in a hushed tone.

“Yes, but I feel panic. I’m afraid. Shouldn’t I be sleepy?” I questioned.

“I want you to listen to the bells. Listen carefully to the full tone and think back to when you were small; think back to when you were very young. Breathe slowly, and we will start to count down from forty.”

Carl’s voice was melodic just like the bong of the bells, “Thirty, twenty-nine.” He counted and stroked my arms with the soft bristles.

I could feel his pulse in my palm it was in perfect rhythm with his voice. “Twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen”

It was dark, and I allowed myself to concentrate only on the tone of the bells and black space inside my mind. “Ten, nine, eight, seven.” As Carl counted and brushed, I could see images flash in my head.

“One. What were you told never to talk about Calynn? What secrets were you told to keep?”

“I can’t tell you. Don’t ask me this thing.” I could hear the whisper of an answer come from my mouth, but I didn’t willingly allow it.

“It is okay to talk to me Calynn; I understand all kinds of things. I understand you and everything you can do. You can tell me anything.”

“No, you’re a stranger. You want something from me. Everyone I know will try to kill me.” I growled the response and felt my shoulders rise from the couch.

“Calynn do you remember the bells, the sound, the tone it carries far across the room and out into the blue sky and passes into the black void of space. Out into the universe.”

“Yes, I can see it float away. It’s beautiful pink and orange and gold.”

“Follow the sound. Watch it float further away. Now tell me, what is it that you are never supposed to talk about Calynn. I can see the energy that the bell sounds to make. I will understand all of it. You will not frighten me. I will not harm you.”

“I can’t say things about the colors in the air; people won’t understand. We can’t say words that little girls don’t know. Never talk out loud to people that shimmer, no one else can see them, it frightens people. No one likes it, that I know stuff.” The voice was mine, but it had my mother’s tone and cadence. I thought I had forgotten her voice; I hadn’t heard it in years. “Do you know about the shimmery people. Don’t they frighten you?”

“Yes, I know all about the colors and the people who shimmer; you can tell me everything. I understand it all. Tell me what you remember Calynn. Did anything bother you about the colors or the people no one else could see?”

“The colors were so thick in the air that sometimes I couldn’t see through them to watch my cartoons. People touch things, and their color drips off like paint. I don’t like to touch it. I know things about them after I touch their colors.

I don’t like to touch people either, some are so sad, and they don’t say with their mouth what they say in their head. Some of them say awful things in their heads; it’s hard to sleep after touching some people. I stopped telling them who was calling on the phone it worried Grandma. She was afraid; it made her feel bad to be afraid of me. I didn’t want her to feel bad.

“There was a lady in Grandma’s house, she only speaks in Spanish, and I don’t understand her, but Grandma knows Spanish words. I told her what the lady said to me as best I could, and I showed her where the lady was sitting. Grandma was unhappy; she had a priest come to pray with her and put smoke all around the house. Grandpa thought it was fun. He would ask me what the lady told me. He liked to hear what the ghost lady said. He laughed and talked Spanish back to her.”

Carl smoothed the brush over my skin as I continued to ramble on. I could hear my voice as I watched the images flash across the blank space in my mind. It was hard to narrate fast enough. I vaguely heard fingers snap above me, light steps on the floor and the familiar whir of the machines in the background. All at once I fell away from the delicate noise in the room and drowned in the images racing through my mind.

“Carl can you hear me. It’s all in my head now; it’s too fast I can’t keep up.”

“Yes, I can hear you. Breathe slowly, you can speak slowly, we can take all the time we need. Walk through each detail as if you were watching it on a television screen. Do you understand what I’m saying Calynn? It’s like a movie; it’s just to look at.”

“Yes, but nobody calls me Calynn. Everyone calls me Caly.”

“Okay, Caly if you need grown up Calynn to answer for you, stop and let her tell me what you see.” I could feel myself nod in agreement. I was there, but only barely.

At first, it felt like I was allowing myself to fall off a tall building. My instinct was to catch myself, to turn back but I had to choose to step off the edge and let the open air take me.

“I’m falling Carl. There’s nothing but open space. Does it go on forever?”

“There is no bottom Calynn. Allow yourself to relax and feel the peace that surrounds you.” Carl’s voice was even and measured it made me sleepy. “Where are we now Caly?”

“We are at home playing hide and seek. Mommy is bad at it; she can’t see colors like me.”

“Do you use the colors to find people Caly?”

“No, Mommy hides, and I sit still, then I tell her where she is. Sometimes we play where she picks something up and holds it for a minute then she hides it, and I tell her where the thing is.”

“Can you find other people Caly?”

“Yes, if I see their colors first I can tell you where they are.”

“Where are we now Caly?”

“I don’t know but I can hear Mommy singing and loud music from outside the window, outside in the trees I think.”

“Do you see anything? What are you doing?”

“I have a red strawberry patch on my jeans and strawberries on my shirt. You can tell they go together because the tags inside are the same, see. Light from the doorway shines on me, and I can see a little bit.”

“How old are you Caly?”


“What are you doing? Can you see anything else in the light?”

“I’m sleeping on Mommy’s coat. It’s pink and shiny inside; it goes all the way to the floor when she stands up. The room is nice and it’s warm. The man with pictures on his arms is leaning against the door. He knows I am not sleeping. He winked at me.”

“What kind of pictures does he have on his arms Caly?”

“They are special pictures. One is a bird and a dog chasing round and round, but they can’t ever catch each other. The other one is a big snake and a big knife with a round bowl hanging off it.”

“Do you know what his name is? What color is the man’s skin?”

“His name is Dan. He is pink like me, but he has dots all over and dark red hair. My hair is red in the sun, but his hair is red all the time. He has green eyes just like my doll. She has the same color eyes, but hers are just painted. He comes with us when we go places where Mommy sings. Dan has a loud motorcycle. It’s stinky and makes the ground shake.”

“What are you doing now Caly?”

“I’m sleepy. Dan isn’t at the door, but I can see the light. It’s smoky. The man from the other night is getting his coat. He has a big, bushy beard. Dan and Tom don’t like him at all.”

“Who is Tom Caly?”

“My uncle, Tommy. I have lots of uncles, he has a loud motorcycle too, but he has a car and lets me sit in the front seat. He doesn’t like anybody very much.”

“Where is the man with the beard now Caly?”

“He is in the room putting on his coat, and he is not very quiet.”

“Can you see Dan, Caly?”

“No, but he’s not far I can see his colors. The man wants me to dance like a ballerina for him on my mommy’s coat, but I keep falling over cause the bed's too soft. The dresser top is flat and I can spin, so I climbed up on the dresser to dance.”

“What are you doing now Caly?”

“I keep spinning but I'm tired and it’s dark. I can’t see much. I don’t want to spin anymore the smoke is stinky and hurts my eyes.”

“What is the man doing now Caly?”

“He is sprinkling water from a bottle on my strawberry shirt, it is my favorite shirt, and I don’t want to get it dirty. He is trying to light another smelly cigarette. Era has gone to get Dan she does not like the smelly man either.”

“Who is Era, is she big like Dan?”

“Yes, she’s my friend, she’s very, very big. Nobody can see her but me. She is tall and has long purple hair; it goes all the way to the floor. Era said I could close my eyes and she would be right back.”

“Okay Caly, we are going to take a break. You are going to step back and look at what is going on in the room. Let big Calynn tell me everything until we are done and then you can pick the next place we go. Calynn my dear, can you hear me, tell me what you see. Remember just like on a movie screen.”

“There is a room with a bed full of coats and several dressers and mirrors around the walls, a hotel suite maybe. It’s dimly lit. A sliver of light is coming from the doorway. There's a little girl twirling around on top of a dresser. A big, dark-skinned man with a beard is spraying her with Ouzo straight from the bottle. You can smell the licorice and cigarettes. I can hear the flint on his lighter grinding. The little girl is starting to cry. I don’t want to watch this anymore. He is going to light her …”

“It’s okay Calynn let’s fast forward a bit, tell me what you see now.”

“Oh wait, there’s another man in the room He’s tall and muscular with tattoos all over his arms, he looks like a biker. He’s a really good-looking man. He has the dark guy up off the ground by the neck.

The girl is drenched with liquor she's crying, but she looks unharmed. The dark man’s face is covered in blood and it’s pooled on the ground below him. No one can lose that much blood and live.

More light is on now. It’s harder to see it’s almost too bright. There are a few more men and a woman with blonde hair and long red fingernails. She’s taking the little girl into the bathroom. I can’t see the room anymore.

There are sounds of the fists and bones cracking; they are beating the man with the beard to death. The blond woman is wiping the little girl’s face and arms with a washcloth. She has a lit cigarette in her hand. The cherry fell.

Now there is a burnt hole in the little girl’s jeans. There’s a bag with pink pajamas and a makeup case on the counter. The blonde woman is helping the little girl change her clothes. I can hear a band playing rock music in the background, guitars, and a woman singing.

The blonde woman looks like she has been crying, trails of black mascara are running down her cheeks, and she’s shaking.

The man with the tattoos is in the bathroom now; he's washing the blood off his arms. Red, thick water is filling the sink. He has to scrub hard to get it all off. He took his black shirt off and got a new folded gray shirt out of a box of shirts on the floor. There are letters on the shirt, but I can’t make out what it says.

He has a large tattoo in the middle of his back there are skulls and animals, tribal, dark ink. He picked up the little girl and checked her hands and face. He is whispering something to the blonde woman, and now she's crying again.

The redhead biker is carrying the little girl back to the bed. He wrapped her up in a trench coat. Hey, I have that coat in my closet. It was my mother’s; I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.”

“You can keep the coat Calynn; it is fine in the closet. Do you see anything else?”

“No, it is dark. The man is in the doorway drinking a beer in a brown bottle. He has a wild look about him, his hands and knuckles are cut, he’s bandaging them. I don’t think he is related to the girl, but he is someone important, someone trusted.

Oh shit, there’s my mother she is talking to him. He’s telling her about the dark man she’s screaming into her hands. He’s trying to quiet her down. Her clothes are all sparkly. She looks so young.”

“Thank you Calynn that was excellent and you are safe. I would like to hear from little Caly now. Can you tell me what’s happening Caly?”

“The floor is dark. Dan won’t let mommy walk in the room, and he doesn’t want me to get off the bed. He picked me up and got mommy’s coat. I asked him if he was going to keep the bad man away so I can sleep when he is not with me.”

“What did Dan say Caly?”

“The bad man will never bother you again baby girl. The eagle caught him and the wolf ate him.” I put my hand on his face it looks so small. I have pink glitter nail polish on my fingers. Dan smiled and helped me put on my coat. I kissed him on the cheek and told him thank you.

Dan is carrying me out to the car. Mommy’s car has an eight-track player in it with blue lights. I like to push the buttons, and I get to put the tapes in when we go places. I usually sleep on the floor of the front seat while we drive home, but I want to look out at the bikes this time.

The ground rumbles with the sound of all the motorcycles, and they shine in the street lights. The blond lady with the red fingernails is sleeping in the back seat; she goes places with mommy all the time. Tom’s bike is loud. He makes it roar twice, so I know it's him. He always follows us home.”

“Okay Caly let’s take a deep breath, now tell me where we are.”

“Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I live in their house now, and Mommy lives in a different house, but she comes at night for dinner with us, then I get ready for bed. Mommy goes to work on the radio. I get to listen to her for a while before I go to sleep.”

“Is there anything to see at Grandma’s house?”

“No, it’s quiet. The windows are high, so I can’t see outside unless I stand on my bed. My cousin is coming to stay at Grandma’s house too. She has a zillion glass horses. I hope she brings them all with her. I love horses. She goes to college, and she plays tennis. She doesn’t swim or dance like me.

"Grandma and Grandpa have fixed all of the downstairs for my cousin. Some of my toys were moved to the patio with Grandma’s flowers. We can’t touch Grandma’s flowers they win ribbons. We can look at them with our eyes, but not our hands.”

“What are you looking at now Caly?”

“Grandpa is sick. We are at the hospital every day. The lady in the cafeteria knows my name; she saves me a tapioca pudding for my snack. Everybody calls me Calynn now. I am too big to be called Caly anymore.”

“Do you know what is wrong with your grandfather Calynn?”

“Stomach cancer and he is old, much older than Grandma, by like a lot. Everyone is sad. People come to visit and they cry when they leave. I didn’t tell anyone but today is the last day I will see Papa. I kissed him goodbye. I told him not to worry.

"Tomorrow morning when we come to see him, he will already be gone. There is a man next to Grandpa’s bed. He’s a shimmery man and he smiles a lot. He’s going to take Papa with him tonight. I wanted to tell Grandma but I scare her, and it makes her feel bad to be afraid of me. So, I try not to say things that will make her feel bad. I told Mama about the shimmery man and she started to cry, so I didn't say anymore.”

“How old are you Calynn?”

“I’m ten.”

“Where are we going now Calynn?”

“I know, but I don’t want to be here. I won’t look at anything.” I could feel phantom hands slap over my eyes.

“It’s okay we can take a break and maybe big tall Calynn can tell me what she sees. Calynn my dear, I need you to look at the movie for me and tell me what you see.”

“Oh, no, no God I don’t think about this. We don’t talk about this. It didn't happen this way. Everyone said I wasn't there but I really was and we don't talk about it."

"Tell me Calynn, tell just me and then I can know the truth too."

"I had forgotten about her. My cousin was schizophrenic. She heard voices like they were right next to her, talking in her ears. She would ask me if I could hear them too, but I didn’t hear them.

I wanted to hear them so she would feel better, but I never heard her voices. Medicine helped most of the time. I couldn’t always play with her. My aunt had two new little boys, so my cousin came to live with my grandmother like me.

Everything had to be in its place. If I moved something my cousin would have a bad episode, but when she was level, she was great fun. We would listen to music. She loved Queen and I played with her horse figurines. She knew all about horses. We would sit on the couches in her room and she would read Greek mythology stories to me for hours.

My ballet wall caused problems. The mirrors, they bothered her. Grandma made long curtains that covered the mirrors when I was done practicing, but if I forgot to close the curtains we had problems.

She was so pretty and thin but she didn’t like mirrors. I never understood why. Each day after my Grandfather died was a bad day for my cousin. She stayed in her room after dinner and didn’t want to play with me; she yelled at me when I tried to talk to her. I think she was mad that I didn’t hear her voices.

My grandmother worked and I had classes until she picked me up. We would go home and make dinner. She would let me out of the car before she pulled it into the garage. I would unlock the house and take in our bags inside. We did our normal routine that day.

I went in calling out for my cousin like always. She had her own schedule, and usually, she was home before us. The house felt like she was home. I could feel her and I could tell she was there.

I didn’t normally go looking for her if she didn’t answer right away, she didn’t like to be spied on, but I heard a swish noise that caught my attention. The air moved past me in a strange way. It wasn’t a blast of air, it was shaking, and it pushed me away from the living room. Something wasn’t right.

I ran across the house in the direction of the vibrating air. I found my cousin lying on the floor of my grandfather’s bedroom. The window was open and the birds were chirping in the apricot trees. It was a nice, quiet, sunny day. Nothing bad should have happened on such a nice day.

There was one little hole in her temple. It was so small it didn’t look like much of anything. She was on the floor very, very still. Only the one plop of blood was on her forehead. I was certain the doctors could fix her; I had crashed on my bike and looked much worse, and they fixed me.

I saw the gun on the floor. I wanted to pick it up but I was afraid to walk past her to get it. I was afraid to touch her. I couldn’t move I just stood there. I knew my cousin was gone. Her color had exploded all over the room. Some of it was darting back and forth from wall to wall. I could hear her in my head screaming no, no go back don’t look at me. She was angry. She was crying and screaming and cursing.

I wasn’t supposed to find her; she wanted Grandma to find her. She was really mad. I touched her hand and told her it was okay. I could feel the nothingness. I could feel the empty, flatness. She wasn’t there anymore.

My grandmother walked in and started screaming. The neighbor came over and she started crying and making phone calls. I was there on the floor with my cousin for what seemed like hours. It probably wasn’t more than just a few moments before they pulled me away but time stopped. I have never felt anything like it since.

I could hear my cousin in my head for a few days after that. She calmed down eventually. She explained that she met some people who told her she didn’t have to take her medication, that she would be fine without it. They told her that God would take care of her. They told her the drugs were poison, but they were wrong, and she was so sorry. It was only a few days later that she was gone and I never heard her voice again.”

I could hear her screaming at me “No, don’t look, go back, you’re not supposed to be here.” In my delicate trance, it all seemed so real.

I could feel her energy or at least my memory of it. It was jarring and all at once it yanked me back to the present. My disjointed past trailed behind me like ripped sheets hanging on a clothesline. All of the memories were useless now and needed to be thrown away.

I remembered the living room at my grandmother’s house. The beige, wool carpet matched the floor to ceiling drapes. Wood furniture that smelled of lemon polish lined the walls. Candy and the fresh cut roses were displayed in sparkly crystal vessels. The deep green rose stems were held perfectly in place with round crystal frogs in clear bleached water. We didn't touch the vases or the candy or the drapes or furniture. It was perfect, clean, orderly, and it was over.

This was the last day I spent in childhood, such as mine was. From that day on each moment was flawed, dreary, and nomadic. My home was abandoned, boarded up just as it sat that night and we existed elsewhere. It was two days before my Grandmother’s birthday. My cousin and I were going to bake her a cake. I couldn’t make the cake by myself, and now no one would want cake ever again.

I could feel the heat of the couch beneath me, the confinement of my jeans on my thighs and the tight laces of shoes. I could hear the air vibrate around my ears. I knew they were waiting for me to finish my story, to end the memory. I took a deep breath and continued.

“There were so many people in the house. Police were walking around and taking pictures, asking questions. We left after she was taken away. We got some clothes and went to stay at my mother’s house."

"We came back days later with some of Grandma’s friends to get a few things but she locked the house up, and we moved to a condominium across town. She couldn’t even drive by the house. We didn’t travel through that part of town for years."

"I was in high school before we moved back. The house sat there untouched. If not for the gardener keeping up the lawns it would have looked abandoned. We had to throw away the refrigerator and the stove and replace the carpets when we moved back."

"The spirit of the lady who spoke Spanish was still there in the shadows, I would see her every once in a while, but I never told Grandma about her again. She had been through too much. I never told her about any of it again. I learned to ignore it. I just wanted to be normal and I wanted her to be happy."

"I’m awake. It’s me; I’m not under anymore, I can remember a lot of things that I don’t want to go into right now. I’m done for the day, Carl.”

“That’s fine Calynn; you did a wonderful job. Well done everyone.” Carl started to clap and the room joined in.

It felt like I had been playing dodgeball in the hot sun all day. I was tired, beaten, thirsty, and my head hurt. I took off my blindfold and saw the faces of my audience. They all felt the need to touch me, the need to console me. But when they did, I could feel their pity, and that was the one thing I didn’t want.

We had started this project at ten in the morning, and it was already getting dark outside. We had spent the whole day with the dark recesses of my mind and it showed on their faces.

Gerald looked concerned. He helped me up from the couch and handed me a cold ginger ale. I excused myself to the bathroom. It had been a long day, and aside from obvious concerns, I needed to splash my face with water and try to recover my sanity. I could not shake the awful feeling that I was somebody else, trapped in a body that did not belong to me. It was like having my whole body fall asleep, but my mind was still awake. The person in the mirror was not me; I saw a stranger. My face was not how I expected it would be and I had to look away. The hands I washed were too old; they couldn’t possibly be mine.

Everyone was standing around waiting for me when I came out. Pizza from the Snack Shack had been delivered. The smell of the hot, spicy sauce filled the room and I felt hungry. It was the first real connection I had with the body I occupied but didn’t recognize. I pulled a few pieces of pizza onto a plate and went back to question Gerald.

“I don’t feel like myself. What the hell happened to me today?”

“Do you remember anything?” Gerald questioned.

“Yeah, but not enough to fill an entire day, what time is it?”

“There is a weather front coming in, it’s getting dark out, but it’s not as late as it looks. It’s only seventeen hundred.” Gerald was eating his pizza, but he never took his eyes off me. It was unnerving.

“Ivan you’re staring at me.”

“Sorry, we made real progress today. I can sedate you if you would like.”

“No, but I don’t want to be by myself. Is it too much of an imposition for you to stay with me? I can hear too much. I think I can hear things that aren’t really there.”

“Not at all. I was trying to decide how to convince you to stay here tonight but your place will be more comfortable. Carl is going to want to talk with you. He wants to try to ground you. Maybe that will help the off feeling, but I don’t have much faith in his rituals. That hearing issue, we will have to watch that closely. There is something called a psychotic break that is more of a concern right now.”

“Well shit, then I guess I’ll have to go shopping. Nothing cures a breakdown faster for a California girl than maxed-out credit cards. But honestly, I feel so raw. I can’t decide what to do with myself next?” Ivan laughed and shook his head.

“Let’s have a chat with Carl and then will head back to the cottages. I can stay with you for as long as you need me to.”

“I don’t want to impose on your social life, Ivan.”

“Don’t worry about that, you have a king size bed, three people could fit easily.”

“Ugh, that’s nasty.”

“I’m joking; there is nothing for you to impose on. Don’t worry about me.”

Everyone finished their pizza and made their exits. I sat on the couch and watched Gerald and one of his guys clean up the plates and put all the lab equipment away. Once they were done, we walked to Carl’s cottage. The night air was cold and smelled like rain, it was quiet. The grounds were empty. Anyone with half a brain had already gone inside for the night.

Ann greeted us at the front door. She and Gerald went off to the kitchen to have some tea and discuss the day’s events. Carl and I had a brief chat about how out of place I felt. His concern was my ability to switch from viewing my memories to breaking out of the trance on my own. He felt there was more to uncover but that it would have to wait. I was to document my dreams for him over the next week and see if anything new surfaced on its own.

We meditated for a bit, well he meditated. I sat there with my eyes closed listening to the bells and bongs of the music he was playing. It was soothing, but if there was something else I was supposed to be getting out of sitting there, it wasn’t happening for me. I was very sleepy by the time the music ended; Gerald decided it was time to go. I thanked Carl and Ann for their help and we started walking home.

“What can you tell me about my file Gerald?”

“Everything, what would you like to know? I have read through most of it several times looking for clues to how your ability works.”

“Does it say anything about a playgroup I used to go to. Maybe somewhere near San Francisco? Something from today stuck in my mind. The place was odd it had dark windows all around the room. I was small no taller than some of the chairs, and there was an older girl I played games with. She and I never spoke, but she explained how to play each game. It was great how easy and effortless it was to communicate with her. Afterward, my mom would take me to get soup in a bread bowl and saltwater taffy. Fisherman’s Wharf I think. We took the ferry someplace too.”

“There is not much about your younger years, but I can do some digging, see what my people come up with. You were very tight-lipped about your childhood. Your mother never gave us any information about you either, not one crumb of information ever.”

“Aren’t you mister big shot. You have people to do your bidding now?”

“I have many people my dear, many, many people.”

It started sprinkling halfway back to the cottage. We stopped by Ivan’s house he fed his fish, grabbed some clothes and a new movie he had rented. The rooms in his cottage looked like the pages from an upscale catalog. Every room was classically decorated and very clean. I was afraid to touch anything for fear I would leave a smudge mark.

My place was further down the path and not quite as clean. The house was dark and quiet; I found it a bit claustrophobic. I opted to pour myself a glass of rum and pineapple juice and sit out on the porch. Letting the rain drizzle on the face I still didn’t recognize helped. It had been a strange day and I was not sure what level of horror I was going to find when I fell asleep.

Ivan showered and changed into a pair of sweats and a tee shirt; the house smelled like hot steam and his cologne-scented body wash. He paced in front of the open doorway telling me about the movie we were going to watch. I took this as my cue to come in out of the cold, shower and get ready for bed. My wounds were all but healed now. Even the new skin on my scalp was feeling more durable. Terrified to close my eyes I washed my face and hair with my eyes open as quickly as I could. I was sure if I closed them something hideous would be staring back at me when I opened them.

The thin, lace-trimmed pajamas Ann gave me weren’t appropriate for this type of a sleepover. I grabbed a pair of gray sweats and a thick tank top out of the closet put them on and came out to watch the movie. We sat and discussed the fragile hypnotic trance Carl was able to put me in. Ivan was anxious to get a transcript of the day to add to the owner’s manual he had been compiling. I had been under and talking for several hours, but I could only remember bits and pieces of the day.

I understand why I chose to bury my childhood. Surely, in all the dark and unseemly days, there had to be a few good ones. My mother had impressed upon me to be secretive, not to talk about things that people wouldn’t understand. She was right of course; it is incredibly dangerous to be different.

Gerald was doing his best to keep me engaged in idle conversation, but I drifted effortlessly into my new trove of memories. My brain harvested of its rotting secrets felt empty. All I was left with was the blighted field. This process was much worse than the careful death and revival treatment Gerald was capable of putting me through. My new choices were between bleeding for the firing squad or choking in the hangman’s noose, both were equally as painful, and neither option would appeal to me in the future.

The couch was comfortable. Ivan was warm and content to sit with me curled up next to him while he watched his movie. I could read his energy easily now. He was a bit smug, victorious in a way, but still concerned. He was afraid for my state of mind, afraid I would hurt myself, afraid I would hurt him. He could be right all he wanted. I didn’t care anymore. I should have listened to him and declined Carl’s help, but I didn’t. Now I was broken and looking to Ivan to fix me; he should feel smug; he was right.

The dramatic well-worn movie plot wasn’t something that kept my interest. Nothing was blowing up and I swear I heard singing. I did my best to ignore it. I let the dust cloud of images settle back to the floor of my mind. I was terrified to fall asleep but too exhausted to fight back quiet tears. I’m certain Ivan could tell I had become unhinged but, to his credit, he didn’t bombard me with questions. He covered me with a blanket, patted my arm softly and let me hide next to him while I retreated into my new trove of memories and cried myself to sleep.

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