LifeGames Corporation

By Michael Smorenburg All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Horror

Chapter 26

“It was the man’s sister Superintendent, I can’t check every credential that people give to me,” the security guard explained.

“You have the photo—there,” the Superintendent pointed past the guard into the recessed security office, “...on your wall. If you can’t identify a person off of their photo, what are you doing as a security guard?”

The Superintendent stormed off before he created more of a public scene; he’d deal with it later.

“I’m terribly sorry about this fiasco, we’ve circulated the man’s photo... it’s on the wall at security, yet he somehow walked right through.”

“He’s like that,” Nancy sneered, understanding that a guard would have a very difficult time with Ken even with the authority of the hospital behind him.

“I’ll see to it there’s an enquiry.” The Superintendent fawned; it was a private hospital that couldn’t afford scandal.

Satisfied, Nancy thanked the man and rushed back into the private ward where Leon was attending to Catherine.

“How’s she doing?”

“Stable,” Leon reassured her.

“What now?” she insisted.

“We’ll just have to wait a while... soon as she settles I’ll probe a bit to see if there’s any chance of making progress today.”

The hospital staff continued finishing the task of making Catherine comfortable. They’d installed a drip to maintain a conduit for intravenous Diazepam to quieten her anxiety. She’d also been lightly tethered to the bed, a requirement she’d grudgingly accepted so long as Nancy or Leon promised to stay.

“What will making progress depend on?” Nancy pressed Leon.

“That’s subjective, Nance. Catherine is very intelligent, very in touch; she’s slowly accepting that this was reality... he was really here and not a hallucination.”

On Saturday, twenty-four hours earlier, Leon had spoken at length with Catherine and formed a psychological profile on her. He’d confirmed the character profile that Nancy had described to him during dinner on Friday night; Catherine was lucid with a solid grip of reality.

His findings left him with another dilemma. Without prompting, Catherine had decided to volunteer details of the cyber-sex, and when speaking about it she’d displayed no sign of embarrassment or moral conflict; it neutralized his earlier hypothesis of the underpinnings to the trauma.

Now he was without any viable alternative hypothesis or clue as to what might be going on.

The disruption Ken’s visit had caused had temporarily devastated Leon’s task of rehabilitating Catherine. For the first hour Leon had acted more like an ordinary visitor than a physician, gently coaxing her trust until she could handle a more exhaustive session.

Nancy watched as Leon’s usual flippant playful mannerisms slowly morphed into controlled professional conduct;

“How did today feel compared to the other occasions when Ken appeared?” Leon was purposefully avoiding the use of certain words… visitations or visions.

“I don’t really know...” she paused, a light frown slowly creasing her forehead “...but... hmmm, you’re right, it did somehow seem different.”

“Alright... Now, you mentioned previously that you could smell him before you saw him; what about this time?”

“Huh... that’s true… no, I couldn’t. Then again, he was pretty far away when I spotted him... a lot of others around, perhaps that’s an interference?”

“Maybe.... Did he look the same? His face, his body?”

“He normally smiles at me,” she shivered at the memory, “but this time... yeah... this time the smile was different. More... compassionate maybe, if that’s possible for him. The other times his smile was....” Catherine looked for the word, “...well, evil, malevolent maybe... a domination to it, lustful. So many words but none really sum it up.”

Leon could see that she had more to say, so he kept silent and waited patiently.

“...and his body...” she cringed, “ I don’t know how to put it, Leon... sometimes it’s very different. I know you’re going to laugh at me when I tell you this but he sometimes has the body of a... a...” words failed her.

“Say it,” he prompted. “Whatever comes to mind... it’s very symbolic, not literal.”

“Well, I suppose then... antelope... hooves… somehow, hooves come to mind. And don’t laugh, I’m not delirious.”

“We’re not laughing, Catherine, don’t block it,” Leon advised.

“A goat?” Nancy offered.

“Yeah... that sort of a feel. I generally don’t stick around to study his appearance, but that’s the sense of it, Nance.”

“Okay... so let’s stay with that, sometimes he seems different. So, does he sometimes have his own body, his actual appearance in real life?”

“Again, hard to just say ‘no’. But his body does seem distorted, weird... Do you think it’s important?”

“It could be Cath. I’m looking for patterns in these non physical contacts; if we find patterns, we’ll find solutions.”

It was clear to Catherine that he thought she was hallucinating, and it annoyed her; her voice pitch started to climb with the frustration of it;

“What difference would that make to me, Leon. When he’s here, he’s as real as either of you two; he’s flesh and blood, okay! I don’t care if you believe that it’s a ‘non-physical contact’, I’m telling you that he’s real. I’m not mad and I’m certainly not imagining it!”

Catherine’s mood was unraveling and Leon realized that he would have to be more cautious.

“Catherine, Catherine, Catherine...” he said warmly and with affection, like a father to a daughter, “I’m not trying to discredit you, I’m trying to get to the bottom of this. And since I prefer not to do it with pharmaceuticals, the only tool I have is my questions and your trust.”

He spoke slowly and carefully in his most hypnotic tone.

“If I accept here and now that this is some paranormal entity... and I’m prepared to do that; where do I start looking?”

Catherine and Nancy exchanged glances. It was a good argument.

“I must first establish or eliminate all of the rational possibilities. We will succeed but we can only do it with trust and sincerity.”

“Okay, Leon, I’m sorry.”

Catherine was calm again, won over by sense and skill.

“Is there any report back on my blood tests?”

“Afraid they won’t come in till late Monday afternoon at the earliest,” Leon answered.

Leon had thought at great length about Catherine’s claim of being time dilated without a hypnosis sequence. The only possibility of this in his mind was a psychosomatic response, an autosuggestion self-hypnotizing her to think she’d been time dilated.

Catherine huffed irritably; she hated waiting for results.

“Now, there is another way to get to the bottom of this,” Leon hoped that Catherine would agree. “I could hypnotize you.”

Catherine looked horrified at the suggestion; she had a pathological aversion to it, images of becoming a zombie, an eternal cerebral slave, crowded into her mind.

Leon had dealt with the irrational fear against his profession for decades; he’d anticipated and seen her expression;

“You’d be surprised, Cath, how much insight we’ll get. It’s not what you think. All I do is facilitate your conscious mind to rest while your subconscious imparts perceptions without the noise and distractions that thinking and analyzing too much chirps in. Nancy can attest to it.”

Nancy nodded agreement.

Catherine listened intently, finding herself unable to resist; she loved the funny little man and was already under his spell.

A few minutes later Catherine was responding evenly, as calm and relaxed as Leon had instructed her to be.

His first questions were simple, and her answers corresponded to the ones she had given when the same questions had been posed to her conscious mind.

Satisfied, Leon branched to more in-depth questions, searching for any possibility that she had been self-inducing Ken’s image. They proved negative.

“Leon, we’ve both already told you!” Nancy spoke softly for fear of influencing Catherine. “I also smelled the bastard in her house on Friday morning, even though he was still in Russia! Why won’t you believe us?”

“Nance, I couldn’t call myself a scientist if I didn’t probe every probability. It’s my job to be thorough,” Leon thought a moment before adding, with a sly grin; “If I wasn’t skeptical, then what would my career and books be worth?”

She thought about it and he was right; his books immediately went up in Nancy’s estimation.

Leon went back to the task;

“Now Catherine, is there anything strange you notice about Ken? Anything at all?”

Catherine’s face began to distort with fear, she was in a state of regression back to the most recent incident when Ken had appeared at his most true to life; the time he had her cornered and could torture her without interruption.

Leon assured her that she was completely safe, just an observer at the event.

“I want you to scan him with your mind… every detail; the way his hair falls, the shape of his ears… even his eyelashes. Is he as tall? Does he move the same way...? Every detail. Take your time…”

Her eyes were staring wide open, tracking nothing in the ward, monitoring Ken’s every move in the recording of her mind. “His... his hands... they’re different. His nail, all his nails are cut the same length.”

Pointing to her small fingernail, Nancy indicated Ken’s habit of keeping one nail longer, mimicking him snorting off of it.

Leon frowned, a puzzle piece falling into his mind. He’d seen the nail, but thought no more of it.

“All right Catherine, calm again. Does he try to touch you at all?”

“Yes...” here eyes wide, watching him. “He’s following me, I’m backing... backing away,” she was becoming agitated; but not as agitated as Nancy, infected by Catherine’s terrified eyes, tracking as they were the invisible intruder moving about the empty hospital room.

“There’s nothing to worry about, it’s only a memory... he can’t hurt you,” Leon persuaded Catherine out of her phobia. “He’s gone now, you’re back here, you’re with us.”

Catherine’s eyes stopped their tracking and her body and face relaxed.

“Does he ever physically touch you?”

“No,” Catherine answered immediately.

Leon checked a counter-point in favor of hallucination.

“Can you tell me why he has never touched you?”

“I run, I hide. He wants me to suffer, he comes close and tortures me with his words.”

“What does he say?”

“...I’m going to fuck you! You know that I’m going to, don’t you? You won’t be able to hide forever. I have you and I watch you everyday. You can’t take that away from me, you bitch...”

She paused as if done, but before Leon could speak, she went on;

“...I’ve just watched you. I possess you... you are my right... I have earned you. Don’t resist too long Catherine, or I’ll bring friends to help me... don’t you think my friends should have fun too?”

A then Catherine laughed, and it was Ken’s voice; a rendition so real that it sent a shock wave through both observers.

“Craig is with us, Catherine... He says he’s always had a thing for you. Don’t you dare resist me anymore or we’ll all rut you like dogs!”

The memory was harrowing and Catherine was beginning to shudder with fear. Nancy was no better, even Leon looked shaken, but he maintained an air of professional objectivity.

“Calm… calm Catherine, the memory is gone... it’s gone. You’re safe.”

Her face went peaceful again.

Nancy’s didn’t. It was as if the terror had leapt from one woman to the other. Her eyes swum with the tears of terror, bulging in fright; she looked ready to bolt for a hiding place. Leon was too focused to notice;

“I only want to ask you one more question, Catherine. Ok?”

Catherine nodded as an automaton.

“Please think very clearly. You are in the kitchen cooking, it is Thursday evening, there is no sign that anything is wrong... you haven’t heard anything and you haven’t smelled anything.”

Catherine appeared relaxed; in her mind she was preparing Jacky’s surprise dinner.

“I want you to remember every small detail; a bird singing or a leaf rustling... everything is important. Take your time and tell us what is going on around you.”

“It’s been a lovely warm day...” she was almost childlike in her rendition, replaying the events as if they were happening, “...I wonder if Jacky will be on time? I should check if there have been any flight delays... just as soon as I put this in the oven... Where’s my phone...? Darn, still plugged in upstairs, I’ll fetch it in a moment...”

She stopped and smiled, the movie of recollection rolling by... seconds passed and a curious raise of an eyebrow as she recognized something.

“...sounds like the next door kids have friends over... yep... a baseball game, I hope we don’t lose another window... Darn it, I must get the garden service in to clear...”

Suddenly her mundane chatter ceased, cut down in mid thought her head tilting, listening intently for something. Leon and Nancy reflexively leaned inward as if the sound might leak into their ears too.

Her brow furrowed, listening to her memories more clearly. “That’s an odd sound... wow, it’s faint... where on earth’s it coming from...? Everywhere... it’s all around me... it’s in my head... so familiar... I just can’t place it,” her face was a picture of confusion.

“Does this sound always come before Ken appears?”

“Yes.”

She said it emphatically and without hesitation.

“Are you normally aware of them? Do you think about them? Focus on them?”

“No.”

“Have you ever heard these sounds otherwise?”

Catherine thought, hesitating, matching sounds in her mind. “Yes... sometimes in dreams,” then she added. “It frightens me... it always leads to a nightmare... the sounds frighten me, its like something being dragged.”

“I’m just going to say it, Leon... it’s Satanic.”

“Now Nancy...”

“Look at the facts. What does your General say? Your regressed inquisitor... foul balms... in league with the Beast—a goat’s body.”

“Antelope... Goat was your suggestion, Nance... your suggestion. We must remain objective.”

They’d moved to the hospital’s restaurant, a modern palm and fern filled atrium. Catherine was peacefully sleeping upstairs. She’d asked to be moved to a shared ward, trading privacy for witnesses.

Leon had closed the session, instructing her conscious mind to forget the memories that her subconscious had disclosed.

“But still,” Nancy sipped, “A beast is a pretty strange form for an apparition to take.”

Image,” Leon corrected her. Catherine had only said, apparition.

“You still think that it’s a hallucination, don’t you?” Nancy fixed Leon with an accusing stare.

“I did... I don’t want to... I’m conflicted,” Leon was in the grip of a bitter struggle between calm reason and the sentiments of his instinct. “But you are right Nance, it’s becoming a difficult dogma to maintain, very difficult,” Within him, reason was beginning to crumble under the advance of sentiment.

With no intention of inflaming Nancy’s passions any more than they already were, Leon carefully considered what he was going to say next;

“There’s something else, something that I really shouldn’t tell you. Indeed...” he looked troubled, “...never in all of my career have I broken patient confidentiality. Never.”

Nancy could see the mechanisms of his conscience wrestling with itself; one dire situation outweighing another related incident;

“The recording we discussed a while back, the one with Craig’s voice...” Leon went on to describe the technical details of Stuart’s analyses.

“Backwards? The Lord’s Prayer?” Nancy scowled, “Now there’s a contradiction!”

“It’s actually bothered me, Nance. I know I’m one weird eccentric hippie, one foot grounded, the other in the mystical. It’s not an easy gap to straddle. I give logic and evidence every first chance, but when they run out... Well...”

He shrugged and Nancy knew she had him in retreat, moving toward the esoteric she ascribed to, so she pushed her advantage;

“Like I told you earlier, Catherine mentioned too many convincing things; Craig’s with us...? I’ve earned you...? Possess you...? Come on Leon, what’s with that if it’s not spooky and real.”

Then she played the biggest Ace in her deck.

“..And, don’t forget, when she told us these things she was hypnotized!” She could see it had worked, Leon was on the run, “And you’ve always told me that a hypnotized patient will quote verbatim... so, if it was verbatim and Catherine added no interpretation of her own, it must have been Ken’s apparition and those must have been Ken’s actual words.”

“I don’t know, Nance. I have to agree that it is a tempting argument, but I really don’t know.”

“And another thing Leon. I know that Cath told you about her mischief... If I know Ken, he used the security cameras to make a recording. Would that have been possible?”

“Certainly,” Leon responded. The thought had never entered his mind. “He could have done that, but I doubt if he would... the risk of it! But his phone?”

“Oh... great!” Now it was said, it was so obvious, Nancy’s mind didn’t automatically default to the devious.

He could see her concern and thought it best to minimize them;

“There’s not much he could do with a recording like that, Nance.”

“Oh come on Leon. How much illicit pornography is out there?” She could see that he genuinely didn’t have a clue so she expanded on her rhetoric. “Plenty... the web’s overflowing with it... Child sex, snuff films, bestiality... you really don’t know this, do you?”

Leon was divided from reality by several generations and a mind too busy in its own obsessions to be bothered with the conduct of others.

“Forget what someone can do with it, filming it is bad enough... what did he say? He watches her every day... possesses her. You recorded the session... give it a listen.”

“What...? Now? Here?” Leon looked about them at the assortment of visitors and staff in their immediate vicinity.

“You’re surely not embarrassed? The real Leon wouldn’t notice strangers? You’re not also an imposter, are you...?” Nancy teased.

She was right, Leon wasn’t feeling his usual self, the turns of events had shaken him more than he’d admit.

He ran the recording and they craned to listen together. It was exactly as Nancy had characterized it.

“What do you make of possess, now?” She challenged. “It can only mean one of two things; possess her image or possess her spirit. Either way...”

Leon tried, but he couldn’t fault her conclusions.

“And the part about Ken earning her? Spawn of Hell! She’s probably a bone for this good-dog who has been serving his Master well! I don’t know anything about Satanists, Leon, but it’s the only conclusion that I can draw. Unless you outright discount the reliability that you always insist hypnosis guarantees in a recount.”

“You sure drive a hard bargain, Nance. A very hard bargain,” Leon was rattled. “If it was anyone but Ken, you’d have me convinced about Satanism by now. But not him!”

“You think that he’s incapable?” Nancy challenged. “...You give him too much credit.”

“Not incapable Nance, he’s a spiritual void. Not incapable. He doesn’t believe in anything but his own supremacy.”

There had been hesitation in Leon’s voice and Nancy saw it. He was still trying to resist capitulating to her speculations, but his armor was crumbling fast.

“You’re sure of that... that he has no spiritual side to him at all?” She forced him to question himself.

He hesitated again;

“To be honest, I don’t think that he’s even sure of that himself, anymore.”

“Ah-ha,” Nancy cried triumphantly. “And what makes you say that?”

“Well, the recording of Craig from his voicemail, it had him rattled. Some very odd stuff there... some pretty creepy background sounds,” and he saw her ready to leap.

“Creepy sounds hey? Now we’re getting somewhere. Catherine hears a sound that announces Ken’s presence, Ken hears the identical sound in his own nightmare and Craig’s recording has the identical sound on it.”

Identical? That’s subjective,” Leon pleaded reason.

“Oh, identical’s balls!” Nancy exclaimed, “We’ve got this bastard stone cold and you know it , Leon… you know it.”

She excused herself to visit the ladies room. When she returned there were two fresh cups of coffee waiting.

The tide of Leon’s opinion had turned and he was making no attempt to wind-up their discussion. “You’re still thinking of leaving us, Nance? Resigning.”

“Definitely! After today... after all we’ve uncovered?”

“That’s a pity... a great pity.”

It was clear to Nancy that Leon had something up his sleeve, she could sense it in his tone;

“It’s always a great pity to see someone run from a fight,” he was baiting her.

“Run from a fight?” Nancy repeated, taking the bait. “Is that what you think I’m doing?”

Seeing Leon’s grin beginning to spread across his face, her hostility dissipated as quickly as it had occurred.

“Ok, Leon. I’m getting the drift, I’ve won you over, haven’t I?”

“Not won,” Leon wouldn’t admit to being defeated at his own game of mind play. “But you have helped me to agree with you… and that brings me to you. You can’t change this situation if you divorce yourself from it. If you leave us, nothing changes, but if you and I work together we can change it.”

Nancy couldn’t dispute Leon’s argument, and with it he extracted a commitment from her to hang in and fight.

“But what can I do?” she asked.

“I’ll need that recording of Craig. I’ve got a hunch that it’s our key.”

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