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Excerpt

I remember the first time. Twenty years ago.

I was barely thirteen, and I went into his office with a chip on my shoulder, hating Abram, hating my illness, and hating Dr. Richard Reuter before I’d even met him.

He'd appeared in the waiting room and asked, “Viviane? Right? Would you come with me?”

“I don’t got a choice.”

Abram hissed, “Hey,” at me, and said “Be nice.”

“Yeah, sure.”

I walked into the office and went straight to a chair, flopped there, and crossed my arms on my chest. The first thing I noticed that interested me was the plate of cookies on the coffee table. They were chocolate chip and appeared homemade. I pretended not to see them. I didn’t want him to think I was going to stay all that long, and besides, my stomach didn’t feel too good.

Richard sat in the chair opposite me and watched me for a full minute. Finally, he asked, “How old are you?”

“Fifteen.” It was a bold-faced lie.

“I know you’re lying.”

I asked, “How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“Are you a fag?” I said with vehemence, calculating his possible reactions.

He didn’t even flinch. “Viviane, do you know why your grandfather brought you here?”

“Because he’s a sociopath afraid of being noticed. I draw attention to him, and he wants me to stop.”

He smiled at that, and for the first time, but not the last, I thought how handsome he was.

In that first session, he didn't hypnotize me, though later, it became a regular part of our therapy sessions. Richard felt it was the best way to track down the source of my hallucinations. He would take me back to the time before my first hallucination, and we'd go over the events of a day or two in each session, gradually working forward through my memories. It was my own personal reality-TV show.

Twenty years later, I was thirty-three, and our regressions were catching up to the conscious flow of time. In the hypnosis sessions, he recorded my soul in bits and pieces, saved forever as audio recordings, transcribed to digital documents, and printed out on paper. He kept the files in his cabinets.

I’d often wondered what would happen when we finally caught up to the present moment. Maybe I’d die. Maybe he’d die. Maybe the entire world would end as the Ouroboros swallowed its own tail.

“All right.” Richard got up from his desk. “I’m ready, if you are.” He sat in the chair opposite me and leaned forward to turn on the metronome.

I said, “Take me to a happy day.”

“You know the drill. Close your eyes, relax, and remember.”

Not every tick and tock of the metronome sounded the same. The differences were subtle, but they were there if I listened for them. It was a song without rhyme or reason.

It started small and distant: tick.

The cuckoo clock on the wall at Abram’s house had to be wound. I loved pulling the chains that raised the heavy, metal pine cones. Tock. It had been my job, every morning, when I was a kid. My body rocked to the beat: tick tock. Time ebbed, and space flowed. My spine relaxed. Tick. Gravity released me. Tock. The metronome sang its song in my belly. Tick tock. I was energy, and I radiated.

“We’re going to continue our journey back in time,” Richard said. The waves of his voice rippled through me, and the present faded into the background.

I followed the metronome down into a trance. We had a signal. I raised a finger to indicate that I was ready to begin.

“Go back,” Richard suggested, “to the moment when you first met Simon, when you were thirteen.”

The scene formed around me, inside me, throughout me.

“Describe it to me.”

I’m home, and I’m taking a shower. There’s blood running down my leg. It’s swirling in the water and spinning down the drain. I know what it is. Lettie’s had hers since last year, and she took me to buy the stuff I’d need. I’m really glad I didn’t have to do that with my grandpa.

Lettie and me, we read the little instruction book that came in the box and made fun of the pictures. She warned me how it would be, the cramps and mess, but it’s worse when it’s actually happening. It’s scary and weird. I keep thinking that my blood is supposed to stay in my body.

So, I’m standing there in the shower, watching my blood drain away, and I’m trying not to cry, wondering if I’m going to die, and that’s when I hear a man. He sounds like James Bond. “You’re probably not going to die.”

I scream and cover my private parts with my hands, but no one’s there.

The voice says, “What I mean is, you are going to be just fine.” But nobody’s there. I’m freaking out. I jump out of the shower and run through the house. I’m screaming.

The voice is following me. “Oh, lass, it’s okay.”

I streak into the kitchen, and my grandpa is there, trying to calm me down.

I’m crying, naked and wet, shaking all over, blood staining my leg, and Grandpa thinks I’m upset because of my period, but that isn’t it. It’s the man talking to me right next to my ear, when there’s nobody there.

He says his name is Simon.

The metronome sang. Tick. Tock.

 

Continued in STALKING THE MOON…

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