A Psychologist Befuddled
(A Twitter #SampleSunday excerpt from “Quantum Fires: The Sibyl Reborn,” — figments of truth regarding where humans came from, why we were forced to leave, and our pending dooms if we refuse to face unwanted facts.)
Hypnotherapist Michael O’Shea Ph.D. has second thoughts about regressing his twenty-two year-old neighbor to learn the cause of a client’s death. The neighbor, environmentalist Cassandra Shavano, insists he fulfill his promise. Having programmed the Law of Attraction to reveal the psychological roots to global warming, the newlywed believes the answer lies in her spiritual past.
Alone with O’Shea in her remote house high in the Rockies, Cassandra goads him into playing a voice-activated recording of the patient’s death throes. The groans and screams of the dead woman reverberate high overhead off a faux-cedar ceiling, casting a pall on the listener’s spirits far darker than the Stygian silence outside the windows.
O’Shea’s wished he could block his ears and run from the room at the first hint of Tamantha’s moans. He resigned himself to a grim half hour. The horror had barely begun when Cassandra clicked a remote to pause the playback. At least she looked suitably shocked.
“I never dreamed…” she said. “The poor woman!”
“You haven’t heard anything yet. Maybe now you’ll listen to reason.”
She aimed the device and resumed the torture. Afterward, she fast-forwarded to a specific point and played a lively half-minute for his listening pleasure. Midway through, Tamantha’s voice grew sharp.
Cassandra said, “If I talk and my tone gets brittle, turn everything off. I’ll find my own way back.”
He wanted to shake the stubborn chit. She could be so annoying.
“You can’t be serious. This isn’t theory, Cassandra. That woman never came out of Theta. Next week while you’re hiking with your beagle, she’ll get rolled into a gas oven and roasted into ashes.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m supposed to do this, and you need me to do it.”
He shook his head. “E.R.P. inserts information into the psyche. It’s not a hypnotic ATM for making withdraws. There’s no magic in why I picked you. You just happened to be on my screen when I needed a subject.”
“Michael, what were the odds of me being on News 10 at the exact moment you were watching it when you should have been at work? Remember, you were only there because your patient died, so something linked the two events. Plus I was never on TV before, and I won’t be again.”
He smirked. “I take it you’re one of those New Age mystics who think everything happens for a reason.”
She heaved a theatrical sigh. “It’s called cause and effect. A chain of events led to your patient dying regardless what they were. Others led to my being at The Bismarck, to the FBI sending a S.W.A.T team, and to a news crew filming my arrest. You’ll concede that, right?”
He grunted rather than give her the satisfaction of a shrug.
“You can’t see a connection between my protest and her death, so you assume none exists—that random chance put me on your screen when you happened to need a guinea pig. Someone named Schopenhauer once said it best. ‘Every man takes the limits of his vision for the limits of the world’.”
She picked up the goggles and held them out.
“Come on. Hook me up. Let’s get started.”
“That wasn’t our agreement. You said we’d discuss it.”
“I did discuss it. Now I’m ready to start.”
He owed his wife an apology. He had thought Stephanie was a handful. What must Shavano go through in their marital spats? Their neighbor was a runaway freight train once she made up her mind.
While she settled on the sofa, he placed a cushion under her left hand and inserted her index finger into an analog mini-sensor. The device fed cardio feedback through a wire lead to a digital display, which he placed on the coffee table and switched on. It awoke with a loud beep.
“Don’t move,” he said, “or you’ll pull out the plug. The sensor needs to be level with your heart.”
Her eyes darted toward the readout. “What makes the alarm go off?”
Aha! Despite her bravado, she was nervous. At least she had some sense.
“Won’t happen,” he said with a re-assuring grin. “Your heart would need to stop for more than two seconds. The program’s buffer ignores arrhythmias. Ready?”
“Yes, but if…you know what I mean. If the worst happens, do me a favor and top off Caesar’s food bowl. The bag is in the pantry. I filled Homer’s when I took him outside–and make sure they have water. The police should get in touch with Greg.”
His throat constricted when he tried to offer a comforting lie. Instead, he looked away and bobbed his head while she donned the goggles. An urge to swallow made him gulp as he added three zeroes to the target date. With a finger poised on ‘play,’ he stared at her mutely while the seconds passed.
After a minute, she raised the goggles and arched her brows. “Well?”
“Umm…” He forced himself to meet her gaze. “Do you remember I said I didn’t do anything to change the regression except switch the music? I definitely did not change the settings, but she may have changed them herself.”
“I know. She pressed the buttons when she fiddled with the stems.”
“How can you…?”
“Come on, Michael. I might be Internet challenged, but I’m not an idiot. What good would it do me to regress to the reign of Queen Elizabeth? How would that teach me anything about the roots of human nature? How could that kill your patient? Her treatment must have been altered dramatically. The buttons on the stems made it obvious how.”
“You’re right,” he said in a small voice. “She added three zeroes.”
“What are they set for now? Five centuries or five-hundred thousand years?”
She smiled when he didn’t answer and dropped the goggles into place.
“Thanks,” she said. “I thought you’d admit the truth…sooner or later.”
He groped for a reply and realized it didn’t matter. The pending regression had her full attention. After a moment, he started the A/V program. Glancing at his watch, he jotted the time on a note pad, added fifteen minutes, and circled the sum. Until five after ten, when the nature CD would begin to play along with the hypnotic program, her brain rate would slow from conscious awareness to trance-like peace.
Two minutes into the session, her heart rate and blood pressure stabilized at low levels for her age group, reflecting her aerobic condition. Five minutes later, a bar graph began to creep across the laptop, indicating the regression had begun. Her brainwaves hovered at the high end of Theta while her subconscious raced backward through time.
A sharp rap jerked him upright and made him peer around the room. The cat returned his stare from balcony railing along the second floor loft. There it was again, a hard knock on the kitchen door.
Ah fuck! Now what? Perhaps they’d go away. A minute later, someone tapped on the window behind him. He scrunched down in the high-backed chair. Maybe they hadn’t seen him. Another rap, harder and more insistent. No such luck.
He gaped when he peeked around the chair. Held like a puppet by his unseen wife, their miniature Schnauzer waved with a forepaw and pointed toward the outer deck. Then it receded from view. O’Shea darted to the kitchen and cracked open the door.
He whispered, “What are you doing here?”
Clad in snug Capri’s that flattered her figure and with Freud cradled on a forearm, Stephanie whispered back, “What’s taking so long? You’ve been here half the night. We’re bored.”
He waved a hand to dispel her fumes. “You’ve been drinking.”
“Just a little. Besides…”
He waited for more in vain.
“Uhh…besides, what are we whispering for? Is it almost over?”
His wife had a point; the headphones canceled external sounds.
“She tried to back out,” he said in a normal voice. “I had to re-convince to do it. Now go home. She’s in the middle of the program, and I need to be with her.”
“Good! Let me see.”
He cocked an ear toward the hallway, alarmed by a scratching noise. His guts clenched at the memory of Tamantha Weston as she flailed her chest in her dying throes.
“Move!” said Stephanie. “I’m coming in.”
She dropped the schnauzer and shoved the door. He blocked it with a foot. While she grunted and he glared, Freud squeezed through the crack and scampered through the kitchen. He lunged for the dog as his wife barreled against the door, knocking him to the floor.
“You kicked me!” He goggled in disbelief. “You actually kicked me!”
“Shut up, Mike.” In high-heeled pumps, she stepped over his torso and paused by the fridge. “I did nothing of the kind. You used your skinny ass for a doorstop.”
She surged through the hall and into the living room. When he scrambled to his feet and chased her, he found her standing by the wing chair, pointing at Caesar.
“It’s just a stupid cat…clawing the furniture.”
Above Cassandra’s head, the tabby stood on the arm of the sofa, arching his back as he howled a warning at Freud. His forepaws on the couch, the dog whined between shrill barks in his eagerness to chew up the cat. Stephanie made shooing gestures at their neighbor’s pet as she lurched toward the couch.
“Get away you little brute. How dare you talk like that to my baby.”
Caesar retreated to the sofa back. His wife loomed over their neighbor and studied her face. When she reached toward the sofa to prop herself, a feline paw shot out.
“Ouch!” she yelped and sucking her wrist. Snatching the empty case for Natural Songs: Sounds of Nature at Her Best, she hurled it at the cat like a kung fu star. Caesar leapt to the floor and raced for the stairs with Freud in hot pursuit. The case shattered against a wall.
O’Shea stared from the broken pieces to Cassandra’s placid face and finally at Stephanie.
“Are you friggin’ crazy?” he spluttered. “Get Freud and get the hell out!”
“He scratched me!” She shoved the wound under his nose. “Look! I’m bleeding. What if he has a cat disease? I don’t take that from any cat, especially hers.”
He grabbed her forearm when she bolted toward the staircase.
“Christ, Stephanie, it’s their house, not ours. I’m trying to save our future and you’re—”
“I’m twice the woman that tree-huggin’ fluff will ever be.” She snapped her free hand toward Cassandra while her features twisted in pain.
“Why…why regress her instead of me?”
He started to argue but changed his mind. Beneath her tough exterior, his wife still loved him enough to hurt. The rest didn’t matter. He clutched her in a warm embrace as a four-legged war erupted in the loft. The schnauzer barked a staccato threat against the cat’s continuous scream. A second later, the dog screeched.
“My baby!” Stephanie shoved him away and darted for the staircase.
He started to follow and froze to look at his watch. Fuck! The hypnotic program had started, and he hadn’t recorded the vital signs. He checked the display unit, noted the readings, and snatched up a note pad and pen. Quickly, he jotted the figures and went for his wife.
As O’Shea started up the staircase, his dog rocketed down the steps and leapt into his arms, whimpering with a bloody nose. He tossed the mini-schnauzer into an unlit room and slammed the sliding door. Upstairs, the cat howled and the woman screamed. A moment later, Stephanie burst from the staircase shrieking like Lady Macbeth.
“I need a weapon,” she yelled, glaring around the room. “Do these people golf? A putter would work.” She jabbed a finger at her shin. “I tried to kick the little beast, but the bastard got me good.” She lurched sideways half a step and tried to kiss him. “Hey, this is kinda fun.”
“Steph! You’re drunk! You need to…”
A flashing LED on the coffee table caught his attention. He shoved his wife aside and lunged for the cardio-display. Cassandra’s heart raced at a hundred and eighty beats per minute, three times her baseline rate in Alpha. He checked his watch. She was thirty-two minutes into the session.
Stephanie clutched his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“I—It’s her heart.”
The monitor revealed a blood pressure reading high enough to induce an intracerebral stroke. The rapid pulse increased resistance to arterial blood flow. Soon, if her heart didn’t slow, the cells of its muscles would start dying of hypoxia, oxygen deprivation, putting greater stress on remaining cells and speeding the process. The monitor switched back to heart rate:
He grabbed the laptop with trembling fingers as their neighbor started to groan.
“Shit! S-Steph! It’s just like yesterday. There’s a phone in the kitchen. Call 911! Run!”
Twice a surrogate ‘stem cells’ spokesperson for the GW Bush White House, J. Perry Kelly ended his association with the political right over its distortion of global war