THE WEB (Chapter 2)
Another chunk of John Malcolm’s story where his dreams and hallucinations become more defined.
The office of Dr. J. G. Suzanne was a very quiet place, even the gentle ticking of the clock was muted, or it seemed so.The magazines were mostly bland, uninteresting travel mags that were hopelessly out of date and contained nothing more controversial than the perennial argument amongst the worthies as to whether or not tourism spoiled this or that area of outstanding natural beauty. Of course, that was a big deal for some people but not Malcolm thought for the people who brought their troubled souls to Dr. Julian Suzanne.
He sat in a comfortable chair and tried not to think of anything very much. He was early which was his own fault, but he got the feeling that he would not be seeing whoever it was had the doctor’s attention before him, that this man kept his patients very separate, so he looked around the waiting room for want of a better occupation. There were the usual pretty little fish in a large well-lit tank that must have seemed to them like an ocean, paintings and prints on the walls and he wondered if the doctor had chosen them, wondered if he had any of Paul Beck’s prints gracing his own walls.
Standing he went to look out of the window down in to the pretty little courtyard below and he felt the receptionist’s eyes on him. Did she, he wondered, perhaps think that he might fling wide the window and jump? Was that why she watched him so carefully?
He turned sharply thinking that she might want something from him, some form of identity. She was a woman in her mid-thirties with deep red hair that was swept back from her unusually freckle free face.
“Yes,” he said.
“Dr. Suzanne will see you now.”
Malcolm rubbed his hands together, they were sweaty, wet unpleasant. He was nervous. There was no real reason to be. Almost everyone he knew in the States was in therapy. It was what you did over there. You couldn’t solve your own problems, so you paid someone else to do it for you. It took all the worry out of the day to day existence.
The woman was guiding him towards a door, large, oak, quite reassuring. She knocked briefly and then opened the door. “Mr. Malcolm,” she said and, ushering him forward, closed the door firmly behind him.
Julian Suzanne was not at all as Malcolm had expected him to be. He was slightly shorter than average, almost painfully thin with a mass of unruly dark hair. His complexion had the kind of paleness that comes from spending too much time in doors. Malcolm had never been any good at determining people’s ages from their physical appearance, but he guessed Suzanne to be around thirty something. A product of free love and all that sixties crap.
In the brief moments the doctor gave him to observe, Malcolm noted only two more things; Suzanne wore blue jeans and had the longest, darkest eye lashes he had ever seen on man, woman, or beast, with the possible exception of a giraffe.
Suzanne extended a long, rather delicate hand towards him. “Mr. Malcolm.” His voice was north American, smooth, and quite soothing, with just the right amount of trust me in it.
Malcolm shook hands a half expected the younger man to take out a handkerchief to dry his palm. He did not.
“Please,” Suzanne indicated the comfortable looking chairs dotted around the room. “Take a seat.”
Malcolm sat in a chair nearest the doctor’s desk. He could have asserted his independence, stood by the window, sat on the floor, or gone to one of the other chairs but he felt that close to the doctor was, for the moment the most comfortable place to be.
“So,” Suzanne said and resumed his seat behind the safety of his desk. “Dr. Matthews sent me your notes. You’re having problems with your dreams.”
“Do you experience difficulty in actually falling asleep?”
“It didn’t used to be a problem? When? I mean, before the dreams started what, you would just get in to bed and fall asleep but since the dreams started you find it too scary to go to sleep?”
“Before the accident. It was easy then.”
“When were you released from hospital?”
“And you were in for…what? Twelve weeks?”
“I suppose hospital routine was very different from your normal home life. That might account for your difficulty in getting off to sleep. Do you generally retire early or late?”
“Usually around midnight.”
“Do you watch T.V. before you go to bed?”
“Depends what’s on.”
“Are you on any kind of medication, at the moment?”
“Pain killers, for the pain in my leg.”
“Your dreams, what are they about?”
“I’m not sure. It isn’t the same every night. Sometimes I’m me, part of the dream, the things that are happening in the dream are happening to me, sometimes I’m an observer, a viewer.”
“Are you aware that you are dreaming?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t seem to wake up with that feeling that it might have been reality.”
“And yet the dreams wake you? You feel the need to be out of the situation?”
“Do you remember them clearly?”
“Not in any detail. It’s just a feeling of concern, fear, a kind of nameless fear.”
“So, these are not nightmares in the classical sense, no monsters, apocalyptic events, no succubi, incubi? No,” he smiled, “Stephen King?”
“No. Just a feeling of impending danger, of being perhaps threatened.”
“And in these dreams, you are a young child, yes?”
“Is that because something scary happened to you when you were a little boy or because maybe you believe that only kids got the right to be scared of the dark, of the unknown?”
“The age I feel I am in the dream is an age that I have a lot of difficulty remembering. I mean, I cannot see myself as a person of that age.”
“When were you born, John?”
Malcolm wondered why the use of his first name by this strange young man disturbed him so much. “June twelve fifty-six,” he said and looking at Suzanne noticed that he raised an eyebrow.
“What’s the first thing you remember?”
“Clearly, without digging back and trying to decide if it’s my memory or something someone told me about, the World Cup.”
“Sixty-six. The year England won.”
“A momentous event. What’s the first thing you remember to do with you?”
“I’m not sure.” He looked down at his hands. “I don’t know.”
“That’s O.K. It’s not real important.” Suzanne pressed a finger against his lips. “When you wake from one of these dreams are you able to go back to sleep?”
“So, what do you do?”
“I usually get up, make myself a drink, sit and read.”
“How often do you have these dreams?”
“Three or four times a week.”
“On the occasions when you don’t have one of these scary dreams, can you recall what it is you dream about?”
“How do you feel when you wake up after having a normal night?”
“Better, more refreshed.”
“So, at best you are getting three, four nights of normal sleep per week.” He smiled. “No wonder you look tired.” He sat back in his chair, his body language very open. “Do you remember the Cuban missile crisis?”
“I remember…I know that it happened, but it has no personal association so, I can’t say I remember that happened when I was six years old because of this or that. I know that it happened, and I know that I was six years old because I know it happened in sixty-two.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was adopted. My parents told me there was some sort of trauma in my early life. They didn’t go in to detail, so I don’t know if it was mental or physical.”
“Could have been an accident, another head injury.”
“I don’t know.” He was beginning to be a little annoyed with Suzanne.
“You never asked?”
“No. I think I was related to them, nephew, something like that. Talking about the past always distressed them, especially my mother. I avoided it. Then later, when she became ill it never seemed like the right thing to do. I guess I wanted her to think that I was much more interested in spending whatever time she had left to her in the present.”
“That was very thoughtful. Do you think these dreams are from your early childhood?”
“Either mine or some other little boy who’s scared out of his mind.”
“You think that’s possible? Do you believe that you could be actually experiencing someone else’s dreams?”
“No. I don’t believe that.”
Suzanne sat forward, his elbows on the desk, hands pressed together like he was praying. For a second, he pressed his fingers against his chin and then sat back. Eventually he asked; “These…well hallucinations is your word. You happy with that?”
“What are they about?”
“I’m not sure they’re about anything. They’re different to the dreams. It’s difficult to explain. I’m physically in one place…like…like here for instance sitting here and talking to you and then suddenly I’m not seeing you, the office any of the physical things. I might be in a garden, I sometimes am, and I can see things completely in perspective, perfectly normal representation only I’m not there, I’m here or where ever.”
“This happens without warning?”
“Yes. It only lasts a few seconds, but I remember what I see.”
“Do you have any history of epilepsy either prior to or after the accident?”
“If this sounds a little odd, bear with me it is relevant. Do you have any memory at any time of what is commonly called an out of body experience?”
Malcolm looked at him. He was dead serious. “I think so,” he said a little lamely. “Just after the accident. I can recall quite vividly watching the bird and then deciding to go home, I hadn’t eaten. I turned to go back up to the vehicle and slipped. When I was actually falling I got this sensation that it wasn’t real, you know. Then I finally landed, and it was very real. I was unconscious and then…oh perhaps I dreamed it, I dunno.”
“Go on.” The voice was small, almost childlike.
“I seemed to be standing up only I couldn’t feel the ground. I could see this little chap coming hell for leather down the hill side, he looked strange, Lycra shorts and a cycling helmet. I watched him pick his way across the hill and then he was looking down at me…and so, for a split second was I. Then everything went black and the next thing I can recall with any real clarity is waking up in the hospital.”
“Did he exist, this man in the Lycra?”
“Oh yes.” Malcolm looked at him. “It only happened then. When I was in hospital they said twice I nearly bought the farm, but I don’t remember either time.”
“An out of body experience isn’t necessarily linked to a near death experience,” Suzanne said in a very matter of fact way and then once again steepled the slim fingers and pressed them to his lips before speaking. “I want to see your dreams in action, John. I’m going to arrange to admit you to the clinic if that’s O.K.”
Malcolm was alarmed. He hadn’t thought that that might happen.
“All you’ll have to do is sleep and it shouldn’t take more than three four days for us to get something of a handle on this. O.K.?” The brown eyes questioned and then saw Malcolm nod and smiled. “We’ll book you in for Saturday morning.”