The Web. Chapter 11

Sugar and water and Ju-ju men. (The last submission of this for a while.)


CHAPTER 11

OXFORD

‘How do you feel, John?’
‘OK I guess.’
‘Can you tell me what day it is?’
‘It’s Sunday.’
‘And what are you doing? What is it that is happening today that makes you only guess you feel OK?’
‘I’m going with Mrs Carlucci, in the car.’
‘Where are you going? Somewhere nice?’
‘I’m going to meet my new people. She … Mrs Carlucci …. She says I should think of them as my parents.’
‘Have you met them before?’
‘A few times.’
‘Can you remember the first time you met them? Was it at the home?’
‘I don’t remember but I know I’ve met them before. I think it might have been in town, for lunch or something.’
‘Are they nice?’
‘Yeah, they’re OK. She kept moving my hair out of my eyes and she kept trying not to look at my leg.’
‘Why would she try not to look at your leg? Is there something unusual about your leg?’
‘It’s stiff.’
‘Why is that?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t like to talk about it. It hurts when I talk about it so Mrs Carlucci says that I shouldn’t.’

Stanz leant forward and rewound the cassette. “He became quite agitated, quite quickly.”
“So,” Suzanne sat back in his chair, his hands behind his head. “Whatever it was happened to give him the limp he was ‘bullied’ about, happened before he came to live with the Malcolms, his ‘parents’, maybe even before he came into the country.”
“Hmm, possibly. Where do you think he was from originally?”
“He sounds American, sometimes but there’s also a hint of Italian …”
“And the automatic writing would support that.”
“It might if it is genuinely automatic.”
“What do you mean? You don’t believe him?”
“I’m not sure what I believe.”
“What is wrong with you?”
“Acute paranoia.”
“Why?”
“I dunno, ghosts maybe. Look I got this referral, our friend John, from a guy I hadn’t heard from in two, two and half years. A guy called Simon Matthews, you wouldn’t know him, he’s a straight up and down MD. Anyway, one day out of the blue, I get the call, ‘Julian, it’s Simon, I have a patient I think you would be interested in … ‘ etc. Then I’m getting really nowhere with John and another ghost pops out of the ether …”
“Me.”
“Right and trailing murky connections. You see where I’m going?”
“I think I do and I think I resent it or maybe I don’t want to think that you are that egotistical.”
Suzanne laughed lightly.
“Or that cynical.”
“Fair point. Ah just ignore me.”
“Wouldn’t if I could but I can and I will withdraw, step away completely, if that is what you genuinely want.”
“Dr. Suzanne.”
Suzanne pressed the intercom. “Mrs Longman, yes?”
“John’s having another ‘seizure.”
“OK, I’ll be right there.” He turned to Stanz. “You wanta come take a look?”

“Fascinating.”
“It doesn’t normally last as long as this,” Connie Longman said.
“He’s not normally talking to her.”
“Shall I burst the bag?”
“I’m tempted to say let him run with it but …”
“Her name isn’t Lilly.”
“John, welcome back.”
“Her name is not Lilly.”
“Her name is anything you want it to be.”
“It’s Nikki.”
“Really? You know that probably means that you have seen a girl called Nikki who looks like her.”
“She told me.”
“Nikki what?”
“She didn’t say.”
“What did she say?” Stanz asked.
“She thinks I’m sweet. And I’m handsome.”
“It’s your show,” Suzanne said. “You write the lines.”
“But I don’t think I’m sweet or handsome.”
Suzanne raised an eyebrow. “You looking for an argument?”
“It’s just not how I imagine myself and if she’s just part of my imagination …”
“You think she might not be?” Stanz said.
“I think she might be a memory, that’s all.”
“And that makes you sad,” the older man observed.
“I just … well, if she is just a memory then …”
“Then how could you be talking to her now?”
“She’s an hallucination, John,” Suzanne said firmly. “Like an imaginary friend when you were a child.”
“I didn’t have any imaginary friends.”
“How do you know that?” Suzanne asked. “You don’t remember much before you were ten years old. You could have had a whole world of imaginary friends. Maybe Lilly or Nikki is part of the seepage, someone – real or imagined – that’s hiding away behind the block.”
“That’s what scares me.”
“Say again.”
“If she is a part of it will she disappear if I remember?”
Suzanne shrugged.
“Don’t shrug at me, where do you get the right to shrug at me, like my concerns don’t matter, like I shouldn’t be bothered about some fantasy, the one thing that makes my bloody awful existence tolerable.”
“Wow! Where did that come from?”
“I’m sorry I’m … “
“Do not be sorry. Do not be. I had ten years of being some asshole’s lab rat before I stood up for my humanity.”
“I think John is a little tired,” Stanz said.
Suzanne smiled across at Stanz. “I think John should decide that.”
‘You’re right, professor, I am tired but I really need some answers.”
‘That’s what we’re trying to get for you, John,” Stanz said in as kindly a manner as his cold, Austrian upbringing would permit. ‘I am sure that when you started this, Dr Suzanne told you there would be no quick fix, no magic cure …’
‘Cure for what? Hmm? I mean what is wrong with me?’
‘You’re not sleeping,’ Suzanne said. ‘When you do sleep it isn’t of sufficient length or quality to be beneficial. By your own admission you’re not eating properly, which is deleterious to your physical health. You are having hallucinations, which may or may not be linked to your insomnia or at least to its underlying cause.’
‘Could it be physical? I mean the accident I had in Wales, I was in a coma …’
‘I’ve seen your scans, John, there is nothing there that even remotely resembles the kind of damage that would cause a complete loss of memory like you have.’
‘I agree,’ Stanz said carefully. ‘And your memory loss is rather selective. Were I to attribute this to a physical brain injury, I would need to see a much broader, less time specific loss.’
‘So, you both think that it’s emotional, mental trauma rather than physical.’
‘My best guess,’ Suzanne said, ‘and it is, I’m sorry, a guess, is that the physical brain injury you sustained in Wales was the trigger to the what shall I call it, seepage from an induced or maybe self-induced mental block …’
‘You think I did this to myself?’
‘Not in a totally conscious way but it’s possible. I can’t enumerate the amount of people I’ve come across who, as a defence mechanism impose a kind of radical censorship on their memories after say, an incident of abuse in childhood or a traumatic loss of close family. We are not dealing with an adult, rational mind, John. We’re dealing with a kid and his only coping mechanism is to close the door on the thing that troubles him, to lock it away because whatever it is, whenever it happened that was the only response available to him.’
‘I see. So, you think I should continue with this?’
‘I’m not saying that.’
‘Julian …’ Stanz was obviously surprised.
‘I’m not saying that because I feel that you’re looking for some sort of guarantee that this is going to solve all your problems and I can’t give you that, John, I just can’t. It may not work at all. The block may remain and it may continue to deteriorate in its own sweet time or it may become totally unstable and make your condition a lot worse. I just can’t tell you what to do because I don’t know. I know what I want to happen, what I hope will happen; we will clear this block and whatever has caused it will be ‘cured’ by applying a rational adult mind to it and you’ll be back eventually to how you were before this started. That’s what I want to happen but I shouldn’t and I can’t and I won’t tell you that’s what’s going to happen.’ Suzanne looked across at Stanz. ‘Nobody can do that, John, ‘cause we just don’t know.’
‘What do you think, professor?’
‘I think Julian is accurate in his assessment, but I will add that I have developed a technique for intractable cases, such as yours. It requires the administration of a drug called CH-MAYALYSIN
. It is painless and will not harm you in any way. It will simply enable you to trust me, completely but of course the decision is entirely yours.’
‘What the fuck is CH-MAYALYSIS?’
‘Basically, sugar water.’
‘And it does what apart from send him in to a hyperglycaemic episode?’
‘It is a placebo, nothing more dangerous than that but it does seem to stimulate patient acceptance of suggestion.’
‘And this is the big breakthrough that’s wowing Europe right now?’
‘Hmm.’ Stanz nodded.
‘OK, voodoo man but I shall be watching you, Peter. You take even the tiniest, baby step inside that poor bastard’s cabeza and you’re finished. Here, anywhere. I will not have that crazy Ju-ju man shit, not in my house, not on my watch. I’m clear.’
Stanz looked at him.
‘I said, I’m clear.’
‘Absolutely.’

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