“Okay, let’s begin, Josie,” the doctor said, starting the pendulum moving. “Now just try to relax, let your body sink into the chair, relax. Your limbs are beginning to become tired and heavy and your eyes are starting to close. You’re starting to feel completely relaxed, and when I count backwards from ten, you will become even more relaxed. When I finish counting, you will be completely relaxed and asleep.” The doctor counted backward from ten, pausing after each number. When he finished, Josie was under.
She sat motionless in the chair, eyes closed, limbs slack. “Josie,” the doctor began, “I want you to find a safe place, a place where you are happy. Tell me when you’ve found one.”
“I have one,” Josie murmured after a moment.
“Good. I want you to remember this safe place. If you become afraid while we’re talking, I want you to go to that place, okay?”
“Josie, I want you now to recall the dream you described to me earlier. Can you remember that?”
“I don’t want to remember that. I want to stay here.”
“Josie, you can go back to your safe place anytime you want, but right now I want you to recall the nightmare you’ve been having. Tell me when you remember it.”
“Okay,” she said, after a momentary pause, “I’m thinking of it.”
“Can you tell me what you see? Tell me what’s going on.”
“It’s dark. I’m running; the walls are cold and wet, like a cave. I’m scared. I have to get out of here. He’s coming. I can hear him. He’s coming behind me. I have to run.” Josie began to breathe harder. She pinched her eyes shut and wrinkled her forehead before speaking again. “Aidez moi, aidez moi. Il arrive. Aidez moi. Mon Dieu, aidez moi.” Josie panted, gripping the chair, her voice rising to a fever pitch.
“Josie, Josie, you’re okay, it’s just a dream.”
“Non, non, il vient. Je dois partir.”
“Josie, please speak English.”
“HE’S COMING, I MUST GO!” she shouted, tears rolling down her face.
“Josie, you’re safe. It’s just a dream. Can you tell me more?”
“NO! NO!” she shouted, wincing in pain as the tears continued to stream down her face.
The house loomed large on the horizon. Damien took a deep breath as he studied the dark structure’s silhouette. Lights still glowed from the inside; someone was still up. With any luck, he could avoid them and go straight to his room without any interaction.
He approached the house and entered the foyer. Celine and Gray were making their way across the room. Just my luck, he mused. “Hey, D!” Celine greeted him.
“Hi!” he called, meeting them in the middle of the room.
“Late night researching with Alexander?” she asked.
He smiled at her, wide-eyed. “Yes, er, no. I mean, that’s not what we were doing. I mean, we were, but then we were playing chess. He’s excellent at chess. I mean, not like I’m getting my butt kicked every time, but it’s challenging, so that’s fun,” Damien babbled.
Gray stared at him, crinkling his brow in confusion at his rambling. “Heading to bed?” Celine asked.
“Yep, yes.” He feigned a yawn. “Gosh, I am so tired. I’m going to go right to bed and go to sleep.”
“Is everything okay, D?” Celine asked, realizing his nervous babbling signaled he was anxious about something.
“Yep. It’s all good. I’m all good. Just tired.”
“Well, you better get to bed then! We’re heading up too, we’ll walk with you.”
The trio started across the foyer, on their way to retire for the evening. As they approached the stairs, the door opened, Michael came through.
“Hi, Michael, good to see you,” Celine said, stopping to greet him.
“Hey, buddy!” Damien called to him from across the room. “Late one, huh?”
Michael didn’t respond. He appeared frozen in place, unable to move. Even from across the room, Celine noted that he appeared unwell. “Are you okay?” she asked, as she approached him.
There was no response. Michael took one stumbling step further into the room before collapsing.