"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Phelps. What can I do for you today?"
"Y..y..you have my f..f..file, don't you, Dr. Lopp?" Donald Phelps inquired, his beady eyes scanning nervously around the office from one end to the other. Ignoring the doctor's outstretched hand, he walked over to the small coat closet and opened it. A quick inspection showed no sign of hidden recording devices or cameras. Next he went to the lamp. Reaching up under the wide, rouge lampshade with one hand, his sweaty, white fingers searched for hidden listening devices...bugs they called them.
"Mr. Phelps. What are you doing, Mr. Phelps?"
Not answering, Donald Phelps glanced in horror at the large single window behind Dr. Lopp's desk. With sudden impetus that caused Dr. Lopp to push away from his desk, the sweaty, little man ran to the window and drew the curtains shut.
"Mr. Phelps, please! I insist, what are you doing?"
"Y..y..you can never b..be to c..c..careful, Dr. Lopp. That is why I ch..chose you...." Here Mr. Phelps began to frantically search under the nick-nacks on the doctor's desk. Then he lifted the phone and scrutinized the device for any abnormalities. "You’re a..advertisement in the phone book s..s..said that you were confidential. That is w..why I ch..chose you...confidentiality, Dr. Lopp."
"Please, please calm down and have a seat. What exactly is it you are looking for? Why did you draw the windows shut, Mr. Phelps?"
Giving the small office one last suspicious look-over, Donald Phelps consented to sitting down, but not before searching the plush, leather chair for hidden needles, wires, or electrodes.
"There are th..things at work here...things b..b..beyond what most might consider real, Doctor."
Looking the man before him over, Dr. Lopp opened the file that sat on his desk top. Donald Phelps was certainly a peculiar little man, stuttering and twitchy. A classic case of paranoia if he’d ever seen one. He had read the man’s file the day before, when it was sent to him from the hospital.
Apparently Mr. Phelps' wife had come up missing and the detectives had no leads in the case. For some time they had questioned the poor man about the incident, but always the same thing…he had no memory of the entire day in which his wife had gone missing. He claimed to remember backing out of the driveway in his car, his wife sitting next to him and the backseat full of camping gear. Then his next memory is of pulling into the driveway alone…one day later and minus the camping gear and his wife.
"I thought the doctors at St. Michaels had done everything they could for you, Mr. Phelps?"
"Th..they tried everything. Everything except f..f..for one thing, that is. And now it’s getting worse. The men…the government m..men, in their dark suites and their s..s..sunglasses. They are following m..m..me everywhere now. And the detectives…th..they won’t leave me alone. They c..come in the middle of the night. They ask me w..where I b..buried the body. I t..tell them I don’t re..re..remember anything, but they don’t believe me."
"Government men, Mr. Phelps? Why would they follow you?"
"I don’t know…b..but I’m not making it up. Look out your window now. See the m..m..men in the black Buick parked d..directly under your window in the street? Th..that’s them."
Dr. Lopp drew the curtain aside to look down into the street and there they were. A jet black Buick with two men inside in dark suites, sitting inconspicuously as two men in dark suites and sunglasses could sit. One of the men lit up a cigar while the other took notes on what appeared to be a digital notebook.
"Well, the whereabouts of your wife are still unknown. Those men are most likely FBI. They will probably be following you for some time, Mr. Phelps."
"N..no. I know who th..they are, and th..they aren’t FBI. Th..they approached me the other d..day and asked me if had ever heard of the phrase "missing time". I shut the door on them and they never returned. Now th..they just follow me wherever I go. This morning I went to th..the library and researched that phrase. D..d..do you know what it means, Dr. Lopp?"
"I know what the phrase means. It is a term that has to do with alien abduction cases…but you can’t be serious Mr. Phelps? Are you saying you believe something of that nature happened to you and your wife?
Donald Phelps cracked the knuckles on his hands methodically, one after the other, first his left hand and then his right. His beady eyes still glanced nervously about the room. Sweat trickled steadily down his broad forehead from a deeply receding hairline.
"Yes…I think so. But like I said before, th..th..there is only one th..thing that the hospital didn’t do. The book on alien abductions and missing time at the library said one th..thing could h..help. And when I found your advertisement in th..th..the phone book, it said you could do it. Hypnotherapy, y..your ad said. And it s..said you were confidential. That is wh..why I ch..chose you, doctor…confidentiality."
"Aah! I see, Mr. Phelps. You are hoping that hypnotherapy will help uncover some bizarre alien abduction scenario in which the disappearance of your wife will be explained. Is this what you were hoping? This isn’t a game, Mr. Phelps, I don’t know what you are thinking. Hypnotherapy is a very real tool that helps uncover things our subconscious mind has hidden from us. What if the process reveals something terrible? What if the hypnotherapy unveils a reality that is completely different then what you were expecting?"
"What if the hypnotherapy reveals that you killed your wife and buried her body somewhere in the woods, Mr. Phelps? Will you be willing to accept the memories revealed to you? Will you go to the police with the information?"
"O..of c..c..course, Dr. Lopp. If it was discovered that I indeed c..c..committed such a horrible act I would turn myself into the authorities immediately. But what if what I f..f..fear the most is uncovered? W..what if forces unexplainable are behind it all?"
Dr. Lopp folded Donald Phelps file shut and sat it on his desk. He wondered if the man had practiced beforehand what he would say while pretending to be under hypnosis. Fringe UFO-cults and fanatics had been known to go to such extremes to devise "evidence" that would later be used as proof for their theories. He wondered if the man before him would tell the classic sci-fi tale of being taken aboard a disk-like craft by little gray men.
Over the past ten years of his practice had used hypnotherapy on a number of patients, ranging from child abuse cases to clients whom merely wished to quit smoking. He had over a ninety percent success rate, but this case disturbed him. The disappearance of Donald Phelps' wife added too much to the case. The man was simply too paranoid and obviously mentally disturbed to be a UFO fan trying to falsify proof for his belief in flying saucers. Did he really want to uncover what lay in the hidden recesses of this strange man’s mind?
"Mr. Phelps, if there is some alien force at work here, then I promise to notify the authorities and we will do all we can to get the detectives and the FBI off of your back."
"F..f..fine. Wh..when do we start?"
"Now if you’d like. Could you please lay back on the couch behind you. You’ll find it’s quite comfortable."
Glancing about suspiciously, Donald Phelps rose from the chair and gave the couch a thorough search over before lying back on its plush cushions. Dr. Lopp took a necklace out from his desk, a long gold chain with a single diamond pendant hanging on one end. He turned the chair around to face the couch and took a seat.
"I’ll need you to completely relax, Donald. It is alright if I call you Donald?"
"Ok, Donald. Put your arms at your sides and relax. I want you to look at this pendant as it swings gently from side to side. Watch the diamond swinging. Watch the diamond. You feel yourself relaxing deeper and deeper.
As the diamond swings you feel the tension fading away, replaced by a wave of relaxation that washes over you. It washes over you from head to toe. The diamond is making you feel tired, Donald. You are having trouble keeping your eyes open. Give in to the diamond, Donald. Let your eyes close. You are sinking deeper and deeper in to relaxation, Donald.
You now see the diamond in your mind and it is still swinging, from side to side. You are now in a super state of relaxation, Donald. You see yourself floating in an ocean of blackness. The ocean of blackness is your subconscious mind, Donald. You now have access to those memories that were hidden from you.
Let’s start with the day you backed out of the driveway with your wife, Donald. Where did you go?"
"I…backed out onto the road. We were going camping. My wife and I were going camping."
"Did you make it to the campsite, Donald?"
"Yes. We had set up camp in a small clearing deep in the state park. It was dark already and we had a campfire going. We had a bottle of wine. Then we saw it."
"What did you see?"
"We saw the light. The heavens lit up with a great red light. It was frightening. At first we thought it might be the power plant near the city, a meltdown or something. We ran to the car and drove out onto the interstate. The entire sky was lit up, but we couldn’t see anything, so we drove until we came to a cliff overlooking the city."
"What then…what did you see?"
"There they were, hundreds of them. Cigar shaped aircraft. Ships made of silver metal. They hovered above the city and left just as we arrived. The light in the sky was from fire, what was left of the city was still burning."
"Are you talking about our city, Donald?"
"Yes. Everything was gone, incinerated to twisted scraps of steel, and the glow of the fire painted the entire sky blood red. There was nothing left. In fact, all the cities of earth had been destroyed. We turned on the radio and we heard their death throes. We heard their cries as station after station went down. The civilization of mankind was wiped off of the face of the earth within an hour."
"What happened to your wife? You never told me what happened to her."
"After we heard the radio stations go under, she went to the cliff and looked upon the city one last time. She then threw herself over."
"And what did you do, Donald? What did you do after she threw herself over?"
"I went to my car and took an expired bottle of pills out from the dashboard. I took them all and afterwards fell into a deep coma. I still haven’t woken up."
Dr. Lopp wrote furiously upon the tablet he had pulled off of his desktop. Cursing silently to himself he realized he had forgotten to tape record the session. This was a most amazing case, and his colleagues at the state psychiatric hospital would definitely find it interesting. There was no way that the man before him could believe what he was saying unless he suffered from some deep rooted personality disorder. He decided to end the hypnotherapy premature and schedule a follow up at a later date, a time at which he could video record the entire session. But there was one last question he had to ask the man before him.
"Yes, Dr. Lopp."
"If you are in a coma in your car still, who am I, Donald?"
"You are a construct made of my dream’s fabric, Dr. Lopp, a synapse firing off in the cellular recesses of my brain. You only exist in the reality of my mind, but that’s not to say you don’t truly exist. From being in this coma I have discovered that reality is only as real as the brain that perceives it. You exist in inner-space. You exist in an alternate universe of my own brains creation."
"Listen to me, Donald. When I snap my fingers you will awake."
"Awake how, doctor?"
"What do you mean, how? You will awake, Donald."
"Will I awake from my coma in the car, Dr. Lopp, or will I awake from the hypnotherapy session in my dream?"
"You will awake to reality."
"That’s not good enough, Doctor."
This was getting more than interesting, this was phenomenal. Never had a hypnotherapy patient asked such questions. Dr. Lopp scribbled madly on the tablet, trying to record every word of the conversation. What would he say? What would be the best way to end the session?
"Why is it not good enough, Donald?"
"You need to tell me which reality I will awake to. One reality is just as good as the other to me. In either one my wife is gone, so I don’t have much to live for. I guess if I awoke from the coma it would be best for me. Then I could go about trying to find other survivors. But the choice will definitely affect you Dr. Lopp. You only exist in my dream. If you tell me to awaken from the coma, then you will cease to exist. Are you willing to give up your existence to help me to that extent, Dr.? Are you willing to make that sacrifice?"
Dr. Lopp thought for a long time. What would his college mentor, old Professor Dunnwich, tell this man? What would be best for Donald Phelps? At least in his "dream" he could function in society. If he told Donald to awake from the coma, and some other reality was forced upon him by his obviously traumatized brain, could he function in society?
He thought for a few more minutes and then he made a decision.
"When I finish counting to ten, you will be completely awake Mr. Phelps. You will awake to the only reality that there truly is. No dream, no coma, no trauma will cover up this reality. When you awake you will be able to function easily in the society presented to you, and you will be able to remember the hypnotherapy session in its entirety. And when you awake you will be clear-headed and rational. This will be a transitional process. As I begin to count you will slowly awake. As each number progresses to ten you will awaken more and more until the number ten brings you to full consciousness. Do you understand? "
"Yes, I understand, doctor."
Darkness seemed to seep into the sides of Dr. Lopp’s vision. He paused for a second and took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t been getting much sleep lately and now it seemed his eyes were reminding him to slow down.
His vision was getting worse. Pausing again he reached behind to the curtain and drew it open. The sudden light hurt his eyes. Looking down at the street and saw the black Buick still parked there. He glanced away and resumed the count.
Looking out the window again Dr. Lopp was surprised to notice the black car was gone. Surely it couldn’t have driven off in the half-second that he had looked away? A sudden bout of dizziness hit him and he turned back to the patient. He would definitely have to take the rest of the day off after this, it felt like a killer head-ache was coming on. Perhaps he would call a friend and see if he could get something prescribed for his head.
Cameron Neilson studies creative writing at OSU.
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