Aphelion Issue 227, Volume 22
April 2018
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by Colt Leasure

Ewen Rumell sat in his office. The room had oak paneled walls and a smooth mahogany desk placed near a large window overlooking a grassy lot. He had enough filled bookshelves to open up his own secondhand literary store, if the public were more interested in buying works on esoteric subjects. Texts on Occultism, astrology, the I-Ching and Solomon's magick rituals were placed next to hardcover tomes on meditation. Lining the topmost shelf were amulets, crystals, and hand crafted talismans he had collected during his travels through the Sahara.

Rumell was a hypnotist by profession. Describing his occupation made interesting small talk at parties, but it usually aroused heavy judgment in whoever he was speaking to. Skeptics loved to roll their eyes at him. When being honest about what he did for a living, the cynical would ask him if he was a parlor magician, a carnival stage performer, or a children's birthday party entertainer.

This used to offend him, but he had grown a thick skin. He would end the talk by handing over a business card and telling them to come and see him if they ever needed help changing their problematic thought processes. He preferred to think of himself as an entrepreneur who convinced the stubborn and nourished the open-minded, as opposed to someone who the vast public had disregarded as a simple snake oil salesman who indulged in street tricks.

Rumell was about to close up early on that day. Only two patients had come in, and the sessions were short. The first one needed help to quit wasting time playing crossword puzzles, and the second was spending too much money on lottery tickets, and they asked him to help cure them of their habits.

There were no other people scheduled to visit him, so he was only a few seconds away from retrieving the keys to his office and locking the place up for the rest of the evening before there was a loud knock on his door.

He stood from his chair, walked over to the main entrance and peered through the peephole. There was a woman wearing a burgundy sweatshirt standing on the other side. She was in her mid-twenties, and had pale skin and black hair.

Rumell opened the door.

"Hello," she said, extending a hand. "Are you Dr. Rumell?"

"Yes," he said, taking her hand in his and shaking it.

"Can I come in?"

"Sure," he said, opening the door further and then pointing to the crimson leather inclined stretcher chair in front of his desk.

When she was seated and he was behind his computer, he put on his glasses and checked his list, asking her what her name was.

"Tiffany McAllister," she said.

"You're not on my scheduled appointments. I like to set my sessions up ahead of time."

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't feel comfortable doing that. I've been monitoring your office for a few days now. Not many people came in or out. I thought you wouldn't be busy enough to justify turning me away."

Rumell laughed, assuring her that no offense was taken, although he did feel a bit strange about her admitting to having stalked his premises. "You're right. So tell me, what is it you'd like to do? Keep in mind that I will have you sign a waiver before we get started. Are you curious about the pricing?"

"Not a problem, and no. I have one question. Is everything I say in this office confidential? I'm afraid that I may have done some bad things that I can't recall, things that may not be . . . legal. I just want assurance from you that you're not going to get me in trouble."

Rumell thought of all the people at the low end of society that he had treated, such as rapists who wanted to keep their worst temptations for power at bay, drug addicts who needed to be reprogrammed in order to stop stealing to feed their habits, and amnesiacs whose neurological conditions stemmed from incidents of drunk driving. As much as he wanted to call the authorities on some of the legitimately sick and depraved men he had dealt with over the years, he had taken an oath to fix, to cure, to treat, and not to play an informant or perceive their reaching out for help from a place of judgment.

"I guarantee the full sealing of any and all information," he said. "This room is not recorded. Any notes I take are for the sake of managing, tracking and modifying progress for statistical purposes, nothing else, and all of those notes are barricaded away in my files and destroyed when I deem them to be irrelevant once you are cured of whatever ailment you have."

"What if a law enforcement agency has a warrant for your notes?"

"That never happens," he said. "I am a hypnotist. Authorities don't think of me a licensed source of information, not in the same way a shrink or even priest may be. I am, first and foremost, someone you can trust and be open with. I need you to be that way with me, if you want any real help. So tell me -- what are you here for?"

"I can't recall anything from before two weeks ago," she said. "I don't remember where I was born or where I went to school, but I found out that I can play the piano fluently, having somehow burned to memory every note of Rachmaninoff from a past that I cannot distinguish. I could not describe the voices or physical appearances of who my parents, friends, or significant other, but I can recite every Blake poem and give a visual synopsis of every classic portraiture. I am a chef when it comes to certain cuisines, and one of my other talents is hitting the bull's eye on a dart board every time without fail whenever I enter a bar. I can throw a knife at a tree branch from any distance and have the blade connect. I can sprint and jump high hurdles. In other words, I need you to tell me who I am, doctor."

He sat back in his chair and contemplated her words. "So your life, until two weeks ago, is a blur?"

"No," she said. "It's a black out. I have tried to retrace the steps I can't remember taking. I hit a wall every time. That's why I've to you. I've heard that you specialize in summoning scenes from people's past lives. I need that for the life I'm in."

"Tell me what happened two weeks ago, when you woke up without any memory."

Tiffany readjusted herself on the couch, and pointed to a black water pitcher on his desk, asking Rumell if she could have a glass. He retrieved a decanter from his drawer, filled it to the brim with the water, and then handed it to her. She drank it before starting her story.

"I woke up at dusk," she said. "Looking around, I saw that I was in a decrepit and windowless building. Every gap in the walls gave me a view of a surrounding of trees, and they were rotted and swaying with the wind. From the signs describing different wings where various medical practices were to have taken place at one time. I was in an abandoned hospital. It was clear that looters, squatters, homeless and junkies had taken over the place, with explicit graffiti all over the walls. Then I found the bodies.

"There were three men sprawled out near me who were butchered. They were covered in blood, and as I inched closer to them, they were not breathing. They had been dead a while based on the dryness of the blood on their clothes. They had been murdered with something sharp. I do not know what compelled me to be curious instead of scared, but I did a quick search of the perimeter with the hopes of finding the weapon, and I did. I saw an ice pick drenched in blood on one of the lower hanging roofs minutes later. What's strange is, it took me even longer to find out that I myself was covered in blood.

"I was not in any pain, and there were no scrapes on me, so that meant it all came from someone else. Did I murder those men? I don't know. The next thing I did was search for scrubs or any kind of clothing that had not been eaten by moths or stolen by vagrants, and I found some eventually, along with a sink that actually had running water. I took a shower, and headed to the woods to try to find my way back to town. I walked for seven miles, not finding anything besides nature. It was another hour of wandering before I began to get the feeling that I was being followed.

"After another fifteen minutes of contemplating of how maybe it was a bear or a deer, I finally saw the silhouette of a figure trailing behind me -- one in the shape of a man. When he saw that I had spotted him, he charged at me. He was wearing black bag over his head and was holding knife. I don't know how or where I learned to do this, but I fought him, disarmed him, and killed him in self-defense. I blocked his right hand which held the blade, used my left to steal it, swept his foot out from under him, and when he was on his knees I slashed his carotid. I ran for twenty minutes straight, until finally coming across a freeway. I managed to get picked up by a trucker, who brought me to a nearby motel and paid for my room. Since then, having no money to my name, I found a storage shed that was not checked on frequently by the landlords of the unit, so I lived in there. I take showers at a nearby recreation center, and maintain a low profile. I have this constant feeling that more people are out to kill me."

"Did you call the police?" Rumell asked. "Did you go to a real hospital to get checked out? A doctor of neurology might be able to help you to determine if the reason for your amnesia could be a result of some kind of an impact."

"I was too scared," she said, lowering her head and taking another sip of water. "I thought I might be guilty, and although I had no recollection of what had transpired, I knew that telling a judge 'I don't remember anything' wouldn't be a good defense. I must be a victim of something. There are indicators that they tried to kill me not once, but at least four times, judging by the body count. How could I prove it, though, when I woke up in a room full of the dead? None of this makes me look good. Again, this is why I've come to you. I want you to help me determine what my next step should be. Help me remember."

"All right," Rumell said. He stood up, dimmed the lights, and pulled out a flat screen situated on a rolling table from his closet, positioning it in front of her. He told her to sit back as he went near the bookshelves and turned on a stereo. Vibrant nature sounds filled the room.

"Close your eyes and relax," he said. "Picture each part of your body turning off -- all of the tenseness, uptightness is floating away."

Hypnotizing someone, Rumell knew, was never that difficult. It was not something which required years of research or study. All it took was practice, an approach similar to that of a method actor's, and a little bit of tenacity. Using a mixture of guided visualization, meditation, and convincing her through brief physical contact that there was an 'energy transmission,' he was able to put her in a state of what magicians liked to call gnosis.

"What was your name before you adopted the one of Tiffany McAllister?"

A brief pause. "La . . . Larisa."

"Larisa what?"

"Larisa Snezhana."

"Where are you from originally?"

"Lake Baikal. Siberia."

"When and why did you come to the states?"

"An assignment."

"To do what?"


"From who? From what?"

"My agency. They are going to kill me. . . ."

Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, he found out everything. How she was actually what the media would call a 'honey trapper,' a female Russian spy who used seductiveness to gain the confidence and eventual secrecy of major politicians or people of influence. However, she had broken the ties with her agency by revealing sensitive information. This was an act of treason with only one outcome of punishment, and that was death.

When he snapped is fingers, she woke up again. Her eyes not only opened, but they were now bulging.

It then dawned on Rumell that in addition to her finally knowing everything she wanted, he, too, knew way too much. This was beyond simple murder. In that second, based on the animalistic nature of her eyes, he knew that he would be lucky to leave that room alive with the true stories that he had just brought out of her.

Larisa stood up quickly and dove at Rumell. He was on the ground now, her on top of him, her hands clasped around his throat, strangling him. He reached up and tried to strike her in the face, his first two punches being relatively weak, the third one finally hitting her hard enough to make her bleed. Rumell then struck her a fourth time, and when her body shifted to the right with the blunt force, he kicked her off of him.

He ran over to the book shelf, grabbing a sharp crystal that he had collected during his trips overseas. He turned around to find that she was running at him. With one full swing, he jabbed the piece at her, which in turn slashed her face open. She was now spraying blood everywhere, on his desk, his books, the reclining chair, screaming hysterically while still trying to claw at him. He then drove the amulet into her forehead, recklessly pushing forward until she collapsed.

Rumell went over to his landline phone and dialed 911. While doing so, he felt a tingling on the back of his neck. Turning around, he looked out at the grassy lot that his office faced, and saw two men in the distance. Both were stocky, wearing sunglasses and suits. When they saw him staring at them, they took a few steps back, turned around and got into a black Mercedes, driving away out of the hypnotist's sight.


2017 Colt Leasure

Bio: Mr. Leasure is a full time bouncer who, when not throwing drunks out into the street, predominantly writes, works and lives in South Lake Tahoe, California.

E-mail: Colt Leasure

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