Dark Embrace – The Land Without Mosquitos, Conclusion

Laughter from inside the apartment. Jane felt the music, the voices pulling her back in. Needed another beer, in any case. She reached down to the plastic table where she had laid her empty bottle, then stood back up and laughed on remembering Wings had already taken it inside.

She turned towards the screen door leading to the kitchen, BANG! The sudden eruption of sound caught Jane’s attention, but did not startle her, years of living in Chicago having trained her to immediately distinguish between gunshots and a truck engine backfire. But as her eyes scanned over the dark alleyway again, she found her body gliding back to the handrail, her eyes tracing the alley’s darkness as it evaporated into the bright lights of the Chicago street.

Struck by a sudden impulse she didn’t understand, Jane leaned forward, her stomach pressing firmly yet securely on the wooden handrail, and spread her arms wide, her head tilting back as she closed her eyes and focused on the sounds around her — the music and laughter in the apartment, the scuffling of feet in the alley beneath, the traffic from the street, even the distant sound of jet engines high above. A few months earlier she might have looked down and seen an abyss, dark and foreboding, and yes, considered leaping down into that void; opening her eyes now and looking down, she saw that darkness was just as thick, just as her adopted city was no less dangerous. Yet with a contented smile, she realized the frightening menace of those early days was long gone.

Yes, the future was uncertain. Given what had happened that incredible morning last fall, Jane knew there would always be a chance she’d wake up tomorrow morning, or the next, and find herself back in the world she remembered, making this world she’d lived in the past several months, with its Jetsonian computers and phones but Flinstonian transportation, seem like an unpleasant dream. Or maybe that day would never come, and she’d remain in this world that was so familiar, yet so strange. But as she closed her eyes again, spread her arms wide, leaned her body safely over the handrail . . . she realized she no longer cared what happened. She felt strong enough to face whatever bizarre twist fate would throw at her next.

Jane Summers laughed, a tear of gratitude falling from her right eye, as she symbolically embraced the darkness around her, inviting it to take her wherever it may, even if it lead her to a land without mosquitos.

End of “The Land Without Mosquitos”

Abyss – TLWM 11C

The sound of metal on concrete — Jane placed her hands on a wooden rail, looked down, saw a man pulling a garbage can away from a door. The door opened, a woman’s head emerged. By the tone of her voice Jane could tell that she was asking a question. The man swore loudly, angrily, then slammed a cover on top of the aluminum can before rushing back to the door.Jane suddenly realized how far above the alley she was. Wings’ apartment was on the fourth floor of a complex with no elevator; Jane had been out of breath that evening after finishing the climb up the stairs. She remembered horrible stories from years past, of children falling to their deaths while playing on balconies similar to the one Jane was standing on now. She looked down at the handrail on which her arms rested; on the outside of the wooden guard rails (spaced wide enough for even a slim adult to fit through) she saw a thin honeycomb of metal fencing. A guard against future tragedies. She reached down, pulled at an edge of the fencing; two staples immediately flew out of the wood as if being released from captivity. “Jesus.” She watched them disappear into the blackness of the alley, then looked down at the six inch hole she had just created in the fence.

Jane could barely see the concrete of the alley beneath her. In the dark, the space under the wooden balcony seemed like an abyss.

Abyss. She remembered a conversation she had with Dr. Patel, not during her first or second session with him but certainly early, perhaps the third. He had asked where she saw herself going in the next five years. “No idea. Maybe I’ll Be at my current job, maybe not. May not even be at Crasob, for all I know. When I think about the future, all I see is darkness. Like staring into an abyss.”

Dr. Patel’s response was quick. “An interesting word, Jane. Most people look down at abysses — literally.” His right index finger was pointing down, the tip planted on his desk. “The word has many other negative associations.” She had replied that she hadn’t meant to sound so negative. She was uncertain, not pessimistic.

It was one of the few times she had withheld the truth from Dr. Patel. Because that truth had scared her.

In those first few weeks after her world had suddenly changed, she couldn’t avoid asking herself disturbing questions — If my life could change so dramatically, so instantly, and for no apparent reason, how certain can I be of anything? How can I continue acting as normal in this new world, when I have no idea how I got here in the first place? What if tomorrow I’m back to my old normal, or wake up to yet another abnormality? Legitimate questions, given what had happened since her kitchen table started playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. But she had no answers, had no idea what additional changes to expect in her life or how she’d react when they came. There was only one answer that provided absolute certainty — a descent into the darkest abyss.

She hadn’t been surprised when Dr. Patel returned to that word at the start of their next visit. “Do you still feel that you’re staring into an abyss?”

“To be honest, that word choice last time worried me.” Dr. Patel had nodded knowingly. “It bothered me the moment I said it, and since then, I’ve been doing my best to avoid thinking about it.” When Dr. Patel asked for the details of her avoidance strategy, she’d replied that she’d focused on (re-)learning how to do her job at Crasob, had worked with Wings to figure out how to use the technology which was suddenly available to her, identified adjustments she’d need to make in this world lacking the transportation options with which she had been so familiar.

“Ah!” Dr. Patel clapped his hands victoriously, and she saw a smile bloom on the face of the man who asked her to call him Sumeet, or Sam. “That is not avoidance, Jane — that is acceptance!”

Jane hadn’t been sure about Dr. Patel’s analysis at the time, but she’d noticed her anxiety begin to lessen that day. The future remained dark and uncertain, but as the weeks and then months progressed, she felt she could stumble around in the dark as well as anybody else. She had even learned to attend parties, like this one this evening at Wings’ apartment, without feeling like a visitor from a strange land.

One or the Other – TLWM 11B

“But that’s what people do.” Jane turned her attention back to Wings, but this time saw the face not of a hesitant young girl from Mississippi, but rather a woman full confident of her words. “Any relationship you’re in, that changes you, even if just a little.” Wings now rose from her chair. “Brad weren’t trying to force nothing on you. He was going to change, just as much as you.”

Jane smiled weakly. “Don’t think Brad’s changed a bit in the three years I’ve known him. Have a feeling he weren’t about to change, if we’d gotten married.”

There was a sadness to Wings’ sigh, almost a resignation. Wings had liked Brad, thought he was good for her. “How’s work?” Jane was glad to hear her friend change the subject. “You going for that promotion?”

“It’s not a promotion.” Jane raised the bottle to her lips again, before remembering that she had just emptied it. “It’d be a job change, from CAD to engineer.” She ran her hand back over her scalp, her thin hair parting from her face. “There’s these classes Gary keeps wanting me to take, on drainage. Always told him that my days of sitting in a classroom were done, listening to some professor who doesn’t know anything about how the world really works try to tell me how to do my job.” She put the bottle down on a plastic table. “But now that I can do my course work online — I don’t know, been thinking about it more.”

“See?” Wings had turned to her, a smile on her face as broad and bright as a crescent moon on a cloudless night. “This world we got, with our computers and the Internet and everything, it ain’t so bad after all, is it?”

Jane rose from her chair. “Never said this was a bad world, just different.” She swept her right arm across the balcony, her reach extending out past the alleway onto the bright lights of the Chicago skyline. “The world I remember, it weren’t no bad world neither. You could get around easier than we do here. Streets were cleaner, so was the air.” She turned back to Wings, pulled her smart phone out of her pocket. “But no, we didn’t have these things. And they are pretty cool. Anything you want to know — like how to sign up for that class Gary wants me take — using this, I can find that out in a couple minutes.” She put her phone back into her pocket. “But what I don’t understand is, why can’t there be both? If we can be all space-age with telecom, why can’t we get all sci-fi with our transportation too? And in the world I remember — guess I should say used to remember, or think I remembered — just because we had stuff like Unirail, that shouldn’t mean we had to be stuck with rotary phones. I mean we didn’t think about stuff like that, but now that I’m here — I just don’t see why it has to be one or the other.”

Wings rose, taking Jane’s empty beer bottle from the plastic table as she stood next to her older yet shorter friend. She held the bottle up to Jane. “Need another?”

Jane waved her off. “I’ll be in, in a minute.” A moment later Wings had walked through the screen and kitchen doors, back into her apartment, leaving Jane alone again on the wooden balcony above the building’s back alley.

A Welcome Chill – The Land Without Mosquitos 11A

A cold April breeze swept up the alley, causing Jane to tighten the jacket across her body. She was sitting on the wooden balcony outside the kitchen of Wings’ apartment. Were it a month or two later the evening’s chill would have driven Jane inside, but several months of Chicago winter had inspired her to enjoy the feel of outside air.

She turned at the sound of the kitchen door opening. Wings appeared behind the screen door, the sound of the younger girl’s stereo emanating from within. Wings tilted her head, a curious look on her face. “You OK, girl?”

Jane looked up, smiled. “Just needed some air. Be back in a minute.”

Wings pushed the screen door open, walked onto the balcony, the door spring tightening and closing the door behind her, tlling tok-tok. She sat in the empty plastic chair next to Jane’s. “How long’s it been?”

Jane shrugged. “Since when?”

“Since you — you know, thought we all changed the world on you?”

“Ah.” Jane took a quick drink from the beer bottle in her hand. “Couple months. Maybe three. Lost track a while ago.” She turned to Wings. “Why do you ask?”

“Just — I don’t know. You been acting kinda quiet tonight, like you were those first few weeks. But when you started seeing that doctor, you got to being your old self again.” She half-turned to Jane, placed a hand on her shoulder. “But I know you still believe that story you told me that first day. And you still haven’t taken that medicine the doctor said you should take.” Wings blinked. “And Brad . . . ” Her voice trailed off.

Jane drank again from her beer bottle, stared ahead of her. “Brad and I weren’t going to work out. I’d known that for a while — just hadn’t admitted it. To Brad, or myself.” Another drink. “So I gave him back the ring.”

“So, this . . . thing that happened to you.” This was typically how Wings referred to that morning now several months ago, the Kafka-esque moment she heard Mozart playing from her kitchen table. “Did that have anything to do with you pushing Brad away?”

Jane rose swiftly, her momentum temporarily lifting her plastic chair off the wooden balcony landing. “I wasn’t the one doing the pushing.” She drank quickly from her bottle, began pacing in front of Wings. “The thing I couldn’t admit was that the two of us couldn’t go on like we were. It was either take the next step, or call it off. Brad knew it too, but at least he had the guts to make us face up to that fact.” She lifted the bottle to her lips again, and when she realized the bottle was empty tilted her head back and upended the bottle anyway. “But for us to take the next step would mean becoming something I’m not ready to be, a person Brad wants me to become. And I just couldn’t do that.”

Final Words – TLWM 10J

“It’s been four years.” She looked up, eyes blankly scanning the faces in the room as if Jane no longer recognized who she saw. “All he could do was lie there, all these tubes stuck in him, his hospital bed surrounded by all these devices. The IV, oxygen tank — there was this machine, it monitored his pulse, blood pressure, something about his breathing — it had all these little wires running out the back, at the end of them were these pads, they put them on his arms. Tried to put them where his skin was clear, but that was hard, by that time he was covered in all these purple and black bruises, like he’d been beat up by a motorcycle gang.”

“Jane –” her mother stopped, feeling Dr. Patel’s soft, commanding touch on her forearm.

“We took turns.” A strand of hair fell across her face; Jane brushed it away with annoyance. “Shifts, really. Mom for six hours, my brother a few, Aunt Sheila — I was the one who stayed overnight. I liked how quiet it was, the damn machine beeped every five seconds but it didn’t take long to tune that out. I’d talk to him — they say people like him, they can still hear — ” her loud sniff drew in the air around her.

“What did you say to him?”

Jane gave no indication of having heard Dr. Patel’s question. “I talked to him about that day we went to the zoo, when I was six. Just me and him. He led a pony I rode, took me on rides, bought me the blue cotton candy I wanted — nothing we hadn’t done before, or wouldn’t do again a dozen more times. But that day, because it was just us — and he never got distracted that day — taught me all his corny jokes, how to deliver them — he made me feel like I was the only thing he cared about that day. Like I was the most important person in the world.” Jane swallowed, tears streaming down her cheeks like rivulets from a tidal pool cascading onto beach rocks. “And I never told him, how I always remembered that day, best day of my life, hands down. Until that night, in the hospital. When he could hear, but couldn’t speak. That morning he died. When we didn’t have to wait anymore — when they turned off all those machines.”

Dr. Patel leaned forward. “You’ve been thinking of your father a lot lately.”

Jane nodded, turned towards Dr. Patel with eyes too blurred from tears to see. “It’s stupid, I know — what’s happened to me, there’s no possible explanation — but I can’t help feeling, that if he was here — he’d make some dumb joke, tell me some story — he’d find some way to make me feel like I wasn’t crazy — ”

“Jane.” As mother and daughter folded their sorrow into each other’s arms, their friends realized there would be no place for comforting platitudes this evening, reassurances that he was in a better place or he’ll live forever in your heart would sound hollow and insincere. All they could do the rest of this evening for their friend was demonstrate that even in this alien world that she had been thrust into, there were people who could keep her warm on even the harshest of November evenings.

The Right Time – TLWM 10I

Dr. Patel’s body relaxed, slooped forward like a sprinter after finishing a race. He then walked over to one of the two empty chairs in the small circle, lowered himself down to sit.

Jane Summers sighed, the collective gaze from five pairs of eyes weighing upon her. She glanced down, then over to the empty chair in their roughly-arranged circle. Her mother followed Jane’s glance — “Where’s Brad?”

“Yeah.” Gary waved at the empty chair. “I thought he was coming.”

Jane Summers knew there was no holding back the truth any longer. “Brad’s not here — ” she hated the hesitation in her voice — “because I didn’t invite him.”

Jane felt her mother’s breath draw in, and saw her look quickly at Dr. Patel. “Didn’t you tell — ”

“No.” Dr. Patel shifted his weight on the stiff chair beneath him. “At our last meeting, I asked Jane’s permission to speak with the people closest to her. She gave me a list of names and numbers — Brad was not on that list.”

Hilda Summers stood up quickly, looked down at her daughter with frustration. “Brad loves — ”

“He proposed to me.” She sensed everyone’s mouth open in surprise, save for Dr. Patel.

Jane reached up, clasped her mother’s shoulder, pulled her back down to the chair. Only one more truth needed to come out. “My — delusion.” She nodded at Dr. Patel. “What we’ve been talking about all evening. My waking up one morning, and everything being different. About me feeling that the world had suddenly turned upside down.” A final sigh for courage. “Brad doesn’t know. About any of it.”

Jane heard a car pass outside, and nearly laughed aloud at realizing her words had silenced the room so thoroughly that incidental sounds from a sleepy suburban street could now penetrate the room. She decided not to wait for questions — “That Friday, after the Monday I woke up and the world had changed. Brad was in St. Louis again that week, on business — there was no way I was going to tell him what had happened over the phone. But when he got back Friday, he had these tickets to a concert, and I wanted us to enjoy the show, so I thought, we’ll go to my place after the show, then I’ll tell him. And I was going to tell him, really I was — had the words on my lips — and then he pulls this little white box out of his pocket, and all of a sudden . . .”

Jane ran her right hand back over her scalp, dirty-blonde hair flying back from her face. “All I could think was, this isn’t the right time. Not for his proposal, not for me to give him an answer — not for me to tell him what happened to me.” She slapped her hands down onto her thighs. “It didn’t seem the right time for anything.”

“I don’t understand.” Hilda’s voice sounded genuinely confused. “Every time we talk, you say how great Brad is. Over the summer, when you came down to visit — I asked when the two of you were going to get engaged, and you gave me this smile. What — what happened?”

What happened?” Jane sniffed loudly, threw her head back in anger at feeling her eyes swell. “Oh, only everything. I got a car I didn’t know I owned, starting using computers I didn’t know existed, began using Mr. Spock’s phone — couldn’t find any Unirail stations, saw that I paid less taxes but more insurance — “

“But we’re the same!” A cocktail of anger and concern in her mother’s voice. “And so is Brad, you’ve told me so. So I don’t understand — why isn’t Brad here?

Jane Summers rose from her chair, eyes fixed on the empty chair. She approached, grabbed its back and with a swift turn of her body swung the chair into the center of the circle, then adjusted it so that its empty seat faced everyone. She stood behind the chair, placed a hand on its back. “Brad isn’t here — because every time I think about his proposal, I think about . . . something — sorry, a person, not a thing, somebody who also didn’t change that Monday morning.” She sighed, walked out from behind the chair, wiped the back of her hand across her glistening eyes. “Another person else who isn’t here tonight.” She sniffed, sat. “Because he can’t.”

Agent of Curiosity – TLWM 10H

Dr. Patel was now standing behind Jane, and made eye contact with everyone else in the room as he continued. “Last week, Jane gave me permission to speak to each of you regarding her condition. The consistency of the stories you’ve told me confirmed the depth of Jane’s delusion.” He stepped back into the circle, turned to Jane, and the smile she saw on his face was not the clinical politeness of Dr. Patel, but rather the genuine friendliness of Sumeet, call me Sam. “But I also learned a great deal more about Jane during those conversations — information that contributes to my recommendation.”Dr. Patel turned to Wings, sitting to Jane’s left. “You told me you’d been teaching Jane how to use her smart phone. How are those lessons going?”

The eyes of the thin girl widened. “Good. I’m not teaching her no more — after a couple days, she was figuring things out for herself.”

The wind outside howled again, rattling the windows of the sturdy suburban home. Dr. Patel nodded, then turned to Gary and Arjie. “Not knowing how to use a computer obviously presented some problems with her job.”

“Well yeah.” Arjie straightened in his chair, pointed a thumb to Gary sitting at his right. “That’s why Gary set up these training sessions with me and her, after work and weekends. When she got the basics, she took her laptop home, did more studying there.”

“And the result?” Dr. Patel pointed with his index finger at Arjie, then darted it over to point at Gary.

Gary smiled like a proud parent. “We got comments back from IDOT on the Route 20 drawings, and Jane did all the edits today.” He turned in her direction. “I’ve got my lead CAD operator back.”

Dr. Patel now turned to Hilda, sitting to Jane’s right. “You’ve been –” a gale interrupted, Dr. Patel raising his voice — “you’ve been living with your daughter nearly two weeks now. How does she seem?”

Hilda seemed uncertain how to answer. “You mean — aside from the story — ”

“Yes.” For the first time that evening, Dr. Patel’s tone betrayed impatience. A flying tree branch bounced harmlessly yet noisily against the home’s brick exterior.

Hilda blinked. “I — she’s been a little — uptight, you could say. Argumentative.” She turned to her daughter, then smiled. “But you’ve always been strong-willed.” She turned back to Dr. Patel. “So no — maybe she’s been a little edgy, but no, I really can’t say she hasn’t been herself.”

He turned to face Jane with an inquisitive look, analytical, more like Dr. Patel than Sam. “Do you know what prompted me to ask these questions about your personal life, Jane?” She shrugged. “It was something you said to me at our last meeting, about the accident you had seen while driving to our appointment.”

She stared blankly at Dr. Patel, sensing that he was expecting her to figure out the significance of his statement. There was something about the inflection of his voice, especially when he said — her eyes and mouth widened. “Driving. I drove to that appointment, instead of taking the bus.”

Exactly. Even though you’d told me that you not only didn’t remember ever owning a car, but also that you hadn’t driven in over ten years.” He walked outside the circle of chairs again. “You know, for someone who claims that she woke up one day three weeks ago and thought this world was an alien land — you’ve done quite a remarkable job of adjusting. I still believe you need help with your delusions — but, if I may use the vernacular, you’re the most normal crazy person I’ve ever worked with.”

Jane looked quickly over at Gary and Arjie, who both nodded their approval. She then turned to Wings, and received a swift wink.

Dr. Patel walked back into the circle, a darkness seeming to descend on him. The wind decreased into a steady moan. “I need to bring up a sensitive subject, Jane.” He stopped, coughed into his hand. “I have been asked, by more than one person in this room, whether you could be somehow forced into accepting treatment.” Jane felt her mother stiffen in the chair next to her. “And I replied that yes, there is legal precedence for this, and yes, I’ve been the expert witness in several cases where I’ve advised meds over objections.” Jane felt her heart begin to race.

“The fact that you’re not currently hospitalized makes it difficult to force medication on you.” Dr. Patel’s tone banished all traces of Sam from the room. “Difficult, but not impossible. Given the nature of your delusion, I would not hesitate to take legal action to force meds on you — but only If I thought your delusion presented a threat to anyone, or to yourself.”

Jane arched her brows. “I assume that word but is pretty significant.”

A little bit of Sam re-appeared in Dr. Patel’s smile. “Do you remember the amber ball from my office?”

“The one with the mosquito trapped inside?”

“I have no other, Jane. Do you know why I keep it in my office, rather than at home?”

Jane thought a moment, then laughed. “Well, based on what you’ve been saying to lead up to that question — I’d guess it’s in your office as some kind of . . . test. For your patients?”

Dr. Patel resumed pacing around the outside of circled chairs. “A test, perhaps, but I prefer to see it as an agent, which I introduce in my treatments in order to elicit a reaction from my patients. It is such an unusual object that everyone notices it. Some people stare at it inquisitively, but never verbally acknowledge it, or shrug indifferently when I describe its contents. Others ask me questions I cannot answer — how old it is, whether the mosquito trapped inside is the same as modern mosquitos.” He stopped in front of Jane’s chair. “You were one of the few people who, when I said I received it from my father, asked for more information about my family, and the land I came from.”

Sam reached down, touched Jane’s shoulder. “Despite your delusion, you have an active curiosity, Jane. Not only about things, but people.” Dr. Patel withdrew his touch, scanned the faces in the room, turned back to Jane. “You are no threat, Jane. You need help, but not from yourself. I can help you, Jane, want to help you — but I shall not force that help upon you.”

Not Exactly Similar – TLWM 10G

“And you have been able to help people like Jane before, right?” Hilda’s question to Dr. Patel sounding more like a statement to her daughter.

Dr. Patel swept his upturned palm across the room, like he was offering a tray of hors d’voures. “Yes! I’ve helped many people in Jane’s situation.”

Jane blinked. “You mean, people who — ” Jane didn’t want to utter the words that came next, but realized they would be the most accurate — “who came from my world?”

Dr. Patel pursed his lips, stepped back. “I said similar, Jane — not exact.” His smiled beamed reassurance, as he resumed pacing around the circle of chairs. “The delusions I’ve worked with have been, I guess you could say, less grandiose than yours. Some of my patients believe someone is in love with them, or their spouse, when there is no evidence to support such a belief. Others think they are more intelligent, powerful than they seem, that others are jealous of their imaginary abilities.” His eyebrows raised sharply. “And then, there are the more elaborate delusions — one patient told me burglars stole everything from his home each evening, then brought it back the next day. Others swear to the existence of people who are no longer alive, or who never existed. Or they are not the person everyone perceives them to be.” He flexed his fingers toward Jane — “Yours is similar to this delusion, but in ways, it’s the reverse — you believe you’re the same as you’ve always been, but the world around you has changed.”

Dr. Patel exhaled, like a weightlifter preparing for a lift. “In any event, Jane, the only cure for your condition, is through medication.” Jane blinked, her shoulders drooping. Her mother placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, as Dr. Patel continued. “I could write you a prescription this evening, even call it in for you. The standard protocol would then be to monitor your progress — these medications can have strong side effects, and it may take time to find the proper treatment for you — ” he retrieved his smart phone from his pocket — “I could even schedule your office visits this evening.”

“That’s very kind of you, doctor.” Jane felt the vibration of her mother’s voice through the hand on her shoulder.

Dr. Patel smiled, putting the smart phone back into his pocket. “But before we commence with this treatment plan, Jane — there is one other thing we need to discuss.” He then raised his head, sweeping his gaze across the perimeter of the circle, making eye contact with everyone in the room. “Something that required the presence of everyone here this evening.”

A strong howl of November wind erupted, leaves and branches flying through the dark night and flailing against the thick windows of the sturdy suburban home.

A Professional Diagnosis – TLWM 10F

Dr. Patel now paced outside the circle. “Three weeks ago Monday, you reported to work — ” Dr. Patel nodded in the direction of Gary and Arjie — “and claimed the world had suddenly changed. You claimed that you didn’t recognize mobile phones or personal computers, and did not remember owning a car.” Jane nodded, despite realizing that Dr. Patel was not asking her to corroborate her case history. “You also claimed that there was some kind of mass transit system — something resembling trolley cars — ”

“Unirail.” Jane suddenly realized it had been a week since she had even thought about it. “There’s this electrical grid under the city streets, and — ”

She stopped upon seeing Dr. Patel raise a polite hand. “Perhaps some other time, Jane. What’s important for now, is the fact that you claim that there are important things missing in this world — ” Dr. Patel was now pointing down — “and there are other things that are in this world, that you claim did not exist until that Monday.”

Jane sensed from Dr. Patel’s motionless pause that he was now actually waiting for corroboration. She nodded. “Yes, that’s what happened. I woke up one day, and poof.” She spread her hands up and out from her lap.

Dr. Patel smiled, and turned to the rotund man sitting in the chair opposite the circle from Jane. “Gary, when you heard Jane tell this story — of the world going poof — what was your reaction?”

Gary’s eyes widened, his head snapping back. “I was — confused. Worried. Which is why I asked her to see you.”

Dr. Patel turned back to Jane, sitting between her mother and Wings. “Yes, this is where I come into the story. And I must admit that when Jane came to my office that Wednesday afternoon, I fully expected to refer her to a clinical therapist — I had even contacted someone I work with frequently, who works regularly with women of Jane’s generation.” Dr. Patel blinked, shook his head. “But then I heard your story — not only your story, but the calm conviction with which you told it. And before our first session was over, I came to a hypothesis that I confirmed in our subsequent meetings.”

He had stopped his pacing, was now standing directly in front of her, staring down in cold calculation. “You are delusional, Jane. I’m sorry, but that is my diagnosis. You insist on facts that can easily be dismissed as fantasy, and dismiss other facts that are just as easily verified. Furthermore, I don’t believe any talking therapy can help your condition. Your delusion is too deep, too entrenched, for even the best clinical therapist to eradicate. I did not refer you, Jane, because I knew that, as a psychiatrist who works with severe mental disorders — ” he placed a hand on her shoulder — “I was the only person who could help you.”

Choices of Words – TLWM 10E

“Thank you, everyone, for being here.” Dr. Patel waved an open palm in Jane’s direction. “For being here for Jane, that is. I’ve had the pleasure with speaking with every one of you this past week, to discuss Jane’s — I believe the word she prefers to use is, condition — ”

“Works for me.”

“Good, good. And what I’ve learned from my conversations with you has confirmed my — I know you don’t like this word, Jane, but it must be said — my diagnosis. For your condition.”

Dr. Patel walked into the middle of the circle, hands behind his back, his eyes glancing down as if looking for a loose floorboard. “But, if you’ll indulge me a moment — I think it’s important to provide a context for my diagnosis. A context that will explain my conclusion. And the best way to provide that context, is to review the history of this — ” he looked directly at Jane — “and I know you won’t like this word either — let’s review the history of this case.”