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Unlocking Kathryn's demons would destroy her. The same dream haunted her every night for two weeks and she could not face more nights alone in the dark. In the mirror, her messy auburn hair and the sinewy paths of newly formed blood vessels webbing her green eyes only added to her depression. She adjusted her gold rim glasses and exhaled. Her goal in booking the appointment with Dr. Rashid was to make sense of her dreams and understand why Lucy was locked inside her head.
She turned her brown Toyota into Rashid's dirt lot. The overgrown hedges covering the first floor windows as well as the wispy, yellowed grass blades, and peeling black lettered sign swaying in the wind, exaggerated her heightened vulnerability. Most professional buildings were located downtown in Ellerby, but this three story, faded red Victorian was isolated on a rural stretch near the town forest.
After locking her car, she swung her pocketbook strap over her shoulder and hiked across the dusty lot. Grassy clumps and sprinkled ant mounds pushed through the weathered cement walk. Lucy never spoke during the day, but her pleas for help, as if trapped within a silty, hidden underwater pocket, would bubble up at night. Kathryn paused at the olive paneled front door. She wandered over the porch slats and placed her hand on the tarnished brass knob. Again she stopped. With a single twist she opened the door. The faint smell of incense and stronger unfamiliar food aromas lingered inside the stuffy wood veneer foyer.
In his office Dr. Rashid scrawled vigorously on a legal pad propped on his folded leg. The crimson stain glass lamp produced a single light swath over his open beige shirt and charcoal slacks. His dark eyes, black hair, and deepened beard stubble reminded her of a tribal mystic. He looked up as she stood rigidly on the foyer rug. His heavily accented voice punctuated the heavy air. " Miss Jenner, right on time."
Kathryn now wished she had solved her own problems. Rashid set down his pen and trekked across the office. She squeezed his hairy, tacky hand.
" Kathryn Jenner."
" Please sit down ... Please."
He fumbled with the office door and motioned her over to a padded Queen Anne sofa. After exchanging vague pleasantries, he sat in a soiled beige chair and ran his blue plastic pen back over the yellow legal pad. He pushed a button below the chair and New Age jazz subtly reverberated from cob webbed, silver speakers in the ceiling corners. Kathryn wondered why Roz had recommended this guy to rid her of the hellish nightmares.
She tapped her fingers rhythmically on her leather pocketbook and followed the neatly woven, complex blue and brown Oriental rug to the wall. Yellowed glue had seeped through the older wallpaper seams and the plaster was cracked across the high ceiling. The front window light was dimmed by the hedges and a tall green door between the rear bookcases was closed. Rashid crossed his legs again. His accent, combined with his low voice made her uneasy. " I'm ready. Sorry for the delay."
" Roz said you could help me."
The whites of his eyes glared as he nodded and jotted something on the pad. " You feel ... like someone is trying to kill you."
" Conrad Ridder."
His bristle brows rose over the dark rim glasses. " The man who has the talk show on national TV? "
" Forgive me, Miss Jenner I do not watch much TV, but I do know Conrad Ridder is nationally famous."
" No, you don't understand. It's a dream. The same dream every time. It started two weeks ago. I'm in Plymouth. You know, where the Pilgrims landed. I've never been there in my life."
" Sometimes we extrapolate things."
Kathryn wiped the sweat beading on her forehead. How could she ever relate the horror of someone trying to murder her? Her stomach problems erupted again as acid crept up her throat and threatened to dissolve her vocal cords.
" God, this seems so real. I almost want to go back there and straighten this out. "
" Tell me the dream."
" I'm running along a stone, sea wall at night. Only I'm not me. I'm Lucy."
" Yeah, and I'm with this guy named Smitty. We're running down the road and all the cars, they're all old, maybe twenty-five or thirty years old. Big cars with fins. We run past the place where the boat is. You know, the replica of the Pilgrims boat. Ridder is driving down the road in his white Volkswagen. An old type Volkswagen. We tried to hide near the monument. The big granite monument where the rock is. I saw the engraved 1620 on the rock. Ridder is out of the car. He has a gun. Smitty holds me and tries to talk to Ridder. Ridder is younger and he yells out: ' I'm sorry guys, but you're in the way ... You won't stop me! ' And that's it. He points the gun and fires. Then I wake up."
" I see ... And it happens the same way every time?"
" Yes, all the time. Every night. Tell me how to stop it, Doctor."
" A lost soul is reaching out."
" A what?"
" A soul is reaching over the time and you are the conduit."
" At other times, she calls out for my help."
Rashid nodded again as if he had heard this complaint before. " The soul may be this woman you call Lucy. I can help with Transformation Therapy."
" I'm not familiar with that."
He smiled just long enough to flash his white teeth. " Miss Jenner, I engage in certain practices that may not be classified as conventional. I can assure you Transformation Therapy is real. It does work where the body is inhabited by restless spirits. But there are side effects, if you will."
Kathryn sat up in the chair. " So, you're telling me I actually have spirits inside me? Is that it?"
" Repeating dreams are often manifestations of spirits longing to bridge time and space." His brow deepened and his voice reflected a new intensity.
" These spirits possess a yearning to be free from the burden they carry."
" Burden? What burden? Come on. I've never heard of that nor have I heard of this therapy." She sprang from the sofa and mechanically strapped her bag over her shoulder. " I was looking for regular therapy. The kind you get from a shrink."
Rashid balanced the pen on his chin and moved his tongue around his cheek. " Miss Jenner. This dream is not going to stop until you satisfy this lost soul; this Lucy. And just your talking about it could trigger more dreams. That is the great danger. Let me help you."
" Oh, come on, Doctor. I consider myself a competent woman. I am assistant director of a marketing company here in Ellerby. I may not be married yet at age twenty-eight ... I was going out with a guy. He was a jerk. Maybe that started all this."
" I don't think so," said Rashid. " I've dealt with this pattern before. The spirit is there. Perhaps, Lucy was murdered. Transformation Therapy is a form of hypnosis. We can jar loose the spirit. "
" I'm talking about legitimate psychological problems and you're bringing this Transplant Theory."
" Transformation Therapy. As I said it is not without risk."
Kathryn glanced at the outside door. " Something I won't have to worry about. I think I'm going to seek the services of someone a little more mainstream. No offense."
Rashid set down the legal pad, stood and faced her. " Miss Jenner, it will only get worse if someone is reaching to you over time. It will begin to consume you."
Kathryn studied the beard stubble across his tanned skin. A dramatic seriousness and mystery resided his black eyes. " I just have to trust my judgment."
" I can't force you. I just feel for what you're going through." He pinched an orange business card from the plastic holder on the table and inked a number on the back. " Please, call my private number if it gets worse. And I know it will accelerate because the spirit is aware he or she has your attention."
" I prefer to think my dreams are a result of my own tensions."
" Maybe not." He placed the textured card with raised yellow ink into Kathryn's trembling hand. She glanced at the Ellerby number. " Thank you ... But I'm going seek professional help"
" Please no explanation is necessary." He escorted her around the sofa and opened the foyer door. " Remember, Miss Jenner, life issues must be resolved. Someone is reaching out for help and they won't stop until the world is made right again."
" Okay." She moved quickly into the foyer and shot out the front entrance. The clean forest air refreshed her from the strange, stifling environment inside the house. She looked over her shoulder as she trotted down the cement walk and Venetian blinds quickly descended over Rashid's door window. She fumbled for the car key. " This is nonsense. This guy is a Loony Tune."
Once safely inside the Toyota she repeatedly assured herself Rashid posited a wild, rationalized theory. She whipped the car around the dirt lot and the red house was soon lost within the dusty cloud. The idea of spirits crossing time and space was absurd. She stared into her own eyes as she drove. Forces beyond her control lurked behind her dark expanded pupils. Rather than actually flying back east to Plymouth, she needed a competent therapist to draw out the true nature of her malady and solve her problem.
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