Hell's bells, I couldn't wait to get out of there.
Five hours! Five, long, friggin hours in a claustrophobic room. Okay, so the room is a corner office with an incredible window view, decorated with pictures of my family, but it's claustrophobic nonetheless. Besides, whenever I'm on an important conference call, the blinds are usually shut and I try my damnedest not to look at the photographs for fear of distraction. Five hours. Five hours of drinking gallons of high octane coffee which does for me what cocaine does to a normal man. Five hours speaking to a group of close-minded investors, persuading them to donate a huge amount of money for another year. Oh, and not only speaking, but also using the internet on-line system (or is it called NFS net? Whatever. Even though it's slow, it gets the job done), demonstrating through pie graphs, percentage bar graphs, and statistics on how the success rate of the Wagner Institute for Mental Treatment and Investigations has increased every single year. Speaking, persuading, literally pacing back and forth and gesticulating (like these guys could actually see me), trying to win their trust. And during this process that mixed frustration with a dose of adrenaline-laced excitement, I reminded myself of something my father told me about getting what you want from those members of the human race who are just simply inept: "Diplomacy is the wonderful ability in which you can win anyone over with the precise amount of wit, finesse, and, most importantly, flattery." I mentally chanted this mantra until I finally got the answers that I and the Institute needed: financial support approved.
The moment I hung up the phone, I raced out of my office, ran through the main floor, impatiently waited in the elevator, and ran through the lobby so fast that I didn't even say goodbye to the girl at the front desk (got to remember to apologize to her when I come back). I jumped in my car and broke various vehicle codes until I got on the 605 Freeway. And throughout that entire time, I didn't say a single word. But when I started driving south towards Huntington Beach, I spoke. It was only one sentence and I was talking to no one but myself, but I did finally speak: "Stupid investors. They're so fucking dumb that they don't know their assholes from holes in the ground."
Like I said before, I really couldn't wait to leave that place.
Ah, who the hell am I kidding? I bitch and moan about the frustrations of convincing a group of bottom-line individuals to invest their money in the Institute and I can't help but smile now. It's like what Andrea sweetly, yet bluntly tells me when I go into another tirade about hating my job, "Nathan Reynolds, you are a wonderful, talented communicator. But you do speak out of your ass sometimes." And she's right. I do love my job. As long as I can remember, fighting for lost causes by using my mouth has been a natural high for me. Hell, I've always been like that, from the moment that I could first talk to where I am right now, Vice President for the Institute. Even during my job interview with Dr. Wagner himself, I was so full of moxie that I told him that I was so good that I could sell the pants right out from him. He smiled, quickly grabbed his pants and answered with his soft, German accented voice, "Vell, I better vatch out for you." I was thirty-two then, fresh from my experiences with my undergrad work in PoliSci, my graduate work in Business Management, and my administrative experiences in various hospitals doing what I do best: communicate and persuade. Eleven years later, I'm still banging my head against a wall trying to win these morons over.
No, I shouldn't be too hard on them. I can't really blame their skepticism. If I was in their position and some guy approached me and said, "Hey, I work for an organization that investigates psychic phenomena and unsolved serial murder cases. We do this with the help of our employees who, by the way, possess a variety of paranormal powers. Now, give me your money," I would think he was some sort of lunatic. But to put in all in a nutshell, that is what I usually tell them. Not in so many words, of course. To an average man in a seemingly normal world, it would be considered an impossible task to convince various wealthy corporations and philanthropic organizations to invest their money on paranormal and psychic research. Dr. Wagner told me this the first time he hired me. Now, at the age of 43, I'm happy to say the sales pitch still works. We solved a lot of cases and caught many sick freaks because of the financial support, so I shouldn't make it a habit of insulting their inability to see beyond the obvious. But then again, their pragmatism that fuels my frustration could be the reason why I've been consistently successful gaining their financial support. So, if I have to suffer to win, hell, I'll deal with it.
I'm passing the 105 Freeway right now. I turn on my radio and listen to 105.1 FM, my favorite Classical music station, to make the commute more tolerable. On a good day, it usually takes a solid hour to travel from Pasadena to Irvine, longer if it's rush hour traffic. Since today is Thanksgiving, it shouldn't take me that long to get home. But not yet. I still have to make one stop at Huntington Beach. I have to see Gabe. One little job that I must do, a job that I've been doing for almost two years. This particular case doesn't involve my natural talents for persuasive communication. No, my other talents that I've been using on Gabe, and on other cases, are far from natural.
For the first time in my life since I accidentally read Dr. Wagner's thoughts after one year of employment at the Institute, I was actually scared. It was all so surreal, as though I was in some kind of horror film. I still remember the doctor performing a full battery of diagnostics on me. Prognosis: latent talents for telepathy, precognition, retro-cognition, astral projection, slight psychic linking...Hell, half of these I had to look up in the dictionary while Dr. Wagner explained the rest. Regardless, my life changed after that. It was rough trying to learn how to control these powers. But as time went on, I started to work with my investigators on some of the cases, even though my talents are a little limited. A PR man and a part-time psychic investigator. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Actually, it wasn't totally an easy ride. I've seen some pretty unsettling cases, especially when we're hunting some psychopath with homicidal tendencies. A couple of cases were downright bloody. One case...no, can't think about that. Gotta focus on the music, the drive, and Gabe.
The Overture to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro begins to play on the radio and my hands clench hard on the steering wheel like a Pavlovian reaction to some terrible stimuli. You know, I use to like this piece. Then the attack happened, and I can't listen to this music without the memory of that horror returning. And I've been trying my damnedest these past few years to forget it. But the power of the music is strong and the bright, sunlit, morning changes to a hazy darkness. Imagery is appearing before me, as if I'm watching splices of black and white silent film, with only the music to serve as its haunting score.
I'm seeing a younger version of myself four years ago driving along the 22 East toward the 5 Golden State Freeway. Andrea is with him, so is our youngest boy, Simon. They're so happy because Simon's baseball team won their first game and he scored a home run, his first. I'm seeing my younger self turn on the radio and The Marriage of Figaro is playing. Younger Nate is smiling as he continues to focus his attention in front of him on the dark
road comes a black van with blue flames painted on the sides, creeping up behind our family with headlights glaring. The dragon is seeking its prey tonight. Younger Nate and the others aren't noticing until the van...turn around, you fool! Turn around! Too late. It starts to pass them. The monster coasts side by side with their car and young Nate finally glances at the van through his window. He recognizes the driver and he screams silently as the van's flames engulf his view. The flames
start to appear from the car at the bottom of the hill. It was turned on its back like a dissected lab specimen and the fire is slowly creeping towards the gas tank. I'm staring at younger Nate pulling his unconscious wife and son out. The car explodes, knocking him out as well; and on top of the hill is the black metallic monster with its hungry lights still on. In front of the behemoth stands a lean, tall man, lighting his cigarette. I concentrate on Richard Rourke's piercing blue eyes reflecting the wild flames from the explosion, displaying a look of sadistic satisfaction. Rourke opens his mouth and laughs, but the only sound that I can hear is that damn music. The predator's orifice becomes large, swallowing me. The mouth
changes shape into that of Andrea's, who's keening with sorrow as she is holding Simon's hand, which is secured tightly to the hospital bed. Surrounding her and Simon is my entire family, including my younger self, who is staring helplessly at his/our broken son. The dead stare turns into rage. He clenches his/our fists, driving our fingernails in our palms so hard that blood starts to trickle down in tiny streams. Then, the music
changes to a car horn. Shit! Cars are passing by me. I've been driving at 35 mph for who knows how long. I'm slowly speeding up with the traffic, shutting off the radio and I curse myself in the process for my carelessness. Nate, you should know better, allowing yourself to drift like that. Still, the memory is hard to just erase. And listening to Figaro didn't help matters. Dammit, my hands are still clenching on the wheel. I pick up my car phone and dial home, waiting for anybody to talk to. Gotta clear my mind from this nightmare.
The line picks up and I hear Andrea's lovely voice. My spirits immediately lighten. I whisper, "Hey, sexy. What are you wearing?"
She giggles and continues with the game that we play so often, "Hello yourself, stranger. I happen to be wearing the most tantalizing outfit that you could possibly imagine."
I softly growl, "Let me guess, your jogging outfit and over it you're wearing your 'Kiss the cook' apron? Mmm, I'm aroused."
She laughs. "Pervert." I hear a pause. "Well, let's see. It is presently 10:03 in the morning. It looks like Mike won the pool."
"Your sons and I started a pool to see when the meeting would end. Mike was the earliest at 10:30, so he won."
I frown at this. Am I losing my touch? "The earliest was 10:30? The rest of you thought the meeting would last longer than five hours? You don't think much of me, do you?"
She chuckles. "Oh, I think very much of you. It's those, how do you subtly put it, 'ignorant assholes' whom you are dealing with that worry me. Speaking of which, did you win them over?"
"They bought it. The Institute will now be able to afford cable TV in the lounge, maybe even HBO."
"Come on, Nate. It's not that bad. The Institute has a lot of resources. From what you told me, the facilities over there are more advanced than that psychic organization out in Arizona, and they're owned by the Government."
"I know. I know," I answer as I look up and see the exit leading to the 405 south. I slowly increase my speed and blend into the traffic. "I just wish I could do more."
"You are, hun. You are, for both your job and especially us. My God, you worked on Thanksgiving. I'm surprised that Dr. Wagner approved."
"I'm being compensated. From this moment on, my dear, I'm on vacation for three weeks. Vince Poe will take over for me."
She whistles in amazement. "Well, what are you going to do with yourself all that time?" Before I had a chance to answer, she quickly adds, "Never mind. I don't want to know."
I laugh. "Damn, I was hoping to answer. How are the kids doing?"
"Josh and Mike are helping me with dinner. Simon's watching them."
When I heard his name, my heart aches. "How's he doing?"
"He's in a good mood, which is a first for him. The holidays usually make him melancholy."
Good. Maybe he is getting better after all. I look up and see the exit. "I'm almost at the Wyatt's. I should be home in about an hour." I pause. "Look, I'm sorry for the delay. Because of my business trip to Paris last month, I had to postpone Gabe's appointment, and the 26th was the only free day for the two of us."
"Don't worry. I understand. Just do what you need to do and come home soon," she says gently, which always causes me to melt even more. "And if you get home early enough," she adds seductively, "you might even be allowed to have some dessert."
"Figuratively or literally?"
She snickers. "If you have to ask that, hun, you've really been at the office too long." And she hangs up.
I couldn't help but laugh. It was good hearing her playful spirit finally slowly coming back to life even more since the attack. In the beginning, though, we had doubts whether any member of our family would survive that ordeal, both physically and emotionally. But four years had passed and all the wounds were mending, albeit slowly. Still, I can't help but feel responsible for all of their suffering. Even though Andrea insists that it wasn't my fault the psychopath that I was hired to find turned the tables and hunted me and my family, I wonder if possessing these powers were more trouble than they're worth. Nah, I'm not going there. When Andrea and the kids found out about my new found talents, I was surprised at their reaction: slight awkwardness and curiosity. The awkwardness came from the kids at first, then they just accepted it like it was part of life. The curiosity part came from Andrea. With a raised eyebrow, she simply remarked, "I guess the adventure has truly begun." I don't know if she would've said the same thing after what happened to Simon, but these reactions were a pleasant surprise and a relief. I have to say that I'm extremely grateful to have such an understanding, supportive family. Hell, many of the psychics here at the Institute aren't so lucky. Their families treat them with animosity and/or jealousy, always leading to alienation. It comes to a point where their co-workers are their only families. Thank God I'm not in their position.
I exit the freeway and drive toward Huntington Beach. Although I like the beach houses off the coast, I'm a little partial to the inland portion of the city. The temperature is considerably more temperate and the neighborhoods have a suburban flavor. Unlike a lot of the gated communities in Irvine, Huntington Beach is open to the social environment. What is so unusual too is the slightly criminal areas east of Beach Boulevard never seem to impinge upon the nicer, safer neighborhoods to the west, as if they were repelled by some invisible shell. Time to turn right, and then follow the winding streets of the quiet neighborhood until it ends at the cul-de-sac where the Wyatts live.
I get out of my car and I lean on the hood, familiarizing myself again with the surroundings. Even though it's late November, the only indication that it's Fall is a slight cool breeze coming from the ocean. The morning sun is showering the grey house with its brilliance, causing an aura effect around the structure. The single story house and surrounding property hadn't changed in the last four months. The lawn and shrubs that outline the front half of the property are kept surprisingly trim and clean. Where the shrubs end, brick walls continue around the back, thereby separating the property from the surrounding houses. The flower plants are still healthy and the front windows have been kept immaculate. Clean and clear; no sign of neglect at all. Incredible, even with Gabe's full time care, the parents still have the time to keep the house in order. I wonder how they do that?
My eyes drift from the main house to the two car garage. In front of it is the special van that contains a ramp and hoist for Gabe and his chair. Although Frank Wyatt's job as a pilot for US Air covered a majority of medical expenses, the poor bastard still had to sell one of the family's two cars in order to buy the van and its accessories. I eventually walk up the path toward the front door, but before I have a chance to ring the bell, the door opens.
Seeing Patricia right now made me remember of my first meeting with her and Frank two years ago. I was seeing the results of what two years of stress, despair, and emotional pain can do to the human body. Frank, a tall, athletic, muscular man in his early forties looked as though he carried the burden of the world on his shoulders, and he was slowly weakening each day. Grey hair around the temples and wrinkles on his face gave him the appearance of a man far more advanced in years. Patricia, who was 39 at the time, looked unnaturally thin, her blue eyes almost sunken. She, too, had grey shades that blended along with her auburn hair. But what stunned me the most during this initial meeting was when the Wyatts showed me the family album, including pictures of them right before the accident. Both husband and wife displayed such youthful energies in their physical forms and their personalities. I noticed a picture of them two days before the car accident: no sign of grey hairs, wrinkles, or any other sign of debilitating stress about them. Then, I looked up from these pictures at the couple before me. I knew at that moment they were slowly coming to the end of their rope and I had to get them to trust me.
Fortunately, it took little effort and two years later, I am now looking at the smiling face of Patricia, who is wearing her cooking apron. She still has some gray hairs and there are wrinkles around her mouth and eyes, but she's showing some signs of weight gain again, filling out an attractive figure that was lost four years ago. "I was waiting for you. Frank worked the Red-Eye shift and didn't get back until five this morning. He's sleeping right now, so I didn't want the doorbell to wake him up. I hope you don't mind if we let him sleep."
Well, that explains how they managed to keep the property in shape. The overtime must pay for the upkeep of the land and the expensive equipment. And I complain about a five hour meeting on a holiday! As I go inside, I take off my shoes and look about the spacious living room. Its carpeting is dark burgundy (Oh, it feels so soft) and dark wood paneling surrounds the entire room until it stops at the fireplace near the left side of the house. The earth colors of the room---including the brown leather furniture---give it a warm, comfortable feeling that always made me smile every time I come to visit. It's a home in every sense of the word.
Patricia is leading me to the kitchen and whoa! The aroma is fantastic. I'm looking at the kitchen and I see a variety of foods patiently cooking within their pots and saucepans. It's warm in this part of the house, probably the heat coming from the oven where the main course is roasting. I have the urge to close my eyes. I inhale so deeply and I'm letting my imagination run wild with a vision of the turkey becoming a golden brown, with its juices begging to burst forth from its prone body?wow, my hunger-induced imagination is turning Freudian on me. And my mouth is watering, too. I forgot that I haven't eaten in hours. I got to get out of here before I ravish this poor woman's turkey.
I open my eyes, face the dining room, and I couldn't move. The table was presented and prepared with the finest dinnerware that the Wyatts owned: bone china with laurels of violet flowers hand painted on each piece. But the one thing that catches my eye the most is the red banner hung over the table, with yellow lettering exclaiming, "Happy Birthday, Gabe!"
Shit. Good form, Nate. Not only did you postpone Gabe's appointment to attend a business meeting with a bunch of syphilitic, apathetic Frenchmen, but you forgot his birthday, too. I should do something special for him, but what? Well, I'll worry about it when the time comes. Patricia looks at me with a smile. "I take it you like the smell."
"'Like' is an understatement. 'Crave' is a better term." We both laugh as she escorts me to Gabe.
I love this room! I can always tell that Frank's love for anything avian is shared by his son, for Gabe's sky-blue walls are covered with posters of eagles, falcons, and even winged horses and griffins. Hanging from the ceiling and displayed on various bookshelves on his desk are models of planes including biplanes, B-17 bombers, attack Air Force fighters, and even some spacecraft from popular science fiction films. Every time I visit, I can tell there's a real vital energy here.
But as I look down at the bed, which contains the small, sleeping form of Gabe, the joyful view of the room leaves me cold. Although all casts were taken off two years ago, this brave eleven year old still has to breathe with the help of a respirator that is connected to his trachea. Thanks to physical therapy, his arms and legs hadn't atrophied. Yet, they're as useless as maimed wings on a dove. The only source of transportation is the special wheelchair on the left side of the bed, which also carries a portable air machine in the back.
I grab a chair from the desk and place it on the right side of the bed. I sit down, run my hand through the boy's feather-like hair, remembering the first time I met him. The positive, good-natured child from the photos was replaced by a picture of depression and anguish, with no signs of hope. Then, I began the psychic linking treatments and what was revealed to me was one of the most precocious nine-year olds I have ever met. I don't know whether it was the influence from his highly educated parents, especially since Patricia is a college professor (now on leave), or he's just a wise soul beyond his years. Regardless, I got the instinctive feeling that he can be wiser than me, in his actions, his vocabulary, his whole outlook on life.
"Why is he still asleep?"
"He wanted to wait for his father to come home. He was so stubborn. He stayed awake until finally I gave him the 5 HTP pill at 3 A.M. Then, he fell asleep."
Very good. 5 HTP generates serotonin within the brain, which enhances the dream-state of an individual, making it easy for me to link and travel below the conscious level of the patient's mind. This eventually results in me entering the deep unconscious state. "How is he doing, though?"
Patricia hesitates, and it's that kind of hesitation that always worries me. "Well, he has been slightly depressed recently. And . . . we had a fight. He made a comment about wishing he could be in his 'dream land' on his own so he could move around all the time."
I rub my forehead in frustration. Damn, not a good sign. I don't want him to be dependent on this. I look back at Patricia. "I'll talk to him about it. Don't worry. He'll be okay."
She responds to this with a relieved smile. I face my patient, take his right hand and I close my eyes. Psychic linking, as Dr. Wagner calls it, is an interesting technique because it involves two separate processes combined together. My breathing starts to become more focused and I generate energies and vibrations above my body that increase with speed and intensity. My body becomes still and I'm so relaxed in my chair that I can tell that there is no activity within my entire musculature. Total stillness. Now, in my mind I visualize these special energies as DNA double helixes, pulsating rapidly and composed of an infinite assortment of colors. I mentally reach for the vibrating energy forms, making contact, and I rise from my body into the air, always giving me the feeling that a layer of something wet has slipped away from my essence. I focus and harness these energies even more until they combine with my soul. I open my eyes, spin around, and I see that I'm floating six feet above my body, which is still in its peaceful trance. First process, also known as astral projection, is now completed.
When I first started to astral project, it was so disorientating. But Dr. Wagner and a couple of others trained me how to control my essence in this state. I could fly, walk, run anywhere across the country if I could focus enough energy. Of course, there are drawbacks. As always, my sight and hearing are the only senses that are functional. I have to admit, even though I miss the pleasures that my other senses offer me, the freedom of this state is more than compensation. I actually feel as though I'm in total peace.
As I fly about the room, keeping my equilibrium in check, I glance over to Patricia, who is still looking toward the two bodies at the bed and the chair, not noticing my floating spiritual self at all. My body's hand is still holding Gabe's hand, which is good. Contact is still maintained for the second part of the linking process: the Dive.
I drift above the bed, becoming parallel to Gabe's body. Then, I straighten out my arms and point my fingertips toward his head. The vibrating energies that were generated for my astral projection are shooting out from my fingers to the center of the boy's forehead, where the Pineal Gland is located -- the doorway to the psyche. The energy surge is such an incredible adrenaline rush! A pool of psychic liquid ripples at the center of the forehead, slowly expanding outwards. Moments pass and now the opening is large enough. I spin my body and point my feet toward the ceiling, causing myself to aim directly at the doorway into Gabe's unconscious. With added doses of concentration, I simply dive in.
And, as Andrea told me, the adventure has begun.
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