Before I Forget: A Short Story.
I familiarised myself with Luna’s case file as I waited for her to arrive. The early morning sunlight crept through my office window, cascaded across the room and clung to the dust. I sipped my piping hot coffee as I skim read the file from Luna’s previous session with me.
Date and time of appointment: 25/05/1996 – 9.30 am.
Patient Name: Luna Imogen Butler.
Age: 19 years old.
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual.
Occupation: Student of Fine Art at the Royal Filigree School of Art.
Suffering from: Severe anxiety including panic attacks, night terrors and nervous sweats.
Notes: Luna is particularly nervous today. Her hands are shaking profusely and she can barely hold eye-contact with me for longer than a few seconds at a time. I am very intrigued by her condition as I have yet to find the route of her anxiety. She has not suffered from any emotional trauma and appears to have a large and loving family. As a last resort, I have suggested my own specialised hypnosis therapy in an attempt to explore her subconscious to find the answer but she is reluctant. Today, she has spoken in great depth about her social anxiety, in particular, with trying to make friends at art school. She has repeatedly said, “Girls just don’t like me,” that she is intimidated by her female peers and that she finds it hard to bond with members of the same sex. This is something I feel needs further attention.
“Dr Fitzpatrick, your next patient is here,” Linda said as she popped her head through my office door.
“Send her in,” I replied.
A few moments later, Luna sheepishly tip-toed in and sat down on the leather chair opposite me. The pungent scent of hair dye stung my sinuses as I noticed Luna had coloured her thick and floppy bleach blonde hair with new flashes of purple and pink. Luna had also gotten her nose and bottom lip pierced since our last session.
“Hello, Luna. How are you today?” I asked.
“I’m great. Well, not great. I-I’m fine,” Luna stammered as she twiddled her earrings and stared at her shoes.
Throughout our session, to my surprise Luna opened up more than usual. She began to talk about a succession of childhood friends who she claimed would be friendly at first and then abruptly abandon or bully her for no good reason. She circled back to the problems she was having with other girls her age at art school but I still was finding it difficult to connect the dots.
“Luna, have you thought any more about the hypnosis therapy I suggested during our last session? I really think it could help me understand why you’re feeling this way,” I said.
“Eh, well I-I don’t know. It sounded quite d-different from usual hypnotism,” Luna said as she recoiled slightly in her chair.
“Admittedly, it is different from the method most doctors use but that’s because it is my own specialised therapy and in my experience it has been very effective,” I stressed.
“Hm, well I suppose we c-could give it a try. If you really think it’d help,” Luna said as she fiddled with her long sleeves.
As I intertwined my fingers with Luna’s and our palms touched, little blue sparks crossed over from my veins to hers.
“It will be quite uncomfortable,” I warned. “And once I have entered your system, you may feel quite an intense itching sensation inside your head. That’s how most of my patients have described it.”
“O-Okay,” Luna stuttered as she flinched and held her eyes tightly shut.
I closed my eyes and began to concentrate on looking inside Luna’s mind. Through my paper eyelids, I could still see the flashes of blue sparks zapping from our hands as my spirit moved deeper inside Luna’s.
Usually, it was a gradual process of being transferred into another person’s mind but Luna was anxious to get me in and out as soon as possible so her spirit harshly dragged me in. From the tips of her fingers, her spirit grabbed mines and pulled me inside. In seconds, I was flushed through her bloodstream, racing past her bones, tossed around at her joints, drawn up the muscle and tissue in her neck and thrown into the depth of her subconscious mind in the brain.
I felt nauseous and dazed as I always did after a transfer but I steadied my feet and eventually the queasiness passed. Being inside another person’s mind was a very bizarre sensation, one that I never got used to. It felt like being intoxicated and like being under water at the same time. Everything seemed very dank and heavy, even turning my head or taking a step seemed to take a long time. It was a very dreamlike and surreal experience.
I was now a tiny version of myself inside a colossal white room. This was Luna’s mind. The air in the room was spicy and humid with the scent of coconut and sea salt; Luna’s favourite smells. The section of the mind that I was wandering around was the subconscious, where the mind stores things we haven’t even planned yet and things we’re not ready to consciously think about just yet. In one corner of Luna’s mind, an oil self-portrait was painting itself with a floating paintbrush, in another an abstract twisted sculpture of cupid was moulding itself into shape and trying to perfect its form. Adjacent to that, dozens of pencils, pens, paintbrushes and pastels were scribbling and drawing in black sketchbooks in mid-air. Above Luna’s art collection in the mind floated cloud-shaped speech bubbles of quotes from her favourite artists and verbalisations of ideas she hadn’t had yet for new projects.
After admiring Luna’s potential future artwork for a few moments, I moved on to the other imaginary objects floating around in her mind. In another corner of the room, I came across a small pink tent, covered in images of Barbie. From outside the tent, I could hear a small girl’s voice muttering something over and over. I knelt down, almost tipping over in my seemingly drunken state as I did so, and unzipped the opening of the tent. Inside was a five-year-old Luna with long dirty blonde hair in pig tails, hugging her knees to her chest and rocking back and forth. She was very hazy and almost transparent.
“It’s all my fault. I made – angry,” she whimpered. The word after ‘made’ was obscured and I couldn’t make it out.
“Luna? What’s wrong? What happened to you?” I asked, in a voice that seemed to echo.
“It’s all my fault. I made – angry,” little Luna repeated as she began to weep.
I reached out my hand to hold hers but before I could, Luna and the tent dissolved into sand that blew away in a sudden breeze. The ground underneath me began to rumble and crack and the whole room shook. I could sense that on the outside, Luna was beginning to get anxious and was shaking her head in discomfort. After a moment, she stopped and let me carry on.
In the next corner of Luna’s mind, another version of her as a twenty-five-year-old stood in a lace wedding dress beside a wicker, flowery alter with a mystery groom who wore a pin-stripe suit and had dark hair but no face. They embraced and she smiled at me with googly eyes as if I was a photographer holding up a camera. Luna appeared to be looking at me but I sensed that she couldn’t really see me. The newly-wed couple then walked over to a bassinet and out of it Luna picked up a new-born baby dressed in yellow who also had just skin where the features should have been. Luna met my gaze and the heads of her anonymous husband and baby slowly turned to face me. I could see now that having a family of her own was something Luna desperately longed for but never spoke about.
As I turned away from Luna’s dream family, I abruptly heard a buzzing sound that I hadn’t noticed before and looked up to see that the ceiling of the room was fuzzy with grey and dashes of colour like the static from a television. Interspersed between the blurry pixels were the flying typed-out thoughts that lurked in Luna’s subconscious: It’s all your fault. Nobody likes you. You’re talentless. Nobody will ever fall in love with you. You’ll never get married and have kids; who would have you?! You’re worthless. It’s. All. Your. Fault!
The giant white room of Luna’s mind was slowly growing darker as thick black cloud began to creep in and stain the clean walls. I knew I only had minutes left before Luna’s body would realise I was here and throw me back out again. I frantically looked around the room to find something that would give me insight into Luna’s anxiety when I picked up another strange noise. It was a blubbering, wet sound like the bursting bubbles and spits from a sauce that is cooking on a high heat. I turned my head to see that in the smallest corner of Luna’s mind was a huge wooden chest. I instinctively thought that this chest was not concealing treasure but instead something dangerous and that whatever was inside was something that Luna had locked away and guarded sacredly.
With more blackness seeping into the room, I paced over to the chest to find out what was inside. The large trunk was locked shut with a padlock but the lid was being forced open by a thick sticky glue-like substance that glowed bright yellow like radioactive waste. The liquid was forcing the chest open, oozing out and crawling down the sides. As the living goo forced more and more pressure on the lid, the padlock buckled and the chest burst open. The giant blob began to leak out of the chest and spread onto the floor in front of me. Only a little dot of white was left in the room by this point, as black cloud had engulfed everything and I struggled to see what the radioactive gloop was doing. As I squinted my eyes to see through the fog, I realised that the goo was trying to convey a message. It began to move and form shapes and soon I could see the figures of Luna as a child with her mother standing next to her. The gunk formed into a sort of blobby cartoon replaying a scene from Luna’s childhood.
Luna’s mother towered over her with a pointed finger and said, “You’ve been very bad, Luna! You need to be punished!”
“Please, Mummy. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again!” cartoon Luna pleaded.
“Come now, Luna. You know what you have to do. Remember that Mummy loves you and it’s our little secret,” Luna’s mother winked as she leaned down on Luna like a predator closing in on its prey.
Horrified, I recoiled and backed away from the poisonous slime as I realised what had happened to Luna as a child. Luna had repressed this traumatic memory deep inside her subconscious. Over the years, Luna must have struggled to force herself to forget and her ordeal had manifested itself into a crippling anxiety that was tainting everything precious in her life from her professional life to her romantic relationships. Tears welled in my eyes and spilled over onto my cheeks but before I could try to digest what I saw, Luna’s body detected that I, an intruder, an antigen was inside her system. A deafening alarm began to ring through the room, piercing my ears as Luna’s immune system sent defences in an attempt to destroy me.
A door appeared in the room. It flew open and out came an army of giant sticky white blood cells with arms, legs, eyes and mouths.
“There!” one of them shouted as they pointed at me.
The white mucus soldiers charged and began to chase after me. I ran to the other side of the room, knowing that I was trapped and began to panic. At that moment, I felt Luna roughly shaking her head to get me out and suddenly I was flung back out her body.
I opened my eyes and I was back in my office again, holding Luna’s hands. The objects around me were real and clear, the room smelled of the lemon air freshener Linda was always spraying and I felt present, in control and sober again.
Luna opened her eyes, met my gaze and dropped her hands from mines.
“Well, d-did you find anything?” she asked, her voice quivering.
I explained to Luna everything I saw inside her subconscious mind from her artwork to her dream family and finally the repressed memory she had been guarding from everyone, including herself.
At first, Luna was angry and insulted that I had suggested such a thing about her beloved mother and she was about to get up and storm out when I noticed her eyes flicker and swell with tears as she finally remembered. She couldn’t deal with what her mother had done to her and was so disturbed that her mind repressed the whole thing.
“It-it’s true. She did do that to me…I remember now,” Luna whined as she broke down in a fit of uncontrollable sobs.
5 Years Later.
“Dr Fitzpatrick, is that you?” I heard a voice say from behind me as I packed my shopping.
I turned round to see a brunette Luna holding hands with a tall, fresh faced man.
“Luna? Oh my goodness, it’s been years! How have you been?” I asked.
“I’ve been amazing,” she smiled sweetly as she glanced at her boyfriend.
Luna’s boyfriend graciously went outside to let Luna and I catch up.
“I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me. Holding onto that secret for years and repressing it was such a strain that I was almost suicidal. Your therapy was the best thing I could have done. Now that I’ve found the source of my anxiety, I’ve had proper family counselling. I’m dealing with it and I realise now that it wasn’t my fault. Its cliché to say but I do feel like a huge weight has been lifted. I finished art school and I have a new job working for a graphic designer. I’ve just moved in with my boyfriend Brian as well. I’m so happy,” Luna beamed.
I noticed that she didn’t stammer once like the way she used to and she seemed like a completely different person. She pranced out of the supermarket and gave Brian a kiss at the door. She skipped off, back into her happy life and I felt content knowing she was getting better. I never saw Luna again but that’s okay, because I never really needed to.