“Doctor Ben, who was on the phone?”
“A man. He said his name was Henry. It’s so strange, that’s the name Selma just gave us and he wanted Selma…
Disappointment hits Selma harder then a speeding truck when she smells the disinfected air of the Center and the strawberry mint candies her Doctor, Doctor Ben, used to carry.
The whistling had reminded her of Will but he’d gone into the sublevels and no one ever came back from there, not even in her visions.
She wasn’t going to find Will in a vision, she was sure of that.
Selma wondered if he was still alive, if he was nearby. She could still remember him laughing at her as he skated past her at the ice rink, but that was more then a year ago. She’d seen him once since then but it was not the same; it was like he was asleep – only his eyes were open and staring.
Selma recognizes the day the vision was taking her—she’d been wishing for it when she thought the Center was good but later dreading it when she knew the truth.
This is the day her doctor disappeared and the day the Center finally believed in her powers.
It was during the first months after the mass hysteria had started. The Center was busy sorting out the ordinary crazies from the real freaks – the ones who didn’t just see the monsters but who were the monsters or who could become them.
At first, the vision shows her a glimpse of the floor, somewhere in the Center. Then the light expands until through it she sees the sides of Dr. Ben’s brown loafers and then Jenny’s white sneakers.
Selma could hear their incoherent voices as they shuffled into the room.
The light dims then explodes into a full room and Selma sees her own crossed ankles hanging over the side of a bed and her hands picking at the Center’s issued grey PJs.
Her normally red and bitten-down fingernails are long and neat. Her hair is shorter, redder and is tied up in pigtails, a style she stopped wearing years ago. There are tired looking bruises under her eyes. This ten-year-old Selma now whistles an old nursery rhyme Will had taught her.
For a suspended second, the ten-year-old Selma stares at the older one.
But then the second was over and the younger girl’s eyes wonder away. Already, she whistles a new song.
In a Center containment room in Sublevel Four, Selma’s body lays connected to an IV and a heart monitor while a third mysterious machine’s mechanic arm hangs above her head.
The arm trains a light on Selma’s face while its monitor reads standby.
Selma’s closed eyes produce tears that roll across her temples and into her neatly combed hair just before her lips twitch into a strange smile.
She hadn’t moved on her own in two days but late last night and early this morning, her heart rate and blood pressure had gone up and now she was crying.
By the time the machine with the mechanic arm starts to generate an image, a flutter of activity had already began across the planet behind bolted and screened doors as people bartered. They bargained for access to the security tapes, audio recordings and most importantly, recordings from that special machine, a machine they’ve dubbed the DI: the dream interpreter.
At the Center everything was business as usual; they had a Doctor on call, nurse Jenny in house and as usual as ever a shady official with the title of Observer sulked around.
It has never been clear what the observer was supposed to be observing whether it was patients, the machinery or staff members but he never failed to show up during patients’ sessions.
The only change this time other then being on sublevel four is the Center’s sedative specialist and his equipment was prepared to treat Selma.
At the moment he was with another difficult patient one who made fires with her mind if she wasn’t heavily sedated.
The specialist is prepared, if she ever opened her eyes, to pump Selma with enough sedatives that would kill most horses.
It wouldn’t kill her, he’s pretty sure particularly with her tolerance for sedatives, but she wouldn’t be running away and refusing to sleep anymore.
Jenny uncrosses her arms and checks the MDR’s monitor and nods at a skinny short man waiting outside of the room.
He wore a silk tie, a dress shirt and a fowl expression. He struts into the room like a proud parrot.
“Hello, my name is Jennifer Lodging, but you can call me...” Nurse Jenny says stretching out her hand.
“Shhh, she’s working.” The man says pushing past Jenny and ignoring her outstretched hand. He drags a stool in front of the DI screen as a very dim image of a neat white room with a little red head girl sitting on a bed appears on screen.
The image flickers as Selma shifts in her cot moving out of the light that lit her face.
The observer frowns in Selma’s direction, now that the Center had this machine it was no longer necessary to put up with the moody teenager and her frustrating issues. They just needed her well enough to have her visions. Perhaps they should invest in restraints he thought briefly before dismissing the idea. It would be a waste of money; she wasn’t going to wake up again, he’d pump her with tranquilizers himself if I came down to it.
The observer shook his head the Center should have hid the machine from Selma better; there were ways to block her visions. I was just a matter of hypnotic suggestion and specially made storage spaces.
Selma had tried to escape at every opportunity since she’d figured out what it did and what it would mean for her.
Abruptly the DI machine begins relaying the sound in Selma’s vision. The Observer suddenly turns his attention to the nurse who’d miraculously found the runaway psychic. He had a few questions for her, but it could wait until after Selma has had her vision quota for the day.
Selma watches as a fly buzzes past her and thinks she can feel the air off its wings. She shakes her head; she knows it’s impossible but she a feeling that this is more than a vision. It feels closer then the others, almost like the glass between here and there was gone.
Like whatever was stopping her from dropping into her visions was gone.
It reminded her of the visions she had at the beginning before the Center had believed. Back then anything seemed possible.
Back them she felt like she could do or ‘go anywhere she wanted’. Selma suddenly caught her breath the thought felt odd and almost familiar to Selma like she’d heard someone say it to her before. Then quite suddenly she remembered the hooded figure, the grassy field and Jenny’s Volkswagen.
Selma shivered remembering the mind games Will and Kendra used to play trying to test how much Will could do.
Selma never liked it when Will used his powers; there was something criminal about pushing people around with your mind.
Selma reaches out to the image her fingers shaking in the light her hands touched the cold water like surface of the vision with surprise.
Normally she’d be jerked away if she tried to touch and jerked or toward it like it when she tried to turn away, but not anymore. Something had changed.
“…breathe in through your nose and imagine the air travelling from the top of your head then all the way down your spine. Then breathe out. Think about your safe place and relax.” Jenny voice floats out as she softly lifts her hands for emphasis.
Doctor Ben roles his eyes catching the younger Selma eye they suppress their smiles.
Dr. Ben never did like Jenny’s idea of ‘helping’ patients. He only put up with it because it seemed to have a calming effect on Selma.
Selma pulls her hand away from the light as she watches Jenny. She feels a smile spread across her face but the tears that float off her face ruin it. Selma tries to close her eyes but they are already closed and again Selma thinks about leaving.
It made no sense; Jenny would never betray her they were closer then that, they were always closer then that. Selma was missing something. She had to be.
Selma suddenly remembers that the Center is watching this vision with her and she feels disturbed; her mind wasn’t hers anymore.