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Javier Guzman sat in front of the plexiglass and stared in disbelief when Dr. Henry Taylor was escorted into the room wearing an orange jumpsuit. He sat down in front of Guzman and they both lifted the phone receivers.

“Kidnapping? Child abduction? How can that even be possible? There’s been some mistake, right?”

Dr. Taylor sat quietly and studied the man in front of him.

“When I heard the news, I couldn’t believe it. What in God’s name would make you want to abduct the boy?”

He thought about the man’s question. What would make him want to abduct the boy?

Well, it all started with a phone call.

“Hello, Dr. Taylor. This is Edward Cruz. You helped us with our son Leo about a year ago.”

“Yes, I remember Leo. How is he?”

“Not good. I mean he really improved after seeing you but as of last week he’s had a sudden setback.”

“Leo was quite mischievous as I recall. Vandalism and dabbling in alcohol if memory serves me correctly. Has he returned to his old ways?”

“No. Just the opposite. Now he’s withdrawn. Disconnected. Would you be able to fit us in anytime soon?”

“Has he threatened to harm himself?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Dr. Taylor looked at his appointment book. “I have an opening Tuesday at three.”

“We’ll be there. Thank you.”

Leo sat in the waiting area while Mr. and Ms. Cruz met with Dr. Taylor.

“I’m so worried about him,” said Ms. Cruz. “He’s hardly said a word to us in over a week. He stays in his room and refuses to come out.”

“What about his friends? I recall him being quite social.”

“Not anymore,” said Mr. Cruz. “He doesn’t want to have anything to do with them.”

“Have there been any recent traumatic events in his life?”

“No. Not anything we are aware of. One day he was his regular self, the next day he was like a shell of himself,” said Mr. Cruz.

“Just last week he was playing around with his friends in that old abandoned house off Smokestack Road. I think they use it like a clubhouse.”

“The witch house?”

“Oh, so you know what they call it.”

Dr. Taylor chuckled. “I’ve counseled many children in this town. Yes, I’m familiar with it. Is it possible something could have happened to Leo in the old house?”

“Who knows? He’s not talking to us.”

He escorted the parents to the waiting area and when Leo saw Dr. Taylor his face brightened and he sat up in the chair. “Greg?”

The adults exchanged puzzled glances. “No, Leo. This is Dr. Taylor. You remember Dr. Taylor, don’t you?”

Leo looked down at the floor and shook his head.

“Come on in, Leo. Let’s chat like we used to.”

Mr. and Ms. Cruz sat on a couch as Leo followed him into the office. Dr. Taylor’s office was kid friendly with Jinga blocks, a chess board, and various art supplies scattered about. A large window afforded warm light into the room.

“You called me Greg. You do remember me, don’t you?”

Leo looked down at the floor.

“About a year ago we made an agreement that if you were honest with me, I’d be able to help you. Do you remember?”

Leo shrugged and shook his head.

“Well, maybe we should start over.” He leaned forward and attempted to make eye contact. “Leo, if you will be one hundred percent honest with me, I may be able to help you.”

Leo’s eyes cautiously rose from the floor.

“Your parents are very concerned about you.”

Leo’s eyes met Dr. Taylor’s.

“I imagine they are. But those people in the next room are not my parents.”

A chill went up Taylor’s spine. In his twenty-year career he thought he’d heard it all but this was a new one. The boy’s delivery of the statement was as troubling as its content. It was so matter of fact and genuine.

“What do you mean, they’re not your parents?”

“You said if I was honest, you might be able to help me.”

“If they’re not your parents, then who are they?”

Leo looked away. “I guess they’re his parents.”

“Whose?”

“The boy in the mirror who dragged me into this world.”

Dr. Taylor leaned back in his chair; a line formed between his eyes and he remained silent as he observed his client.

Leo cautiously glanced at Dr. Taylor to see his reaction.

“The reason I’m not interested in being around others is because I don’t know anyone. Those kids aren’t my friends. I’ve never seen them before.”

Dr. Taylor had a flashback of one of his professors from his doctorate program. His name was Evan Reed and he was quite unconventional. After years of studying abnormal psychology Dr. Reed challenged everything he’d learned about the topic of psychosis.

He once said, “If your client is hearing voices, don’t assume he’s ill. Your first assumption should be the voices are real and you should explore the source.”

Dr. Reed believed there were other realities and the job of the psychologist is to recognize them. Dr. Taylor could almost hear him whispering in his ear. Believe him.

“Are you being honest with me?”

“Yes.”

Dr. Taylor looked deep into his eyes. “Perhaps you should start from the beginning. Tell me what happened, Leo.”

“First of all, my name isn’t Leo – it’s Joe. Joe Cruz. Leo’s in my world pretending to be me.”

“You’re not Leo; You’re Joe.”

Joe nodded.

“When you first saw me in the waiting room, you seemed to recognize me but called me Greg.”

“You look identical to my math tutor.”

“Your math tutor?”

“Yes. I don’t need a therapist. I’m a good kid. I want to go to college.”

Dr. Taylor adjusted himself in his chair. He was clearly out of his comfort zone in this session. I sure hope Evan Reed’s assertions were accurate.

“Leo – I mean Joe, can you tell me how this switch occurred?”

Joe gazed out the window as he recalled that bizarre incident just a week earlier.

“You were tutoring me and I had to go to the restroom.”

Taylor didn’t correct the boy but let him continue.

“I was washing my hands and looked into the mirror. I saw myself but it wasn’t my reflection. It was Leo and he said he was me in another world. He said it would be really cool if we switched places for a few hours just to experience each other's worlds.”

“I thought I must be going crazy and I didn’t want to have anything to do with the boy in the mirror. He was very persuasive. He said, ‘Look at this and I know you’ll want to switch places for a while.’ He was pointing at something. I leaned a bit but didn’t see anything. ‘You’ve got to get closer. Look at this.’ I leaned in closer.”

“He reached out of the mirror and grabbed my shoulders and pulled me in. I found myself in a dark musty room standing in front of a large antique mirror. I saw the boy in the mirror was now in the restroom where I had been standing.”

“I shouted at him to return me to where I was but he just grinned and stared back at me. He waved and walked away. I found myself in the old abandoned house on Smokestack Road.”

“The witch house.”

“Yeah, that’s what everyone calls it. I’d never been in it before.”

“So, when you left the witch house where did you go?”

“Home.”

“And when you got home, it wasn’t your parents?”

“Right. It was complete strangers living in my parents’ home.”

Dr. Taylor rubbed his hands along his temples. In his twenty-year practice he’d never come across anything close to this.

“Why would Leo want to change places with you? Why would he want to go to your world?”

His eyes locked onto Taylor’s in desperation. “Don’t you feel the despair in this world? I see why he wanted out.”

“I’ve never needed a therapist before but I think I need one now. You told me if I was honest you could help me. I need your help. Can you get me out of this world and back into my own?”

He glanced at the clock and saw their session was over. He had another client waiting.

“Yes Joe, I will try my best to help you.”


Submitted: October 23, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Tim Michael. All rights reserved.

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CreativeMarauder

Again, you write like an old pro and this one starts really strong. I look forward to the rest.

Mon, October 24th, 2022 12:14am

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Thank you. I'm not sure where the story is going (ha ha) but I think about it every day and hopefully it will turn out okay. You helped motivate me through some previous stories and for that I double thank you.

Mon, October 24th, 2022 6:02pm

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