SWITCH

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Introductions

“I want to understand,” Lina clarified. I considered the daunting task of rehashing my history versus my goal of reinstatement. This young psychiatrist was the last obstacle in my way.

“What I control is death. The word lacks all nuance but it’s accurate. Even now you are asking me to explain will kill your innocence. Your understanding of the world will change. Are you prepared for that to happen today?”

“Completely,” Lina gushed. “I want to have the information I need to help you.” Lina smiled, again her clinical tone told me she was considering my answer a symptom.

“Help me?” I laughed hard enough to bring a tear to my eye. “Hm, I don’t know why people are always trying to help me. Alright, let’s try some visual learning since we are on the clock.” Lina sat with a wide-eyed look on her face I have come to know well. She was pushing past her rational fears and reaching for the next rung on the ladder of possibilities.

“Can you sit here on the couch Doctor?” Away from the windows is what I meant. Lina sat on the first tufted couch cushion and grabbed on tightly to the rolled arm.

I sat on a solo chair situated in front of her desk, grabbed a clove cigarette and my lighter from my handbag, and lit the end.

Lina moved forward in protest but caught herself before speaking. I took a deep breath and let the pungent smoke swirl in my lungs before exhaling it into the room.

“Show yourselves to our friend Lina,” I directed my command into the open space between us. Four small shadows took form on the floor at my feet. Lesser demons nothing too lively was needed today.

“Boo Boo can you join for a few minutes?” A male form shimmered in the edges of the dissipating smoke. I took another drag through the dark brown cigarette and blew a refreshing layer of clove cloud over the top of my growing group of friends.

Lina gasped. “What, is, going, on?” She panted out each word as she sank further back into the couch.

“I’ll need more than smoke if you want her to see me, Caly.” Boo Boo held out his hand. I slid my palm over his fingers. A bit of my skin went missing but he evolved from a thin smoky shadow to a solid image backlit by the sun pouring in from the windows across the room.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” Lina chanted the words in hushed tones as if her life depended on the cadence and volume.

“Lina, this is Boo Boo. You can touch him, he’s solid when I give him some of my mass.” I motioned for the small mist creatures to stay at the chair while I walked over to Lina with Boo Boo on my arm.

“Caly, she’s not into this right now.” Boo Boo ran his free hand through his thick blond hair and rested it on the waist of his jeans. He materialized shirtless and shoeless wearing only a pair of light blue jeans that matched his eye color nicely.

“You, trapped the spirit of a teenage boy?” Lina asked gathering a bit more structure and bile in her voice.

I waved my scratched hand into the light confirming all my missing skin was replaced. “No, he’s much older than I and free to leave at any time. Boo Boo found me,” I corrected. “He’s an attachment”

The disbelief in Lina’s face was changing to fear and approaching anger. “Boo Boo, can you put on a shirt and look a bit older, so I don’t look like a pedophile.”

“Yeah, yeah. Let me see what I can find,” Boo Boo whined, and his image darkened. The sounds of low persistent growling coming from my little creatures overpowered the rusting noises Boo Boo was making with his over-exaggerated attempt to pull a shirt from thin air.

“Now that I called them here.” I pointed at the tangled mass of dark swirling matter at my feet. “What would you like me to do with them?” I asked the noticeably trembling woman on the couch below me.

“What? What do you mean? Nothing, I don’t want you to do anything with them.” Lina protested.

“You see that’s the issue, not me, and how mentally stable I may or may not be, but what do you need from me. I can send the mist creatures after someone to observe or to kill them. But I can kill easily enough on my own. I don’t need their help. The same force that allows me to pull all of them into our space allows me to rip the air out of someone’s lungs or the blood from their heart. It’s just a matter of focus,” I explained.

“Awe, come on Cal. She’s freaked out enough already.” Boo Boo added a button-down Cuban shirt with colorful embroidered tiki girls dancing down the stripes and a pair of leather sandals to his ensemble. “This is as old as I ever got. Lina is it? Come dance with me, Doll. It’s going to be just fine.” Boo Boo whispered his compelling voice towards Lina she was noticeably affected.

Lina grabbed the couch arm tightly and then let go, she stood up tall and straightened her suit coat never once taking her eyes off Boo Boo. “Okay,” Lina replied extending her hand towards Boo Boo. “Oh my God.”

“Yep, I used to get that a lot, usually when I was learning to surf,” Boo Boo said while pretending to fall off a shaky surfboard. He took Lina’s hand and twirled her through the room. The sound of big band music hung softly in the air around them.

“You were human?” Lina’s voice returned to normal. The wheels turning in her brain. She made it over the hill of denial to acceptance and found her curiosity starving for answers.

“Yeah, Pearl. My last body is fish food. It was a bad death. Wait, actually, my last body died the day Calynn was born. It was too short to really count. All I felt was the fire. This hot, ripping pain on my skin. She was a tiny, pink screaming dot. I heard her, but I felt her light melt really deep inside my head. I grabbed onto the feeling. It was the only thing that stopped the pain. I clung to it and I haven’t let go yet.”

“That’s so awful. I’m so sorry.” Lina dropped her head on Boo Boo’s shoulder and began to cry.

“Don’t cry for me, Doll. I’m off to play a video game with my man Colt in Lancaster later today and probably dinner in Boston with Cal. Maybe kill a terrorist later in the week. I’m doing good.” Boo Boo held Lina’s face in his hands and wiped the tears from her cheeks with a soft brush of his thumb.

I put my hand on Boo Boo’s arm. “Thanks for dropping everything for me today. I’ll keep you updated on the schedule.” I knew his time was fading. I could see sunlight through his once solid form.

“Just call my name, Darlin. I’ll be there.” Boo Boo winked at me, grabbed my hand tightly with his last moment of mass, and vanished into the sunlight.

Lina still stood in the middle of the room. Half the distance closer to the mist creatures than she was before. She clutched her arms across her chest and then pointed one finger at the floor. “How long do they stick around?”

“See, that is the million-dollar question. I started out with one little piggy. Then there were three for quite some time. Now I have four. They have never been alive, and they are always with me. Only a few people can them without me making them visible.”

Lina walked back to the couch. I sat down on the coffee table across from her. “I know people who can remove your memory of today. I can make a call and get one of them over here if you would like to forget all this,” I offered quietly.

“No, I’ll keep today. I want to stay and help people like you who need me,” Lina explained, her stoic resolve straightening her spine.

“Okay then, how do we start?” Carl read my mind. Communicating with this woman was going to be exhausting.

“Your file contains nothing. The huge gaps in your timeline just bring up more questions. Can you tell me how this all started for you?”

“The beginning. No, that is something I never talk about—ever,” I explained.

“Where did your little friends go?” Lina asked, pulling her legs towards the safety of the couch frame.

“The smoke is gone. You can’t see them anymore.”

“But the smoke was long gone before they disappeared,” Lina corrected.

“You got me there—they don’t need smoke. Your father passed out the first time I let them all appear out of thin air. I didn’t think there was time for my theatrics today.” Using my best game show hostess impression, I waved my hand over the empty space. Lina looked at me with her eyes wide. What little color she had in her cheeks, drained from her face.

“From what I can piece together you were in a program, then you vanished only to resurface in a different program. The two tie because the same number from your original file appears on new records from a series of partially documented missions. Does that sound possible?” She asked.

“Yes, impressive from a file full of black lines. The trip back inside those programs was especially difficult for me. I gave up the best part of my life the second time inside.”

“Was there a day or an event that separated what came before and this trip back inside?” Lina asked with great interest.

“Sure, there was. I remember the happiness I felt before. The ignorance was blissful. I was bored, but I didn’t know about poltergeists, or the attachments, or the demons that want to control me, or the other gifted who want me dead,” I chuckled, everything was so complicated, how would I ever explain these things to her.

“Forget the rest, for now. I want to know about that one day. Everyone canceled on me. My afternoon is open.” Lina kicked off her shoes and sat crossed-legged on the couch armed with a pad of paper and a pen.

“If you write any of this down, they will send somebody much worse than me to take it from you,” I explained.

Lina dropped the pad and her pen to the floor, grabbed a throw pillow from the corner of the couch, and clutched it to her stomach. “Okay, I’m ready.”

Lina and I talked for a few minutes until Tom texted me. “need a plastic tarp?”

“No down in 15,” I replied. It would only take two minutes to fix the doorman’s achy shoulder.

“Can you come back next week?” Lina asked. “Wait a second, there’s an exercise that might help you until then.” Nina raced to her desk and pulled a photocopy from a drawer and handed it to me. “Even if there is something you won’t share with me. Try this exercise. Think of it as homework.”

“I’ll make time to come back, besides after a few days your brain will determine you imagined all of this.” Lina chuckled nervously as I patted her hand. I handed her one of my private business cards reserved for cash clients and friends. “Call me when that happens. I’ll know if you’re ready for more.”

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