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“No stop, don’t open that today, wait a few more weeks.” I looked at Ann and wrinkled my nose at her. I managed to rip a corner of the heavily taped envelope open and watched as a small negative slid out and float down to the table below.

I held the scrap up to the light. “What do you think this is?”

“What does it look like to you?” She replied quickly.

“A picture of something, I hope it’s not a classified something.” I continued to examine the film, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I put almost everything back in the box and added my jewelry. I kept the checkbook and bank statements to show to Janet.

“Can you see if I have anything left in this bank account, Janet?”

“Of course. I’ll see what I can find out.” Janet smiled and took the statements from me.

“We better get you back to Gerald. Didn’t he want you there this morning?” Ann stepped closer to me and grabbed my free hand. She slowly coaxed me toward the doorway.

“Yes, I need to be done with him, so I can go home and make some cookie dough. My boys will expect fresh cookies. Thank you, Janet. I can’t tell you how much better I feel after getting this figured out.”

“It is my pleasure. I will have all this sorted out by morning. Stop by tomorrow, we can go over what I found. Ann tells me you were brought here with only the clothes on your back.”

“Yes, that’s true, but she found some things for me, I’m fine for now.”

Janet smiled and patted my shoulder. “In three days, everything you need can be, shipped, laundered, and hanging in your closet ready for you to wear.”

“Damn, I’ll be sure to stop by in the morning.” I felt Ann’s hand pulling my wrist.

“Okay let’s get you back to Gerald.” Ann guided me out of the bank vault while Janet finished putting my safe deposit box away. “She can handle it come on.” We hopped in a golf cart parked outside the administration building. Ann drove us back toward the medical building and stopped halfway between the two complexes.

“I am dropping you off here. I’m headed to the technology building to see Gregg about your machine.”

“My machine and who’s Gregg?”

“Yeah, there’s an energy and magnetic distortion thing Gerald wants it to be interfaced. Gregg is our head computer guy. What do you talk about all day when you are with Ivan?”

“Nothing about what goes on around here, hey you are coming to dinner with me tonight?” I asked.

“Oh definitely, I want to hear how badly Janet reamed him. Should make for a good story.” Ann seemed to delight in the idea of Richard getting scolded.

“See you later then, thanks again for your help.” I watched Ann speed off in the other direction. Gerald’s lab was across the grass, but I walked the short distance as slowly as I could manage. Once inside I heard movement in the far back corner of the room. I walked toward the shuffling noises and found Gerald hunched over a fancy looking microscope, next to a plate with a half-eaten sandwich. The whole mess was perched on the edge of his lab table threatening to fall.

“Calynn, there you are. I think what you trigger in others is rooted in the endocrine system.” Gerald explained at full volume.

“Hi to you too, what are you talking about?” I carefully slid the plate away from the edge and moved closer to get a peek at the slide.

“Oh, that’s right, you think I’m full of shit and you are going to wake up at any moment. How’d that work out for you?” Gerald contorted his face and changed his voice in a crude attempt to mock me.

“Yeah, I still think you’re completely full of shit, but I suppose this place is all real enough.”

Gerald laughed and patted my hand. “Small steps, I am referring to the hormone system that, among other things, controls how we heal. The blood sample I took from Richard yesterday shows certain hormones depleted while others were off the charts. I wish I thought to get a sample from you. I don’t need any blood from you today. I would like a sample from after you have interacted with a subject.”

“Good luck with that one. I seriously doubt you can get anyone to volunteer to be cannibalized.” I hopped up on a wooden stool next to Gerald’s worktable. “Who is Gregg and what kind of machine is he making for me?”

“He and I are working on a photosensitive heat device, it’s like a camera but the computer attached to it reads heat-related anomalies. We need something sensitive to record your energy work. Gregg is the best guy we have for these kinds of complex projects.”

“Sounds like a fancy toy to me. Why are you staring at me?”

“Yes, I’m staring. You lost weight?”

“These jeans fit this morning. I swear they were too small a few days ago.” I tugged at the waistband of my jeans, they fit loose enough I should have worn a belt.

“You weighed one fifty-eight on Monday. What do you weigh now?”

“A few pounds less.. Pain while chewing helps me not to snack.” I carefully massaged the bruised skin at the tops of my cheekbones.

“Come with me let’s find out what you weigh.” Gerald led me around the other side of the wall to the full-sized scale in admitting. I pushed my shoes off and stepped up on the wobbly machine. He started the first measure on one fifty, but that was too high. He moved the marker to one forty and then to one thirty, he adjusted the second weight and settled on one thirty-eight.

“Twenty pounds Calynn, in less than five days, that’s not possible. That’s over seventy thousand calories in a very short amount of time.” Gerald looked concerned. He went back to his desk and picked up my file, confirming my weight when I arrived.

“You should market your protein shakes. They work great. Are you using whey or is it an egg, milk blend?” I had been trying for months just to drop five pounds. I was thrilled to hear I lost twenty.

“Those shakes have around six hundred calories each. They’re not meant for weight loss. They maintain my muscle mass and electrolytes. I get distracted and forget lunch, the high protein helps make up for it. I’m not trying to sound insensitive, but you look much thinner. The energy transfer with Richard used a lot of calories.”

“Must be why I fell asleep so fast last night, the rum probably helped too. But this is good right, maybe one more time and I will lose another ten pounds.” I patted my stomach pooch and nodded my head yes in anticipation.

“No, this is not good. You never had this issue before. You took what you needed from something else.”

“Someone else you mean. Maybe this is better. I can be more self-sufficient this way.”

“No, you can’t possibly understand what I’m telling you. You burn fat, muscle, organs, and then your brain in that order. If this is your new fuel, then you need the calories to burn or your body will consume itself.”

“Can you control what part of my body burns fat first? I always wanted a flat stomach, washboard style, like the models on the covers of those fitness magazines.”

“You’re just mocking me right. If it only took you twenty seconds to burn the lion’s share of those calories, you can’t interact with anyone until you gain some mass.”

“What, there are at least fifteen pounds here before I cannibalize my important pieces?” I pinched the skin on my stomach and tried to show how much more fat I could lose before he needed to worry.

“That might be one twenty-second session. We need to up your muscle mass and try to keep at least ten pounds of extra body fat on you at all times just to protect your organs. We have to find someone for you to work with. We were, to begin with, a single target test today, but now I don’t think it’s such a good idea.”

“Do you have someone in mind for that kind of test?”

“I was going to suggest myself.” Gerald walked back into the lab leaving me in admitting to putting my shoes back on. His face held the look of a man caught hatching an obviously ridiculous scheme.

“You don’t know what I will do to you Ivan, what if I hurt you. I have so little control over any of it yet. I only know how to take from people. What if I couldn’t figure out how to fix you fast enough?”

“I thought you would shy away from me because of my illness.”

“I am not discriminating against you. I’m being realistic. You saw what happened to Richard, what would I do to you after twenty seconds. The residual effects. Richard’s headache and what sounded like a full-blown panic attack. And don’t try and guilt me into it either. I’m the mother of a teenage boy. I’m totally immune to bullshit.”

“Fine, but I am a logical target for a quick test.” Ivan protested. It sounded like I wounded his ego. But I leveled a strong old man, I would probably kill a weak one.

“Is there anything else you have noticed since yesterday?” Gerald was still annoyed, but he was trying to be an adult about it. I got the impression he isn’t told no very often.

“Sort of, this morning while I was out with Ann. I saw a man walk across the grass by the administration buildings. Color floated on his chest. It just hung there in the air in front of him. I have noticed a few others with a similar glow all around them, some of them are brighter than others. I was going to ask Carl about it. More his area of weirdness.”

“What you are describing is the chakra view. You could heal or consume energy based on how well you could see the targets energy or so-called auras. We held a prep session before you were to assist a group. It let you see their energy. Even if they were physically out of your sight, you could locate them.”

“Makes sense I guess, but I don’t know how to start it. It just happens when I’m not thinking about too much of anything.” I explained.

“That’s a relaxed state, but you may have to work on forcing it until you have a better handle on your stress. Have you noticed anyone around the area you can see now?”

“No, but I am not exactly relaxed, aren’t you going to poke needles in my eyes?”

“Please, I am not an ophthalmologist. There are very few reasons anyone would ever need to poke a needle in your eye.” Gerald winked and went back to his microscope.

“Right, then what are you going to do to me today?”

“I need to map a series of brain function. A chemical test, fewer needles. We need to coax your brain to reroute the area affected by the implant. Plus, with your weekend guests, you will have a few days to recover before we resume on Monday. It’s perfect timing.”

“Fewer needles, does that mean one big ass needle?” I choked back the panic that started rolling in the pit of my stomach once the word needle was uttered.

“No, only two and it will be fine, with a topical painkiller, you won’t even feel them.”

“Anybody else would need to strap me down to get me to do this, you know that right.”

“My best nurse available.” Gerald bent down and kissed me on the forehead. I wasn’t sure how to react. I just smiled. There was something innocent about his extra attention but after his tirade last night. I didn’t know what to think.

“I’ll send Carol in after a few minutes, get comfortable, but take off anything with metal on it just to be safe, no buttons, or hooks, no metal of any kind.”

“Why, do you anticipate a problem?”

“Anticipate yes, I try to anticipate every outcome, but I don’t expect any problems.”

“I brought something for you to look at. What do you think it is?” I pulled the tiny piece of film out of the envelope and put it on the desk.

Gerald looked at the film for a few seconds before his face went white, and he all but pushed himself away from the tiny item. “Where did you get this from?”

“From my safe deposit box. There’s all kinds of stuff in there. So, what do you think it is, do you think it’s classified?”

“It’s quite dark. I have no idea what it is.” Gerald held the film up to the light and examined it quickly before putting it back down.

“Come on, you barely glanced at it. This note was attached to it.” I handed Gerald the faded note and watched his expression change from defiance to defeat as he read it.

“You got this from the vault, your own personal safe deposit box, here on the site?” Gerald looked oddly upset by the dark scrap of film.

“Yeah, I left a bunch of stuff when I went home. Janet is handling my affairs now. She found the box for me.”

“This is interesting, give me a few days maybe I can find something under better light, enhance it somehow but I won’t promise you anything,” Gerald stated firmly.

“If there’s anyone here who can figure out what it is, it would be you. Ann told me about all the trouble you went through to fix up my cottage. It’s beautiful but...”

“I had nothing to do with getting it ready. Ann did all the work. Really, it’s her you should be thanking.”

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