“Yes.. . floating. . .“ she said, her voice thick.
“The kite is gliding far above, but you are slowly, slowly moving up to join it.. .
She went on like that for a minute, then returned to her own chair and sat down.
Jane was slumped in the other wing chair, head tilted to one side, eyes closed, face soft and slack, breathing softly.
“You are in a very deep sleep,” Carol told her. “A very relaxed, very deep, deep sleep. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” the girl murmured.
“You will answer a few questions for me.”
“You will remain in your deep sleep, and you will answer my questions until I tell you it’s time to wake up. Understood?”
“Good. Very good. Now tell me—what is your name?”
The girl was silent.
“What is your name, honey?”
“Is that your real name?”
“What is your real name?”
Jane frowned. “I. . . don’t remember.”
“Where did you come from?”
A bead of saliva glistened at the corner of the girl’s
mouth. Languorously, she licked it away before it could drool down her chin.
Carol said, “Honey, do you remember the Mickey Mouse watch you saw a few minutes ago?”
“Well, I’ve taken that watch from the shelf,” Carol said, though she hadn’t moved from her chair. “And now I’m turning the hands on it backwards, around and around the dial, always backwards. Can you see the hands moving backwards on that Mickey Mouse watch?”
“Now something amazing is happening. As I turn those hands backwards and backwards, time itself begins to flow in reverse. It isn’t a quarter past eleven any more. It’s now eleven o’clock. This is a magic watch. It governs the flow of time. And now it’s ten o’clock in the morning. . . nine o’clock. . . eight o’clock.... Look around you. Where are you now?”
The girl opened her eyes. They were fixed on a distant point. She said, “Ummm. . . the kitchen. Yeah. The breakfast nook. Boy, the bacon’s nice and crisp.”
Gradually, Carol moved her back in time, back through the days she had spent in the hospital, finally regressing to the accident last Thursday morning. The girl winced as she relived the moment of impact, and cried out, and Carol soothed her, and then they went back a few minutes further.
“You’re standing on the sidewalk,” Carol said.
“You’re dressed only in a blouse and jeans. It’s raining. Chilly.”
The girl closed her eyes again. She shivered.
“What’s your name?” Carol asked. Silence.
“What’s your name, honey?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where have you just come from?”
“You mean you have amnesia?” “Yes.”
“Even before the accident?’
Although she was still very concerned about the girl, Carol was relieved to hear that she wasn’t responsible for Jane’s condition. For a moment she felt like that blue kite, capable of soaring up and away.
Then she said, “Okay. You’re about to step into the street. Do you just want to cross it, or do you intend to walk in front of a car?’
“I. . . don’t. . . know.”
“How do you feel? Happy? Depressed? Indifferent?”
“Scared,” the girl said in a small, shaky voice.
“What are you scared of?” Silence.
“What are you scared of?” “It’s coming.”
“What’s coming?” “Behind me!” “What’s behind you?”
The girl opened her eyes again. She was still staring at a distant point, but now there was stark terror in her eyes.
“What’s behind you?” Carol asked again.
“Oh God,” the girl said miserably.
“What is it?”
“No, no.” She shook her head. Her face was bloodless.
Carol leaned forward in her chair. “Relax, honey.”
You will relax and be calm. Close your eyes.
Calm. . . like the kite.. . far above everything... floating. . . warm.”
The tension went out of Jane’s face.
“All right,” Carol said. “Staying calm, always relaxed and calm, you will tell me what you’re afraid of.”
The girl said nothing.
“Honey, what are you scared of? What’s behind you?”
Patiently, Carol said, “Be specific.”
“I. . . don’t know what it is. . . but it’s coming. . . and it scares me.”
“Okay. Let’s go back a bit further.” Using the image of the backwards-moving hands on the Mickey Mouse wristwatch, she regressed the girl another full day into the past. “Now look around. Where are you?”
“What do you see?”
“You must see something, honey.”
“Are you in a dark room?”
“Are there walls in the darkness?”
“Are you outdoors at night?”
She regressed the girl another day. “Now what do you see?”
“Just the darkness.”
“There must be something else.”
“Open your eyes, honey.”
The girl obeyed. Her blue eyes were vacant, glassy. “Nothing.”
Carol frowned. “Are you sitting or standing in that dark place?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you feel under you? A chair? A floor? A bed?”
“Reach down. Touch the floor.”
“There isn’t a floor.”
Uneasy about the direction the session was taking, Carol shifted in her chair and stared at the girl for a while, wondering what to try next.
After a few seconds, Jane’s eyes fluttered and went shut.
Finally, Carol said, “All right. I’m turning the hands of the watch counterclockwise again. Time is flowing in reverse. It will continue to flow backwards, hour by hour, day by day, faster and faster, until you stop me. I want you to stop me only when you come out of the darkness and can tell me where you are. I’m turning the hands now. Backwards... backwards.. .“
Ten seconds passed in silence. Twenty. Thirty.
After a full minute, Carol said, “Where are you?”
“Keep going. Backwards.. . back in time. .
After another minute, Carol began to think something was wrong. She had the disquieting feeling that she was losing control of the situation and placing her patient in some kind of danger that could not be foreseen. But as she was about to call a halt to the regression and bring the girl forward again, Jane spoke at last.
The girl shot up out of the chair, onto her feet, flailing and screaming. “Somebody help me! Mama! Aunt Rachael! For God’s sake, help me!”
The voice wasn’t Jane’s. It came from her mouth, through her tongue and lips, but it didn’t sound at all like her. It wasn’t merely distorted by panic. It was an entirely different voice from Jane’s. It had its own character, its own accent and tone.
“I’m going to die here’ Help! Get me out of here!”
Carol was on her feet, too. “Honey, stop it. Calm down.”
“I’m on fire! I’m on fire!” the girl screamed, and she slapped at her clothes as if trying to put out the flames.
“No!” Carol said sharply. She stepped around the coffee table and managed to seize the girl’s arm, taking several glancing blows in the process.
Jane thrashed, tried to break loose.
Carol held on and began to talk softly but insistently to her, calming her down.
Jane stopped struggling, but she began to gasp and wheeze. “Smoke,” she said, gagging. “So much smoke.”
Carol talked her out of that, too, and gradually brought her down from the peak of hysteria.
At last Jane sank back into the wing chair. She was wan, and her forehead was strung with beads of sweat. Her blue eyes, staring into a distant place and time, looked haunted.
Carol knelt beside the chair and held the girl’s hand. “Honey, can you hear me?”
“Are you okay?”
“There is no fire.”
“There was. Everywhere,” the girl said, still speaking with the unfamiliar voice.
“There isn’t any more. No fire anywhere.”
“If you say so.”
“I do. I say so. Now tell me your name.”
“Do you remember your last name?”
Carol flushed with triumph. “Very good. That’s just fine. Where’s your home, Laura?”
Shippensburg was a small town less than an hour from Harrisburg. It was a quiet, pleasant place that existed to serve a flourishing state college and a large number of surrounding farms.
“Do you know the address where you live in Shippensburg?” Carol asked.
“There’s no street name. It’s a farm. Just outside of town, off Walnut Bottom Road.”
“So you could take me there if you had to?”
“Oh, yes. It’s a pretty place. There are a pair of stone gateposts by the verge of the county lane; they mark the entrance to our land. And there’s a long drive flanked by maples, and there are big oaks around
the house. It’s cool and breezy in the summer with all those shade trees.”
“What’s your father’s first name?”
“And his phone number?”
The girl frowned. “His what?”
“What’s the telephone number at your house?”
The girl shook her head. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t you have a telephone?”
“What is a telephone?” the girl asked.
Carol stared at her, puzzled. It wasn’t possible for a person under hypnosis to be coy or to make jokes of this sort. As she considered her next move, she saw that Laura was becoming agitated again. The girl’s brow furrowed, and her eyes widened. She started breathing hard again.
“Laura, listen to me. You will be calm. You will relax and—”
The girl writhed uncontrollably in her chair.
Squealing and gasping, she slid off the chair, rolled onto the floor, bumping the coffee table and pushing it aside. She twisted and shuddered and wriggled as if she were having a severe epileptic fit, though she was not; she brushed frantically at herself, for again she seemed to believe she was on fire. She called for someone named Rachael and choked on nonexistent smoke.
Carol required almost a minute to talk her down, which was a serious loss of control; a hypnotist could usually calm a subject in only seconds. Apparently, Laura had lived through an extremely traumatic tire or had lost a loved one in a blaze. Carol wanted to pursue the matter and learn what was at the root of it, but this wasn’t the right time. After taking so long to quiet her patient, she knew the session should be ended quickly.
When Laura was seated in the wing chair again, Carol crouched beside her and instructed her to remember everything that had happened and everything that had been said during the session. Then she led the girl forward through time to the present and brought her out of the trance.
The girl wiped at the moist corner of one eye, shook her head, cleared her threat. She looked at Carol and said, “I guess it didn’t work, huh?” She sounded like Jane again; the Laura voice was gone.
But why the hell had her voice changed in the first place? Carol wondered.
“You don’t remember what happened?” Carol asked.
“What’s to remember? All that talk about a blue kite? I could see what you were trying to do, how you were trying to lull me into a trance, so I guess that’s why it didn’t work.”
“But it did work,” Carol assured her. “And you should be able to recall all of it.”
The girl looked skeptical. “All of what? What happened? What did you find out?’
Carol stared at her. “Laura.”
The girl didn’t even blink. She merely looked perplexed.
“Your name is Laura.”
“Laura? No. I don’t think so.”
“Laura Havenswood,” Carol said.
The girl frowned. “It doesn’t ring any bells at all.”
Surprised, Carol said, “You told me you live in Shippensburg.”
“About an hour from here.”
“I never heard of it.”
“You live on a farm. There are stone gateposts to mark the entrance to your father’s property, and there’s a long driveway flanked by maple trees. That’s what you told me, and I’m sure it’ll turn out to be just like you said. It’s virtually impossible to answer questions incorrectly or deceptively while you’re hypnotized. Besides, you don’t have any reason to deceive me. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain if we break through this memory block.”
“Maybe I am Laura Havenswood,” the girl, said. “Maybe what I told you in the trance was true. But I can’t remember it, and when you tell me who I am, it doesn’t mean a thing to me. Boy, I thought if I could just remember my name, then everything would fall into place. But it’s still a blank. Laura, Shippensburg, a farm—I can’t connect with any of it.”
Carol was still crouched beside the girl’s chair. She rose and flexed her stiff legs. “I’ve never encountered anything quite like this. And so far as I know, a reaction like yours hasn’t ever been reported in any of the psychology journals. Whenever a patient is susceptible to hypnosis, and whenever a patient can be regressed to a moment of trauma, there’s always a profound effect. Yet you weren’t touched at all by it. Very odd. If you remembered while you were under hypnosis, you ought to be able to remember now. And Just hearing your name ought to open doors for you.”