Born Again

Rain flailed the secluded cabin, vicious and unrelenting in its mission to soak the unprotected wood.  It had rained for two days straight leaving deep frog infested puddles all around the emerald glade.   Wind rattled at the windows and doors searching, seeking – for some small gap through which it could enter.  Inside a couple struggled to keep warm in front of an old wood burning stove, their faces lined with worry.

“How long has he been out now?” asked the man, glancing over at the bed in the corner.

Upon it a small boy lay motionless beneath a washed out quilt.  He was drugged and bound, his hollowed out cheeks a deathly grey – their colour leached by the many hours he’d spent indoors.  

“Sixty three hours,” said the woman with a dry hacking cough.

Her fingers shook as she lit yet another cigarette.  A greyish curl of smoke arose slow and sylph like from its glowing tip as she drew on it with an addict’s ardour.  She sat back with arms crossed to check her phone then irritably threw it back in her bag.

“Nothing yet?” asked the man.

“No.”

She turned away and went to check on the boy.  The man joined her and the two looked down at his small form.

“What are you?” murmured the man in a wondering voice.

“Don’t talk that way Mitch.  He’s still our boy,” she told him.

He didn’t answer.  His mind had already turned to other things.  He listened uneasily to the wind howling fitfully down the chimney and somewhere in the forest an ancient redwood fell with a mighty crack scattering anything foolish enough to have taken shelter there.  Nature had euthanized another guardian of the woods.  The shattered stump buried deep within the ground would stand as monument until that too succumbed to the elements and time. 

Instead of dying out as the man had expected, the wind was increasing in strength.  There was hail in the rain now too and the temperature was beginning to plummet.  The man frowned, concerned that it may soon turn to snow.

Suddenly the phone in her bag burst into life.  This was the call they had both been waiting for.

“Hello?”

“Hi.  This is Dr Barre.  Just returning your phone call.  I believe you left a message?”

“Is this line secure?  Can anyone listen in?” said the woman.

The doctor paused thinking this strange.

“No, I don’t think anyone can hear us.  Do you mind if I ask what this is all about?”

She hesitated, half afraid that she had aroused his suspicion.

“I believe you specialize in rehabilitation,” she said.

“That is correct.  Particularly with regard to mental health and behavioural problems.  Would you like to make an appointment?”

“Well, that’s just it Doctor…you see our boy Kyle is paralysed.  He can’t be moved.  Would it be possible for you to come to us?”

“I usually operate from my practice here in Preswell.  But I suppose I might be able to accommodate you.  How far away do you live?”

“Oh, not far.  We live in Arosa.”

“Ok.  I think I can manage that.  But it will be more costly than my regular consultations.”

“How much are we talking about?” she asked biting her lip nervously.

“Four fifty.”

Her husband shook his head.  That was too much.

“That’s ok,” she replied.  “When can you see him?”

“Just checking my schedule here…I see I’ve a slot available two weeks from now.  Wednesday nineteenth at two fifteen.”

She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“You’ve nothing sooner?”

“I’m afraid not.  If he’s that serious I can only suggest that you take him to hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.”

“I told you already, we can’t move him.”

“I’m sorry.  But that’s the best I can do.”

“Ok.  We’ll take it,” she sighed.

“That’s fine.  Can I take a name please?”

“Yeah.  Ah…Mrs Greene,” she said nervously.

“And your address?”

“One oh two…Juniper Hill.”

Her husband pursed his lips till his mouth resembling a thin slash.  They exchanged haunted glances, afraid that they were taking too many risks.

“Ok…so that’s you booked in for Wednesday nineteenth at two fifteen.  Look forward to seeing you then.”

“Well that was a waste of goddamn time,” said Mitch once she had set the phone down.  “You know we can’t wait that long.”

“You heard the man.  He’s fully booked till then.  What was I supposed to do?”

He stood by the window unable to give her an answer.

“I’m going out for a while,” he said zipping up his coat.

“What?” she exclaimed.  “Where?  You can’t leave me alone with him.”

“I won’t be long Tess.  Just keep him dosed and everything will be fine.”

“No Mitch!  Don’t you dare!”

Taking her by the shoulders he cut short her protests with a firm kiss.

“What if they find us?” she murmured.

“They won’t.”

Before she could make any further attempts to talk him out of it he’d flung open the door and was gone.

As he made his way through the forest the rain turned to sleet and wet leaves flew around his head so that he had to shield his face from their onslaught with his collar.  He hoped he was going in the right direction.  

He ducked, weaved and bobbed his way through branches and vines till eventually he saw the shining wet roof of his red pickup truck.  On this occasion he was glad of its conspicuous colouring.  When he reached it, he placed his handgun in the glove box along with the spare ammunition.  He didn’t like leaving Tess without a weapon but he was going to need it himself before the day was through.

Once out of the forest and on route to Preswell he allowed himself time to think about the situation.  Somehow he needed to enlist the doctor’s help and he needed to do it quickly.  Kyle couldn’t stay sedated forever.  The drugs were very powerful and he hadn’t had any fluids for a while.  Could he risk telling Dr Barre everything in the hope that he would help them of his own free will?

No he decided.  He must learn from his mistakes.  The last time he and Tess had trusted a Doctor with their son’s life, he’d been taken away to a military hospital and experimented on.  They could not let that happen again.  As much as possible they needed to keep a low profile.  Lieutenant Colonel Sandmore was still desperate to get his hands on Kyle in the hope that he could find out more about his unusual ‘condition.’  He believed it had application in the line of defence and was willing to go to just about any lengths to get his hands on him – including kidnap.

Three quarters of an hour later Mitch drew up in a parking lot outside the local library in the town of Preswell.  Right next door was Dr Barre’s clinic, its waiting room full to the brim with patients.  It would be sometime before surgery was finished so recognizing he was in for a long wait, Mitch took out a newspaper from under the passenger seat and settled down to read.

The last patient left at quarter to five but there was still no sign of Dr Barre.  Apprehension began to build in Mitch.  There was a lot riding on his success.

Just then he heard two people talking.  It was the doctor saying goodbye to his receptionist.

“Drive safe Cecilia,” he said.

“You too,” she smiled over her shoulder.

Mitch watched her drive away.  He could see Dr Barre locking up.  Here was the moment he’d been waiting for.  Casually he strolled up to the other man, a newspaper tucked beneath his arm.

“Don’t turn round, I’ve got a gun,” he said quietly, aiming the gun beneath the paper.  The Doctor stiffened but remained calm.  

“You can have my money.  It’s in my wallet.  Inside pocket of my jacket.”

“I don’t want your money,” Mitch replied.  “Just walk over, nice and slow to the red pickup over there.”

The other man didn’t like the sound of this.

“I’ve a bunch of cards in my wallet,” he told Mitch.  “We could go to an ATM and I could get you a couple of grand on top of what’s already in there.”

“I told you, I don’t want your money.  Now move damn it!”  growled Mitch jabbing him mercilessly with the muzzle of the gun.  

That didn’t sound right.  What kind of criminal doesn’t take money when it’s offered?  An odd thought crossed the doctor’s mind.

I wonder if this has anything to do with that woman who phoned earlier?  The one called Mrs Greene…

There was no time to stop and consider.  Before he knew what was happening his assailant had bundled him into the front seat of his car and was already starting the engine.

“Where are we going?”

“You keep quiet.  You’ll know soon enough.”

Thoughts of escape ran through the doctor’s mind.  But something about the way the gun kept swinging back in his direction put him off.  It was just too risky.  His best bet was to try and talk the guy round.  So he waited till they’d left the town and then tried again.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked quietly.  Instead of looking directly at the man, he gazed out onto the gloomy rain swept landscape.  

“Means to an end.  That’s all you need to know.”

Once again the doctor was stymied so he looked around the car for clues.  Although the light was poor, he spotted a discarded syringe sticking out from beneath an empty happy meal box in the back.  He also noted the booster seat and hospital issue blanket.  Now he was beginning to build up a picture.

“So I’m guessing you’re not a hit man,” he commented.

“Why?” 

“Because it’s not very professional carrying out a hit in the family car,” shrugged Dr Barre.

“If I intended to kill you, you’d be dead already.”

“So what’s the story here?  Is this a kidnap?  Because if it is you’re wasting your time.  I have no family or friends that care enough to pay ransom money.”

Mitch pulled up at the traffic lights and turned on the radio.

“No it’s not a kidnap,” he admitted.  “Look…just be quiet.  I’ve said too much already.”

“Well in that case I’m out of here,” said the doctor suddenly opening the car door.

Before he could set one foot on the sidewalk the window beside his ear exploded.

“Shit!” he cried out ducking down in terror.

“Get back in the car!” shouted Mitch waving the gun. “Or the next one will be in your goddamn knees.”

Ears ringing painfully, the doctor did as he was told.  Still in a state of shock he noticed there was broken glass on his shoulders.  He swept it off onto the floor and then stared dead ahead.

“I strongly suggest you do as you’re told and stay put,” said Mitch threateningly.

The other man never replied.  His ears hurt too much.  

After another twenty minutes of driving in silence Mitch began to wonder if he hadn’t gone overboard.  That window would cost a lot to repair and not surprisingly the doctor didn’t seem disposed to trust him now. 

“Do you want me to stop here and we can get something to eat?” he suggested as they approached a drive thru.

Still the doctor held his silence.

“Look, I’m sorry.  But I had no choice.  My son’s life depends on you,” said Mitch.

“I can’t help but think this would have been much easier if you’d just told me that at the start.”

“I couldn’t.  We trusted doctor’s before and almost lost him.”

“Well if you want me to help I think you need to tell me what happened and what exactly the problem is.  I can’t work like this.  It’s not safe.”

Mitch felt quite heartened by his response.  So he took a gamble and told him everything.

“Ok,” he said.  “But you may find all this very hard to believe.”

“Go ahead.  I think I’m a pretty open minded sort of guy.”

Mitch snorted softly.

“We’ll see,” he said sceptically.  

Dr Barre chose to ignore that last comment and waited for him to explain.

“Ten days ago we went to visit my parents.  It was Kyle’s birthday and they had bought him a model air plane – the kind that flies by remote control.  He loved it.  He took it into the garden to try it out.  Dad and I went with him.  We had a blast, practicing twists, loop the loop and turns.  But while we were playing my mother took one of her seizures.  She has epilepsy.  We both heard her from outside, thrashing and kicking against the kitchen cupboards.  We rushed in leaving Kyle playing with his air plane.  I felt sure he’d be safe.  He’d never gone near the swimming pool before.  He was afraid of it, because he couldn’t swim.  When we got inside we discovered my mother had bit her tongue.  There was blood everywhere.  I reckon I was in the house for about fifteen minutes helping dad take care of her.  Once I’d done everything I could to help I went outside to check on Kyle and found him face down in the swimming pool his air plane floating close by.  He must have tripped and fell in.”

Dr Barre waited patiently for him to continue.  He was used to hearing stuff like this.

“I dragged him out and started CPR while my wife Tess called an ambulance.  They arrived pretty quick but there was no pulse.  Nothing.  They worked on him all the way to the hospital then they took him through to the emergency room and put him on a ventilator.  Tess and I were beside ourselves.  He was so blue.”

“So I’m assuming he’s brain damaged then.  Didn’t the hospital offer you any kind of therapy?”

“He’s brain damaged alright.  Completely changed.   We worked it out that he was without a pulse and not breathing for at least twenty minutes.  When he came round there was nothing left of his personality.  Just raw intelligence.  Nothing more.”

“Raw intelligence?  How do you mean?”

“I mean his personality was gone.  Nothing left except brain power.  He didn’t seem human any more.  And he couldn’t talk either.  Least not with his mouth.”

Dr Barre frowned.

“Explain,” he said trying his best not to appear too perplexed.

“We could hear him…but it was in our minds.  He could talk to us using his thoughts.”

Being a naturally compassionate man Dr Barre felt a pang of sympathy at this.  The man beside him was obviously having difficulty coming to terms with his son’s disability.  Denial was a fairly common reaction.  This guy had gone one step beyond.  He was deluded as well.

“You think I’m making this up,” said Mitch.

“I didn’t say that.  But I have to admit I’m curious.  Why don’t you elaborate?  Tell me more.”

Mitch got the sense the doctor was humouring him but his desperation motivated him to continue.

“We discovered he could mind talk on the third day.  At which point he was still on a ventilator.  His mother was sitting at his bedside reading him stories when his doctor came along and mentioned the possibility of removing the breathing tube to see if he could manage on his own.  Tess suggested that they ask him.  Which they did, instructing him to blink twice for yes he wanted the tube removed and three times for no keep it in place.

  Everyone crowded round his bed waiting for him to blink when suddenly he said, ‘Yes, take it out.  It’s hurting my throat.’  To say the doctors were astonished would be an understatement.  He’d managed to convey his wishes by speaking directly – mind to mind as it were.  One doctor left the room while the rest removed the ventilator.  We discovered later that the doctor who left had contacts in the military.  He got in touch with these straight away to tell them of our son’s gift.  Later that night we were to discover there was even more to this unusual gift than met the eye.  At eight o’clock I left with Dad as I had to work the next day.  Tess decided to stay on for another couple of hours – she wanted to read him a bed time story.  By twelve she still hadn’t come home and she hadn’t called me either.  I considered phoning the hospital to find out what had happened but I assumed they would have called me if he’d taken a turn for the worst.  It seemed foolish to worry.  He was in good hands – or so I thought… I went to bed, expecting to wake up to my wife lying beside me.  Instead I woke up to find an empty bed. 

When I called the hospital to find out what the hell had happened they explained that she stayed up all night reading him stories.  This seemed a bit odd so I took the day off work and rushed over to the hospital.  When I got there something was clearly wrong.  Tess was slumped in the chair with tears streaming down her face holding up a story book.  Her mouth moved wordlessly.  No sound came out. 

‘What’s going on?’  I cried. 

Suddenly Kyle’s voice echoed inside my head.  ‘Tess is reading me a story.’ 

‘But she’s been reading all night!  She must be exhausted!’ I told him.

‘That does not matter,’ he thought back at me. 

Suddenly I realised he had made her stay and read to him against her will.  I had to make him to stop.  ‘Hey!  Would you let me read to you?’ I asked.  I said it as enthusiastically as possible.  To make it seem natural like.  ‘It’s been ages since we had some guy time,’ I said.  Somehow this seemed to get through to him and he let her go.  When she finally collected herself she tried to explain to the medical team what had happened.  As they already knew of Kyle’s unusual abilities they sent in a bunch of doctors, each of them armed with a syringe full of potent sedatives.  The first five he managed to subdue using his powers the second he realised their intent.  The sixth managed to inject the drug, sinking the needle deep into his vein.  Once knocked out, they made sure he stayed out and we could relax a little.  That didn’t last long though, because Tess and I both needed answers. 

A few hours later we were called to a fifth floor office for a meeting with some big wig neurologist.  His name was Lieutenant Colonel Sandmore.  He offered to treat Kyle in return for what basically amounted to testing rights on our son.  Neither of us wanted this.  As far as we were concerned he’d been through enough.  We thought that would be the end of it once we refused but when we got down stairs we discovered Kyle was gone.  No one would tell us where and no one seemed to care.  We called the police but they were not much help.  We instinctively knew that the Lieutenant Colonel had taken him.”

“What did you do?” asked Dr Barre.  He was beginning to think this story sounded strangely convincing.  He knew of Lieutenant Colonel Sandmore.  He had a reputation for being a ruthless man.

“We Googled him and found several references to a military hospital in Tremont.  It wasn’t too far away so we decided to give it a shot.  The only way we could get through security was to steal a couple of security passes from a nurse and a young doctor having a smoke out front.”

“I’ll not ask how you did that.”

“Probably best you don’t,” said Mitch.  He felt pleased.  It was starting to look as though the Doctor was taking him seriously.  

“So what happened next?”

“We got him out.  That’s what.  Bastards had shaved his head and had drawn all over it in black marker as though they intended to operate.  God knows what they did to him.  Tess and I took him straight home.  But when we got there neither of us could settle.  We just knew the Lieutenant would come find us and if he did we knew we’d never see our boy again.  That’s when we decided to go on the run till we could figure this mess out.”

Dr Barre could see he was pretty worked up.  And ever wonder.

“Hey,” he said laying a hand on Mitch’s forearm.  “I’ll do my best to help.  Don’t know what I can do, but I’ll certainly try.  Ok?”

Mitch took a great shuddering breath.  

“I appreciate that.  I really do.”

Dr Barre smiled noticing that Mitch had lowered his weapon.

“Could you call my wife and tell her we’re on our way and that you’re willing to help?” he said passing the doctor his cell phone.

“Sure,” he answered.  Briefly he thought about dialling 911.  But he couldn’t now that he’d heard Mitch’s story.  Scrolling through the contact list he found Tess’s number and pressed the call button.  

“Hi…this is Dr Barre again,” he said when she answered.

She sounded surprised.

“Listen…I’m in the car with your husband and we’re on our way to see Kyle.  We’ll be with you in…”

“How long till we land?” he said turning to Mitch.

“Ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes,” he told Tess.

The only reply he heard was gentle weeping.  He looked to Mitch for direction but received none.  He was concentrating hard on the road ahead.

They’d done well to find this place thought Dr Barre when they arrived at the cabin.  It was unlikely that anyone would stumble across it easily.

“Thank you so much for coming,” said Tess opening the door.

The doctor smiled, but refrained from saying that he hadn’t had much choice in the matter.

“Just hope I can help,” he said.  “I need to ask you both some questions before we go any further.”

Tess offered him a chair over by the stove.

“Sure.  Go ahead,” replied Mitch.

“Ok.  First of all, I need to know what drugs he’s been given.”

Tess and Mitch rhymed off a list.

“Has he shown any sign of emotion since the accident?”

“None.”

“Did he say what his reasons were for wanting you to read to him?”

“No.”

“I gather he made a reference to being in pain.  He said the ventilator tubes were hurting his throat.  Is that correct?”

“Yes.  He also said the IV tubes were uncomfortable.  Do you think you can help him doctor?”

“I really don’t know.  I would like to see an example of his behaviour if at all possible.  I need to see what I’m dealing with here.”

“It’s far too dangerous.”

“I understand your concerns, but I can’t treat him unless I see for myself.  I have drugs that would have kept him compliant, but they are all back at the surgery.  We need a plan of action.  Tell me, what was it that triggered the mental assault you mentioned?  And was it the only instance?”

“I was tired and refused to read him any more stories.  We both needed our rest.  That was the only time.  The doctors kept him drugged after that.”

“It would seem to me that we need to do everything he asks then and avoid outright refusal of his requests then.”

“That makes sense,” agreed Mitch.

“When are the effects of the drugs due to wear off?”

“In two hours,” Tess replied.

“Ok, well we need to be ready then.”

While they waited Tess made some coffee and they chatted about the sort of boy Kyle had been before the accident.

“Where’s the toilet?” asked Dr Barre suddenly.

Tess looked a little embarrassed.

“Right behind that big oak tree,” said Mitch pointing out the window.

“Al fresco huh?  Back in a mo,” he said.

Quick as he could the doctor did what he had to and then came back to the cabin.  The moment he stepped through the door again he knew something was wrong.  The couples’ eyes now held a look of fear.

“Who are you?” said a voice inside his head.

He looked around to see who had spoken.  It was then that he noticed the boy’s eyes were wide open.

“My name is Phillip Barre and I’m very pleased to meet you.  Could you tell me your name?”

The boy stared, unblinking.

“My name is Kyael.”

His parents looked at each other.  They could hear him too and were confused by his strange pronunciation of his name.

“That’s a very nice name.  Who gave you this name?”

“It is my heaven name.  Given by God.”

Dr Barre’s heart skipped a beat.

“Why so surprised?  I died.  And heaven is where people go when they die.  Either there or the other place.”

“That’s very interesting Kyael.  Would it be ok if I came and sat beside you?  I’d like to hear more about all this.”

The boy nodded so he pulled up his chair.

“Tell me what happened on the day you died.”

“I was playing with my air plane out in the garden when I took one too many steps backwards and fell into the pool.  I thrashed around trying to save myself but my head kept going under the water.  I breathed in water and eventually fell into a deep sleep.  The next thing I knew I was floating towards a light hidden behind the clouds.  God was bringing me to the hereafter.  When I got there it was so beautiful, so warm and so golden I cried with joy.  God smiled at my reaction and took away my earth name.  Using thought speak he gave me my new name and told me to enter through the pearlescent gates.  Overjoyed I floated forward but something suddenly began pulling me back.  It was quite gentle at first but then when I resisted it tugged me sharply through the clouds.  I was devastated.  But the moment I fell back to earth I could no longer feel emotion.  My sadness at being snatched from the afterlife was gone.”

“That is a very special experience Kyael.  Thank you for sharing that with me.  Kyle’s parents and I were wondering if you would allow me help you?  How do you feel about that?”

“You do not have the power to help me.  I would sooner have a story.  Read to me.”

“I would love to read to you.  But first could you tell me why you like to hear stories?”

“I want to hear stories because they remind me of the child Kyle.”

“I see.  Do you have any books that we could read Tess?”

“Yes.”

She bought over Green eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss.  Clearing his throat Dr Barre opened the book and started to read.

When he had finished, Kyael asked for a drink.  It had been almost two days since he had last had one.  The three adults watched him drain the glass, their fear of the unknown eating away at them.

“I have a story on my phone you might like,” said the doctor.  “I read it to my children.  Would you like to hear it?”

“Yes.”

“Ok.  It’s called The Stormy Night.”

Kyael had no way of knowing that the story was a form of hypnotic induction that he used in his clinic.  It seemed like any other story but a series of suggestions and instructions were interwoven throughout so that by the time he had finished reading it Kyael was under quite deep.

“Kyael, I want you to fold your arms for me,” said Dr Barre.

The boy immediately complied.

“I want you to ask Kyle’s mother for another drink.”

“Get me another drink Tess.”

Tess brought him a glass of water and handed it to him.

“Thank her and take two sips.”

Kyael did as he was asked then the doctor took it away.

“When I touch your head you will sleep for five minutes after which you must wake, but only partially.  You will still remain under until I click my fingers.”

The moment the doctor touched his forehead the boy’s eyes closed.  

“Well that was extraordinary!” said the doctor turning in his chair.

Tess seemed to sag against her husband.

“What are we going to do?  What’s wrong with him?”

“I think our first guess was right.  He’s suffering from damage to the emotion and memory areas of the brain.”

“But what about all that talk of God and heaven?” said Mitch.

“Well let’s just say for one minute that he’s telling the truth and that what he told us really happened.  Say God really did give him a new name and the gift of mindspeech or whatever you want to call it, but somehow the medics at the hospital managed to resuscitate him.  Problem is his emotional capabilities are damaged and so is his memory which means he has trouble identifying that he is actually your son and that it is wrong to force his will on others.”

“So you believe him?” said Tess.

“I don’t think we have any alternative.  His gift is definitely not of this world.”

Tess lit another cigarette to calm her nerves.

“He will wake in a minute.  Then I’m going to try to alter his memory of heaven and initiate further regression.”

His parents nodded.

“Hi there. I was hoping we could talk some more,” said Dr Barre when he finally opened his eyes.

“I wanted to ask you about the air plane you mentioned.  Could you tell me about it?”

“It was a birthday present from Kyle’s grandparents.”

“So where was Kyle that day?”

“He was there too.”

“Do you like his company?”

“Yes.”

“What do you like about it?”

“I like how he smiles and laughs.  How he enjoys things and senses the world around him.  He seems to have fun.”

“He sounds like a fun sort of guy to be around.”

“Yes, he is.”

“I was thinking we could perhaps play a game.  A game of make believe.  What do you think?”

“Ok…but then I want another story.”

“You got a deal.  So…the game I’d like to play is a game of pretend or make believe.  We have to play or act out certain characters to the very best of our ability.  Tess and Mitch will decide who is the winner.  Ok?”

“Ok.”

“So you choose someone I have to be.”

Kyael thought for a little while then he looked him straight in the eye.

“I choose a baby,” he said.

Dr Barre tried to seem upbeat about it.

“A baby?  Ha!  Great!  Go ahead and set me some tasks then.”

“Read me a book.”

“Nice try Kyael.  Babies don’t read.  To win the game you have to be in character, which means acting the part.  Try again.”

“Ok.  Crawl across the room and stack those wooden blocks.”

Beneath the table was a box of wooden blocks, a remnant from Kyle’s early years.  Straight away the doctor did as he was asked – even pausing to gnaw on one of the blocks as though teething.  When he was through, Tess gave a small round of applause.

“Now your turn,” said the doctor.  “I want you to be Kyle and your task is to do something to make Tess smile.”

Kyael seemed stumped.

“Think of the things you saw Kyle do for her or the interactions they had.”

Suddenly the boy threw off his bed clothes and burst through the door.  The adults were after him in a flash.

“Where is he going?” cried Mitch panting.

“Just follow.  Don’t stop him unless you have to,” said Dr Barre.

There was no need to anyhow.  As soon as he reached a patch of anemones he stopped and stooped forward to pick a bunch for his mother.  She accepted them teary eyed from her changeling son.

“Did she smile?”

“No.”

“Then you must try again.”

“Mamma, I love you,” said Kyael dispassionately.  He took Tess by the hand as he said this, pressing it to his face but somehow she just ended up crying.  The boy seemed completely bemused.  What was he doing wrong?

You know what the problem is here?  You need to think and speak like Kyle.  Would you like me to help you do this?”

“Yes.”

“Answer me a question Kyael.  Did you ever have a dream?”

“Yes.”

“What was it like?”

“It was lots of images of events and places that didn’t make much sense.”

“Kind of like the heaven experience you told me about?”

“Yes.”

“What I want you to do now Kyael, is imagine that the whole thing was just a dream.  Push it to one side for the moment and think about what went before.  When was the last time you were happy?”

“When Grandpa and Grandma bought Kyle the air plane.”

“That sounds pretty cool.  What about your birthday?  What was that like?”

“Don’t know.  You just asked me to push it to one side.”

“Oh…you mean the heaven experience?”

“Yes.  That’s when I was born.”

“So what existed before?”

There was a brief pause.

“Kyle.”

“So Kyle existed before Kyael?”

“Yes.”

“Take two steps deeper into the fall now when I pass my hand in front of your face.  Breathe deeply for me Kyael.”

Dr Barre waved his hand like a shutter in front of his eyes.

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes,” came the subdued response.

“Good.  Now I want you to apportion the death/heaven experience to the dream part of your brain.  That is where it belongs.  Your mind is like a library and this is just a book that has been put back in the wrong place.  Have you done that for me now?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent.  Now going back to the scene with Grandpa and Grandma.  Tell me what happens after you arrive?”

“They pour me a glass of lemonade and bring out my present.”

“Lovely.  Read out the name on the gift tag for me.”

“Kyle Sanchez.”

“Should you be opening this present then?”

“Of course.  That’s my name.”

“But what about this other Kyael person.  Who is he?”

“Oh that was just a dream I had.  He’s not real.”

“No he’s not.  Because you are the eleven year old son of Tess and Mitch Sanchez.  Your name is Kyle.  You had an accident at your grandparent’s pool but everything is fine now.  You’ve been very lucky.  Do you agree with this statement?”

“I do.”

“Good.  Now you must sleep.  The moment I count to five you must step off the ladder of consciousness and rest your weary head.  When you awake you will remember that you are the son of Mr and Mrs Sanchez.  What happened in heaven was just a dream.  Ready?  One, two, three, four, five.  Sleep.”

Just like that his eyes closed and everyone else in the room let out the breath they’d been holding in.

“Is he cured do you think?” whispered the boy’s mother.

“Certainly not.  This will be a very slow process, however I am greatly encouraged by the progress we have made here tonight.”

“So he needs extra sessions?” asked Mitch looking worried.

“Yes.  Probably eighteen months at least.  I’ve never encountered a case like this before so I can’t say.”

Tess fumbled with her check book and pen as she prepared to settle their bill.  Doctor Barre covered her hand with his.

“You have no need to do that,” he said quietly.  

“But we have to pay you for your help.  You’ve made great strides with him.”

“No you don’t.  I’ve plenty of other patients that pay me handsomely.  This one has paid dividends in other ways.  I’m hoping you’ll let me work with him some more – I offer my services to you completely free of charge.”

“I don’t know what to say,” sobbed Tess stroking her son’s mousy hair.

“You don’t need to say anything – except for yes.”

The couple looked at each other uncertainly then gave their yes to the man who’d conquered heaven and given them back their son.

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