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There wasn’t much for Majid to fear in a world where all disease had been eradicated. Advanced medical technologies elevated doctors like him to new levels of God-like discretion over people’s lives and they continued to improve every day.
Sprouting up from the arid desert sands were pillars of glass and steel: temples built in the name of medicine. The drab robes Majid wore to shield himself from the harsh desert climate were shed immediately upon entering his hospital where he exchanged them for the stark white of a lab coat. Shaking the sand from his pale hair, he considered his first patient of the day – Fadia.
Medicine could cure sickness of the body but sickness of the mind remained an elusive enemy and Fadia was suffering at its hands. She sat quietly on a hospital bed, her posture feminine and hands folded in her lap. Her ash blonde hair hung loosely over her mocha skin, tied up with a big floppy red ribbon.
“The nurse says you aren’t feeling well,” Majid said.
“… I,” Fadia’s voice was barely a whisper, “I feel sad. All the time.”
“Why is that?”
“I don’t know … maybe I’m supposed to be sad.”
“Are you sad now?”
Majid grabbed a clipboard and reviewed her medical records, skimming lines with the tip of his pen. She had been prescribed every countermeasure for depression known to man. This led him to doubt her commitment to recovery.
“I need some honesty from you Fadia, do you truly want to get better?”
Majid twirled his pen and notched it in his ear. “Then you’re in luck. I can help you.”
Synchro-therapy was not yet accepted by the medical community because its results could not be made tangible. It involved merging the patient’s psyche with that of her doctor’s using a powerful medication. If physical illness required a scalpel to the flesh, then mental illness would require a scalpel to the soul so to speak.
During this process, both patient and doctor were submerged into a pool of water that was then injected with stimulant. Only after they fell asleep did the drug take effect, connecting their minds together. There, in dream-like defenselessness, a doctor could see a patient’s true-self.
There were drawbacks of course, 4 out of 10 times a patient’s psyche rejected the doctor instantly, resulting in what was called a “Crash”. The doctor sprung awake, tired and disoriented, unable to even speak clearly. Most recovered, but others remained dazed for days.
“First sign of a crash and I’m pulling you out of there,” said Majid’s stern but alluring nurse. She batted her eyelashes from under a furled brow. “You’re a brilliant doctor and I haven’t followed you this far to see you turn into a vegetable.”
“You’re too considerate,” Majid reciprocated with a smirk, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
The nurse aimed two fingers at her eyes and then pointed them at Majid. After she left the synchro-therapy chamber, Majid shared a few brief words with Fadia about what they were about to do. She nodded tepidly after each sentence. As shy as she was, she didn’t hesitate to disrobe in front of him before submerging her dark curves into the water. She never even used the privacy screen.
About fifteen minutes after he entered the pool, Majid felt his mind flirt with the edges of slumber. His thoughts became capricious, he mused about Fadia’s condition and before he knew it, his consciousness had melted with hers.
Majid found himself in a field of green grass and flowers representing every color of the rainbow, their petals swaying in the breeze. Fadia was alone on a hill, paint brush in hand, drawing arches of color across a canvas.
“I didn’t know you liked to paint,” said Majid.
Fadia smiled at him, her eyes were as bright as the colors she painted with. “You have no idea. If I didn’t have to sleep, I’d paint all the time.”
She added a few tedious strokes, sticking her tongue out the side of her mouth. “By the way, how did you get here? Isn’t this supposed to be my mind?”
With a vain chuckle, Majid panned across the green paradise that represented Fadia’s most private inner thoughts, “You’re witnessing the miracle that is syncro-therapy.”
Majid was knocked over by a small, stuffed animal-like creature. It had two floppy ears, four stubby legs, a fluffy tail three times its body length and a simple face with beads for eyes and stitches for a mouth. Two small wings suspended its body in the air.
“Before you ask, call me Tak,” spoke the creature in an annoyingly high pitched voice, “and this is MY territory, get lost!”
Majid felt the heavy pushes of some unseen force trying to expel him from Fadia’s mind; his feet began to slide backwards across the grass. If it kept up, he’d crash.
“Territory?” Majid said while studying the little creature. “What the … hell are you?”
“It’s too complicated to explain. Think of me as Fadia’s subconscious, her soul guardian - the little voice in her head.”
“Subconscious? You look like a carnival prize.”
“Fadia loves cute things, hence my appearance.”
“Can you tell me why she’s so depressed?”
The little creature floated up above him and crossed his front legs. “You doctors never change. You’ve cured all the sickness and disease in the world but you’re still not happy, no, no, no, now you have to cure people’s souls: their precious, private domains. Why don’t you all drop dead and leave us alone? Forces like me can’t be cut out or drugged away, we’re beyond treatment.”
“Are you suggesting you’re the reason Fadia feels sad all the time?”
Tak sat upon Majid’s head and bopped him on the crown. “I’m not suggesting, I’m telling you – got a brain in there, melon-head? And you know what? You’ll never beat me. Watch!”
The plushy creature floated up behind Fadia. “That is the best painting ever, Fadia! My little eyes can’t handle the awesomeness!”
“Thank you Tak. I just have to add one more thing and it’ll be perfect …”
Tak suddenly rammed into Fadia’s back, causing her brush to drag an unwanted color all the way across the painting. All her hard work was ruined, her bottom lip quivered and her eyes watered.
“Uh-oh, look what you did, you ruined your painting!” Tak exclaimed, “Ugh, why do you ever try? Don’t quit your day job anytime soon.”
Fadia abandoned her paint brush and ran away crying. Majid, angry for answers, grabbed Tak by his fluffy neck, “That was your fault, not hers!”
“Ack – of course it was my fault, but she doesn’t think so, does she? Let me go and I’ll explain.”
He did so and the sky began to spin. Time and space held little meaning in dreams; likewise, they held little meaning in synchro-therapy.
Majid’s formless avatar was deposited into a department store dressing room: another part of Fadia’s mind. She was standing in front of a mirror wearing a very daring white bikini that hugged her supple curves like a second skin.
She pulled the tight fabric across her butt with a snap and evaluated her new look. “I’ve lost weight. I can’t believe I can finally fit into this thing.”
She spotted Majid in the mirror and let out a scream. “You’re still here?!”
“I’m your doctor - yes I’m still here. Listen, I think I’ve identified the source of your depression, it’s that creature you’re always with.”
“You mean Tak? No, no, he’s my friend; he wouldn’t hurt me at all.”
“Maybe not directly, but - “
“Never mind that, look at my new swimsuit. One trip to the beach and I’ll have guys lining up to date me.”
Majid felt the same invisible force from before, the formless hands trying to push him out of Fadia’s mind. He resisted them.
Tak slammed into the back of Majid’s head with painful consequences.
“Ha-ha! Ninja-Tak strikes again!”
The bothersome creature tumbled into the dressing room and hovered around Fadia, studying her like a haughty critic. “Whoa … You look horrible in that! Seriously, what were you thinking?”
“B-But I lost enough weight to fit – why don’t I look good?”
Tak rudely patted her on the bottom. “No hips? No butt? Who would want to look at you? And look how small your boobs are. Seriously, do you even wear a bra? Remember Fadia: guys won’t like you unless you have HUGE boobies!”
“Don’t listen to him, you’re beautiful just the way you are,” said Majid, “He’s only saying that to put you down, he’s the reason you feel sad all the time.”
The girl sniffled and fled the dressing room.
Majid chased her, feeling the intangible world around him shift and turn into another manifestation of her psyche. This time he was standing at the back of a long line of people carrying products and parcels they wanted to buy. Fadia was way up at the register.
“That will be 298 cune, ma’am,” said the cashier.
Before Fadia could pay, Tak flew into her purse, procured her wallet and slipped away unnoticed. When she happily tried to retrieve it, her hand groped empty air.
The cashier waited patiently; the shoppers behind her, not so patiently. Their grumbles and moans evolved into shouts of protest. They called her names, accused her of holding up the line.
Majid ran to her but he closed no distance, it was the kind of redundant running one usually did in a dream. She was ejected from the line where Tak was waiting to make the situation worse.
“Hope you’re happy! You held up the whole line because you misplaced your wallet. You’re such an air-head.”
“But I had it with me a moment - “
“Shut that yap of yours before you embarrass yourself further. Why don’t you just go home? You can do that right can’t you?”
“That’s enough!” Majid said.
Before he could grab Tak, the scenery changed again, he was standing in the same field of flowers he saw when he first entered Fadia’s mind. A lot of time had passed since the synchro-therapy began, he felt exhausted. If he kept up the pace he’d crash.
His patient was painting another picture, her cheeks wet with tears from events passed.
“I don’t know what to do,” she sobbed, “I can’t stop hating myself. I’m ugly, I can’t do anything right and I’m a total klutz. Why was I even born?”
“I’m your doctor, listen to me.
Tak appeared in front of him. “Give it up already doc, five minutes of synchro-therapy isn’t going to cure squat. Fadia will always listen to me over you.”
Majid kicked air. “Why? Why is she defending you? What have you done for her?!”
Responding to his question, Tak floated over to Fadia. “This painting …,” he began slowly, “is actually pretty good.”
Fadia’s mouth spread into a cautious smile. “R-Really? You think so?”
“Well, it doesn’t suck.” With a single stubby arm, Tak patted her on the back. “Maybe you’re not a total waste after all. Keep on surprising me girl.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!”
Majid watched as the poor girl gobbled up Tak’s 3rd rate praise with a big spoon. It was a crushing sight to behold; Fadia was clinging to the little monster that had been demeaning her this whole time like an abused girlfriend.
“You don’t get it, do you doc?” Tak said, “I’m not a disease, I’m a very important part of Fadia’s personality. Happiness is only measured by the amount of unhappiness in a person’s life. In other words, the more suffering someone goes through, the sweeter the good times are. Fadia understands that and that’s why she keeps me around. She’s a hardcore “M” girl who gets off on psychological abuse. I demean her and then feed her precious scrapes of encouragement that turn those rare bits of happiness into moments of pure ecstasy. Because she likes it that way.”
Majid didn’t dignify Tak’s garrulous bilge with a rebuttal. He pushed him aside and ran towards Fadia but Tak’s invisible power pushed him back towards the edges of her mind.
“Fadia! Don’t let Tak do this to you. I have prescriptions that can help you through this.”
One more push and Majid would crash for sure. He hung onto the edge of Fadia’s psyche like a climber dangling off a cliff. She appeared above him, her cold, expressionless face devoid of any sympathy for him or his desire to help her.
She delivered the final push herself.
-Thank you for reading-
Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
|Louisville's Silent Guardians|