“As I count backwards from ten, you'll become completely relaxed. Ten, nine, eight, your body feels incredibly heavy. Seven, six, five, four, your mind is drifting into sleep, always listening to my words, my voice. Three, two, relax and concentrate on my voice, as you pass into a state of complete hypnosis. One.”
His voice is rich, warm, and compelling. Going under hypnosis is like anything else, you get better at it the more you practice. By now, I'm a world champ at this.
“Can you hear me Sam?” His voice is all around me in the darkness, it’s assured, and comforting.
“Yes, Doc,” I say, my words heavy with sleep. I can hear them, but it’s as if they are coming from someone else's lips.
“Are you ready to go into the room?”
“I guess,” comes my sleepy reply. As if by magic, my world is no longer a vast expanse of black velvet. I find myself standing in a dirty grey corridor which stretches out into infinity. I know this place well, I have been here a thousand times, this is the inside of my mind.
“Are you there yet?” the Doctor asks.
“Yes, it’s cold,” I say, feeling my body shiver. I look around at the derelict hospital I have conjured up. The colours are always the same, grey, green, off white. I take a step forward and feel dead leaves crunch under my bare feet. I think they represent every broken dream and heartache I have endured. I look down and there are thousands of them. In front of me is the door that I fear the most, the door which guards my deepest secret.
“It’s time to go in, Sam. Nothing can hurt you in there, remember that.”
The door sequels dryly as I enter the inner sanctum of my soul. Ripped privacy screens beckon me in with fingers made of tattered materiel, rusting medical instruments lay scattered carelessly on discarded gurneys, more dead leaves fill the room. Then the smell assaults me, the stench of stagnant water.
“Is the bath there, Sam?”
“Is the water in it?”
“I don’t want to look,” I hear myself say, and feel warm tears on my cheeks.
“You can do it, Sam. Just pull the plug and let the water out. I know you can make it this time.”
I move toward the ancient bathtub, which is filled to the brim with black, stinking, liquid. I can see nothing beneath the surface but a ripple runs across it as something shifts in the depths. I can see the rusted chain entering the water and my shaking fingers close around it. With a yank, the stopper flies out of the bath and dangles over the side, dripping black mucus on the leaf littered floor of my mind.
The water rushes out so much faster than it should, impossibly fast, and my deepest secret is revealed. I look down at myself, lying in the bottom of the tub, a manic snarl on my lips, maggots crawling around my eyes and nose, my teeth filed to razor sharp points. It’s me, the other me, the one inside.
When it's hand grabs the edge of the bath, I hear my scream, inside and out. I grab a rusty scalpel from the nearby gurney and stab myself over and over again. Black blood gushes from every wound, pouring out unstoppably until the tub is full once more and my secret is back in its tomb.
I hear him calling my name, and snapping his fingers, over and over again.
“Wake up, Sam. Wake up.” Click, click.
My eyes open, and he is leaning over me as he has done every Tuesday for four years. “Did you manage to let out the water?”
“No, sorry Doc. I tried, I really tried.” I feel guilty lying to him. The truth is that I let the water out every time, and every time, it’s just like today. How could I tell him that my biggest secret is me, and the evil I keep locked inside? He’d think that I'm mad, like all the rest of them.
“Don’t worry, you'll get there the next time.”