Little Anne (May Promptathon #9)
PROMPT: Trickster, illusions, rewards
“It’s just oxygen, Mrs. Johnson. Nothing to worry about.” Dr. Whitcomb soothed the bawling woman in the chair across from him. The psychotherapist’s office was open and airy, with only the two of them occupying the space. As well as the cries of his former patients, only audible to him when he partook of his evening wine and watched the video recordings of his “therapy sessions.”
The hidden camera in the corner of the room was on, it’s tiny red light steady. It was ready to witness the bait and switch of his experiment for his hypothesis.
“Alright,” Mrs. Johnson choked out. “If you’re sure it will help me.”
“I’m sure.” His smile could curdle milk. “Just place this mask over your face and breath in three times.”
The soft, squishy mask slotted over her nose and mouth. The cool breeze was full of promise. Whispers of something she could not make out.
She breathed deeply.
Once. Her head felt light.
Twice. The colors of the room began to brighten.
Thrice. She was drowning. Her ribs expanded, yet no matter how much they took in, there was not enough air. Reds, yellows and greens spun in sheets around her. Wrapping around her, suffocating. Her soul was leaving her body.
“Mrs. Johnson. What do you see?”
The words floated in from above. They vibrated and tinkled like glass.
“Colors.” Her voice was trembling between gasping breaths.
“You are now in your worst memory…” His words fell upon her like the death knells of a cathedral bell. The colors swirled and darkened. The floor moved from beneath her. She was at her mother’s death bed. Holding the failing woman’s hand. It was so slight and pale, the veins standing out harshly against the paper skin.
“Tell me what you see…”
Through panting gasps, she managed to get out the words, “mother,” and “dying.”
“Very good, Mrs. Johnson. Now. Look into your mother’s eyes and tell her how you really feel. Let it all out.”
The suggestion weighed upon her soul. Could she lay bare her deepest thoughts she had been holding onto for the past forty years? The paling eyes of her mother stared into Anne’s soul. She was no longer Mrs. Johnson. She was Little Anne, age 14.
In her mind she screamed at her mother. How could you leave me? How could you work yourself to death? Didn’t you love me? Didn’t you care enough about me to stay and watch me grow up? Graduate high school and college? Get married and walk me down the aisle? Hold your grandchildren? Why did you have to work so hard for so little? I love you so much. I want you to be here with me.
Tears were streaming down her face. Some of the internal words made it out into the real world where Dr. Whitcomb was scribbling furiously.
The scene twisted, color coming into her mother’s cheeks and eyes. Her lips parted and a strong voice came through. Straight from Little Anne’s dreams. I will always love you. I will always be there.
Mrs. Johnson completely broke down, face in her hands, shoulders wracked with tremors. Her mother was behind her, hands on her daughter’s slim shoulders, moving in comforting circles. Her breath caressed the back of her neck.
The feeling of drowning subsided, her breathing coming back into a normal rhythm. Her head cleared and the colors dwindled back to normalcy. A peace filled her she had never dreamed she would ever feel since that dreadful day.
Then, anger began to fill her. “That wasn’t oxygen, Dr. Whitcomb. What was that?” Her tone was biting.
“95% oxygen, 5% carbon dioxide. It’s called carbogen. Thank you for being the final piece in my experimentation.” He got up and opened the door. “Have a pleasant life, Little Anne.”
Her heart shattered. He had heard and now know her darkest moment. Her greatest fear. She had been used, and now she was being thrown out.
“I hope your reward fits your acts,” she spat as she left, handkerchief dabbing at her blotchy face.
“Indeed, it will,” he smiled, and shut the door.
The little red light blinked off. He had all he needed for his work. And now, he had another pleasant evening to enjoy.