“Is this Dr. Sarah Adams, psychologist at Gregorian hospital?” came a resounding, heavy voice through the telephone receiver.
“Yes” I replied.
“Dr Adams, I’m Samuel Hugh and I want to fix an appointment with you. Its for my son” he said.
“Actually, I’ve been off duty for the past month. If you want I can fix an appointment for your son with my husband Dr. Paul Adams. He’s also a psychologist at Gregorian” I said
“Ok, that would be fine. I’ll call you in the evening. Thank you” And he hung up.
I got up from the sofa and walked towards our room to tell Paul. As I neared the room, I heard him speak. He was on a call. “She’s improving… Much better. Yes, notable improvement. At this rate she will be completely alright soon. Ok, bye” he put the mobile phone into his pocket.
He began putting some papers into a file. Seeing me at the room entrance he said “You remember my patient Anna? She’s doing much better now” he paused to look at me and asked “Everything Alright?”
“One Mr. Samuel Hugh had called asking for an appointment.” I replied.
“Ok, just give me his number. I’ll call him.”
“Paul, when can I start going back to work. Its been a month already” I asked him for the hundredth time with a sigh.
“Not until you’ve fully recovered. Sarah, you have had atleast 2 black outs past couple of weeks. Your BP is not very steady and you’re under a lot of stress. And that last case. It was just so nerve-racking. You need to get come rest and recover fully then only shall I even consider having you back at the hospital. Besides this is such a nice break after 6 long years. Relax and take it easy” Paul replied.
“Ok” I said dejected.
“Today the cook will not be coming. He called at the last moment saying his daughter is sick. I have only 2 appointments in the morning. So I’ll be back by noon, ok?” he said as he fastened his wrist watch, picked up few files and headed towards the door. I followed.
“I told you so many times already, I don’t need a cook. I cook so well myself. Besides that is my only pastime after you go to the hospital. Good that he is not coming today” I said stubbornly.
Stepping outside he said “I know I know. I’ll feel better if someone is there at home, rather than you being alone.” he smiled.
“You’re so over protective.”I smiled back. “Its not like I’m a 3 year old who needs a babysitter”
“I know I know, you’re worse” Paul said mischievously.
“You take care, Bye” I said.
“Bye” he said. I watched as he opened the car door and the car rolled down the deserted road.
After closing the door, I walked to my room. Atleast I wouldn’t have to deal with that clumsy cook today. I heaved a sigh of relief. I missed going to work with Paul. I really wanted to go to the hospital and start attending patients again. But then again, Paul was right. The last case had left me a nervous wreck for 2 whole weeks. I still feel chills running down my spine when I think of it. I needed a good break.
I sat on my bed, and opened the bedside drawer. In it sat my favourite book. I took it out. It was a big, beautifully bound book which my Grandma had gifted to me on my 15th birthday. I had devoted its blank white pages to my dream – dream of becoming a psychologist. This book contained a description of every patient I treated. And how I cured them. The Day I met a new patient I would note down their problem in this book and also note down each important day in their diagnosis and treatment. Rather than writing down each patient’s case as case number 1, 2 etc, I titled each new entry as Experience number 1,2 etc, because I believed each patient taught me a new lesson, gave me new experience and helped mould me to be a better doctor.
I sat down on the bed, gently turning the pages. A proud smile automatically playing on my lips. Stories of how even people with severe psychological issues were healed and are leading a much better life today than they were before they met me. All were success stories. All but one. Experience number 22. I flicked away the page rapidly as my eyes fell on that title.
The doorbell rang. Paul, back so soon? He must have forgotten something. I carefully closed the book and put it back
in the drawer . The bell rang again. I walked to the door, and opened it.
I stood frozen. All my senses went numb. It was Alicia. “Hello Doc” she said
Experience Number 22
20 March 2014
Alicia Garner, 26 years
A very unique case. The patient fears anything and everything that has the potential to casue death. Even if such chances are miniscule. She fears fatal electric shocks from switches and common household electrical appliances, fatal injuries from sharp objects like knives, forks needles, glass and fatal accidents from vehicles and such ordinary day to day objects. She is fearful of strangers too and hence need to gain her trust first.
30 March 2014
Positive signs. Spoke with her for 2 hours on general matters. She seems to strike a chord with me. This trust will be useful and crucial for treatment.
20 April 2014
Visible improvement. Counselling sessions seem to be working wonders. She is now ready to try and reason out her fears and open to our attempts to prove her fears as irrational.
28 April 2014
Dramatic improvement. She came all the way to my house with her father in their car. Seemed to have completely recovered at first. But When I spoke to her in detail, I was quite startled. She revealed that she was no longer worried about herself but was worried about me. That my life was in danger. I tried convincing her, but in vain. Asked me to be careful while driving.
Case far more challenging than I expected.
29 April 2014
Met with a minor accident on the way to the hospital. Some issue with the Brakes. Couldn’t help but feel alarmed because of Alicia’s warning yesterday. Just a coincidence?
1 May 2014
Completely bizarre turn of events. Shaken to the core. Yesterday Alicia had come home. Warned me that Gas cylinders are very dangerous. That I must not use them. I was extremely worried.
After she left I rushed to the kitchen. And was alarmed to smell gas. The pipe from the cylinder was cut in 2. But the most nerve racking part was that the driver who came running into the house after Alicia left, claims to have seen through the kitchen window, her cutting the gas pipe with a knife.
To make things worse, our neighbour who came home today claims to have seen a young girl who had opened the hood of my car and was doing something “suspicious”. Paul asking me to quit this case as it is getting too risky. But this girl really needs help. She doesn’t know what she is doing.
2 May 2014
Discussed the case with Dr.Eva, Dr.Peter and Paul. All are extremely concerned. Not only is Alicia imagining horrible scenarios, but seems to be trying to make them happen. No one has seen such a strange case before. Decided to keep her in the asylum for now, to prevent her from causing any harm to herself or others.
15 May 2014
5th May was the Worst day in my 6 years of work.
Alicia escaped from the asylum somehow and came to the hospital and managed to sneak into my cabin somehow. Warned me to be careful of sharp objects. The very next moment she brought out a dagger and held it against my neck. I screamed. She cut my neck.
I was scared out of my wits. Never been this scared all my life. Security came and put Alicia back in the asylum. My cut was not too major and it was tended to immediately, hence my life was saved.
Was down with severe fever. Only now did I recover enough to be in a condition to write.
Decided to hand over the case to Dr Peter Sandez.
I stood stunned at the doorway. My arms and legs were frozen. I started feeling light-headed. Alicia’s eyes were cold. But she was smiling. “May I come inside?” she asked. And she pushed past me and entered the house. “Heard you’re taking a break from work” she said walking into the living room looking around. “So just thought of stopping by and asking how you are.” She sat down on the sofa. “Anyway I’m bored at home. Alone.” she said. For a fleeting second, I wanted to run out of the house as fast as I can. But what if she had recovered?
Resisting the urge, I followed her and seated myself at the farthest sofa away from her, leaving the front door open, just in case of an emergency. “I’m fine… Alicia. And you?” I asked softly. My heart was beating rapidly. I wanted to call Paul. So I moved and seated myself closer to the cordless phone on the side table. “I’m good Doc. In fact I’m glad you handed over my case to your friend Dr Peter Sandez. He has done wonders. I’m completely alright now.” She said, her smile wider.
Somehow, I felt a little more at ease. “I’m Sorry Dr. Adams. For all that I’ve done. I never meant to do it, but, my illness forced me to.” She said regretfully. “Its ok” I said, feeling the tension coming back into me. “Ok, then. I’m going home. Dad will be back soon. You take care Doc.” she smiled, and got up. I felt relieved. Peter had really done a great job.
As she walked towards the doorway, I rose up and started behind her. Halfway towards the door, she stopped abruptly. Without turning back, she said “Sarah. Are you scared of guns?” her voice was cold. My entire body tensed up. I was back to being as frozen as ice. “They can kill. Be very careful ok?” Before I could even comprehend what to do, she turned around. In her hand was a revolver which she pointed at my head. The smile was back in her face. I shuddered. I couldn’t muster the energy to scream, or run or even move. My arms and legs were shivering. I felt like I would faint.
“A..Alicia.. Don’t please.” was all I could manage. She stood firm. The revolver held tight, and her smile intact. At that moment the telephone rang, breaking the eerie silence in the room. The cordless was within my reach. With one dive sideways, I grabbed it. Alicia was still standing, rooted, except for changing the position of her hand so that the revolver still points at me.
I somehow picked up, and put the phone to my ear. “Hey, Sarah, its Peter. How are..” started the voice from the other end. “Please HELP me… Please..” I screamed helplessly. Alicia was laughing. “P..Peter… Al.. Alicia is here.. She’ll kill me. She’s pointing a g…g..gun at me.. Please” I begged. There was silence from the other end. “PETER, do something, please” I screamed, helplessness seething into every nerve in my body. “Sarah, please calm down” said Peter, his voice disturbed.
“HOW CAN I CALM DOWN? Alicia is pointing a gun at me. She will KILL ME” I screeched at the top of my voice. The phone slipped away from my sweaty palms and fell to the ground.
“Sarah!!” It was Paul. He stood stunned at the doorway. The sight of him gave me the courage to gather the strength to stop Alicia. I picked up a vase and hauled it at her. It hit her arm so hard, that she fell to the ground. “Paul!!” I ran towards him and hugged him tight. “Thank god you came” I said tears flowing down my face. “She tried to kill me” I said in between desperate sobs. “I’m here now. Calm down” said Paul. “She.. She tried to..” I began desperately. “I know Sarah, I’m here now. I won’t let anyone hurt you” I pulled away from him. “Call Dr Peter. And the nurses at the asylum” I said. “She needs immediate attention” I said, turning around to look at the very spot where Alicia fell.
The living room was empty. The only thing on the floor was a shattered vase. I stood dumb struck. “But.. But… She was right here.” I cried. “Where is she, Paul?” I asked in disbelief. “I think… she ran out the back door.” Paul said.
He led me back into the room and seated me on the sofa. I sobbed inconsolably, my face buried in my palms. Paul sat beside me and patted my shoulder. “I’ll not let anyone hurt you” he repeated. I felt slightly relieved. “Now you please go to the room, lie down and get some rest. I’m here now. No one can harm you” he said “Let me see what I can do about Alicia. I’ll talk to Peter”
I opened my eyes. The clock showed 4 pm. I had been sleeping for the past 3 hours. I felt drowsy. As I sat up on the bed, the events of noon replayed in my mind. I got up. I walked unsteadily towards the door of our room.
At the doorway, I stopped. There were voices coming from the living room. I peeped outside. On the sofa were seated Paul, Peter and Eva, our colleague at Gregorian. “Her condition is worsening” said Eva “I’m still unable to figure out what exactly is the problem. I thought she had started to overcome her irrational fears. But her behaviour, especially over the last month…It’s so unpredictable. I’m unable to comprehend her condition. I thought she was getting better. But I was wrong” Peter sighed. Paul was silent. “She shouldn’t have been left alone. Things could have been much worse you know” Eva said. “I am going to talk to her” said Peter “But, she’s not in a condition to understand” Paul spoke.
“Peter is right.” I strode into the living room. They all looked at me. “Peter, you should definitely talk to Alicia. Its important to understand her condition thoroughly before making any decision.” “How can I talk to Alicia, Sarah” Peter said, his expression stern “She died last month. The person we were discussing about is not Alicia – It’s you.”