Letting the dreams leave

Session 6

The couple acted very politely and cordially when Yerran arrived with her granddaughter. However, it had not escaped their notice that Jak was standing away from Keira, trying to avoid looking at her even. Keira herself seemed to wear a forced smile, as opposed to her normal, jovial one. They sat down at their usual places, Pern placing Jak's folder on the coffee table, expecting him to read through the last 2 days' worth of notes. He showed no interest in it. He and Keira both stared at her grandmother in expectation. She was about to verbally offer Jak the notes written on him when-"

"Alright. Which one of you will tell me what happened?" Yerran had posed the question like an angry teacher interrogating unruly pupils.

The couple refused to look at each other. They stared ahead, preferring to leave the silence hanging.

Jak eventually spoke in a hollow voice. "We had a fight after you left. She said there's something wrong with me."

Keira finally turned to him, sneering as she did so. "You kept asking why I was upset. Then you got angry and ran out. You told me you wanted to get away from me."

Apparently unsurprised, Yerran addressed her granddaughter. "You take Keira." Pern stood up and coaxed the mechanic out of the living room, into the kitchen. The elder woman could still hear Pern talking from there, as no doors had been closed, but the voices were far enough way to not have the speech be too clear. Remaining stern, she addressed Jak. "You will tell me every conversation you have had with Keira since yesterday's session."

Emotionlessly, Jak recounted every conversation he had shared with the mechanic, from their fight onwards. Yerran listened intently, never appearing satisfied, but never reacting either. He finished with the conversation they had had in the kitchen, confirming that they had not shared any more words with each other until a few moments ago. When he stopped, he could hear Pern and Keira in a conversation of some sort. He fidgeted in the almost silence.

"And um, I had a fight with her father earlier and I insulted him, I dunno if he told her that yet," he admitted sheepishly.

Yerran raised an eyebrow. "What had possessed you to do such a thing?"

"Well...he came over and I got defensive because I thought he'd act all protective of Keira against me. He didn't, but then he wanted to know about these sessions. I thought he was being snoopy and I got angry."

"What was it about his behaviour that had made you so angry?"

Jak frowned. "I dunno. I guess, these days, I just dunno what to say to him. He's always telling me about things I should do and responsibilities I have, as if I'm a stupid kid. I know what responsibilities I have, I don't need him reminding me. And it's not like he ever taught me how to rule, how to be a king. But, it wasn't like he did nothing for me. When he left, I felt like crap. I have to make it up to him but I don't know how."

Yerran's slight smile returned. "I suppose you haven't shared any details about these sessions with anyone?"

"No, they're private. I told Daxter and Tess a little bit of what happened yesterday, but I just told them enough, no details."

The elder woman sighed. "Jak, do you know why it is that Keira's suggestion of something being wrong with you made you so wrathful?"

He frowned. "No. But I wanted to ask you..." He let out a sigh, visibly tensing. "Uh..." He forced himself to look at her, grudgingly. "Is there something wrong with me? Like, really wrong? That can't be fixed?"

She gave him a surprised look. "I haven't discovered anything to indicate you are abnormal, or anything that cannot be treated. Was this what you were afraid of?" Jak tentatively nodded. "Well, I can explain what it is that is 'wrong' with you, as you put it in crude terms, but I believe Keira would like to hear this as well. My concern is how angry you have been with her. What was your feeling yesterday?"

Jak let out a breath. "I had to get out of here. I didn't feel...safe? Anymore? Maybe, unwanted is a better word." He stared at the floor in uncertainty.

"What is it you are hiding?"

He clenched his eyes shut. "I thought she betrayed me." He opened them cautiously. "I know! It's stupid. But I hated the way she was judging me because I said I felt nothing about those Krimzon Guards I killed. I thought she'd back me up all the way! And when I told this to Daxter this morning, he, uh, kinda, agreed with Keira."

"And what about earlier this evening? Where did the anger come from then?"

"I was sad at first actually. Really depressed. But then I started blaming her for some reason. I had been thinking up reasons why she didn't want to eat with me and I wanted to not be angry. But then I was. I was angry because...she didn't act the way I thought she would."

He stopped as the two girls walked back in. Keira looked quite a bit more relaxed now. Pern looked no different. As they sat back down in their usual places, Yerran sat forward, folding her hands on her lap.

"Keira, Jak has asked me if you are correct, if there is something wrong with him. I will explain to both of you what has happened to him. But first, Keira, I must give you a firm recommendation, one to ensure your safety. If, while alone except with Jak, if you feel unsafe with him, if you feel you are in danger in any way, then leave. Get out of this apartment, or wherever you are, as fast as you can and go somewhere you feel safe, preferably where there is other people. I am not saying Jak is dangerous, I am not saying he will attack you, I am telling you this as a precaution and only a precaution. So Jak? If Keira suddenly runs away from you, will you agree to not chase her?" Such a question clearly pained him, but he nodded, albeit sadly. "Good, such an understanding on both sides makes the situation easier.

Now. My people and others, who practice the Mind Sciences, have studied children, adolescents and their development for a long time. What we know is that adolescents are guided very strongly by their emotions, they do not think very far ahead in their future, they also have a heightened sense of both outward confidence and inward insecurity at the same time. How these manifest and how strongly they affect each individual obviously varies. This is also the time in a person's life when they consciously form their own set of ethics, based on their experiences and lifestyle. It is normal for adolescents, or teenagers, to grow out of their usual condition because they continue to live with their families, in a stable lifestyle and home that they have been familiar with since their infancy. They then become empathetic adults, with a firm set of morals and a decided set of ethics and priorities. Had you stayed in your village, this would have happened to you too. Instead, you have been forced to decide that killing is a necessary act, even allowing yourself to enjoy it time to time in order to cope with the contradiction this presents to your morals. This does not worry me personally. You had decided your set of ethics only a few years ago, they are still changeable."

Jak thought over this explanation. "So, that wound I have, that no one can see? You've found it?"

Yerran shook her head. "No. We have full details of the trauma you experienced and while it has clearly affected you, Pern and I still do not know what the exact nature of the wound is. Without this knowledge, we cannot begin training your mind how to cope. We cannot begin helping you through the other consequences this trauma has had on your mind either."

She then declared her intention that she learn as much as possible about the impact of his incarceration on his present every day life. Without any prompting, Jak started to talk about his 'day mares', which Pern corrected to flashbacks. He talked about how he would perform any mundane activity, but then he would see something, usually involving Krimzon Guard brutality, causing his anger levels to dramatically increase. At that point, he would transform into his Dark form and begin attacking the supposed aggressors, only discovering when he calmed down that it had only been a delusion. Usually he had been attacking Freedom Guards, at other times he had confused ordinary people with Krimzon Guards. Knowing this made him nervous; he had brutalised some people enough that they had needed hospitalisation, convincing him that he would kill someone one day. It made him anxious, forcing him to be acutely aware of his thoughts and trying to avoid any memories of those scarlet-clad guards. As he was explaining all this, however, he realised that he had not experienced a single flashback since the day the roaming practitioners had arrived.

"Have these sessions helped you relax somewhat in your day-to-day life?" asked Yerran.

"Yeah...yeah, I guess they have."

"Why is that?"

This question frustrated Jak. "I don't know! Maybe just knowing why I get these flashbacks, or knowing I'll find out why I get these flashbacks...it just helps me get through the day."

Yerran asked for more details about his nightmares. He couldn't provide much feedback here, his memories of them were rather hazy. Keira chimed in for this topic, saying he always started having them whenever he lay on his back. Jak admitted he felt more relaxed when lying on his side or front; these were the positions he got to sleep in. Yerran then asked if he remembered at what point in time he first started having these nightmares. Pern reminded her grandmother that one of Erol's reports had provided the rough date, so the elder woman moved on to ask what Jak felt whenever he woke up from one of these nightmares. He bluntly stated he would always throw up at some point. He went on to sadly admit that he always felt at his weakest, his most vulnerable after such a nightmare, often being half-convinced he was still in his cell, waiting for his next round of painful treatment. He also revealed, that the only reason he had started sharing some of his experiences in prison with Daxter at all, was because his nightmares had woken up his best friend, who had then had a list of questions for him. These nightmares were something only Daxter had ever known about for the longest time, so he had hated it when Keira found out about them as well, feeling anger, uncertainty and shame all at once.

"Why shame?" asked Yerran.

Jak swallowed. "When I first got my Light Eco powers, I felt instantly better. I thought all my problems would just go away. And they did leave me alone, for a while. Learning that I still got nightmares made me wonder if I'd ever be free of them." He directed a questioning look at this therapist. "The problems I'm having, they don't have a quick fix, do they?" He had sounded very defeated and hollow, while posing this question.

The elderly woman shook her head sympathetically. "No." Jak instantly shrunk. "Your persistence will be a great asset to you during this trying time, it will also be easier to cope with once your wound begins to properly heal."

The next round of questioning had to do with his feelings of being king. Jak explained he had never wanted the job and was shocked by the revelation that he was a prince, but Damas had been very explicit when he had told him his role, his responsibility and his duty. The young ruler was convinced that, had he been allowed more time, Damas would have properly shown him the ropes, explaining what his duties entailed and the best way to carry them out. Damas' death was very sudden, much sooner than anyone had expected and Jak had felt immense relief when Sig had declared he would rule Spargus until the prince felt ready to take over. The citizens of Spargus had supported this idea, declaring their loyalty to both the great warrior Sig and the House of Mar.

In the case of Haven City, the traditional home of the ruling Mar Dynasty, Jak had agreed with both Ashelin and Keira (and Daxter, who had wanted to return to his bar) to return and help with the rebuilding. The young prince had been convinced that Ashelin would continue ruling as baroness, an impression she had
validated by keeping the revelation of Jak's lineage a secret. Not even Torn had known for a while, until he had worked it out. Jak had been content carrying out Ashelin's orders, doing everything he could to help reinforce security and stabilise their Eco sources (while also hunting for artifacts and treasure here and there). This also meant he was obeying Torn's orders a lot of the time, again something he did not mind. Unfortunately, taking part in the races in Kras City (against his will) had garnered him a lot of media exposure and heightened interest in him as a person. He conveyed his annoyance at the press people constantly hanging around outside his team's garage and set of accommodation; they would spy on them and eavesdrop for every flippant comment, partly to make their name in the sensationalist tabloids and gossip columns, partly so that rivals could take advantage of any possible weakness. Eventually, a dropped remark about Jak being the rightful ruler of Haven City had spread through every news source like wildfire. After that, the citizens of Haven City, still very wary and suspicious of their leader - whose name was Praxis - had demanded and petitioned Jak to take his rightful title and place. He had learned very quickly these citizens would not accept no for an answer, so he had accepted his title, very reluctantly. Becoming king had been one of the saddest days of his life. What little anonymity he had had was completely stripped away from him. The Ceremony of Declaration (Haven City did not crown their monarchs) was a short, simple, but also rushed ceremony, which Jak had gone through in a daze and afterwards attempted to hide in a small room while others celebrated in parties all over the city. Daxter had eventually found him of course.

"It's fair to say, then, that you did not like being the focus of so many people," stated Yerran.

"I still don't like it." He went on to explain how uncomfortable he felt when in the Council Chamber, listening in on meetings discussing matters he knew little about a lot of the time. The young ruler also admitted that, while he understood he should live with the city in mind, thinking of the citizens under him before himself, he did not really comprehend how he could do that. He found it difficult to gauge what the city expected of him. When asked why he relented and accepted his position, he talked about Damas again. He knew Damas would have expected him to accept the role, to continue the legacy and reign of the House of Mar. Jak was all too happy to continue tradition, but he did not understand what role of the king had in Haven City.

"Daxter told me earlier that people want me to live in a palace. Why do they want that? Do they really want tax money spent on building this nice, huge palace for me while some people still live in the slums? I don't get it. They keep talking about me too, talking about what I should be doing, what I did wrong. I avoid watching the TV a lot, because of that. Why should I even do anything if they're never happy?"

"How do you feel when you're in Spargus?" asked Yerran.

Jak smiled softly, lopsidedly, per his trademark. "I feel like myself. I can walk the streets, everyone knows my name and says hi, telling me where to go if there's music somewhere or a challenge going on. Sometimes we just have these competitions, to prove who's the best shot. Other times I just go to the pens to help take care of the animals. I'm good with animals." He shared his memories of Damas' activities; his father had always made sure all the buildings were in good condition, he had kept a close watch on the weather and the winds, and he was never too far from a communication device or relay. He had often been the one who had reported bad weather to the roaming Wastelanders, making sure the staff at the city's entrance kept clear records of those who had come and gone. Jak admitted he would happily take over this role, and this role alone.

He was then asked if becoming king had changed his relationship with anyone close to him. "Um, well, I guess I don't talk to Samos as much. And Torn never sees me in the office, only ever outside work. That's it, I guess." Yerran then asked him to talk about his memories of Sandover Village. "Sandover? Why do I have to talk about Sandover? It has nothing to do with this."

Yerran's smile widened in response. "Humour me. What kinds of things did you, Keira and Daxter do?"

Jak wore a very suspicious frown, but answered the question anyway. "We'd go speeding on our Zoomers sometimes, other times we'd take a boat out to sea. We went to school most days, then Samos had to spend extra time teaching me about Eco and Precursor technology. I had a bug collection, I'd help take care of crocadogs and other pets, in the forest we'd go firefly watching. When there were lots of kids around, we'd sing our favourite songs. That's about it."

Keira was beaming nostalgically. "You forgot to mention the part where you'd climb through my window if you couldn't sleep. We'd just sit on my bed and talk."

Jak blushed. "Yeah, that too." He smiled shyly.

"What are the largest differences between how you are now, and how you were then?" asked Yerran.

His look soured. "I talked less back then, but people were less judgemental about me. I kept breaking rules, I was bored in school a lot, I loved being outdoors. I used to love jumping off hut roofs for some reason. But at night I could just stare at stars without moving an inch. I don't do that anymore. I used to just try anything, I liked to paint but I wasn't good at it. Now I try to master every skill I have. I don't like sharing my thoughts anymore, I feel like I live with too many strangers."

"You never spoke much about the people who had raised you. Why don't you tell me about them?" suggested the elderly woman.

"Why do you keep asking me about Sandover?" demanded Jak. He did nothing to hide his annoyance. Yerran continued to look at him evenly, not answering. Pern looked at her grandmother warily. "Alright! Fine! I lived with my uncle, or not-really uncle, he was an explorer. He collected maps and books. He taught me how to read a compass and navigate by looking at the sky. We also lived with an aunt - not-aunt - whatever. She wrote a lot, baked a lot. Made me help her cook when I got older. Helped me when I struggled at school. She made me my clothes too." He glared accusingly at the woman trying to help him. "Anything else you want to know?" he demanded with gritted teeth.
Yerran sat quietly, considering her options. "What is the first thing you feel when you think about your childhood?"

Jak's angry mask quickly morphed into one of wide-eyed surprise. In the next moment, it reverted and brought sharpened teeth with it. "This has nothing to do with what happened to me!" Streaks of purple sparked and flashed around his clenched fists. "
Why do you keep asking me these STUPID questions!?” He launched off the sofa. “I'LL TELL YOU WH-” A scream.

“JAK!” He suddenly turned to find Keira had grabbed hold of him, pleading with him. “Jak calm down! Look!” She indicated the mirror on the wall to his left. It took him a moment to realise he was staring at a reflection of his partly transformed self; his eyes had completely blackened, his teeth were sharp, his hair had turned whiter.

A few jolts rocked through his body as he hastily reverted to his ordinary self. He forced the burning rage to subside, finding himself slightly tired and weaker from the Dark Eco powers attempting to manifest themselves. The young man checked himself in the mirror, finding his blonde hair and blue eyes restored; he could feel his teeth had normalised. Having let him go, Keira stood to the side a little as Jak faced the guests, ready to address them.

Yerran was visibly rattled but sat resolute. The rapid rising and falling of her chest revealed the impact of the sudden terror she had summoned. She had her arm tightly wrapped around the shoulders of her shaking granddaughter. Pern clutched her grandmother's waist like any small child would their parent's. Shaking, she stared at Jak wide-eyed. He was pretty certain she had been the one who had screamed when he had launched himself at them.

Jak felt dismayed. He really had not wanted to hurt these women, never intended it, but he could not believe that Yerran had led him to that state of mind. Why would she be so cruel? Or foolish? “You really shouldn't make me so angry, I just...lose it.”

The shaking Pern found her voice, turning away from him as she spoke. “I-I told you, grammy! He relies on his anger as a shield. I don't think he's able to express negative emotions!”

Yerran nodded. “I'm sorry, Jak. I could not see any other way to prove her theory.” Her voice was as hollow as Jak's had just now been.

He frowned. “What theory?”

“The one I wrote in the notes,” snapped Pern in annoyance. She sat up straighter, no longer needing her grandmother's protection. “Those same notes you haven't read the last two days.”

Keira's eyes fell on the folder making the coffee table its home before Jak's did. Uncertain what he would read inside, he picked it up, opened it, then sat down to read the relevant pages. This did not take long. As ever, Yerran's notes were only a few sentences long. Pern's were a lot shorter this time, her notes from the previous session had begun with: 'All events, times and details of Jak's incarceration are kept in the copies of his prison and medical records that he provided.' She then went on to write a list of significant events during those two years and recorded Jak's reactions to them. Her notes ended with a one-sentence hypothesis: 'It appears that the greatest consequence of him relying on his anger, to cope with the treatment received during his incarceration, is his current inability to express negative emotions; there is no indication that after, or before, his escape he has ever felt or expressed sadness or fear.'

The silence seemed to have been enough for everyone to regain their composure. Jak noticed that Keira had used the quiet time to bring in herbal tea for all of them. He closed the folder, placing it back onto the coffee table.

"Say you're right," began musing Jak aloud. "Let's say you're right and I don't feel sadness or fear any more. What's wrong with that? Isn't it a good thing?"

From her place on the sofa next to him, Keira wore an openly disbelieving look. "That's bull. I didn't see you much when you got sworn in - after the ceremony even - but I could tell you were sad. Even if you were trying to hide it from everybody else."

Yerran considered this. "You did describe the day you were sworn in as king to be the saddest day of your life. How were you actually feeling at the time?"

The monarch bowed his head, almost as if he were hiding a blush. "It's only now I realise how depressing the day was, for me. At the time, I just felt numb and...out of place. I don't belong on a throne...the party I was made to go to after had all these people that I was meant to rule over and order - including Ashelin - and it just didn't feel right. This party wasn't my style, I felt like I was at the wrong place, I felt like I had to act like somebody else. I had to get away, that was all." He thought a little bit harder. "I do actually remember some people really pissing me off. I can't remember why any more."

Yerran's expression did not change. "Returning to your initial question; fear and sadness are instinctual, natural reactions to certain situations. If a person cannot feel or express natural emotions, it indicates a problem. It might also explain your lack of empathy towards the Krimzon Guards you had killed."

Jak sneered. "They don't deserve any!"

Pern tensed up. Keira watched him warily. Yerran had no reaction. She simply asked him another question. "Do you remember the last time you truly felt depressed? Do you also remember how you expressed it?"

He concentrated, as hard as he could. The last time I was sad and expressed it? Every time he had woken up from his nightmares? No, I was just sick and tired and wanted to be alone. The time Keira had been afraid of him? Declaring he had changed too much and making him decide to not take part in the race? Angry and jealous, not sad. The time he had been exiled from Haven City and left in the Wastelands? Nope, humiliated and annoyed maybe, but I just didn't care enough. He figured out the answer. "The last time I was seriously depressed, that I cried, was after the first time I was force-fed. I know I felt sad in the days after that, but it's the last time I cried."

"You didn't cry when your father died?" asked Pern in disbelief.

Jak allowed this memory to fill him with sadness, as he knew it would inevitably do; always had, always would, always will. "I would have, definitely. But when he first slipped away, I was just too shocked." He let out a harsh breath. "Then Veger showed up. I just got angry again. And yeah, I thought I would cry at my father's funeral, but I was still so happy about saving the world and I was glad that I could live up to what he said I would be. He called me a...an inspiration. He said I can be a great hero by using what I had, by turning any disadvantages into an advantage. I thought I had lived up to that, so I was happy he could be left in peace. Then I just listened to everyone's stories about him at his funeral, there were a lot of funny ones." He grinned at the memories he had of the various stories told.

Yerran pursed her lips together, frowning at a spot on the floor. Jak waited in silence, quite fascinated by her new expression. She must have done it at least once before in her life but he had never seen her make such a face. Pern used the silence to catch up on writing some of her notes. Keira fidgeted.

"Jak," began the experienced practitioner at last, "what I will now suggest to you, you can freely decline." She looked up at him, staring at him with a piercing gaze. "I believe, that on a subconscious level, you have done something to hide away your wound. Whatever you have done, I think it is also the reason you do not naturally feel sadness, fear, worry and hurt. Reflexively, you become enraged instead. Is it correct, Keira, that it is only while he dreams that he freely feels and expresses these emotions?" Keira nodded, thinking of all the times she had cuddled him in his sleep to calm him down and drive the nightmares away. When he slept, Jak seemed like such a little boy to her. "So, the next step I suggest would be to bring you under hypnosis, like I did before to calm you down. This time, however, I want to have you talk us through your nightmares."

His first reaction was to swallow the big, heavy, painful lump in his throat. He comprehended with absolute clarity what she was telling him. The time he had relived the granting of his Light Eco powers had felt so vividly real, so his nightmares would feel just as genuine, with as much of an impact. She wouldn't leave me feeling that bad, he told himself, I have to get this thing fixed, I need to find out what's wrong with me. She can heal me with the same trick if it gets that bad. As nervous as he inwardly felt, on the outside, he merely shrugged his shoulders. "What have I got to lose?"

Jak was then asked if he would rather lie down on the sofa or his bed. He chose the latter, so all four moved to the bedroom, where the queen-sized bed the couple shared was waiting for them. The late summer evening had the setting sun illuminating the bedroom in a warm orange. Keira perched herself on one side of the made bed, while Pern settled herself on the chair at Keira's small vanity, using the table as a writing desk. Yerran stood on the other side of the bed, coaxing Jak to lie down on his back. He twitched and shifted, but he could not get comfortable.

"You are not comfortable lying on your back," stated Yerran. Jak shook his head in response, while Pern quietly reminded her grandmother that the staff of the prison medical bay had noted Jak's preference for lying on his front. "How do you feel, when you are in this position?"

He twitched some more; his bed seemed very hard for some reason. "Exposed. Trapped. And you're all just watching me, like they did."

Yerran did not react to his vocal comparison. "Has there ever been a moment when you have found yourself lying on your back, but feeling comfortable? Happy even?"

A soft blush coloured Jak's features as his eyes roamed to Keira's. "The morning, after we made love for the first time." The mechanic's blush matched his own. He was told to grab Keira's hand, at which point the tension in his body evaporated and he felt more content. When prompted, he described waking up to a sunny morning, finding Keira sleeping on his chest, his hand in her hair, her hair that he could smell and loved smelling. He had felt peaceful that morning, very peaceful. Pern scribbled all of this down, blushing furiously as she did so.

Yerran then began placing Jak under hypnosis. She told him to let go of Keira's hand and lie in any position he would feel comfortable going to sleep in. Once he was comfortably on his side, he obeyed the order to close his eyes. Like his previous experience under hypnosis, Yerran had him travelling through the stars. This time, however, her commands under hypnosis included the instructions that no matter what he experienced, he would describe what is happening to him; the other command was that he would instantly wake up as soon as he returned to his 'sleeping' position on his side. Under hypnosis, Jak did look like he was sleeping. Yerran's next suggestion coaxed Jak's mind into a dream state, so that he started to dream without being asleep. Following Yerran's commands, he languidly described a set of small islands he was jumping over, while seeing a big black castle in the distance and a lake of green Eco surrounding a gigantic, edible tulip. This absurd scenario made the two girls giggle.

Yerran then ordered the hypnotised Jak to roll onto his back. He did this immediately but slowly, giving the onlookers the impression that his subconscious was very reluctant to follow this order. Once settled on his back, he instantly locked up, looking nervous.

"It's dark," he said shakily, in a subdued tone. He twitched and shifted his limbs. "I can't see anything, hear anything, feel anything. I'm moving, I think, but I'm not going anywhere. I can't get out of here. I can't breathe." He squeezed his eyes, groaning. "Bright..." His breathing quickened, becoming more panicked. "There are...people, looking down at me. I can hear Praxis talk. He...he's smiling at me. There's tubes in my throat! They're pulling them out of my nose, but not my mouth. Where are my clothes?" Panicked, he struggled to lift his limbs against non-existent restraints. "I'm tied down! They're feeding me," he whimpered. "I'm gonna be sick." He made breathy, choking noises. In his mind, he could see himself vomiting, scientists holding the container in front of him. He let out a panicked cry. "They're injecting me with Dark Eco! Through that needle. Lots of it. I don't wanna be like them!" He tried ripping his right arm out of the restraint. "My arm! It's getting bigger! It hurts! It's too big, it-" He convulsed in uncontrollable pain, his arms and legs still pinned to the bed.

In his 'dream', Jak could see his right arm convulsing, cracking, seeping Eco-filled pus. He hissed as it ran along his skin. He felt the acidic Eco drops touching other parts of his body. "I'm tied down, naked." He tried looking around him, but couldn't. "I can't move my head. I'm being punished. The Eco types are dropping onto my skin, damaging it. It hurts." Why do I keep talking? Jolts of electricity stormed through his leg, forcing a scream out of him. "I'm being shocked." He couldn't see who was doing it, but he knew it was Praxis stabbing him with his instrument. He looked up, panting and gasping for air. He was under the Eco Injector. He panicked; he knew what was coming. "The Eco Injector...they're gonna use it."

Outside his dream, Keira felt she couldn't watch Jak in his panicked state any more. "Yerran..."

He launched an anguished scream. In his mind, he knew only pain, and those restraints, that refused to let him escape. He tried to beg his tormentors to stop this, to release him, knowing this was futile - it just always was. From somewhere, he heard a shout: "Jak! Turn to the side!" A force propelled him to the side.

He opened his eyes, staring down at his duvet, never stopping his groaning. His suddenly freed limbs confused him; he scrambled his hands into his view, inspecting them for any cuff marks. He tried to find some but couldn't see any. He also tried to understand why he could no longer feel any pain. I have to get out of here! Someone called his name. He jumped when a hand lay on his shoulder.

Keira was stunned to find herself staring into the wide eyes of a visibly panicking Jak. He was still shaking somewhat, trying to recover from his shock. She tried to remember the last time she had seen him like this; years ago. Back when he was 7? 8? He started to back away from her. "Jak...Jak, what are-?"

"Not like this," he almost-whispered.

Yerran had joined her granddaughter, watching the exchange between the couple. Keira was merely confused. "Not like what? What's wrong? Tell me."

“I can’t…” Jak desperately looked around him. His chin quivered. “What…?” He stared down at his hands, desperate to work out what was wrong. Why was he desperate for someone to hold him? He was not allowed to feel anything like this...was he? “I went through all of my prison time? In a few minutes?” His eyes refused to focus.


“Dreams are normally very short,” explained Pern. “They just feel long to…”


She stared at the spectacle of escaping tears rolling down Jak’s cheeks. It took him a moment to realise they were there. Once he noticed the warm, wet, sensation on his cheeks, he slapped them away.


Keira leaned forward, reaching out to offer physical comfort. “Jak…”


“No.” He scrambled away from her, slipping off the side of the bed, falling to the floor. She stared at him, stunned. Jak finally appeared aware of his surroundings. I can't feel like this here! “Yerran?” He crawled towards her and Pern. “Please, make my mind peaceful again. Please.” He crawled faster until he was kneeling at her feet. “Make this feeling go away.” He grabbed her long skirt, trying to support himself. “Make it go away, please, you have to.”


She shook her head sympathetically. "Not this time. It is not what you need." Jak's tear-filled eyes stared up at her. "We have found your wound, the source of your inner conflict. The last thing we want to do is cover it up again. It's exposed now, you need to get used to it, learn to live with it." He started to babble quietly, dreading the spending of his time with these dominating emotions. "We will not come tomorrow. We will come in two days instead. You can do whatever you like." She gently pried his hands off her skirt. "Go out, stay in, be useful, do nothing. You just need to learn to explore these feelings and live with them." He shook his head desperately, repeating "I can't" a great many times. But the visitors stood up and left. He had no energy to follow them; his eyes could only follow them in disbelief. He felt abandoned, cold and...alone. He had forgotten what this feeling was like.

Keira accompanied them, wanting to show them out. As soon as she was through the bedroom door, however, Yerran turned around. "Keira, we can show ourselves out. I doubt Jak wishes to be left alone right now."

"Call us if you need anything," instructed Pern as she picked up the folder of notes on Jak.

Keira could only respond with "OK", still stunned by what had happened and surprised by the two women instructing her to be a bad host. She turned back to the bedroom and found Jak had not moved from his kneeling position. He was still staring through the door, but this time, an undisciplined waterfall of tears covered his cheeks. He emitted no sound. He was the picture of defeat. In her mind, Keira was suddenly a small child again, looking for Jak during the school recess, after he had been in a fight with some other children. He had often sat alone after such an occurrence, allowing silent tears to stream down his face.

He looked at her. "It hurts." His quivering chin won his battle of emotions; it forced his mouth open as he let out a loud, bawling noise, like any small child would after tripping over. Keira rushed to him, kneeling in front of him and wrapping her arms around his head and shoulders. He allowed himself be pressed against her shoulder, no longer fighting the tidal wave of grief and pain that so desperately rushed out of him. He wrapped his arms around her desperately, unwilling to even lose touch of his only source of comfort.

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Written by Ruth Hüneke 2013

© Naughty Dog and Sony