Letting the dreams leave

Session 7

Keira was eventually able to coax Jak into the kitchen for some food. He was clearly in no mood to eat, playing with his food as much as he ate it. They each sat chewing quietly, or playing quietly in his case. At some point, she had switched on a radio so that some background noise was playing; the silence was just too deafening. At some point, once he had eaten about two-thirds of his meal, the young man put down his utensils and stared at Keira. The mechanic didn't notice his gaze at first, but once she did, she found it rather uncomfortable; she started to fidget as he stared at her.

"Why do you let me do that to you?" he asked, demanded almost.

She had to blink. "Do what?"

Jak looked ashamed. "Have sex with you. We did it 3 times last night."

Keira was surprised at how blunt he said this. He usually avoided the word, only talking as much about the topic as necessary. He much preferred to give her subtle signals he wanted to carry out the act, then do it when she was comfortable. "I told you, I take the contraceptive medicine. No way I can get pregnant."

"So I do it to you whenever I want." He looked away, blushing slightly. "You do know that, if, you did get pregnant, I'd stay. Be the father and...take care of you."

Now it was the mechanic's turn to blush. She felt very flattered. A smile stretched across her face uncontrollably. "Jak, that's great to know. I kinda thought you...you'd do that anyway." He seemed to ignore her comment. "Why are you saying this? You want to be a father one day?"

He nodded, slowly. "I think about what kind of dad I wanna be. What I should be." He looked back at her. "Um...for a long time, I had this fantasy, that you and me, we'd live in a farmhouse. We'd grow our own food, have our own animals, and children would play at the front." A small grin appeared. "I'd even build the cradle for our babies." His sullen look reappeared as he picked up his fork and resumed his idle playing with his food. "But that's not gonna happen anymore."

"Why not?"

Jak looked right at her, giving her a strict, patronising look. "Why would it? Everyone wants to stick me in some stupid palace, have guards around me. I can't talk to people normally like that. And then I have to run government and take part in pointless ceremonies. No one ever asks me what I want. Except you. And a few others. That fantasy I have will just stay a fantasy now. In the future, I'll just be bored and miserable, until the next adventure comes along. Or except when I'm in Spargus."

He took another bite. Keira digested his words.


"I really don't feel like reading your notes today," said Jak. In surprise, Pern just dropped the folder on to their coffee table.

Yerran also seemed surprised. "I suppose we should make a start. So, Jak, tell us everything about the last two days."

"It was horrible and it was your fault."

This accusation did not phase her. "Why do you say that?"

"Because my emotions have been completely out of control. I can be sad one minute, pissed off the next...I had better control before I even met you."

Keira scoffed from her seat next to him. "Right."

Jak shot her an accusatory glance. The same glance then dropped and faltered. "OK, she's right. But now I feel worse than before. I even had another flashback today, the first this week."

At Yerran's coaxing, Jak went over the various extreme emotions he had experienced, as well as the fights he had gotten into. Keira added a comment here and there to elaborate. Jak even talked about the time spent in Keira's garage cleaning and preparing car-seats. He was busy, he had stopped his mind wandering, he had found it easy. He had also talked about his lethargy in the morning.

After the entire explanation was through, there was silence for a short while. Pern then spoke up. "I don't see how you blame my grandmother for you destroying Torn's car."

Jak was silent. "I...well, I don't...really..." He sighed. "I know it's my fault, he just...he pissed me off so bad."

"Was it because you felt his criticism of your leadership was too harsh?" asked Yerran.

"Yes and no...I know I'm no good at this, but...I couldn't understand what he was saying to me...I don't even remember what he said anymore."

"And what are you not good at?"

"Being King, in general, I dunno what I'm doing, I never did."

Pern spoke up again. "You never thought to go through Damas' things? To learn about his experiences?"

Jak frowned. "Why would I do that? He's gone, he-" He quivered, sniffing forcefully to prevent tears falling. "He said these nightmares would go away, but they never did, and I still get them, I had one last night."

"Did you still have them in Spargus?" asked Keira suspiciously. "When you were exiled from Haven City?"

He turned to her in surprise, but thought about it. "The longer I was in Spargus, the more...the more they went away."

"So there's something about Haven City that makes you feel trapped?" hypothesised Pern.

This question also surprised Jak. "No, why would it?"

"Liar," accused Keira. She faced the two guests. "He told me he doesn't feel safe here, not outside this apartment at least. And he also told me that no one ever asks him what he wants anymore; that's how he feels anyway, something about people wanting him to be in a palace." She gave her lover a look of utter frustration. "Why do you tell me one thing and then say something else to other people?"

Jak opened his mouth, but he closed it slowly, colour draining from his face. His beloved seemed confused by this reaction.

"Feel free to tell us what is on your mind," coaxed Yerran.

He let out a breath, looking back towards her. "Um...I uh, had this dream, some nights ago. I have no idea what it means but, there were 2 me's in it. I was, 15 again, but this time really sick and weak. I was in some, really dark castle, I think? And I really wanted to go outside. So I crawled along the floor. I reached the stairs that went up to the front door. I dragged myself up them, but then the door opened. It was so bright I couldn't see out. But I could see me, as I am now, and he was angry. He told me - little me - that I can never go outside, it's too dangerous. He picked me up, put me back in my cell, on a hospital bed, then strapped me down and put all the wires and needles back. I was crying and shouting." He shuddered. "What does it even mean? Am I going crazy? Am I gonna have another person inside me?"

Yerran shook her head. "No Jak, no." He had failed to notice Pern scribbling furiously during his narration. "It strikes me as being much more an instance of your subconscious attempting to make sense of your current situation."

He frowned. "So what does it mean?"

The elder of the practitioners shook her head. "Dreams are nonsensical by nature. Discussing the symbolism of various images and actions is fascinating, but dreams can only provide a simplistic portrayal of the person that dreams them." She leaned forward slightly, raising her eyebrows invitingly. "I can see you're curious. Let's talk about the dream. The overall theme was that you were trapped and trying to escape. Does that reflect the feelings you have now? Or in the past?"

Jak nodded slightly. "In the past, definitely. I don't see how I could have those feelings now."

"You did not tell Keira that you do not feel truly safe in Haven City?"

"No, I did. But, that's different. I feel like, people wanted me to do something, but never told me how to do it. They give me hints and tips, maybe. And, I think it's because none of them really know either, they just think they know, then they don't tell me. I could just leave the entire thing; I mean, I could give up my title, just walk out."

"And what stops you from doing that?"

"My father. When I found out he was my father, he made it clear to me just how important the family line was, the responsibility we have in this land. He told me I would be the King one day; but I don't think he ever meant this soon. I want to rule like he did, but I don't know how."

"Did he leave nothing behind to help you?"

"Sig keeps telling me he has Damas' journal, and that I should read it." Jak stopped. He clenched his fists, his jaw, his stiff throat. He wiped away the tears that threatened to escape. "Ever since you did that trick 2 days ago, I can't think about my father without...choking up like this. I never properly mourned him, you know. He died and I was shocked, I wanted revenge. But Count Veger was punished and then...I felt blank. It just felt too unreal."

"So, what? You feel trapped but you trap yourself?" asked Pern quizzically. She found herself getting funny looks from the others. "I'm trying to relate this conversation back to the dream."

Yerran sighed. "Pern, what was it I had said a few minutes ago?"

"I know, grammy, dreams are nonsensical and limited." The young girl placed her focus back onto her notebook.

The elder woman was concentrating inwardly, silently debating a topic. "You have, however, made it clear we are getting off-track. Obviously, Jak, whatever issues you have with your current position is something we will have to work through later."

"Later?" The blonde stared at her blankly. "What do you mean, later? When later?"

"Well, Jak, once the wound is dressed and cleaned, the patient has to heal and recuperate; such recuperation always takes time. Two days ago, we discovered your wound. We now have to treat it. Then you will continue to see me as you heal and recuperate, but only once a week unless more is necessary."

Jak stiffened. He felt himself overcome by a rush of panic. "But what if I don't want to? I mean, what if I don't need it?"

Yerran's small smile widened slightly, almost as if she were revealing a subtle grin. "I am fully aware of when you do and do not need treatment, as that is what these sessions are. As for want? The conditions have not changed, you can stop at any time."

"Except I can't!" he snapped. As if trying to escape, he ran off the sofa and sprinted towards a vacant wall. He slowed down in confusion. He then lay the flats of his hands against the wall, as his emotions broke out again. He cried. He openly cried, not caring who was watching him. This time, Keira did not comfort him. She sat back on the sofa, mentally exhausted. "Is this what being an adult means?" he wailed between his tears. "Choosing which box to go into? Lose your freedom along the way?"

He could only hear silence. He cried and whimpered further. He then heard Yerran suggest quietly to her granddaughter to take Keira aside and have a chat. They left the lounge quietly and Jak whimpered on.

"Jak, sit yourself back down," ordered the elder kindly. The young man sniffed before turning round, approaching his spot on the sofa apprehensively. He sniffed again as he sat down. Yerran took out a tissue from somewhere in her robe, handing it over to him. "Dry your eyes." She waited a moment as he did so. "We might as well have a practical chat about what being an adult is. Some of the youngsters believe it is a case of choosing your prison, but it is not. Did your aunt and uncle ever tell you anything about responsibility?"

He nodded. "A few things. My uncle always said that being responsible means knowing what you are responsible for, as every fight shows that everyone is in the wrong. And then my aunt said that every action we take has at least one consequence, so if we work and live by helping others, we can make as many of those consequences as possible be good outcomes. And then she talked about the responsibility of myself for others: always eat healthy and take care of myself, because being in a bad state makes those who love me, worry about me." He sighed. "I haven't done much of any of that lately. I mean, I ate okay, but I haven't exercised lately. I should do that."

"So if you know all of this, why are you convinced that adulthood locks you in a box?" Yerran gave him a sidelong glance.

Jak had to think about this question for a long time. Had he forgotten those lessons from his childhood? Was his emotional trauma influencing his judgement to such a degree, he found it difficult to conceptualise his adult life through other points of view? Or simply, did he just find it difficult to relate his childhood to his current status? "I sometimes feel like what I had as a kid doesn't relate to my life here, at all. Um...I guess, I don't know what power I have. I don't know what to do to make all this better, all my...everything. I could quit and run away, but I never quit. I'd hate myself if I did." He looked at Yerran squarely. "None of what we're talking about right now has anything to do with the nightmares I keep having."

He could swear the elder woman grinned in accomplished pride. "That is entirely correct. How did you work that out?"

The blonde smirked softly. "If it did, Pern would be in here writing her notes."

Yerran nodded, clearly impressed. "This provides you some flavour of what our sessions post-treatment of trauma will be like. Almost as a knock-on effect, the way your incarceration shaped your life, your character, has had much farther-reaching consequences than anyone can understand at this point. With a clearer head, I can see you working through them."

"But you never talked about this. I always thought you'd stop the nightmares and that would be it."

She shrugged. "I chose to give you that impression after you and Keira told us your life stories. What was clear to me, was that you worked best when you had an end-goal in mind, just like anyone on a treasure hunt. Is that an observation you agree with?"

Jak quickly thought about all of his adventures. "Definitely."

"So that is how I arranged this treatment for you. You made it clear you desired daily sessions until the trauma was treated, so that is what I'm providing."

"You must have all the answers by now, when are we gonna start this 'treatment'?"

Yerran's eternal slight-smile vanished. "We can try it today, if you like. I am, however, not completely certain you are ready."

The young man spread his hands. "I have to try, the sooner the better."

The elder nodded in satisfaction, her slight-smile creeping back. "Your determination has certainly not lost its ferocity."

Yerran became resolutely silent after that remark. He tried to convince her to tell him what form the treatment would take, but she ignored him with ease, watching him all the while. She even seemed mildly amused. The way that her eyes would shift in focus in such subtle ways, connoting her various emotions...he found it fascinating yet infuriating at the same time. He learned pretty quickly how fruitless his attempts were and vaguely listened to the voices of Pern and Keira. It did not sound as if their conversation would end any time soon. He sighed.

Out of boredom, Jak picked up his file from the coffee table and read through the notes from the session two days ago. To his surprise, Yerran's notes were surprisingly long, covering a few paragraphs. She summarised the strain that the sessions were having on his relationship with Keira, she admitted to taking a grave risk when tempting the wrath of his Dark self, she summarised Jak's feelings about the situation and his own self portrayal. She also wrote about finding his wound. 'Having him live through his nightmares and then feel his own reactions, without being calmed to sleep or allowing his anger to shield his emotional reactions, meant that his wound, the consequence of his traumatic experiences, was found. His incarceration has left him figuratively bruised: he had been humiliated, violated of his dignity, was greatly upset by the torture experienced. Worse, the records of his incarceration make it clear that he was manipulated to feel anger; to rely on it, feed on it as a strength, to hide away the pain. Anger, an emotion that can strengthen an ego, is certainly more favourable to anyone than experiencing those emotions that weaken an ego. Today, the anger did not come to clean away the suffering he has felt; this is undoubtedly the cause of his nightmares and flashbacks, as he seems so determined to simply forget about the events. I am uncertain when or if his anger will return. I am also uncertain how he will manage an unfamiliar, even draining, set of emotions.'

Pern and Keira re-entered, momentarily robbing him of the chance to read the novice's notes. He stared at his beloved, his childhood friend, his favourite mechanic. She seemed a little more resolute, a little more refreshed. As she sat down, she sent Jak a small, reassuring, smile. He smiled back.

Yerran began her lecture, detailing what form Jak's treatment for his trauma would take. "Jak, what I will do is have you lying on your back and will send you into a hypnotic trance. This sounds familiar of course. Two days ago I had you relive your typical nightmare. This time, you will simply relive the sensation of being on your back and restrained. Your task will be to lift up your arms."

He had to blink once; twice; once more. "Is that it?"

"Careful," warned the elder. "The task sounds simpler than it really is."

Jak thought about this, almost not reacting at first. "I told you, I have to try. I just want this...whatever-it-is to stop."

The four of them moved to the bedroom with little disagreement. Without being asked, Jak promptly lay on his back, eyes on the ceiling. It was clear he felt very uncomfortable; he was very tense, his eyes twitching to Yerran every so often, but he also seemed resolute, as if preparing for a fight. Very soon, the elder began her hypnotic incantations and Jak found himself under a sea of stars once again. Her instructions were familiar, encouraging him to choose a star and travel towards it. Once he reached the star, he felt himself absorbed by its incredible, blinding light. And he stayed there. And he hovered there.

"Jak," ordered Yerran's clear yet displaced voice. "When the light clears, you will find yourself strapped down onto the bed. Your task is to lift your arms. Lifting your arms will free you of this trance. Rolling to the side will also free you of this trance. But you are strapped down, you will find this impossible. Rolling to the side is only possible when I say end. The light is clearing."

With a start, he pulled against his restraints. He found himself staring up at the Eco Injector. Just seeing the dormant device filled him with panic. He listened intently, looking around as he did so, straining his sight as far as possible. He could only hear his breathing, he could see no one. He was alone. Immediately, he summoned his anger, desperate to transform and snap off his restraints. But he had no powers; it was impossible to sense the Dark Eco inside him. He let out a small scream of desperation.

He pulled and pulled and pulled! The restraints were too tight and impossible to break. This just made him more desperate but he could not think of any options. He could hear approaching footsteps and instantly knew what would soon happen. If only he could get free! He wondered if his Light Eco powers could help...but here, they were as nonexistent as his Dark Eco powers. He froze. Here he was powerless. Here he was weak. He wanted to curl up into a ball and cry, except these restraints prevented him from doing that as well.

The injector above him started moving. "No..."
He thought he could hear a scream. The restrained prisoner could only stare, watch in horror as the machine moved into its programmed position. It cared little for the subject tied down beneath it. There was definitely shouting somewhere. He gritted his teeth, letting out anguished cries and screams as he shook his fists and willed the restraints away. If anything, they felt tighter and heavier. His breathing felt laboured, his voice got courser. He pulled and pulled and pulled! But he knew this was futile. But he had no choice! He could hear the machine powering up. He clenched his eyes shut, bracing himself for the pain.


An unseen force flung him to the side. Jak blinked his eyes rapidly, confused as to why he was on a soft bed in someone's bedroom - his bedroom. Small, familiar, hands gripped his shoulders.

"Jak, Jak, say something." He looked over his shoulder, seeing himself in Keira's eyes. It was her shouting he had heard. He tried to murmur something, but nothing managed to form. "You okay? You're okay, right?"

I failed. Aware of his situation...his anger exploded. "RAAAAAAAAAH!" He tore himself away from Keira, slamming his fists against the bed and the pillows in unending wrath. He was unaware of the Dark Eco sizzling along his arms as he conducted his rampage against innocent furniture. He stopped before he could truly damage anything. He growled as he looked at Yerran, who had backed away from the bed but did not seem too frightened. Pern was by the door, desperate to run away.

"Why did you do that?" demanded Jak through clenched teeth. "You didn't have to send me to the Eco Injector! I woulda passed if I wasn't there."

The elder shook her head. "I never told you where to go, I simply said you would find yourself restrained. Your mind filled in the rest."

His anger drained. Jak could feel even his blood rushing away from his cheeks as the ramifications of her statement became lightning clear in his mind.

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Written by Ruth Hüneke 2013

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