Synopsis: Dr. John Redd is referred by a former patient, Matt Black, to a friend who needs help dealing with anger, hatred, and a broken friendship.
“I’m here to see Dr. Redd,” a young man asked.
“Do you have an appointment?” an elderly woman replied.
“No, but a friend of mine said Dr. Redd could help me.”
“We have a number of people here to see Dr. Redd today, but he seems to be free for the next hour. Your name?”
“Fred; Fred Forge.”
Fred turned toward the waiting room, looking for an empty chair. The waiting room was a perfect square with about twenty chairs set around the walls of the room, with endtables in three of its four corners. The corner without the endtable was situated near the reception desk, with an opaque glass door between the wall and the desk, with a sign on it that read, “John Redd, M.T.”
Against the far wall, a brown-haired woman in a purple dress was reading “Goodnight Moon” to the two children on either side of her. Two girls about Fred’s age were sitting near her, painting their fingernails, deeply engrossed in a whisper-giggle-whisper-giggle conversation, and by the wall nearest him, an older man in a technician suit was dozing softly in his chair.
Fred took a seat near the elderly man, and nervously looked around the room. His friend Matt had shared with him how Dr. Redd used “unconventional techniques” to fix a relationship problem with his girlfriend, Melanie. “It may hurt a little,” Matt had explained, “but it works: he gets to the heart of the problem without digging into your past like most psychologists.” Fred had listened to Matt’s story--what he saw, what he did, and how Dr. Redd had done it--and he was skeptical and fearful of meeting this man.
His thoughts were interrupted by a middle-aged gentleman with graying hair and a steady gaze entering from the glass door. Though his hair color was changing, it was obvious from his form that he was still very strong, well within his prime. His grey eyes rested on the young man, who stood to meet him.
“Fred, I’m John Redd,” he said, walking forward and extending his hand, “I understand one of my patients recommended me to you. How can I help you?”
“Dr. Redd,” Fred replied, “I've had a ‘falling out’ with a friend of mine. I need your help.”
“Come with me,” John replied, walking toward the entry door. Fred hadn’t realized that there was another door, a black door, near the entrance. As Dr. Redd stood near the black door rummaging through his key ring, Fred asked, “Aren’t we going to walk down the white hallway with the fluorescent overhead lights?”
“As I told your friend,” John replied, placing a key in the lock, “there are many ways to enter the mind, and thus there are many ways to enter my office.” And with a twist-click-creak, the door opened, and John motioned for him to enter.
The door opened to a small room with two reclining chairs, situated around a brown oak table, and on the table was a black box. On the wall nearest him, he saw a picture of two Greek soldiers with spears and shields fighting a gigantic boar. On the far wall there was a black picture frame with an impressionist-style painting of a forest in the Rhine river valley. And in the corner, on a small endtable, there was a dark blue glass vase with a single orange rose in it.
“Take a seat,” John said, calm and assuring. “I need to know a little more about your friendship before we begin.”
“Matt said that you don't delve into your patient's past,” Fred said warily.
“I don't,” John replied, seating himself in the other recliner, “I want to know about your present mental situation. What you used to think about him isn’t as important as your opinion of him now. Who he was and what he now is will converge at truth, so the past will be discovered in due time. Thus, I have a few preliminary questions. First, what is your friend's name?”
“Grant,” Fred replied smugly.
“And when I say, ‘Grant,’ are you led toward anger or hatred?”
“Aren't they basically the same thing?”
“Not at all," John replied, leaning forward in his recliner. “To feel anger toward a person is to desire justice for a wrong; 'hate' is to desire pain and torment on another person in order to satisfy my desire for gratification. With anger a standard (either proper or improper) of justice is vindicated, while hatred vindicates my personal desire for revenge, which may be excessive for the crime committed. So when you think of Grant, do you feel hatred, or anger?”
“Anger,” Fred replied, “for a past wrong.”
“Well then, let's examine this past wrong,” John said, rising from the recliner and placing his hands on the black box. “Are you ready?”
“Aren't you going to turn out the lights?” Fred asked.
“Would you like them out?”
“I'll concentrate and sleep better if they are.”
“Then I'll turn them out for you,” he said, walking over to the light switch.
As he clicked the switch off, all of the light in the room disappeared in a soup of darkness. Fred expected to hear Dr. Redd carefully and slowly walk back to the table, groping in the darkness that had instantly descended upon them. But to his amazement, John walked steadily--almost quickly--back to his place next to the table, and Fred could hear the keys rustling as they were removed from his pocket. A twist-click-creak, and the black box was unlocked. And as the lid rose, a soft electronica song began to play, filling the room with the complex yet soothing melody of the synthesizer.
* * *
Fred found himself flat on his back--or, at least, as flat as one can be while lying on a large tree root. He lay on the fringe of a small clearing, and above his head, he could see the large, shady branches of an oak tree. Everywhere around him was the varied sounds of what appeared to be an infinite forest. He slowly sat up, expecting at any moment for John to appear behind him, as he appeared to Matt in the bright hallway.
But he never appeared. In fact, nothing in sight appeared to stir or move. Yet everything about him--even the air he breathed--seemed to thrum in restless agitation, as if it was watching him, or something else, with weary and wary expectation. He debated for a moment whether he should explore the dark unknown around him, or whether he should stay where he was, avoiding potential dangers. In the end, he compromised by climbing a banyan tree nearby, hoping for a better vantage point.
From the higher elevation, Fred noticed that while he could hear birds chirping and calling, all of them were hidden from view. The patches of light that hit the forest floor seemed like daisies on a grave, sparse but consistent across the landscape. He could hear the sound of running water, but he could not see it. Fred began to wonder why everything was hidden from sight but present in sound – and it frightened him.
“Matt mentioned that animals and places act differently in the dream,” Fred mused quietly to himself, “and that there is something to be gained from each peculiarity. I wonder--”
Fred’s thoughts were shattered as a loud, piercing grunt and snarl erupted deeper in the wood. Fred clung to the tree in horror as a massive boar, about ten feet tall, came barreling through the underbrush, tearing deep, long gashes in the oak trees with its large tusks as it charged into the clearing near the banyan tree.
The beast sniffed the earth where Fred awoke with his large snout, followed a low, deep growl. It reared its head as if to sniff the air, scanning the trees above him with two large nostrils and two small eyes. Fred's grip on the tree trunk rose with his fixation on the boar, terrified of what would happen to him if the boar discovered where he was.
Their eyes met.
The boar bellowed a guttural scream of fury, and charged the banyan tree full-speed. Fred, looking down at the earth below him, noticed that there was a patch of moss and loam at the base of the tree directly below him. It was now or never. He let go.
Fred hit the ground just before the impact, the roots and trunk of the banyan tree quivering and snapping before the juggernaut. Fred took off into the unknown, spotting a large, thick oak tree that might withstand the fury of the boar. At its base, he caught a glint of light from the sun above, and rushed to it to find a spear and shield partially covered with a leather covering.
As the large, black creature searched the ground for a trace of Fred, the young man looked for a branch or eye-hole that would allow him to climb the tree.
“It's too high,” a familiar voice said from behind him.
“Dr. Redd,” Fred said in a panic, “How do we get away from it?”
“I thought you came to confront your problem,” Dr. Redd inquired.
“I thought you meant my anger toward Grant, not a boar with primal fury!”
From the other side of the clearing, they heard a shout from a lone warrior, armed with a spear and shield, charging the beast. Fred started walking forward in bewilderment, which was stopped by a strong hand gripping his shoulder.
“Why is Grant here?” Fred asked in furious amazement, freeing his shoulder from John’s grip with an angry jerk. “This is my mind’s world, isn’t it?”
“Of course,” John replied. “Grant is one of your closest friends, isn’t he?”
“Well, before Michelle, yeah. But since he stole her from me, I’ve hated him: whenever I see him--”
“Hate him, Fred?”
Fred was quiet for a moment, but hot anger still blazed in his eyes as he looked into the calm green pair that studied him
“I don’t know, alright? Seeing him fight bravely against this frightful thing makes the hairs on my back bristle, and my heart beats furiously and vengefully--”
“Like a wild boar?”
Fred swallowed hard. He didn’t want to admit it. But there it was, standing before him.
“Like a boar,” Fred replied slowly, “exactly like a boar.”
“Are you going to help him,” John asked, his calm face turning suddenly stern. “Or are you going to leave him to die?”
Fred looked at the struggle--if it could be called a struggle. The boar was beating its tusks against Grant’s shield, flinging him back several feet on each attempt. Within a minute, his back would be against a tree, and the mauling process would begin.
“I think I’ll enjoy this,” Fred began, and then suddenly cut himself off. He turned back toward John in shock, bowed his head, and added, “Why did I let that out? I don’t usually say things like that--”
“Because we're in your mind, Fred: what you think is apparent here. There's no softening or camouflaging your thoughts in your mind, Fred. That’s why I work here: my patients can’t use pretenses and manners to mitigate their responses to my questions.”
“So you’re interrogating me by looking around my mind?”
“Precisely,” John replied, “though I can also ask you questions directly: are you sure that you only feel anger toward Grant, or is it hate?”
Fred dropped his head again. “You’ve already seen that it’s hate, haven’t you?”
“I haven’t seen you charge that boar to save him yet,” John replied, his voice once again resuming its calm and assuring tone. “That would answer the question.”
Fred looked over the embankment. Grant’s shield was shattered on the ground, and he was staggering against a large oak tree, desperately struggling to ward off the monstrous beast with his spear. His heart sank: why couldn’t the beast just jump and lunge at him? Why couldn’t it just finish him off?”
He checked himself. This is hate. This must be stopped. Wishing evil upon his friend was wrong, regardless of the fact that he stole Michelle. But I don’t feel like helping him, his mind seemed to say. You don’t defend your enemy.
“I don’t care,” Fred said aloud, responding to his thoughts, “we’re going to save Grant.”
He crawled up the embankment, raised his shield and spear, and charged at the beast. As he thrust his spear at its side, it glanced off of its scaly, bristling body with a sharp ping. It was only then, as he stood up-close-and-personal with the beast, that he noticed that it had scales under its thick bristles, instead of flesh. The beast turned and thrust its massive head into Fred’s shield. The impact flung him a few yards away, and the beast prepared to charge him.
Then Fred heard something strange: the steady tack-tack-tack of gunfire, and the beast wheeled around to charge its new attacker. John stood about sixty feet away near a large oak tree with an MP5 machine gun in his hands. Fred wondered where he found that, but his head rang louder than the bullets being fired into the iron beast, so his questions died away.
The boar charged John, roaring with anger. Dropping his firearm, John spread his hands in front of him, as if picturing the dimensions of a large, flat object. Almost instantly, John was hidden from Fred’s sight by a brick wall, at first cartoon-like, but then real and solid. The boar charged the wall, tearing it to pieces, but tripping over the shards of brick and mortar. Fred turned to see John shouldering Grant's weary body, and bolted with him toward the embankment.
“How did you do that?” Fred asked in amazement.
“Not now,” John replied. “Get behind the embankment.”
As they climbed to safety, Fred’s exasperated voice rose above the sound of John’s now-drawn Glock pistol, “How am I supposed to kill the boar, if I can't puncture it with my spear?”
“Castor and Pollux didn’t kill the Calydonian Boar,” John replied, replacing his cartridge. “The princess Atalanta did. But the brothers didn't let their desire for personal glory get in the way of protecting each other, despite their intense desire to be the victor of the hunt. You have a choice, Fred,” John said, looking him in the eyes, “either to let her go and forgive your friend, or to attempt to win the conquest, and risk the safety of your friendship.”
The boar turned.
“And choose quickly,” he added in a hurry, clicking his pistol from “Semi” to “Auto.”
The boar charged, foam falling from its mouth. Fred grabbed his spear, and as he jumped over the earthen wall, he let out a scream of anger and determination as he charged his fears.
“Beast,” Fred shouted, “This must stop! Michelle is gone: no matter what happens to Grant, Michelle is gone. To hold onto this hate will only destroy us, and if that's what it comes down to, I'd rather die as a man, than live as a monster in my hate. Prepare to die,” he shouted, as he hefted his spear to strike, the beast only meters from him now.
An arrow struck the boar behind the ear, turning his course just beyond Fred's body. Fred rolled to the side to avoid the brute's massive bulk, the piercing squeal of the boar ringing through the forest. To his left, Fred heard the beat of hooves against the uneven earth, with a young woman dressed in dark blue on horseback. As the boar retreated, the Amazon continued to assault the boar.
“Michelle,” Fred said, dazed by the sudden change in events.
“Shall we pursue her?” John asked, looking into the distance, but honed on Fred's response.
“No. She's gone – and I need to let her ride on without me.”
“Then sleep in peace, Fred,” John replied with a smile.
* * *
When Fred awoke, he was in the recliner with the lights turned on. He rose slowly, looking for the doctor, and still taking in everything that had happened in his dreams. As he entered the lobby, he saw Dr. Redd sitting next to the woman in the purple dress, reading “The Ugly Duckling” to the small children on their laps. The two girls were done painting their nails, and were talking together until he entered the room. John put down the book, and rose to greet him.
“Fred, I'd like you to meet my family,” John said, pointing to everyone in the room.
Fred nodded toward everyone generally with a shy “Hi,” and then gave John a probing look, full of the questions that he wanted to ask him, but didn't know how to express.
“I know you have questions, Fred,” John said, “and I'd love to chat with you about them. You have a wonderful mind, son, and a better heart behind it.”
“Well, thank you, sir,” Fred replied, “but what exactly did you have in mind?”
“Well, I could always use an assistant,” John answered with a smile, “if you're game.”
As Fred thought about the proposition, one of the girls met his gaze, smiled, and then returned to talking with her sister. He looked back at John.
“Tell me more.”