Discover more from Write to the Point
“Welcome to The Mended Mind, Ms. Amano,” said the young nurse with a dimpled smile as she leaned against the door to the waiting room.
Megumi slinked past the scrub-clad woman, head down and eyes on the floor. Her shadow flitted in front of her toward the convoy of fluorescent lights lining the ceiling.
“My name is Haley, and I will be your observer this morning,” the woman said, releasing the door and taking the lead toward the back of the building.
Megumi pulled her hands into the sleeves of her forest-green cardigan and trailed after the blonde girl down the hallway. Her shallow heels clapped along the chocolate vinyl flooring and echoed off the beige walls.
“How is today going for you?” the woman asked, looking back over her shoulder.
The shadow sprung from the stainless steel baseboard and bound to the nurse’s sneakers.
Megumi retreated further into her sweater. She stared at the woman's shade-entangled feet through the copse of raven hair hanging around her face.
At the end of the hall, the nurse thrust her hip against the antimicrobial latch of a bulky, walnut-stained door and swung it open.
“Please have a seat,” Haley said, gesturing toward a hydraulic recliner bolted to the floor in the middle of the room. “And we’ll get started.”
Megumi followed her into the room and shuffled to the chair. Padded straps hung from the tip of each armrest, and a metal ring covered in wires orbited the headrest. An enormous cylinder with equidistant strips of light running down its center thrummed behind the seat like a maw ready to swallow.
The shadow slipped across the room and wedged itself under her feet. She couldn’t see it well in the dim room but felt its drain pulling on her. She sat on the bench, kicked off her shoes, and laid back into the machine to escape the floor.
“Isn’t Dr. Bamford here?”
“No need. The CET device handles all the alterations,” Haley said, closing the hefty door. “The only reason I'm here is to buckle you in and press some buttons.”
“CET?” Megumi asked, anxiety fluttering through her heart. “I thought this was a therapy session.”
“It is. It’s called Constructive Engram Therapy.”
The nurse clacked a command into the computer terminal near the recliner's headrest. The wired halo around the headrest began rotating and slid down until it covered Megumi’s eyes. A deep, electrical hum pulsated from the ring, tickling her nose and ears.
“And what do you mean, ‘alterations’?”
“The CET machine rewrites traumatic memories," Haley said, reaching for the strap on the nearest armrest and pulling it over Megumi’s wrist. "These alteration let you experience the choices you didn’t make, so you...”
“I . . . No! I already know the other choices!” Megumi said, jerking back her arm and wriggling out of the headgear.
“It’s OK. There's nothing…”
“No!” Megumi said as she soared out of the chair, shoving the nurse aside, and ran for the entryway.
She shouldered the massive door into the jamb in a hysterical haze.
A shriek clawed up her throat as she gaped over her shoulder at the stunned technician and the shadow looming behind her.
She pushed and tugged on the latch with both hands. The bolt popped, and the door swung inward.
“Ms. Amano?” Haily asked, regaining her balance.
Megumi leaped through the door and fled, bare feet slapping against the flooring. She shoved the door at the end of the hall, slamming it into the wall. A graying man in denim overalls and a flat cap gawked at her over the rim of his glasses as she crashed through the waiting room and out the glass door leading to the parking lot.
Once outside, she sprinted to the maroon Nissan parked in the handicapped stall next to the curb and jerked on the door handle.
Why is everything Locked?
Tears bubbled from her eyes as she continued yanking on the latch, warping the surrounding metal. She threw her head back and shrieked with dread and frustration.
“Hey! That’s my car!” said the old man, hobbling out of the clinic and pointing his cane at her. The nurse pushed past the man and ran toward the vehicle.
Megumi stopped and considered the sedan.
This isn't mine.
Her wide-eyed, mascara-streaked face glared back at her from the window. The shadow climbed behind her tousled hair in the reflection until it towered over her. She whipped around and slammed her back against the Nissan, gasping for air.
“Ms. Amano?” Haley said, stepping off the curb with her palms out. “Everything is fine. You’re having a panic attack.”
The shadow dissipated as the nurse approached. Megumi dropped into a squat next to the older man’s car, cupping her hands to her face and crying.
“It’s OK,” Haley said, kneeling beside her and rubbing her back. “I’ll stay with you.”
“Help me. I can't do this anymore."
She twisted the collar of her sweater around her thumb and dabbed her lower eyelids with the inside of the wool.
“CET can help you, Ms. Amano,” the nurse said, standing and holding out her hand to help Megumi up.
I want to go home.
“What do you think?”
But I’m tired of running.
“Should we try it?”
What if it works?
“OK,” Megumi said, peering up and taking the nurse’s hand. “I’ll come with you. I suppose I need to get my shoes, anyway.”
Haley helped her stand, and the two women walked back into the clinic. Megumi peered at her feet as they squeezed past the man in overalls, still standing in the doorway. He grunted at her and trekked out to check his car.
“How does Constructive Engram Therapy work?” she asked as they stepped down the hall.
“It rewrites memories to show you the potential outcomes of alternate choices.”
“How does altering my memories help?”
“Think about today. Why did you flee?”
“I . . . felt scared.”
They entered the room containing the CET system. Megumi sat on the edge of the recliner and rubbed her hands against her thighs.
“Right,” Haley said, entering the command to reset the device. “What if you chose not to run instead?”
“I would have completed the session, I guess.”
The nurse flipped a switch and the Zen sounds of running water and flute music began burbling through hidden speakers, never quite converging into a melody.
“Let’s say you went through with the treatment today rather than fleeing and discovered your fear was unfounded. Would you feel afraid the next time you came in?”
“I suppose not.”
“CET is like that,” Haley said.
Megumi laid back in the chair and rested her hands across her stomach. The nurse typed another set of instructions into the terminal, and the halo slid down over Megumi’s eyes again.
“By altering your memories, we can train your mind to expect positive outcomes. Constructive Engram Therapy builds a catalog of productive experiences for your brain to draw from. So, instead of imagining the worst and letting fear cripple your judgment, you can face choices with confidence.”
“Does it hurt?”
“No, but we need to strap you in so you don’t slap yourself during the treatment,” Haley said, smooshing the velcro straps around Megumi’s wrists.
Megumi swallowed her anxiety and tried to remain calm.
“We're all set, Ms. Amano,” the nurse said. “I’m going to start the CET and see you in about an hour.”
Haley hit a key on the keyboard. The hydraulic recliner lifted Megumi and inserted her into the rotating cylinder up to her waist like a whale swallowing a runaway prophet. The halo orbiting her head began knocking with electromagnetic pulses. She closed her eyes.
“Hello, Meg,” said the shadow, gripping her shoulders. “It’s been a while.”
Thanks for reading Ragamuffin: Part One. Subscribe for free to receive this entire series.