(Content warning: Schizophrenia is a real mental health issue and should not be taken lightly. This fiction chapter is not meant to make light of it or demean the individuals who struggle with it or any other mental health issues. Be sure to visit your mental health care professional for treatment and support.)
I was woken up the next morning from a dream about a black cat and my ethics professor teaching in her underwear by a reminder call from my therapist’s office. They also let me know that my results were in for that testing battery I had to go through. I thanked them and hung up, rubbing the impression that was left on my cheek from my case binder. I’d fallen asleep somewhere between the dissenting opinions of Brown v. Board of Education and the trial notes. I’d stared at the page in my still milky-eyed state and resolved to have some breakfast before poring back into my notes. I had my internship that afternoon and a test the next morning, so studying was paramount, even if I was curious about my results.
The next day after class, I went to see my therapist. The usual song and dance of copay and waiting for Dr. Hemsworth to call me back was all so normal, compared to what I’d experienced with Binara, that it was almost calming. Only the increased amount of other people waiting threw out the semblance of serenity. I picked at an out of date magazine about up and coming registered superheroes while keeping an ear out for my name.
Once I was called back and settled in on the couch, I wanted to begin on the strange month I’d had, but Dr. Hemsworth apologized for running behind, as she’d had a crisis client come in before me.
“If it’s not any trouble, I would like to begin by discussing the test results before we begin our normal session,” she said.
“Uh, sure,” I said, clasping my palms together.
“I have good news on that front.”
“The results came back, and you are negative for schizophrenia.”
I stared at her, unsure of what to say.
“This means that you were misdiagnosed and what you have said to me before about your previous psychiatrist could be brought up in a case of malpractice against him, should you wish to pursue it.”
“It has been over three years since my initial diagnosis, though.”
“But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still put the complaint in front of the board. Give it some thought later.”
I nodded reluctantly, not wanting to go anywhere near my parents or him while still in law school.
“That said, this means that we must schedule a new round of tests to figure out exactly what you have, and start to reduce your schizophrenic medicine—”
“What, no!” The thought of seeing all those things around me had me in a flash of panic.
“—to have you dosed to your actual condition correctly. Now, Ms. Storm, why do you feel like your current medication, which is damaging your brain chemistry instead of helping it, should be continued?’
“I…I…” I tried to choke out the words.
Amanda waited patiently for me.
“Before I answer you, I need to ask if even when you’re on these meds, can you still see visions or somesuch?”
“Not if they are caused by the condition you were misdiagnosed with.”
“Then, I’d hate to get irrational here, but is seeing spirits an insane thing? Because if it is, I’d like to remain on the meds so I don’t have to see them.”
There was a long pause. “I’m afraid that seeing the other side of reality is not an insane thing. It’s incredibly rare, but no hallucination.”
Wait, there was more than one side to reality and whatever spiritual thing that happened to me a few months ago? Were my parents, as far away as they were now, still influencing me? “I…I…have been seeing a spirit through my meds for at few months now. They usually block other ones from my sight, but not her.”
“Is she harming or threatening you?”
“Then let me take a step back from my role as your counselor to my role as a confidant for a while,” she said and relaxed back into her chair slightly. “Much of my own journey of studying the field of psychiatry comes from my own ability to see spirits. I realized shortly after my clinical work that what I saw was not of the mind. I do, however, prefer to keep my work and spiritual sides separate, as most do not need counseling from me about the other side.”
“I…never knew there were others.”
She gave me an understanding look. “Now you do. It’s considered a superpower by some circles, but I can’t claim veracity to it being so.”
I nodded. “My meds block the sight of most spirits, that’s why I want to continue on them.”
“While I can understand that, I cannot condone damaging your brain chemistry any further.”
“But…I don’t want it to happen again.” My hands were shaking, the memories of that time bubbling up once more.
“And what would that be?”
“Remember how I told you that something happened between me and my mother?”
She looked at her notes. “I believe we touched on that.”
“It wasn’t the funeral I was talking about. That was after I had left the house. This…this was right before I was told I was schizophrenic. You see, I’m still coming to terms with the spirit stuff again, as I can remember seeing them when I was a kid. But then…”
“It’s all right if you don’t want to push yourself.”
“I have to get it out, else it will terrorize me more,” I said, feeling as if I was gently being given courage. “I told you that my mom is religious, and that she hated my Nana. That hatred extended to seeing spirits. I had kept it quiet for years, but then when I felt a high school friend was trustworthy and told her. She told my parents about it, the bitch. It was like if homophobic people found out their daughter was gay and shoved them into conversion therapy. That wasn’t the worst part. They brought in a priest to do an exorcism on me. I could see dark things around them during that ceremony, and I don’t want to have to go through that horrible time again, being their doll, especially since I finally was able to get outside of their reach!”
There was a scratching of pencil on paper as the tears overflowed. I grabbed for a tissue and wiped my eyes.
“You aren’t their doll any more,” I heard a male voice say. “And I’ll slap my son’s head silly for doing that to you!”
A sob stalled in my throat. “…Papa?”
“We’re here for ya, my little tsila. All you gotta do is ask.”
I nodded, a fresh wave of tears flowing.
It was then that I noticed Amanda’s gaze looking over at the empty high-backed chair off to the side. She nodded, and as she turned her attention to me, I swore I could see Papa’s translucent form smile at me before he faded like an afterimage on an old TV.
“I think now I may have an idea of your specific condition, but I want to have it confirmed with a clinical battery,” Amanda said. “I’d like to bring a colleague of mine in on this to help, with your consent.”
I nodded, glad to have seen my grandpapa in spirit for the first time since my schizo meds were first prescribed.
“We’ll schedule it for in two weeks,” she said and rubbed her eyes before writing down the appointment in her calendar. “Once we get the results back from that, if you still wish to not see spirits, we can try some medicines that would both treat your condition and block some of them. Not everything will be perfect, but it will at least be properly suited and helping, instead of damaging you. Now, is there anything else you want to talk about before our time is up?”
Several hours and pints of tears later, I was on a mental health break from studying and analyzing what was said in session. I could see then that a lot more of my learned behaviors had stuck around from my “doll days” than I originally had thought. Another reason to verbally skewer my mother at the next big holiday gathering I was forced to attend.
Before I took another dive into tears, I pulled up Ahmad Shamon’s company web page. Shatech, as it was called, had a professional website, and was a sizable technology firm from the public records I could find. Their projects page mentioned a new alternative energy project, but I was blocked from details from home. While I have done research for my internships before, something about this guy didn’t sit right with me, especially after today’s session. I was flattered at the offer to use his contacts, but what Medhi had said about that was digging at me.
Sigh, I would have to use the university’s resources after class. I got up from my computer, determined to find leftover tacos in the fridge, when I felt a rumble go through the building. A few minutes later and Binara walked through my front door after knocking. Though phased might be more apt than a leisurely step in from the hallway.
“That was a lot longer than last time,” I said, setting the rice container on the counter.
“Well, it does take time to make the commission and the jump,” she said, doing what I assumed was the sylph version of a heebie-jeebies shake. “Tir is not close to this universe by a margin.”
I sighed and put the container of refried beans in the microwave.
“I was able to get them to complete this piece before being issued a claim check for the other two works,” she said and held up a leather satchel as translucent to the backdrop of reality as she was. “I would have waited for all three, but a stupid summer courtier put in a rush job on a platoon’s worth of weapons. Reyvel knows to keep on their good side, so the check will let me know when they’re ready.”
I looked at her, not understanding a good chunk of the faerie stuff, but empathizing on the getting bumped for a custom order. “It’s a bag,” I said.
“The bag is only to hold it for transport and storage. It’s what in it that’s the piece.”
“Sure…” I said and the microwave beeped as she placed the satchel in my hands, but did not fall through them.
“Untie it and it will manifest as if it were an item native to the Seen, and remain so until it is your time to leave to the afterlife.”
I hit clear on the microwave and then undid the knot on the bag. Suddenly, the spiritual weight it had became real and I could feel the beading through the leather. I reached in and pulled out a four row style collar with a small silver medallion as the focal point. Inlaid in the medallion was a protective stone and etching with the Cherokee words for protect, stalwart, and defender. The back clasp was a traditional tie and toggle, and it was perfectly sized for my neck.
“Thank you, it’s beautiful,” I said, putting it on, feeling the weight of its beads and my heritage.
“It will protect you even when I’m not able to reach you,” she said. “There should also be a note in there in English on how to charge it.”
Sure enough, another feel around the satchel and I brushed parchment against my fingers. “Place it in the sun for a couple of hours, then under the full moon for about the same if it starts to feel too light and ask my ancestors to help me figure out the rest.” I gave her a confused look.
“There should be enough of an initial charge to last several months, but that’s at minimal daily use. Reyvel isn’t always as clear with his instructions as his grandfather was, but he also doesn’t know as many cultures’ magic types either. As long as you don’t run headlong into trouble repeatedly, it should be fine. If you are more active when I’m not around, however, the charges will be more frequent, likely once a month to once a week at most.”
I shrug and put the note back in the bag. “Well, you’re in time for leftover tacos and something odd I found, but I need to do research on it up at school tomorrow after class.”
“Oh? Did Konk contact you while I was away?”
I shook my head and switched out the beans for the meat. “Something on the human side of things. A situation that doesn’t add up and my gut isn’t letting me set it aside.”
She leaned on the counter and swirled her hand. “Listen to it, but as you can. That said, I’d like to come up with you to school so we can deal with Konk after your research is done.”
With that, I got to chowing on my plate of tacos and Binara stared intensely at my ottoman for several hours.