Chapter 6: Head Games

Copyright© 2016 by Vincent Berg

“So, Robert briefed me on what you experienced. How do you feel about it?”

“Given I’m expected to explain to the world what happened and don’t know; I’m incredibly nervous. However, I don’t think that’s what you’re asking.”

Dr. Sarah Cho smiled a patient grin. An older Chinese-American woman, she’d worked with NASA her entire career. She had a sprinkling of gray in her jet black hair. Despite her age, her skin was in good shape. She took care of herself—an oddity among agency personnel.

“I’m trying to get you to express your feelings. We can discuss anything, but talking about your experiences should help you deal with them. If nothing else, it’ll allow you to make sense of it. My mission is to ensure your cognitive processes are intact and you can be trusted with testifying before Congress. Giving news conferences where you’re likely to be attacked is a bonus.”

Eric leaned back, resting his head. Sarah thoughtfully turned the lights off and even switched off her phone. Instead of a couch, they both sat on stuffed chairs. A large window cast sufficient light for them to observe each other.

“Frankly, I’m confused. My recollections are incredibly detailed, but they’re a hodge-podge of mismatched details. I’m not sure what’s real and what isn’t.”

“Describe the dreams for me. What’s the transition between concrete events and your visions like?”

“The demarcation was clear. I didn’t experience much pain while my body disintegrated, but it caught up to me like a giant wave, washing me away. I faded out, just as my body disappeared.”

“Pardon me, what does that mean?”

“Exactly as it sounds. As everything stretched out, the ship, my suit and I evaporated.”

Sarah smiled. “I understand why Director Wright prefers the hallucination theory. Your description doesn’t quite fit established physics.”

Eric sighed. “No, it doesn’t, which is the problem. I’m an engineer. I deal with facts. If I can’t measure or predict something, I can’t believe it.”

“I can see the conflict. Your brows are knotted and you’re lost in thought anytime you’re not answering questions. Go on.”

“As I said, the switch between reality and my dreams was distinct. When I passed out, I knew I’d died. There was no way I survived. I was ripped apart on a cellular level. I witnessed and understood it, and so I accepted it. The images, though, were a different matter.

“At first I merely experienced them, without any thought. I relived my earliest memories. Recollections I was too young to remember. I saw myself as an infant, but the images were incredibly realistic. It’s like surveying an entire room, but noting every pore and hair on everyone’s skin. Everything was incredibly colorful, as if they invented new colors just for the show.”

“Who are they?”

“Uh, what?”

“You say ‘they’. Who are you referring to?”

“I ... don’t know.”

“Clearly you do, or you wouldn’t say it. You believe someone was responsible. What’s more, you don’t think it’s God, since you used a plural pronoun. So who do you think was in control?”

Eric pouted. “I’m not sure it wasn’t a hallucination.”

“No, that isn’t true. You’re convinced it happened. As you stated, you accept what you experience. You witnessed these visions in a level of detail you’ve never experienced. It couldn’t be purely a dream. So again, who do you think was manipulating your dreams?”

Eric perched his fingers before his nose, his eyes unfocused as he stared into the unknown. “I’m not sure. Somehow, I felt there were a large number of ... beings, but I never witnessed them and possess no evidence they were there. Yet, someone was definitely arranging these images. If I was dreaming things which actually happened, but had no knowledge of, then they were attempting to convey something. Who they might be, or what they were trying to communicate, I’m not aware.”

“Trust your intuition. I realize you don’t give credence to feelings, but you often recognize things you can’t explain. Like you understand when someone doesn’t trust you. You unconsciously pick up their body language. So assume you observed something you’re not aware of. Tell me who these ‘people’ were.”

Eric closed his eyes, tilting his head back and considering it. “I’m not sure, but they weren’t human. There were male and female, and ... other sexes, as well.”

“Were they trying to tell you something, or learn about you?”

“What do you mean?”

Sarah leaned back, curling up on her chair and smiled, a dreamy expression crossing her face. She was comfortable wrestling with the unexplained details in his mind. Like Eric, it was real to her because she understood it. She was more engineer than she gave herself credit for, the result of spending her career with them.

“Simple. They didn’t explain anything. They pulled your memories from your unconscious brain. Those memories were stored there, but you didn’t have access to them. They did. They were trying to learn about you. Observe what defined you, how you were designed, and who you were as a person.”

The corners of Eric’s lip curled up and his brow rose. “Interesting premise. It makes sense. Not only does it seem logical, but it explains why they’d do it. Once we identify who ‘they’ are.”

Dr. Cho smiled again. “I think you already know. You pick up things on the subconscious level before they reach your conscious mind. You identified who you were dealing with by examining what they’re after. You derived all this new information from what you experienced. You just weren’t ready to accept it. You needed someone less skeptical to pull it from your reluctant mind.”

Eric tilted his head. “And what do we tell a cynical Congress?”

Sarah examined her nails, as if she had no other concerns, her job accomplished. “You tell them the truth. You express what you believe, based on the evidence. You can’t prove any of it, other than the fact you’re here and not dead. Beyond that, you give them the facts as you understand them. And by details, I mean all of them, whether they’re supportable or not. No one knows what happened or what it means. So everyone deserves all the information, and frankly, you don’t possess much. You can’t afford to withhold any.”

Eric studied her, his lip curling into a grin. “You’re pretty good at extracting memories implanted by aliens. Is this your first alien abduction case?”

She laughed. “Hardly, though it’s the first where someone walked into the alien’s backyard and knocked on their door. You aren’t used to plumbing the unconscious. I am. The subconscious mind is as real to me as a jet engine is to you. You understand every piece because you’ve put them together and taken them apart thousands of times. I deal with things people realize but aren’t aware of. Now that I walked you through the process, you understand what I’m telling you is the truth. What’s more, I trust you’ll be able to convince a skeptical public. You didn’t dream this. You were collecting facts and details the entire time.”

“So, am I cured, or at least not insane?”

“There’s no evidence of mental illness. You’re logical, you aren’t twitching unconsciously, and when I press into uncomfortable territory, you don’t react defensively. You’re as stable as anyone I’ve ever worked with. Whether that makes any difference is anyone’s guess. The majority of people will never accept it, anyway. To convince the people who need to know the truth, you must believe it enough to assure them.”

“So we’re done?”

“Not if you don’t want to be. I’m sure NASA will cover these sessions for as long as you want to come. Too much depends on your mental state. However, I’m convinced you’re stable enough we can move this to a bar, if you’re more comfortable. You’re an ... interesting case. More than that, I suspect we have a lot in common. More than you’d think. I wouldn’t mind getting to know you better, either professionally or casually. As long as I can assist you in wrestling with what you experienced, it’ll help.”

“Thanks. I prefer getting paid for drinking beer with a beautiful and fascinating woman than sitting on a psychiatrist’s couch and have people wonder what my problem is. Shall I pick you up tonight?”

She waved her hand at him. “I can tell you’re a jet pilot, NASA astronaut and media star. You’re too handsome and full of yourself. You’re used to sweeping women off their feet.” She leaned her head to the side, considering him from a new angle. “Still, your confidence is contagious, and attractive. I’d like to remain companions, even if I don’t officially treat you anymore. I suspect we can teach each other a lot, even if you don’t know any more about your alien friends.”

He laughed. “So now they’re my buddies?”

“Hey, they brought you home when you were in no shape to make it on your own. They put you to bed when you were too ill to undress and didn’t ask anything in exchange. I’d call those friends.”

Eric winked at her. “And you’d like to be that kind of friend too?”

Sarah blushed, a slight tinge of red creeping over her pale flesh. “I wouldn’t mind helping you when you need it. If it goes farther than that, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“So, what’s the prognosis on your tests, Dr. Withers?”

Sam walked to his desk as Robert Givens entered his office. He picked up a folder and handed it to him. “All the examinations reveal that Eric Morgan is in perfect health. There’s absolutely nothing anyone would be concerned with.”

The project manager cocked his head, raising his brow. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“When I say he’s perfectly healthy, I meant exactly that. There’s nothing wrong with him. You remember his plane crash? He was lucky to walk away, escaping with only a broken femur and several gashes to his calf.” Sam spread his hands, palms up. “There’s no sign of either injury. The scar tissue is completely healed. He had screws inserted to hold the bones in place. They’re gone! Hell, his appendix is healthy. It was removed six years ago! There’s no evidence of any trauma ever having occurred.”

Robert shook his head. “You may find it unsettling, but for me, it’s a relief. It’s one thing to react to electrical signals, but it won’t convince a hostile investigator. However, a miraculous recovery of a missing organ is hard to argue. It’s the best evidence we possess of something unexplained. They can claim he snuck out of the capsule and we hid him, but there’s no way he can regrow lost tissue.”

“I’d love to examine his blood to determine whether there’s something which can be used in others, but I doubt this is genetic. It’s truly miraculous.”

Robert laughed. “Yes, miracles are frustrating for engineers and scientists. They don’t obey established expectations. Still, it might save our asses over the next few days. If you’re still employed a year from now, thank Eric’s regrown appendix. By the way, if we can get paper copies of his x-rays, it will help convince everyone.”

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