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Lord of Dreams (Night Lords 2)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2024 Alice Gaines
Thea Jamison went to the break room and filled a mug with the vile elixir that came out of the coffee pot. After loading it with sugar, she leaned against the counter and choked some down.
Something was happening to her patients -- all of them simultaneously. It was common for neurotics to report nightmares. Not so common for all of them to discuss bad dreams on every visit. Unless they’d gotten together and planned a conspiracy to make her crazy by copying each other, something else was going on.
She had half an hour free before her next session, so she stayed where she was and tried to make sense of something they never taught her in her Ph.D. program. She was still lost in thought when a colleague walked in and went straight for the coffee pot.
“You look pensive,” Bob Monroe, Ph.D., one of the founders of the Bellville Clinic said.
“Something’s off…” She hesitated. “Some kind of shared neurosis in my patients, but not like anything I’ve ever read about.”
Bob stopped in the act of filling his mug. His expression grew serious, his eyebrows nearly meeting. “What shared neurosis?”
“All my patients are reporting nightmares. All of them, every single night,” she said. “Some are afraid to go to sleep.”
He studied her until she could almost hear wheels spinning in his head. “All the same content?”
“No, they vary, but they’re persistent,” she answered. “Do you think they could be pulling a prank of some kind?”
“Only if my patients are in on the joke.”
She could only gape at him. “Yours, too?”
“Yup. I heard that some of our other clinicians’ patients were reporting bad dreams, but I didn’t pay too much attention.”
“Oh, shit.” Maybe she should mention to Bob that she’d been having a strange recurring dream as well. Not a nightmare, but odd. Every night a man would appear as she slept. Ghostly figures flitted around him. No threat to her, but he struggled against them. When he grasped one, others would swarm, and he’d seem to choke until he fought them off. And from time to time, he’d glance at her and beg her with his eyes. He needed something, and he seemed to think she could give it to him.
“You got quiet all of a sudden,” Bob said. “Was it something I said?”
Not this again. Not this morning, please. With Bob’s healthy ego, the man couldn’t believe she’d broken up with him. She never should have dated someone senior to her, anyway. Luckily, she’d gotten out before she got too involved.
“Not at all, Bob. I’m just worried about the patients.”
“All work and no play, Thea.” Bob’s ego again. He’d gotten over Thea well enough to date others. But he couldn’t make himself believe a lover had rejected him.
“I just don’t want to get involved with anyone… ever.” She’d had enough abandonment for one life and didn’t plan to put her heart in danger again.
“If you really mean that, you should work on it,” he said. “It’s not healthy.”
“I do not want to discuss this, especially at work.”
He raised his hands in surrender. “I give up.”
If only that were true. She drank the last of the coffee she could stand, turned, and dumped the poison into the sink. “Maybe we should get everyone together and see how widespread this phenomenon is. We could treat it as some kind of mass hysteria.”
“Not a bad idea,” he said. “And if it holds up, we could write an article for one of the journals.”
Maybe he could name a syndrome after himself and get it in the DSM. Bob was an excellent therapist, but he had a tendency toward self-promotion. Oh, hell, a journal article would be a good idea.
Just then, Phyllis Conroy, MSW, joined them. “You two seem pretty intense. Is anything going on?”
“Have you noticed anything interesting about your clients?” Bob asked.
“Odd you should mention it,” Phyllis answered. “I have. They’re all reporting bad dreams… every last one of them.”
Thea and Bob exchanged a look.
“We’ll ask the entire team if this is happening with their people, too,” Bob said. “If it is, I’ll call a few other clinics to see if they’re experiencing the same phenomenon.”
“What if they are?” Thea said.
“Then something horrible is going on with psychiatric patients everywhere,” Bob said. “It’ll be a public health crisis.”
Phyllis frowned. “Are you two serious?”
“Afraid so,” Bob said. “I’ll call a staff meeting so we can discuss this.”
He put down his cup and left the break room.
“What could cause something like this?” Phyllis said.
Thea shrugged. “Beats me. A virus of some kind? Something in the water?”
Whatever it was, it was connected to the man in her dreams. She had no way of knowing that, of course, but the man had started coming to her about the same time as her patients began reporting nightmares. And the knowledge she was connected to him… maybe to help him… came through clearly.
“Water pollution hardly seems likely,” Phyllis said.
“Do you have a better explanation?”
“I sure don’t,” Phyllis answered.
Thea had practiced directing her own dreams with some success. If she could connect with the man, he might have an answer for what was happening here. A far-out plan, but it was worth a try.