Chapter 8 of The Stone of Tantulus is live!

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Here’s the first scene…

No, no no

The vertigo lasted only a second or two, but the crashing waves of déjà vu would take days to sort out.  It didn’t happen every time.  Sometimes Jason entered a body devoid of memories, but that was a rare event.  This one, extravagant with fulsome tangles of recollection, threatened to crush his own into a singularity of trapped information.  Jason struggled to maintain his self; the core of his meaning.  His eyes shut tight against the world, he pushed back to stop the waves from swamping his psyche completely.  It was only then he realized he was not alone inside his mind.  He wasn’t swapping bodies with another Jason.  This one was still here, and he was clearly insane.

Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he fought for control, and as the droplets followed their chaotic paths down his face, the pain and confusion ebbed.  Jason was sitting on the floor, knees hugged tight against his chest, and rocking forward and back in a steady rhythm.  The position was very familiar; he had done this every time he heard his parents arguing when he was a child.

But I’m not a child. And I’m not that Jason.

He stopped rocking as his muscles relaxed, and he opened his eyes.  All around him was white.  White on the walls, the floor, the ceiling—even the thin clothing he wore.  The slippers on his feet were also white, and the only break in the bleached environment was the small window on the door a few feet away.  On the other side was a dark face, concern in the eyes.  He couldn’t tell from what was visible whether those eyes belonged to a man or a woman.

Jason stood, willing himself to calm, and waited in front of the door.  After a few seconds of inspection by the eyes behind the door, he must have passed some kind of test.  The person turned and nodded to an unseen individual, and the door lock clicked as a buzzer sounded.  The slab of white swung outward and a man much older than Jason stood in the opening—two large and hairy men in white close behind.

Jason tilted his head a shallow angle, and his eyes narrowed.  “I know you,” he said.  A little more meat on the man’s bones, and no gold-capped tooth, but it was the same bus driver he met in the other reality.

The man smiled, and he said, “Of course you do, son.  I’m Carl Ambrose.  I took over your case yesterday.”  He turned his head and said over his shoulder, “I don’t think you gentlemen are needed.  I can take it from here.”  As he said this, he waived his thin hand, and Jason watched the orderlies faces darken.  Without a word they turned and left the two alone.

The doctor stepped inside.  He continued to watch Jason, but his relaxed manner suggested familiarity beyond simple doctor and patient.  He gestured toward the small cot by the far wall, then walked over and took a seat on one corner.  His back remained straight and true while he sat, his hands resting in his lap.  After a moment or two, Jason joined him there, leaning his back against the padded wall behind the bed.

“You had a really nice break, there, last night.”

“I bet,” Jason said.  “I’m guessing I’m pretty nuts, huh?”

“Well, that’s not exactly the technical term.  I prefer dissociative identity disorder.”

“Everything’s gotta have a name.”

The doctor smiled again, straight white teeth shining from a kind face.  “You’ve apparently been cheeking your meds for the past week.  Once it became obvious, we got you lined out.”  He leaned in, patted Jason’s knee lightly, and almost whispered, “You probably shouldn’t do that anymore.”

Jason bristled at the overly familiar action and pulled his legs closer.  “When do I get out of here?”

The doctor straightened again, and said, “We should move you back to your regular room later today.  We just have to make sure you’re past this.”

“No,” Jason shook his head and waved his hand in a wide arc, “I mean out.”

“Jason, you need to understand… you’re here to rest.”  The doctor sighed, and he relaxed his shoulders.  “You’ve had a very bad shock recently, and you need time to recover and process everything.”  He patted Jason’s knee again, then stood.  “I want to make sure you’re ready before I toss you out in the world again.”

Jason turned his head up, the other’s reflecting a halo of light from the bare overhead bulb.  “Ready for what, exactly?”

Ambrose shook his head and blew out a long breath.  His shoulders slumped from the added weight of untold years of labor, “Oh, son, if you only knew.”


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