Stephen H. Provost
Publication date: February 12th 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
How far would you go to find yourself?
Imagine everything you thought you knew about yourself turned out to be a lie, and you didn’t know who was telling the truth. Imagine you possessed a secret so dangerous that, if it were exposed, it would reshape the entire world.
What would you do if that secret were your very identity?
In almost every way, Palo Vista seems like a typical California city, with office buildings, schools, and homes sprawled out across suburbia, filled with families making a life for themselves at the dawn of the new millennium.
But two seniors at Mt. MacMurray High are about to find out that nothing is as it seems…
Jason Nix in session with Dr. David Stanton, psychiatrist:
He spoke to me in his lecturing tone. “Everyone has a subconscious, Jason. It’s just a matter of accessing it. I’d like to do a little experiment, if you don’t mind.”
I squinted one eye at him. What was he getting at? “What kind of experiment? I’m not a lab rat.” “Oh, nothing that will hurt,” he said. “I’d just like for you to go to sleep here in the office for a
few minutes, and we’ll try to discover what’s going on behind that tightly drawn veil of yours. I understand you might be too nervous to sleep, so I’m prepared to help you with a little meditative exercise.”
This time, I was the one who had been taken off guard.
Sleep? In the office? This was the kind of thing you did in a hospital on a couple of weeks’ notice. Not in a doctor’s office on the spur of the moment.
“What kind of bull is this?” I demanded, slapping the good doctor’s precious glass globe against a marble tabletop and watching it shatter.
Amazingly, Stanton didn’t seem to care.
“Come one,” he said in his best attempt at a reassuring tone. “This will be interesting. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and it might even be fun.”
“Fun for whom?” I asked. “For you, sure. For me, this seems …” I pulled out my mobile phone. “I’m calling my parents.”
I started to dial the number, but Stanton grabbed the phone out of my hand. “Nice,” I said, doing my best to stay composed. “Now, we can’t have any of that. Besides, your parents have approved what I have in mind, so
you really don’t have any say in the matter, Jason. Just lie back on the couch and try to relax while we peer inside that incredible little mind of yours.”
The couch. Yeah, Stanton actually had a couch. I had always thought it was another one of his stupid props. No one actually lay down at a therapy session anymore. Did they? And what was this about my parents having the final say? I was of legal age now. Barely, but it counted.
Stanton pushed a button on the intercom on his desk. “I think we’re ready, Ms. Throckmartin. You can come in now.”
My eyes flashed toward the doorway, which opened in a same moment to reveal someone I’d never seen, a woman with a jet-black bowl-shaped head of hair and a dark birthmark just over her right eyebrow. She wore a gray pantsuit and a pair of white gloves that made her look a little like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
To her left was a small man in spectacles – the round-framed glasses I’d seen in pictures of John Lennon – and a white physician’s coat. Under one arm, he carried a tablet computer. He looked like a mole.
I stood and took a step backward.
Directly behind the mole man stood an imposing specimen of humanity even bigger than Haze.
I glared at him. Always challenge the biggest dog first; if you lose, you get it over with quickly. If you win, all the others will fall into line. I don’t know where I’d heard that, but it had always seemed like a damn good way of handling conflicts. If I was intimidated, I wasn’t about to let them know it.
Any of them.
“Allow me to introduce Ms. Throckmartin, Mr. Davey and Mr. Olson. They’ll be assisting us this afternoon.”
My mind flashed back to the football field and my winning touchdown. There was only one door to the room, which wasn’t particularly large, and Mr. Olson – the big dog – stood directly between me and the goal line. He was big, but I surmised that I was faster. A lot faster. I took a step forward and stuck out my hand, imitating Stanton’s plastered-on smile. Reflexively, the mole man took a step forward and extended his own hand. In the moment that he shifted his balance, I grabbed it and pulled him toward me.
His knees buckled and I let go, thrusting both hands firmly against his shoulders and knocking the off-balance mole backward into the surprised big dog. Both went tumbling backward in a heap. I had just a split-second to make it past them, but I knew it would be enough. I ran for the goal line …
And felt my shoulder wrenched back firmly from behind. Arms flailing, I landed flat on my back.
Ms. Throckmartin was staring down at me.
“Don’t worry about them,” she snarled. “Worry about me. Be afraid of me.” Her lips curled up in a menacing, self-satisfied smile.
“Sweet dreams,” she said. Then everything went black.
Stephen H. Provost is a veteran editor, reporter and columnists with more than 30 years of experience at daily newspapers in California. He’s currently the managing editor of The Cambrian on the Central Coast, as well as a columnist and assistant city editor for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo.
As an author, he has written historical nonfiction (“Fresno Growing Up” and “Highway 99: The History of California’s Main Street”), novels (“Memortality” and “Identity Break”), while also exploring the realms of mythology, fable and ancient history.