It was Friday morning. The sun was rising, cracking the first hint of light. The morning dew glistened, though frozen, across the wintry fields near my house. The heat from the rising sun seemed to pass my house leaving a frozen tundra of weeds; I called it my yard. The gentle icy breeze whistled softly past the broken down wooden bench swinging from a tree limb. The creaking of the bench as it swayed echoed through the house as it did every morning, while the sound of crickets slowly faded away. The morning chill pinched the air and despite the three massive blankets curled around me, I was still cold. The cold is what woke me unpleasantly from my sleep. Slowly, I opened my eyes and pulled the blankets tighter, closer to me. Despite my best efforts, I remained cold. After awhile, I threw the blankets off and sat up. Yawning and stretching took me a good couple minutes to do, scratching my belly and smacking my mouth. I grabbed my bathrobe from the bedpost and wrapped it tightly around my flannel pajamas and thermal underwear. I bent over to slide my slippers over my socks, but when I reached for them, they werenít in their usual location. They werenít even anywhere I could see. In their place were muddy footprints tracing from the door and over to the bed; I froze. The mud still wet on the wooden floor clearly had been left during the night. Slowly I stood up and scanned the room, the creaking bench the only sound other than the slight whistling of the breeze. Nothing else looked out of place. I turned to the bed and pushed the covers off to look for anything wrong. Sure enough there was mud matted on the bottom of the sheets. I pulled my foot out to look at my sock. My foot was cold and mud, still wet, coated the bottom of both socks. I placed my foot next to the print and it matched my footprints. Baffled, I sat on the bed a minute to try and recall getting up and leaving the house in the middle of the night. I finally concluded that I must have gone outside and been so tired I didnít remember doing so. This still left the question of why I would go out; however, with no way to answer that at that moment I tied the belt on my robe, changed my socks, and headed for downstairs. The footprints continued out my room, in the hallway and down the stairs. I followed them down the stairs and around the right side of the staircase out the front door. The door stood open, softly swinging back and forth; the source of the cold. My slippers sat tossed in the corner next to the door. I slid them on and walked past the small concrete porch, to the muddy yard of weeds all matted down from rain and mud. The footprints turned to imprints in the mud. The prints continued to the center of my yard where they abruptly stopped. No other tracks were around, not even heading back to the house. Dead weeds made a ring around the last set of footprints. Now completely lost, I stood there silently, taking it all in and trying to make sense of it all. The damn thing had me completely perplexed and left me uneasy for the remainder of the day. I remembered I had to get to work so I rushed back inside closing the door behind me.

My morning routine after that was normal other than being rushed a little and hurrying out the door I made sure to lock the door, the dead bolt, and the screen, and I even double checked. After that, the day remained a usual day, other than the lingering thought of that morning.
Work was all too painfully normal, my job of studying problems, continually getting less and less interesting. Psychiatry just didnít turn out like I had planned. I had always expected to study those cases where people were on the edge of insanity, telling outlandish stories of wanting to cut off their motherís heads and toss them into fish bowls to grow flowers out of the bloody stump. Well all the tales I got were so domestic and common; these people could get the same help if they just thought it through or talked to a friend.

Ten years earlier it had been exciting. I was twenty-one and an intern for Dr. Zengal. He told us wild anecdotes of the people he studied (leaving out their names of course). He told of people who slept with their sisters or of the many people inside one person. Some of those schizophrenic cases were so eerie and delightfully interesting; I always wanted a couple of them, he always had them. He came in with a new tale to tell to tell us interns each session we visited.

I remember one session where he had a patient claiming to be an alien abductee. It was the most intriguing case I had ever heard. Dr. Zengal used hypnotic regression to have the patient relive and describe the experience. I watched as the Dr. put the patient in the trance. He asked questions about the aliens, never flat out asking what he was looking for but definitely leading the questioning in a certain way. The patient, at first, answered calmly but soon enough began to get nervous and twitchy as the mention of bright lights and little men entering his home filled his report of the incident. Then he became terrified, screaming and yelling ďGet away! Oh god, please help!Ē Dr. Zengal got the patient to calm a little, enough so he could talk again. Still shivering, as if just having crawled out of a freezing lake after falling through the ice, he continued. He said aliens taped him to an examining table with this white extremely durable tape, and probed him, cut him and implanted a chip in his head. By this time I almost interrupted everything laughing, but I held it in. Now I didnít believe in aliens and all that mumbo jumbo but I was curious about Dr. Zengalís opinion on the matter. After the session I approached Dr. Zengal and asked him what he thought. ďYou donít believe? Well, I do and I fear very much for this patient,Ē he said briefly and he walked away. I had thought it was all those years of talking to crazy people that was affecting him and rubbing off.
But there I was listening to my patient, a lady so naive it was amazing she had made it that far in life. She was complaining again how her boyfriend had this messy dog that she hated. Every session the same



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