Master Class this week gave us three choices. Shattered precipice, rugged resolutions, and Auld Lang Syne. Shattered precipice spoke to me this time. While the short story is ending up too long to post all at once, here's the first part. Any feedback is welcome, particularly about whether or not there's too much explanation at the start. And, this story does touch on PTSD, the military, and the conflict in the Middle East. It is still PG-13 and under, but I don't want anyone to be caught off guard by the implied trauma issues in the story. Thanks for stopping by!
“Welcome. I presume Mr. Andreson is waiting elsewhere?”
“Yes. Why do you presume that?” the man scrubbed his buzzed silver hair.
“I intend no offense, but you did not strike me as a troubled man who just returned from a second tour in the Middle East. Also, your voice sounds familiar to me. Since I have never spoken to Mr. Andreson, you are likely not him. Therefore, I believe you to be Mr. Andreson’s father. I am Ms. Harper’s assistant, Michael.”
“Ah. Yes. John Andreson,” he thrust out his hand as he cleared his throat, “My son is waiting outside.”
Michael shook the proffered hand, “Please, Mr. Andreson.”
“John, then. Please, relax. Ms. Harper will be with us shortly. There is nothing to fear here. She has already agreed to assist your son.”
“If you can even get him in the building.”
Michael showed Mr. Andreson to a small, cozy waiting area surrounded by picture windows that offered a magnificent view of the city, “May I get you something to drink?”
“No. Is Ms. Harper as good as the price tag she puts on this suggests?”
“How did you learn of Ms. Harper?”
“What does that matter?”
“Please. Indulge me and I will make it clear.”
“The last therapist we took Lucas to suggested her when he couldn’t get Lucas to even set foot in his office. Said something about Ms. Harper doing some research into this new kind of therapy that has done a lot for other veterans with PTSD.”
“Let me illuminate a bit more of Ms. Harper’s research efforts. Psyche Reconstruction Therapy was discovered by a group of three psychologists trying to find more effective therapeutic tools to mend the psychological damage caused by trauma. The only drawback to PRT was that none of the three psychologists survived the process.”
John’s eyebrows jerked up at that, “Then why are we here?”
Michael held out his hands, “Please. Despite the loss of the founders of PRT, the process itself was very promising. The initial clients did survive and showed remarkable recoveries. That was why PRT was not abandoned. Ms. Harper and a colleague were the lead researchers in discovering how to make PRT safer for the therapists engaged in the process.”
“So you’re saying she’s been involved in this therapy from the start?”
“I am saying Ms. Harper created this particular process. There is only one other person who knows as much as Ms. Harper does about PRT, and he no longer engages in private practice. Thus, there is no one who has had as much experience with PRT as Ms. Harper has. Your son is in the best possible hands there are to address his trauma. If she cannot help him, there is no one else who can. And, since I have worked for Ms. Harper, I have never seen her be unable to help a client she has agreed to take.”
John slouched back in the chair, his shoulders dropping, and his hands covering his face, “Thank God. Will she start this today?”
“Most likely, yes, I will. But, that all depends on your son.”
John turned toward the confident, low feminine voice coming from behind him. He stood up, started to offer his hand, and then hesitated.
“I can see you’re concerned about something, Mr. Andreson.”
“I guess I expected something different.”
“Someone not quite so young?”
John’s face reddened.
“It’s okay, Mr. Andreson. You’re not the first to have that particular expectation. I’m Cheyenne Harper. As the daughter of a retired Marine, I chose from the very start of my career to find a way to make PRT work without sacrificing the therapist in the process. It was too effective for trauma survivors not to solve the safety issue,” the tiny brunette woman moved to the desk near the door and activated a small intercom, “Tony? Would you please allay Mr. Lucas Andreson’s fears and show him up?”
She paused a moment for the unheard answer before returning her focus to John and Michael, “There are two points in the process that pose the most risk. First, your son must allow the initial merge to be made. Most people are able to remain in a meditative state enough to allow this, though there are occasions where clients are not able to do so.”
“What happens if you can’t do the merge thing? You give up?”
Cheyenne smiled, “Not in a million years. If your son cannot accept the merge today, we will begin more traditional therapeutic methods in order to allow him to relax enough to accept the merge.”
“What’s the second danger?”
The door to the office opened and a uniformed man escorted Lucas Andreson in with exaggerated care. It didn’t take much to see how fragile Lucas was, how little remained of the decorated Marine remained in the shell all but cowering in the office. Cheyenne glanced at Michael who moved to Lucas. A couple of whispered words too soft for John to hear were all it took for Lucas to follow Michael behind the closed door and deeper into Cheyenne’s office.
“Well. That’s better than most of the therapists have been able to do. Back to that second problem?”
Cheyenne stared at the door as it closed behind Michael and Lucas before shifting her attention back to John, “The second point is the one I am more concerned about in your son’s case. It is vital you understand the risk before consenting to PRT for your son. I need to confirm before I obtain your consent that you do have power of attorney to consent to treatment for Lucas.”
“Yes. I faxed a copy to your assistant before we arrived.”
“Excellent. Now, the second point is something I will not be able to determine until the PRT process is well under way. Trauma victims have a point where they just cannot heal from the damage done. Imagine the psyche like a fine vas. If there are just a few cracks and chips, it is easy to repair the vas, correct?”
John nodded his head, his brow furrowed.
“It is much more difficult to repair that vas if it were shattered.”
“Because the pieces don’t fit back together?”
“Yes, and because it can become impossible to find all of the fragments of the psyche. Without all of the pieces, it is impossible to make it whole again. That point is called the shattered precipice. Beyond the precipice is the drop into permanent madness. I’m not sure how close without initiating the merge, but I can already tell your son is close to that precipice. The attempt to bring him back if he is too close may push him over. Do you know any of the history of his trauma?”
“Lucas was one of the best Marine Corps snipers in his unit, maybe in the entire Corps. He did alright his first tour in the Middle East. I could tell he’d seen some things and had some hard times after that tour. It was the second that something happened.”
Cheyenne handed John a bottle of water she’d managed to retrieve while John was talking without him realizing it. He took a large gulp. Cheyenne waited without a sound. The soft steady tick of the clock on the wall filled the growing silence.
“I don’t know. He never said. But he couldn’t work. Wouldn’t leave the house. Won’t eat unless his food is sealed and he opens it. Jumps at every little sound and light. Most of the time, it doesn’t even seem like he’s there. More just a robot of him or something. The Marine Corps put him on a medical leave. Somehow, his CO has managed not to have to discharge Lucas. I know that’d kill him. Lucas loved the Marines. Couldn’t wait to sign up. Even talked me into signing the age waiver so he could get to Boot two months before his eighteenth birthday. Please,” John choked and coughed a little, “Help my son. I’m willing to do anything. You’re the last chance we have.”
Cheyenne touched John’s arm, “Thank you. This helps me a great deal. Lucas is not beyond hope. I will not lie. The trauma is extreme. I’ve only seen a few clients with this level of trauma still on this side of the shattered precipice, but there have been those few. If there is any way to help Lucas, I will. Michael will be out in a moment and will wait with you until the session is done.”
Cheyenne made sure John was seated before following Michael and Lucas’s path into her office. Once she was alone she sighed, closed her eyes, and took several deep breaths. Then she lifted her chin and stepped into the Merger. Michael had Lucas seated in one of the two recliners. Several electrodes were attached to his head.
Michael met Cheyenne’s gaze.
“I know, Michael. But I have to try.”
“Ms. Harper. I know that. That is why I will never consider leaving this position. You are the most admirable and selfless person I know. But, are you certain about this?”
Cheyenne smiled, “I can’t get rid of you, hunh? I have to try.”
“At the expense of your own life?”
“It hasn’t happened yet.”
“You have never had a client in this state.”
“I’ve also got the new technique that anchors me better.”
“It may help you stay anchored, but it does not change how close you come to the shattered precipice yourself each time you merge.”
“Michael. I appreciate your concern and your caution and I’m glad you’re willing to voice that with me. But, I can’t walk away from this. This is Lucas and his family’s last hope. If I can’t help, there is no one else and Lucas is condemned to this life for whatever is left of his. I can’t do that to them.”
“I just hope you do not end up taking his place beyond the precipice.”