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Nightmares Relived (Short Story)
Since the day that the two year old Ray saw the one month old Kiana he had been in love with her. The minute that beautiful baby had turned and looked at him with those light brown eyes and grabbed his finger in her fist, he was a goner.
Their parents had been neighbors and they had grown up together. Two houses side by side in a small town where almost everyone knew everyone. At four he had made the two year old Kiana sit behind him on his tricycle and taken them up and down the driveway.
When they began schooling he used to carry her bag for her along with his own. She was his ray of light and he was her sun. In school she was popular, good at games and sports, and he would stand back and let her bask in the glory. He was of course on hand to help her with her home work as he was much better at studies than she was.
At ten Kiana would love to cook new things up in the kitchen and then run with the result to Ray. Since it was never predictable how the dish would turn out he would manfully swallow and compliment her. In a few years his encouragement made her an excellent cook.
On his eighteenth birthday his parents gifted him a much desired and till now denied motorcycle. Two months later on her sixteenth birthday Ray asked formal permission from her parents to take her out on a dinner date. The four parents stood side by side as they waved their children goodbye with tears of happiness blinking in their eyes. In just under two hours those tears would change to tears of horror and sorrow.
When the phone call came the four of them were just settling down to their own dinner. The man at the hospital did not give them many details, but all four of them rushed as though the devil himself was at their heels. The truck driver who had banged into the motorcycle had fled leaving the truck on the spot. The police asked endless questions but got nowhere, and all the while Ray and Kiana fought to stay alive.
After their surgeries doctors were more hopeful of their chances but the condition of both was critical. Ray began to improve as Kiana began to sink. Within a week life as they knew it was over. The beautiful and chirpy Kiana was dead. Ray himself was little better, having lost the will to continue. He wondered why he was still alive when his reason for life no longer existed.
It was a month before he could walk again, and he would always have the limp the doctors said. Ray wished that he had died as well. Time went on as he buried himself in his studies. The outside world no longer interested him. He became a doctor, and his parents watched as the grief which always seemed fresh in his heart threatened to eat him alive.
The Nightmares Begin
Beth’s parents did not know what to do with her. The girl seemed absolutely normal all day and still at night she got these nightmares. They had begun when she was four. She would get up howling as though in pain. When her parents rushed into the room she would say she hurt everywhere. Then she would insist on being taken home, even though she was at home.
Their family doctor had a look at her and determined that there was nothing wrong with her physically. She was referred to a specialist when she was six years old as the nightmares became worse. At the big hospital the kind lady psychiatrist, Dr Meera, told her parents that she may be carrying memories of a previous life. Hypnosis may help her with subduing the old memories and lead a normal life.
So began Beth’s monthly trips to the hospital. By the time she was ten, the medication and the hypnosis ensured that she would barely get the nightmare. Life seemed to become normal again much to the relief of her parents. The doctor said that they need not continue the hypnosis and after a couple of years the medication was also stopped.
When she turned fifteen the glimpses of a past life began to reoccur in her dream. She would see visions of a street with two houses. She would see a tricycle and then feel that she was riding it pillion behind someone. The boy’s face was always blurry. The more she tried to concentrate on it the more elusive it would become.
Over the period of the next year she saw more and more of that past life. She saw two couples who were neighbors, and she knew which ones had been her parents. She was no longer afraid of the dreams as the pain never returned. It was more like catching snippets of an interesting movie where she seemed to know all the characters.
On the eve of her sixteenth birthday she saw the motorcycle, and finally she saw his face as he handed her the helmet. She knew then what had happened. She wanted to scream to tell them not to get on to the motorcycle. It was useless she woke up that night screaming with the force of all the remembered pain from the accident.
Her parents rushed into her room. She again insisted on going home, but she still didn’t know where home was. The next day her worried parents took her back to the specialist in the big hospital. The old psychiatrist was surprised to see her young patient return after so many years. They made an appointment for the hypnotherapy the next day.
At thirty four Dr Ray was an eligible bachelor who seemed interested in staying one. His well meaning parents kept bringing him proposals from prospective brides which he kept refusing. His friends and colleagues at the hospital knew that he was not interested in relationships. He was friendly and courteous but no one got past that wall around him.
He had just finished an emergency surgery and was getting ready to go home. He was tired, but happy as the patient was more than likely to pull through. He wanted to get a few hours sleep before he came back to take a look at how the patient was doing. He rubbed his tired eyes with his palms as he lowered his hands he saw a young girl and her parents coming out of the elevator.
For some reason he could not stop staring at the girl who had her head down. She looked so dejected and low he felt something stirring in his chest. He wanted to look into her eyes and tell her it was going to be okay. Then Beth looked up and saw his face. She knew it was him, he was a little older, but there was no way that she was mistaken about that face.
As the two of them stared at each other the world around them seemed to melt into a blurry mess. Yet each feature of their faces was crystal clear to their eyes. They stood locked like that for what seemed an eternity. She knew it was him without a doubt, and he was wondering why he felt as though he was being pulled by her. She was a stranger and yet she seemed like a part of him.
As her parents led her away to the waiting doctor, she broke eye contact and he felt strangely bereft at her departure. It was almost as if the love of his life had died again. He saw the image of Kiana followed by the image of that young girl. He blinked and wondered why he was standing in the middle of the corridor. And then he walked away.
What future do a 34 year old doctor and a 16 year old patient have?
The Next Day
Dr Meera could see that the hypnotherapy was not helping Beth. She wondered about the dream that the girl had told her about. She felt that Bijli was not giving her all the details, that she was holding back some information.
Yet she could not really pull it out of her when she was unwilling to share it. It would just take some more sessions of counseling the good doctor thought, before all was revealed. Even in her wildest dreams she would not have thought of what had truly happened.
Beth was not sure if she should tell anyone about the man in the corridor. She knew it was the same boy from her nightmares, she was sure of it. She wanted to see him again. He had been wearing the doctor's white coat, so maybe he was a doctor at the hospital. Maybe if she walked around a bit she would see him.
All she needed to do was say that she wanted a drink and go to the vending machine out in the corridor. She asked her mother was the money and walked towards the door.
Who was that girl?
Ray tried to shut down his tired brain and sleep. It would not let him. Each time he closed his eyes he could see the face of that young girl in the hospital corridor. And then it would morph into the face of his own true love Kiana. That would give him a start and wake him up.
He could not understand his reaction to the girl. His head told him he was being fanciful, that he was projecting his desire to have Kiana back on the young girl he had seen. He wanted to believe his head, but his heart would not allow him to. His heart made him wonder if indeed the girl was Kiana?
Finally he could not help it. He went to the same floor and looked at the department door. She was in to see a psychiatrist. Was she a nut job? Why was he feeling this unbelievable desire to see her again? Maybe he needed to go see the psychiatrist himself. After all Dr Meera had helped him deal with the loss of Kiana.
All those years ago, and yet the pain could sear his heart right now. He could feel his broken heart begin to ache with an intensity he never knew he could still feel. He took a moment to catch his breath. He shook his head and began to walk back to his own territory. It was best to leave the past alone and get back to the present.
As he walked away he felt a pair or eyes on his back. The prickly sensation had him turning around and there she was. Looking a bit pale, standing next to the vending machine with a can of Pepsi in her hand. Staring at him as though she knew all his deepest secrets. He felt exposed in her intense scrutiny.
He slowly walked back to where she stood. A slight panic came into her eyes, but she did not move. As he approached her he could see that she was worried but calm. Almost as if she had known that this moment was inevitable.
"Hello Ray" she said.
In that instant Ray knew just who that girl was, and while one part of him wanted to hold her and never let go, the other more skeptic part held him back.
"Do I know you?" he asked.
At that moment Beth's mother came out looking for her. "There you are Beth, I've been worried you got lost."
"No," smiled Beth, "I've been found. Mother I'd like you to meet the boy from my dreams," she said as she gestured to the doctor, "Ray."
Ray paled and suddenly it was too much for him to take, he turned and walked away.
After that Beth spent the rest of the session with Dr Meera and her parents defending the fact that Ray was the one. He was the boy with whom she had been in the accident a lifetime ago. Dr Meera realized that it could well be so, having spent enough time with Ray in therapy.
She told Dr Meera all the details and was surprised at the calm acceptance of the doctor. Here she was telling her that she thought she was reborn and that her former love was a doctor at the hospital and the good doctor was not only believing her tale but also sympathetic towards her.
Dr Meera had been instrumental in getting Ray to listen to Beth. She had brought them both together and as Beth gave out detail after detail from the memories of her previous life, Ray was finally forced to admit that she was indeed Kiran in her previous life. And yet he had been reluctant to give her what she wanted most, his love and acceptance.
Over the next few months Beth's parents and Ray's parents had met and wondered what the solution to the problem was. It had come down to a standoff when Ray had finally admitted to feeling the draw towards Beth but felt that she was much too young to be stuck with him. Nothing that either his parents or hers could say would make him change his mind.
And yet what is fated must happen. One day as he was on duty in the Emergency Room Beth was brought in with a group of people who were hurt when the bus they were riding in was in an accident.
The sight of the open gash on her forehead trailing with blood had shocked Ray. It hit him with a certainty that he had never had before that he could not lose her twice. That day he tended to her wounds and the next he went to visit her at home.
This daily visit of his became a regular feature. They got to know each other better and Ray realized that he could not deny his love for her any more than he could stop breathing. The happy parents gave them their blessings and they began seeing each other.
As Ray drove Beth back home he smiled at her. She smiled back and could hardly believe that she was finally his. Two years ago when she had first told him about her nightmares he had looked aghast. He refused to believe her and had walked away.
Three years later they were very much in love and very much together. Though he was still concerned about her limited her choices, she could not have been happier. After all she had come back a second time just so that she could be with him. As the traffic lights turned red, he stopped the car and turned to look at her, she could feel her heart overflow with love as he smiled. They were finally on the right track.