I’ll Always Be Around

                                                           I’ll Always Be Around

Ravensgate, Michigan

Kelly Dixon: Session 3

Dr. Jeneane Clement sat behind a large oak desk when Kelly, a long-haired brunette in her late twenties, walked into the office and shut the door behind her. “Have a seat,” Dr. Clement said, as she extended a hand toward one of the two brown leather chairs in front of her. Kelly sat down and set her purse on the floor.

Dr. Clement was an attractive African-American woman in her late thirties—her hair was pulled back into a bun and she wore thin-framed glasses. She was a relationship counselor and psychiatrist with experience under her belt and several degrees on her office wall. Usually she worked with married couples, but on occasion she would help non-married couples who valued their relationship enough to seek counseling. Kelly Dixon and Alex Stone were such a couple. 

Kelly and Alex began seeing Dr. Clement several weeks ago, but Alex’s new work schedule conflicted with upcoming sessions. Dr. Clement made the suggestion that she and Kelly continue to see each other separately in order to keep the therapy progressing.

“So, tell me Kelly,” Dr. Clement began. “How are things going lately with you and Alex?”

“It’s becoming more and more difficult. Alex seems to be getting worse, doctor. He’s becoming more distant, acting differently. He’s been so guarded and cold.”

“How has he been distant? Can you describe his behavior?”

“We don’t communicate at all like we used to. We used to talk about everything—but now he’s quiet and very reserved. He doesn’t talk about how his day went. After work he used to sit down on the couch, relax, and go into detail about his workday. He’d ask me about mine, too. Now he just sits silently watching TV. When I try to talk to him, all he gives me are yes or no answers and no eye contact.”

“What about dates? Do you two ever go out? To dinner, movies, things like that?”

“No, not anymore. Whenever I suggest going out he changes the subject—says he’s busy or just doesn’t feel like it. When he’s not working, he spends his time somewhere else. He claims he’s at the bowling alley or the pool hall with Nick, one of his friends. I drive by, you know, to see if his car is there.”

“And is his car there?”

“Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.”

“So, you spy on him, Kelly?”

“It’s not spying, really… I just—I just want to know what’s going on. You understand.”

“Do you ever follow Alex without him knowing it?”

Kelly paused briefly. 

“Yes, I do. I don’t do it all the time, though. It’s just that his behavior is so suspicious. I don’t trust him anymore. It seems he’s been keeping secrets.”

“Are you positive about that?”

“I think so. I just need more information to be sure.”

Alex Stone: Session 3 

(four days later)

“So, Alex, tell me about your relationship with Kelly. How are things going with you two lately?”

“Things have been strange, Dr. Clement.”

“Strange?”

  “Yeah. Kelly’s been acting so controlling. She’s been really infatuated with me, maybe to the point of obsession. She demands to know everything I’m doing, all the time. When I’m not home, she calls and texts me every hour demanding to know where I am and who I’m with. Sometimes I even think she follows me around. I don’t know—maybe it’s just a feeling.”

“I see. She wasn’t like this from the beginning?”

“Not at all. She was normal at first.”

“Tell me again about how the two of you met.”

Alex got comfortable in the leather chair as he faced Dr. Clement. 

“It was seven months ago. I was downtown at the Coffee Nook, having an iced coffee outdoors on the patio. The weather was warm. I looked up from my table and saw her sitting at the table directly in front of me drinking tea. There she was, smiling. I started a conversation and we hit it off from there.”

“When did Kelly start to change? Become ‘obsessed’ as you say?”

“She was great in the beginning, so fun and lively. We did everything together. But about a month or so ago things started to get weird.”

“Is this why you haven’t been communicating with Kelly?”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“You say things are weird. How?”

“Dr. Clement… can I tell you something? Something that may seem bizarre?”

“Feel free to tell me anything, Alex.”

“Alright. Things are weird, like… the sun doesn’t feel the same anymore. And I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean this literally. It’s like a part of me is lost—like something’s missing.”

“What do you mean by ‘missing’?”

“It’s difficult to explain.”

“Tell me about the sun. How does it feel different?”

“It seems hotter. Light in general is hotter.” 

Alex paused, struggling to find his words. 

“Doctor, I want to show you something. I want to see if you can explain this.”

Alex got up from the chair and stepped in front of Dr. Clement’s desk. A small lamp sat on it attached to a crème colored shade, the light on. Alex put his hand underneath the lamp. 

“Look—what do you see?”

 Dr. Clement leaned over to inspect Alex’s hand. 

“Is something wrong with your skin?” Dr. Clement asked.

“No, I mean what do you not see? Look at the desk underneath my hand.”

Dr. Clement examined the desk just under Alex’s hand. 

Alex removed his hand from underneath the lamp shade and grabbed Dr. Clement’s Liberty Bell paperweight from the desk—it was about five inches high and weighed about a pound. He held it beneath the lamp. 

“Now look again,” Alex said. “On the desk”.

Dr. Clement saw the plainly visible shadow of the paperweight on the desk’s surface—it cast an oblong dark shape on the brown oak. But that was the only shadow present. The shadow of Alex’s hand and forearm was absent. 

Dr. Clement stood up. She put her own hand beneath the lamp shade and her shadow appeared. Perhaps there was something wrong with the lighting in her office. She walked to the center of the room and inspected the light fixture on the ceiling, looking to the desk and floor for shadows. Dr. Clement’s shadow appeared on the floor but Alex’s body cast no shadow at all.

Kelly Dixon: Session 4 

(four days later)

“Kelly, can you tell me again about the day you and Alex met?” Dr. Clement asked from behind her desk, pen in hand.

“Alright… I remember I was having tea at Coffee Nook on the outdoor patio. Alex was sitting at the table in front of me. We started talking and we got along great. We ended up meeting a few days later for dinner.”

“How was the relationship at the beginning?”

“Wonderful. We did everything together: movies, the park, just everything. We got an apartment together three months after we met. But about a month ago, Alex started to change. He started hanging around Nick more often—Nick’s real shady, he even looks it. He’s got those shifty eyes. Alex says he’s with Nick all the time, but he’s not.”

 “Why do you think that?”

“Sometimes Alex comes home smelling like perfume. I know Nick doesn’t wear any perfume and that really bothers me.”

“Did you ever confront Alex about the perfume?”

“Yes. He said it just comes from the bar—women wear perfume in bars and it just gets in his clothes.”

“Do you believe him?”

“No. I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I know exactly where the scent comes from.”

“Where?”

“I’ve seen him with a woman. In fact, he’s been in her company a lot. She’s a little older than him, but she’s pretty.”

“Who is she?”

“She’s the owner of some dusty old antique shop on Main Street. You know, relics and old books—things like that. It’s called Marcia’s Vintages.”

“Are you sure the perfume comes from her?”

“I’m positive. It smells like lilac. I followed Alex the other day to Marcia’s store.”

“And what did you see?”

“Alex went inside the shop. He stayed for maybe an hour and then he left. After that, he came home smelling like that perfume.”

“How do you know that Marcia is older than Alex? When did you see her?”

“I went inside the store the next day, pretending I was a customer. She asked if she could help me. I told her I was just looking around, and I asked if she was the owner of the place. She said she was. When I got close to her, I smelled the same lilac perfume that Alex comes home with on his clothes.”

Alex Stone: Session 4 

(three days later)

“Alex, I’ve been researching your ‘condition’ as it were. It’s simply uncanny that you cast no shadow. I’ve never seen or heard of such a thing and have no explanation for it. However, just because I can’t explain it doesn’t mean there isn’t some scientific reason that could explain why light interacts with your body in a different way. I think it would be more proper for a physicist to attempt to understand it rather than myself.”

“Have you told anyone else?”

“No, Alex. I hold all of the information you tell me in the strictest confidence. It is an anomaly, and that is all I can say.” 

“Dr. Clement, I have to tell you something.”

“Feel free, Alex. That’s what I’m here for. ”

“It’s going to sound crazy.”

“That’s okay.”

“Alright, I’ll do my best to explain.”

“Please do.”

“I think there’s something wrong with Kelly.”

“Wrong? Because you believe she’s obsessed with you?”

“That’s part of it. It’s just that sometimes… she’s not there.”

“Is she acting distant?”

  “I don’t mean mentally. I mean sometimes she’s not there.”

“How so?”

“It’s that sometimes I look at her when she’s sleeping next to me and she suddenly becomes transparent. Literally, like a ghost. It’s like I can see the pillow and sheets underneath her, but through her. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks in the dark. But no—she really fades away like she’s disappearing, turning invisible. I know that it sounds insane.”

“Alex, I’m sure it’s your eyes playing tricks on you.”

“That’s what I thought—at least at first—but it’s happened more than once now in broad daylight. One time she was standing by the window, staring out toward the street, when she slowly began to vanish. I could see the buildings and cars outside right through her. Then, she disappeared entirely. I freaked out and left the apartment for an hour. I just had to get out, compose myself. When I came back, Kelly was there in the apartment, just like before. I asked if she had noticed anything weird. She said she didn’t remember me leaving. I guess she had experienced missing time.”

Dr. Clement took notes on everything Alex said, but none of it made any sense. Either Alex was fabricating the whole tale, or he was out of his mind. The fact that Alex had no shadow was just as absurd, but that she had seen herself. Despite the irrationality of it all, Dr. Clement had to get back to the relationship issues.

“I’d like to get back to your relationship with Kelly, Alex. Can I ask you something and will you answer honestly?”

“Yes.” 

“Do you always go out with Nick to the bowling alley, or to the pool hall, when you say you do?”

Alex took a moment to answer.

 “No—not all the time.”

“I see. Do you lie to Kelly when you say you’re out doing these things?”

“Yeah, I do, but only sometimes.”

“When do you lie?”

“When I go to see Marcia.”

“Who’s Marcia?”

“Someone I met a few weeks ago.”

“Are you dating Marcia?”

“No, she’s a friend. I just talk to her.”

“What do you two talk about?”

“About Kelly.”

“Kelly? What about her?”

“We talk about what I just told you—about Kelly becoming like a ghost and disappearing. I wanted to know if I was seeing things… so I went to libraries, searched the internet, read up on eye diseases and psychological problems that could cause what I thought I saw. Nothing helped. And no, doctor, I’m not on any hallucinogens. Then one day, I spotted Marcia’s Vintages, an antiques shop. The sign said it had old books, so I went inside to look, just out of curiosity.”

“Did the store have what you were looking for?”

“I went through a small section of old dusty books, but didn’t find anything. I ended up in a conversation with Marcia, the owner. She seemed like a deep person, so I ended up explaining to her my situation with Kelly, little by little. My story fascinated her, so she started helping me do research, and I kept coming back to learn what she had found.”

“And what did she find?”

“A book called Shadows, Ether, and Consciousness.

“I see… Did you buy it?”

“No, it was super old and too expensive. But I read it.”

“What did you learn from the book?”

“A lot. Everything of importance was in chapter seven.”

Later that evening

After her session with Alex, Dr. Clement couldn’t put the unsettling couple out of her mind. Following a small dinner at home, she informed her husband that she was going out to take a stroll in Ravensgate Park to get some fresh night air and think. 

Alex Stone cast no shadow; this she knew for a fact. But still, his story about Kelly was so utterly impossible—she had to investigate further. Alex claimed that this book he read at the antiques shop was extremely rare—if it was real, she wanted to have a look at it. Dr. Clement stepped out of the park onto Main Street and began to look for Marcia’s Vintages.

The hanging bell on the door jingled as Dr. Clement stepped into the poorly lit shop. Dust layered the shelves with old books, antiques and other odds and ends. The rickety floor creaked underfoot and the place reeked of perfume; the very same lilac scent Kelly said Alex smelled like when he came home. If anyone spent more than ten minutes in the store their clothes would become saturated with it.

“Hello there,” came a woman’s voice. Dr. Clement turned toward the front counter. She assumed this was Marcia sitting behind the counter, reading a magazine and drinking a glass of wine. Her skin was pasty white, and her long, sandy-blonde hair stopped right at the small of her back. She had the greenest of green eyes and was pretty, just like Kelly had said.

“Hello,” replied Dr. Clement. 

“Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. I’m looking for a book called Shadows, Ether, and Consciousness.”

An expression of curiosity appeared on Marcia’s face. “Any reason why that book interests you?” she asked. 

“I’ve heard a lot about it, that’s all.”

“I see. Wait just a moment.” 

Marcia stepped into a back room and seconds later returned with a thick, hardcover black book, its binding worn with age. 

“You’re in luck, I happen to have a copy of this antique book on hand.”

“May I see it?” Dr. Clement asked.

Marcia set the volume on the counter and opened it. Dr. Clement spied the ink drawings on some of the old yellowed pages.

“When was it written?” Dr. Clement asked.

“Almost two hundred years ago—by Vladimir Kolov, a Russian alchemist.”

“Alchemist?”

“Alchemy was the precursor to chemistry. It’s an ancient discipline that was a blend of supernatural and scientific elements of nature. Kolov was also an expert in the occult realm of consciousness and sentience.”

Marcia noticed that Dr. Clement turned right to chapter seven. “You must be Dr. Clement,” Marcia said. 

The doctor looked up at her. “Alex told you about me.”

“Yes. That chapter will interest you most,” Marcia said. “It’s about how, sometimes, we think things do not have consciousness when actually they do.”

Kelly Dixon: Session 5 (two days later)

“Kelly, can I ask you something?”  Dr. Clement asked.

“Sure.”

“Have you been experiencing missing time?’

“Alex told you about that?”

“He did. I think it’s an important issue and it should be looked into.”

Kelly fidgeted in the leather chair. “I have been missing time,” she said uneasily. “It’s kind of scary.”

“Will you tell me about it?”

“Well, sometimes I’ll be doing something, washing dishes or watching TV, and the next thing I know I feel weird—like, really sleepy. Next thing I know I’m waking up from a deep sleep, but in a different location than I was before. I feel like I’ve just had a dream that I can’t remember. I look at the clock and maybe a half hour or even an hour has passed.”

“What do you think is going on when that happens?”

“Maybe I have narcolepsy. Or, maybe I’m being drugged. I wonder if perhaps Alex slipped me something. You don’t think he’d do something like that, do you?”

“I suppose anything is possible, but I don’t think he’d do that. We need to know what’s been happening during the missing time—and why you can’t remember. If we can figure that out, then maybe we will get a better picture of what’s happening with you and Alex. Have you heard of hypnotherapy, Kelly?”

“Yes. Why? You’re not thinking about hypnotizing me…”

“It might be a good idea to put you under hypnosis—we may be able to get to the root of your missing time this way.”

“Do you really think it will help?”

“It has helped many others in the past, and there’s a very good possibility it could help you. Your subconscious records everything, even if your conscious mind doesn’t remember it. I’d be willing to extend our time together free of charge tomorrow night, and cancel my other appointments. If you’ll agree, I’d like to put you under hypnosis and audio record our session. And, perhaps we should have Alex present. Would you be up for that?”

Kelly felt scared to be put in such a vulnerable situation, but she desperately wanted to know what was happening to her during her missing time episodes. 

“Okay; I’ll do it.”

Kelly Dixon, Alex Stone: The Final Session

Together, Alex and Kelly walked into Dr. Clement’s office and sat in the twin leather chairs in front of the doctor’s desk.

“How do you feel tonight, Kelly?” Dr. Clement asked.

“I’m a little nervous. I’ve never done this before.”

“I assure you—hypnotherapy is common practice these days. Everything will be fine. I’m here, Alex is here, and we have the digital recorder running so you can listen to the session afterward.”

“That makes me feel a little better.” 

“I promise you’ll be fine. So, are we ready?” 

Kelly and Alex nodded. 

“Alright, I’m going to have you lay down on the couch over here,” Dr. Clement said, as she directed Kelly toward the back of the room. Alex and Dr. Clement each took a chair facing Kelly while she tried to get comfortable.

Dr. Clement spoke softly and steadily for three minutes, soothing Kelly’s mental state. Kelly’s muscles became less tense by the second until she felt like jelly, relaxed and limber. Dr. Clement counted backward from ten until Kelly finally closed her eyes and was, as Dr. Clement called it, “under.”

“Kelly, can you hear me?” Dr. Clement asked.

“Yes,” Kelly replied softly.

“Good. Now stay relaxed as you follow my instructions. I want you to think back to an occasion when you were in your apartment. You had just realized that you were missing time. Tell me what’s happening?”

“I feel really weird. The clock says it is 11:37, but it was 10:40 the last time I looked, and the last time I looked felt like only seconds ago.”

“Is it day or night?”

“Night.”

“Now, I want you to go back just a little further. Go back and see what was happening during the time you believed was missing. Because it’s not missing; you were there and you remember it. You just have to find it.”

Kelly said nothing for a few moments, her consciousness searching for the hidden data. 

“What’s happening now, Kelly?”

“I’m not sure. I’m not in my apartment anymore. I was there a second ago.”

“Where are you?”

Kelly paused, an expression of deep thought on her face.

“I’m with Alex. I’m following him.”

 “Where is Alex going?”

“He’s at the old, dusty antique shop, Marcia’s Vintages.”

“What is Alex doing there?”

“He’s talking to her—Marcia—and the two of them are looking at a book, a really old book. She’s behind the counter and he’s standing in front of the counter. They’re talking about the book and… about me.”

“What are they saying?”

“They’re saying that I’m not what I appear to be… they say I’m not a person.”

“But you are a person,” Dr. Clement said.

“I know… I am a person,” Kelly whimpered.

“What else are they saying?”

“They’re saying I’m not a real person. Why are they saying that?” Kelly sobbed.

“Listen to them. Why are they saying you’re not a person?”

“It’s because of that book they’re reading, that stupid book full of lies.”

“Kelly, can we change topics for just a moment? I want you to tell me about your parents.”

Kelly paused. Small tears began to form under her closed eyelids.

“I don’t remember them.”

“Try Kelly, go back and remember your mother and father.”

“I don’t… I can’t.”

“You told Alex that their names were Robert and Janet Dixon. Why did you tell him that?”

“Because I wanted Alex to think I was normal—that I knew my parents.”

“If you didn’t know your parents, who raised you?”

“No one raised me.”

“What elementary school did you attend?”

“I didn’t attend elementary school.”

  “Then just tell me your earliest memories, whatever they may be.”

Kelly sniffled, searching the recesses of her psyche. Silently, a tear slid down her cheek.

“I’m spending time with Alex.”

“You knew Alex as far back as you can remember?”

“Yes, I was with him then.”

“Didn’t you meet Alex seven months ago?”

“No. I’ve always been with him.”

“You remember Alex, but can’t remember your parents?”

“Because… I don’t have parents.”

“Why don’t you have parents? If you don’t have parents, how did you get here?”

“I’m here because of Alex. I’ve been with Alex since he was born.” 

“Since he was born?”

“I grew up with him.”

“How is that possible, Kelly?”

 “I was with him all through his childhood. I knew all of his friends. I was even there when he graduated high school. It was then, when he went to prom with Tammy Harris, that I realized I loved him. It hurt to see them together. I could see in his eyes what he felt for her. It made me jealous. Why her when I was with him first? I was the one who was with him through the anguish when his mother died. I was there with him for all his birthdays. I was with him through all the bad times and the good. For years I felt this way. It wasn’t until seven months ago that I became a person—I mean a real girl.”

A real girl? Who are you, Kelly?”

“I’m Alex’s shadow. That’s why he doesn’t have one.”

Dr. Clement was stunned but her theory was confirmed, as ludicrous as it sounded. After reading Shadows, Ether, and Consciousness, and talking to Marcia, Dr. Clement had taken a chance on the possibility that such things were real. She surmised, along with Alex and Marcia, that Kelly’s fading away and missing time were connected to Alex’s missing shadow. 

Vladimir Kolov had been right—we believe that some things aren’t alive, or don’t have intelligence, or can feel. But in reality, they can. Our shadows are not just the silhouettes they appear to be, but sentient entities that exist in an almost sleep-like state. These beings are with us since birth, like companions. And sometimes, just sometimes, a shadow may spring into existence as a physical creature. But only something powerful enough can cause that phenomenon to manifest. In this case, it was love.

This is why Alex casts no shadow. His shadow became Kelly. And whenever she experienced stress or sadness due to the problems in her relationship with Alex, she momentarily disappeared or reverted to her original state to be close to him. When she physically reappeared, she didn’t remember it.

Kelly lay on the couch, crying. That was enough. It was time for Dr. Clement to wake her. 

“When you awaken, Kelly, you will remember everything. Understand?” 

Kelly nodded and Dr. Clement counted backward from ten, then snapped her fingers. Kelly’s watery eyes opened and she sat up at the edge of the sofa. She looked solemnly at her boyfriend as he reached out and grasped her hand. 

“Hi, honey,” Alex said.

“I’m sorry, Alex,” she said. “I never meant for any of this to happen. I don’t know how I became alive. I just did.” 

“It’s because you love me. There’s no need to be sorry. No one’s blaming you for anything. And I love you, too.”

“But I’m not real, Alex.”

“That’s not true. You are real. I’m touching you right now.”

“I didn’t know what I was—what I am. But now that I know, I know what I have to do. I don’t belong here.” 

Kelly’s hand began to loosen from Alex’s grip. Her delicate fingers began to slowly disappear. 

“Wait,” Alex said in desperation. “You don’t have to leave. We can work around this. You’re still the girl I met at the Coffee Nook. You’re still my Kelly.”

Kelly’s face and body gradually began to fade away. 

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m your shadow,” Kelly said through a forced smile, a tear running down her cheek. She leaned forward and lightly kissed Alex’s lips. 

“Don’t be sad, sweetheart,” Kelly said. “I’ll always be around.” 

Within seconds Kelly disappeared from the sofa and Alex’s shadow appeared on the floor beneath him.

Copyright  © Abel Ramirez

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1 thought on “I’ll Always Be Around

  1. One of my favorite stories! Evocative, masterfully crafted, beautifully written poignant love story.

    Like

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