“So you often find yourself on this galloping horse.”
“Every time I’m asleep, Doctor. It’s terrifying.”
The Psychiatrist’s office was what you would expect. His desk was near the window. It and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to the right were crafted from pink ivory. The desktop was immaculate. The calendar, clock, pen set all precisely and strategically placed. There was no excess spaces for additional books on the shelves, which contained tomes with arcane and erudite titles, and nearly all of them appeared worn and well-used.
The floor was a darker wood dominated by a large persian rug in the center. In the center of the rug were two Victorian era chairs facing each other. The woman sat in the one with its back to the desk and the window and the Psychiatrist was in the opposite chair, his back to the door. A lamp on the desk and one standing by the door provided the only illumination.
“You do not like horse rides, Miss Taylor.”
“It’s always running too fast. I can’t stop it. I’m out of control.”
“Remember, here in my office you are safe. We are simply having a quiet conversation. You have nothing to fear.”
“Yes, Doctor. We’re just having a conversation.”
“Tell me, Miss Taylor. What sort of horse are you on?”
She smiled for a moment as if she remembered something happy. “Appaloosa. I can see the spots, brown spots on a white coat. It was my favorite when I was little. I used to pretend I was part appaloosa because of all my freckles.
He studied her face which still bore those freckles, dark brown spots against lighter mocha skin. Her eyes had been closed for the past five minutes. She could see the horse. Then her smile vanished.
“It’s going too fast, Doctor. I can’t stop it. Any second I’m going to fall off. Help me.”
“Do you have the reins in your hands, Miss Taylor?”
“Yes, but I pull and pull and the horse keeps going faster and faster. I don’t know how much longer I can hang on.”
“You can stay on your beloved appaloosa a little while longer child, but please stop pulling the reins.”
“What do I do? I’m going to fall.”
“Make sure the left rein is in your left hand and the right rein is in your right hand.”
“Yes, they are, Doctor. Hurry. What do I need to do?”
She was clenching her fists as if she were holding the reins.
“Gently pull back on the left rein while pressing the inside of your right leg against the horse’s side.”
“We’re turning left but we’re not slowing down.”
“Yes, that’s fine, Miss Taylor. Now return your left hand to its original position, then pull gently on the right rein while pressing your left leg against the horse’s side.”
“Now we’re going right.”
“Very good. Which direction do you want to go in now, Miss Taylor?”
“I want to stop the horse, Doctor.”
“Yes, of course. I understand completely. However, you must choose a direction to go in. By now the horse must have taken you far from home.”
“It has. I think I’m lost.”
“Which direction do you want to go in, Miss Taylor.”
She paused. Eyes still closed, the Psychiatrist knew she was looking around, trying to see which way she should go.
“Right. If we keep turning right, we’ll turn back toward home.”
“You already know how to turn the horse, Miss Taylor.”
He watched as her right hand and left leg made subtle movements. He could picture her on the appaloosa.
“Tell me what is happening now, Miss Taylor.”
“We’re heading in the right direction but I’m still going so fast.”
“Be mindful of the terrain, Miss Taylor. Choose a course that will accommodate the velocity of your tender mount.”
“We need to turn left. There’s a steep hill straight ahead.” She moved her arms and legs so that the horse would shift direction.
“Doctor, we’re headed for some trees. We need to go more right.” The young woman changed her body position so her horse would obey her commands.
For the next half hour, the Psychiatrist listened to her describe each maneuver in which she guided her horse in order to avoid obstacles. She painted a vivid portrait of an idyllic meadow near a lush emerald forest.
“Doctor, I can see my house ahead but there’s something else.”
“What is that, Miss Taylor?”
“Teo is slowing down.”
“My horse, Doctor. His name is Teo.”
“That is a very good name for an appaloosa, Miss Taylor.”
“Thank you, Doctor. Mommy and Daddy used to take me out to the ranch every Sunday so I could ride him. I got him when I was only five.”
“How do you feel, Miss Taylor.”
“Happy. I’m in control. Teo would never let me get hurt. We’re at the corral. I have to stop and get off now, Doctor.”
“Well done, Miss Taylor. Please get off of Teo and then listen to the sound of my voice.”
“Okay, I handed the reins to Pierce. He’s one of the stable hands.”
“Take a slow deep breath, Miss Taylor. By the time you completely exhale you will be back in my office and fully awake and alert.”
She exhaled and then her eyes fluttered and opened. Then she saw the Psychiatrist and smiled.
“I really do feel better, Doctor. Thank you.”
“You are welcome, Miss Taylor. I think you will now find yourself more in control of other aspects of your life.”
He stood up and she responded to his cue. It was time to leave.
“I don’t know why, but I think I will. Thank you for all your help.”
They shook hands neither noticing the chill of each other’s flesh.
“I’m sure you can show yourself out, Miss Taylor. The night is young.”
“I can, but try saying ‘Ms. Taylor.’ Nobody says ‘Miss’ anymore.”
“Forgive me, Miss…Ms. Taylor. The habits of a lifetime.”
“Good night, Doctor.”
“Have a pleasant evening, Ms. Taylor.”
The Psychiatrist watched as she walked over to the door, opened it, and left. He secured it behind her and then strolled over to the window. After about a minute, he watched her going across the parking lot toward the street. There was a quarter moon in the sky, but he could see well in the darkness without its light.
Marishka Taylor had been referred to him because of her uncontrollable appetite. Once she started feeding, she could not seem to stop, which had unintended and horrendous consequences. An eating disorder among vampires was sometimes an affect of the desire to conquer, but it left the undead subject helpless against the tsunami of their blood lust, creating countless new members of their kind which could only increase the likelihood of them coming to the undesired attention of the living.
Fortunately, he had a great deal of experience with this sort of problem and his techniques were almost always employed successfully. Ms. Taylor would now be able to “eat normally” thanks to his help. Since he had finished with his last patient for the evening, it was time for him to think of dinner as well. Perhaps something rich in iron. He had been feeling a bit depleted lately. The attractive waitress at the coffee shop across the street was about to get off of work. Her blood smelled particularly delicious.
I wrote this for the daily writing prompt of 1 January 2018 hosted at “The Daily Post.” Today’s prompt word is Conversation.
I have a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and practiced professionally for a number of years before changing careers. In my graduate program, several classes taught the techniques of Milton H. Erickson, a psychiatrist and hypnotherapist who is considered the Father of modern hypnosis. You can read more about his work at British Hypnosis Research.
I remember the metaphor about a person on an out-of-control horse being used to describe Erickson’s technique of indirect hypnosis. When confronted with a harmful habit or repetitive behavior, most people just want it to stop, but Erickson believed it was necessary to take control of the behavior first. Thus the story of learning to turn your galloping mount this way and that, having it obey your commands before realizing at some point it has become easy to slow and then stop the horse.
I’ve read numerous case studies of Erickson’s work, none of which I can clearly recall now. However, I occasionally still get adverts in the mail for professional Ericksonian conferences, and having found one while cleaning morning, he was on my mind.
So in response to the prompt, I decided to leverage his techniques for a most unusual purpose. I included one of my vampire creations Marishka Taylor (I had to give her a last name for this story), previously seen in my Sean Becker Undead Story Series. This tale is set sometime in the past, probably the late 1970s or early 1980s (Erickson died in 1980 but my fictional Psychiatrist/vampire has probably been around for quite some time and is essentially immortal).
What would happen if a vampire, particularly one who has recently turned, could not control their blood lust and was compelled to drain each victim completely? This results in the person’s death and resurrection as a member of the undead. If this happened every night, soon a small army of vampires would be created. The more vampires there are in any given environment, the greater the likelihood of them being detected.
In the universe I’ve created, vampires are generally very careful about how they feed, only creating new vampires under very specific circumstances and otherwise leaving their prey alive and unable to remember any details of their attack. Someone like Marishka could be a very real danger to herself and her kind as well as the general human population. She would need the services of a skilled psychiatrist to help her learn self-control, but in a way where she would accept the help without necessarily giving conscious consent.
I know. A complicated explanation for such a simple conversation.