"Mr. Greene?"The doctor's voice seemed cordial enough as he stood there at the door. I don't know what I had really expected a psychologist to sound like. Perhaps he should have had an Austrian accent. Who knows what makes us make the assumptions we grab on to?
"Right here," I answered, getting out of my chair. I crossed the small waiting room and shook his hand.
"This way," he told me with a gesture. "I'm Dr. Lockstadt. My office is the one at the end of the hall."
I followed without saying anything more. The room he led me to was comfortable, painted in muted tones of green and tan. The chairs were leather covered and of some dark wood. There was, of course, the obligatory couch against one wall. "Is that for me?" I asked, almost teasing.
"Only if you want it," the doctor answered back with the same sense of fun.
I decided I liked him.
"What brings you to me?" he began. "I read on the primary sheet you filled out that you're being bothered by recurrent dreams?"
"Well, why don't we jump right into it. Can you tell me about these dreams?"
"Sure," I began, "as long as you don't take me straight to the looney bin." I cleared my throat. "The dreams are always different, yet they are always the same. It's like there is a whole 'nother life that I'm living in these dreams."
"Are they filled with familiar things?"
I shook my head. "No. Almost everything is different. In these dreams I'm not a salesman at all. I'm an artist. I paint."
"Perhaps this is an interest you never explored. Have you ever wanted to paint?"
"No," I answered. "I can't draw stick figures. But it gets more and more bizarre. The worst of it is, in the dreams, I'm gay and..."
Lockstadt broke in: "And you are heterosexual?"
"Sure. Been married for ten years. Two kids. Mortgage, two-car garage... the whole package."
"Oh, being gay isn't even the most nuts part of it, doc." I took a deep breath. "In this dream, I'm an amputee!"
The shrink didn't bat an eye. "May I ask if you are a devotee?"
"It's a term we use for people who are attracted to amputees. For instance, when you see a person with a missing limb do you ever want to follow them and see how they get along with their disability?"
I shook my head. "No. That's what's got me so unnerved. I see people like that and I get the willies."
"So, what happens in this life?" he asked, lighting his briarwood pipe.
"An endless variety of things," I began. "In my dreams it's always the same. My left leg has been cut off about mid-thigh." I demonstrated by placing my hand perpendicular to my leg at the appropriate height. "A couple of days ago, I went to the prosthetics shop to have a new leg made."
"You do not wear a leg in your dreams?"
"Yeah, I do. I guess it was time to have a new one made for some reason. Anyway, I went in and they stripped me down to my shorts and had me stand on this thing that had crutches mounted to it. These guys took all kind of measurements. When they were done with that, they coated what was left of my leg with vaseline and then smeared plaster all over it. When it was dry, they pulled the plaster free and told me to come back next week. Is all that nuts, or what?"
"Not at all," Lockstadt mused. "You have very accurately described the process whereby an above knee amputee is fitted for a prosthesis. The stump measurements are taken exactly as you describe. Have you ever seen this done, or read about it?"
"Interesting. You mention being gay in these dreams. Do you have a lover?"
I blushed. "Apparently. There's this guy who's always there. His name is Gary and he seems to adore me." My blush deepened.
"This is embarrassing as hell, doc." He just nodded to continue. "He makes love to me before we go to sleep almost every night. He spends all sorts of time kissing and caressing my... my..."
"Yeah. How crazy is that?"
"He is obviously a devotee. There is no great mystery in anything you are telling me." He paused. "No mystery beyond why a person with no interest or knowledge of these things should dream of them repeatedly."
"Pretty nuts, eh?"
"No, just interesting." He puffed another time or two before continuing. "Might I ask you to come back tomorrow morning? I have a colleague who deals with amputee attraction and the related issues. I'd like to consult with him."
I agreed. Just as I was walking out, Dr. Lockstadt stopped me. "One last thing. Have you ever had the desire to become an amputee? To lose a leg?"
I gave a single weak chuckle. "Not very likely," I told him. "That would be nuts!"
As I drove home all I could do was to think of the details of the previous night's dream. In it I had not worked much, but rather had spent most of the day crutching about the apartment apparently doing house work. When Gary had arrived home he'd brought supper with him... Chinese carry-out. What the hell is this? I don't even like Chinese!
Gary asked me if my leg were any better, and I told no, but the new one ought to be ready in a couple of days.
Tenderly, he unwrapped the light ace bandage I was wearing on the stump. As I sat on the couch, he massaged the fragment and rubbed some sort of ointment on it. How fucking strange! I remember how good that felt!
I got the willies all over again and almost had a wreck! Damn! That's all I need... to make this nightmare world real!
The evening dragged on. Marilyn made spaghetti and meatballs, we ate, and I helped Bobby with his history homework. I didn't say anything about the craziness of the day. Heck, I hadn't shared a word of the entire madness with her. No use everyone in the house being upset!
I watched CSI, then the local news, and stayed up to catch Letterman. The house was quiet. I, however, was determined not to fall asleep. I didn't know if I could take another night of these dreams. Besides, the doctor was going to see me again in the morning. Perhaps he could explain it away.
Just after midnight, something strange began to happen. Like a curtain being drawn on a stage play, it seemed that darkness was slowly enveloping everything. I started to get up, but found myself powerless before the onslaught.
Then it was all black.
**********Danny Greene slowly awakened. Idly, he scratch the stump of his leg; the spot near the scar that always seemed to itch in the mornings. He rolled over and kissed Gary good morning.
Another day had begun.