…or so I thought.

My last post comes under the title “Chapter 6 is finished!” I should have known better than to use such a proclamation prematurely. I say this because as I was reading the chapter to find the right pick-up for the next one, I realized that the characters had conspired against me behind my back. They didn’t just ask nicely but yelled at me and swore! They implored and beseeched me to listen to them. They would not listen to my explanations and rationalizations. Not even when I reminded them that I was the author and they just figments of my imagination.

So I had to re-write Chapter 6 with far reaching consequences for how the plot evolves. Silently and only to myself I am forced to admit that they were right. The story is more compelling, characters more convincing and believable and, in short, it’s a definite improvement to what I had planned originally.

I present you with the final pages of Chapter 6, after the re-write. We see Raoul as he returns to his living quarters in the seminary after having learned some disturbing news from a former friend of his, Sami (you may want to read the previous post for the beginning of Chapter 6).

Would love to hear what you think.

Doused in the warm, dancing glow of the fireplace, he saw the shape of Reverend Francis McCormick occupying one of the two leather armchairs set at an angle in front of the fire.

“Coming back from a late night prayer, I presume?” said the Reverend with a sparkle in his eyes and a smile playing around his mouth. Even if he had wanted it, he could not have belied his Irish stock. What hair still was left had regrouped in unruly grey bushels around  his ears. His ample belly and full, rosy cheeks testified of a generally appreciative attitude toward life’s culinary pleasures. A bottle of Irish single malt and a glass apparently had been keeping him company already for the better part of the evening.

“You know me too well, Father,” replied Raoul and reciprocated the good-natured bit of banter.

“Sit down and keep me company, Raoul, there’s still some whiskey left. If we don’t drink it now, who knows what will become of it,” the Reverend said and indicated the empty chair. Raoul got himself a glass from the serving tray, poured two fingers of the amber liquid and sat down. As he took a mouthful and felt it warm his throat on its way down, he started to relax for the first time this whole day. “There’s no point in taking worries to bed, my son, they don’t make for good bed companions. Want to tell me what’s on your mind?”

Raoul looked up at the heavy wooden beams supporting the ceiling above and considered how to begin. “It was you, Father, who suggested I go out into the community and help out in at our counselling service.”

The older clergy nodded, “You have a major in psychology and you grew up in a difficult area yourself. It made you truly care for these people, and they feel it, they trust you. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make, Raoul. And from what I hear, you’re doing quite well.”

“So you know how to take it when I say I am deeply worried about something that is nothing more than my gut feeling. Something bad is happening out there, whose effect I see reflected in my clients. Something which I can’t put my finger on just yet.” He stopped, unsure of how much and what to say further.

Father McCormick looked intently at his student and remained silent. From long years of listening to other people, he knew that silence is frequently the most direct route to learning the truth. After a while, Raoul continued, “In the past week I have had three clients who reported episodes of complete schizophrenic detachment, during which they experienced two different realities simultaneously. This state was so intense that they really didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. All three experienced scenes from some earlier time in their lives, scenes that are charged with strong emotions.

I did not attribute a lot of importance to this until I met a student by chance who is doing her PhD research in the area of neuro-biology. She had recorded this kind of dual reality state in a dog. She’s got it on tape, for God’s sage!”

“Please watch your language, Raoul. We do not speak the name of the Lord in vain.”

 “I am sorry, Father,” Raoul apologized and took another mouthful of the whiskey. There was more silence from the older priest who had sat up straighter and was still fixating Raoul intently.

“And you’ve been to see her? Is that where you’ve spent your evening?”

“No. I suspect there is a vicious, new kind of psychoactive drug fresh out of some drug lab hitting the streets. That’s why I went to see an old acquaintance from my former life. He is a bit of a figure in the drug world. I went to see him because if anyone knows if there is any substance to this, it’s him.”

“From the weight of your steps entering this room I suspect it wasn’t anything good, was it?”

Raoul heaved a sigh, “You’re right, Father, it wasn’t. He has seen it too.”

 Father McCormick nodded, following his own train of thoughts. Eventually he asked, “And what is his professional opinion?”

“He hadn’t heard of any new drug, and he ought to know  if there were any. However, what’s even more disturbing is that when I asked him, he said there were several incidents he knows of, just like the one my clients described. They had happened within the last week or two. Nothing before.”

“Your actions show how deeply you care for the sick and poor, my son. But I think you may be moved to premature conclusions. Don’t forget that you are dealing with drug ridden minds who can be pretty irrational at the best of times.”

“Of course, but what about that lab dog? That doesn’t jibe with the drug theory.”

“Who knows, Raoul? It might be bogus research data, a software glitch in the analysis algorithm, maybe that student is trying to attract your attention and making it all up? I can think of many possible explanations.”

Raoul listened to the crackling of the fire and watched the twitching flames as they danced over the burning logs. With one big gulp he emptied his glass. “I would agree with you, Father, had I not experienced that state myself only yesterday.” With that, he got up and left.

Father McCormick remained seated. He put the still half full glass down and stared motionless into the fireplace. A long time later, when the flames had already collapsed to a bed of ash and embers, he got up and left the room, too.

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