"… relaxed… almost sleeping… relaxed… and sound… sound… asleep."

"Can you her me, Marcy?"

"Yes."

"Do you know where you are?"

"Elevator."

"That's right. You are back in your own private elevator ready for bed. In just a moment the doors are going to open and you will step out into your room. The bed will be waiting, all turned down, with freshly laundered sheets. Are you ready?"

"Yes."

"The doors are opening. You're stepping out."

The room was just as she had left it, except her bed was made, its covers folded back like a table napkin. The sheets looked so inviting she could barely wait to nestle in between them. A pleasant breeze lilted in through the open window, dancing with the curtains.

"You're walking to your bed. Are you there?"

"Yes."

"In you go. And when I count three, you'll be fast asleep. Your sleep will last for five full minutes, during which time you will dream. It will be a dream about your earlier life, before you came to St. Francis. Your family will be there and you may talk to them. When the dream has ended, you will open your eyes. You'll be sitting in my office. You will feel fresh and rested and wide awake. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"One… Two… Three."

The Miniature Man sat in a rocking chair, his features lit diffusively by the crackling embers in a makeshift stove and by the massive drip candle flickering light and shadow over his ever-whittling hands. Beyond these humble aureoles the wondrous paraphernalia in the room was lost to darkness. Marcy, therefore, picked her way with caution. She felt her presence had been noted, even though the eccentric little man had not looked up. There was an empty chair beside him, plainly set for her to sit in—which she did.

There seemed no hurry. The man rocked slowly, easily. Marcy found the rocking's gentle cadence soothing. She waited calmly for the conversation (if there was indeed to be one) to begin.

Been a while, young Miss.

His voice blended so well with the rocker's steady creaking it was barely audible. Remembering then the peculiar requisite for making cordial speech, Marcy answered silently.

I've tried to visit but I can never seem to find you on my own.

You'll find me whenever it's necessary.

Is that true?

The old man glanced at her out of the corner of his monocled eye. He nodded with his brows.

How long can you stay?

Five minutes.

His rocking halted.

Five minutes! That's criminal, ridiculous, absolutely aggravating! It's that worry-wrinkled nun again, isn't it? She brought you.

Yes.

His rocking resumed at an accelerated clip.

Stingy, grasping, over-protective, religious fana…

He broke off the tirade, slowed his chair.

Well, nothing to be done. Might as well get on with it.

On with what?

Give you what you've come for.

But I haven't come for any…

Of course you have. Still don't know yourself very well, do you?

He put aside the piece of wood on which he was working and began searching his pockets.

It's here somewhere… Stuck it in just… Ah ha, found it.

His hand came from inside his flannel vest in a tight-closed fist, knobby knuckles bulging, veins stretched smooth. The image of the old man's first gift flashed through Marcy's mind. How had he known about the man in white? More pressing, though, was her discovering what the outstretched hand concealed. Its burnished palm turned upward, fingers gracefully uncurling, until another perfect carving was revealed.

Marcy recognized the form. There, in every minuscule detail, was Sister Dana.

As she reached for it, however, he closed his hand.

A poisoned pawn.

What's that?

Ask the paleface King.

Who?

The new patient.

He chuckled. Marcy's look was still perplexed.

That anemic-looking fellow you've been hiding from for the last two weeks—without, I might add, the least regard for my advice! Of course you'll do what you will do. But he's the one to ask about the poisoned pawn.

But I'm scared of him. I see him walking around the grounds late at night like a ghost. He looks blind. I know he sees, though. He sees me. He always does. No matter how I try to look without him noticing, he turns and stares right at me. It's spooky, the way he drifts around, never making a sound, always by himself—white and thin and moonlit and always knowing where I'm hiding; knowing though I haven't even dared to peek, changing his direction, coming toward me, closer, closer!

Wide awake, Marcy sat in Sister Zoe's office. Her momentary panic vanished. But all the images remained. She braced herself for Sister's questions. What to tell, what to keep unanswered?

"Did you see something, Marcy, that frightened you?"

Once again the patient had defied suggestions, awakening on her own volition.

"Yes, Sister. Sort of, I mean. I saw that boy in white."

Did she mean Julian? The nun was mystified. And intrigued.

"Can you describe him?"

"You know. The one who always wears those spooky sunglasses."

So she had seen him. Not surprising; Julian was very hard to miss. But his appearing in the girl's subconscious was most perplexing.

"Have you two met?"

Now was her chance to tell Sister about the carving and the Miniature Man knowing things, and about the carving of Sister Dana, too, and to ask about the poisoned pawn. But she was not supposed to ask Sister that. And besides she did not feel like telling. She was tired.

"I'm tired. May I go back to my room now?"

Sister Zoe thought it best not to press too hard. Further questions, for the moment, would have to wait.

 

The knocks on...

back to Table of Contents

back one
currydoglit