The following is an excerpt from my novel manuscript, The Vanishing, about a housepainter named Paul Christy whose wife has disappeared into what she has deemed a self-help group. Their five-year-old son has died, hit by a car as he chased seagulls across a parking lot, and Rachel Christy, reeling from grief, finds solace in the meditations taught by Roy Logos, a hypnotist guru with a fondness for firearms. The opening of the novel appeared in Narrative magazine several years ago (free registration required).
Among the comments I have received, one remark in particular highlighted the difficulty of creating a believable character who lures disciples even while employing coercive methods. As I mentioned in a previous article for the jonestown report, a reader wrote of the group leader, “Roy’s particular brand of spirituality is so abusive, it was a bit difficult to believe he would attract followers.” I replied, “Was this reader simply unaware of the nature of totalistic leaders? Or was the problem mine as a writer? Did I need to rethink my character?”
Readers may draw their own conclusions from the following scene of Logos’ Labor Day retreat at the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach. As this section opens, Los Angeles police have found no proof that Rachel even attended the event. But Paul has just obtained a set of videotapes of the retreat.
That night Paul started with the second tape, for he had been cautioned him to be careful about the part in which Roy hypnotized his audience. The video had been shot in the Queen’s Salon, the very hall Paul had entered when he drove down there, with its wood paneling and painted peacocks and neo-Egyptian columns. As it opened, Hal Logos, Roy’s adult son, was onstage, reminding the audience that tapes and literature were available in the back, while Roy sat in a throne-like chair behind him, in front of the map of the North Atlantic. Paul fast-forwarded until Roy scurried forward, dark-eyed and flushed. He adjusted the color, turning Roy green, then pink again; the man must have been sunburnt. He spoke into a cordless mic. The video was professional quality, sometimes shot from directly in front of the speaker, sometimes from the left or above; occasionally it cut to audience members laughing or wiping away tears. Through it all the spotlight followed Roy.
He said, “…the rest of them out there, apart from our fellowship. They’re lost. Some horrible bunch of medieval peasants running around in soiled leotards and codpieces at some flamin’ saint’s day festival. The priest pronounces a blessing in a dead language, then it’s off to the carnival! Where the jugglers juggle swords and clowns stilt-walk and acrobats back-flip on tightropes. And the peasants, the townspeople, the hypnotized galahs, are filled with the zeal of the so-called religious holiday into an excess of biological functions, gorging on pasties and swigging flagons of ale and shagging every fat wench they can get into.”
Laughter. CUT TO: Hal, seated behind Roy, applauding. CUT TO: a pan of the audience joining in.
“Age of Faith, my ass. Why do you think the Black Plague happened? Why do we suffer? Even children. Wars. Disease. Gulags. The Holocaust. Holodomor. The eternal question.”
Close-up of sandy-haired man, leaning forward, chin on folded knuckles, eager for the answer.
“God grieves over the ninety-seven percent of humanity that reject him, the sodomites and soda jerks and cowboys and NOW cows and phony conservatives and brain-dead liberals alike. So will you continue to associate with the lost, or will you cut yourself off from the walking dead, and attain paradise through the ancient meditation techniques which the inquisitors in every age have tried to suppress?”
There was a stir, and a camera caught a couple holding hands and nodding solemnly, their expression saying, Guy’s got a point.
“The Buddha meditated,” Roy said. “Confucius meditated. The aborigines had their Dreaming. So did Jesus, as we discussed yesterday. What do you reckon he was doing when he went off in the wilderness, getting down Mary Magdalene’s knickers?”
Roy joined in his follower’s laughter, but he said, “Right. Wasn’t that funny. I know I shock you, I rant and I rave. My late wife Izzy–most of you know she passed this summer. We’re awaiting her resurrection up in Oregon. Anyway, she always told me I get carried away. I know that. But it’s out of love. Deep inside I’m crying for all the lost souls, Beloved.”
The sorrows of this earth troubled his brow.
“Children, you’re hurting. You resent your parents, spouses who let you down. Look at the way they’ve treated you. Maybe you’ve gone through a divorce or lost a loved one. You think nobody understands. I do. I alone. Am I right?”
Everyone shouted, “YES!”
“You say, ‘Well and good, Roy, but where do we go from here?’ Funny you should ask.”
Paul fast-forwarded; Roy scurried back and forth and gestured crazily. He hit play again.
“Be still and know. Is that so hard? Four simple words lie between you and your salvation. ‘Shut up, and listen,’ to be blunt. The world fears my love. Cut yourself off from them! They try to scare you off by calling me a cult leader. Disassociate! If I’m a cult leader, I reckon that makes you lot a bunch of cult followers. Are we a cult?”
“NO!” the crowd roared.
“This’ll surprise you. I had an epiphany the other day. I say let them use that word. Doesn’t bother me what they call us, as long–”
Paul knew he should be watching all this, for clues, but he fast-forwarded again. Six volunteers jitterbugged up onstage like Keystone Kops. They collapsed in folding chairs and bent forward and switched their shoes from one foot to the other, then back, then to the other foot again. He recognized this as a demonstration of hypnotism, but he did not hit “play” until they left the stage and Roy pulled out what he called a “sacred ouroboros”–a wooden circle painted with an aboriginal design of a snake swallowing its tail.
“Who dares laugh now?” he cried. “With your Third Eye, observate the fear you feel. See it rising within you. You have known this terror before, deep in the dead of the worst night of your life, when you could not sleep because you were tortured by fear or grief or unbearable memories. Do not shrink from this fear, but examine it in the light of the Third Eye.”
In Paul’s mind he reached back through time and space into that moment at the retreat, and he imagined himself pulling a fire alarm on the wall, causing water to burst from the ceiling sprinklers and waking everyone from Roy’s spell, drenched and coughing.
Microphone in hand, Roy marched down an aisle into the audience, the unseen cameraman backing up before him. He approached a woman with her head down, her hair hiding her face. Blond, slender, wearing a blue cotton blouse. Paul’s heart began pounding.
“Oy!” Roy said. “You there, madam!”
She started, not having realized he was so close.
Just beyond her was an emergency exit with a porthole that looked out onto the promenade deck where Paul had watched the seagulls over Long Beach.
Run, Paul thought, as if she could hear him. Rachel, run!
Roy snatched the notebook Rachel was holding. “What are you up to?”
“Taking notes,” she said. “I wanted to remember.”
“Then buy a tape. I don’t want to be remembered by your scribbles in some–what is this? A Woman’s Journal?” He flipped through the book. “What are you, a reporter?”
“No, Roy! I’m a meditator.”
“Stand up. Stand! Right! Up!”
The microphone squawked.
“What’s your name?” he said.
“Rachel Kerr.” (She was using her maiden name–no wonder the cops hadn’t found her when they looked over the registration list.)
“A Woman’s Journal. I can see right through you. There is no faith in you. What do you do?”
“I work with my husband,” Rachel said. “He’s a housepainter.”
“How old are you?”
“We just don’t–”
“‘Just don’t.’ So you put yourself before love, before your husband, before everyone, and your husband seeks comfort in booze and other women. And you’re miserable. My late wife, Izzy, was happy being a mother for more than thirty-five years. I have a wonderful family and none of my children have ever used drugs. But you: you use your so-called career as a way to avoid examining your soul.”
Rachel meekly nodded.
“You’d rather sit back and jot notes and be cerebral,” Roy said. “Well, you can’t intellectualize the truth. One enters through meditation alone. Experience. Grace. Right, we’re moving you up front.”
Through the rest of the tape, Rachel was his foil: Of course, Ms. Kerr would disagree with me. … No matter what Rachel Kerr says, federal dollars won’t stop the drug epidemic; it takes a million billion individual acts of will. … A bad marriage, like Ms. Kerr’s, is a death sentence: you can’t make long-term plans like storing food and ammo, and you’ll be left to beg from the rest of us. You’ll be so hungry you’d kill for a jar of canned peas.
And she was there in the front row when Roy began his “blastings.”
One by one the audience stood and confessed their sins. First to volunteer was Byron Ulfik, editor of Roy’s magazine.
“Ah,” Roy said. “Byron Ulfik. Always the first. Hal’s first convert. Our first suicide attempt. I don’t know if you’re a glutton for punishment or simply an exhibitionist.”
Byron issued a strained chuckle. “Both.”
Behind Roy, Hal pointed his index finger at his temple–that curious gesture of his. The hammer of his thumb fell. Bang!
Byron began to detail his struggle with sinful thoughts, but Roy cut him off.
“Heard it all before,” Roy said. “Let’s go straight to the blasting. Turn and face the audience. We’re taking comments.”
A male voice said from the back, “Byron, I’ve always felt you have a woman-spirit, but I think you should know, several of us were discussing this, and we felt, Roy and Hal can heal him and make him a man.” Byron’s eyes widened and he shot a glance at Roy. A camera found the speaker, who added, “Not like I’d speak for Roy.”
“Otherwise you’d be up here and I’d be shelling out the tuition for the retreat,” Roy said.
The crowd applauded.
Roy threw an arm around Byron. “We’re being too nicey-nice. We’re not going to let me mate Byron off that easily. Surely he’s not some paragon of spirituality. ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.’ Shari?”
Shari Holloway, who had tended to Paul’s injuries, stood and said, “Roy, I just want to say–”
“Not me! Address him, love.”
“Byron, I think it’s true what the gentleman said about your having a woman-spirit,” Shari said. “Back before Hal and I were together, we went out that one time, Byron and I did. So then he–you–tried to kiss me–”
The crowd laughed, and Roy said, “But you wanted it, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t think so, Roy, but maybe–”
“I’ll bet you were wearing that short skirt of yours with the zipper up the side,” Roy said. “Anyway, Byron is our subject here. Go on.”
“Roy’s right, Byron, and it’s good when he says that about me, because it gives me practice in not becoming upset,” Shari said. “Still, I want to say: when you tried to kiss me I didn’t sense anything from you but desperation. You drive women away with that look of longing, of trying to prove you’re not–. And. And. And that’s why even if Hal and I hadn’t gotten together, I still never would have gone out with you again, and I don’t think I’m betraying any confidences to say neither will Tamara.”
“Prove he’s not what?” Roy said.
“Not gay,” Shari said.
“That’s uncalled for!” Byron cried.
“Beloved, do you think he’s gay?” Roy said.
“I am not! This is slander!”
Everyone murmured uncertainly. Byron was a high-level officer in the Institute, and the question might be a trap.
“Are you poofter, Byron?” Roy said. “A fudge-packer?”
“Do you fantasize about men?”
“Roy, this is ridiculous!”
“Thirty-eight and never married,” Roy said. “What do you think, Beloved?”
From the crowd came shouts: “FAGGOT! QUEER!”
“Do you fantasize about big pectorals and hairy chests with dime-sized nipples? Or is it just boys?”
“Roy! Not in my wildest dreams–”
“Wild dreams you say? Oh, my, are they ever! I can see into your mind.”
“This is unfair,” Byron said. “I’m normal man, not whatever you think I am. If I were, why would I be working for you?”
The crowd booed him down.
“Oy! You there–stop!” Roy shouted at a commotion out of view of the camera. “Dennis, the chair cannot be thrown because it sticks to your hands. Now put it down, release it, and sit on it. That’s better. You ass is glued to it. You cannot stand.”
Byron said, “Roy, I’m not what you–”
Roy wrapped an arm around him. “Quiet, mate. Hush. I know that. We’re just testing your mettle. Nobody here thinks you’re gay. Do we?”
There was a moment’s hesitation as the crowd recalibrated itself. And then: “NO!”
Roy said, “He’s one of our spiritual leaders and board members and magazine editor to boot, so there’s no chance he could be gay.”
“So these rumors must be stopped at once, they are completely unfounded and utterly unfair. You’re dead wrong, Shari, and I don’t ever want to hear that from you again.”
“I’m sorry, Roy,” she said. “Sorry, Byron. I didn’t mean–.”
“Now, get the fuck off my stage, Byron,” Roy said.
“Thank you, Roy.”
Byron slunk away.
As the blastings continued, Roy revealed, one by one, that his congregation was a pack of cheats, liars, gamblers, adulterers, child beaters, alcoholics, pornography readers, and borderline lesbians. He healed them of these tendencies, forgave them, offered fatherly hugs. At last he turned to the front row.
“Right, Ms. Woman’s Journal. Your turn. Come on up. Let’s see what you’re made of.”
The camera found Rachel. She stood up.
“Does anyone here know Mizzz Rachel Kerr?” Roy said. “A newbie, eh? In that case I’ll start on you myself. Anything to confess before the court of truth?”
“I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier, Roy, and you’re right. Sometimes I’m resentful.”
“Resentful of whom?” he said.
“Oh, my lot in life,” she said. “Like all of us.”
“Not like all of us,” Roy corrected. “I’m not. So, we know about you that you’re married and your husband’s not here this weekend.”
“That’s right. He–.”
“So your husband, for starters: you resent him.”
“I love my husband,” Rachel said.
“And resent him.”
“There, was that so hard?” Roy said. “That’s the permanent condition of womanhood, especially iron ladies like yourself, a particularly noxious category that includes dykes and clinging mothers. You are dominated by the animus archetype, which is your male side of your psyche, and that’s why your marriage is failing. You’re probably aware deep down that he’s cheating on you.”
“No, he’d never do that,” Rachel said.
“Oh, he wouldn’t, would he? What’s he up to this weekend?”
“I’ll bet he’s at home, with her in your bed, the randy bastard,” Roy said. “Think of who you’ve been jealous of recently. That’s who he was with last night. So: he wasn’t happy about you being here, was he?”
Rachel said, “I could tell he didn’t–”
“And yet you came anyway,” Roy said. “You think I’m going to congratulate you? It’s a sickness, this need to defy your husband. This goes all the way back to your childhood. Tell me about your father.”
“My dad’s a policeman, but I don’t see much of him anymore,” she said.
“He and my husband don’t get along, and that sort of poisoned things.”
“That’s because your father knows as a male what your husband is up to,” Roy said. “Well, I reckon Hubby’s a wimp. A weakling. And a potential wife-batterer, because men who bottle up–”
“No, not at all. He’s a–”
“He is or he wouldn’t have let you come here alone where for all he knows you’re shagging the guru. Don’t feign shock. The thought’s crossed your mind as you look at me. So what’s wrong with Hubby, then? You resent him. You know him for what he is: a woman-spirit and a cheat. Or are you saying he’s without sin?”
“No,” Rachel said, “he has his weaknesses, like everyone, but that’s not–”
Roy said, “So tell me this: why does your father hate your husband?”
“We had an accident,” she said, “and he blames my husband.”
“An accident? What, piss your pants?”
“We lost a child,” Rachel said.
To Paul’s surprise, the sternness vanished from Roy’s face, replaced by compassion. “Oh, my God. You’ve just floored me. Not very often somebody manages to do that. Izzy and I lost a little one seventeen years ago. She drowned. I’m so sorry.”
Rachel choked on a sob, and Roy drew her into his arms.
“Tell us,” he said. “Tell us about it.”
CLOSE-ON: Rachel’s anguished face. Roy stroking her hair, his own cheeks glistening with tears. As if he were exhaling the pain he was absorbing from her. Then as she began speaking, he released her.
She described Caleb’s death, concluding, “It was in June, just a week after his fifth birthday. Some of his presents he never even got to play with.”
“And you were there?” Roy said.
“I saw it from across the parking lot.”
“No parent ever recovers from the death of a child.”
Hal sidled up and offered a box of tissues. Rachel took one, wiped her eyes.
“Was Hubby present?” Paul said.
“And why did you let little your boy run wild in a parking lot?”
“I didn’t. It was Paul. We were shopping, and I’d sent them out to the car. Caleb was chasing seagulls.”
“Chasing seagulls?” Roy said.
“My husband taught him to do that.”
“His own father taught him run into the street in front of speeding cars?”
“No, it wasn’t like that,” Rachel said. “It started back when he was a baby. My husband would go running up the sidewalk pushing the stroller through the pigeons and making them fly off. Caleb always laughed so hard. He had the most beautiful, throaty laugh as a baby. And when he was older, whenever they saw pigeons or seagulls, he and my husband would take off running, holding hands. To flush them off.”
“And why did you go shopping instead of protecting your child from this man?”
“We were in the store, but I sent the boys out because Caleb was running amok,” Rachel said. “And Paul turned his back for a moment, Caleb just ran after the seagulls.”
“I died inside,” Rachel said. “It grinds me inside like broken glass; it never stops. A girlfriend told me just to have another kid, it would help me get over Caleb. But I didn’t want another. I want my baby back.”
“So why didn’t you leave Hubby, divorce him?”
“I love him. I can’t help it, Roy. Plus, he was the only person on the planet who understood what I was going through. Because he was, too.”
“But he killed your child,” Roy said.
“It was an accident.”
“Nevertheless, he was a Bad Father who might as well have strangled his own son.”
“No, he was the world’s best daddy,” Rachel said. “He and Caleb were crazy about each other, they loved to sketch together. Space ships, aliens, trees and flowers. Sometimes I was a teeny bit jealous because Caleb always–”
“Involuntary manslaughter, then,” Roy said. “Reckless endangerment. It was his job to care for the child, and he failed. Or would you say he succeeded?”
“No, he didn’t,” she said.
“Any charges filed?”
“Vehicular manslaughter against the teenager because he was going fifty in a parking lot,” Rachel said. “He got a year in juvenile hall. At first there was talk about charging my husband, too. Criminal negligence. The cops interviewed him several times, and supposedly the D.A.’s office was pushing for it, but eventually they dropped it. Maybe they figured losing his son was punishment enough.”
“So how’d you get revenge on Hubby?”
“What do you mean?” Rachel said.
“Oh, come on, you know perfectly well,” said Roy. “Did you have an affair?”
“Rachel: you’re a liar.” He looked to the crowd. “Or am I wrong?”
The audience chanted, “LIAR! LIAR! LIAR! LIAR! LIAR!”
Paul had to walk away from the TV. He went to the kitchen for a glass of water, drew a breath, then returned amid a general tumult. Roy raised his hands and the noise fell away.
“Give us a break, Rachel. They don’t believe you. Why should I? Tell us.”
“I started shoplifting,” she said. “You know: jewelry, earrings–”
“Do I look like an idiot? I can see right through you. We’ve heard today from pornography addicts and wife-beaters, and you’re telling us once you stole some costume jewelry? I don’t believe you. Is that your deepest, darkest, innermost sin, the thing you did to avenge yourself on your inept husband who let a five-year-old chase seagulls into the path of a speeding car? No, dear, you’re selling, but I’m not buying.”
“You’re a liar,” Roy said.
“Tell the truth. That’s the only rule in a blasting.”
“LIAR! LIAR! LIAR!”
Roy raised his hand to quiet the crowd, then said with a look of compassion: “My dear, we’re being rough on you. I know. But it’s because you’re on the verge of a breakthrough, getting out from under this terrible burden. Hush. Look at us. Surrender to the Spirit, Rachel. Why would you come here if you’re unwilling to let go and let God, as it were? Truthfully, dear. Are you some sort of klepto shoplifter?”
“Then you lied, didn’t you?”
“LIAR! LIAR! LIAR!”
“Enough, you lot! Ignore them, dear. You’re so close, Rachel. Now, how did you get revenge on your bloke?”
“I wouldn’t call it revenge,” Rachel said. “It was for my own sanity. It would’ve killed me if–”
“If what?” Roy said. “What did you do?”
“–if I’d had another baby. I was afraid it would die, too. He or she.”
“So you had an abortion?” Roy said.
“Yes,” Rachel said.
“Your firstborn dies, so you decide to off your second child. Is that how it works? You know what I reckon you are? You’re a baby killer. Isn’t she?”
“BABY KILLER! BABY KILLER!”
“Roy,” she sobbed, “I was confused, I’d just lost my son, and–”
“Why did you kill the baby if your husband wanted it?”
“BABY KILLER! BABY KILLER!”
“He didn’t; he said he never could be a father again. That he wasn’t competent to care for a child.”
“Every man wants a child,” Roy said. “Did your husband know you had an abortion?”
“No,” Rachel said, “I never told Paul.”
Paul paused the video player and went outside. Twice he circled the pool, barefoot on the sandpaper concrete, pausing both times to survey the insomniac ants by the shed. A searchlight illuminated the water, lighting the Mexican tiles under the lip around the edge. The pile of dirt cast a shadow on the lawn by the pig hole. He sat on the diving board and bounced it slightly. His feet skimmed the surface, barely wetting his soles. He imagined someone approaching from behind and shooting him in the back of the head with a hollow-point round. His corpse would be discovered adrift in blush wine, with a pinhole in the back of the skull and the face gone. Paul returned to the living room and hit play.
“But the thing is, it didn’t help,” Rachel said. “ I’d killed part of myself, of both of us. And I came home from the clinic, and I just sat in a closet and screamed at the top of my lungs. I thought I was losing my mind.”
“Because you’d behaved like some back-alley slut and murdered your own baby, eh? A slut.”
“No, Roy, I was suffering and I–.”
The crowd shouted, “SLUT! SLUT! SLUT!”
“Hush, you lot. It’s true. I acknowledge this. You were suffering. You were not yourself, and so you did this terrible thing. And it was a terrible thing: you can admit that, can’t you?”
“Oh, God, yes,” Rachel said.
“It torments you.”
“And don’t try to tell me I don’t know what it’s like to have an unwanted pregnancy shake up your life just because I’m a mere male,” Roy said. “There was a time when a lovely lady of my acquaintance became pregnant due to my lack of self-discipline. But I didn’t kill the baby. I made the girl my wife. And the child is sitting right here. Hal, are you glad we didn’t abort you and dump you down the toilet in some Planned Parenthood?”
Hal stood and raised his fists as if celebrating a touchdown. Everyone cheered. Roy hugged his son and mussed his curly locks. Then Hal sat down again.
“Well, now, you’ve confessed, Rachel. What you need is forgiveness.”
“Why is that so hard? Just say, ‘I’m sorry I killed my two children.’ No if’s, ands or buts. The first through negligence, by entrusting him with that man, the second through intra-uterine homicide, also known as abortion. Say it: ‘I’m sorry I killed my children.’ If you seek forgiveness, God will rescue the soul of your aborted baby from hell. We’ll talk more about the concept of hell later on. Hell being nothingness. Rachel, bring your child back.”
Roy leaned in close to her. Rachel was sobbing so hard, Paul could not make out her words. But Roy heard.
“Perfect,” he said. “That’s all it takes. Want to know my new name for you? The same name as I give to my sons and daughter, to every member of my flock here. Beloved. Even when they’re behaving like a bunch of butt-heads, they’re still my Beloved. So are you, now. Welcome her, you lot.”
Cheers rocked the Queen’s Salon.
Sobbing, Rachel waved off their approbation. “What about Caleb and the other one?”
“Your babies have just arrived in heaven right now, and they’ll be playing hopscotch with Jesus and the Buddha. Which is pretty funny, when you imagine old Buddha’s jelly-belly and flapping earlobes, but the bloke’s got a sense of humor, loves to laugh. Look, you say you’re a meditator, but you don’t understand the basics. You’ve never forgiven yourself. Your husband senses your resentment and hates you for it. So the core of your marriage is rotten.”
“No, it’s not,” Rachel said.
“It is. You won’t lie to yourself any more, will you? Now, have you ever told Hubby exactly what you think of what he did, neglecting your little boy.”
“He knows,” she said.
“My question is, have you ever said, ‘I hate you because you murdered our son’?”
“He didn’t mean to,” Rachel said. “He suffers, too.”
“Good intentions aren’t enough. Look, as you stare into my eyes, you notice something. These eyes have become familiar. Do you know who I am?”
“I’m your husband.”
“Oh! Honey, what are you doing here?”
“You resent me, don’t you?” said Roy.
“You hate me.”
“No, I love you. I think I do. I’m just hurting.”
“You’re repressing the hatred, and it’s eating you up,” said Roy. “You hate, but hatred is a void. It must be replaced by Light. That can’t happen until you tap deep into your soul. Now tell me how you feel about what I did to Caleb. Let it roar. Scream bloody murder if you like. Scream as if you were standing by the corpse of your child!”
Rachel shrieked in a terrifying voice, the same one she used the day of Caleb’s death: “OH, JESUS! OH, GOD! I TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN!”
“As your resentment has mounted over the few months, a demon has possessed you,” Roy said. “Shriek, she-devil, I’m not afraid. Behold, my words are Light, they sear you. I command ye to leave this woman! Oh-ho! Your dark entity is defenseless before me. Rachel, you are now free of this darkness. You will never be the same. You are free of your attachment to this child-murdering husband. Be free.”
Roy touched Rachel’s forehead with the palm of his hand. She fainted. Hal was there to catch her.
“Don’t worry, people!” Hal said. “She’ll be all right.
“When you wake up,” Roy said, “you’ll remember none of this. Your husband was never here. But peace is permeating your soul, and you’ll feel an objectivated coolness toward him. Now, ever so slowly, count backwards in your mind; when you get to one, you’ll awaken. Ninety-nine. Ninety-eight. Ninety-seven. Could a couple of strong lads carry her back and lay her out on the carpet?”