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As a special gift for the Holiday Hop, I'm posting an excerpt from "Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things". Danny has horrible insomnia thanks to nightly visits from a Faceless Rabbits, a Legless Clown, and a Cat with Broken Teeth. In this scene, he has finally agreed to speak to a child psychologist. Aaaaand scene!
"My name is Doctor Fortis. I’ve been a child psychologist for almost twenty-eight years—”
“Do you have any kids?” Danny asked.
“No, I don’t. Is it important to you that I have kids?”
“No, just wondering.”
“So, Danny, why don’t you tell me why you think you’re here?”
“Because my aunt doesn’t believe me,” he replied.
“What doesn’t she believe?”
“That the fight wasn’t my fault.”
“Yes, she told me you were just in a fight at school. If you didn’t start it, who did?”
“Edmond Gray. He was making fun of me. He always makes fun of me.”
“That may be so, but surely you know that fighting is never the answer. Unless,” he began and then leaned forward intently. “Unless it’s really worth fighting for. Do you think this was really worth fighting for?”
Danny nodded emphatically and Doctor Fortis leaned back in his chair with a smile.
“Well, then I think you did the right thing.”
“Really? But Aunt Agatha---”
“No one can truly understand us all the time, Danny. I’m trained to understand you, but even I might not understand what’s going on in your head After all, it’s your head. I can only work with what you give me,” Doctor Fortis replied. “But, there was another reason your aunt wanted you to speak with me, isn’t there? Would you like to talk about it?”
Danny looked down at his feet and shuffled them nervously.
“Remember, Danny: I want to help you, but I can only work with what you give me.”
Danny sighed as his eyes lifted, and he saw the true concern in Doctor Fortis’ face, but when he looked behind the doctor, he saw the menacing glare and broken grin of the Kit-Cat clock. It growled while its pendulum tail began to swing wildly, and Danny clapped his hands over his eyes with a yelp.
“What is it, Danny? What’s wrong?”
“The clock. The cat with the broken teeth,” Danny cried into his hands.
“Danny, there’s no cat with broken teeth, I promise you,” the doctor assured him and Danny slowly removed his hands from his eyes. “You see? It’s just a broken clock; nothing more.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he whimpered.
“Do you often see things like that? Do you often see things that scare you?”
“Go on,” Doctor Fortis urged as he began jotting furiously in his notepad.
“It’s like I’m dreaming,” Danny began, “but my eyes are open so wide that they hurt.”
“And I take it this doesn’t only occur at night,” Doctor Fortis said pensively.
“It’s mostly at night, but yeah, not always.”
“Tell me, Danny: how many hours of sleep do you get a night, on average?”
“I’d say around two, maybe? Sometimes more, sometimes less.”
“I see, and I assume you’ve tried certain remedies.”
“All kinds. Nothing’s helped. Besides, even if I can get to sleep, my dreams usually wake me up pretty quickly. They’re not always bad, but when they are, they’re really bad.”
“How bad? Are they scary pictures or are they more like scenes from a scary movie?”
“Both. Or neither. Sometimes all I see is darkness, but I can hear them all around me.”
“Who can you hear?”
“The scary things.”
“What do they do?”
“They laugh at me and say they’ll do the most horrible things to me…and to my aunt.”
“They threaten her too?”
“Sometimes, but most of the time they just say how they’ll convince her that I’m crazy and need to be locked away. They say it would be easy. Well, not Peter. He just sort of mumbles it.”
“The rabbit without a face.”
“Danny, how long has this been going on?”
“I don’t know. Three years? No, almost four years, I think.”
“And how long has it been since your mother died?”
Danny lowered his head and whispered sadly, “Almost four years, I think.”
“I see,” Doctor Fortis replied, and as if nipped by an idea, he jumped up and headed to his bookcase.
He muttered to himself as he searched the shelves and with a yelp of success, he plucked a book from his library and sat back down.
“Danny, have you ever heard of ‘oneirophrenia’?” he asked and the boy shook his head. “It’s a rare condition, but I believe it may be what we’re dealing with here. It causes the affected person to have a sense of unreality or a dream-like state while awake. In extreme cases, it may cause hallucinations and delusions.”
“So, how do I stop it?” Danny asked.
“That’s what this is for,” he replied and held up the rust-colored book that looked more like a collection of fairy tales than a volume on psychology. “Mind you, my diagnosis is only speculation at this point and this book only contains legends, but it may be able to help you if you’re willing to try.”
“What would I have to do?”
“According to this legend, you must appeal your case to the Oneiroi.”
“The Oneiroi: the sons of Hypnos the Greek God of sleep,” Doctor Fortis replied. “The myth states that if plagued by nightmares, both in waking and dreaming, one must compose and complete an application to be submitted to the Oneiroi, and upon approval, the applicant will be stripped of all fear.”
“But will it work?”
“I couldn’t say for sure. Like I said, this is just a story, but if you believe it will work, it may be just the thing to cure you.”
“But how do I make an application? And how do I get it to the Oneiroi?” Danny asked.
“It doesn’t say, but I’m sure you can think of something. You’ve seen applications before, right? Name, date, issue of importance: all of the pertinent information.”
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, okay? For now, just focus on drafting up your application,” he said and gestured Danny towards the door.
“There’s no time like the present, is there?”
“I guess not,” Danny said as he wrapped his hand around the doorknob and twisted it.
The door stuck for a moment before flying open with a force that threw Danny backwards, and the powerful wind that rushed in pushed him back even farther. Doctor Fortis grabbed Danny’s hand and pulled him up, but before Danny could thank him, the doctor started shoving him towards the tempestuous darkness. He tried to fight back, but the doctor was too strong, and before long, Danny’s toes were hanging over the edge of infinity.
“Wait! Stop! I don’t want to!” Danny cried over the roar of the wind.
“You must! It could be your only chance!”
“But I’m afraid!”
“So, what’s the change?”
When the doctor let go of Danny’s hand, the abyss chuckled in success and stole the boy away from the land of light. Danny felt himself tumbling down farther and farther, but he saw no end to his fall. When he realized it, however, a bottom rose from the oblivion, and with a loud smack, Danny landed face down on a cold floor. However, when he opened his eyes he found himself on his back and the land of light stinging every inch of him. His head felt larger and heavier than usual, and his ears felt as though they were packed with cotton. He saw the blurry faces of the kids and teachers standing over him and knew they were talking to him, but he couldn’t hear more than a few muffled words. Before he could even realize what he was doing, Danny felt himself standing up, and the crowd backed away as he got to his feet. Once standing, he felt the cold trickle of blood from his nose roll over his lips and down his chin. Edmond Gray was staring at him with a bewildered expression and his clenched fists painted with Danny’s dried blood. But Danny walked right by him, through the crowd, and grabbed his backpack from the site of his chalk metropolis.