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Santa Ana winds, streaming from the Mojave Desert down through the passes in the Santa Monica Mountains, plucked at the old bricks of UCLA's Haines Hall, filling the classroom with a softly chilling moan. Sandi Boeckel hated the sound. It interfered with her concentration as she sat in the last row of the tiered classroom listening to the voice of Dr. Daniel Bradon.
"Self hypnosis. It's a technique you can use when you feel tense or tired. And it's one you can use with clients to help them relax."
His voice was strong and resonant but, because of the moaning wind, Sandi had trouble understanding him.
It was her own fault. The first night in class seven weeks ago she had deliberately chosen to sit near the back. She made believe it was so she could observe the other students, but she knew it was so she herself would not be noticed. Usually, the only drawback to sitting in a back row was difficulty in seeing the professor. Even though she was 5'9" herself, the heads of taller students often cut into her line of view. In most classes, it made no difference. Professors were not known for their good looks. How was she to know that Dr. Bradon would fascinated her from the very first night?
She had expected that the instructor of UCLA's PSYCHOLOGY II University Extension Course would be a wizened professor with the scruffy beard that seemed to be de rigueur for every male psychologist or psychiatrist since Sigmund Freud. But Dr. Daniel Bradon proved to be a surprise.
At the first class session when he strode into the room and placed his briefcase on the table near the podium, she could practically feel his radiated energy. Nother idea at all of someone who had a doctorate in psychology.
For one thing, he was young, probably in his early 30s. True, he had the stereotypical beard, but his was a close-cropped and precisely cut Van Dyke that suited his broad forehead. His eyes, when they were not sparkling with humor, appeared dark, brooding. His unruly tangle of dark brown hair, trimmed away from his ears, was worn low on his neck. And, although slender, he was far from wizen. When he had taken off his leather bomber jacket and hung if over the back of a chair, it revealed good shoulders. He'd rolled his shirtsleeves up a couple of turns, and Sandi noticed that his forearms and wrists were corded with muscles. He had the flat stomach and slender hips of someone who spent time in a gym or on a track.
He turned to face the thirty students and folded his arms. He said nothing, but before his piercing gaze, chatter quickly died.
Then he smiled, and it was as though sunlight had burst through ice. "Good evening," he said. His voice was soft and warm, but it filled the room. "Welcome to Psychology Two."
Sandi felt a tingle of anticipation. It should be a very interesting class. There was still one vacant chair near the front and she considered moving. It was only her reluctance to draw attention to herself that had kept in the last row.
Now, she again regretted her stupid shyness. During his lectures Dr. Bradon encouraged questions but, although this was the next to last meeting of the nine-week course, she had yet to ask a single question. She had formulated several in her mind, but had never actually put them into action. She had convinced herself each time that someone else would ask the same question and she would get her answer. By remaining silent, she could watch and listen without having to expose herself to the danger of ridicule if she asked a stupid question or put forth an opinion that sounded absurd.
At the moment, she was safe from any such faux pas. She had only to listen while Dr. Bradon continued, "Okay. I'll lead you through a session so you can get the hang of it." He began pacing in front of the room, watching as he moved like a hungry tiger. "The first thing is to relax. Start with your forehead. Feel the tension disappear. Now your eyes. Close your eyes. Look into the darkness. Look deep into the darkness." As he spoke the timber of his voice changed from one of authority to a soporific urging. "Just let the tension drain out of your body like water running in a stream. Let your shoulders slump. Let the tension drain from your arms, down through your hands. Look deep into the darkness. Let your mind drift. Let it go."
Obeying Dr. Bradon's gentle commands, Sandi stared into the darkness in front of her closed eyes and concentrated on releasing tension from her body. That's it. Relax. Concentrate on his soft, compelling voice.
"Drain all anxieties, all thoughts from your mind. Let your mind go. Let it drift. Let it seek its own path."
Bradon's soothing voice flowed through her like warm wine. Her mind was a void, dark, except for the balm of his voice. A spurious thought intruded: Nature abhorred a vacuum. If she made her mind a vacuum, something would have to pour in. What would it be? Images of her childhood?
No! She quickly shut out the unwanted intrusion. This was supposed to be a pleasant experience not a reason to dig up painful memories.
Relax. Relax. Let the darkness spread and become all enveloping. All enveloping--
How strange. I should see a point of light in the darkness. Flickering light. Like the light from a far away candle. No, not one candle. There were two candles. In beautiful holders, holders that appeared to be made of intricately spun strands of silver. They were situated on a small letter-writing table with a delicately inlaid top where I was seated. The candle light illuminated a spread of Tarot cards arranged on a silken scarf in front of me, and I stared at the cards, fascinated. Using the circular spread designed to forecast events of the year ahead, I had just displayed the twelfth card. The Tower inverted. I touched it with the care due a card of the greater arcana.
The man seated across from me leaned forward to better see the card, and candlelight glinted off his uniform collar. I glanced up and stifled a shiver. The light was reflected from the double rune symbol of an SS officer. Four pips indicated he was a Sturmbannführer, a Major. A colored ribbon around the man's neck suspended a Nazi Grand Cross. On his left arm was an arm band with the Nazi Swastika and below it a stripe of oak leaves that indicated the man was a high party member.
In the shadows beyond the candlelight I sensed that other men were standing, watching.
"Well?" the Major snapped.
I stared silently at the last card, keeping my fingertips on it, as though I could read its message tactually. I would not be hurried. SS or not, I was the one in control. But that was not the reason I hesitated. Even after years of reading the cards, I still found it difficult to convey bad news. "The twelfth month; the Tower," I murmured. "Its astrological attribute is Mars. It is number sixteen in the major arcana. One and six equals seven making it very powerful. Notice the lightning and the fire. Very powerful forces."
"That is good, no?" the major said.
"Generally, yes. The forces of destiny will destroy something in your life that is working against you. Suffering is ended and your life becomes easier."
"You say 'generally'. What do you mean?"
Again I hesitated. "The card is inverted."
"And this means?" Flickering candlelight made the man's eyes look cruel, dangerous. But his thick fingers gripped the edge of the table so hard their tips were white, and the timbre of his voice told the truth: He was afraid, afraid of the cards.
When I thought of the forces that had brought this man to power, my sympathy vanished. "Within twelve months the forces of destiny will call down a disaster of great magnitude. You will experience much suffering. And,"-- I stared directly into his eyes for the first time -- "it will be self-made. Beware the twelfth month."
The man flinched as though he had been struck a blow. Then, with an oath, he swept the cards and the scarf from the table. He jerked to his feet, his callused, powerful hands clinched into fists like mallets. "Stupid!" he snarled. "I don't believe it."
I stared up at him. Standing, he was short and stocky and looked immensely strong. His thinning blonde hair was close cropped and his skin so fair that it was ruddy. Now sweat made it glisten. He was the picture of health, but he would soon be dead. And his death would be violent.
I didn't like him but, even so, the knowledge made my voice husky with compassion as I returned his stare, "I do not control the cards, Herr Sturmbannfuhrer. I only tell you what they say."
The man reached across the table and took me by the shoulders and began shaking and I gasped, "Oh Gott! Gott! Nein! Nein! Nein!". Surprisingly, he replied in English, "It's all right. It's all right. Come back. Come back now. It's all right. Come back. Now."
I blinked as the scene went out of focus. What was wrong? The candles were receding into the darkness until their flames became tiny points like stars.
With a wrenching force of will, Sandi opened her eyes. Dr. Bradon! He was holding her by the shoulders and saying, "You're back. That's it. You're back."
Several students were standing near her, staring, their eyes wide in surprise and alarm, and Sandi felt her face grow warm with embarrassment. What on earth had she done? It couldn't have been anything too humiliating because she was still seated in her chair; its writing leaf was still down across her lap so she could not have stood up. "I'm all right," she said, and she saw worry drain out of Dr. Bradon's face.
He straightened and smiled at the students. "Well," he said. "I think we've just witnessed our first spontaneous regression."
"Regression?" someone ask. "What's that?"
After a quick appraising glance at Sandi, Bradon strode down the tiered isle to the front of the room, talking as he moved. "There is a school of thought-- arguably, but not without some evidence-- that we are all reincarnations and that some people under hypnosis are able to regress back to a previous life."
"I know," someone volunteered. "Like Brydi Murphy."
"That's right. She was probably the most famous regressive, although there have been others. Actually, it's quite common."
Some of the students turned to glance at Sandi, but she hardly noticed. Regression! What had happened to her? And who was the woman with the cards? It couldn't have been she. It just couldn't!
The sharp clang of the bell signaling the end of class jolted her back to reality. The room cleared quickly with a few of the students, as usual, pausing on the way out to speak to Dr. Bradon. Sandi closed her notebook and put it in her carryall bag. She took her time retrieving her sweater from the back of her seat and slipping it on. She did not want to talk to anyone; she was embarrassed enough. And she certainly would have no answers for questions anyone might ask.
But it wasn't one of the students who stopped her when she slowly made her way down the tiered isle toward the door. Dr. Bradon walked over to intercept her. He studied her face, his eyes worried. "You look a little pale. Are you going to be all right?"
Sandi nodded. Pale? It had to be an understatement. She felt weak and shaken as though all the blood had drained from her body. "I'm all right."
She moved to walk around him, but he reached out to touch her arm. "How about a cup of coffee? I think you could use it."
Her instinct was to refuse. An hour ago she-- and, she was sure, half the women in the class-- would have been flattered by such an invitation from Daniel Bradon. But now she wanted desperately to escape into the night, to get to her home and the security of her room where she could think.
Think?! What good would that do? What kind of answers could she find on her own? Nothing in her experience would explain what had happened. And, of more importance, whether it could possibly happen again. But Dr. Bradon was an experienced psychologist. He had to be familiar with such aberrations. What had he said: Regression was not uncommon. He must have encountered it before. Maybe he would have some answers.
"All right," she said.
"Good. Where did you park?"
"Okay. There's a coffee shop near there-- the Lu Valle Commons."
She nodded. "I know where it is."
"I'll walk you over there."
Copyright © 2003 by Robert L. Hecker