The Cloud by Elaine Olund
Dr. Douglas Yoveo opened his door to find Maribel pacing the hall. She shot into his office like a thoroughbred leaping from a starting gate. She looked like a filly — an aging one, but still youthful, with long slender legs and a wild-eyed alertness.
“I can’t do this anymore,” she blurted, breathless voice muffled by the wad of tissues she clutched to her mouth with a quaking hand.
“Sit down, Maribel,” said Dr. Yoveo. “Take a breath and tell me what’s going on.”
Maribel sank into the love seat, her right leg jiggling the way it always did in Dr. Yoveo’s office, jiggling like it was trying to detach from her body and hop out of therapy. Like it was trying to escape. Maribel took a deep breath and pressed on her leg.
“The medication’s not helping,” she said. “I’m more anxious than ever. There has to be something else we can try.” She held up her left hand. “Look at my fingers! I’ve bitten my nails to the quick. Again. I’m really about to lose it.”
“Are you doing the virtual abstraction I programmed for you?”
“You mean the box-under-the-bed? To put my worries in?”
She shuddered. “It was creepy. I followed the instructions, trapping my thoughts. It worked long enough for me to start to drift to sleep. But I could hear them scratching around in the box, like beetles. And then I felt them, Dr. Yoveo. I felt them crawling on me.” She brushed the collar of her shirt. “I felt them chewing my hair.”
“Ah,” he said, taking a deep breath of his own and then a long draw from his water tube. “Hm. I didn’t anticipate that. Well, clearly, you’re not a box-keeper. What about the cloud?”
“I didn’t try that,” she said. “Talk me through it again? I don’t want to get it wrong.”
• • •
Maribel was careful to remain calm all evening. Or calm by her standards, anyway. Her husband, Ambrose, had left her a few weeks ago for a curvy young shuttle server, and the kids were both underground in security careers. There was no one to criticize her for picking at her elbow skin or biting her nails or wiping the counter again, and again, and again.
Maribel settled onto the floor, legs crossed. She inhaled deeply, and then exhaled slowly, focusing on her mantra, which was ‘calmly, calmly, calmly.’ When she repeated it over and over, a gentle wave formed in her mind, flattening the jagged worries that poked at her. It only worked for a minute. One minute at a time, as Dr. Yoveo liked to say. Just take one minute at a time.
Genetically, she’d been dealt a shitty hand. She was descended from a long line of proudly anxious worriers. Though many of her relatives had been patched up with the latest gene therapy, her mother, a survivor of the brutal Ontario siege, had genes too frazzled by trauma to be easily corrected. Her father’s were nearly as bad. The combined DNA of her parents left Maribel and her two sisters with tangles of intertwined worry genes, and so far drugs, therapy, and everything else they’d tried offered little relief.
The one benefit to her intractable anxiety was that Dr. Yoveo had taken her on as a personal challenge, testing the latest methods on her. At least, she felt like she was doing something proactive, even if nothing had offered much relief so far. She was willing to try anything, and the cloud sounded better than the virtual worry box.
The Line of Fate
No Sleep till Deadtown
Pigs Fry; Pigs Fly
Ripples From The Weather Aggregator
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