Benign Hallucinations

“Don’t you get lonely, having no friends? No support group?”

Her listless grey eyes flicked to the red chair beside her and the blond man who occupied it. Rocking gently from side to side, her arms crossed over her chest as one hand steadily tapped out a four-beat rhythm on her bicep, she looked away from the red chair and back, and away and back. Her life was a series of patterns only she understood. The rocking back and forth kept her soul from crying because her soul was raised on a boat; the rocking mimicked the feel of the ocean for her land-locked soul. The four-beat rhythm that her hand must, must, tap out so the satellites would think she’d succumbed to wiles of the government programming.

“No, I don’t get lonely,” she said in a soft voice, not quite a whisper.

Must not speak too loudly; it was a courtesy to those who listened in. Speak too loud and their ears might hurt. She didn’t want to give anyone a headache with too loud a voice traveling through the microphone receptors. Poor things. Locked away in a booth listening to her all day.

“Okay, Cheri. That’s all the time we have. Think about going back to a support group, Cheri. People can understand you at the support groups. They go through the same things you do every day. It might help.”

Cheri kept her arms by her side in the elevator, her hand tapping her thigh as she swayed side to side. The reflective silver doors showed her slender frame, disheveled hair and rumpled clothes. The mirror behind her showed the reflection of the reflection is a strange never ending pattern of Cheri’s. She was infinite here. Unending. A copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy-

“Of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy…” Cheri’s voice filled the elevator.

“Shhhh, Cheri,” came the deep voice. Cheri looked up at her reflection and saw only the copy of the copy of the copy. She looked beside her, small face tipped up to the blond man beside her.

“You are only one, Cheri, not a copy. It’s a reflection, that’s all.” Cheri swayed side to side, fingers tapping.

“You don’t have a reflection,” she said, soft, quick, hesitant.

“I don’t need a reflection. I know who I am, Cheri, and when you know who you are you won’t need to see a reflection either.”

The elevator doors opened and Cheri looked up at the man holding his arm out so she could exit first. Shuffling across the pale tiles of the lobby, Cheri kept turning her face up to him. Just a quick glance as she swayed and tapped and walked. Stepping into the sunlight, Cheri breathed deeply, her fear of being hospitalized washing away in the crisp, clean air. Swaying like a flower in the breeze, Cheri closed her eyes and tipped her face to the blue sky and golden sun, smiling. She tapped softly on her thigh.

“Spring time suits you, Cheri. Spring time outdoors.”

Opening her eyes and turning to the man she smiled, earnestly and sweetly.

“I’m glad I’m not alone.”

"No, you're not alone, Cheri, but it's important that you not talk about me to anyone else. They will keep you out of the spring time sunshine, Cheri. They will put you back in the hospital. And we don't want that."

"No," Cheri said, eyes wide as she shook her head, swaying and tapping. "No, we don't want that at all. But...what about..." Distress filled her face. "They are listening! They will know!"

"No, Cheri. I've already spoken to the men who listen. They know about me, and they will keep our secret hidden from the Doctors. You are safe with me."

Cheri looked away from the man, eyes darting from face to face, suspect. "I am safe with you."

"Yes, Cheri. Safe with me."