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Truth of the Python
Truth of the Python
Truth of the Python
Ebook397 pages6 hours

Truth of the Python

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On New Year's Eve, 1990, Vancouver hypnotherapist Philip Dozier, while treating shy, neurotic science student Greg Brodie, inadvertently leads his client to a traumatic memory--from twenty-five centuries ago.

In doing so, he opens a Pandora's jar of life-changing consequences. For it emerges not only that Greg may have been the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, and Philip himself a key figure in that remote time, but that Greg, in trance, can act as a channel--someone who gives voice to nonphysical entities. And an entity appears who has knowledge of a painful secret from Philip's past.

This spine-prickling revelation launches Philip on a search for the truth about himself, his connection with Greg, and the state of his soul. The search takes him on a journey through time and myth to the ancient rites of shamans and the primordial struggle between God and Goddess. But his current actions cause him growing alarm. For in his thirst to learn more, he finds himself lying, stealing, and plunging into not one but two extramarital affairs.

Can Philip redeem himself--or even control himself? What will Greg do if he discovers that his supposed therapist has been using him? Maybe the great philosopher was right: we're all doomed to repeat events from long ago, and we can't escape no matter how hard we try.

Truth of the Python is a literary thriller, a thought-provoking story of suspense, mystery, and meaning.

PublisherPaul Vitols
Release dateMay 3, 2011
Truth of the Python
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Paul Vitols

Paul Vitols ("Vee-tolls"--Latvian for "willow") was born in 1959 in Vancouver, Canada, to two refugees who met at an encyclopedia salesmen's Christmas dinner. He showed an early obsession with letters and words, which manifested in, among other things, the defacing of some of his father's books. In school he turned to filmmaking, and competed in provincial and national student film festivals. Nonetheless, the career he imagined for himself was in space science. But by age 20 he realized that, for better or worse, he was a writer, and he dropped out of university. Paul's love of film led him into scriptwriting, and in 1992 he, with writing partner Warren Easton, broke through with a children's TV series called "The Odyssey," about a comatose 11-year-old boy trapped in an alternative world run by children as a police state. The show, known for its edge and humor, received many international awards and was broadcast in more than 50 countries. At the same time, Paul was also at work on a novel, a literary thriller called "Truth of the Python," in which a hypnotherapist inadvertently regresses a neurotic young client to a past life as the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. Paul, after some close calls in the world of print publishing, finally brought it out as an e-book in 2011. His current project is The Age of Pisces, an epic of the birth of Christianity, which he is calling a "literary series"--the e-book equivalent of a TV series. Episode 1, "The Mission," will appear in 2014. Along the way, Paul has also practiced journalism, copywriting, editing, and technical writing. Indeed, to keep writing and creating he has also begged and borrowed, but not stolen--yet. He lives with his wife Kim in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This is a fascinating and thought-provoking expose that is just as relevant today as when it was published. As a scientist myself, I can attest to the truth of what the authors have written both about the idealistic representation of science in academia and the reality of how it is practised. Broad and Wade demonstrate how the actual practice of science frequently departs from the neat process taught in high school and college courses, and how the intended safeguards of peer review and replication frequently fail to catch errors or outright fraud. The examples themselves are engaging and often amazing in their egregiousness, making for a fast and entertaining read.What is fascinating to me is that, having witnessed many of the issues inherent in the way academic success depends on publication, and having seen firsthand how rarely experimental replication of the findings of others is attempted, and how the peer review process can fail, I continued to view science as a whole through rose-colored glasses. This attitude is just what the authors describe, and while it is understandable that scientists cling to this idealized view, this book is a necessary step in facing up to the reality so that the system can be improved. For, as the authors point out, science today is not an altruistic pursuit of truth, but a career fraught with ambition, pressure, and a rigid hierarchy. Scientists working within such a system are, like any human beings, prone to err, and a better system of regulation would help prevent mistakes and deception such as described in this book.

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Truth of the Python - Paul Vitols

Truth of the Python


Paul Vitols

Smashwords edition

Published by Paul Vitols

Copyright 2011 by Paul Vitols. All rights reserved

The extract that appears in chapter 5 is from The Heart of Philosophy by Jacob Needleman.

License Note

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with others, please buy an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not buy it, or it was not bought for your use only, then please buy your own copy from Smashwords.com or other authorized retailer. The author appreciates your respect for his work.

Chapter 1

If you want to, open the door. You will experience only things that are helpful to you.

Okay. It’s rough wood. I’m a bit . . . scared.

Take a breath. What do you experience?

A warm night. I’m walking on a road.

What do you see?

A house to one side. Whitewashed concrete. A kind of . . . stone marker at the side of the road. I’m walking out of the city.

What city?


What else do you see?

Forest. Dark. Quite open. The ground slopes up, kind of striped with moonlight. The trees are mainly evergreens—pines, not very tall. There are also black trees that curve up like, like flames. It’s stony here, dry. I’m . . . frightened.

Where are you going?

I want to get away.


What do you smell?

Turpentine from the pines. Dust. Heat that’s been absorbed by the ground during the day.

Start to notice yourself. What are you wearing?

. . . A tunic or robe. Very light. I know it has a squarish blue pattern woven in it. It’s called a chiton.

How about your feet?

Sandals. Thin leather. It hurts to step on a pointed rock.

Your hands?

They look white in the moonlight. Long fingers, thick knuckles. My fingers aren’t straight.

Hmm. Jewelry?

Yes. A gold ring on my right index finger. It has a swivel top. A seal-ring. My father has left the top uncarved. I’m supposed to carve it myself.

How old are you?


What year is it?

. . . Five forty-five BC.

What’s your name?

. . . Pythagoras.

What’s going on now?

Just walking. I want to run away.


There’s fighting. My father. My half-brother. Even my mother.

What about?



My father gave me more than my brother. The ring came with a chest and three gold cups. My father made me put the cups in the chest and seal it with the ring. He made the cups and the ring. I didn’t want the cups. Or the ring. But my father made me seal the box in front of my brother and mother. He gave my brother carvings—an ivory centaur and a man. But no ring. My brother started shouting.

Then what happened?

. . . My brother despises my father. He hates my father, but covets his wealth. I respect my father, but I’m not interested in his wealth. He’s proud of our big house. I’m ashamed of the gold cups. I guess I inherited my father’s talent.

What’s happening now?

I’m on the track. It curves over a ridge. I’m out of the pine forest. There’s only low scrub. There’s the sea. Glittering under the moon. My ring looks white.

How do you feel?

There’s something up ahead. Don’t know if I want to see it. . . .

You’ll only see what helps you.

The slope falls away in broken stones. They clink. There’s a knot in my stomach.

Something important happens. What is it?

I want to reach the river. A creek, I guess. It goes to a low place with grass and trees around a kind of pond or bog. Willow-trees. I shouldn’t be here.

Why not?

. . . It’s not allowed. It’s . . . dangerous. But I can’t go back till I’ve seen . . . where the voices are coming from. Singing. I’m pushing grass aside, it’s wet here. No—

What’s happening?

Some kind of . . . sacrilege. I didn’t know . . . this whole place is sacred. If they see me . . .

Freeze frame. Take a deep breath. Relax. That’s right. Slow the action and describe what you see.

They’re standing in the grass.

Who are?

The . . . people. Women. Maybe a dozen. In front of two big stones, sort of like an altar and a headstone. A little horse is tied on the horizontal stone. It’s completely white. Maybe it just looks that way in the moonlight. I see its rib-cage, kind of throbbing. It’s straining to get up. It’s making humanlike groaning sounds.

How does that make you feel?

Chilly, prickly. The women are horses too. They have horse heads. They shake their . . . manes. They move their bodies, make sort of writhing motions. They can’t keep still. Maybe it’s a dance. Yeah. One sings, the others respond. They sing and move. The singer’s in a colored robe: red, black, and white. She’s holding a hook. A . . . a sickle, I guess—they all do. They move them up and down, up and down. There’s a jug they step up to. They scoop a cup from it, take turns drinking. They give horselike sort of screams. Oh no. Now . . . now they . . .

Steady. What’s happening?

The head one steps forward. She chops. Ogh . . . The horse is screaming. She’s cutting at its throat. They’re all screaming, we’re all feeling the agony of the horse. They all step up and cut at him. . . . The blood is black, shiny. It pours off the altar. The horse squirms and they all squirm and shriek. The . . . priestess, I guess, has a knife. It’s huge. The others help her by holding down the horse. She cuts at it. She’s strong. She’s pulling open its chest—the blood splashes out. They lever the ribs open. It sounds hollow. She pulls it out, it’s a, it’s a wet ball of meat. The heart, still pulsating . . . They’re all quiet. . . . A drum starts. The priestess says something, she lifts it, she sings something. . . . I can’t understand what they’re saying. It’s some ancient language. She tastes it. It smudges gore on her horse-lips. She hands it to each one to taste. Another woman, a girl, is pulling apart the horse’s legs. She saws at him. His, his genitals. He kicks—he can’t be alive can he? The last one tastes the heart, and the little one holds up the . . . genitals. They’re black, shriveled. Now the women are screaming again. Dancing. Forming a circle. But . . . but . . . I don’t want to see. . . .

You won’t see any more than is helpful and you can handle. You’re comfortable and safe in the future. All of this is long ago.

It’s foggy, like a mist has come up. Maybe it’s just me. My hair’s standing up. I know what happens next, but I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to. . . .

You don’t have

They break and run, screaming, in all directions. I’ve been watching too long. I start running. I lift the chiton to run faster. The grass hides things, roots. . . . I don’t know where I’m going. Dead bushes all around, enclosing the place, can’t get through. The screams—they’ve seen me. She’s chasing me! I can’t . . . . The . . . her breath . . . I can’t . . . ah!

Hold it. Freeze frame. Take a deep breath. What are you experiencing right now?

Aaah. She’s—ah—snagged me, in the thigh. .  . . Ooh.

I would like you to

Ah! I’m down! She’s stronger than me. She has me. . . . She’s pulling up . . . pulling it up . . . . Uuh . . . uuhh . . .

What are you experiencing? Keep talking.

She’s going to cut me. Cut my . . . balls. She’s big. Pushes against me. I’m twisting, I knock her, the head falls off, leathery, hot . . . Aah—

Keep talking.

My leg’s numb. She’s squeezing it. She’s . . . she’s rocking, on top of me. Groaning. I don’t understand what she’s doing. No, I do understand. . . . She’s . . . she’s . . . enjoying me. I feel her . . . bristles, strong legs. . . . Maybe if I lie still . . . oh, ohh . . . I’m not going to die. . . .

Tears welled from the trembling sealed eyelids of my twenty-one-year-old client, Gregory Ronan Brodie. He sobbed quietly, reluctantly, in the grip of the abreaction. I gave him time to express the feeling, to release some of the pent-up emotion that had lain trapped for who knows how long—since childhood, or perhaps 545 BC.

Greg shivered and twisted uncomfortably on the black vinyl recliner, tasting the terror, humiliation, and bewilderment of so long ago. He wore a blue windbreaker over a loose cotton sweater, black jeans, and light-duty hiking boots. My office was dark except for the light of the desk-lamp reflected from the papers on my oak desk. The condensation on the east window occasionally glowed white and red from the lights of cars crawling below, along Birch Street. It was Monday, December 31, 1990.

You can let your breathing grow deeper again, Greg, I said. It was a frightening experience, but it was long ago. You realize, don’t you, that you’re safe in the present. Inside, you know how to benefit from the experience. You know, don’t you, exactly what will help you. You know, for example, whether there are other experiences from that time that will be of benefit.

Greg was again breathing deeply, if a bit raggedly. It was my curiosity regarding the truth of Greg’s past-life regression that prompted me to make my next suggestion.

Perhaps there was insight at the end of that life. From the safety of the present, you can look calmly at the last moments of that existence, and appreciate whatever insights they contained. You need look only at those insights that are helpful and beneficial to you.

Greg’s chest heaved slowly, the swell of an ocean, and his eyes began flickering again behind his eyelids. The tear-tracks on his cheeks shone as he moved his head minutely. He moaned and pulled his face into a frown.

Where are you? I said.

In my room.

What year is it?

. . . Four ninety-three BC.

What’s happening?

Greg’s mouth became slack, fell open. He shook his head, slowly.

Of course, he said. Of course.

What are you doing?



Burning. Divine fire.

You’re smiling. Are you happy?


What’s wrong?

Greg shook his head. I don’t mind dying. There’s no one to die. I didn’t expect to die so soon.

Are the flames consuming you?

No. I could escape. But I want to see. Yes, I’m afraid. . . .

Afraid to die?

"No. Ha—afraid of being wrong."

Wrong about? . . .

Greg’s head lolled; his breathing became erratic.

Wrong about what? I said.

. . . About you.

About who?

"About you. You. Wish I’d never met you. . . ."


"Ha—yes, failure . . . You did it. You caused it."


"Go! Go! Aah . . ."

Greg raised his arm at me, made a feeble shooing motion. His body twisted slowly. I was uncomfortable at being addressed personally. Maybe I was simply in the line of sight to someone in his trance-vision. It was not the time to ask; he was in distress.

That time has gone, I said. The death is over. You’re at peace. You can breathe calmly in the safety of the present, remembering only what is beneficial and makes your life richer. That’s it. You’re on a soft, warm cloud, drifting slowly and safely. You’ve seen a lot, but it is all just part of the richness of your life, the wonderful richness of your many lives. . . .

My voice droned rhythmically, a couple of notes lower than my regular speaking voice, synchronized with the slow rise and fall of Greg’s chest. I felt a twinge for the young client who had undergone rape and death in just a few minutes in my office. There is always an impulse to intervene in a client’s abreaction, to end his pain, but modern hypnosis is based on the premise that no one knows better than the client how much he can stand. In my talks with prospective clients I used Jung’s idea of the archetypal Self: a deep guiding principle of wholeness that we all carry, a principle that understands without conscious awareness exactly what we need in order to grow healthily. The words health and whole have the same root, and all symptoms of illness, mental and physical, are the result of our trying to ignore or suppress some aspect of ourselves.

Greg Brodie’s symptom was, as he wrote in one laconic word on my Client Information Sheet, enuresis—bed-wetting. Bed-wetting is a terrible handicap for a brilliant young man, but like all symptom-sufferers Greg had carefully structured his life to accommodate his symptom. The most significant effect of bed-wetting is that it forces one to sleep alone. We will never share our bed if we’re afraid we will wet it. I believed Greg’s bed-wetting provided him with an ironclad reason to avoid contacts with girls, and stay at home to pick up after his rakehell of a nineteen-year-old brother, Dennis.

Greg and Dennis had been sharing an apartment since the death of their grandmother the previous year. Their parents had died together eight years before that in a bridge washout on the Squamish Highway. The simultaneous death of both parents had put an understandable burden on Greg’s psyche, and his bed-wetting became regular a few months after the Magnesia Creek disaster of 1981. From that time on, he explained with shame in our first interview, he had wet his bed about every four or five weeks. It was the added responsibility of managing the grandmother’s estate and looking after Dennis that had finally driven Greg to seek help.

I assured Greg that enuresis was a complaint that could be understood scientifically as a disturbance in the pattern of sleep: enuretics tended to descend rapidly to deep delta sleep and then move briefly back up to lighter theta sleep, at which time they would discharge urine. This scientific explanation was tailored to Greg’s outlook: he was a third-year geophysics student at UBC. At the same time, I covertly tested Greg’s susceptibility to hypnosis by mirroring his breathing and posture, and by modulating my voice suggestively while talking about the waves of sleep. Greg went into a light trance in our first interview without being aware of it, which boded well for his future as a hypnotic subject. Although Greg had many reservations, we agreed to undertake a program of treatment.

In our second session, two further facts surfaced about Greg’s bed-wetting: he insisted that the urine always stained the bedding a faint pink color; and sometimes it stained his left thigh with a pink stripe like a weal. I did not pursue these facts, in fact I openly dismissed them, in order to have Greg focus greater unconscious attention on them. I did not delve into Greg’s past, or into what had caused him to start wetting his bed. My approach was to take only a minimal history from each client, and then deal with the problem in the present, using metaphor, the language of the unconscious.

For Greg, a geophysicist, I induced hypnosis with a banal talk about the earth turning in space, turning around the sun, and at the same time turning on its own axis, and imagine how difficult it is to visualize these two different types of turning at the same time in one’s mind, to understand how something can turn on its own axis and yet also at the same time in another sense turn around something else. After a few minutes of this confusion technique Greg was in a moderate trance, and I shifted the focus of the talk: think of the continental plates moving slowly over the Earth’s surface, incomprehensibly slow to us, but at just a comfortable speed from the Earth’s point of view. The plates move apart, then close up tight, at a speed immeasurably slow to us, but which the earth experiences without effort. In fact, the earth might be able to change the rate at which its plates open and close, change it imperceptibly so that we would never notice. Only the Earth would know. . . .

Thus I suggested to Greg that he could control the rate at which he opened and closed his own sphincter. In hypnosis metaphor takes on an intense emotional vividness, the unconscious adapting all stimuli to the subject’s own life-situation. Having suggested that Greg could control his bed-wetting, and having ascertained that he washed his sheets himself, I suggested hypnotically that he wet his bed not less but more often, say every week instead of every four. Had I suggested directly that Greg’s symptom disappear, he would have resisted. But clients find it hard to resist the suggestion that their symptoms get worse, because when they find their condition worsening they feel satisfied that they are resisting treatment. Hypnosis is the art of using people’s resistance as a means to one’s own objectives. My first task with Greg, therefore, was to break up the ritual around his symptom, to prove to him that monthly bed-wetting was not a fixed part of his makeup.

Greg, instructed to forget the suggestion, started to wet his bed weekly, although on his off weeks there was no characteristic pink stain. Greg of course was distressed at the worsening of his symptom. At the same time I worked toward another goal: to have Greg’s brother Dennis start to take turns doing the laundry. Ever since their parents’ death Greg had done most of the housework, as well as shepherding himself and Dennis through school. In the last year, since their grandmother’s death, it was made all the more difficult by Dennis’s carrying on: partying, bringing girls home to have sex in their apartment, using and selling drugs. Dennis was aware that Greg occasionally pissed his sheets, but he did not know how often, and didn’t care. They fought occasionally over the issue of sharing the workload more equitably, but without result. Dennis didn’t want to change his lifestyle, and Greg would always do the work in the end. Dislodging Dennis even fractionally from his dissipated path seemed impossible to Greg; he had resigned himself to the role of workhorse.

I suggested that Greg would no longer be able to do Dennis’s laundry because Greg would be too busy doing his own. Surely it would be preferable to wash urine out of his own sheets twice a week rather than the corrupt soil of his lazy brother even once? Indeed, being so busy taking care of his own laundry, Greg may simply one day forget to do Dennis’s. Greg duly started wetting his bed twice a week, and he did one day forget to do Dennis’s laundry. At one point Greg phoned me, alarmed and angry at the extra bed-wetting. He complained that since he had started coming to me he had only got worse. I assured him that an intensification of the symptom was a sign that the treatment was working, and asked him how his brother was doing.

Dennis? Um, fine I guess. He’s, uh, still . . . the same.

Have you been doing his laundry?

Uh, no. I, I told him he had to . . . do his own.


He . . . told me to, um, fuck off actually. He gets his . . . one of his girlfriends to do it.


Why is that good?

Dennis has acknowledged that the laundry is his problem, not yours.

Um, I think it’s Becky’s problem.

So, I’ll see you on Monday morning?


Next I had Greg notice which side of the bed he was wetting. Did he wet it to the left of center, or to the right? I also inquired which university courses he was doing best in, and which required more work. Greg was having no special difficulty with any of his courses, but he thought perhaps he was not keeping as up to date as he should with his time series analysis and space plasma physics courses. The course-work was not beyond him; he simply found that his time disappeared in looking after mundane household things. Time was wasted in making dinner and arguing with Dennis about the noise from the television. I asked whether Greg would find helpful some quiet, uninterrupted study time.

Um, yeah, he said.

When do you get to sleep?

Um, pretty late. Maybe twelve-thirty. Maybe later.

When do you get up?

Well, six. Or six-thirty. It’s hard to study. After dinner it’s too late to go to the library. And Dennis . . . makes things tough at home.

Sounds hellish.


After an incident of enuresis, do you ever find that you wake up?


During the hypnotic session that day I suggested that it was time to put his bed-wetting to constructive use. I suggested that in order to salvage his academic career he must be willing to make more sacrifices and work a little harder. Greg did not resist this suggestion; it accorded with his conscious image of himself as a hard worker. Thus I preempted his resistance to the following suggestion: that his unconscious would now help him to study better. Now, when he wet his bed, he was to wake up and notice on which side he had wet it. If it were the left side, he was to rise immediately and study time series analysis for half an hour. If it were the right, he was to study space plasma physics. He was to study for exactly thirty minutes, no more, no less, and then return immediately to bed. In the morning he would change the sheets. Obviously, for this program to have maximum effect, it would be advantageous to wet his bed as often as possible, at least once every second night. But, if he felt he needed more study time, he could wet it more often, even more than once a night if need be. His unconscious would unerringly know when it needed to be done, and on which side of the bed. On no account was he to pay any attention to the color of the stain, or even to whether the stain had any color. This last suggestion I gave in order to maintain the tension of Greg’s resistance: after so much emphasis on this point he could hardly fail to notice the color of his stains, and thus feel satisfied that he was resisting me while at the same time following all my previous suggestions.

When I brought Greg back out of trance I told him that I would give him something to make him sleep better, and rummaged through the drawers of my desk. I sensed Greg stiffening uneasily; he disapproved of drugs and knew that I was not authorized to prescribe them. He was nonplussed when I finally handed him a few sets of plastic-wrapped industrial earplugs. Then I dismissed him. Greg left the office confused by my little irrelevant surprise, and completely forgot what had happened during the rest of the session.

I intentionally avoided seeing Greg for the next two weeks. When he came again he seemed tired but cheerful; his skin looked waxy and he had yellow-mauve shadows under his eyes. I asked how things had been going.

Okay, he said, nodding. Thanks for the earplugs. They really . . . shut out Dennis’s noise. But then, then I was so tense I started . . . waking myself up, I guess. I was . . . wetting the bed almost every night. I think I’d become so aware of it that I just, I just woke up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, so I would just . . . get up. And study for awhile. It turned out to be . . . productive. But exhausting. I mean, I got less sleep, which didn’t really matter I guess. And I had . . . piles of extra laundry. I was getting up two or three times a night for awhile. Then I noticed it.

Greg looked at me significantly.

Noticed what?

I was wetting the bed less and less. Greg stared at me as though unsure whether I had anticipated this. There would, there would be only . . . these small spots.

Where would they be?

Greg thought. He shrugged.

"Various places. But then, I just stopped. Stopped wetting the bed. I mean, I was getting all kinds of studying done, and I realized, I realized it was because I was wetting the bed. But—"

Greg stretched his mouth and shrugged.

"—I realized, I don’t have to wet the bed. I mean, in order to study. I just started going to my room earlier, and closing the door, and putting in the earplugs, and studying. Before I went to bed. And then I didn’t wake up. And I didn’t . . . wet the bed. I haven’t for about six days."

I nodded noncommittally.

How’s Dennis?

Greg shrugged. All right.

How’s the laundry going? And the other chores—the cooking, cleaning?

Um, I don’t, I don’t touch Dennis’s laundry. I do all the cooking. But I’m . . . less obsessive about the cleaning. If I can’t, if I don’t, pass third year with good . . . reasonable grades I might as well not be going to school. The apartment’s going downhill, but, I think, I hope, it’s not irreversible.

Is the girlfriend helping still?

Yeah. She’s . . . nice. I mean, I don’t . . . it’s hard to imagine what she sees in Dennis. He might be—well, I think he’s a useless lump. A hundred seventy pounds of protoplasm on the couch.

That’s okay. Dennis is Dennis, he has a right to be the way his is. But you have your own rights. You can decide exactly how much time each day you want to spend nourishing the protoplasm on the couch. If it has to, protoplasm can always find nourishment for itself.

Greg nodded, smiled wryly.

Let’s do some hypnosis, I said.

Greg settled back and enjoyed the induction. When he was in a trance I unraveled a little metaphoric story:

The communities in Iceland

are very far apart

and tight-knit.

People there live together,

work together,

and love each other,

and everything is heated

by steam out of the Earth.

One day, the sea

off the coast


and fiery liquid rock

burst up.


made water turn into clouds

that looked like mountains,

and hot ash settled there

in delicate mountains.

The island was so delicate

that it would dissolve

if the waves

got too big.

But more lava

came up

and made the island hard.

The new island

was sterile.

Scientists walked on it

in plastic clothes,

and sometimes cut themselves

on the sharp new lava.

Seabirds came

to visit the island,

bringing seeds.

Now the island is covered

with grass and birds;

no man lives there yet.

The island looks across the water

to Iceland,


to become a home.

When Greg came up from trance his eyes were filmed with tears and he could not speak for a while. Some part of him identified with the strange new island that had changed from painful sterility to fertile promise. I allowed him to sit quietly before telling him that the formal program was finished. We would have no more scheduled sessions, but he could phone me whenever he wanted.

Greg left the office a little stunned that it was all over. I felt I had intervened far enough. I had worked with the assumption that Greg was caught in the adolescent problem of courtship: leaving the parents behind in order to establish adult love-relationships of his own. Greg would still be a lonely, struggling undergraduate, no different from thousands of others, but he was no longer a bed wetter. Without that liability, I thought, life could take on new richness and meaning for him.

In a little over a month, on that morning of December 31, Greg called me again. He was distraught.

I’m, I’m sorry for calling you at home.

That’s all right.

I don’t exactly, know how to say this. It’s . . . kind of frightening, actually. You remember the . . . stain I sometimes got on my leg?


It’s come back. But it’s more than a stain.


It’s like a scar. A raised ridge, bright red, and hot. I don’t know how it got there.

Was there enuresis?


Is it painful?

No. Just hot.

When did you first notice it?

This morning. When I got up.

And it’s still there?

It’s, it’s going down. It’s still slightly raised.

Would you like to see me this afternoon?

Um, yeah, if that’s all right.

I felt sure that Greg’s scar was an instance of memory tissue: the physical scarring or coloring of skin as the result of a hypnotic abreaction. It is a rare phenomenon, but not unheard of. When recalling a physical injury in the past, a hypnotic subject, if the emotional content is powerful enough, can reproduce the physical effect of the injury. But this usually happens only in extreme moments of a trance abreaction, not upon waking in the morning. The fact that Greg phoned me instead of his doctor meant that he was not really afraid of the physical damage that the scar seemed to represent, but worried instead about what it signified. Apparently Greg’s unconscious was still in upheaval, pointing insistently at a problem that had not yet been addressed. Its manifestation on Greg’s skin, the outer covering of the body, suggested that it was ready for other forms of outward expression. As I drove through the misty, snowy day to my office, I decided that I might as well ask Greg’s unconscious point-blank what the trouble was.

When I parked my Volkswagen Beetle opposite my office on Birch Street, Greg was standing out front, waiting by an oak-tree. The office, a tall, narrow clapboard house built in 1910 and renovated by its main tenant, David Kolar Associates, Architects, was locked until the new year. Greg stood motionless, storklike on the sidewalk, hands shoved in the pockets of his windbreaker, a dark figure against the lemon-colored office. Birch Street was desolate under the wet snow; Greg seemed especially, almost cosmically alone. I greeted him heartily as I crossed the street but didn’t hear a reply.

I led Greg up to the white door at the top of the steps. While I fiddled with the lock Greg stared at the two brass plaques mounted on the door: David’s larger one, and mine, which merely read "Philip

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