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Hidden Memories

«The usual dreamlike unreality, which he had always taken for normal consciousness, was back again»

Colin Wilson, The Space Vampires

Her father told me that, during the episodes, she falls in a kind of a trance and afterward she does not remember anything.

I asked her to stand up in front of me and take my hands, smiling to her in the most accommodating way.

She hesitantly smiled back.

Her hands were cold and sweaty. She was quite tall. Her skinny face was pale, surrounded by long straight black hair, dark circles under her green eyes. She could be eleven, twelve – I did not bother to ask. Her body was not yet going through the changes introduced by teenagerhood.

Her parents were sitting on the couch on my left, holding hands, and her grandmother was standing on my right moving her lips soundlessly while counting prayers over rosary beads.

I closed my eyes and started roaming over her memories.

I cannot explain how I do this. It has always been my gift. And my curse.

I found several of what I call "hidden memories", which I learned to recognize in traumatized minds.

I randomly chose one and opened it.

She is standing in front of the fire place, holding her teddy bear to her chest with her right arm, pointing her left index finger to the ceiling.

As soon as she begins moving it, the tip of her index finger leaves a trace of light in the dark of the room.

She moves the finger downward and she bends her knees until her finger touches the wooden floor.

The line looks shaky. Like a lightning captured in a photo.

She straightens up and points her finger exactly to where she started tracing the first line, and starts moving toward her right.

Another still lightning forms, horizontally.

After about seventy, maybe eighty centimeters, her finger changes direction by ninety degrees, starting to move down toward the floor.

On the imaginary surface enclosed within the three lines and the floor, she draws four identical rectangles arranged in two columns and two rows, and a small circle between the two rows of rectangles, on the left.

As she rests her left arm along the side of her body, staring at the traces of lightning, the lines, so far lying on a two-dimensional vertical surface, start vibrating like electric arcs until the wireframe acquires three-dimensional depth. The vibration comes to a rest when in front of her stands a translucent four-panel door with a spherical handle.

She turns around and walks toward the couch where her parents are seated.

She does not seem to be able to see them as she is going to put her teddy bear exactly where they are sitting. They guess her intentions and promptly stand up and join the grandmother preoccupied with the Rosary.

She delicately puts down her teddy bear on the couch and then heads back to the door.

She pushes the top-right panel revealing a secret compartment.

As the door-in-the-door opens toward her, what looks like a very long bright white tail is let free to hang out of the compartment.

Once again, she turns around and walks to the couch. She moves her teddy bear on top of the left armrest, and she gets back to the door.

She inserts both her arms in the open secret compartment out of which the tail is hanging, and delicately extracts an unbelievably huge rat, at least one meter long, excluding its tail, another good meter long.

A beast of that size should weigh at least fifty, maybe sixty kilograms, but she is able to carry it effortlessly, its head resting on her left shoulder, its tail hanging from her right arm.

The animal appears to be dead or profoundly asleep.

Not only its tail, but also Its fur and limbs and snout, everything about it is bright white, almost glowing in the dark.

She lovingly lays the rat on the couch, its head close to the armrest where her teddy bear is sitting, and ensures that the tail is at rest on the couch too.

She kneels down and buries her face into the rat's fur, stroking it with both hands.

After a while, she gets back on her feet and heads to the door.

She squats in front of it and this time she pushes the bottom-right panel revealing a second secret compartment, apparently empty except for a faint light emanating from its interior.

Without hesitation, she inserts both her arms into the opening and starts pulling out the longest snake I have ever seen on any documentary.

Just like the rat, the animal is apparently dead or dormant, and the color of its skin and eyes is glowing white.

About every meter of its length, she coils its body around her neck, until the head of the animal rests on her left palm, and the tail on her right one.

She turns around and slowly starts walking toward the couch, unaffected by the weight of the beast she is carrying.

She seems to be bringing an offer or paying a tribute to someone or something, maybe to the animal itself.

The glowing white skin of the snake, curled around her neck like a huge necklace, dimly lights her pale face and green eyes from below, adding solemnity to the ritual.

The rat is not where she had left it, nowhere to be seen.

She carefully lays the snake down where the rat used to be, uncoiling its loops from around her neck one by one, shaping the long body in twists resembling a mountain road, so its full length can fit the couch, its head pointing to her teddy bear sitting on the left armrest.

She kneels down and gently rests her lips on the head of the snake.

After a while, she is back at the door, crouching down to push the bottom-left panel.

As soon as the door-in-the-door swings open, a dog, lying in the hidden compartment, promptly raises its head and ears.

It looks like a dalmatian in everything, except its fur is spotless, and everything about its body is glowing white, much brighter than the rat and the snake, perhaps because the dog is alive, or so it seems.

At the sight of her, the animal exits the cubicle where it was resting, and jumps into her arms, the head resting on her left shoulder, its tongue keeps licking her cheek and its tail keeps wagging out of her right arm.

She turns to the couch, once again apparently unaffected by the weight she is carrying, with a slight smile on her face, brightened up by the intense luminosity of the dog, and starts to walk slowly, as if trying to enjoy the most of that moment.

The couch is empty: there is no trace of the snake.

As she lays the dog down, its tail suddenly stops wagging, its eyes close, and its brightness starts becoming less and less intense, until it is barely lit at all.

She kneels down and strokes the dog's fur with both hands, her slight smile gone.

After a while, she gets back on her feet, retrieves her teddy bear from the armrest, and turns around walking solemnly, holding her teddy bear to her chest with both arms.

Back at the door, she closes the three open panels and, instead of pushing the last one, the top-left one, she knocks twice on it.

Creeping sounds come out of what I expect to be another hidden compartment.

They are growing louder and louder, too loud to come from behind the panel. They must be originating from beyond the whole door.

Something is crawling in there.

Something seems to be approaching the doorstep.

She takes a few steps back.

All of a sudden, the door slams open with a bang, violently rammed into from the inside.

I have no idea of what is trying to come out of there. My best attempt to describe it is some kind of a huge face, displaying vaguely human features, swollen to occupy the whole area of the door, whose mucous skin is covered with blisters and warts.

She does not flinch at the disturbing vision. She instead stretches her arms toward the monstrous creature holding her teddy bear in front of it.

The giant monster immediately starts to emit screeching sounds, evidently suffering from an excruciating pain.

The skin of the "face" starts exhaling a vapor of some sort, mucus giving way to dried tissue, blisters exploding.

The expressions of agony are impossible to describe. Nothing is human about it anymore.

The shrieks, the exhalations, and the desiccation continue until what remains of the thing on the doorstep resembles a huge bunch of dry grass.

I opened my eyes still holding her hands.

I knew only a handful of seconds had passed until I had entered her first hidden memory.

And I was aware that the memory was not hidden from her anymore, and I had to help her process it.

I stared into her eyes that were now wide open as her expression was changing to terror.

I kept my eyes fixed in hers and shared my thoughts with her.

Do not be afraid. I am here to help you. You and I share a gift. We can do things that normal people cannot. I will guide you to use this potential for your own good and, if you wish, to help others. Do not be afraid of what you have just experienced. I unhid a memory you had hidden because you were afraid of it. Everything you now remember is something you actually went through. I found plenty of hidden memories in your mind. Unhiding them will help you become aware of your potential. I will now ask your dad to tell you what he remembers about that night. This will help you cope with the new reality. If something scares you, just hold my hands and share your thoughts with me like I am doing with you now. This is so much faster than talking and allows us to share emotions too. For example, you can share your fears with me and unload their burden from yourself. I know you feel like you have no clue about how to do that, but, like I said, I am here to help you, and you will soon find out you are a natural at this – trust me. I am going to let go of your hands now. Just grab them back if you need my help. With some practice, you will be able to share your thoughts and emotions with me even without holding hands, and even from any distance. But let us take one step at a time.

I infused her with some peace of mind and self-confidence, and let go of her hands.

I asked her father to tell her what he remembered of the night when she was walking back and forth from the couch to the center of the room, apparently carrying something.

He looked at me in surprise, aware that no one had ever told me anything about that night, and, after realizing that that was the reason why I was there in the first place, he complied.

He started telling her daughter what he remembered about that night.

The girl listened in awe while her father told her that, all of a sudden, she had stood up from the couch where they were all sitting watching a movie and had stepped into the center of the room. Then she had started pointing her left index finger into the void and moving it like she had been drawing something in the air. After that, she had walked back and forth from the center of the room to the couch four times: the first time she had carried her teddy bear, the subsequent three times she had carried nothing, although she had apparently been holding something in her arms, something she had delicately laid on the couch and petted or kissed. She had repeated that three times. Eventually, she had grabbed her teddy bear from the couch, walked back to the center of the room for one last time, and held the teddy bear in front of her for maybe one minute. Then she had turned around and smiled at her parents and grandmother as if nothing had happened.

At the end of her father's account, she turned to me with a deeply concerned expression and held my hands. Once again, I infused her with some peace of mind and self-confidence, and I shared my thoughts with her once more.

Would you like to tell your family what you now remember of that night?

She nodded.

I started with a brief introduction about her gift and explained how hidden memories work, and then she told her version of the story.

The expressions of her family members were a mixture of incredulity and terror. The mother covered her mouth with her hand many times as to suffocate screams. The prayers of the grandmother, counted over rosary beads, were not soundless anymore.

At the end of her account, I told everyone that, for her own good, I suggested I initially visit her every day and then, with time, we could meet less often.

They all agreed, especially her, who grabbed my hands with a lovely smile on her face, and for the first time shared her thoughts with me.

Thank you, Doctor! I do not feel like I am sick anymore. The other psychiatrist always gave me medications and used to tell my parents – I know this because sometimes I entered his or my parents' minds – that there was nothing that could be done except waiting and hoping that what he calls "the episodes" would stop when I grow up. I was terrified when you unhid my memory and I still have no idea of what that was all about, but I also felt how easily you changed the way I felt and got rid of my terror. And I know that, with your help, I will understand the meaning and the reason of my hidden memories and, as you said, I will learn to use my potential for my own good and for the good of other people, like you do. I do not feel alone anymore. Thank you!

She let go of my hands and gently rested her lips on my cheek, a kiss full of enthusiasm, gentleness, and innocence.

I said goodbye to the whole family and made a commitment to be back the next day at the same time.

When I got home, I felt exhausted, much more than after any other session.

This young girl was profoundly troubled, and, despite many years of training aiming to remain detached and preventing involvement with my patients, I could not help but feeling a sudden bond with her.

I had never met anyone else gifted with such a strong potential.

The images of that first unhidden memory were so vivid in my mind.

I was writing this memoir, recalling the hidden memory and trying to find a meaning behind those archetypes: the rat, the snake, the dog.

When I reached the point of reliving the moment of the disturbing vision of the creature trying to exit the door, I immediately had to run to the toilet: diarrhea was my organism's preferred choice to somatize my distress. The terror she had unloaded on me was more than I expected and I had to get rid of it.

I went to bed. It took me a while to fall asleep. I was concerned about her.

The day after, she opened the door of their country house before I could even knock on it, and she threw her arms around my waist sharing her thoughts and her joy with me.

I am so glad to see you, Doctor! Thank you for being here!

I returned her hug and shared my own joy.

After greeting her family, we started our session.

I randomly chose another hidden memory and opened it.

She stands in the center of the living room drawing a perfect rectangle in midair using the point of her left index finger.

Her teddy bear is secured in the hold of her right arm.

The lines she traces glow in the dark of the room, lightnings captured in a still image.

The rectangle floats at about one meter from the floor, and it is around one meter wide and thirty centimeters tall.

Once the rectangle is completed, she draws a small circle in its center.

She rests her arm along her body and she waits: the lines start vibrating like electric arcs and the shapes gain tridimensional depth until a translucent drawer with a spherical handle takes shape in front of her.

She turns around and heads toward the couch where her parents are sitting. She walks slowly, her arms stretched forward holding her teddy bear in front of her. She stops a few steps before her mother gently bowing her head as if this were a ritual of some sort. The woman guesses that she is offering the teddy bear to her, so she immediately stands up and accepts the offering bowing her head in return.

She turns around and walks back to the center of the living room.

She holds the spherical handle with both hands and slides the drawer open out of nowhere.

Both her hands briefly disappear into the storage compartment and, when they reappear, they are holding a coil of rope.

It is a thick strong cord made of strands of some dimly lit material twisted together.

She inserts first her left arm and then her head into the coil of rope, thus wearing it across her chest.

She closes the drawer, which immediately fades away.

She turns around and walks back to the couch. She stops a few steps before her father, once again ritually bowing her head, and she offers him her left hand.

The man immediately stands up and holds it, bowing his head in return.

She walks him to the door and, through it, into their front yard and, beyond it, up the hill in front of their country house.

It is early evening, after dusk, the scene is illuminated by an almost full moon and a clear sky patched of stars, no clouds to be seen. A pleasant breeze creates delicate waves in the flourishing grass growing on the hill.

Her mother, holding to the teddy bear, and her grandmother, holding to the Rosary, watch the events unravelling from the doorstep.

The hill is dominated by the remains of a small church surrounded by scattered tombstones.

She walks hand in hand with his father right in the middle of the section of the graveyard located in front of the main entrance of the derelict church.

When she reaches the headstone that stands closer to the church door, she lets go of her father's hand, who stops right where he is.

She unloads the coiled rope from her shoulder and lets it fall to the ground near the stone.

She grabs one of the ends of the rope and circles the stone with it, securing it with a knot.

Then she walks to another stone, dragging the rope behind her, and circles this one as well, no knots here though, but she makes sure that the rope between the two stones is tight.

She repeats the movements in a slow and solemn rhythm connecting more stones with the glowing rope.

She apparently chooses random stones, leaving several ones untouched by the rope, lying withing the shape she is outlining.

When she returns to the first stone where she started, five stones are now bound, each one connected to two others in the shape of a five-pointed star polygon, a regular pentagram, so perfectly equilateral and isogonal that those tombstones must have been placed in those exact locations on purpose.

As soon as the pentagram is completed with a last loop around the first stone, the rope starts glowing rhythmically.

The rhythm slowly increases in frequency and luminosity, like a beating heart that needs to provide its body with more oxygen.

Holding the remains of the rope, she walks to her father, who is still standing where she left him, and hands him the end of the rope saying: "Dad, please, no matter what happens, hold on to this rope!"

He grabs the end of the rope with both hands, hesitates for an instant and, then, looping it around his waist and forearms, starts pulling it from the headstone until it is well tight.

The rope now glows steadily and its luminosity intensifies as time passes.

She walks right in the middle of the pentagon located in the center of the pentagram and she lies down on her belly, her forehead on the grass, her head and stretched limbs pointing each toward one of the five vertices of the pentagon.

All of a sudden, the whole surface of the pentagram becomes pure light.

Her body is not visible underneath that blinding five-pointed star.

Immediately, creeping noises arise from the church: something huge is growling, snarling, and panting as if struggling to breathe.

It is impossible to describe what flies out of the collapsed vault.

It is gigantic.

Its face resembles that of the creature that tried to come out of the door in the first memory I unhid, vaguely human, the features disproportionate.

The body reminds me of a leech or a slug, dripping with mucus.

It is at least fifteen meters long, maybe more. And it has a pair of wings made of some viscous membrane, spanning at least thirty meters.

At each flap of those mighty wings, I am hit by strong currents carrying splashes of slime.

The creature flies out of the collapsed vault, high into the sky, until I can barely see it.

Then it suddenly starts plunging steeply downwards, its wings straightened along its body.

It now emits screeching sounds.

It is headed down right into the pentagram.

At incredible speed, the monstruous being hits its target and it traverses it as if nothing was there, disappearing who knows where.

The five-pointed star becomes less and less bright as a column of dense white smoke rises from the pentagon located in the center of the pentagram, where she is still lying.

The light dims until not even the rope glows anymore.

Actually, the rope is nowhere to be seen.

When her father realizes that there is nothing left that he can hold on to, he starts running toward her daughter.

He kneels down to her side while she turns on her back and, with his help, she rises to a sitting position.

They hug each other tightly, then she looks him in the eyes and tells him with the sweetest voice: "Thank you, dad. I love you."

I opened my eyes still holding her hands.

We shared thoughts and emotions. She was not as scared as when I had unhid her first hidden memory. She actually seemed glad to be able to remember about this episode.

I requested her permission to ask her father to tell us what he remembered.

She nodded, so I asked him to tell us about the episode during which the two of them went to the graveyard together.

The man quickly went through the events that had taken place inside the house and rushed to recall the moment when they had reached the graveyard.

He was deeply moved during his account.

"She approached me, apparently holding something in her hands and pulling the rest of it behind her. That was the first and only time she spoke during an episode. Without looking me in the eyes, her gaze lost somewhere out of this world, she told me: 'Dad, please, no matter what happens, hold on to this rope!'

"I complied and shivered when I realized I could actually feel in my hands the invisible rope she was handing to me, I could feel its thickness and the twisted strands it was made of.

"Unable to speak, I just nodded.

"Her look was still lost into the void, but a faint smile appeared on her face and I had the impression she was well aware that I would rather have died, but I would have never let go of that rope."

He told me that that was the moment he decided to call me: he had read my first book, and, despite he had found my studies very stimulating, he had not given much importance to those readings until he felt that invisible rope in his grip.

Until then, he had thought her daughter was suffering from some psychiatric disease and, therefore, he had entrusted her to the care of a psychiatrist, a very well trusted fellow of mine, actually.

We agreed on meeting the day after at the same time, and I left.

At home, working on this memoir, I became fully aware that the girl was haunted by some malign entity most likely attracted by her potential.

I had to fight similar powers myself during my youth, and I had helped other patients burdened with similar curses.

The memory I opened the day after must have been the most terrifying she had ever hidden.

She lies down on her back on the bare wooden floor of the living room, her head not far from the fireplace.

Her legs point to the opposite direction, where the couch is, where her family is looking at her in awe.

She takes off her sweatpants and underwear.

The bottom half of her body is naked.

She spreads her legs, half bent, as if about to be visited by a gynecologist.

Her father and mother are holding their hands, her grandmother is always counting prayers over rosary beads.

Her belly starts aching. She raises her head to look at it.

Something is moving inside her.

She pulls up her t-shirt. Her belly is swelling up.

Something is growing inside her.

In a matter of minutes, her belly is swollen to the point it resembles that of a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, and something is visibly moving under the stretched skin.

Something is looking for a way out.

She feels warm fluids pouring out of her vagina. The pain is unbearable. She screams.

Something is moving between her legs, slithering, crawling out.

She rises up on her elbows and looks down.

In a pool of luminescent mucous fluid lies a huge maggot, at least fifty centimeters long.

Some source of light under its pale viscous skin pulses at regular intervals.

She looks at her belly, which is as normal as nothing happened.

She stands up and puts her clothes back on.

She stares at the creature on the wooden floor, unable and unwilling to believe she has just given birth to it.

All of a sudden, she runs to the couch, grabs her teddy bear sitting next to her family, and runs back to the center of the room.

She kneels down at the edge of the luminescent pool clenching her teddy bear with her left hand. She raises her arm holding the teddy bear above her head while her expression changes to anger. Then she violently lowers her arm and, wielding her teddy bear as a dagger, stabs the huge maggot, splashing mucus all around.

The creature starts to wriggle its body from side to side as the pulses of light emitted from under its skin increase in both frequency and intensity.

When the wriggling stops, she rises her arm removing the dagger from the deadly wound.

The source of light under the skin of the maggot, now steady, has never been so bright.

Vapors start rising from its body as well as from the pool surrounding it.

Soon the pool dries out and the skin of the maggot turns to some hard shell.

The light inside the shell is still bright and suddenly begins to move.

The hard shell that used to be the skin of the maggot starts cracking in multiple locations.

As it falls apart, a small-scale version of the flying monster from her previous hidden memory crawls out, points its disproportionate "face" at her, and starts emitting loud, harsh, piercing cries.

Then it shakes its body like a dog shaking water off its fur, sending shards of the hard shell and splashing mucus all around until its viscous wings detach from its sides, then it starts flapping them in order to remove even more slime.

Before it takes off, once again wielding her teddy bear as a dagger, she stabs the creature in the head, her expression full of rage.

The monster flaps his wings clumsily and writhes uncoordinatedly.

Its sounds change to growls and snarls, and then shallow pants. It is struggling to breathe.

The light emanated by its body vanishes.

Soon what remains of the thing resembles a small bunch of dry grass.

When I opened my eyes, she was staring at me in terror.

She shared her thoughts and emotions with me, and I was overwhelmed by the intensity of her extreme fear.

Am I the virgin mother of the Antichrist?

I struggled to unload the burden of her dread from her, but I eventually succeeded in making it mine and I felt her relief.

Then I shared my thoughts with her smiling in the most reassuring way.

No, you definitely are not the virgin mother of the Antichrist. What you experience during these episodes actually takes place in a reality other than the one you live your everyday life with your family and your friends, a reality only people gifted with our potential can access. So, whatever you gave birth to cannot harm anyone. Besides, whatever it was, you killed it. Therefore, even assuming it could have escaped its reality and entered ours, by killing it you protected your family, your friends, and everyone else in the world. I am so proud of you! And I am so sorry that you are going through all this. Whatever is cursing you feeds on gifted people and is trying to exploit your potential in order to carry out some evil plan. However, remember you are not sick! And you are not alone anymore! I am here to protect you! And I will help you fight this curse!

She smiled back to me and hugged me tight.

This happened on a Friday night.

I said goodbye to the whole family, made a commitment to be back the next Monday at the same time, and wished them all a good weekend.

The ring of my cellphone woke me up on Sunday around 10:00 in the morning.

It was her father: she was having an episode.

When I got there, she was standing in the middle of the graveyard located in front of the main entrance of the derelict church, just about in the center of the pentagram she had traced with the rope among the tombstones in her hidden memory.

I joined her father, mother, and grandmother, always holding to her Rosary, watching the events unravelling from the lower edge of the graveyard at the bottom of the hill.

She was holding her teddy bear to her chest, staring at the empty space above the collapsed vault of the church.

It was a sunny springtime morning, the sky was clear, the weather lovely. A pleasant light breeze was blowing, carrying the chirps and tweets of the birds from the nearby woods.

All of a sudden, the two wooden doors blocking the main entrance of the church slammed open, violently rammed into from the inside, crashing into the walls on both sides of the entrance, scattering the ground with big chunks of wood.

The two women beside me screamed in unison: the older falling on her knees, crossing herself multiple times, and praying louder; the younger hugging her husband, who looked at me with a shocked and inquiring expression.

I told them: "I am going to join her. Whatever happens, wait here and do not interfere."

I entered her mind.

Darkness surrounds everything.

The only lights originate from the collapsed vault of the church and from its open entrance, moving lights, alive, like emitted by flames, but bluish.

One of those giant creatures is flapping its mighty wings, made of some viscous membrane, circling the dark sky above the church.

Its mucous body, resembling a gigantic leech or slug, is illuminated from below by the bluish lights emanating from the core of the church through the collapsed vault.

I guess this is the being that smashed the wooden doors blocking the main entrance of the church and broke out.

The monster starts screeching. It sounds like it is calling for help.

Soon its call is answered: something inside the church in ruins is growling, snarling.

Another giant crawls out of the main entrance.

It shakes its body like a dog shaking water off its fur, splashing mucus all around until its viscous wings detach from its sides, then it starts flapping them in order to remove even more slime, until it takes off and joins its fellow circling the dark sky above the church.

In response to the joined shrieks of the flying creatures, one more exits the church, and then one more, until four of them are flying in wide circles.

One of the monsters leaves the group and flies toward her.

Hovering in midair at a rapid wing-flapping rate, like a hummingbird feeding at a flower, the being coils its pointy tail around her left wrist.

Despite of her attempts to struggle, she soon finds herself lifted about one meter from the ground, hanging from her left wrist constricted by that viscous but inextricable grip.

Soon a second creature joins the first one and constricts her right wrist with its tail.

This is when she has to let go of her teddy bear, which falls on the ground below her feet, among the headstones.

Now the first two flying monsters lift her up at least ten, maybe fifteen meters from the ground, and the last two, which have been so far circling the dark sky above the church, join their fellows, and each one coils its pointy tail around one of her ankles.

She struggles in silence, staring at the entrance of the church as if waiting for something else to happen, but she cannot set her limbs free.

I cannot allow anything else to happen to her!

I run uphill among the tombstones until I reach her teddy bear.

I briefly look up at her who, in turn, looks down at me: she senses my presence, she knows I am inside her mind, sharing her episode.

I share a thought with her and infuse her with the belief that she can rely on me.

She nods.

I pick up her teddy bear and run toward the entrance of the church.

The ground is scattered with big chunks of wood from the crashed doors and soaked with the mucus left behind by the four creatures.

I halt as I hear something crawling out of the bluish light inside the church.

A fifth giant slowly advances in my direction.

When its disproportionate, vaguely human features are no more than five meters away, I remember how she behaved in her hidden memory, not even flinching.

I stretch my arms toward the monstrous creature holding her teddy bear in front of it, and, as it happened before, the giant monster immediately starts to emit screeching sounds, evidently suffering from an excruciating pain.

The skin starts exhaling some sort of vapor, mucus giving way to dried tissue.

The expressions of agony are impossible to describe.

The shrieks, the exhalations, and the desiccation continue until what remains of it resembles a huge bunch of dry grass.

I look back at her. She faintly smiles at me.

The four beings, holding her like crucified on an x-shaped cross, start emitting more squealing sounds, as if invoking others of their own kind.

I turn around and walk inside the church toward the source of the bluish light.

I find myself in front of a huge inverted cross, a cross of Saint Peter.

It is bidimensional: it lies on a thin vertical surface stretching from what used to be the floor of the church to what it would be its vault, if it had not collapsed.

It looks like a door or a window through which I can take a peek at another world.

All I can see through this inverted-cross-shaped door is blue flames.

I hesitate.

I must put an end to her suffering. I must set her free.

I cling to her teddy bear with my right hand, and step into the door.

I walk into the fire.

I am surrounded by a massive blue fire.

I hear creeping noises around me from every direction, even from below.

I keep walking for who knows how long.

Until I stop.

I close my eyes.

I do not want to see anything.

I do not want to hear anything.

I do not want to feel anything.

Calmly, assertively, I say: "Enough! Leave her alone!"

Darkness.

Silence.

Peace.

I heard her father calling: "Doctor! Madam! Are you ok? Can you hear me?"

I tried to open my eyes, but I was blinded by the sun above me, around solar noon.

I was lying on my back.

I raised my left hand between my eyes and the blinding light above me, and I slowly opened my eyes.

I was lying in the middle of the church in ruins.

Her father was kneeling by my side, his hand chastely resting on my belly.

He gently helped me raise my back to a sitting position.

My bones were aching like I had been struck by a sudden flu.

My right hand was still clung to her teddy bear.

"Is she ok?" I asked him.

He nodded in an expression of gratitude and relief.

He supported me while I was gradually trying to stand up.

The darkness was gone: the lovely weather of that beautiful springtime Sunday morning had returned.

I walked out of the derelict church, followed by her father, and I found her waiting for me with her mother and grandmother just outside.

As soon as she saw me, she immediately started running toward me.

I let myself fall on my knees, exhausted.

She threw her arms around my neck and I lovingly returned her hug.

I shared my thoughts with her and I infused her with my joy.

I am so glad you are ok!

She hugged me even tighter and replied with her own joy.

Thank you! You set me free! You saved me! When I grow up, I want to be like you. I want to use my potential to help others. Will you teach me?

I nodded and we shared happiness.

I knew that that might not be the end of her troubles, because whatever had been cursing her so far was feeding on people gifted with our potential, but we had established such a deep bond, and she would never be alone anymore.

 

Fabio Scagliola,