An Excerpt from
"A Half Moon Adventure"
A warm breeze carries me gently here and there. Silence. Nothingness. Only warmth. A voice, calm and firm reaches me, pulls me back.
Dr. Albrecht’s voice reached me from afar. I remembered now: he had hypnotised me. “Three, you are coming back.Two, you will wake up now. One, you open your eyes. You can remember everything.”
The pictures behind the nothingness faded away. I had seen myself as a younger version of who I was now: dark blonde, slim, medium height, with full lips and blue-grey eyes. Young and vulnerable. Had I really looked so sad back then?
Actually, I liked myself the way I had been at the age of twelve.
“You did rather nicely, Isabell,” Dr. Albrecht praised me and switched off the tape recorder. I opened my eyes and took a deep breath.
He checked his watch and then the wall clock. Just to make sure that the time was correct. The cosy warmth seeped away and the smell of floor polish hit me. The Lazyboy I‘d been lying on for the past half hour felt no longer comfortable. “Mhmm.” I wanted to stretch myself.
It always took me a while to get used to reality again. Reality – that was the summer of 1977, in my home town of Karlsruhe in Southern Germany.
At fifteen, I was an ordinary teenager; in my opinion at least. I did sports, loved pop music, had the odd zit on my face and, on occasion, defied my parents. That’s the reason why I was here. My parents were convinced that I was too difficult, too rebellious. Shocker. And it was Dr. Albrecht’s job to fix me.
Traffic noise echoed up from the street. There was the dank smell of a cold cup of coffee on my shrink‘s broad desk and the tick-tocking of the clock on the stark white wall across the room. It was 2:30 pm. A tram bell downstairs was ringing wildly. I knew I was back.
This novel treatment with hypnosis had lasted for the whole of two months now and it had dredged up a great deal from my early childhood. In the seventies, new treatment methods were all the rage - anything that was considered modern was all the rage. I didn’t really mind that.
“We still have some time left and I’d like you to listen to the most important sections on the tape. I also have a few questions for you...”
“Of course, Doc,” I said in a perky tone.
I sat up and watched him work the tape recorder. As far as I could tell, Dr. Albrecht was ancient. Thirty... at least.
His thinning hairline and the crows feet around his spectacled eyes were a sure sign of his advanced age. What’s more was that he always wore a white coat and acted so damn polite. The picture of a scientist. He somehow reminded me of an Albert Einstein poster. Just that his hair wasn’t as crazily tousled as that of Einstein. I thought by now that this new therapy was quite a smasher because Dr. Albrecht was the only grown-up who actually listened to me.
At first, I hadn’t been keen on all that mumbo jumbo, but then I got used to it. Under hypnosis, I could live through stuff that had happened way in the past. Just that now I was in control. We always discussed what I‘d experienced after one of these sessions. This time, my memories had begun with a phone call to my father when I was twelve years old.
‘Daddy, she‘s just lying in bed and doesn‘t say anything. She just stares at the wall. I’m afraid. Please come home!’
‘Are you sure that she‘s not just in one of her moods again? I’ve got so much work to do here. Were you cheeky to her?’
‘No, of course not, I wasn’t. We weren’t naughty at all.’
My older sister Evelyn began to wail and my younger sister Paula crawled under the dining room table.
‘Did she take something?’
We didn’t know. She always took so many pills.
Soon, Daddy came home and shortly after, an ambulance took my mother away. As usual, we felt guilty because Daddy didn’t speak to us. It clearly was all our fault. My mother then stayed at the health resort for two long months.
During this time, the health department had sent a stout valkyrie of a caregiver to our home to look after the family. Her head was topped by an old-fashioned beehive and she ordered us around in a shrill voice...
Dr. Albrecht paused the tape.
“How did you feel about your mother’s absence?” He asked.
“Hmm, guilty I guess... and I didn’t like this caregiver. I liked her even less than my mother,” I said and answered another three or four questions. I had learned to put my feelings into words and that wasn’t all that bad.
“Alright, I think that’s enough for today,” the good doctor said at last.
I gave the wall clock a baffled glance. It was just after three and high time. The psychologist wrote down some last notes, and as always at this stage, he went to plant himself on his leather chair behind the desk.
“Well, we have nearly reached the end of your therapy,” he said abruptly and tossed his pen into the glass tray. “A great success, I’d say. You should be proud of yourself, Isabell. All we need are one… maybe two more sessions.”
“Okay fine. I have to go now,” I said. “We are writing an important test tomorrow.” Eager to leave, I wriggled impatiently down from the Lazyboy.
Dr. Albrecht pushed his gold-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. He didn’t seem finished with talking. So I plunked myself onto the wooden chair in front of the big desk, fidgeting while I looked up at him.
Hardly anyone knew about this therapy of mine and I never even spoke to my family about it. That would have been way too awkward. Anyway, the girls in my class were too immature to dig something like hypnosis. They would have made fun of me for sure. Only my best friend Renate knew, and she was okay with it.
‘Swell, I’m seeing a real psychologist,’ I had reported back to her after my first session.
‘What the hell do you need a psychologist for?’ She pronounced the word as if it was rotten food or something.
‘Well, you know... my mother and all that crap.‘
‘Why doesn’t she go to a psychologist herself, then?’
‘Maybe, because she’s a grown-up?’ I’d said.
Maybe, I shouldn’t tell Renate so much about my mother. She might think that I was just as bonkers as the old bat.
‘And that‘s the only reason? Are grown-ups always right or what?‘
‘What else is new?’
‘That’s so daft. I’m glad, my Mum’s kinda normal.’
Her mother was divorced and worked part-time. Renate was a latchkey-kid and all full-time mothers felt sorry for her.
‘Yes, you are a lucky fish.’
‘Remember, you can‘t trust anyone over thirty,’ Renate had warned me. ‘Don‘t take all that stuff for real - whatever that guy’s telling you.’
But I trusted Dr. Albrecht no matter what she said.
Renate was slim with long hair that she dyed pitch black. Totally awesome. The only girl in our class, who dared dying her hair. Her dark eyes were too large for that small cat face of hers and her thin lips were often curled up in a cynical sort of way. That‘s just how she was dealing with an uncaring world; cynical was good and Renate wasn’t half as bitchy as the other girls. Only a bit aloof, maybe. It gave our friendship just the right amount of distance.
‘Mrs. Beilstein is in the waiting room,’ the intercom on the desk rasped. Dr. Albrecht pressed one of the buttons.
“Thank you, Elizabeth. Just one minute, please.” The doctor told me something in this ‘one minute‘ that had me stumped. That I was such a good subject and what not and that’s why he wanted to continue with the sessions. Unofficially so to speak.
“You would be ideally suited for my experiment, Isabell. What I would like to do is to further regress some of my patients as an extension of my work. Perhaps you’ve heard about something called regression.”
I contemplated the word. “No, what’s that supposed to be?”
In a nutshell, the explanation was short and sweet, since he only had a minute to squeeze it in. What he said made me nervous and I kept fidgeting on my chair. “You mean – the time before I was born?”
“So to speak. I will write a book about all of this.”
“So to speak? But that’s - impossible! We only live once – right?”
A while ago I had seen myself briefly in a sari while I was under, but Dr. Albrecht had quickly brought me back. I remembered that I’d had curves then, but that was all. Was he talking about that, maybe?
“That’s precisely what I would like to research further. With your help. There are several documented cases in the United States by Dr. Stephenson for example. You are still a minor, but we could change your date of birth and your name. Just for the sake of research.”
Wow, a secret! That was an interesting turn of events. Dr. Albrecht had probably read every conceivable book on the subject. He then told me about a woman who had actually remembered a previous life. And that I could do that too!
“What if you’ve lived, let’s say, in...Timbuktu. Do you then also speak …”
“Arabic? Possibly. That’s something called xenoglossy, if someone speaks a foreign language under hypnosis that he or she has never learned.” Xenoglossy – a chunk of a word. Fancy that!
“Hmm, I’m not sure. Sounds a bit odd. I have to study for school and all that,” I weakly protested.
“Of course, the decision is up to you. If you don’t want to participate, I’ll find somebody else. Your school work comes first. That’s quite normal. I completely understand.”
How I hated the word ‘normal’.
“But why on earth me? Didn‘t you ask your other patients? I’m only number 13 on your list of ‘difficult teenagers’.” It was meant in an ironic sort of way, the reference to the number 13.
“Yes well, I’ll also ask my other patients, of course. But in my opinion, you would be best suited for this.” In his opinion!
“Smashing, I’m your best guinea pig.”
“So to speak.”
“I have to give it some thought.”
“Naturally. Take your time, Isabell. Just don’t take too long. I’ll see you next week. Elizabeth, you can now —” The whole conversation had taken a lot longer than one minute. More like ten.
I was best suited for this and my mother would have kittens if she knew. Hah. “Okay, I’ve thought about it,” I said quickly. “I’ll do it.”
The shrink needed me. Not as a patient, but as his best guinea pig. Not the others - ME. Fifteen-year-old Isabell and I would be in his book. I felt proud somehow at the thought of it all. I’d have a different name and would be older, but I wasn’t fussed about stuff like that. Nobody was supposed to know about it, anyway.
We made an appointment for Thursday next week at the same time. I squeezed past beefy Mrs. Beilstein and dashed down the stairs. In the street, I fumbled the lock on my bike open and was about to jump on the seat, when I had to think about the body of my alter-ego.
I looked down at myself. What I saw weren’t exactly curves or even well-rounded boobs, but a slim body with two tiny molehills. Other girls my age were a lot more padded than that. Never mind. It was great for doing sports!
I contemplated the whole thing, while I pedalled home through afternoon traffic. I started giggling and nearly went over a red light. A tram kept ringing its bell at me until I was out of earshot.
Dr. Albrecht had done his utmost to coax early memories out of me. At last, somebody gave a hoot about my thoughts and feelings. This thing with hypnosis was really awesome, although I had been totally against it at first. The bicycle tyres clattered over the kerb. I took a familiar shortcut and rode closely past an old lady, who was taking her dachshund for a walk. Too closely. “Hey, you lubber!”
“Sooory!” I called back and was gone.
There were only flats in our area, but I had a thing for the ancient sandstone buildings along the broad avenues, where the rich people lived.
Inside, the rooms had to be large and elegant with huge windows leading out to the verandas. I was sure that they were fitted with expensive carpets and furniture that I could only dream of. My family, on the other hand, lived in a small council flat in a more affordable road, because my parents had three children to feed.
At that point, I turned into our road and wondered for the hundredth time, who’d had the idiotic idea to paint house number 8 that ugly mustard yellow. When you looked up, lacy curtains fluttered almost imperceptibly as if moved by an invisible hand. I put the chain around my bike’s rear tyre and climbed up the stairs, two steps at a time.
“Isabellshe!” I nearly blundered into Mrs. Speidel, the nosy gossip from the top floor. She always added a -she at the end of my name. Actually, at the end of everyone’s name that she regarded as a child. Mrs. Speidel was a member of the club of adults, whose sole purpose it was to make my life miserable.
“Isabellshe! Wait a little while, darling...”
She had to spend half her life somewhere on the staircase, judging by how often one bumped into her all day long. The staircase was just like the main street of a vertical village and Mrs. Speidel knew just about everything about all her neighbours. Nah! She knew everything about everybody in the entire street and about every celebrity, too.
“Oh, I’m very sorry, Mrs.Speidel. Bye for now.” I managed to jump onto the next landing. It would be easier to bolt if she could no longer see me.
“Well... did you just come home from school?” The chatterbox called up after me.
“Well you know... back in my day…” I quickly slammed the door to our flat shut. The smell of stew.
“Did you have something to eat?” My mother asked from the kitchen. She wanted to have a chat with me. “Yes,” I lied and edged into the children’s room.
There was no way I would discuss my therapy session with her. Not only because I really didn’t feel like it, but I couldn’t fill my parents in on Dr. Albrecht’s new experiment. No point in talking to them, anyway. In my opinion, they were bone-headed, totally conventional and narrow-minded.
At the tender age of fifteen, I had a pretty good idea what that meant. Everybody knew about conventional people.
My parents were Walter and Hannelore Bertrand and they were not a perfect couple.
Daddy worked at the Technical University in town and came home for lunch every day. After hours, he usuallly went out to make an extra buck, repairing TV sets. He was forced to moonlight because three children cost a pretty penny. He blamed his receding hairline on his existence as a father and my Mum’s cooking was responsible for his corpulent girth. Königsberger Klopse, meatballs in a white caper sauce, were his favourite dish. When I was younger, I’d also liked them, but then I had changed my mind because we had to eat them so often. What I wanted to eat now was muesli.
Dad’s official job description was ‘technical employee’ and he was the most important employee at the university for sure. When we were little, my sister Evelyn and I had been allowed to accompany him to his place of work once in a while. Daddy even had a parking space in the underground garage and his own big office with a workshop in the basement. Cables of every colour, some with clamps on them, were hanging down the sides of shelves. These shelves accommodated stacks of tools and screws and all sorts of stuff.
He would patiently explain to us what his important work entailed. Daddy could do just about everything, it seemed, and people called him often to come and help them.
The two of us would then take turns on his desk chair, spinning it around to the left and right. Then we’d buy ourselves Coca-Colas for 50 cents from the vending machine in the passage with the polished floor. The large swivel-mounted magnifying glass above the desk was our favourite toy. You could switch on a tiny lamp on its side and get a close-up look at everything from cigar butts in the ashtray to screws and postage stamps. Daddy used to enjoy our company and sometimes it still felt like he did a little.