Life blood, p.8
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       Life Blood, p.8


  Chapter Eight

  Sometime thereafter, in a reverie, I felt myself in a magical forestwhose lush vines reminded me of Kerala in India. It was a verdant, hazyparadise, another Eden. A child was with me, a child of my own, and Ifelt jubilation. I watched the child as she grew and became aresplendent orchid.

  But with childbearing came pain, and I seemed to be feeling that painas I took up the flower and held it, joy flowing through me.

  Then Alex Goddard drifted into my dream, still all in white, and he wasgentle and caring as he again moved his hands over me, leaving numbnessin their wake. I thought I heard his voice talking of the miracle thathe would make for me. A miracle baby, a beautiful flower of a child. Iasked him how such a thing would happen. A miracle, he whispered back.It will be a miracle, just for you. When he said it, the orchid turnedinto the silver face of a cat, a vaguely familiar image, smilingbenignly, then transmuted back into a blossom.

  Then he drifted out of my dream much as he had come, a wisp of white,leaving me holding the gorgeous flower against my breasts, which hadbegun to swell and spill out milk the color of gold. . . .

  A wet coolness washed across my face, and--as I faintly heard thesounds of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Glenn Gould's piano notes crispand clear--I opened my eyes to

  see Ramala massaging my brow with a damp cloth. She smiled kindly andlovingly as she saw my eyes open, then widen with astonishment.


  "Hey, how're you doing? Don't be alarmed. He's taking great care ofyou."

  "What. . . where am I?" I lifted my head off the pillow and tried tolook around. I half expected Steve to be there, but of course he wasn't.

  "You're here. At Quetzal Manor." She reached and did something and themusic slowly faded away. "Don't worry. You'll be fine. I think thedoctor was trying to release your Chi, and when he did it was toostrong for you."

  "What day is it?" I felt completely disoriented my bearings gone.

  "Sunday. It's Sunday morning." She reached and touched my brow asthough giving me a blessing. Like, it's okay, really.

  At that moment, Alex Goddard strolled in, dressed again in white.

  Just as in the dream, I thought.

  "So, how's the patient?" He walked over--eyes benign and caring--andlifted my wrist, absently taking my pulse while he inserted a digitalthermometer in my ear. For a flashback moment he merged into, thenemerged from, my dream. "You're looking fine. I have to say, though,you had quite a time yesterday."

  "All I remember is passing out in your office," I mumbled glancingaround at the gray plastic thermometer. And that strange dream, youtelling me I would have a miracle baby.

  "You had an unusual reaction," he went on. "You remember I spoke to youabout mind-body harmony. You see what can happen when I redirect theflows of energy, Chi, from your body to your mind." He smiled andsettled my wrist back onto the bed. "Don't worry. I have a lot of hopefor you. You're going to do fine."

  He looked satisfied as he consulted the thermometer, then jotted downmy temperature on a chart. He's already started a medical record, Ithought. Why?

  "I'm . . . I'm wondering if this really is working out," I said. It wasdawning on me that I was getting into Alex Goddard's world a lot deeperand a lot faster than I'd expected. I'd come planning to be an observerand now I was the one being observed. That was exactly not how I'dintended it. Maybe, I thought, if I back off and make a new run, I cankeep us on equal footing. "Perhaps I ought to just go back to the cityfor a few days and--"

  "I'd assumed you came to begin the program." He looked at me, a quicksadness flooding his eyes. "You struck me as a person who would followthrough."

  "I need to think this over" I really feel terrible, I thought, tryingto rise up. What did he do to me? "Maybe I'm just not right for your'program'?" The idea of a documentary had momentarily retreated farinto the depths of my mind.

  "On the contrary." He smiled. "We've shown that you're very responsive."

  "Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm too responsive." I rose and slipped my feetoff the bed. The motion brought a piercing pain in my abdomen. "OUCH!What's . . ." I felt my pelvis, only to find it was very sensitive.

  Pulling aside my bed shift, I gazed in disbelief at my lower abdomen.There were red spots just above my pale blue panties.

  Alex Goddard modestly averted his eyes. "I didn't want to sayanything," he explained to the wall above my head, "but you were inpretty delicate shape there for a while. Mild convulsions, and I thinkyour digestive system had gone into shock. The stomach is a center ofenergy, because it's constantly active. So I gave you some shots ofmuscle relaxant. Nothing serious. It's an unusual treatment, but I'vefound it works. It . . . modulates the energy flows. I also took ablood sample for some tests, but the results were all normal."

  He then asked me about my menstrual cycle, exact days, saying he wantedto make sure it wasn't just routine cramps. "The seizure you had passedalmost as soon as it came, but you might actually have beenhallucinating a bit. You had a slight fever all night."

  "Well . . ." Something like that had happened to me years ago in ruralJapan, when I stupidly ate some unwashed greens and my stomach wentinto shock. At one point a local doctor, Chinese, was tryingacupuncture, which also left me sore.

  "Nothing to be worried about," he continued. "But if you're the leastbit concerned, maybe we ought to do a quick sonogram, take a soundpicture. Ease your mind that everything's okay."

  "That doesn't really seem necessary," I said. For a clinic specializingin "energy flows" and "mind-body" programs, there was a lot of modernequipment. Odd.

  "Won't do a bit of harm." He nodded at Ramala, who also seemed to thinkit was a good idea. "Come on, help me walk her down to the lab." Heturned back. "It's totally noninvasive. You'll see for yourself thatyou're fine."

  Before I could protest, I found myself walking, with some dizziness,down the hallway. This part of Quetzal Manor, which I had not seenbefore, was a sterile, high-tech clinic. I realized I was in adifferent building from the old convent, probably the new one I'dnoticed across the parking lot, the one he hadn't bothered to mentionthat first day. But all I could focus on were the blue walls and thenew white tiles of the floor.

  The sonogram was as he described it, quick and noninvasive. He rubbedthe ultrasound wand over my abdomen, watching the picture on a CRTscreen, which showed my insides, a jumble of organs that he seemed tofind extremely informative.

  "Look." He pointed. "Those lines there are your Fallopian tubes, andthat's your uterus." He pushed a button to record a digital image."Seems like whatever was upsetting your stomach is gone. Obviouslynothing's wrong here."

  "Good," I said, "because I really need to take a few days and thinkthis over."

  "You should stay," he said, reaching to touch my hand. "I think theworst is well behind us. From here on, we can work together. In fact,what I actually wish you would do is come with me to my clinic inCentral America. It's truly a place of miracles."

  I assumed he was referring to the "special place" he'd mentioned duringour first interview. If Quetzal Manor was on the exotic side, Ithought, what must that place be like? A documentary that took in thetotality of who and what he was could be--

  "In fact," he went on, "I just learned I have to be going there latertoday. A quick trip to catch up on some things. So this would be anideal time for you to come. We could go together."

  Well, I thought, I'd love to see what else he's up to, but this wholescene is getting out of control. When I first met Alex Goddard, we hada power balance, but now he's definitely calling the shots.

  "I don't think I'm ready for that kind of commitment yet."

  "As you wish." He smiled with understanding. "But let me just say this.It's not going to be easy, but nothing I've seen so far suggeststhere's any physical reason why you can't have a child. We just need toget you in touch with the energy centers in your body. Rightness flowsfrom that."

  "You really think so?" In spite of myself I felt my hopes rising, eventhou
gh I had definite mixed feelings about his kind of "holistic"medicine.

  "I'm virtually certain. But whether you want to continue with theprogram or not is a decision you'll have to make for yourself."

  "Well, maybe when I'm feeling better we can talk some more about it." Idefinitely needed to reconsider my game plan. "For now, I think I'dbetter just get my things and--"

  "As you wish." He sighed. "Your clothes are in your room. There's acloset in the corner by the window."

  I shot a glance at him. "Does my Blue Cross cover this?"

  "On the house." A dismissive wave of his hand, and another kindly smile.

  I was still feeling shaky as I moved back down the vacant hallway, butI refused to let either of them help me. Instead I left him to overseeRamala as she shut down the equipment.

  Oddly, the place still seemed vacant except for me, though there was alarge white door that appeared to lead to another wing. What was inthere? I wondered. The questions kept piling up.

  It soon turned out I was wrong about the clinic being empty. When Ireached the door to the room where I'd been, I thought I heard ashuffling sound inside. I pushed it open gingerly and saw the room wasdark. It hadn't been when I left. The shuffling noise--I realized itwas somebody closing the Venetian blinds--immediately stopped.

  I began feeling along the wall for the light switch.

  "Please leave it off," said a spacey female voice. "It's nice when it'sdark."

  As my eyes became accustomed to the eerie half-light, I finally madeout a figure. It was a short woman, childlike but probably mid-twenties.

  "What are you doing in here?"

  "I just wanted to, like, be with you." She'd done her dark hair inmultiple braids, with a red glass bead at the end of each. "You'respecial. We all know it. That's why he brought you over here, to thisbuilding. To be near them."

  "What do you mean, 'special'?" I asked, heading for the closet and myblack jeans. Then I wondered. Near who?

  Now she was reaching into a fanny pack she had around her waist andtaking out a baggie filled with plastic vials. "These are herbs I'vestarted growing here. I picked them for you. If you'll--"

  "Slow down," I said, lifting my jeans off the hanger and starting tostruggle into them. Finally I took the baggie, moved to the window, andtilted up the blind. Inside it were clear plastic medicine bottlescontaining various gray and green powders and flakes.

  My God, what's she trying to give me? And why?

  "Listen," she went on, insistent. "Take those. Put two teaspoons ofeach in water you've boiled and drink it. Every day for a week. They'llmake you strong. Then you'll be--"

  "Hey, I'm going to be just fine, really." I set them aside and studiedher, still a ghostlike figure in the semi dark. There was a wildness inher eyes that was very disturbing.

  At that moment, Alex Goddard appeared in the doorway. He clicked on thelight, looking puzzled.

  "Couldn't find the switch?" Then he glanced around. "Tara, did you getlost? I thought you were doing your meditation. It's Sunday.Afterwards, though, you can weed the north herb boxes if you want."

  She nodded silently, then grabbed the baggie and glided out, her browneyes filled with both reverence and what seemed like fear.

  "Who was that?" I asked, staring after her, feeling unsettled by thewhole experience. "She seemed pretty intense."

  "Tara's been pretty intense for some time, perhaps for much of herlife," he declared with a note of sadness as he closed the door behindher. "I've not been able to do anything for her, but I've let her stayon here since she has nowhere else to go. She loves the gardens, soI've let her work out there. It seems to improve her self-esteem, akind of benign therapy, her own natural path toward centering."

  Well, I thought, she certainly could use some "centering."

  "Look, Dr. Goddard, let me get my things, and then I've got to begoing. I can't start on anything right now. Not the way I'm feeling.And visiting your other clinic is completely out of the question, atleast for the moment."

  "I have great hopes for you," he said again, placing a gentle hand onmy shoulder. "I'm sorry we can't begin to work together immediately.But do promise me you'll reconsider and come back soon."

  "Maybe when I'm feeling better." Keep the option open, I told myself.For a lot of reasons.

  "In that case, Ramala can show you out. I've arranged for her to giveyou some herbal extracts from the rain forest that could well start youon the road to motherhood. Whether you decide to come back or not, Iknow they'll help you."

  And he was gone, a wisp of white moving out the doorway. It was onlythen that I realized I'd again been too preoccupied to ask him aboutKevin and Rachel, the beautiful siblings born six months apart. Insteadall I had left was a memory of those penetrating eyes. And the power,the absolute power.

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