Reverberations, Part I


Blue Palace Ruins Small

Blue Palace Ruins in Solitude — Adrian’s office and Dr. Gustafson’s practice are both nearby


“It doesn’t happen every night, but many nights it does.  Maybe three times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less.  But even when the dreams don’t come, I’m always worried they will, so it’s still very hard to get to sleep.”  From the easy chair, Adrian studied his therapist’s face.  She was a real Nord woman, he thought.  Her blonde hair was pulled back severely, but the large plastic frames of her eyeglasses softened her appearance.  She was sitting in an office chair by her desk, nodding, as if she expected to hear more.  She was like that, Adrian noticed.  She could always sense there was more to tell.  “But I don’t know if there’s anything more to say that I haven’t said before.”



“Is it the same dream?” Doctor Gustafson asked.  She held nothing in her hands.  Adrian assumed that rather than taking notes, she was recording the whole session.

“Almost exactly,” replied Adrian.  “I’m in that boat again, rocking back and forth.  The girl’s still there, and I still can’t see her face.  And I’m still feeling like something’s really, really wrong in the dream, but I don’t know what.  And then I wake up, depressed, worried, I don’t know.”  Adrian found himself inspecting his fingers very closely, as if they held answers.  They didn’t.  “What do I have to do, Doctor?  Should I be taking something?  I’ve got to get past all this somehow.”

Doctor Gustafson shook her head.  “I don’t believe medication would be very helpful right now.  You’re not sleeping because something is bothering you.  Perhaps these dreams may have something to do with that.”  She paused to gather her thoughts.  “Is everything all right with your work?  Do you think you’re performing well?”

“As far as I know, they’re happy with me.  The general manager hinted I might be up for promotion.  As to whether I like my job?  Well, it’s a job.  It pays pretty well, but it’s often pretty dull.”

“You’re still with SK International, right?”

“SK Intercontinental,” corrected Adrian.  “And yes, I’m still with them.  I manage trans-oceanic shipping for this region.  From the minute the cargo goes onto a ship at Solitude or Windhamn, to the minute it comes off at its destination, it’s my responsibility.  Landship, rail, that’s somebody else’s job, but the oceans?  That’s all on me.”

“Any big changes coming up?”

“Nothing huge, I don’t think,” said Adrian.  “Our big company outing is in another week and a half.  We’re supposed to pile onto a train, families and all, and ride down to Seyda Neen for the Neraverine Festival.  Do you know what that is?”

“Oh yes,” said Doctor Gustafson.  “The Neraverine Festival.  ‘Where the Magic Begins!’”  The advert had played endlessly on all the radio stations for the last two months.  “Are you looking forward to it?”

“I guess I should be,” replied Adrian.  “But the general manager is a big family man, and I live alone.  He’s going to want us to ride all those tilty, whirly rides with our kids, and I don’t have any.  He’ll want us devouring nix-hound stew, dancing, singing, and so forth.  I don’t know if I have the stomach for that, especially if I’m stumbling around half-dead like I have been.”

“You know,” said Doctor Gustafson, “you might enjoy yourself even so.  And you should remember that even positive changes can be quite stressful.  You could find yourself losing sleep over good things!”  She opened a desk drawer and retrieved a memory card, which she handed to Adrian.  “You still have to identify the issue somehow,” she said, “but this might help you in the short term.”

Adrian read the label on the card.  “Therapeutic Music Collection A” was all it said.  “This will help me sleep?”

“Put it in your sound system when you lie down.  All you have to do is listen, let the melodies take you where they will.  We’ve been using music to treat mild anxiety for a few years now.  It’s not meant to cure, so to speak, anything, but it should help you relax.”

“Thanks, Doctor.  At this point, I’m about ready to try anything.”  Adrian slid the card into his shirt pocket.

“Then let me know how it went next week,” said Doctor Gustafson.  She stood, and opened the door for him.  The session was over.

Outside, it was starting to get dark, but Adrian had to walk only a block to the tram stop, which was the same one he used for work.  The early spring weather was actually somewhat refreshing, so he didn’t mind the short walk, or the brief wait for the tram.  He was further pleased to see the regular tram driver – a striking woman with very dark hair, somewhere between blue and black, framing a dark, angular face.  She smiled as he paid his fare and boarded.  He smiled wearily back.  If only he could shake the exhaustion.

Offices Small

Adrian’s apartment is in the top floor of the building with the shutters


Later, at his little apartment east of Drakebro, Adrian pressed the “play” button on his sound system and got into bed.  He had no idea whether “Therapeutic Music Collection A” would actually help him sleep, but he had to admit the music was pleasant and soothing.  A lute and a harp seemed to call each other softly across the stereo channels.  Somewhere in between them, he heard bells.  A knot in his lower back loosened with a series of jolts as he began to relax.


The lute began to pull him gently to the left, then the harp would pull him gradually back to the right again, as if he were floating on a raft.  Adrian immediately tensed up.  I’m going to dream about that damned boat again.  I know it!  He wanted to turn the music off, but he couldn’t bring himself to reach the stop switch.  In the end, he couldn’t fight it; he drifted off with the lute and the harp again.

And back onto the boat.

They sat facing each other in the shade below the gunwale, close to the bow.  She was on the port side, the boy (if it really was Adrian) on the starboard.  Aft of them were bales of cotton, rolls of cloth, and other cargo.  The vessel appeared to be a canal boat, and though he couldn’t see them, Adrian was somehow aware of two men astern, polling the craft along.  He found himself studying his hands; they belonged to someone much younger.  His face felt almost devoid of stubble.  Whoever I am in the dream, Adrian thought, must be fifteen or twenty years younger than I am in real life.

But maybe someone older, more mature, would be better equipped to cope with the scene in front of him.  He still couldn’t see the girl clearly.  Her face was buried in her hands, her dark hair falling down her bare arms, her elbows on her knees.  She was crying; despite her best efforts to hide them, he heard her sighs and saw her tears fall, heartbreak, dashed hope, spoiled plans.  And somehow, Adrian knew it was all his fault.  He wanted to hold her, but he feared she would bat his arms away.  He wanted to say something, but the words weren’t there.  All he could manage was her name.



What have I done? 

Go to Part II