Somewhere Else Entirely -138-

In a hospital room, interested parties gather to observe the impending death of a patient. However, events do not proceed as anticipated and further events cause many questions to be asked. Unfortunately, most will never be answered.

Somewhere Else Entirely

by Penny Lane

138 - Hiatus

Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2010-2016 by Penny Lane. All rights reserved.



The hospital room was crowded. Beside the patient, lying in bed connected to equipment that sustained his existence, there was an intensive care nurse and a senior supervisor. Standing back against the walls were the consultant in charge of the case, the hospital administrator, the deputy district coroner and the next-of-kin of the patient. Also standing clear were three lawyers, one for the hospital, one for the next-of-kin and one for the healthcare company who were funding the patient's care.

The death of a patient required no less attention.

The next-of-kin was Bradley Campbell. For today he wore a suit and tie, though this was not his customary attire. To show he was a man of the land, however, he still wore one of his checked shirts. He was alone, since he had decided to spare his family the sight of the death of his nephew and his children's cousin.

"We have to do this?" he asked, of no-one in particular.

Etheridge Barron, the healthcare attorney, replied, "Well, Mister Campbell, we've been over this. You know that your brother's health plan had specific limitations -"

"I know all that," Campbell cut in irritably. "I suppose I'm just trying to delay the inevitable."

"Mr Campbell," the consultant said, "in this particular case it isn't just about the money. As far as medical science can tell, Gary Campbell is brain-dead. You know that for months we have been trying tests to see if he has locked-in syndrome, but everything we have tried has come up negative. So far as we are able to determine your nephew will never emerge from his coma. Keeping him like this serves no constructive purpose and his body will inevitably begin to deteriorate. It would be kinder, as we have already agreed, to give him a clean ending, which is why we are all gathered here today."

Campbell nodded sorrowfully. "I know that, Doctor Sorenson. I just don't like to see the death of a bright guy like Gary. I understand what you're saying. Tell me, what happens next?"

Sorenson replied, "Why, we simply switch off the equipment and let nature take its course."

Campbell considered. "Look, can you get rid of all those tubes and wires? If he's going to die, let him die with dignity and not like he was some part of a machine."

Sorenson turned to the others. "Would this cause any of you any problems? No?" He turned to Campbell again. "We can do that, but you must be aware that he could just die while we are doing that, especially when we remove the ventilator."

"I accept that, Doctor."

Sorenson turned to the two nurses. "Remove the wires, drips and feeding tubes, please, and then the ventilator tube. I think we'll leave the finger monitor on for now, to give us an idea of when life becomes extinct."

The two women began to pull drips from veins, sensor pads from skin and the feeding tube from the nose of the patient. Finally, they untied the ribbons holding the ventilator pipe and gently pulled it from his mouth.

"Doctor! The patient is still breathing!"

There were a tense few moments as the onlookers watched the patient's chest rise and fall without assistance. Finally Sorenson shrugged and turned to Campbell.

"What you see happens in a very small number of cases, Mr. Campbell," he explained. "Normally, this is just a reflex after having the equipment in for so long. It may only last a short time. Very occasionally the breathing is sustained and then we are forced to take other -"

Sorenson's explanation was cut off by the abrupt ringing of bells and the raucous rise and fall of a klaxon. The administrator, who was nearest the door, opened it and looked out briefly before ducking back in.

"It's a fire," he said tersely. "There's thick smoke at the end of the corridor, and it's close. We have to all leave - NOW."

The supervisor nurse objected. "What about the patient, Mr Patrelli?"

Patrelli cast a long glance at the bed and shook his head. "No time. We must concern ourselves with the living, not someone who is shortly to become dead whatever we do. Out, all of you. Go!"

Two of the lawyers began to object but Patrelli held the door open and gesticulated with his free hand. Campbell cast a last look at his nephew and followed the others into the corridor, where the visibility was already becoming difficult. He followed the others away from the choking smoke and to safety.

Some time later, the same people filed back into the room. Patrelli had had discussions with the fire department and the hospital's maintenance team and discovered that a fan in the air-conditioning had seized solid, causing an electrical fire and spreading smoke throughout that wing of the building. Once isolated, things had rapidly returned to normal.

In the room the single monitor which was still functional emitted a high-pitched whine, indicating that no pulse could be detected. Everybody had expected it and gazed down upon the body respectfully. The two nurses moved towards the bed and began to tidy the sheets and coverings.

Campbell said, "I suppose we ought to have called the hospital chaplain?"

"If you wish," replied Sorenson. "What denomination was he?"

The younger nurse said, "That's funny... the finger clip fell off."

The senior nurse straightened suddenly. "Doctor Sorenson! This patient is still breathing!"

Everybody's attention went instantly back to the bed. At a nod from the senior nurse, the junior one clipped the sensor back onto the patient's finger, whereupon the monitor promptly began to sound the blip... blip... blip... of a normal heartbeat.

"Well," Campbell said. "This changes things."

"To a point," Sorenson agreed. "We have demonstrated that he is capable of breathing without help, but there still remains the problem of the brain injury. We may have to take positive action to end -"

The patient's arm twitched. Nobody could have missed the movement. There was a rough cough, and then the eyes opened briefly. The arm moved again, an attempt to bring it up to his face, and the words which came out were slurred but distinguishable.

"Ow. My head hurts!"


Excerpt from the Hays Examiner March 23rd

COMA BOY WAKES UP

By our Medical Correspondent. Teenager Gary Campbell, who had been in a coma for exactly a year, spontaneously regained consciousness yesterday when his life support was switched off. Campbell, 18, is the only child of David and Myra Campbell who were both killed in the auto smash which left him in a coma last March. A spokesperson for the hospital, who did not want to be named, said that such events were unexpected but not impossible. Physically it appears that Campbell is recovering strongly although (turn to page 7)


Excerpt from patient notes March 23rd

For someone who has spent a year in a coma Gary is making a remarkable recovery. After a single day he is able to stand and make his own way to the bathroom, with help since his balance and coordination are understandably poor. He is able to take solid food although of course we are careful what we feed him at first.

An odd feature is that he speaks with a strange accent and appears to have amnesia. The nurses have reported an occasion today when he was struck with a strong headache. It might be that this physical recovery will only be temporary and that his brain damage may ultimately prove fatal.

Sorenson


Excerpt from patient notes March 24th

The patient had another headache this afternoon. Although he appears to be physically strongly recovering, I am concerned about brain damage. I have scheduled an MRI scan for tomorrow morning.

Brandt


Excerpt from patient notes March 25th

The MRI scan was successful and the patient was able to climb on and off the table by himself. On this basis alone I would recommend physiotherapy to bring his muscles back into tone, although having examined them already I cannot see much wrong with them.

I am concerned about the results of the MRI scan and will consult with Dr Sorenson this afternoon.

Brandt


Dr Sorenson's office, March 25th, 7 pm

"How's our young Lazarus doing, Tony?"

"Well, Dr Sorenson, that's a problem. Physically, he's actually doing all right, in fact I would say that he is ridiculously healthy for someone who has just spent a year in bed. It's almost like we have the wrong patient."

"He's on the road to recovery, Tony. What did you expect?"

Brandt eyed his superior sceptically. "Walking after a day? Taking normal food? Perhaps calling him Lazarus is right, Dr Sorenson, but it is his latest MRI scan that specifically concerns me."

"Oh?"

"Yes, may I use your terminal?"

"Of course, here you go. What seems to be the trouble? Have you found the seat of these headaches he's been having?"

"That's just it, Dr Sorenson. Look, here's the one we did this morning... and here's the most recent one we did three months ago. The damage is all gone!"

"That's unusual, but not... absolutely... impossible. We know that damage in the brain can be repaired, if only very slowly."

"Well, yes, but look at these two scans! They could almost be of entirely different people!"

"You might be correct about these scans," Sorenson said, "but the fact remains that these have to be of the same patient, don't they? What possible thing could have happened, Tony? Did you think maybe aliens swooped down and stole our patient, replacing him with an identical healthy copy? This is the same young man, I was there, I saw it happen. If he's getting better then our duty is to help him do just that, so that he can be discharged from this hospital and free up a valuable bed."

Brandt sighed. "You're right, Dr Sorenson. I'm sorry, perhaps I've been working too hard. I'm still concerned about the headaches he's been having though."

Sorenson pointed at his terminal. "If you can find a reason for his headaches on these then we'd have something to investigate. But there's nothing, as you can see."

"I know, and that's what concerns me." Brandt shrugged. "I'll keep a close eye on him, Dr Sorenson, but because of his physical condition I'd like to schedule a physiotherapist if I may."

"Go right ahead, Tony. Now he's conscious again his healthcare plan covers rehabilitation."

"Thank you, Dr Sorenson."


Excerpt from patient notes March 26th

The headaches seem to be increasing in frequency and severity. They appear to be accompanied by flashes of returning memory, though no-one can understand what he describes. I have prescribed painkillers and rest. In all other ways the patient appears to be improving, although still amnesiac. His strange accent is very gradually becoming softer.

Brandt


Excerpt from physiotherapist notes March 27th

This new patient puzzles me. I have been told that he has spent an entire year in bed in a coma but his muscle tone looks like that of an ordinary unfit young man, i.e. a normal teenager. Despite his amnesia he is quite willing to undergo the tests I wanted to do and to try out some of our gym apparatus. Bearing in mind the headaches Brandt has told me about, from a physical perspective I see no reason that this patient couldn't be discharged in a week or so.

Chavez


Excerpt from patient notes March 28th

The impossible happened today. After the most severe headache attack yet recorded, I had to call for a crash team when the patient collapsed unconscious on the floor. Before they could arrive he recovered and he then informed me that his memory had returned. We allowed him time to recover fully and then asked our staff psychologist to examine him. Extensive questioning proved that he knew who he was and that although there were gaps in his memory he remembered most of his previous life.

We had to call for a counsellor when the time came to tell him of his parents' death in the car wreck that put him into a coma. He did not take the news well. He is essentially an orphan although his uncle, Bradley Campbell, has visited him daily and has promised to look after him on release.

Brandt


Excerpt from patient notes March 30th

The patient continues to improve now his memory has returned, but his mood seems to have changed. I would not say yet that he is depressed, but after learning of the death of his parents it must be a real concern. Not only does he need to grieve but he must also have survivor's guilt and he may well have PTSD.

Three of his former school friends visited him again today but he turned them away without explanation. Because of the changes in manner noted I would strongly recommend that he see a therapist.

Brandt


Excerpt from patient notes March 31st

I have spoken with the patient at length and agree, there appear to be some deep-seated psychological problems, most likely relating to the events surrounding the death of his parents. It is my belief that the sooner we can get him out of hospital and into familiar surroundings the better.

I know that he has barely been back in the world for a week but he appears robust and in control of all his faculties. If Dr Sorenson agrees, we should consider the discharge procedure in two or three days.

Rosen, Clinical Psychologist


Excerpt from patient notes April 3rd

I have concerns about releasing this patient, but only because he appears to be getting too well too quickly. Rosen is right, the sooner he is out of here and in a familiar setting the sooner we can begin to resolve his mental issues.

I have asked that he return here at three-monthly intervals for a checkup and an MRI scan and of course his uncle can bring him in any time if there is any significant change in his condition.

Rosen has given me the name of a good local Psychiatric Physician in Hays who will prove easier for the patient to attend. I will write him a detailed letter explaining the circumstances.

Sorenson


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

April 5th

On the face of it, this seems a straightforward case, even after considering the specific points Sorenson has to make. The poor guy has not only lost both his parents and a year of his life, he has also lost his home and the familiar surroundings of school. He has to come to terms with his new surroundings, grieve for his parents and the loss of his former life and consider what he might be able to do in the future.

At this initial consultation his uncle, Bradley Campbell, accompanied him. He explained that after the death of Gary's parents their bookshop had been sold and the money placed in trust should Gary ever recover. Subsequently, the house they shared with their son, empty for several months, drew the attention of undesirables and was also sold. These funds, together with certain life insurances held on the parents, mean that in practical terms Gary might never have to work again, assuming he led a modest lifestyle.

(I must note here that my own consultations with Gary are paid for out of his healthcare plan.)

The downside of this, which the uncle recognized but I did not spell out in front of Gary, was that he was now essentially rootless in the world. No home, no school, no job and no close family apart from that of his uncle and his wife and children. The uncle has undertaken to offer Gary a home for as long as he needs but their farm is many miles away from anyone else Gary would have known before the accident. While not being exactly in my job description I will try and see if some kind of compromise arrangement can be found.

We have agreed that Gary should attend for a consultation once a week to begin with. His uncle will bring him for the first few sessions until he can be considered safe enough to be reissued with a driver's licence.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

April 5th

I took on a new case today and it promises to be as unique as all the others. Of course, every case is unique, but this one strikes me as being the strangest I have yet come across. Gary Campbell's sudden revival and subsequent discharge from hospital are unusual enough but his new circumstances are almost guaranteed to add to his worries. He is presently living with his Uncle Brad on a farm some sixty miles away and I am concerned that while he is in a familiar setting he won't get the stimulation a young man who has lost a year of his life will need to return to society.

I also noticed a certain tenseness between Gary and his uncle when they came for the first consultation. Perhaps he doesn't like his uncle? Perhaps there was bad blood between the brothers? Something to explore in the future, I think.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

April 12th

Like a great many men Gary finds it difficult to deal with his feelings. I have warned him that, in order to resolve his outstanding issues, he will need to embrace them and express them and do so voluntarily.

He does tell me that he is finding it difficult to adapt to the modern world and I am not surprised. These days, a missing year can mean missing a great many developments. In particular, he said that cars went too fast and that everywhere was extremely loud. Considering he has just spent a year in a quiet hospital room, I'm not surprised.

I have given him a list of items I want him to consider before our next session. It should help him focus on his feelings concerning his parents.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

April 19th

We have concentrated on Gary's feelings for his parents today and I must say that he is taking an unusually mature attitude to their death. Perhaps it is the fact that the event happened a year ago helps put things in perspective, but against that he has also lost access to both his childhood homes and almost all of his childhood belongings. His uncle has stored a few mementoes but as is often the case the ones chosen are sometimes the wrong ones or inappropriate.

Concerning his relationship with his uncle, it seems that he is being pushed into activities and attitudes he does not care for, a common response with young men of his age. Attempting to explore this relationship further produced a blank wall, however.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

April 19th

Gary certainly seems to be more mature than I had expected. In some respects his response to his parents' death is cool but that is not unusual these days, especially among young men. However, I get the sense that, while he no longer grieves for his parents, he seems to be grieving for someone or something else. Perhaps there was a romantic connection before the accident? One which has not been renewed? More issues to explore, and there is something about his living at the farm which is causing him further stress. I must see if I can make some gentle suggestions at our next session.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

April 26th

Although I am only supposed to listen to clients, I also have a duty to help resolve any issues they may have, and so today I have suggested to Gary that he finds somewhere in town to live. It will get him away from the farm, it will bring him back to familiar streets and it will also make it easier for him to visit me. Having to wait for a relative to bring him each time makes the whole business a day's outing for two people. He agrees with this suggestion and I have given him the details of some real estate acquaintances who specialize in town rentals.

He has lived with his uncle on his uncle's farm for just over three weeks and he tells me that he finds it stressful most of the time. I asked him when he didn't find it stressful and he said he felt the most peace while out riding the ranch's pastures. I didn't know Gary rode until that disclosure.

He has taken the trouble to re-familiarize himself with driving while on the ranch, using his uncle's quad bikes, cars and trucks. He is wondering what he has to do to convince the DMV to give him his license back. I told him to wait a month or so and then see what they say.

Personally, he is still closed to me. I get the sense that he is somehow keeping many secrets, but this is scarcely the first time a client has done that. I do wonder, though, what those secrets could be when he has spent a year unconscious. I have again pointed out to him that I cannot help him unless he is willing to open up to me.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

May 3rd

The session was unproductive today. Gary's focus is on getting away from the farm and back to town. Naturally, his uncle doesn't want to see him go and appears to blame me for apparently driving him away from his closest relatives. He has already viewed several properties and will look at two more after our session finishes.

One consequence of this focus is that he isn't focusing on any of his problems. I have warned him that in effect he is only putting matters off, and that once he has found somewhere and settled in he could suffer a sudden dose of reality. He gave me a strange look when I said that and I can't imagine why. Another issue to be resolved, perhaps?


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

May 12th

Gary has now found a small apartment, at a reasonable rent, right in the middle of town. When he arrived for this delayed session he seemed much calmer but it is apparent that there is still something serious bothering him.

We worked through some of his childhood and his relationship with his parents and he only has good things to say about them. It could be that this is why he has so easily overcome his grief at their deaths. We also talked about the farm and his reminiscences about past visits seemed to indicate that he liked going there on previous occasions. I cannot imagine what might have happened in the twelve months he was essentially missing to cause his attitude to change.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

May 12th

We are now into the standard 'hard part' of any consultation. Gary is now comfortable with coming to see me but has not yet realized that he needs to relax his guard completely and let me understand what it is that is bothering him.

I am slightly concerned that he is effectively at a loose end, since he tells me he isn't going to try for a job or college until "this business is sorted out". Since the accident happened so near to the end of his last school year, he has been passed out in his absence. He tells me he expects to spend much of his free time in the library or on the internet, once he eventually becomes connected.

I asked him if he wanted to step up the sessions but he declined at the present since he is still getting himself organized.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

June 30th

Gary surprised me today. Our sessions since he moved back into town have not been very productive. I was more convinced than ever that he is hiding a secret but it has taken me six weeks to even get a whisper of it. Today he amazed me. Naturally all sessions are recorded but I'm including a transcript of part of it for clarity and reference.

- - -

"I'm struggling to understand your problem, Gary," I said. "You are obviously very upset about something but if you refuse to tell me anything I can't even give you an opinion about it. Look, if you won't tell me anything, then perhaps these sessions have become a waste of your time and mine and we should cease them."

His reply was cautious. "I'd like nothing more, Doctor, but I'm in a strange situation and I really can't continue without somebody else's help. The only problem is, if it's you then you're not going to believe me since you'll likely say that it is all in my mind, isn't that right?"

I spread my hands wide. "I can't even offer an opinion on anything unless you tell it to me, Gary. Just treat me as a sounding board, if you like. If you want to tell me something that shouldn't be treated as part of the session, we can do that too, but you must understand I'm a professional and I'm more likely to know what might be relevant than you do."

"Well, Doctor, see, that's the problem. A while back you mentioned reality and that's what is stumping me. Now, suppose I told you that last year, all the time my body lay in that hospital bed, I was actually somewhere else entirely? Somewhere where I had another body and a full and interesting life. While I was there I wondered whether I was dreaming or not and which was the reality and now I'm back here I have to ask myself if I really was dreaming or not. My problem's this, Doctor. Was I really there or did I dream it all?"

"You dreamed? That's not possible, Gary. As far as anybody can tell, a body in the state yours was in doesn't dream. The brain just isn't active enough. Okay, if you had suffered from locked-in syndrome then, yes, maybe you had dreams. But you personally didn't have that syndrome."

"That's exactly what I mean, Doctor. What you're saying is that I made up a whole year of living and I just can't accept that." There was a pause and then tears started to come. "I just can't."

I gave him tissues from my desk and he wiped his face. Such a strong reaction! I find myself interested.

"You say you dreamed for the whole year?"

"Just about." There was a weak smile. "There was some travel time involved. The B-"

"The what, Gary?"

There was a long pause before he replied. "Doctor, I think I've made up my mind that I have to tell you some of it, but I don't think I want to tell you all of it. Some of it is going to sound... wacky. Would you let me go away and consider how I'm going to explain all this to you? In any event, you're probably going to decide that it's all irrelevant anyway."

"Gary, I don't think any of it is irrelevant, since it appears to be the seat of most of your problems. From that point of view I want to hear your story. Besides which, I'm intrigued. I've never heard of a case where someone came out of a coma and remembered anything at all from being in it."

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say. I think, before I see you again, I'm going to do a bit of research of my own. Apparently I don't know sufficient about recovered coma cases, which might be because the numbers are very small. Anyway, I want to find out what other patients who have recovered might have experienced."

"That sounds interesting, Doctor, but I can't promise that my case is going to be like theirs. Anyhow, when do you want to see me?"

- - -

In the end we settled on a week, since next week contains 4th July and everybody will have the day off.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

July 5th

Gary seemed composed when he arrived today, and it was obvious that he had been thinking carefully about what he was going to tell me. My researches concerning possible dream states of coma patients has not turned up very much that appears useful, not at this stage. Once I have heard Gary out then maybe I can research some more.

I asked him if he was happy to continue and he said that he was. I have included some snippets from the transcript:

- - -

"Well, Doctor, it's like this. I sort of woke up on another planet. Or rather, I was found. You know how I had amnesia for five days after I came round in the hospital?"

I nodded.

"It was the same as that. I was found on a mountain road which is a trade route between two major towns by a merchant caravan and I actually did the whole journey down to Palarand before my memory returned."

"Um, Palarand? Could you spell that, Gary?"

"You're taking this seriously, aren't you, Doctor?" He spelled the name before continuing. "Okay, the most important part of my story is that I didn't have the same body I had here. I was... shorter. Different but maybe I looked like I could be a relative."

"You have any explanation for that, Gary? Is it possible you were unsatisfied with the body you had before the accident? You know, wishful thinking."

There was a long pause before he replied. "No, I don't think so, Doctor. I didn't think of that one. I thought it was more to do with DNA than anything else."

"I see. What happened when you reached this town, this Palarand?"

Gary grinned. "It isn't a town, Palarand is both the name of the state and the name of their capital city. Once there I was cleaned up, given some more appropriate clothes -"

"More appropriate?"

"Damn. Excuse my language, Doctor. What I mean is that, because I was shorter than before, the clothes I was wearing didn't fit me any more so they found me something similar to what the locals wore."

- - -

Reviewing this transcript, it occurred to me that Gary was being very careful choosing his words. He already told me that he wouldn't tell me everything, so what is he hiding?

- - -

"As a matter of interest," I asked, "what were you wearing?"

"Actually, although I didn't know it at the time, I was wearing what I had on during the accident. They had never seen anything like the tee-shirt I was wearing or the machine stitching on my jeans."

"Oh? Why was that?"

"Because this society was like, oh, maybe about where we were in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries - with one very important omission, no gunpowder weapons. So everybody had swords and knives and there were crossbows and longbows, nothing else. The clothes were out of medieval movies, all tunics and tights, that sort of thing."

"So it was like you had gone back in time?"

"Exactly, although I didn't know then that I wasn't still on Earth. Then," he continued, "the merchant took me to the palace to meet the King, since he would be the best person to know what to do with me."

- - -

The next forty-five minutes were the most astonishing I have ever spent in my career. Gary's story is so incredible and so detailed I now understand why he has difficulties separating dream from reality. His memory of his time spent on this planet, Anmar, is so clear that he tells me that he can tell me where and what he ate for every meal during his time there.

I have a problem with believing that all this happened while he was in a coma. To me, it seemed most likely that he dreamed this after he regained consciousness, but he steadfastly refused that explanation. Indeed, he says that his memory is much better than before he 'left', as he puts it, and he can tell me everything that happened after he awoke back here as well.

The story is so vivid and so detailed that we have barely begun to scratch the surface of it. I have scheduled another session for three days time so that he can tell me the remainder while it is still fresh. This last statement of mine was greeted by strained laughter.

"Doctor, I'll never forget anything that happened on Anmar!"


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

July 5th

Gary's story is fascinating, but it must be just a story. It doesn't sound like anything I've seen on TV recently and I don't think there is a movie around with a plot like that or I would have heard of it. His father owned a bookshop so it might be out of some obscure sci-fi novel he read years ago. Still, the detail is most convincing and the society he describes is consistent, without the usual bizarre jumbles and odd jumps you usually get in a dream sequence.

Against my own professional caution I am interested to find out what happened in Gary's story.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

July 8th

Today was more of the same. I am having the recordings transcribed but there would be little point in filling the case notes with what would be essentially a full-length novel. I will summarize for the record what he told me.

The King made him a baronet to give him some protection in a strange land and ultimately adopted him. He was given some lands in the far north of the Kingdom which turned out to be rich with coal. Gary introduced them to the idea that coal could be turned into coke and thus able to be used for steel production, effectively beginning the Industrial Revolution in that society. He also told them about many things from our world such as electricity, railroads, astronomy and the college system.

Certain details were not clear but it appears that another state nearby tried to kidnap or kill him to prevent his knowledge becoming public. This degenerated into a full-scale war which his side won when he introduced powder weapons under protest. I'll correct that, since it appears that another boy from Earth was used by the other side and they used powder weapons first, thus letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak. Gary hadn't wanted firearms to become known on Anmar, which speaks well of his judgement.

Details of what happened once the war was over are vague but Gary says that it has encouraged the other nations to think of a Federation, and they had just signed the agreement when he left to return to Earth.

Of course there is much that he isn't telling me. This is obvious from gaps in the story and sometimes by abrupt changes of subject or evasions. My feeling is that something he isn't telling me is what is causing him his difficulty. To live, as he thinks he has done, for a year in another society means he must have made many friends and perhaps even romantic attachments. If they are real to Gary, I must treat them as though they are real to me, but if he will not reveal all it will be difficult to make progress.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

July 15th

Today we left the detail of Anmar and concentrated on why he found it so important.

- - -

"You see, Doctor, I spent a year among those people and I started something big. Now, if it is a fantasy, which I'm sure is what you're going to tell me, then what I dreamed doesn't matter, does it? If it isn't a fantasy, though, but the actual truth, then I would like to go back there because there's a job there only I can do. It seemed real enough to me there but evidence here is a bit thin on the ground. I don't know how I can convince you that I didn't just make all that up." He paused. "Or what we do if I do convince you."

"Let's leave the philosophy for a moment, Gary. Tell me, were you happy there?"

"Oh, yes! Oh, well, most of the time. While we were being attacked by enemies or by wild animals it wasn't so much fun. I had to put up with human nature a time, too. Some of the people I met you couldn't convince of anything if you beat them over the head with a stick. Of course there were also those who were just out for what they could get." He shrugged. "Just like here, really."

"So, a similar society to here, then."

Gary shook his head. "No, not like here at all. Okay, their society has its faults but there are ways it is much better. I had an opportunity to stop them making some of the mistakes we made, for example. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I could do that there."

"I think what I meant was, would you prefer to be there rather than here? Was there anybody there you were... romantically attached to, perhaps?"

The response was so immediate that I suspect that he had worked out a prepared position in advance.

"Yes, Doctor, there was. But I know that if it's all a dream it will be just that. I wouldn't grieve over someone who didn't exist, would I?"

"You'd be surprised. Plenty of women get upset when their favorite character dies in a soap, for example. They know it's not real but they grieve nonetheless."

Gary was silent then for a while.

"You're right, but then I'm not a soap-watcher, am I? I'm a regular guy who likes sport and adventure stuff. I know what's real and what isn't... usually. Problem is, I think Anmar is real."

"And that about sums up your problem, Gary. There are many young men like yourself who can get sucked into something, like for example a video game or maybe Star Wars or something. It can seem so real they struggle to connect to reality. You have to ask yourself if this isn't something similar."

"I don't think so, Doctor. I'm here on Earth and I have to make my way in this world, not the other one."

"Perhaps, but until you can resolve your issues you'll always be wondering, won't you? You'll never get the closure you need."

- - -

I can see Gary's dilemma but I'm unsure how to resolve it. Perhaps his grief is for the whole society he has now left behind. I have had patients who were refugees who dearly wished to return to countries that no longer existed. They are forced to live with their memories and I wonder if Gary will end up the same way.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

July 22nd

A difficult day. Gary refuses to respond to my suggestions and our session was cut short.

Because I am going on vacation we won't meet again until September 3rd, but I have asked Gary to think carefully about all he has told me - and all that he has not. This case is proving one of my more intractable ones but I am convinced that, once past the blockage, we should be able to come to a reasonable resolution.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

September 3rd

Gary surprised me again today, and I'm not sure what to think of it. He came into the office all smiles and said that he had a way of convincing me that Anmar was real. When I asked how he said that, while there, he had learned three languages!

It had not occurred to me beforehand that the language of his dream would not be English. One of the languages, he says, is what they normally speak in this Great Valley, and the two others are from distant countries of which he had met several people.

I asked him to demonstrate and he did so. The languages were completely different and nothing like I had ever heard before, but in the first there were words which could have come from English, or French, or Latin, or Arabic, not that I am familiar with the last two. The other two samples are of different tongues, certainly, but I can't place either of them.

Another mystery to solve! Assuming these languages are based on real ones, where and when did he learn them?


Dr Sorenson's office, September 3rd, 7.30 pm

"Excuse me, I was looking for Dr Rosen. Oh, hi, Bill!"

"Marcus! Do come in. This is Dr Sorenson, our leading clinician with regard to cranial injuries at this hospital."

Gottlieb shook hands with Rosen and then Sorenson.

"Do join us, please," Sorenson said. "We were just making small talk before going to the club. Can I get you anything?"

"Bourbon and ice, if you wouldn't mind, Dr Sorenson."

"Call me Ingemar, please! You're a friend of Bill's and you don't work at the hospital so there's no reason we have to be formal. Here you are."

"Thank you, uh, Ingemar."

"Take a seat, do! No reason we have to stand around. Now, you've obviously hunted down Bill for some particular reason, is it something you can discuss in company?"

"I don't see why not, uh, Ingemar, since you started the whole ball rolling. It might be more useful speaking to both of you together, in fact. It's your mystery patient, of course. Gary Campbell. Obviously I can't give you patient privileged information but I can tell you both there are still some unresolved problems and the explanation is pretty wacky, I can tell you!"

Sorenson leaned forward. "Oh? Take your time. How is he, generally?"

"You still see him here, don't you?"

Sorenson nodded. "We do, although I'm beginning to wonder why we are bothering. He's just a fit young man now. Remarkable change from a year ago, wouldn't you say?"

Gottlieb nodded. "I agree, and he'd be completely normal mentally if it wasn't for this very peculiar problem. You see, he believes that while he was in a coma here at the hospital his mind went elsewhere... for the entire year. He says he spent that year living among a sort of medieval cum seventeenth century society. I think he grieves for what he left behind there."

"I've never heard of that before." Sorenson shook his head. "Coma patients don't dream - at least, we can't detect REM sleep or anything like that. If they ever wake, then they don't usually remember anything that happened while they were comatose. Oh, except for the locked-in ones, of course."

"Of course. But you said Gary wasn't like that."

"He most certainly wasn't! We spent weeks trying to see if anyone was in there. When he finally awoke we were all completely surprised. So what's the problem? This has to be some kind of imaginary thing from before or after, surely?"

"Ingemar, he took two whole sessions to tell me what happened, in incredible detail. It all seems to make sense and there was none of the usual stuff you get with dreams. Now, here's the kicker, today he came and said he had learned three languages while he was there."

Gottlieb dug in a jacket pocket and pulled out a USB key.

"That sounded so remarkable that I edited down the session recording and put just the language excerpts on here. I was going to talk to Bill about it. Perhaps you could play them and both of you tell me what you think?"

There was a knock at the door and a cleaning woman came in.

"Oh, sorry, Señor Sorenson, shall I come back later?"

Sorenson waved a hand. "No, that's all right, Mrs Gutierrez, you come in and carry on. I wouldn't want you to be late home on my account."

Gutierrez ducked her head and entered, going first to the consultation room attached to Sorenson's office. Sorenson plugged in the USB key and then fiddled around trying to play the voice samples. Finally he managed it and the three listened to Gary Campbell's voice. The first sample was longer than the rest and elicited no response, but the second had Sorenson sitting up with recognition. The last sample again met with no response.

Rosen said, "Hmm. That first one, I thought I recognized some Germanic words in there along with some Latin and one or two I thought were English. What did you think, Marcus?"

"It mostly passed me by, but I thought there were English words there as well as French, Latin and possibly Arabic. I'm no language scholar, I'm afraid." He turned to Sorenson. "But you know that second one, don't you?"

"I do! I can't believe I'm hearing that tongue after all these years and here, of all places." Sorenson explained, "When I first went to medical school in Stockholm I thought that I would probably end up as a country doctor well north of the arctic circle, so for my electives I studied Nordic languages such as all the dialects of Swedish, Norwegian and even Icelandic, together with Sami and some Finnish, though I didn't get on with that one. That second clip sounds just like a dialect they speak in a region called Alfheim. Basically, that dialect is the closest modern survivor to Old Norse that still exists."

"Old Norse?" Gottlieb echoed. "How on Earth does a Kansas teenager get to know Old Norse?"

Rosen shrugged. "With the Internet these days, anything is possible. Unlikely, maybe, but possible."

"Yeah," Gottlieb agreed. "The Internet makes our work so much more difficult and so much easier at the same time. Dr Sorenson, Ingemar, can you tell me what he said?"

"Oh, something about how King Embrikt had a daughter who didn't like the man her father wanted her to marry so she ran away to sea." Gottlieb's eyes widened. "They sailed north and ended up on the shores of someplace that sounded like Plif, though I've never heard that name before."

"You won't, since Plif is on this planet Campbell was talking about. He told me the whole of that story in English. So, it is a real language, then, and Gary can apparently now speak it. What about the other two, then? Anything sound familiar?"

Rosen gestured. "Ingemar, can you play those clips again?"

"Sure." Sorenson replayed the sound samples.

Gottlieb asked, "Anything?"

The other two shook their heads.

"That proves nothing, of course, there are hundreds of languages on Earth including made-up ones like Klingon."

"Of course," Sorenson agreed. "If you like, I can ask around, I know some linguists -"

"Excuse, Señor."

"What? Oh, Mrs Gutierrez, of course, you want to empty the trash?"

"Señor, I listen to the voices as I work. My grandmother speaks that last voice."

"What? Explain, please."

"My family is originally from Guatemala, Señor, from Peten. My mother's family still speaks the old language."

Rosen pointed a finger. "Peten, eh? Does that mean your family that side were Mayan?"

"Si, Señor. I understand what the young man was saying, but not all the words."

Sorenson said, "Tell us then, Mrs Gutierrez."

The woman closed her eyes and thought before opening them.

"He says, he has an armsman, is that right? I do not know what an armsman is."

Gottlieb said, "I think he would be what you might call a security guard, Mrs Gutierrez."

"Gracias, Señor. He has an armsman who comes from... a name I don't know, where his father is the Over-Tender to the fisheries." She paused. "Over-Tender is an old Mayan title, Señors. It is sort of like Manager or Chief Executive."

"Ah? Ah! Thank you very much, Mrs Gutierrez. You have been a great help to us." Sorenson turned to the others. "Well! I don't know what to think, now. There's obviously some kind of mystery here. I mean, he has to have been my patient, right? And we have cast-iron records of him being here in a coma for a full year, right? So how did..? Wait a minute, I remember, Tony Brandt, my houseman, had some crazy idea Campbell had to have been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a healthy copy. That's nonsense, of course, but I've yet to hear a better explanation. Look, time's getting on, would you like to join Bill and myself at the club, Marcus? Maybe we can come up with a better explanation over dinner."

"Well, I'll have to phone my wife, but... yes, of course."


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

September 10th

Today Gary seemed much happier and I believe that his difficulties may have been in part resolved. I have made no mention of my discoveries concerning the languages he revealed at our last session. It seems that as with many people he found keeping such a big secret (as he sees it) to be a burden, and once he had shared it with me the tension has lifted.

However, I am sure that there is much more he is hiding from me. Now everybody has confidential information which they never tell anyone else and I'm sure some of this is the same, but not all of what he is hiding is of that kind.

However, I think he is now sufficiently well adjusted that I will see him once more and then drop our sessions to monthly. In the meantime I am continuing my own researches concerning the material he has already revealed.


Excerpt from the case notes of Marcus Gottlieb for Gary Campbell

September 17th

Gary seemed different today. I think he has now put the events of the last year and a half behind him and is looking forward to the future. He hasn't told me in so many words but I believe he is now working to some definite plan, perhaps with a future job or career in mind.

I have asked him to come and check in at monthly intervals and of course he can always phone if he has problems.


Excerpt from the Hays Examiner November 3rd

COMA BOY DIES IN FREAK REPEAT TREE WRAPPER

In a macabre echo of the smash which killed his parents and put him a year-long coma, Gary Campbell, 19, of Grant Court, Hays, yesterday died when his truck hit the same tree at the now notorious bend on the West Sowerbridge road. The patrolman who arrived at the scene said he appeared to have died instantly. The visibility was good and there were no other vehicles around.

There have already been complaints about the number of accidents on this section of highway and the Police Department said that Highways had previously refused to consider mitigation measures due to (turn to page 4)


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

November 4th

I am shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Gary Campbell today. It puts a premature end to what has been my most puzzling case, and one that I now have to accept I must count as a failure. In fact the shock has been so great that I am considering early retirement. If I can get this one wrong, what other patients am I putting in harm's way?

However, I'm still following the case in a non-professional capacity and there appear to be further disturbing features which are just coming to the surface. I may have to tap some old friends to get some further information.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

November 7th

Now that is a surprise! As Gary's counsellor I have access to the police report of the accident and I learn that a factor in the crash may have been the fact that he was wearing a hunter's vest which was crammed with all kinds of bizarre goods, making control of the truck more difficult. The coroner is putting the death down to accident due to impairment but I'm not so sure any more. However, I'm not going to challenge the official account.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

November 10th

That's it. I have had enough. I'm not taking on any fresh cases and when I have concluded almost all those I have left I will pass the few remaining ones to a colleague and call it a day.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

November 18th

I have had a word with Arnold Crowley in the Coroner's office and he has kindly emailed me a list of the items Gary Campbell was carrying when he met his death. The list is incomplete, unfortunately, and likely to remain so since no-one seems interested to follow up what was obviously an accident.

What we have so far is:


A replacement bulb pack for the deceased's truck

A Samsung smartphone, model not recorded

Two identical ruggedized tablets, make unknown, preloaded contents unknown

A solar USB charger

A wind-up USB charger

A normal wall-wart USB charger

An English pocket dictionary

A English-Latin pocket dictionary

A translation of the Magna Carta

A copy of the Declaration of Independence

A copy of the Constitution

A second-hand copy of the Logarithm tables

An astronomy primer

A chemistry primer

An organic chemistry primer

A physics primer

An advanced math primer

A paperback copy of Gray's Anatomy, 40th edition

An antique steel and glass medical syringe in original case

A digital multimeter

An 18-foot/five meter steel rule

Two ziplock bags filled with about fifty micro SDHC cards, contents unknown

A ziplock bag containing an assortment of nuts, screws and bolts

Two photo albums, 6"x4", full of photos of things from all around the world

A plain white underwired ladies brassiere, size too small to fit the deceased

A five pack of pantyhose


The last two items have thrown me completely. Crowley also tells me that there was a label attached prominently to the vest, with writing in an unknown script.

In addition to the above a backpack containing all Campbell's clothes was in the passenger footwell of the truck. It is theorized that he was leaving to move somewhere else and packed on his body everything that wouldn't fit in the backpack. Why he would do that and not just buy another bag is a question nobody seems to be asking.

I'm fairly certain now that Gary Campbell's death was not an accident, but I'm also not sure that I can call it suicide. I'm certain that I have missed some important flags in my dealings with him and that worries me for the future. I'm also certain I can't tell anyone else what I know.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

November 30th

I'm about to close my files and put them into storage but I can't do that without thinking about the death of Gary Campbell. My initial impression was that I had failed him but with what I have now deduced I think it was always destined to end this way. My belief is that Gary has tried to return to that planet, Anmar, using the same method he went there originally. He had packed about his body things which would be of use to the society he is expecting to return to, since I remember him telling me that was what had happened to other travelers, that anything they were wearing or were carrying was transferred as well.

I don't know if that was his right course. My point of view must be that he has gambled his life in pursuit of a dream, yet I am uncomfortably aware that there are many clues which indicate it wasn't a dream. If you made it, Gary, you have my best wishes.


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

December 5th

I'm sealing a copy of the Campbell file, together with what I believe is a full explanation of the events of the last nine months, and I am donating it to an organization which specializes in leaving prophesies for the future. I have labeled it "To be opened in the event that a planet named "Anmar" is discovered."


Excerpt from the personal journal of Marcus Gottlieb

December 6th

Dear God! I've been such a fool. The clues were all in front of me, despite Campbell not telling me everything. "Diminutive height", "appropriate clothes", the bra and pantyhose, his whole attitude to the questions I asked. Or perhaps I should say her attitude, since I now realize that Campbell's responses were not those of a teenage boy but those of a young woman.


Somewhere Else Entirely

"Sire! Sire! Come quickly! Something wonderful has happened!"



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