the chair

20 minutes. free fall, whatever comes up

“Are you comfortable?” she asked. She walked around the chair that I was strapped into, checking the restraints and her clipboard alternately. I felt the soft leather and cold stainless steel sensors under my palms.

“No” I said. I wasn’t comfortable. The chair was not the problem. The chair never was. I was anticipating what was coming next. My skin ached already. Dr. Newman’s assistant smiled at me. It wasn’t a real smile. I knew that it wasn’t. Her eyes were blue and dead. She moved the muscles around her mouth – trained automatic response. She looked down at the clipboard again and began reading from the page. I wondered why she never memorized the speech. It was the same one every time.

“Do you understand the purpose of this session?” she stated.

“Yes” I said.

“We are studying the relationship between the individual and pattern recognition and how that relates to pain and/ or discomfort, both psychological and physical” she continued. I nodded. I didn’t want to watch her. She certainly wasn’t watching me. She could barely look away from her script. I stared instead at the blank white screen that was hanging from the ceiling behind her. I have been here before many times. The screen would leap to life in the next five minutes. They weren’t kidding about the pain. Discomfort was a welcome relief when it came during the session. I wondered if they took into account the level of tolerance I was building up with each session. I didn’t mention it. Probably they had already considered that possibility. Probably it was the desired result. I let the girl continue. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. On the other side of the room the monitors and machines were buzzing and chirping at each other in anticipation.

“You have ingested no food, alcohol, drugs or liquids 72 hours prior to this session?” she asked. Her voice was strained. Usually she had a pinched voice but today it was more than usual. I wanted to interrupt her and ask why she was so anxious but I didn’t.

“No.” I said. My stomach roared, as though to reinforce my answer. I missed food.

“The results of this session and any previous sessions are held in complete confidence.” She kept speaking. The obligatory disclaimers about injury and death. I stopped to listen. The words would make no difference in the end. She snapped the top of the clipboard and walked to the door behind me. I stared at the screen. I could hear her talking behind the glass door. Seconds later her tinny voice came over the intercom.

“We’re ready to begin.” She said. I didn’t respond. I felt the first pinpricks of sweat under my scalp. They were ready. One of the machines began to whir and click. I squeezed the arm of the chair when it began.


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