“I have good news and bad news,” I told Anna over the phone. “The good news is that Dad’s awake.”
“He’s awake?!” Annabelle shrieked with joy. I heard Allison shriek in the background at the same time Annabelle did. I rolled my eyes. Twins.
“SHHH! Anna!” I hissed. “I said I have bad news too. Dad’s awake, but it’s not Dad.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Look, come down to the hospital and I’ll show you. But don’t tell Mum yet. I don’t want her to worry.”
“Too late. She heard us.”
I groaned. It was going to be harder explaining to Mum.
“Fine, all three of you should come then,” I sighed.
“Okay! We’ll be there in ten,” Anna said brightly.
I hung up and peeked back into Dad’s room. He was asleep again. It had been about half an hour since he awoke, rasping my name, before falling back asleep a few minutes later. Dad hadn’t responded to any stimuli, but the doctor said that it was normal for a comatose patient to gradually recover, sometimes coming awake only for a few minutes at a time. The waking moments would slowly lengthen as the patient – Dad – recovers. Apart from the obvious, the doctor had proclaimed Dad to be in good health and ought to be able to make a full recovery.
I hadn’t touched him since he woke up.
As I waited for the rest of my family to arrive, I pondered what had happened in Dad’s mind. I started with what I was sure of. Three of Dad’s four prisoners had been faded, the last one being the Historian. I was sure that what I saw wasn’t Dad himself. The way he had looked at me, plus the fact that Dad had wrapped himself in his own prison had convinced me of that. That meant that the Historian was in control of Dad’s body. I wasn’t sure if the Historian’s expanding shield had destroyed the prison walls and faded Dad or not, but I maintained the hope that Dad was alive and still in there somewhere.
I hesitantly extended my hand to touch Dad’s arm, fully expecting a shift to happen, but I felt… nothing. Wait, not nothing. I felt a resistance, like the shield that the Historian had around himself while imprisoned in Dad’s mind. That confirmed my suspicions: the Historian was now in full control. I didn’t feel Dad’s presence at all.
I heard a knock on the door and looked up, pulling my hand away as I did so. My family was here. I got up and gave them all a hug, at the same time updating Anna and Ally on what had transpired in Dad’s mind. Anna pulled away to move to Dad’s side. She touched him, but shook her head. I knew that she, too, wouldn’t be able to get past the Historian’s shield.
Mum looked at us expectantly.
“Zack, you said your father was awake,” she said a little accusingly, gesturing to my sleeping father.
“Yes he was, but he fell back asleep. The doctor said it was normal for a recovering comatose person to have short waking moments.”
Mum moved over to Dad’s other side, sat down and shook him gently.
“Dear, are you awake?” she asked, her voice cracking at the end.
He didn’t respond. A tear slid down Mum’s cheek as she caressed his face. The twins and I took that as a cue to leave our parents alone together for a while. Once we were outside, Ally touched my arm.
Dad really was awake?
Yes. He awoke for a few minutes, called my name and fell back asleep. I shared the memory of Dad waking up and the moment I realized that wasn’t him behind his eyes.
Okay, we can’t get into Dad or sense him at all.
He’s still there. We have to find him. I insisted adamantly.
Yes, we do. But not now. We don’t know what we’re dealing with. Let’s go back and do some research. Besides, he’s resting. Attacking the shield might only hurt Dad.
I paused, knowing that logically that was the right thing to do, but also feeling the urge to just go back in and smash the barrier with the twin’s help.
Fine. I acquiesced.
We went back in to collect Mum before going home.
We explained to Mum what had happened, but she was reluctant to believe us. We hadn’t told her about Dad’s ability to consume minds before, so our tale about the Historian taking over Dad was just a little too far fetched for her. She just wanted Dad back, as did all of us.
In the days that followed, the twins and I took turns sitting beside Dad and monitor his condition, so that there at least one of us would be around whenever he woke up. I was there most of the time since the twins had school. Besides, I was due for a break on my job anyway. It was too far for Ally and Anna’s mental link, so we updated each other the old fashioned way: touch.
Dad still woke up intermittently, but each time I knew it wasn’t him. I tried quizzing the Historian about who he was, but he maintained that he was Dad. He probably had access to Dad’s memories so his act was quite convincing. If his eyes hadn’t betrayed him and I hadn’t experienced the Historian’s takeover of Dad first hand, I would have believed he really was my father. Also, the fact that I was still blocked from his mind kept me grounded.
It had been about a week after Dad woke up the first time. I was in my usual spot with my laptop, checking Facebook, watching YouTube videos and generally surfing the web. I hadn’t found much with regards to the Historian; I kept getting the definition of a historian, famous historians and the like.
Dad stirred. I looked up and saw that he was awake.
“Hi Dad,” I said.
“Hey Zacko,” he replied, just as Dad would, though he sounded strained.
I frowned. Something about that made me reach out and put my hand on his arm. Instead of encountering a giant wall, I felt Dad’s consciousness for the first time flowing back into me since he returned. Dad’s mind was quite spacious and for a moment I thought the Historian had disappeared. But no, I felt him and his wall, albeit smaller. Much smaller.
I’m here, son.
Zack, he interrupted. I don’t have much time. I’ve managed to temporarily block the Historian and regain control. Don’t know how long it will last, but you have to get me to Professor Michael at MIND. Got that?
Who’s that? I asked.
Someone who knows a lot more about our abilities and what we can do. He’ll explain everything to you, and hopefully he’ll be able to fix me, or at least, extract the information he needs.
The wall was pulsating outwards again. I had a thought.
Dad! How do we break the shield?
We don’t. He can’t hold the shield up indefinitely. Professor Michael should be able to do something about it, but in the meantime, don’t attack the shield.
The pulses were getting stronger.
He’s recovering. I can’t keep him down anymore.
I know. I love you, Dad.
Love you too, Zacko. Remember, get me to MIND.
He gave me the mental equivalent of ruffling my hair, then released whatever he had holding the Historian down. Dad’s consciousness retracted and the shield slammed back into place. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like my senses had been dulled.
I lifted my hand and opened my eyes. Turning back to my laptop, I started searching for Professor Michael. It was quite easy to find him online.
Professor Adam Michael was the head and founder of Michael’s Institute for the Disturbed, or MIND, a privately owned sanatorium and psychological research lab. He takes in any patient with a severe mental disorder and has published many research papers on his experiments and results.
I decided to pay him a visit.