Thomas found himself back down Quack Row, and standing back in front of Dr. Lee’s office to get out of the rain. When his arm got wet, it seemed to make the burn on his arm get worse, so ducking into the nearest shelter made sense.
What didn’t was how he got here, but he looked down at his watch.
3:00 PM. Just like the card said.
Looking over his shoulder, the door to Dr. Lee’s office opened and she was there, standing at the top with the same hair-curling grin on her face.
“Right on schedule, Mr. Fleur,” she said, looking down at her thin women’s watch on her wrist.
“I wasn’t intending on coming back,” Thomas frowned.
“But you still ended up here anyway. Come on inside, you can at least wait out the rain. You left your umbrella back at your car didn’t you?” Dr. Lee teased and Thomas felt his face burn.
Given the choice, it was either stay dry and out of pain with the Paranormal Psychologist or go out and be in agony for a few hours.
He turned to the stairs, walking up and running a hand through his dark, curly hair until he was inside, so it would dry back, slicked and out of his face. Inside had not changed in the last few weeks, other than a few new folders on Dr. Lee’s desk.
“You’ve had more clients?” he asked her.
“Indeed,” she nodded, going over to her desk and picking up one of the files. “This city has some interesting cases. For instance, someone was having visions of a life they don’t remember having. We’ve narrowed it down to a case of ‘Uncleaned Slate Syndrome,’” she explained.
A quack diagnosis.
“You don’t believe me?” Dr. Lee smiled, her lips in a plump line across her face.
“It’s hard to believe…” Thomas said, taking a seat in a chair by the desk.
“It’s not too hard to believe in it... in eastern religions, when you pass through from life to death, and are reborn, you are made pure again, unless for some reason you have committed a terrible crime.” She made a circle in the air with her hands. “Then, of course, you’re either bound for heaven or hell in Western religions.”
Thomas scratched his head. “So... this person remembered their past life? Like those kids on TV that talk about remembering something that never happened to them in this one?”
“Exactly... except this client is a seventeen-year-old boy remembering his past life as a woman,” Lee said, the grin returning. She closed the file and joined him in the chair opposite of him on his left, crossing her legs right knee over the left knee. “And his past life is trying to find her lover.”
“Insane? Odd? There’s a list of other things it could be, but long lost loves and past lives are a very common thing. At least in my world,” the cheeky woman beamed. “But as for our session…”
“I guess the appointment was already pre-setup... do I have to lie down again?” Thomas questioned, but got a shake of the head. He sunk into the chair a little with a sigh.
“Have you had more dreams about Marcy?” The first painfully obvious question.
“Always. Every night. Now it seems though I’m almost turning around to see what she’s screaming about, and then I wake up covered in sweat,” he said, his hazel eyes going back up to the ceiling.
“Good... so it seems like you’re getting closer to being able to face your monster. I have a feeling in the next few nights, you’ll see it soon.” She leaned over. “I would like to see your burn scar though... it would be a step in the right direction to solving the identity your mystery monster.”
Thomas thought of it... it was something he kept hidden. A dirty secret seared into his skin that he didn’t want to see the light of day. Not now. Not when he wasn’t ready to let go of the memory of Marcy and move on.
Dr. Lee could see his discomfort with the subject, switching into a smile and easing back into her chair. “It’s fine if you’re not ready. Things like tragedy take time to heal from... especially if you don’t know what really caused it,” she said, moving up out of her desk chair and wandering over to one of her bookshelves, flitting her fingers over a few of the colorful cardboard spines. Her hand stopped on a red one embossed with gold script, her finger slipping into the folds of the book, pulling it out.
“There are many creatures in this world and beyond that can leave burn marks on you... if you won’t show me, perhaps you can look through this and see if it jogs your memory a little.” The petite doctor brought the red book over and held it out for him to take, bobbing it in her hand until he took it from her a little roughly.
Thomas squinted at the title.
“What language is this?”he asked.
“A language more ancient than you’ll ever get to know... but it has pictures. The pictures inside are what you want to pay attention to,” Dr. Lee insisted, leaning on her desk and crossing her legs at the ankles as she leaned. “You can take it with you or sit with it as the rain dies down. It will be awhile. Tea?”
Kal got up and moved over to a little alcove, opening up the door to reveal a tea set and a small coil burner to heat the water. “Not much of a tea drinker…” Thomas admitted.
“It’s a shame. It’s actually healthier for you than that coffee they serve at Mr. Xiang’s Apothecary,” she said with a scrunch of her nose. “They use iron water to make their hot water.”
“Iron water?” Thomas said with some surprise.
“It’s an old-world method for curing anemia. It’s assumed that people are exhausted because their iron is low or some supernatural force is draining them. In the west, iron is used to ward off fae folk,” she explained while she poured a pitcher of plain tap water into the tea kettle and turned on the burner to warm up the water. "I think he’s paranoid that the fairies are going to come after him.”
“Are you serious? Fairies?” Thomas asked credulously.
“Fairies,” Kal repeated.
“You mean like... Tinkerbell fairies, right?” He turned his chair completely around to talk to her. Was she really serious about this?
“Sort of. Fairies aren’t just like little fairies like that. They can be elves, dwarves... they can look like birds or other animals,” she explained. “I keep a few around here.”
Thomas looked around. Where would she keep... no, now he was getting involved in this craziness. Kal looked at him, seeing that he was frustrated with the idea. “Do you ever feel like you’re being watched?” Dr. Lee asked him.
“Yes... no... I mean sometimes I feel like something’s following me but when I look, nothing’s there. That’s common in a city though,” Thomas said, sitting back and running his fingers through the curls on the side of his head.
“True... but not entirely true,” Kal said, removing the kettle from the heat before it could do a high pitched whistle, pouring the hot water into a coffee mug and adding a few tea bags to make it strong. She would take her seat beside him, waiting for it to steep dark enough to drink. “People who have had negative encounters with supernatural beings will end up having what I call a ‘Second Sight.’ The ability to see beyond the veil of the mundane and see what lingers just beyond it.”
“So if I did encounter something like that... I would be able to see them?” he questioned.
Dr. Lee would put her mug on the desk, getting up and going to the shelf. She stood on her toes, reaching up for a wooden box and dragged it down to her level so she could open it. She pulled out a smooth, jade stone and approached Thomas with it, handing it to him. “Look through the hole and tell me what you see.”
Thomas accepted the stone, feeling it in his hand before bringing the hole up to his eye. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Maybe a few odd sparkles here and there but as he circled the room, looking about... he stopped at Dr. Lee.
“What the hell?!” he said, nearly dropping the stone and then picking it up to look at her again through the hole and then moved it away. “What... what are... ears... ears out... out to...”
Thomas made a gesture around his head, bringing it from his ears out several inches and then back again. He looked through the stone to double-check, but she still looked…
“I’m an elf,” Dr. Lee confirmed.
“An elf. This is a joke, right? You look like…”
“Like Legolas. You want a magic ring to confirm it?” Dr. Lee said, reaching for her coffee mug and sipping her tea. Dr. Lee looked close to human male in front of her. She was ethereally beautiful through the stone and average outside of it with long, elven ears from the side of her head.
“But... why?” Thomas said, sitting back down in shock.
“Why am I am an elf?” she said her smile broadening. “Well, once upon a time two elves loved each other very, very much and…”
She made a crude gesture of a finger going through a hole made by her opposite hand going back and forth. Thomas couldn’t believe it and checked the stone for a switch or a film that made it magically change her into fairy but he couldn’t find it. Dr. Lee set her mug down, reaching to her hand and removing a ring from her right hand. The glamor fell from her and she revealed her true presence to him.
Dr. Lee... well... Dr. Elf Lee now moved closer, taking one of his hands and bringing it to her ear, letting him feel from the bottom of the soft lobe and all the way to the hard pointed piece of cartilage at the tip. Thomas could feel that it was very real...and her hair color had changed too. Instead of blonde, it was pure white like snow or cotton. He pinched the ear he touched, a little noise coming from her that sounded like a whimper before she pulled away, rubbing the spot.
“Oye... those are sensitive,” she said, rubbing the side of her head with a rosy blush on her cheeks.
“Oh my god, they are real…” Thomas said, slumping in his chair a little more. “And the hair… how old are you?”
His question got an odd response from her when she went from flustered to insulted. She scrunched her nose, her ears flattening back against the side of her head much like how cats did in anger. “I was born with it. It runs in my family,” she said, reaching up and running her fingers through the ends of her bob that fell through her fingers like silk.
“There are more of you? You have a family?” Thomas kept questioning.
It seemed to hit a nerve... a tender one. The cheeky smile and the insult seemed to wash off of her face into a look of grief. “Oh…” he said, looking down at his lap. “I’m sorry…”
“Don’t be. They’re not dead. They just don’t know I’m still alive,” Dr. Lee shook her head, slipping the ring back on. Like an ocean shimmer washed over her, she turned back into her human version and circled around to her desk chair, easing down.
“Want to talk about it?” Thomas added and that seemed to get a smile out of her.
“Shut up or I may actually start charging you for these sessions,” she said, laughing curtly.
Thomas felt his mouth quirk a little bit. It almost hurt to do it but he couldn’t remember the last time he smiled. It almost hurt too much but it still managed to creep out. Thomas brought a hand to his face, looking away from her a moment.
“Thomas... look at your arm.”
The elf’s voice sounded a little surprised, Thomas seeing her stand up to look down at this bandaged arm.
There was a blazing shape of a feather on his arm that was burning through his clothes and he got up, shaking his arm and throwing his coat off, stomping on it. Dr. Lee got up, grabbing a fire extinguisher from over in her little kitchenette space, unpinning it with a yank and spraying his arm with the white powder and foam.
They stood in silence as the dust and smoke settled around them, Dr. Lee looking at his arm.
“What... the hell was that…” Thomas said, looking at his arm, almost afraid of it.
Dr. Lee dropped the fire extinguisher on the floor. “That... was Phoenix Fire,” she said, approaching and taking his arm, turning it over in her hands. For a small woman, she had a vice grip. “I see…” she whispered.
“What? What the hell is it?” Thomas said, pulling his arm out of her grip.
“You got yourself in a pickle, Thomas…” Dr. Lee said, going back to the red book she had given him earlier and practically whipped the pages over until she opened it to the right page, slapping the book down on the desk to show him. “And we may have found your monster.”
Thomas didn’t want to look at the book... it would just confirm all the fears inside of him and he wanted to do everything in his power to run out of Dr. Lee’s office to forget it happened. Yet, he couldn’t. His feet moved like lead bricks over to see the picture and his hand reached out to touch the page.
The old illustration was of a bird on fire, each of its plumes a flame in a feather shape. He looked down to the scar on his arm that now, after all this time he could face without just wanting to quickly cover it up. The sudden burst of flames kept it from happening anyway, laying his fears bare to the office air.
Dr. Lee and Thomas stared at the clear shape of a feather burned into his arm.
“That’s a phoenix feather alright…” the doctor spoke, looking up at him with an abnormal calm. “Question is... how did it get there and why? Why does it react now?”
The question hung in the air for the longest time, Dr. Lee looking at his face as he thought heavily on it. He got the burn the night Marcy died and their house burned to ashes... had it been a Phoenix that caused the fire? And why theirs? Why did a stupid bird have to choose them of all people? His eyes were watering, burning the lower lids.
A white piece of tissue floated into his view, Dr. Lee offering him a clean tissue to wipe his eyes with instead of touching his face while covered in extinguisher dust. “We’ll answer that another time. You can use my shower,” she said, moving around her desk and going to the closed door in her office, opening it up.