Chapter One

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A mother’s intuition is a phenomenal thing. Almost like an incoming-missile warning center. Every mother has it built into her the moment she finishes carrying a baby for those nine months. My intuition told me that something wasn’t quite right with my twelve-year-old son, Sean.

The forecast for that July day called for another impossibly hot and humid twenty-four hours. We had already lived through two solid weeks of higher-than-normal temperatures—this blamed on global warming. Many states in the South[MSOffice1]  were even worse off. There had been numerous power outages throughout the entire New York City area, along with scattered fires from the drought. Staten Island, my borough, had been hit especially hard with some intense brush fires, risking [MSOffice2] houses and businesses.

It was already nine thirty;[MSOffice3]  I had been up for over three hours, the same routine daily. We really are creatures of habit, much like ants working the farm, or bees busily pollinating the flowers each day. Each morning, without the help of an alarm clock, I wake suddenly, like I am jolted with an electric current.

I kept reminding myself:  Dawn, this is your summer vacation; you’re a teacher, and all teachers sleep late on their summer off! But it did no good. Maybe it was from teaching for twelve years. Maybe it was the naturally built-in instinct, knowing that I had to be up before my son and my husband of thirteen years, Tom. No matter, by six a.m. I would rise each day, looking like a deer startled by the headlights of a car. But on that Monday morning, I felt uneasy; I felt something unusual was going on. I guess I thrived on the nonstop action of my life. That and the caffeine kept me trim, and at 115 pounds and five foot two,[MSOffice4]  I never watched my calories.

Tom had left for work at eight o’clock, for his forty-minute commute to the small law firm in the city. Tom was almost a junior partner with Shields and Shields, a hundred-year-old family law firm. But my son Sean was still in his bedroom, with door closed and no noise at all coming from it.

Sean was a natural early bird. He was usually up before eight even on his days off from school. It was very rare that he overslept, unless he was feeling sick. So at nine thirty-five, I hurried to his quiet and dark room.

I listened outside his door and heard a kind of monotonous soft humming coming from my son. Slowly I opened the door, quietly peeking inside. There was Sean, lying on his back and staring up at the ceiling with his eyes wide open, humming nervously.

I backed away, slowly closing the door, wanting my son to hear me approaching his room normally.

“Sean, sweetie, time to rise and shine, dear,” I said, as I knocked lightly on his door and opened it wide. He ignored me, with that wide-open stare seemingly fixed on an imaginary spot on the ceiling.

“Sean, honey—”[MSOffice5] 

“Leave me alone, Mom.”

I sat down on the right side of his bed and took his hand. As he turned his head and looked into my eyes, I said, “Sean, you look like you haven’t been sleeping. Your eyes have dark circles under them and they’re really red. Are you feeling all right?” I felt his forehead. “Is your throat sore, or do you have any pain anywhere else?”

“Mom, I’m fine! I just can’t sleep anymore, all right?”

“But you need your sleep—”

“I’m not sleeping anymore. I don’t want to sleep, and I am not tired[MSOffice6] ! Okay?”

“Sean,” I said, hugging him to me, [MSOffice7] “what are you scared of? What are you trying to hide from?”

“Mom, you don’t understand! You can’t!” He had tears in his eyes and his voice trembled as he said,[MSOffice8]  “No one knows what I’ve seen! I’m never sleeping again, ever!”

All of a sudden it made sense. My son was not sick. His skin was actually cool to the touch. For twelve years I’d been worried that something serious could happen to Sean. When he was very young he had had a bout of pneumonia and various childhood sicknesses. A mother never rests easy,[MSOffice9]  forever worrying that her child could be taken from her suddenly by a serious illness—[MSOffice10] or worse yet, a terrible accident. I knew that Sean was merely spooked by a nightmare. I could handle that. A mother is resilient, prepared for almost anything. After all, those nine months of holding a miracle seed that turns into a new life slowly instills a love in the mother that prepares her and gives her the strength to be able to handle the most unexpected things that could happen to her child.

“Sean,” I said, and smiled lovingly at my son,[MSOffice11]  “you just had a terrible nightmare. We all get—”

“No! I knew you wouldn’t understand! Mom, what I am seeing is not a dream or a nightmare. I’ve had dreams and frightening nightmares before. They don’t even scare me anymore. These are very different. They are actual visions of people who have been killed!”

“Come on, Sean, these are just dreams.”

“Mom, I’m twelve. Don’t you think I have had many dreams? I know the difference. These are not dreams of trucks, baseball, or someone who wants to beat me up or even kill me. I’ve had all those kinds of dreams before. These are real, one hundred percent factual and accurate. They are visions! Someone is trying to communicate with me from the hereafter! I see the blood, the stabbings, the burying of bodies!”

“Sean, I don’t want not to [MSOffice12] believe you, really. I want to understand more about what you experienced—”

“Just admit it, you don’t believe me. I actually can understand why you are doubtful. It’s hard to believe that someone who is dead can come back to earth and speak to us. But, Mom, it has happened so many times that I know in my heart these visions are really from the dead. That’s not so terrible. What is hard to accept are the messages these spirits are sending me. I can’t take the visions of what has happened to most of these people.”

I hugged Sean for what seemed like a long time while we both sobbed quietly. I believed him. I realized that Sean was not exaggerating or just imagining things. I didn’t want to believe that he had a gift that could make him psychic, but in my heart I had always believed he was gifted in some special way.

It happened years ago, when Sean was only four. He awoke one morning at three a.m. He was screaming hysterically. When we ran to his bedroom, he yelled, “Ma! Grandma! Grandma is dead.” Tom and I calmed him down after about twenty minutes. We let Sean sleep in our bed with us for the rest of the night. He was shaking, but finally fell into a sound sleep. But at seven o’clock that morning came word that Tom’s mother, Sean’s grandmother, had died that night in her sleep. Sean had been right. But we didn’t think too much about it at that time. It was a traumatic time for all of us.

Then at age six, Sean awoke from a nightmare he had about a school bus that he saw flip over and over. In his dream, there were children screaming and flying out of the bus windows. It was about six o’clock that cold January morning. We later learned that a bus loaded with schoolchildren in San Diego had slipped off a wet roadway and careened down a hillside. Two children were killed and many had been hurt. We were all shocked back then, wondering if it were true that Sean had a special gift. But over the next six years we heard nothing from Sean again about unusual dreams—until his latest vision.

Sean explained to me, more calmly this time, how he had been having regular visions for the last few weeks. He said that at first they seemed like just more intense dreams, almost as if he were slowly being tested, being conditioned to accept such visions that soon would intensify into disturbing scenes of kidnapping, torture,[MSOffice13]  and death. The dead people who were communicating with him through these dreams were very intent on having their messages passed on to their loved ones who were still living. There was one such message Sean envisioned that, as he explained, was “quite funny”![MSOffice14]  It was from a golden retriever named Bones. In Sean’s vision, the dog would be wagging its tail, and Sean would be able to sense what Bones was thinking. It appeared that Bones had been killed by a car when only three years old. His owners had left the front door open by mistake and Bones had run into the street. Bones wanted everyone to know that there is an afterlife—even for animals—and that he was happy.

I looked into Sean’s eyes. As a mother, I felt the pain he felt. The pain showed in his eyes. I knew only a small portion of what he was feeling at the moment, but it broke my heart. Still, I had to be strong. I had to try to minimize it all. But how could I tell him to avoid those visions? I understood that, once in the actual visions dream state, it wouldn’t end until the deceased person sending the message allowed it to end.[MSOffice15] 

The real problem was that I knew exactly what Sean was experiencing because I had had similar visions when I was a child. When I was eight years old, for a period of about a month, I had had very intense visions. I also knew they were not just dreams. But I wouldn’t tell anyone for fear they wouldn’t believe me. My dream-visions were varied, but mostly they were happy dreams. I had three visions of a Guardian Angel named Sarah, who convinced me that she was real when she predicted things that happened at school later that day.

There were visions of deceased family members like Grandpa, who told me things about my father that no one else ever knew, such as how my father got a scar on his face above his right eye, now almost unnoticeable. The scar was there—it checked out. Another vision was from a deceased neighbor down the street, Filomena Garcia, who told me how her husband used to beat her after he drank too much. Years later, I found out that the vision was true. Filomena’s daughter, Rosaria, disclosed how her father would beat all the children and especially her mother, who eventually died of a heart attack at the young age of forty-two. Rosaria’s father ended up dead from a car accident in which he was involved; he had been drinking at a bar and tried to drive home, but ran into a large oak tree near his house. He was killed instantly. I had had other frightening visions as well.

So I knew what Sean was going through:  that inability to sleep, except when you were so exhausted that you fell into a coma-like state for a few minutes, before your inner mind abruptly woke you up to remind you why you couldn’t stay asleep. I knew it all, but still had to lie to Sean for his own good, convincing him that the visions would go away, that they weren’t that bad, and that he could handle it all. It is not easy to lie to your own child. You do it, though, to protect him, to help him hold on to his sanity, to keep that bubble-like shelter safely around your child.

The intense visions of the deceased and their messages are like a visit to hell. They scare you silly. You try to wake, but you know you can’t till the vision is over. You vow never to willingly close your eyes again. Sean was going through it now. I had to do something to kill the pain, the emotional torture, but what?

It was eleven o’clock when I placed a call to Sean’s pediatrician, Dr. Cheryl LoPrani. After explaining Sean’s sleeplessness, his anxiety, and the vision nightmares, Dr. LoPrani asked me if he was depressed. I told her I believed he was, and that I was scared he might do something rash to ease his pain. The doctor quickly referred me to a psychologist in Brooklyn. She assured me that Sean would be fine, and that children go through phases in their preteen years. I knew she was right. I knew children went through cycles of emotions. But I also knew Sean was very special, unusually gifted. And most of all, I knew he was psychic.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Benjamin Simmons,[MSOffice16]  was nice enough to squeeze us in for an hour-long appointment that afternoon. Maybe it was the special referral our pediatrician faxed over, or maybe Dr. LoPrani had explained the symptoms in advance to Dr. Simmons. I was happy to get to see the doctor instead of having to think and stew about it all day. My stomach was in knots as I told Sean we were going to see a psychiatrist. I didn’t know what to expect, though I had faith that the Brooklyn doctor could help Sean.

Dr. Simmons’[MSOffice17]  office was located right over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge[MSOffice18]  from Staten Island. It was in an old brick building that stood [MSOffice19] twelve stories high and had to be from the 1930s[MSOffice20] , but was in pristine condition. Dr. Simmons’ office was located on the third floor. The office was elegant-looking and calming to the eye. There were no patients in the waiting area and only one receptionist. It was a far cry from the usual doctor’s office we were used to, full of lots of noisy sick children.

I was called in to meet with the doctor alone, while Sean was told to wait in a children’s playroom. Sean was not very enthusiastic about seeing a psychiatrist, so I had bribed him, as many other parents do when they try to get their kids to do something they don’t want to do. I promised him a new pair of Nike[MSOffice21]  sneakers, the expensive ones. Sean had never owned a pair of Nikes, so he was very eager to go to the mall and get his first genuine pair.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

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Dr. Benjamin Simmons was a large man, around forty-five years old, well over six feet tall, and about three hundred pounds. He was bald, but had dark hair on the sides and back of his head, a a close-cropped beard. He wore glasses that were almost invisible on his round, chubby face, which matched his friendly, soft[MSOffice22]  voice. Gracing his desk was a large framed picture of three chubby children and a pretty wife.

As soon as he introduced himself, I sensed a very compassionate, likeable man. I felt very at ease with him, and we spoke for a few minutes as I told him about Sean, his sleeplessness, his visions, his fears, and my concerns. He seemed to put himself in my place as a parent, as if it were his child who had envisioned such horrific scenes in his sleep. He wrote while I spoke, assuring me with nods and saying “I see” several times [MSOffice23] along the way.

When I had finished speaking, there seemed to be a very long silence before he spoke. “I understand, Mrs. Reilly. With your permission, I would like to try to get inside Sean’s head, really get to know what he experiences, and what he truly feels about these dreams—”

“Visions.”

“Yes, his dream-visions. And the most effective way to enter Sean’s thoughts and emotions is through hypnosis.”

“Hypnosis?” I asked, somewhat shocked.

“Yes. Quite certainly, Mrs. Reilly. You see, the subconscious mind, our inner mind, stores many of our hidden emotions, fears, and worries. It is that subconscious part with which I want to communicate. You see, Mrs. Reilly, the patient, under hypnosis, is not shy or even hesitant about sharing his inner emotions. He just speaks plainly about them, much like the conversation you and I are having right now.”

“Okay,” I said, trying to absorb the hypnosis idea. “Hypnosis can extract more information, Doctor?”[MSOffice24] 

“Yes, precisely. We want Sean to open up and disclose all the hidden facets of his dream-visions, the parts his conscious mind has already forgotten. Our inner mind stores extra data we are unaware of, and hypnosis will allow that information to come to the forefront.”

The doctor explained that Sean would be in a hypnotic state for no more than twenty minutes and that he would not have any recollection of being “under.” Also, Sean would awake fully relaxed and stress free, and should be able to sleep soundly that night. I was anxious to have Dr. Simmons begin his session with Sean, anything to help relieve my son’s inner torment.

By the time Sean was brought into Dr. Simmons’ office, I had already been instructed to merely observe and listen. Sean was to communicate with the doctor directly. I was to be the fly on the wall. I thought about the doctor and how comfortable he had made me feel; how his office was relaxing to the eyes, with its soft colors and plush textures, all carefully designed to comfort and reassure a patient.

Still, I was concerned for my son. Would he be nervous? Would he fight the doctor and not cooperate? I was a bundle of nerves. But I so wanted the doctor to help Sean, to give him some kind of peace, to help him accept his psychic abilities as a blessing rather than a punishment or a curse of some kind.

Sean looked around the doctor’s office. Hesitantly, he inched closer to the chair in front of the doctor’s desk. Dr. Simmons quickly rose, smiled, and motioned toward the chair. “I have heard so much about you, Sean. I’m so glad to finally meet you.”

Sean shook the doctor’s hand weakly, timidly sat down and replied politely, “Nice to meet you, too, Doctor.”

The doctor made small talk with Sean, trying to put him at ease. It appeared to be working. The doctor had a friendly, easygoing manner and I imagined that it helped him achieve results.

It’s really amazing how a person becomes hypnotized. In reality, we actually put ourselves in a hypnotic state. The doctor merely is the conduit into our own mind. Dr. Simmons spoke to Sean, asking him to visualize certain things to calm his mind and help him to relax. In only about thirty seconds, Sean was in a state in which Dr. Simmons was able to give him commands and ask questions.

“Sean, you are feeling completely relaxed and comfortable,” he began. “You feel good, not scared. You are reflecting on the dreams.”

I understood from Dr. Simmons that a person cannot be hypnotized against his will, and that no one in a hypnotic state would ever do anything against his moral beliefs. As the doctor instructed Sean, I, too, felt relaxed, but in no way did I feel close to being hypnotized. Maybe this was due in part to my burning desire to see Sean finally experience some relief from this distress about which he felt so helpless. What could the doctor possibly say to convince my son that it was a good thing to see visions of people reliving their last moments of life before their tragic deaths?

Sean was an average twelve-year-old.[MSOffice25]  He was never really in any kind of trouble, for which I thanked God every day. If anything, Sean was a little on the shy side, not what one would consider overly outgoing. So I was concerned that Sean might clam up when the doctor questioned him. Maybe he would refuse to share any details and not let the doctor into the inner emotions and feelings he was keeping hidden.

Boy, was I wrong!

It was as if someone plugged one of those Energizer batteries into my son; he talked and talked. I was shocked, but I realized that hypnotism was a science, a way into the deepest recesses of the human mind. I was suddenly very thankful that Tom and I never had abused Sean; that we never hit our son, and never did anything immoral in our household. I had no idea what would come out of Sean’s mouth. I was soon amazed, shocked, and troubled.

The look on the face of a person who is in a hypnotic state is a distant look. He is aware of everything that is said, but is in another world. I was amazed at how easily the doctor was able to put Sean in that state. I studied my son’s face; he looked more relaxed than I had seen him in a very long time. I had to admit that I was wrong in my belief that hypnosis was merely a hoax, perpetrated by people just out to make a dollar. No, this was in fact real. I witnessed something spectacular that day.

Dr. Simmons gave Sean a few more instructions, preparing him and calming his mind. Sean looked calm and patient, which convinced me that the doctor was in full control of where Sean was going to go in his own mind.

The doctor asked Sean to recount in detail what had transpired the night before. Sean was almost robot-like as he began.

“I go[MSOffice26]  into my room at nine o’clock. My bed is nice and neat, as usual. My room is clean, no mess on the floor. I need my light to stay on. I don’t like the dark, not anymore. I’m afraid of all the visions, there are too many. I don’t want to see the spirits of the dead people anymore. The other side scares me; I don’t want to see. I need the light…”

“All right, Sean. Take me to the time when you are trying to fall asleep. Tell me what is going through your mind as you are lying there.”

Sean’s face took on a troubled look as spoke. “I’m thinking I don’t want to sleep. I can’t, not again. I’m lying in bed, but I can’t fall asleep. It’s like my legs have electricity running through them; they are jumpy. My arms and legs won’t relax. It’s like they have the same energy in them that I feel when I’m running in the street, like they want to vibrate. It won’t let me sleep. I wait, maybe fifteen minutes, but I still can’t sleep. The light is still on and I don’t want to shut it off. I’m scared. But suddenly, I feel someone hugging me while I lay there. ‘It can’t be,’ I tell myself. I try to ignore it. [MSOffice27] I’m lying on my right side. I like my right side; it’s the way I usually fall asleep. I can see myself lying in the bed. I know no one is there with me because the light is on, but I still feel a hugging sensation.”

“Sean, what kind of hug? Is it a hard squeeze?”

“No. It’s a little squeeze, but only on my left shoulder and side, and on my neck.”

“Sean, what are you thinking at that time? Are you scared?”

“I am scared because I don’t know who or what is hugging me.”

“And then?” the doctor prompted.

“And then I suddenly feel at peace, calm. I feel it is the Blessed Mother who is hugging me. And then I feel very sorry for all the bad things I have ever done. I feel that I have to be a better person, that I must be nicer to people.”

“How long are you hugged, Sean?” the doctor questioned, and looked at me with a somewhat astonished look on his face. I then realized, my mouth was hanging open, and I quickly shut it. I was stunned and hanging on Sean’s every word. Sean’s face was controlled, at peace; he appeared ready to be able to talk for a long time, to allow us to penetrate the innermost depths of his mind, where no one else had ever delved into before.

“I am being hugged for almost ten minutes, until I am calmed down. At first, I feel like jumping out of my bed and running down the block faster than I’ve ever run before. But I can’t move, so after a little while, I stop trying. A warm feeling covers my entire body. It feels good. I start to feel calm. I’m not scared now. I sense a feeling inside me that there is nothing to worry about.”

“Sean, do you hear anything? Any voices?”

“No. It is quiet. No voices. Nothing to scare me.”

“You are feeling good, then?”

“I am feeling very good, comfortable. I feel loved, very loved. A feeling like I have never felt before. I don’t want this feeling to end.”

“Okay. You are calm now, at peace, not scared. Sean, tell me what happens next.”

“I feel strange, light. I feel myself leaving my body, very slowly. I am rising out of my body, very slowly at first. It’s a weird sensation. I am suddenly very scared and I feel myself stop rising out of my body.”

“Sean, you can see yourself lying on the bed, on your right side. You can feel and see yourself coming out of your body, slowly, and then stopping. Now tell me, Sean, how far have you risen out of your body at this point?”

“I am stopped about six inches above my body, but I am still lying on my side on the bed. I can look down and see my body there and I’m scared, so I’m stuck there six inches above—”

“What is happening now?”

“After a couple of minutes I’m not as scared. I can feel myself rising faster, straight up, two feet, five feet, then more.”

“What does it feel like now?” The doctor was more interested than before.

“It feels like I am flying, like I am gliding, [MSOffice28] where all I have to do is think and I suddenly glide in that exact direction. It’s fun. I like it as I glide left, then right. I’m hovering now at the ceiling. I see everything in my room.”

“What do you do then, Sean?”

I looked on in disbelief, wishing I had a video camera for this amazing revelation into Sean’s psyche. The doctor’s voice was suddenly animated, and he was clearly interested in the direction Sean’s vision had taken us.[MSOffice29] 

Sean continued, “I look down from where I am hovering over my body, at the rug, at the color and grain of the wood of my dresser. I slowly glide over to the wall. I think about what is on the other side of the wall, and suddenly I pass right through the wall into the hallway. I can see the hall, the window in the hallway. I can see out the hallway window. It’s funny, I’m thinking, as I slowly glide and travel on.”

“Where do you go then?”

“I now realize for sure that I am no longer a body. I think for a while about what I am and realize that I am [MSOffice30] like a beam of light, moving just as easily, without any real effort. I continue to the stairway and on to the window at the top of the stairway, right outside Mom’s room…”

“Okay, Sean, take us on your journey,” the doctor urged softly. “Where are you going now?”

“I travel right up against the ceiling and follow it to the large round window over the main stairway that goes up the three floors of the house. I look out the window and I see colors, people, a room.”

“Sean, isn’t it dark out?”

“No, that’s what scares me. I know it should be dark outside, but I see people around tables in some kind of restaurant somewhere. I notice all the colors of their clothes, and now I feel very scared. I don’t like it anymore. I want it all to end now!”

“Why, Sean? What scares you about the people? And do you know these people?”

“No, I don’t recognize any of the people. I don’t know the restaurant. The people look mean and I don’t trust them. I don’t want to stay there because I feel I won’t be able to go home ever again. I’m scared I am going to die if I don’t go back right away!”

“So what are you doing now?”

“I think that I want to be back in my bed, back inside my body. And in a split second, I am suddenly back inside my body on bed, lying on my right side, just like before. But I am scared now. I won’t close my eyes and it takes a long time before I finally fall asleep. I don’t need to sleep anymore. I can stay awake and think about baseball games; I replay them over and over in my mind and this way I won’t have to sleep.”

Dr. Simmons brought my son out of his hypnotic state, but first gave Sean a series of instructions. “Sean, at the count of five you will wake up and feel fine. You will feel fully refreshed, as if you had had a good night’s sleep. Sean, you will be calm, you will not be frightened at night, and you will sleep each night as you always did before. When you awake, you will not remember being hypnotized. You will only remember having a pleasant conversation about baseball. One, two, three, four, five.”

When Sean opened his eyes he looked calm, happy, and energetic. He didn’t remember being hypnotized and was smiling. The doctor asked Sean to wait in the children’s waiting room. I found out that the room was special because it entertained the children with its video games, DVD movies, and lots of toys. It was meant to take the fear of facing the doctor away by keeping the children’s minds occupied.

Dr. Simmons and I spoke while Sean played video games in the waiting room. The doctor had a somewhat surprised look on his face. I didn’t know whether this was good or bad, but knew my son had some special kind of gift that most people will never enjoy.[MSOffice31] 

“Dr. Simmons, do you think Sean will be all right?”

He looked at me for two full seconds as he pondered my question. “I’m not too sure. Oh, he will be fine, at least until he has another intense dream. It is quite clear that the young man has a very vivid and wild imagination. [MSOffice32] Mrs. Reilly, I’m going to give you a prescription for Sean, a mild sedative—”

“I don’t want to—”

“I can understand your concerns, but Mrs. Reilly, you will use this only if you feel he is slipping back into that dark, frightening mode again. It’s called Xanax. It will calm Sean down, give him a restful sleep.”

“I don’t know.”

The doctor smiled with a twinkle in his eyes. “Fill it and keep it. Think of it as a safety net,” he said softly. The doctor was compassionate, but did he truly understand what Sean had experienced? Or was he treating it like a run-of-the mill case? I wondered to myself as I tried to smile back at him.


 [MSOffice1]Per the Chicago Manual, capitalized as a geographic area.

 [MSOffice2]Twice in sentence; repetitive.

 [MSOffice3]Per the Chicago Manual, not hyphenated (although nine thirty-five would be). Changed throughout.

 [MSOffice4]Per the Chicago Manual, spell out; this is the more colloquial way to write height, and this phrasing would be better.

 [MSOffice5]Per the Chicago Manual, an em dash is better than ellipses for interruptions, or when one character has cut off another, which seems to be the case here. Take care not to overuse ellipses, especially having sentences trail off.

 [MSOffice6]Twice in paragraph; repetitive.

 [MSOffice7]When a sentence continues after the dialogue tag, the first word after the opening quotation mark is not capitalized (unless it is a proper name, the personal pronoun I, God, etc.). Changed throughout where needed.

 [MSOffice8]The dialogue tag is incomplete; this would be better.

 [MSOffice9]This is the phrase.

 [MSOffice10]Twice in paragraph; repetitive.

 [MSOffice11]Same notes as above.

 [MSOffice12]This is a split infinitive. It’s also a double negative; maybe reconsider.

 [MSOffice13]See note in the Master Comment regarding serial commas; one is needed here.

 [MSOffice14]See note in the Master Comment regarding scare quotes.

 [MSOffice15]Try not to overuse exclamation points.

 [MSOffice16]Use his full name at this first use, rather than later.

 [MSOffice17]The Chicago Manual encourages the use of the apostrophe plus S to form the possessive of a name ending in S. However, this alternative practice is acceptable; just be consistent with its use.

 [MSOffice18]Later this is the “Verrazano Narrows Bridge”; be consistent.

 [MSOffice19]Be specific.

 [MSOffice20]Per the Chicago Manual, no apostrophe with decades.

 [MSOffice21]Unnecessary.

 [MSOffice22]By definition, soft-spoken means having a mild or gentle voice; you could say he was soft-spoken, but it doesn’t work this way.

 [MSOffice23]Awkward; this might be better.

A title is c [MSOffice24]apitalized when used in direct address or in place of the title plus name. Changed as needed throughout the manuscript.

 [MSOffice25]Per Chicago Manual, hyphenated.

 [MSOffice26]The rest of the paragraph is in present tense; be consistent.

 [MSOffice27]Keep his dialogue together.

 [MSOffice28]A sentence fragment, so keep this together.

 [MSOffice29]It’s appropriate for Sean’s dialogue here to be in present tense, since he is under hypnosis and relating events as they happen. But Dawn, your viewpoint character, needs to stay in past tense.

 [MSOffice30]“Just” twice in sentence.

 [MSOffice31]Does Sean “enjoy” it?

 [MSOffice32]Keep his dialogue together.

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