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
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 ;[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 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 ,
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
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 ,
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.
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
“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,
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—”
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 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 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 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.
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
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
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 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.
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 VerrazanoNarrowsBridge[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.
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
dream-visions. And the most effective way to enter Sean’s thoughts and emotions is through hypnosis.”
I asked, somewhat shocked.
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.”
I said, trying to absorb the hypnosis idea. “Hypnosis can extract more information, Doctor?”[MSOffice24]
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
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
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.
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.
are feeling completely relaxed and comfortable,” he began. “You feel good, not scared. You are reflecting on the
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 .
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…”
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.”
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.”
kind of hug? Is it a hard squeeze?”
a little squeeze, but only on my left shoulder and side, and on my neck.”
are you thinking at that time? Are you scared?”
“I am scared
because I don’t know who or what is hugging me.”
the doctor prompted.
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.”
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.”
you hear anything? Any voices?”
is quiet. No voices. Nothing to scare me.”
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
are calm now, at peace, not scared. Sean, tell me what happens next.”
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.”
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—”
couple of minutes I’m not as scared. I can feel myself rising faster, straight up, two feet, five feet, then more.”
it feel like now?” The doctor was more interested than before.
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.”
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]
“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.”
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…”
take us on your journey,” the doctor urged softly. “Where are you going now?”
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.”
it dark out?”
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!”
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!”
are you doing now?”
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,
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]
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 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.”
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.
[MSOffice3]Per the Chicago Manual, not hyphenated (although 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.
[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
[MSOffice8]The dialogue tag is incomplete; this would be better.
[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 “VerrazanoNarrowsBridge”; be consistent.
[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