Follow the Jackal

The therapists all suggest deep breathing. Elena tries that now, but it does nothing to stop the steady rise of fear building up inside her, a tide that will inevitably consume her. Deep breathing only reminds her of waves, and the image of them crashing over her and pulling her under is enough to jolt her out of her attempted reverie and back into her desolate “precautionary” prison.

“What am I supposed to remember?” she mumbles. “Oh, I forgot, that creepy man at the dinner party DID poison Jack.” She buries her face in her arms and tries to feel that this isn’t completely pointless.

She thinks about what Thomas had told her the night before. She doesn’t know which sounds less plausible… that Jack had been secretly studying the afterlife, or that he was killed by a secret American organization plotting to "take over England”. What would that even mean?

And what about the Three Monkeys? Jack had always been a serious darts player, even before he’d found that place. In fact, Elena remembers when Thomas first started working there. Jack had been a regular for a few months already by that point. Was the previous bartender supposed to have been a secret agent or whatever too? And what about all Jack’s other dart buddies? She hasn’t seen any of them prowling around this building.

She tries again to focus on remembering details that might be “useful”, but the longer she thinks, the less detail she can remember. What was it her therapist had said? Sometimes the greatest distraction to our memory is the act of trying to remember. That day she had been trying to recount details from her latest nightmare, and Dr. Hammond had instructed her to stop thinking about it. Talk about what she had done that day instead. If the details were stored in her memory at all, they would emerge on their own time. She tries to relax her mind now and think of something easier.

That day at therapy, she remembers, she had arrived terrified. The Jackal of her dreams had just reached a new level of horror, so horrible that she couldn’t bear to remember it upon waking.

“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice,” she had told Dr. Hammond.

“Of course,” he had said, frowning at her sincerely. He had a gentle but studious appearance— a thin man with quick eyes and dark brown hair. “Tell me about this new nightmare.”

She had proceeded to tell him as much as she could remember, which turned out to be very little that was any different from all her previous dreams. The fear was more intense upon waking, but that was all. He had tried to distract her into talking about anything other than that dream.

“Tell me,” he had said, “This Jackal, as you call it… Why do you call it that?”

“I don’t know,” Elena had said. “I guess because it looks like a jackal.”

“And what exactly does a jackal look like?” he'd asked.

“I don’t know,” she'd said again. “Like a dog, I guess.”

“So why not call it a dog?”

She hadn’t really thought about it. It just seemed like that’s what the creature was. Maybe she liked that it had the word “Jack” in it. Maybe her subconsciousness appreciated the opportunity to practice saying Jack’s name without thinking of him and feeling the depression all over again. Whatever the case, she hadn’t felt like discussing it with Dr. Hammond right then, so she had shifted her gaze, glancing around his office in hopes of finding a topic to distract him with.

Elena gasps.

“Thomas!” she shouts. “Thomas! I think I’ve remembered something!"

She stands up. Her breath quickening, she paces around the empty room as she waits for Thomas to arrive. Moments later, he bursts through the door, the man called Carter following at his heels.

“What is it?” says Thomas.

“That name you mentioned… Sabre, wasn’t it?” says Elena. “I’ve seen that before.”

“You have?” says Thomas, exchanging a look with Carter. “Where?”

“In my therapist’s office,” says Elena. “On a letterhead on his desk. It was a few weeks ago.” As she speaks, she realizes that the likelihood of there being two organizations with the name Sabre is rather high, but still it seems worth mentioning.

“It might be nothing…” she adds. "I just remember it because I stumbled over the pronunciation in my head when I saw it. There was a logo too. I think I could draw it, if you want.”

Thomas quickly pulls a business card out of his wallet, and Carter hands her a pen. She scribbles the loopy lines as accurately as she can, then hands it back to them.

Elena can tell from their expressions that this is, in fact, the same Sabre they’re concerned about. She barely has a moment to feel the appropriate amount of paranoia— her own therapist being part of a secret organization working against her husband— before Carter is barking questions at her and she’s answering them rapid-fire.

“His name’s Dr. Hammond. I was referred to him by a girl I met on a run after I’d been complaining about all my other therapists not taking me seriously.”

“And is Dr. Hammond any different?”

“Yes," says Elena. "He obviously cares more than the others did. He actually gives me practical advice, instead of just, 'Well, you should get more sleep and try not to be stressed…'”

“What do you talk to him about?” asks Carter.

“My dreams, mostly.”

“Tell me about these dreams,” says Thomas, putting a hand on her shoulder and guiding her to sit down on the bed. He sits next to her, and she begins describing the major recurring themes throughout her nightmares. He listens patiently until she runs out of things to say. She feels exhausted, like she’s been running for hours on end. She looks up at Carter, who’s been standing in the doorway and listening intently.

“So…” she asks hesitantly, “What do I do now?”

“Now,” says Thomas, “you go home. Call Dr. Hammond and schedule a therapy session for this afternoon. Say you’ve just had a confusing dream, and you’re desperate to talk about it.”

“Ok,” says Elena. “And what do I tell him I dreamt about?"

* * *

Elena glances nervously around the homy green office, avoiding the intense gaze of Dr. Hammond at all cost. She continues,

“And then the Jackal told me to follow it.”

“Told you?” says Dr. Hammond. “It can speak?”

“Beckoned me,” she corrects. “It beckoned me to follow it. And I did. I ran after it, and it took me to this place. I remember exactly where it is. Go down Park Avenue for about ten miles, then turn right at the old fire station, go past all the houses until the road ends at a T, and then go left. A few miles down that road there’s a gravel driveway on a steep uphill. I’ve seen it on my runs before, but I’ve never gone up the hill. In the dream, I followed the Jackal up the driveway and saw a gray building at the end of it. The Jackal wanted me to go in, but I was too afraid. I just stood there in terror, looking up at the building. And then I woke up.”

Elena stops, hoping her dream had sounded convincing enough. She’d described it exactly how Carter and Thomas had told her to. According to them, she had just given Dr. Hammond precise directions to his own secret Sabre headquarters. She had felt compelled to go there and see it for herself the moment Thomas had let her leave, but he had specifically instructed her not to do that. Sabre would surely have security cameras watching their entrance, and it would spoil the setup if they were to see her there.

She finally braves a gander at Dr. Hammond’s face. He’s still looking at her thoughtfully. Not reacting. Not sweating. She wasn’t sure what she had expected… Alarm, maybe? But if anything, he only seems intrigued.

“Where were you when you had this dream?” says Dr. Hammond.

“At home,” says Elena. “In my bed."

“And you didn’t fall asleep anywhere unusual, or do anything out of the ordinary before you went to bed?”

“No,” says Elena. “Everything was normal."

“I see,” he says, drumming his fingers together in front of his face. "So you got home, had dinner, brushed your teeth, went to bed, all the usual things?”

“Yes!” says Elena impatiently. “All the usual things, like I said. I would tell you if I fell asleep in the bushes somewhere, okay? What’s with the interrogation?”

“Apologies,” says Dr. Hammond. “I was just curious. Anyway, about this dream…"

“Yes?” says Elena, hoping her outburst had been perceived as panicky rather than accusational.

"Do you know what I think?” he asks.

“What?” says Elena.

“I think you should follow the Jackal."

The End

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