Stacey helps relieve people of their aches and pains. And she loves it! Massage therapists share a certain trustworthy anonymity with hairdressers and bartenders. Within a few sessions, her clients are telling her their deepest secrets, their personal issues, and all their juicy gossip. She enjoys her relationship with most of her clients, usually contributing only enough to the conversations to suggest interest and keep the client relaxed. They bare their souls and leave the sessions feeling better in body and spirit. But lately she has to bite her tongue with one particularly nasty customer. Steve is a big, vulgar, middle-aged business man who can’t resist telling Stacey about all his sleazy encounters with prostitutes when traveling on business. He takes pride in how well he keeps his womanizing a secret from his wife. This evening, the explicit descriptions of his latest sexual exploits are too much for Stacey. Disgusted, she ends the massage with no intentions of ever allowing Steve back into her clinic.
Feeling especially tense and, yes, dirty after she gets rid of the smug braggart, Stacey decides to slip into the yoga class offered every evening upstairs from her clinic. Yoga is a phenomenal aid to relaxation and coping with the stress. And right now, this idiot has filled her with stress. Already extremely in tune with her body, she quickly catches on to the philosophy and techniques of the discipline. She is pleasantly surprised how calm, centered she feels going home later.
In short order, evening yoga sessions become an integral part of her routine several days a week. Soon she is reading about the history and philosophy of the ancient discipline. She comes across several references to different forms of meditation, yoga of the mind, as one writer called it. Practitioners claim that the benefits of meditation are evident in all aspects of their lives: greater productivity at work; increased personal satisfaction, heightened sense of identity; even a more rewarding sex life. She contemplates enrolling in one of the meditation classes, but her readings emphasize personal goals and achievements, so she decides to do it on her own. Soon she is delving into advanced techniques. She feels herself changing. She is less stressed, more satisfied with life; she sees the world and her role in it more clearly, and she is more content than she’s been in years.
One evening, an advance meditation exercise takes deeper into herself than ever before, to a realm unfamiliar to her. So unprepared for the strangeness of the experience that she is rendered temporarily unconscious. When she awakes, her body tells her she has been out for a while, forty-five minutes by the clock, although she has no sense of the passage of time. She is several feet from the mat she sits on to meditate, the coffee table and the love seat are out of position, and the lamp that was on the end table lies broken on the floor. She has several bruises on her shins and right arm, evidently from violent contact with furniture. Her hair and sweatshirt are wet and matted with a white frothy substance.
Afraid that she may have had a seizure, she sees her doctor for a medical check-up. Everything seems fine. She takes the week off work at the doctor’s request, but by Saturday she is antsy and accepts an appointment with one of her regular patients. Sylvia requires regular massage to control her migraines. She is in a terrible state because Stacie was unavailable for her usual scheduled Wednesday appointment. Midway through the treatment, Stacey senses something odd happening. As she massages Sylvia, her fingers begin to tingle and a cool sensation climbs her arms, crosses her shoulders, and runs up her neck and into her head. She is momentarily lightheaded, but succeeds in shaking it off. Although she is a little preoccupied, waiting for other strange sensations in her hands, the rest of the massage proceeds without incident.
The day’s strangeness isn’t over yet. Stacey’s sleep tonight is interrupted by a terrible nightmare. She is being abused and beaten by an angry man, her husband in the dream. The man punches her in the face, and just as her head hits the kitchen counter, she awakens in her bed. Sleep is elusive the rest of the night.
Sunday is spent pacing and wondering, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Monday afternoon, Stacey is massaging another regular, Diane, when the strange cool feeling comes back. But this time, the sensation starts in her forehead and travels down her neck, over her shoulders, and down her arms to her fingertips. Again she feels disoriented, lightheaded, but quickly recovers. As the previous time, nothing untoward occurs the rest of the day. But the next day…
Diane calls Stacey to report having intense headaches since the session yesterday, headaches unlike anything she has ever experienced. Could the massage have caused such headaches? Stacey admits the possibility, but stresses that such occurrences are rare. She recommends that Diane drink plenty of water to flush from the body the toxins released during massage that can cause flu-like symptoms, including headaches. A few days later, Diane isn’t feeling any better and plans to see her doctor.
The next day, Sylvia returns for her Wednesday massage in extremely high spirits. She has never felt better. She hasn’t had a migraine since Saturday, not even a hint of a headache. Being pain-free, she feels like a new person. Overwhelmed by the possibility that her life might be changing, she tears up and hugs her therapist.
After Sylvia has gone, Stacey sits quietly staring at the wall, trying to make sense of the events of the last few days. Time passes unnoticed; by the time she comes back to the here and now, she is late for her evening yoga class. Afterwards, Stacey apologizes to the instructor for disrupting the class by her late entry and asks him if he has time to stay. She needs some advice. When they are alone, she tells the instructor about her experience meditating, the strange nightmare and what happened with Sylvia and Diane. She has come to the conclusion that she absorbed the migraine symptoms from Sylvia and transferred them to Diane. Is it possible, she asks, that something happened to her during her meditation experience that could have caused this new ability.
The instructor points out that her hypothesis is far from proven, but he will accept the premise for the time being. He explains that the brain is a powerful, but mysterious organ. Brain activity can be measured in all areas of the brain, but all the functions of the human body can be mapped to a small portion of the brain. The rest is active, but we have no idea what it is doing. Many scientists have postulated that some of these areas of the brain might harbor metaphysical abilities that we have not yet discovered how to use, or perhaps have forgotten how to use. It is entirely possible that, rough meditation, she may have opened a corner of her mind to which the rest of us are denied access. Perhaps this newly opened chamber has given her the ability to collect memories, emotions and physical sensations from one person through her hands, then transfer them to another. The real problem is its apparent randomness at the moment. Stacey must learn to control the absorption/transfer process. If she doesn’t, the consequences could be disastrous.
The next few days Stacey experiments. She tries different amounts of pressure, using more palm and less finger pressure, then vice versa. She works first quickly, then more slowly. She evaluates the effect of several types of lotions and different types of hand motions. She discovers that if she quickly lifts her hands off the clients when her fingers begin to tingle, the sensation dissipates. She is relieved that she can control the absorption with such a simple motion. She fine-tunes the skill by transferring minor sensations from one client to another, and back during subsequent sessions. Over a week or so, she is becoming pretty adept.
Steve calls on a Friday morning. He needs a massage badly because he twisted a muscle while entertaining a female friend at a Vegas convention, if she got his drift. Stacey can almost hear the wink wink over the phone. Her first impulse is to claim she is fully booked, to hang up on the freak. But a perverse but satisfying idea crosses her mind. She schedules Steve for 4:00 p.m., then makes a call.
Diane arrives to the clinic at 3:00, as scheduled. She thanks Stacey for offering to help her with her migraines. They come every couple of hours, and despite medication prescribed by her family physician, they are unbearable. She is desperate; she can’t go on living with such pain. Stacey reassures her that the migraine will be a thing of the past after this session. She uses some of her yoga techniques to help her relax. Within a minute or two of beginning the massage, Stacey’s fingers begin to tingle. She smiles and welcomes the cool streak running up her arm.
An hour later, Steve swaggers into the clinic. Stacey invites him in with a smile and a promise of something special today.
‘Oh yeah! Does it involve a happy ending?’ asks Steve, suggestively.
‘I guess you could call it that,’ answers Stacey, smiling.