Sunday, June 10, 2012

False Memory: pp. 263-303

We are now to page 263 of False Memory, which is also the beginning of the second day.  (The whole story takes place in a remarkably short time).  Somewhat hung over from too many sleep caplets, Martie cannot muster a full blown panic, but remains uneasy, fearful that she might to something violent to Dusty.  She says, "I feel like birdshit."  Dusty is very interested in her choice of words. Why bird?

The novel does not address the issue much further, but we are left to suspect that the reason Dusty is so interested in Martie's choice of words because he believes her breakdown is related to Skeet's an is looking for commonalities.  When Skeet was standing on the roof, preparing to jump, a crow dive bombed his shoe, and he said, "This is my life."  If Martie is using the same metaphor, this is a commonality suggesting they got it from a common source.  Alas, like so many other clues in the book, this one goes nowhere.  It would be a simple matter to have Ahriman refer to bird shit at some point, but he does not.

Dusty tries to keep Martie going with a mixture of coaxing, cajoling, jollying, bullying, threatening, taunts, insults and sarcasm that sounds annoyingly similar to what Martie was doing to get Susan going. In fairness to Koontz, he recognizes the similarity, and even has Martie comment on it, saying that Dusty is treating her exactly the way she has been treating Susan. I'm glad that Koontz has noticed he has written two essentially identical batches of dialogue, but not quite happy with the implications. I can only assume that Koontz has Dusty and Martie react in the same way to a troubled person they love because he assumes this is how everyone would react if someone they loved developed a serious phobic disorder. My own guess is that different people would tend to react quite differently under the circumstances.

Then we get an episode of people reacting the same way that is clearly not intended to be normal.  Just as they are about to leave for Martie's appointment with her doctor, Dusty and Martie say in the same breath that if nothing turns out be be physically wrong with her, she should be treated by a psychotherapist for anxiety disorders.  They use different words to express this thought, but at exactly the same time name who they had in mind -- Ahriman.  So just in case Dusty's previous lapse of memory hasn't clued you in that he is under Ahriman's control, this should make it obvious.  Of course, Dusty and Martie see nothing obvious here and simply put it down to being married so long they are starting to think alike.  They call Ahriman's office and leave a message about wanting an appointment.

On the way to Dr. Closterman (the family doctor), Dusty stops by Skeet's apartment looking for evidence he belongs to a brain washing cult.  He doesn't find any, of course.  The only literature Skeet has are fantasy novels about wizards and dragons.  But Dusty is forced to reveal that Skeet jumped off the roof and has been acting strangely, even by drug addict standards.  Martie has another major panic attack on the way to the doctor's office, seeing hideous images of death and violence, but it ultimately passes.

Closterman finds nothing physically wrong with her.  He duly orders tests, but is basically unconcerned until Martie has a miniature panic attack at the sight of his reflex hammer and ballpoint pen.  She tells him the violent fantasies she had just from looking at them, and he agrees she could use psychotherapy.  Dusty mentions that they are already seeking help from Dr. Ahriman, and Closterman reacts strangely.  He makes no criticism, but his face goes strangely expressionless, and he tries to steer them to someone else.  Dusty spots his reaction and wonders why he so dislikes Ahriman.  But he doesn't ask, nor does he mention that they have already called Ahriman's office to make an appointment.  He wonders at this odd reaction in himself.  Furthermore, when Martie is having the tests done, Ahriman's receptionist calls to tell them that he can get them in that afternoon.  Dusty is greatly relieved and wonders why he feels so relieved.  Normally he has an intense distrust of experts, the result of having been raised by too many of them.  He decides that he must be as gullible as anyone else, when someone he really cares about is at stake.

All right, already!  We get it!  Unlike the vague clues earlier on, these ones are coming on hard and fast as hammer blows.  Obviously Dusty is under Ahriman's control.  Lighten up already!  The fact that Ahriman was able to get them in that afternoon should be enough to set off alarm bells in anyone not under his spell.  Has Koontz every tried making an appointment with a specialist?  You don't get in the same afternoon.  There is a maddening waiting period.  And keep in mind that Dr. Ahriman is not just any specialist; he is a celebrity psychiatrist with a best selling book.  Normally you would expect someone like that to have a waiting list six months long.

When Dusty arrives in Ahriman's office, the strangeness continues.  Looking at the storm brewing outside Ahriman's picture window, Dusty has an overwhelming sense of menace and unease.  But when he looks around the office and especially at Ahriman, a strange, downright ominous, calm comes over him.  Dusty thinks, "This was a safe place. Dr. Ahriman was a great psychiatrist.  Everything would be all right now that Martie was in Dr. Ahriman's care.  Dr. Ahriman was deeply committed to his patients.  Dr. Ahriman would make this trouble go away." This would not in itself be sinister, except that it is just like Martie's insistence that the book writing was good; the plot was entertaining; the characters were colorful; she enjoyed it.  In other words, the same phrases keep running through his head over and over, like a mantra.  Dr. Ahriman calls Martie's disorder autophobia (fear of self).  He suggests that it arose out of a sense of guilt that she could not do more for Susan.  Dusty smiles, nods along, asks all the right questions on cue, and has a vague feeling that there is something wrong with his reaction.

Ahriman leads Martie into his inner office and closes the sound proof door.  First, though, he offers Dusty some coffee or another beverage.  Dusty turns him down.  Smart move, Dusty, but it's too late!  We are about to learn what is really going on in these mysterious sessions at Ahriman's office.

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