Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“What is it that’s troubling you?” The doctor could clearly see the discomfort in the young mans face as he wrote ‘Anxiety’ on his steno pad.

“It’s getting harder and harder to go outside. It’s wide open spaces, they terrify me.” He clutched at the seat cushion beneath him, head down, eyes haggard beneath rough cut bangs, “I had to hide under an umbrella to get to the subway, and I picked you because you’re in a tower over the tube station, isn’t that weird?”

He noted the cloudless sky through the window. ‘Agoraphobia,’ he wrote on his pad, ‘possible Anablephobia’. “How long has this been affecting you?”

“All my life, but not like this. The older I get, the more debilitating it’s become.”

“How old are you exactly?” he asked, adding ‘Progressive’ to his notes.

“Nineteen.” He released the chair only briefly with one hand to rub at his nose, “Twenty on the twenty eighth of September.”

The doctor scribbled ‘Libra’ as he continued. “Born here in St.Louis?”

“I was. I moved to Phoenix when I was seven to live with my aunt, but I’ve been moving towards home for a while now. Trains mostly, buses. Not sure why exactly, I guess I just wanted to go home.”

“Come home,” the doctor corrected him. “So – you’re a blackout baby then?”

“Yeah, parents bored in the dark when the comet hit.” He shifted, uncomfortable. “I guess there were a lot of September babies in twenty nine.”

“Why not fly home? Surely that would have been faster?” ‘Possible aerophobia’ he noted.

“It’s not just being outside,” he hooked one sneaker behind the chair leg, “it’s hard to explain. I’m afraid of falling.”

“Ah, Philophobia,” he spoke out-loud as he added the word to his notes, “it’s the fear of falling. Not uncommon.”

“Well, not falling the way you think. If I look up, I’m quite sure I’ll fall into the sky.”

The doctor paused. “Falling up? That is unusual,” he clicked the pen against his lip, “anything else unusual? Strange dreams, other notable triggers?”

“Sometimes I dream that I’m alone in a field, and the sky closes around me and swallows me up. It get’s really dark, then really bright. I usually wake up soaked. I think I scream out-loud.”

“Are you staying with family here?” He struggled trying to find a word for ‘fear of falling into the sky’, finally giving up and writing that down instead.

“I’m staying with my mom, out by Forest Park.”

“Your father…?”

“I never knew my dad, never even seen a picture. Mom used to say the comet made me, before she stopped talking about it.”

“Hmm.” He wrote ‘abandonment issues’ before continuing. “You’ve talked about this with your mom?”

“My mom doesn’t talk. That’s why I went to live with my aunt. When I showed back up at my mom’s house she wrote ‘go home’ on the wall and hasn’t so much as looked at me since. She stays in her room, mostly, drawing pictures on the walls.”

“Pictures of what, exactly?” He stopped writing and looked up.

“I don’t know, planets and stars and stuff. She’s a bit of a nutter, but she is my mum, you know?”

“Well then,” putting down his pad, “we’re out of time, but come next week at the same time, and if you can get your mother to join you, I’ll see if I can’t block off two sessions.”

“Next week?” He met the doctors gaze for just a moment before looking back at the floor, slumping. “Somehow I think I might be gone by then.”

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