One Rainy Late Afternoon Spent in the Company of Dr. Thulask

You may or may not know me from my rather extensive journalistic work in the Braving Bulletin, but my name is James Joseph "J. J." Hanley. And as ace reporter of that esteemed news organ I had been chosen by my Editor-in-Chief to create a new weekly column solely bearing my byline called "Meet the People of Braving." That I had been chosen for such a prestigious position over all of the senior staff of the paper may seem strange; but in truth (with just a touch of well-meaning bragging) I had become known as something of a maverick story "go-getter" — even if a good deal of my stories centering around that small Minnesota city I live and breathe in to this very day were ultimately unprintable: too outre for John Q. Public’s daily consumption. But then, this was Braving, Minnesota after all, a most singular locale in which the strangest things and events seem to be almost commonplace . . .
ut I begin to digress. Suffice it to say that I had been given the
coveted assignment — to informally interview the prominent businessmen and service-providers of the town: bankers, lawyers, the local constabulary, you get the idea. But to get the ball rolling, rather than begin with one of the business bigwigs I had decided that I would start with someone smaller and newer to the community. I chose the highly-touted new "wonder-worker" psychiatrist, Dr. Raymond Thulask.

I had gained an appointment to meet with the enigmatic Thulask at his home one Saturday afternoon in late May. Did I say enigmatic? The man was a complete mystery! I had, of course, tried to do my homework on the man. Yet though he came very highly-recommended by the most prestigious of credentials, a series of feature articles in the magazines Brain Power Monthly and Psychology Today, and even had a best-selling book called Illuminating The Dark Corners of The Mind — still, I could find virtually nothing about his personal life. It was almost as if Dr. Thulask had simply materialized out of thin air!

It had been a warm but steadily-drizzling afternoon, and after taking in an early matinee, I finally caught up with the man, at his tiny apartment on Dearborn. I must say, I was surprised at his choice of dwelling, for though he was evidently a fairly well-off man, he lived in a small one-room apartment . . . and what litttle room there was had been littered with bookcase upon bookcase piled high, many of the books looking very old and well-thumbed. The doctor bade me sit in a comfortable-looking leatherbound chair, and taking a more functional-looking one to my left, we began the interview.

Strangely, Thulask did not reveal much more about his own upbringing; and so commanding was his manner that I entirely forgot to ask scarcely more than the most basic of questions. But I’ll refrain from describing them here in any great detail, for they have little bearing upon this account.

After talking at length upon his own academic works, and best-selling book, I asked more directly about his rather usual methods of psychotherapy, and he began to tell me of some of his more interesting and illustrative case-studies — sans names, of course.

"Yes, of course, Mr. Hanley — J. J. –" he began after I replaced the tape in my pocket tape recorder, "I have helped many people from all walks of life in my attempts at curing society’s ills of the mind — psychosomatic, as they may often be. But one of my most fascinating cases involved a struggling young actor in Hollywood.

"I had been practicing only a short time in "Tinseltown" when — let’s call him ‘John Smith,’ shall we? — came in to see me. He had already been to all of the better-known — and I might add, higher-priced! — psychiatrists in the city, yet all to no avail in his desperate plight. For, you see, Smith suffered from the most vivid and inescapable of dreams and nightmares."

Dr. Thulask interrupted his narrative to refreshen our drinks, while I took the opportunity to stand and stretch my legs. Crossing to one of the bookcases to pull a book chosen entirely at random from the shelf, I nearly dropped it when I saw the title.

"Ah, yes, the R’lyeh Text," my host said casually, returning with our drinks, as though this extremely rare book were just a copy of the latest Stephen King page-turner.

"But . . ." I began, nearly speechless, ". . . this book is priceless!"

Thulask chuckled rather sardonically at that. "Collecting such, shall we say fantastickal? books is a bit of hobby for me, a guilty pleasure, if you will. In my spare time I often study that incredible mythos of Cthulhu and the others of his ilk . . . its history and legendry — merely for entertainment purposes, you understand," he added almost sheepishly.

I nodded dumbly. In my own sudies in Journalism while attending nearby Royceton University I had had occasion to visit that institution’s library rare book room, and had seen this very volume perched alongside the unholy likes of Prinn, von Junzt and even Eibon — yet even post-graduates were not allowed to peruse those pages without the express written approval of the library’s keeper, Dr. Allen Fischer. Yet here was a copy — and one filled with numerous pen-jottings and folded-down corners, evidently to mark certain pages! — resting casually on a bookshelf in this man’s apartment!

Settling back in his chair once again, and lighting a well-packed pipe, Dr. Thulask waited patiently for me to sit down again before continuing his monologue.

"Actually, the R’lyeh Text has a bearing on the case of John Smith, for his very dreams were filled with such scenes of subaqueous terror and wonder as are raved about in that book. As the actor spoke to me about these nightmare scenes, their marine details seemed so clear to him, almost commonplace. He spoke of sunken cities, weed-festooned bestial idols, a race of aquatic people called the Deep Ones, and even hinted at their dark and ghastly ceremonies and sacrifices. And he spoke of being a participant in these proceedings in his dreams, although just what part he played therein he would not say.

Well, as you may well guess, J. J., the part of an actor — even a budding one — is very demanding. And Smith had been lucky enough to land the co-starring role in a police drama which had begun shooting for the upcoming fall television season. All seemed well in the world for the actor, yet the startlingly more and more lifelike and more and more pervasive dreams began to take their toll on his work. He was losing more and more sleep on account of the dreams, as a result often sleeping in late, and missing his shooting schedules. It wasn’t long before he was fired from this promising job.

"And there were other roles of course — for Smith was a talented actor — but the dreams interfered with these also. Indeed, they even began to manifest themselves frequently as daydreams, and the actor would be in the midst of shooting some scene or other when he would suddenly "zone out," his mind submerging itself in those irresistible aquatic vistas. He told me that he had been fired again and again — his concentration problems often being blamed on drugs and other vices, despite his earnest protests to the contrary. Thus, nearly at the end of his rope, as the saying goes, John Smith came to see the new Doc in town — me!"

Here Dr. Thulask stopped again, and abruptly changed the subject. "Tell me, J. J., have you seen that popular new monster movie making the rounds of the theaters these days?"

"You mean the re-make of The Creature From The Black Lagoon?" I asked.quot;Yes, I just saw it this morning, as a matter of fact. The movie was okay, but the special effects used to design the new Creature were absolutely amazing! CGI, I would guess."

"Yes," agreed my host, "the Creature certainly rivalled those in the Alien movies and even the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and its sequel in sheer, stark realism. Masterful effects indeed."

There came an uncomfortable silence between us just then, which I desperately felt the need to fill. "But please, Dr. Thulask," I began like a spellbound kid riveted to the edge of his seat — "go on with your story!"

"Yes, of course, I only mentioned the movie to illustrate my point, my boy," he explained, obviously rather embarrassed. "For you see, when Smith finally came to see me he was truly desperate. He, the consummate actor, had now been unable to get even the least-desired filmwork in Hollywood — what’s known as the "rubber-suited" monster roles.

"My treatment of him began almost immediately, so touched was I by his sad affair. I began with hypnosis and similar tacks of regression therapy, and ultimately moved on to extended periods of treatment in one of UCLA’s sensory-deprivation tanks."

"You mean like one of those things in Altered States?" I interrupted.

"Yes," the doctor continued, "just so. For I had come to suspect that his bizarre marine-malady was deeply-rooted somewhere in his past — perhaps even in a past life he had been drowned at sea, or somesuch. And my subsequent investigations in this direction had borne strange fruit indeed, when I discovered that he had been orphaned as a young lad after being born in a little-known but strangely-rumored town called Innsmouth in the eastern seaboard state of Massachusetts.

"Thus began his treatment under my supervision in the sensory-deprivation tank. And like the subject in Altered States my patient also regressed."

I waited for him to continue, but Dr. Thulask merely sat puffing rather distractedly on his pipe, evidently deep in thought. Finally, I could contain myself no longer, and at last broke the silence once more.

"By ‘regressed’ you mean mentally, right? That Smith retreated deeper and deeper into his submarine mania, submerged perhaps even to this very day? I don’t mean to put it so crudely, doctor," I ventured further, "but he was one of your failures then?"

Dr. Thulask sat brooding a moment more before continuing, as if reluctant to say any more about his former patient. Perhaps he felt he had said too much already, I wondered.

"Oh no," he broke out at last, his powerful voice still loud, but now also strangely subdued. "Not all, J. J., not at all. John Smith was definitely one of my success stories." At this revelation Dr. Thulask seemed to cheer up once again. "As a matter of fact, I just heard from him a couple of weeks ago, and he is doing extremely well. He told me I’d made him feel like a new man. He even finally got his starring role . . .

"You just saw him yourself today, in fact, J. J. — there were no special effects used for the Creature in that film — and Smith had the Innsmouth blood after all! When I said that John Smith had regressed in the sensory-deprivation tank I didn’t mean mentally — I meant physically!"

And with that I made some hasty excuse and left Dr. Thulask to his cold, dark thoughts. And when I emerged into the light of day, although it had finally stopped raining and the sun was shining high overhead once again, I could not help myself but to shiver.

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