Bonus Episode 7 Transcript

Patient #2-B-4
by Mischa Stanton

[sfx: click of recorder]

Dr. Bright: Patient #2, age 15. Session one. Appointment was made by the patient's father, in accordance with a juvenile court ruling. Evidently someone at the AM was contacted by someone in local law enforcement, and passed along my card. The patient has apparently had several conflicts with authority figures in school and at home over destruction of property, and when asked why she does this, the patient maintains that the fires are some sort of compulsive habit. I suspect there is more involved. A compulsive arsonist is one thing, but I have a suspicion that that's a misunderstanding of something a little more‚ well, 'strange and unusual'. Hopefully I can help.

[sfx: door opening]

Dr. Bright: Hi Rory, come on in.

Rory: Okay.

[sfx: Rory coming in and closing the door]

Dr. Bright: Would you like to sit?

Rory: I don't, uh...Your couch looks brand new, and I don't want to ruin it.

Dr. Bright: It's all right Rory. Couches don't stay that color forever. It's bound to get a mark or two sometime. I don't mind.

Rory: Okay.

[sfx: they sit]

Dr. Bright: So, Rory. Do you know why you're here today?

Rory: Because the judge said I had to.

Dr. Bright: Right. Any other reasons?

Rory: Because my dad doesn't trust me. Doesn't believe me. And I know you won't either.

Dr. Bright: Why don't we start at the beginning.

Rory: The outbursts.

Dr. Bright: Yes.

Rory: You're not the first therapist he's brought me to, y'know. None of them believed me either.

Dr. Bright: Well, I'm a specialist. I'm not like other doctors. And I'm hoping you'll give me a chance.

Rory: What makes you so different?

Dr. Bright: We've got the next hour to find out, don't we? Why don't you tell me about your father.

Rory: He thinks it's something I can control, like it's that easy. Like I can just say ‚"Don't let it out Rory," and that's just the end of it. But I can't. I just...He doesn't get it. He doesn't know what it feels like.

Dr. Bright: What does it feel like?

Rory: What?

Dr. Bright: What does an outburst feel like, Rory? In your own words.

Rory: You won't get it either.

Dr. Bright: I'm here to try anyway. That's my job.

Rory: I don't know if I can describe it.

Dr. Bright: Take your time.

Rory: It's this feeling, in my head, like a- like a pressure, in my head. Like, something pressing on my temples, from the inside out. And it's like, a tingling in my arms and my hands, like I have to shake them out, like- like my hands are about to sneeze? That doesn't make sense...ugh, this is stupid-

Dr. Bright: I promise you it's not. Can I ask you a favor? And it may be a hard one, but if we're going to continue I need you to really try.

Rory: Yeah, whatever.

Dr. Bright: Okay. The favor is: I need you to continue our session today, under the assumption that I believe you.

Rory: What? What do you mean?

Dr. Bright: I need you to assume that I believe you. When we talk, when you tell me what you're feeling. I believe you. Doesn't matter how ridiculous it sounds when you're describing it, your experience is the only one that matters here. So I believe you. Do you think you can keep that in mind for me? Can you assume that I will believe you?

Rory: I, um, I guess so? No one- no one's ever really said anything like that to me before. It's a little weird.

Dr. Bright: I can work with weird. So. Your hands need to sneeze.

Rory: What? Oh, yeah. So it's like a building pressure in my head, and then my hands like, need to sneeze or whatever. And then I wave my hands, and there's, y'know, an outburst and then it feels better. Or I don't, and it doesn't.

Dr. Bright: Keep going. Tell me about that.

Rory: Well, it's the same as a sneeze, kinda. You know, have you ever felt like you had to sneeze, and then you can't? You try like, tickling your nose, or staring at a bright light, but it just sits there, on the tip of your nose, and it's like- it's hard to think about anything else. Doesn't matter what you're doing, now the sneeze trapped in your nose is the only thing you can think about, and the pressure just builds up, and it's so overwhelming... or no, maybe it's like, you really have to sneeze, but you don't have a tissue, so you paw around looking for tissues, knocking over stuff, and you just have to run away from the table before you get snot all over dinner? It's like that. But in my hands.

Dr. Bright: And with fire.

Rory: Yeah.

Dr. Bright: Why fire, Rory?

Rory: I don't know. It's not like I picked it. It just... happens.

Dr. Bright: May I ask why you carry a source of fuel around with you?

Rory: You're talking about the lighter, right?

Dr. Bright: Yes. I'd think the first step to stopping the outbursts would be to stop carrying a fire source around with you. Make a clean break.

Rory: Look, Dr. Bright...

Dr. Bright: Is that the same one? I thought, um, I was led to believe-

[sfx: Rory plays with lighter]

Rory: No, yeah, the cops confiscated that one. Which is a shame, because I really liked that one. My grandpa gave it to me. It was engraved and everything. No, I got this one from... from the gas station. Hard to find one without like, a huge skull printed on it or whatever, so I just went with blank. Here. Look.

Rory: Smell it.

Dr. Bright: Oh, it's...

Rory: Empty. Just an empty lighter. No fuel.

Dr. Bright: But why?

Rory: Honestly? Because it gets me in less trouble this way. Right now people just think I'm lighting fires, like some firebug. Could you imagine what they'd think if I didn't carry a lighter on me? Jeez, they might start believing the truth... And I... They might try to...

Dr. Bright: Rory, it's all right. You can go ahead.

Rory: No, Dr. Bright:, it's fine, I can wait-

Dr. Bright: Please, Rory. I insist. Let it out. Just away from the file cabinet, if you're able.

[sfx: Rory lets out a burst of flame]

Dr. Bright: Feel better?

Rory: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks.

Dr. Bright: Of course.

Rory: You're not- you're not freaking out?

Dr. Bright: Nothing I haven't seen before.

Rory: Awesome. So yeah. The lighter helps. Stops people from asking questions I don't really know how to answer.

Dr. Bright: Right. Of course. I imagine that's preferable in public, or at school. For privacy's sake.

Rory: Right, exactly.

Dr. Bright: So then, what about your father? Rory, you're a smart kid. I imagine you had to know we were going to talk about this.

Rory: Sure, yeah, I know. That's the first trick in the shrink handbook, right? Get em talking about their parents?

Dr. Bright: It's on page seven, right on top in bold text.

Rory: Wait, there's really a handbook?

Dr. Bright: No, Rory, that's what we shrinks call a joke.

Rory: Oh, oh right. Sorry.

Dr. Bright: Tell me about the outbursts and your dad.

Rory: I mean, he hates them. Hates that I'm always burning stuff in the house I guess. "I paid good money for these walls and every scorch mark weakens the frame," blah blah. Stuff like that. He's in construction, so. Yeah.

Dr. Bright: What does he think about the lighter?

Rory: Well, I mean, he knows it's a fake.

Dr. Bright: He does?

Rory: Yeah, why?

Dr. Bright: When you said he didn't believe you, I assumed...

Rory: Well, I mean he's kind of a jerk but he's not an idiot. He's seen me have outbursts in rooms with no flames. Plus he already knew about people with superpowers and stuff, from my mom.

Dr. Bright: Um, your mother is an Atypical?

[sfx: Dr. Bright flipping through files]

Rory: Is that what it's called? I dunno. Her stomach acid is really corrosive, it can like, eat through wood and ceramic and stuff? But it's also really bad for her throat. So she takes medication for it. She had to go to a special doctor's office and everything.

Dr. Bright: I just, um...

Rory: Why?

Dr. Bright: Oh, no, it's nothing, I just... That wasn't included in the file I was given.

Rory: Should it have been? Her powers didn't really, y'know, come up in court.

Dr. Bright: No, of course. You're right.

[sfx: Dr. Bright closes file]

Dr. Bright: Sorry. Where did we leave off? So your father knows about Atypicals.

Rory: Uh, yeah. So he knows about the outbursts. But I think that he thinks it's something I can just stop. Like how my mom stopped spitting acid.

Dr. Bright: Because she's on medication.

Rory: Yeah.

Dr. Bright: So, would it be safe to assume...

Rory: He doesn't say it outright, that's not really how he talks. How he thinks about it. But yeah, I think he wants to put me on medication too.

Dr. Bright: Okay. And how do you feel about that?

Rory: Well, I'm afraid, I guess.

Dr. Bright: You're afraid of your father?

Rory: No, not like- not like that. I- I- I don't know, I'm not saying it right...

Dr. Bright: Okay, alright Rory. Take your time.

[sfx: Rory lets out more flame]

Rory: Can we, um, I'm sorry, can we come back to my dad later? I don't know if I have the right words right now.

Dr. Bright: Sure, ok. We won't push it off forever, but let's talk about something else and we'll come back, ok?

Rory: Ok. Thanks. So, what do we talk about?

Dr. Bright: How about school?

Rory: Okay.

Dr. Bright: Do you like it?

Rory: It's ok, I guess. I'm not a great student. Out of class a lot, distracting. Some classes are better than others. When they let me go to classes, instead of in-school suspension or whatever.

Dr. Bright: Which classes are your favorites?

Rory: Um, I really like chemistry these days. My teacher Mr. Zazzo does a lot of labs, so we get to cause chemical reactions and stuff, and I do like those. Plus sometimes during the labs we're using bunsen burners or other heat sources, so a lot of times that's the only time in the day I can let out an outburst and no one really notices. It like, gets me through the day sometimes. And there was one time, I was having a really rough day, and I think Zazzo had another lesson planned, but he cancelled it and made up a lab on the spot instead. And he called me up to the head of the class to assist with the example. We did that thing where you heat up some potassium chlorate and drop in some candy, and it spits out all these pink sparks. And he kept, y'know, having trouble with the heat source or something, so he let me come in and fix it.

Dr. Bright: Sounds like Mr. Zazzo really looks out for you.

Rory: Yeah. I mean, I'm sure he thinks I'm just a firebug, but he thinks he's giving my "destructive tendencies" a creative outlet, and. I dunno. That's a nice gesture. At least he's trying to be helpful, y'know? As opposed to, like, my English teacher Mrs. Krakowski. She has a lot of class discussions about the reading in her class, y'know, Socratic discussions or whatever it's called. Which I'm not a huge fan of. When I read books I sorta like to stew in my own thoughts about it, and hearing everyone else talks about it makes it kind of muddy in my brain. And I spend a lot of my time in class keeping the outbursts in so I don't interrupt the discussions, so I sit there breathing heavily with my eyes closed. So she just thinks I'm sleeping, I think. Or else sometimes I'll turn a book back in and the pages are singed. So she doesn't really like me, so I'm not really doing well in her class.

Dr. Bright: Do you find that classes tend to go better for you if you like your teacher?

Rory: Uh... yeah? I guess so? I never really thought about it like that. I always figured the stuff we learn in class is just facts, right? So if I have trouble processing the facts, I won't do as well in the class. But yeah, I guess English wasn't always my worst subject, just this year. I dunno.

Dr. Bright: School isn't just a list of facts and figures to memorize, it's supposed to teach you how to think, how to process information in the wider world. And you're getting old enough now, Rory:, that you have started to lay the foundation of the way you think about the world. So to me, it makes perfect sense that if your teacher is someone whose teaching style or personality fundamentally conflicts with the way you view the world, that you might struggle to reach that teacher's standard of excellence. But I don't think that makes you a bad student.

Rory: Right. I'd agree with that. I end up in detention and stuff a lot, for the outbursts, but I have pretty good grades on the whole.

Dr. Bright: So, then, Rory...

Rory: Aw damn. You got me.

Dr. Bright: Let's maybe talk about how your dad talks about Atypicals? And compare that to the way you think about your own abilities?

Rory: I gotta say Dr. Bright:, that was some pretty slick therapy-fu.

Dr. Bright: That's why they pay me the big bucks, as they say.

Rory: Fine, yeah ok. So my dad knows about...Atypicals? Yeah. He's known since he and my mom were in college together. They were dating when her power manifested, they were at a party and my mom had too much to drink I guess, and she threw up in someone's toilet and the toilet just kind of melted. But she kind of had a handle on it until she was pregnant with me. She says something changed, and it got a lot worse, and it didn't get better once I was born. I don't remember, obviously, but they told me she was in the hospital a lot for the first year I was alive. And then they put her on these meds, and I guess that was that. The only reason I really know about it is because when I was like 4, right before they got divorced, we were on vacation in Orlando, and my mom forgot her meds at home and then got food poisoning from some seafood restaurant, and she kind of destroyed the bathroom. They kicked us out of the hotel, and we ended up staying at some motel that smelled like old cigarettes.

Dr. Bright: That must have been difficult.

Rory: Yeah. And while all this was going on, my dad wasn't really, like, in it with her? He'd pick her up from the hospital, but I don't know what kind of hospital it was because he couldn't really stay with her I guess. And then they broke up, and as far as my dad ever saw she was sick, and then she was better. They don't really talk much anymore, and I talk about it all with her but not really with him. Y'know, the meds sort of killed her sense of taste and smell, but she doesn't want him to see that it's affecting her I guess. So maybe he thinks... that atypical abilities are like a disease? Something you can just medicate away? And, I guess he must wonder why I wouldn't want to do that. If the solution to what's making our lives difficult is available, why I wouldn't be the first in line to take it.

Dr. Bright: Is that how you see your abilities? As a burden, making your life more difficult?

Rory: No! I just think people need to... I don't know, fucking chill out or something. Oh‚ I'm sorry, is it cool to say fuck here? I don't, um...

Dr. Bright: Yes, it's okay.

Rory: Okay. But yeah, no, I don't think they're a burden. It just feels, I dunno. Natural. Like a natural part of me. And like, when I can let it out, it feels good, y'know? It feels right. But people, I dunno. They freak out around fire. They get mad when their stuff burns a little. And it's just stuff, y'know? I mean I get it's personal property, blah blah, but it's all just stuff. You can replace stuff. But so then I tried to keep it inside, y'know, keep it contained. But I get so exhausted trying not to have outbursts, that when I get home and I finally let it out, it's bigger. More.

Dr. Bright: The flames, you mean?

Rory: Yeah. And not just the size of it, it feels...wilder. More...erratic? That's the word, right?

Dr. Bright: It's all over the place?

Rory: Yeah, exactly. The fire goes all over the place. But I think- I think if more people knew it wasn't something I couldn't really control, that it's just a part of me. And then I could let it out in smaller doses throughout the day, and it wouldn't get so...

Dr. Bright: Explosive?

Rory: I see what you did there. But yeah.

Dr. Bright: Have you ever told your dad about that?

Rory: Yeah, but I don't know. He doesn't listen. He's got this tunnel vision about it.

Dr. Bright: Where do you think that comes from?

Rory: I have no idea. You're the shrink, not me.

Dr. Bright: Indulge me.

Rory: Well. I mean, his wife had this ability, that made her really sick, like, it affected her daily life, and stuff. That's hard.

Dr. Bright: That is hard.

Rory: And then, she went and found medicine for it, and her powers were gone, and she was back to normal. I mean, there were side effects, but she didn't tell him, so... as far as he knows it was like, she got sick and then she got better.

Dr. Bright: Right, that makes sense.

Rory: And then- and then he finds out his kid has a similar, I mean he thinks it's a sickness right? And it's getting me in trouble in school and it's tanking my grades, and- and he can't really tell the truth to the school board, so he's lying to protect me all the time. And I mean, after school all day, when I get home my outbursts are worse, but those are the only ones he sees, so maybe he thinks they're all like that?

Dr. Bright: Sounds like anyone might be a little concerned for their kid's safety.

Rory: You make him sound so fucking reasonable. He could just talk to me about it, y'know? He doesn't have to shout the entire city down.

Dr. Bright: I hear you. And I'm not trying to justify the way he makes you feel. I just think it may help you to be able to communicate better, if you see where he's coming from. He's not an Atypical, he doesn't know what having these abilities is like. He wasn't able to get information from the people treating your mother, and she didn't tell him about the full extent of the effects it continues to have on her life. I think maybe he's just worried about you, like any good parent would be, and doesn't have the tools to know how to talk about it with you.

Rory: Yeah and that's fine, Dr. Bright, but he doesn't have to take it out on me! He doesn't have to shout things at me like "why can't you just choose to be normal!"

Dr. Bright: Of course, Rory, we all have-

Rory: I'm a kid! I'm in school, and teachers don't like me. Other kids don't hang out with me because they think I'm some kind of fire-freak. I'm doing my best every damn day just trying not to burn the school down. It is not my job to explain to my dad that not everyone can just be normal like him, that it's not that easy! It's a part of me, and he just wants to cut it out of me, and- and-

[sfx: a huge flame that catches the couch on fire]

Rory: Oh fuck, no no no, please, I'm sorry Dr. Bright-

[sfx: Dr. Bright extinguishes the fire]

Dr. Bright: Rory. Take a deep breath. It's all right. You're right. Things are replaceable.

[sfx: Dr. Bright sits back down]

Dr. Bright: Are you okay?

Rory: Um. Yeah. I’m fine. It's fine. I- I know I said that thing about things being replaceable, but every time I burn something of someone's, I still feel really bad.

Dr. Bright: I know. That's a complicated thing, especially with the nature of Atypicals not being exactly common knowledge. But this office is a safe space for you. I knew what I was getting into, and I came prepared.

[sfx: Dr. Bright pats the fire extinguisher]

Dr. Bright: It's really okay.

Rory: That's kind of how it felt. The night of the forest fire.

Dr. Bright: Do you think you can tell me about it?

Rory: I just- he wouldn't listen to me. He was lecturing me about something in school, I don't even remember. I couldn't even open my mouth to speak without him shouting me down. And I could feel the pressure building, there wasn't time to call my mom to pick me up or anything, but I had to get out of there. There was so much of that pressure in my head, I guess I wasn't thinking straight. I just ran out of the house and started making my way to her house. But it's like, all the way on the other side of town. Right through a forest. And like halfway there I couldn't contain it anymore. It ripped its way out of me, Dr. Bright. The force of it, like I couldn't control my arms. And when my head cleared, there was fire everywhere, smoke in my eyes, I couldn't breathe…it was an accident. I didn't mean to burn the forest down. But, like, try explaining that to a judge.

Dr. Bright: I believe you.

Rory: Hah. I know.

Dr. Bright: I want to try something with you. If you're up for it.

Rory: Um, yeah, ok.

[sfx: Dr. Bright retrieves something from a cardboard box]

Dr. Bright: I borrowed this from a former colleague of mine, I think he's from the same kind of place where your mother's medication comes from. It's a device that can help some Atypicals with fire-based abilities. They call it a, um, a "pyroglobe."

Rory: Really?

Dr. Bright: Really. Now, I want you to hold it by these valves on either side. Press the silver knobs to the centers of your palms.

[sfx: Rory takes the pyroglobe]

Rory: Like this?

Dr. Bright: Yes, just like that. Okay. Close your eyes. Hold it between your hands. Take a deep breath. In, out. In, out. Good. Now, I want you to feel out the pressure. Feel it in your mind, and in your hands. Is it there?

Rory: Yes. I feel it.

Dr. Bright: Okay, good. I want you to follow the pressure. Focus on it. Keep breathing. Okay, when you feel ready, I want you to add your own will to that pressure. Instead of trying to contain it, I want you to use it. Do you think you can?

Rory: I can try.

[sfx: flame bursts inside the pyroglobe]

Rory: Oh! Oh damn, I did it. That was cool!

Dr. Bright: Good! Okay, let's try again. Deep breaths...One...two...three

[sfx: flame bursts inside the pyroglobe]

Rory: Hah!

Dr. Bright: Good! Again...

[sfx: fade out, fade in]

[sfx: Dr. Bright putting the pyroglobe back in the box]

Rory: Wow, that was really cool Dr. Bright. I feel...wow, I feel amazing.

Dr. Bright: Are you tired?

Rory: Exhausted, but so worth it. Wow. Do you think- I mean, do you think I could take the pyroglobe home with me?

Dr. Bright: I think my engineer friend would kill me if I let it out of my sight. But I'll talk to him and see if we can make you one of your own.

Rory: That would be SO cool. Wow.

Dr. Bright: So, Rory. Think you'll be back next week?

Rory: Yes, definitely. I'll see you next week. Thanks Dr. Bright.

[sfx: Rory exits]

Dr. Bright: Well. Maybe I am getting the hang of this. Patient wants to seek a practical solution to containing and controlling their ability without medication, as well as finding ways to get to places where outbursts can happen safely in a hurry. We may need to work on techniques for rephrasing that need so that it remains palatable to the wider world, as well as improving communication between the patient and her father. It may be worth bringing the father in for a supplemental session, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Additionally, a note to myself to check in with Green. There was no mention of an Atypical mother with another class-B ability anywhere in the paperwork they sent me. The patient was born in an AM hospital, for God's sake, I should have- they should have told me. I don't much care for being handled.

[sfx: click of recorder]

[music & credits]

Lauren Shippen: The Bright Sessions was created by me, Lauren Shippen. Julia Morizawa is the voice of Dr. Bright and Sammi Lapin was the voice of Rory. This episode was written and sound designed by Mischa Stanton, and edited and directed by myself, alongside Mischa. All our music is composed and performed by Evan Cunningham and our psychological consultant is Elizabeth Laird. If you’d like to support The Bright Sessions and help us make more podcasts, you can become a patron at patreon.com/laurenshippen Our next bonus episode will be coming out on February 18th. Until then, thanks for listening and stay strange.