Bonus Episode 8 Transcript

Patient #6-C-1
by Aron Brown

[sfx: click of recorder]

Dr. Bright: Patient number 6-C-1. Bright, wry. They have exhibited minor shape-shifting abilities, but are disinclined to practice. They use self-deprecating humor as a defense mechanism but it often serves to undermine their position—

[sfx: door opening]

Dr. Bright: Niko. Good to see you. Come sit down.

[sfx: door closing]

Niko: Hey, Dr. Bright.

Dr. Bright: How have you been since our last session?

Niko: I’m sorry about missing last week.

Dr. Bright: You don’t have to apologize to me, Niko. I just want to make sure you’re doing alright.

Niko: That would make sense! Considering that you’re my therapist.

Dr. Bright: How was your week?

Niko: Great!

Dr. Bright: How have you been sleeping?

Niko: Eh.

Dr. Bright: “Eh?”

Niko: I mean, that kinda captures the whole mood. “Eh.”

Dr. Bright: Would you like to expand on that?

Niko: I’m not more tired than usual?

Dr. Bright: You seem—

Niko: Paler?

Dr. Bright: Grayer.

Niko: Yeah, I know. It’s a light shale color, right? I look like a golem. Check it out. It’s all over my body.

Dr. Bright: Really?

Niko: Ankles, gray. Wrists, gray. All gray. Hair? Silver and black. I look like I’m in grayscale.

Dr. Bright: Was this change a conscious effort?

Niko: No. God, no! Man, if I’d chosen this, I would have busted through your office door the moment it happened. Don’t worry though! I’m getting a degree in theoretical physics— everyone expects me to be an eccentric dresser. 

Dr. Bright: Has anyone asked you about it?

Niko: I mean, they have, but I’ve been telling people I had an experiment with, um, hair bleach that went awry. Getting that anime anti-hero look going.

Dr. Bright: Have you been practicing any shapeshifting?

Niko: Not a lot, honestly. The last couple of times didn’t go that well, y’know?

Dr. Bright: You were doing well with changing your hair color.

Niko: No I wasn’t!

Dr. Bright: Niko, you have to acknowledge your successes. You were able to effectively switch your hair from brown to pink— and then to green. That’s nothing to scoff at.

Niko: The color wouldn’t stay in my hair, Dr. Bright.

Dr. Bright: It does take concentration to maintain a change the first few times.

Niko: No, it didn’t, um, stay confined to my hair. It spread. The color would “leak,” y’know?

Dr. Bright: Interesting. Where did it spread?

Niko: Well, okay, I tried blue. Looked great. Nice navy color. As soon as I walked outside, it spread from my hair to the tips of my ears, edge of my forehead, and the nape of my neck. Luckily, all normal places to accidentally spray dye.

Dr. Bright: I’m guessing that wasn’t the end of it.

Niko: No, it really wasn’t. When anyone noticed it, it would spread farther. I had blue splotches all over my neck, my face - It was as if me telling my power to stop being noticeable made it want to move, just to mess with me.

Dr. Bright: Likely a reaction to social anxiety-  

Niko: Yeah, no shit!

Dr. Bright: Niko.

Niko: On the other hand, I could say that I, uh. “Blue” myself!

Dr. Bright: Excuse me?

Niko: It’s a reference!

Dr. Bright: I don’t know that reference.

Niko: Technically, also a reference—

Dr. Bright: Niko.

Niko: Okay, in the end, I was wearing a scarf, beanie, and gloves in warm weather for a week.

Dr. Bright: Wait. Why gloves?

Niko: Um, I tried changing my nail color. What?! I hate painting my nails. I figured, if I could give myself bad paint job, I might as well do it with my mind.

Dr. Bright: That spread too?

Niko: Yeah, all the way to my wrists! It wouldn’t have worked that well anyway. Turns out that it’s kind of hard to make your nails look “painted” and not just discolored. It kinda ended up looking like I had cyanosis.

Dr. Bright: How recently did you experiment with this?

Niko: A couple of weeks ago.

Dr. Bright: Ah. Is this why you missed your last session?

Niko: Listen, I just didn’t want to put on all my layers, again, and have to come up with some kind of explanation for the people who would stare. It’s already hot with a binder on, so…Plus, have you ever gotten sweaty palms in gloves? In warm weather, it’s not just the palm! It’s the whole hand!

Dr. Bright: I understand, Niko. And your feelings about your ability are valid. If you ever feel like you don’t have a handle on your shapeshifting— since it sounds like it was edging out of your control—

Niko: Maybe just a bit.

Dr. Bright: We can always have our session over the phone.

Niko: The phone? Is that, uh. Protected?

Dr. Bright: I have a secure line for phone sessions. Your privacy is safe with me.

Niko: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, I’ll try that. Thanks... Thanks, Dr. Bright:. Again. I’m sorry for canceling at the last minute.

Dr. Bright: It’s alright, Niko. Really. How is your research going?

Niko: We’re just fumbling in the dark for a greater understanding of manifolds used for string compactifications. Y’know, trying to explain and categorize the “extra” dimensions in spacetime— the ones we don’t interact with on a day-to-day basis— with math.

Dr. Bright: Right. I’m afraid I was never very good at physics.

Niko: Please! You actually help people! You- you have have— you have something great that you do! My stuff? It’s just fumbling.

Dr. Bright: Are you enjoying your work?

Niko: Mmm. It’s an irritating constant, it is background noise, and it’s my whole life. All at once. 

Dr. Bright: How are you getting along with your lab partners?

Niko: Fine.

Dr. Bright: How are they?

Niko: Smart, of course. There’s a lot more of them right now: we’re working with the astrophysics wing of theoretical physics on another project.

Dr. Bright: Have you been spending any time with anyone outside of the lab?

Niko: I mean we all have separate sub-projects, so not really. We meet once a week?

Dr. Bright: You haven’t made any friends?

Niko: I’m not six, mom. I can be sociable. Sorry. That was rude of me.

Dr. Bright: I know you’re under a lot of pressure—

Niko: No, Dr. Bright:, I’m honestly— I’m okay—

Dr. Bright: But you should make time for social activities, too.

Niko: I’m… social!

Dr. Bright: But you haven’t been spending any time with your peers?

Niko: There are a lot of ways to be social in this day and age.

Dr. Bright: Oh, right. You run that online roleplaying game. Roleplaying forum?

Niko: It is an online interactive storytelling module based on the fantasy world of T. Carrow.

Dr. Bright: Of course. Well. How is that going?

Niko: There was a huge upset over the weekend! Major plot twist. Bruce’s character, Calabi, was killed trying to defend the king of Eladron— and, you know, in Eladron, power comes at a price, right? There’s always a sacrifice. 

Dr. Bright: Oh, no, I haven’t read the series.

Niko: Okay, well, there’s a rule for magic and power in Eladron. You can wish for anything, but there’s always a downside. A sacrifice.

Dr. Bright: Okay…

Niko: For instance, you can have incredible magical knowledge, but you can’t control what it will be about. You’ll have spells from all over arcanum, but they’ll be random.

Dr. Bright: So there’s no telling whether they will be helpful.

Niko: Or, you might have great knowledge, but not great brain capacity— which means you have to pick what subject you’re going to be an expert in for a day. If you try to access more than one field of knowledge, you might get an aneurysm.

Dr. Bright: That’s fairly grim.

Niko: That’s what happened to Calabi. His chosen field of magic for the day of the battle was evocation, aka “I make the elements do my bidding.”

Dr. Bright: But he needed another kind of magic?

Niko: When the king was possessed, Calabi tried to stretch his mental capacity to remember the counter-curse. Um, in the end, he banished the demon, but the king still died— and Calabi had a stroke.

Dr. Bright: That’s far darker than I was expecting.

Niko: Yeah, T. Carrow’s world is very logical. All based around checks and balances. It’s kind of what I prefer now, in terms of magical systems.

Dr. Bright: So Tolkien’s work...

Niko: Eh. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Lord of the Rings is a classic. But the stuff with the elves’ and Gandalf’s magic is more…wish-fulfillment.

Dr. Bright: Isn’t a lot of fantasy wish-fulfillment?

Niko: Not in fairytales. You get shitty, specific powers, depending on the whims of the djinn or fae or wizard who gives them to you.

Dr. Bright: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Niko: Exactly. You get what you want, but never the way you want it. Magic has a mind of its own. And it doesn’t— um. Work well with humans. For instance, there’s Perrault’s story of the um, the three wishes. A starving peasant family gives a faerie shelter from the cold. The faerie grants them three wishes. The wife, only able to think of what she desires most, says, “I wish I had a sausage.” A sausage suddenly appears in her hand.

Dr. Bright: Which isn’t a very helpful wish for the rest of the family.

Niko: Right, and the husband is angry! That’s one of their wishes gone. She could have wished for infinite riches! He says, “I wish that sausage was stuck up your nose.”

Dr. Bright: And they have to use the last wish to extract it?

Niko: Exactly. The son, seeing this, says, “I wish this wasn’t happening!” Everything goes back to normal— and the wishes are gone.

Dr. Bright: It’s interesting that you’re drawn to this kind of magical system.

Niko: What do you mean?

Dr. Bright: Well, our universe is fairly chaotic— and confusing. You spend a great deal of your time trying to understand how it operates through complex mathematics.

Niko: Yeah...

Dr. Bright: Living in a world where everything is controlled by a sentient force— albeit one that is fairly malicious— would be much more straightforward.

Niko: Yeah, no, Eladron’s definitely simpler. Easier to understand.

Dr. Bright: And it explains things that are outside of your control as well.

Niko: Like, for me? In my life?

Dr. Bright: Well, you’ve been having trouble controlling your powers. It makes sense that you’re taking comfort in a universe where there’s a reason why your powers would be malfunctioning.

Niko: Oh. Wow. Yeah, that... that’s a read, for sure.

Dr. Bright: A read?

Niko: Like, you read me. Like an open book? It’s slang.

Dr. Bright: Well, it sounds like there’s been a lot going on in Eladron! 

Niko: It was a pretty intense game! Rachel, the necromancer, wants to raise Calabi from the dead, but y’know, the group has to figure out an equivalent sacrifice.

Dr. Bright: How did Bruce take it?

Niko: What do you mean?

Dr. Bright: How did he feel about his character dying?

Niko: Oh! Uh. He was happy? Y’know, a complex version of happy, since he’s really attached to Calabi, but he likes his story arc. We talked about it on the phone, after.

Dr. Bright: That’s wonderful.

Niko: I mean... He was crying.

Dr. Bright: Oh?

Niko: But that’s not a bad thing! He’s, y’know. Mourning Calabi.

Dr. Bright: I suppose that makes sense. The game’s been going on for almost two years now, you said?

Niko: Yeah! Yeah, and he’s been with us since the beginning. He helped put the king on the throne in the first campaign. Also, he’s been going through a hard time. Playing a character who could make a difference, it. It helped.

Dr. Bright: Well… does he have an idea of who he would like to play next?

Niko: Yeah! We’re working on designing his next character now. We’ve been talking every day!

Dr. Bright: You’ve been talking every day?

Niko: Like I said: there’s a lot of ways to be social, Dr. Bright:.

Dr. Bright: Have you been online every day?

Niko: I mean, more or less.

Dr. Bright: For how long each day?

Niko: A few... hours...

Dr. Bright: Have you been going outside?

Niko: Uh. Sometimes? There was the whole skin-turning-blue fiasco, that kept me inside for a while—

Dr. Bright: Or eating?

Niko: I’ve been eating! Maybe not well, but I’ve eaten food. 

Dr. Bright: Anything with nutrients in it?

Niko: ...Support your local bodega?

Dr. Bright: I’ll take that as a no.

Niko: Mr. Sulaimani really does have everything I need. Maybe fewer fruits and veggies than most doctors would recommend, but— but I get to walk there! 

Dr. Bright: Is it reasonable to say you’ve been eating mostly snack food?

Niko: Yeah... But I had to get everything ready for this big moment in the game! This was a plot-twist, Dr. Bright:.

Dr. Bright: Niko. I’m very happy that you have many, wide-ranging interests.

Niko: Okay.

Dr. Bright: But what is most important to me, as your therapist, is your health. Did you go to your lab this week?

Niko: No.

Dr. Bright: Because of your game?

Niko: Yes? But— look, you don’t have to worry. I’m not going to just be limiting myself to online interaction. Bruce and I have been talking, right? And, um.

Niko: He’sgoingtobevisitingmereallysooninperson!

Dr. Bright: I’m sorry, Niko, could you say that one more time—

Niko: He’s going to be visiting me really soon in person!

Dr. Bright: Bruce is?

Niko: Yes! So we’re going to be designing his new character together! In person!

Dr. Bright: And he lives in—

Niko: He lives in San Francisco, he’s a software engineer for Google, I told him about my power, and I cannot wait to meet him!

Dr. Bright: I’m sorry, did you say you told Bruce about your power?

Niko: Yes.

Dr. Bright: That. That is surprising, Niko. Something you might have led with, in fact.

Niko: Er. Yeah. I’m sorry.

Dr. Bright: It’s alright. What… what led to this? I know that you and Bruce have been talking quite a bit. Do you have a romantic attachment?

Niko: What? No! No, no.

Dr. Bright: Only you’ve never shown any inclination to tell your other friends about this part of your life. The fact that you shared this information with someone you met on the internet is—

Niko: Strange?

Dr. Bright: Not… necessarily, if you really think that he can be trusted. But as you noted, you haven’t met in person.

Niko: Just because we haven’t talked face to face, doesn’t mean Bruce is less trustworthy. People can, and will, lie to your face. Honestly, the whole… “We’re in the same program together, we have to be best friends” vibe in grad school kind of weirds me out.

Dr. Bright: I can understand that—

Niko: At least online, people get it when you’re not quick to bond with them over everything.

Dr. Bright: I know your social anxiety isn’t something you’re keen to address.

Niko: Oh, absolutely it is not.

Dr. Bright: That’s also part of therapy, though. Talking about things you’d prefer not to deal with.

Niko: Undergrad was bad. Friendships went sour. I told you about this.

Dr. Bright: You did. You were planning on joining a couple of clubs, though, weren’t you?

Niko: I went to the LGBTQ org meet-up.

Dr. Bright: You didn’t tell me that.

Niko: Because it was embarrassing and stupid. I went to one of their “outings.” I don’t even like going to parties— I hate clubs. It was just. Ugh.

Dr. Bright: What’s wrong?

Niko: I just feel bad, because I don’t want to be down on my own community, you know?

Dr. Bright: You’re allowed to feel how you feel, Niko:. You’re not wrong for having a point of view.

Niko: Well. Okay. The trans community at my school is wildly small, and mostly trans men who are already transitioning. And ohhh my god. They’re just fetishized all the time! By the queer community and by straight women!

Dr. Bright: That sounds pretty discomforting.

Niko: Yeah, imagine standing near a guy who is ripped and hearing the girl next to you say, “I wasn’t into him before T, but now he looks like a ‘regular’ supermodel!”

Dr. Bright: Ah.

Niko: Then I become super-aware of the fact that I don’t look like an androgynous fae being. So I’m at this bar, freaking out, like, “Oh god, am I really experiencing dysphoria over whether I’m attractive to others? Am I actually non-binary or just vain?” And the one other non-binary person there was talking my ear off about how I should go with them to an edgy club where things were just not as “normative.” 

Dr. Bright: Well, that experience definitely doesn’t sound like your speed.

Niko: God, no. The thing is… I don’t like talking about my gender. It doesn’t seem. Um. Mmmf. I don’t know how to say this.

Dr. Bright: What’s the problem with talking about your gender?

Niko: Well, it’s just… it’s not really how I define myself. I mean— I am non-binary! I don’t feel like a man or a woman. I just… am.

Dr. Bright: It’s not what you prefer to focus on.

Niko: Yes!

Dr. Bright: Is it easier to deal with your anxieties about your gender if you don’t have to talk about it?

Niko: Oh, yeah. I don’t know how to manifest my gender. No idea how to make other people see it. Hooray for the internet.

Dr. Bright: And that’s one reason you feel more comfortable around Bruce?

Niko: I mean, yeah. There’s no— no weird moment online where the person who you’re talking to, who you’ve told your gender preferences several times, goes, “Niko, she— I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry, you use they, I’ll remember that next time!”

Dr. Bright: How do you define yourself, Niko?

Niko: You mean, beyond the gender nonsense? I don’t know.

Dr. Bright: What about your work?

Niko: As in, do I see myself as a mathematician? A scientist?

Dr. Bright: You mentioned not going in for your lab session this week.

Niko: It’s— I didn’t go the week before, y’know, because of the weird discoloration issues. So I’m already behind on my work for the project. And compared to Eladron… it seems… bloodless and strange?

Dr. Bright: Your work in real life seems bloodless?

Niko: Or just— I don’t know. I wanted to be a physicist because I want to contribute to the world. I’m smart, I’ve always been told I’m smart, but I have no idea how that’s helping me right now!

Dr. Bright: Alright, Niko, take a moment. Take a breath. What’s missing?

Niko: Maybe I’m… I’m stupid? For a smart person. I feel like I’m supposed to be achieving something important. Right?

Dr. Bright: We all develop our skills and abilities at our own pace, Niko.

Niko: Yeah, I guess. But I’m supposed to do something with— I’m supposed to be incredibly intelligent, according to my teachers, and the tests, and— and my parents. And then, on top of that, I’m given a superpower! That’s a huge responsibility!

Dr. Bright: Niko...

Niko: So yes, maybe— maybe I’m a little stressed. The game isn’t— it isn’t evil, or bad for me, or anything! Bruce and Rachel and the forum are keeping me sane right now.

Dr. Bright: You’re feeling destabilized.

Niko: I’m feeling some kind of way. I am… unprepared for all of this, man.

Dr. Bright: For...

Niko: For life! Especially life as— as whatever I am.

Dr. Bright: So, what do you think you are?

Niko: I think I’m a failure! No, I’m calling it. I know I’m a failure. That’s how I define myself.

Dr. Bright: Niko, that’s not fair. We’ve talked about not letting your anxiety have the final word.

Niko: Is it unfair? Let’s see. I am a mathematician who is just intelligent enough to understand complex concepts, but never have any insights of their own. I have a superpower I can’t use. And I am a non-binary person who looks like their birth gender and can’t do shit about it.

Dr. Bright: That’s not necessarily going to be true forever, Niko.

Niko: Like, fun fact, you have a superpower that’s supposed to help you change your personal appearance. How jolly for you and your weird gender!

Dr. Bright: Niko—

Niko: But just in case that doesn’t work out for you, you can’t actually use any of the common surgical and hormone therapies recommended for trans people. Because you’re not actually, like, human. Your genes are wrong - they’re Atypical - and it might literally kill you to undergo the normal treatments.

Dr. Bright: Niko, I need to you to take a breath.

Niko: Honestly, it feels like the work of some kind of malicious being! Like, “you wished for the ability to change your body— here it is, sucker! With caveats.” So now your family can’t talk to you about your gender at all. Because what if someone found out about your power by extension— your weird, abnormal, ungodly ability?

Dr. Bright: Is that how your family has been talking to you about being Atypical, Niko:?

Niko: They don’t have to! These are the people who tried to trick me into converting to Catholicism. We don’t have to talk at all.

Dr. Bright: Have you spoken to your mother about that?

Niko: No. I know she’ll never admit that she’s done something wrong.

Dr. Bright: That’s...not uncommon. I know a thing or two about parents rejecting an Atypical child.

Niko:’re not an Atypical, are you?

Dr. Bright: No. But my brother is.

Niko: Oh! I… didn’t even know you had a brother.

Dr. Bright: You aren’t expected to know about my life, Niko. And I don’t often share personal information— both within the workplace and otherwise.

Niko: Hooray for being socially maladjusted introverts!

Dr. Bright: Indeed. Though that’s actually something I want to address: you don’t seem like a naturally introverted person. When you talk about Eladron, it’s clear that you are more than capable of connecting with a group of likeminded peers.

Niko: Kinda sounds like a job evaluation, but yeah. Yeah, I… I guess you’re right.

Dr. Bright: I understand that this can feel isolating. You haven’t had a sibling, or a close friend, to confide in. I understand the joy of escaping into a fantasy world. And, it sounds like you’ve made some real friends through the internet. People you trust.

Niko: Yes! Exactly!

Dr. Bright: But your online life cannot take the place of your real one.

Niko: ...Are you sure?

Dr. Bright: Yes. And, I think we have to acknowledge what happens when you don’t try to work on your ability.

Niko: Do we have to?

Dr. Bright: We really do. You’re fading away. You said it yourself: you look like the grayscale version of the person I met months ago. I noticed that you had become more… withdrawn, before. But this has gotten to an extreme that genuinely worries me.

Niko: ...Yeah. Yeah, I know.

Dr. Bright: So why don’t you believe that you can access your ability in healthy ways?

Niko: I don’t know. I get in my way? I get… emotional, and anxious, and hyperaware of everything I can’t control.

Dr. Bright: And the gender dysphoria doesn’t help with that anxiety.

Niko: I know I’m doing something to my body. I’m thinner. Like, not in a fun, healthy way. Like in a stretched-thin sense. I can feel it.

Dr. Bright: You can feel your ability affecting your body?

Niko: Yeah. I mean, not so much with the color-shifting. That’s so superficial, it barely registers as a change in temperature in my scalp, the skin of my hands and neck. But— but trying to affect my body shape?

Dr. Bright: Niko. That’s not something to jump into this early in your development.

Niko: I’m twenty-three, Dr. Bright! I want to look like myself! I want people to see me, y’know?

Dr. Bright: Messing with that kind of deep-tissue shifting without training can have a serious effect on your physiology, Niko.

Niko: No, I know. I can— I can feel it. It hurts, Dr. Bright. I’ve been trying to pull in on the parts of my body I don’t like… and it just hurts. I can’t tell if there’s any other difference. I want to fade into the background.

Dr. Bright: Why?

Niko: If I don’t get noticed, I don’t have to explain myself. Or have to give a reason for existing. I can just… live in my apartment. Eat packaged ramen from the corner store. Talk to Bruce online.

Dr. Bright: …No, you can’t, Niko.

Niko: I can’t, can I?

Dr. Bright: No. That’s depression.

Niko: Well. Shit.

Dr. Bright: I will say, I’m glad that you’ve reached out to Bruce— though I’m still concerned that you entrusted your secret to someone you haven’t met.

Niko: If Bruce is catfishing for Atypicals, he’s playing a really long game.

Dr. Bright: That isn’t entirely unlikely, Niko.

Niko: What, really? Are there— are there, like, secret societies and supervillains? In this world?

Dr. Bright: Well—

Niko: I’d almost given up on anything less than mundane happening in our universe.

Dr. Bright: Let’s just say that people are interested in Atypicals— as you might expect.

Niko: But there’s no reason for them to be interested in me, Dr. Bright! I don’t even have a real ability— it’s just the most interesting thing that I could think to say about myself.

Dr. Bright: I’m afraid you’re wrong there.

Niko: You’re afraid I’m not pathetic? Gee, thanks.

Dr. Bright: Your very unhealthy behavior has actually demonstrated that your ability is growing stronger. You managed to manifest a full-body physical transformation. You are… completely gray.

Niko: Oh.

Dr. Bright: Yes. By accident, and through— again— practicing unhealthy behaviors, you have changed an element of your appearance you could not previously change. I believe that your emotional state, particularly as it regards your appearance, is the trigger for your physical transformations.

Niko: I’m a human mood ring.

Dr. Bright: I wouldn’t put it quite like that. Rather, when you give up on your powers—

Niko: Called out.

Dr. Bright: —and when you don’t attempt to connect with the world around you, your powers manifest your anxiety and depression.

Niko: That… that makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Bright: Am I correct in believing this didn’t happen when you had anxiety attacks or depressive moods before?

Niko: Yes?

Dr. Bright: How about that? Practicing using your ability has made it more accessible and more potent. Who would have thought?

Niko: …Were you being sarcastic just now?!

Dr. Bright: Perhaps.

Niko: I’m appalled? And delighted.

Dr. Bright: Maybe don’t give up on yourself quite so quickly.

Niko: I’m still not controlling anything yet.

Dr. Bright: Then we need to work on grounding you. You have a friend that you trust. But Bruce is not someone who will always be nearby. I would prefer that you do not isolate yourself further by hiding in your room.

Niko: Okay…

Dr. Bright: Is there someone in your lab who you think you could get along with?

Niko: Not yet? But I have been kind of tuning them out. I think Joanna had a fantasy book in her bag? Maybe I could ask her about it?

Dr. Bright: Good! Start there.

Niko: Ughhh. It’s so embarrassing to have to be coached through making friends!

Dr. Bright: It’ll get easier, believe me. Or— even if it is not easier, it will lead to you meeting the people who you can genuinely depend upon. And have affection for.

Niko: How long did it take you?

Dr. Bright: A lot longer than I would like to admit to my patient. I’d like you to focus on this— and on moving your interactions online away from roleplaying for a little bit. Can you take a break from the game?

Niko: We could… go on hiatus?

Dr. Bright: I think it would be good to limit your involvement so you can work on balancing your life and your hobby. Even having in-person games could help.

Niko: In-person… Dr. Bright, are you talking about tabletop games? Do you play tabletop roleplaying games?!

Dr. Bright: Just something to keep in mind.

Niko: Oh my god, no, you can’t leave me hanging here, Dr. Bright!

Dr. Bright: In the meantime, we will work on accessing your ability through more positive emotions. If you want, we can practice accessing shapeshifting from a place of calm?

Niko: Mmmmkay.

[SFX: Clock ticking, fading in and out.]

Dr. Bright: We’ll wrap up here, Niko:. Let me know how meeting Bruce goes. Also… if anything goes awry, or he doesn’t seem trustworthy…Here’s my private number. Text or call the moment something seems off, and I’ll find a way to get you out of there.

Niko: ...You’re really worried about this, aren’t you?

Dr. Bright: It probably isn’t necessary. Like you said, this is a very long game for a catfisher to play.

Niko: But it’s still important enough for me to do this?

Dr. Bright: Yes.

Niko: Okay. Okay, but I want to know more about these supervillains and— secret society people— when I see you next time. Mutual trust, right?

Dr. Bright: Mutual trust.

[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 Aron Brown was the voice of Niko. This episode was also written by Aron Brown and edited, directed, and sound designed by me. The Bright Sessions is sound designed  by Mischa Stanton. 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 Our next - and final - bonus episode will be coming out on March 18th. Make sure to listen to that for an announcement about the next chapter in The Bright Sessions universe. Until then, thanks for listening and stay strange.