Story (c) 2000-2004 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. Throckmorton P Ruddygore, Poqua, Lakash (c) Jack L Chalker. Jack (c) David Hopkins.Mary the Mouse © Mary Minch. All other characters are (c) Hikaru Katayamma.  This story contains adult situations and language. By reading it the viewer agrees not to hold this or any other person responsible for any content they may find objectionable. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Identity Crisis

Seeing is believing, or is it?

The doctor sat at his desk as he flipped through the latest issue of the American Psychiatric Council magazine. His eyes flicked towards the clock as he once again checked the time. His patient, a most unusual individual, could only make appointments in the early evening and was the reason that the doctor was still at his desk long after normal closing hours. He closed the magazine and picked a large, heavy book, which had been covered in an odd, shimmering reptile skin. He opened the book and removed copious notes on yellow legal sized paper and began to review them as he thought about what had been written within. It had taken him the better part of two weeks to read the epic novel, and he was anxious to talk to the author again. He frowned as he remembered the words Arden had spoken to him before handing over the book, "What you read in here is the truth as I remember it."

When he'd first started reading the story, it proceeded much the way he'd expected. What wasn't expected had been the introduction of a supposedly magic amulet and everything that had come afterwards. The book was clearly the product of his patient's imagination, but was it a conscientious one. That's what worried him the most. Did the patient really believe that all these things happened?

His musings were interrupted by a gentle knock at the door. He folded up the notes and tucked them into the book before opening the door to find Arden standing in the doorway. An involuntary shiver ran down his spine as he gazed into a pair of steel gray eyes that somehow seemed to see more than they should. He noted that the snow white hair which had always been tied in a ponytail in the back was now free to cascade over the patient's shoulders and down the back, like frozen fingers of water caught in a cold winter's chill.

He broke eye contact and stepped back. "I'm glad you could make it, Arden," the doctor said as he closed the door after Arden had passed through. "I was rather anxious about whether you'd make this appointment or not."

Arden smiled and gave a light, airy laugh. "I'm paying you a small fortune for your help. It would be a waste for me not to show up." Arden walked over to an old yet comfortable leather couch and sat down. "Did you finish reading the book?"

"The book? Oh yes! Yes, indeed," the doctor said as he retrieved the book from his desk before sitting down in his usual chair. "I must say it is a quite interesting tale."

Arden's eyes twinkled with amusement. "But, you don't believe it actually happened, right?"

The doctor smiled as he shrugged. "I'm sure you can understand my trepidation. First, you were a human male who was transformed by a magic amulet into an anthropomorphic male polar bear, where you met the girl of your fantasies. Later, you swapped bodies with said female and eventually were killed. Yet it seems that death is only an obstacle for you. You've managed to die what, three or is it four times? Yet each time you keep coming back from beyond. Forgetting all the other deaths, your last one supposedly tore your soul into millions of parts and spread them on the wind. Surely you can see how I have a hard time believing such a fantasy."

Arden gave the man an amused nod. "It's of no matter. Writing out what happened to me has helped me to remember---no, realize who and what I truly am, which is why I came to you in the first place."

"And that's what concerns me the most," he said as he opened the book and pulled out his notes. "In this fantasy history of yours, you have shown yourself to be a very self-destructive person. More to the point, in your story you're not only a danger to yourself, but also a danger to others. To be honest, I spent a long time today considering whether I should have the authorities here or not to take you into custody and have you committed."

"You didn't, though," Arden noted with a smile. "You don't really believe that I'm a danger right now." Arden paused for a thought and chuckled. "That, or you much prefer the exorbitant price I'm paying for your services." Arden stood and withdrew a large envelope from a jacket pocket and tossed it to the doctor. "That's the balance of what I owe you. I wanted to make sure you got that before I returned."

"Before you return?" The doctor said, laying the money on the table. "So you're going to once again magically transport yourself to wherever this fantasy female is?"

Arden nodded and stood. "Something like that." Arden stepped over to a large, leather chair where an enormous, oversized teddy bear sat, filling it completely. Reaching out, Arden brushed fingers across the faux fur of the stuffed animal. "You know, I've been in your office a dozen times, and I don't think I ever asked you about this guy."

The doctor crossed his legs and leaned against the armrest. "That's Beartholomew. He's there so that patients who aren't comfortable talking to me, can talk to him instead. Maybe there's something you want to tell him that you're not telling me?"

"No. Not really," Arden replied, stroking the bear's fur. "I'm just thinking that he would look much nicer if he were white."

"A polar bear?" The doctor asked as he bit the end of the pen he'd been writing with. "I suppose---" The doctor's train of thought was derailed as Arden reached out with an index finger and touched the bear, causing the fur to suddenly change from golden brown to a pristine, snowy white color. The eyes too changed from black buttons to an icy blue color. "H---How did you do that?" the doctor stammered.

"The universe around you is a magical place, if only you know how to look for it," Arden replied. "Thank you again for your help, doctor, but I think that it's time for me to be going."

"Going?" the doctor muttered as he stared at the stuffed bear. "How are you going to go back?"

Arden reached into another pocket and pulled out a gold amulet on a chain. "This amulet will get me there."

The doctor frowned. "And you really believe that will return to be with this Sheila woman?"

"I know it will," Arden replied, slipping the necklace on.

"I thought I read in the book that Lakash had to actually perform the magic to move you between worlds," the doctor observed, as he checked his notes. "Yet in the end, you say that Lakash was defrocked and no longer had that power."

'He doesn't," Arden agreed. "This is a one shot amulet that was given to me by someone else. It will return me to Sheila and that's it."

The doctor nodded. "I see. And what will you do when you go to use the amulet and nothing happens?"

"Let's find out, shall we?" Arden said with a mischievous grin and promptly vanished.

The doctor bolted out of his chair and swept the area Arden had been standing with his arms. He looked down into the deep shag carpet where Arden had been standing and saw the pile slowly unfolding now that there was no weight there. Shaking his head as to clear it, the doctor turned and snatched up the stuffed bear. He examined the tag on its rear just under the tail and saw that it did indeed have the hand-embroidered name Beartholomew on it. He gently set the bear down, making sure to place it exactly where it was before it had been changed. He then picked up the book, carried it into his office and dropped it onto the desk as he simultaneously dropped heavily into his chair. The doctor stared at the gleaming cover for several minutes before he picked it up, opened the cover and removed his notes, which he tossed into the trash with a sigh. Flipping to the first page of the story, he began to read it again with an entirely different perspective.