I felt my body begin to relax as the last of the needles were inserted.
“Have a good rest,” my doctor said as she turned off the treatment room’s ceiling lights and dimmed the lights of the wall sconces. She closed the door behind her.
I was stretched out on the clinic’s table for my monthly acupuncture treatment, a regime I had instituted long ago to deal with a variety of conditions. Today I was there to treat a sore knee and a recent bout of insomnia.
The soothing sound of a Chinese flute wafted around me from some unseen speaker, and I fell deeper into blissful relaxation.
Then, I heard a soft click.
My eyes flew open and I found myself in complete darkness. Both of the wall lights had extinguished. The clinic was inside an one hundred-year-old brick building, and the treatment rooms had no external windows. My first thought was that the lights were on a motion/sound sensor and had naturally kicked off. It was strange, I thought, since that had never happened in any other treatment session, but it might be a good thing: maybe I might actually fall asleep for the thirty minute session.
Then a light pulsed from one of the sconces, followed by a pulse from the other. I stared at the lights. They each pulsed again, one after the other.
“What is this?” I muttered. I could not move because of the needles in my arms, face, and legs; otherwise, I would have gotten up and switched on the overhead lights. I was stuck there for the duration.
I was too distracted to simply close my eyes. I was mesmerized by the lights. I tried finding a pattern in their pulsation. There was none. Sometimes the pulses were dim and other times the lights came on at full illumination.
The longer I watched, the more unsettled I became. There was no clock in the room, so I could not gauge how far along I was in the session. Time seemed to slow down.
I clutched the small clicker that the doctor had given me. It is standard practice to give the patient a pager device in case there were a need to call for the doctor during treatment.
I should call her, I thought. No, are you kidding? You’re afraid of some flickering lights? In truth, I was feeling a rising anxiety. The hair on my arms rose. It IS an old building, I thought.
Maybe it’s h—… NO! What is wrong with you? There is simply something wrong with the lights. Stop being a big baby!
Suddenly, something moved in the shadows of the corner to the left. I turned to look. I could not see anything. The lights seemed to be pulsing and flickering even faster.
My heart started to pound and I fidgeted with the pager.
“Stop it!” I whispered aloud.
I jumped at the knock on the door. It gently opened and the doctor entered, flipping on the overhead lights. “Did you have a nice rest?” she asked.
“Not really. There was a real light show going on in here.” I pointed to the still-pulsing wall sconces.
“Oh! I am so sorry about that.” She turned them off. “You should have paged me.”
“Are those lights about to burn out?”
“Um, yes, yes. They need to be replaced.” She came over to me and quickly began to pull out and discard my needles. Here face showed no emotions but her eyes kept glancing at the wall sconces.
“There you go. I’ll meet you out front.”
“Thank you.” I sat up and began to put on my socks and shoes.
“And, again, I’m really sorry for the lights. This must not have been a very relaxing experience for you. We’ll get those replaced before your next visit. Or most likely we’ll just put you in another room.”
“It’s OKAY. These things happen,” I reassured her.
She forced a smile and took a long look into the corner on my left as she exited.
ljgloyd (c) 2018