(c) Laura Jenski, 2015
“I’m sorry, Molly, the news is not as good as we had hoped.” Dr. Parma pushed her chair back ever so slightly. “I recommend another course of radiation.”
Molly busied her hands, twisting the ends of the faded blue hospital gown. She felt virtually naked without her tailored business suit. Naked and powerless.
“The brain x-ray is inconclusive, most likely due to inflammation post radiation.” Dr. Parma leaned forward and touched Molly’s arm. “Are you still experiencing hallucinations?”
Molly shrugged. They weren’t hallucinations, really. More like memories. And headaches—brutal, crushing headaches that made the entire world echo.
Dr. Parma continued. “Radiation will help shrink the tumor so it can be resected with minimal normal tissue damage.” She pushed the consent documents closer to Molly. “Sign here and here.”
Molly steadied the pen with both hands. Last summer, when she took the corporate executive position in this unfamiliar city, she had felt unusually vulnerable—inexplicably at risk. Then headaches and weird thoughts started and did not stop.
“You won’t feel a thing, Molly.” Dr. Parma adjusted the stereotaxy equipment to align with the black marks on Molly’s scalp. “The accelerator will run for about twenty seconds.”
The odor of antiseptic and the coolness of the table faded from Molly’s thoughts, replaced by an eerily familiar vision. Winds tore around her. She felt the sting of sand and pebbles pelting her, but she couldn’t see her legs and arms. Above her, two red suns cast a smothering heat. Did someone call to her? I must leave, she thought. They’re leaving.
“Molly. Molly. It’s all over.” Dr. Parma’s voice burst into her consciousness.
“Where was I, where did I go?” Molly said, struggling to open her eyes.
“You’re still in the Treatment Room. The orderly will take you to Recovery.”
“More radiation?” Molly said, her voice barely audible. “It makes me see and hear strange things.”
Dr. Parma studied the poorly resolved image from the CT scan. “The tumor is in the parietal lobe but may involve the temporal lobe as well. You’re probably reliving snippets of memories.”
Molly slid to the edge of the bed and wrapped her hands icily around the physician’s wrists. “I feel like there is something inside my head,” she said. “These are its memories.”
“Who is inside your head?” Dr. Parma pulled her right hand free and scrawled discreetly on the chart, delusions.
“Not who.” Molly fought back tears. What she was about to say sounded crazy. “I think I have an alien inside me.”
Dr. Parma’s face remained composed. “I see, well, brain tumors can cause a variety of behavioral effects. Let’s see whether the next treatment helps with these symptoms.”
“We’re starting the treatment, Molly,” Dr. Parma said. “Just relax; it will be over in a few seconds.”
Molly felt weightless, trapped in a cocoon of smooth metallic walls as yellow lights streaked by and then slowed to bright spots. A cool blueness engulfed her, replaced quickly by the fragrance of open air and a frenzy of lights. She traveled, scattered on a breeze, finally settling in thick gelatinous darkness.
As Molly lay listless in the hospital bed, Dr. Parma described the next round of therapies they might try.
“No MRI,” Molly whispered. “No more treatments.”
“You must keep fighting to kill the tumor.”
Molly reached up but her hand fell back limply. “An invader,” she said, “will die only if I die.”
“Anaplastic astrocytoma?” Dr. Parma asked, taking the post-mortem report on Molly Lawrence. The grim-faced pathologist shook his head.
Dr. Parma frowned. “Really? An oligodendroglioma killed her?”
The man shook his head again. “An acellular mass of unknown origin,” he said.
Dr. Parma paged rapidly through the report. “The lab ran a mass spec? What were they looking for?”
“It’s not so much what they were looking for, it’s what they found.”
“Which was?” Dr. Parma’s frown deepened.
“Forty percent lanthanum, twenty-two percent ytterbium, and the remainder unidentifiable.”
Dr. Parma tossed the report onto the desk. “Her tumor was mostly rare metals? So who am I supposed to call about that?”
The pathologist sank into a chair.