Ann sat down with Bethany and Mike. She handed them a set of pictures printed from various internet sites. “I talked with my friend, Lain, at the university. She sent me these. The drawings that Ash did appear to be of the Sinjar Mountains. That little white building with the white cone on top that she put in the ‘moonscape’ is a pretty accurate drawing of this shrine on top of Mount Sinjar.” Ann pointed out a set of BBC News photos then continued, “The fancy angel, the one with the feathers, is one of the staples of the Yazidi religion. It’s known as the Peacock Angel, named Tawsi Melek, it is a protector of humans and of the earth. It’s similar to Jesus in that it represents the son of God and salvation.” Ann pointed out another set of pages with detailed images and explanations of Yazidism. Ann then pulled out her phone and touched play on a YouTube video as she continued, “The song Ash was singing is a Kurmanji lullaby. It is a thousand years old.” The haunting melody echoed in the kitchen as Ann stopped talking as suddenly as she had started. As the Kurmanji woman sang the lines that Ash had been singing, Ann paused the video. Mike stared at her, “Where is all this coming from? How can your friend be sure? This sounds like such bullshit. How can Ash know any of this stuff? What the fuck is happening here?” Mike stood up and paced the kitchen, “I feel like I’ve stepped into somebody else’s life!” The normally composed man threw his coffee cup into the tile backsplash and watched it shatter into tiny daggers. Bethany, startled, then immediately snapped at him, “Mike, chill! Jeezsus! We’ve got enough going on without you losing it!” Bethany got up to help the now embarrassed man clean up the mess. She talked as she grabbed the broom. “Look, maybe they did a report on it in school. Maybe she saw that stuff on tv or the internet. There has to be a logical explanation.” Ann gazed at her and spoke quietly, “A report on the middle east in first grade? Ok, possible. Seeing the Sinjar Mountains in media, highly likely, if she’s regularly been watching world news. But, I’m not really convinced that the angel is something she’d just ‘run into’. It’s a pretty specific reference in a really obscure religion. And then there’s her singing an equally obscure thousand year old lullaby.” Ann paused. Bethany stood leaning heavily on the counter, her shoulders quaking, her head bowed, her breath rasped. Mike gathered his wife into his arms. “I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to lose it.” He held her against his chest. Ann watched the pair, silent, until Bethany’s tears began to subside. “Ok, enough of the pity party. I love you, but you two have to keep your shit together. This isn’t a cancer diagnosis. I know you’re freaked out but the girl isn’t dying, she’s not demon possessed, so pull up your big girl panties and let’s find out more about what’s really going on. You said the doc mentioned Ashlynn talking during the night. We need the recordings from the sleep study.” Bethany just stared over Mike’s shoulder at her mom. The woman seemed be made of granite instead of flesh and emotion. Granite or not, Bethany knew her mom was right, they needed more. She wiped her runny nose on Mike’s shirt, a strange privilege after years of marriage, “I’ll call and see what I can get out of him.”
The next week, Bethany and Mike sat with Ashlynn at Dr. Hu’s office. They were determined to hold to their child’s wishes about the treatment plan. They talked with Dr. Hu, explained their decision and were pleasantly surprised that he was supportive. He’d talked with the family about the non-medication, non-invasive portions of the plan. He referred them to a counselor who specialized in Imagery Reversal Therapy. The program consisted of teaching kids how to intervene in their dream state. Ashlynn thought that would be the best place to start. Dr. Hu told her that because her brain was processing these episodes as memories, the IRT might not work but that it was worth attempting. Ashlynn liked Dr. Hu. He didn’t assume she couldn’t understand what he was talking about, even when he used big words. He talked to her rather than just to her parents. Just as the appointment started, Ash had dug a notebook and pen out of her backpack. She smiled at her mom who was also prepared to take notes. Ashlynn wrote down any word she didn’t know in order to ask Dr. Hu. After the second time Ash asked about an unfamiliar term, Dr. Hu glanced across at Ashlynn’s page. He raised an eyebrow, “Ashlynn, may I see your notes?” Ashlynn looked at him then shyly handed him her pink and white notebook, “Sure, but some stuff might not be spelled right. You talk kinda fast.” Dr. Hu nodded, and looked carefully at the page, “Ashlynn, did you learn how to write like this in school?” His voice was calm and clinical, as always. Ashlynn shook her head, “No, first graders just print. Last year, my teacher got upset when I wrote like that in class, so I now just print like everyone else.” Ash became noticeably nervous, “But this was different so I thought it would be ok.” Ashlynn looked upset. Dr. Hu reassured her, “Ashlynn you can write your notes anyway that you like. It’s ok. Have you shown your mom and dad what you can do?” Ashlynn shook her head again, “It’s just writing. Sheesh. It’s not special.” Dr. Hu laughed lightly, “Ok, if you say so. Is it alright if I show them?” Ashlynn didn’t looked up as she shrugged. Dr. Hu turned the notebook toward the couple. The pair stared down at the intricate cursive flowing across the page. The script was tight, tiny and perfectly crafted. It looked like the lettering from a master artist. Bethany’s mouth dropped and she hurriedly closed it. “Ash, um, this is beautiful writing. Really nice, you can use this anytime you like.” Ashlynn beamed, “I thought you’d be upset like my teacher! I like writing pretty, it’s fast too.” Mike stared at the notebook for a minute then absently tousled his daughter’s hair, “Impressive, Ash. Where’d you learn how to do that? My writing looks like a chicken scratched it onto the paper.” Ashlynn laughed at her dad and pushed his hand off her, “Stop, you’re messing my ponytails!” Ashlynn took back the notebook and looked at the page, “I don’t know where I learned. I think I just knew how.” She glanced at her parents and then back to Dr. Hu, “That’s weird isn’t it? Just knowing stuff?” Dr. Hu leaned back in his chair, “It’s different, Ashlynn, not weird. Leonardo Da Vinci knew stuff he never learned and invented stuff no one had ever thought about. So did Nicola Tesla; he made electricity from dirt.” Ashlynn forced a smile, “Ok, I’ll look up who they are and see if they’re weird too.” Dr. Hu contemplated the girl for another moment, “Ashlynn, are there other things that you just know but don’t tell anyone?” Ashlynn fidgeted in her seat, “Yes.” Dr. Hu leaned forward, “Yes? Would you tell me some of the things?” Ashlynn picked at the flowers on her skirt before answering in a timid voice, “Do I have to?” Dr. Hu looked at Bethany and Mike, “No Ashlynn, you don’t have to. I want you to know you can tell me, your parents, or anyone you are working with here absolutely anything and not worry about being thought of as weird. Ok?” Ashlynn nodded. Dr. Hu straightened the papers on his desk and then pulled the meeting back on track. 20 minutes later the family was headed out to Dairy Queen for lunch and treats.
Bethany and Mike dropped Ashlynn at school after lunch. “Have a good afternoon, Ash.” Mike kissed his girl’s head and watched as she happily skipped out of the office toward her classroom. He returned to the car and slid into the driver’s seat. Bethany was texting, she barely glanced up at him. “I filled mom in on the new weirdness.” Mike gripped the steering wheel, he exhaled a long breath. “You mom’s been good with all this, I hope she knows we appreciate her.” Bethany nodded, “She has to leave on Wednesday for a conference but she said she’d try to be back at the end of the month. I know it’s selfish of me but I really need her here. I just don’t know how to handle all this and if you leave for Scottsdale…” Bethany didn’t finish the sentence. Mike stared out the windshield. “Look, Bethany, I know this isn’t quite what either of us were prepared for but you reacting like this is a terminal illness has got to stop. Other than a few months of bad nights, none of this weirdness, as you call it, has been all that detrimental. We need to pay better attention and not make her feel like a freak for being bright and gifted. She is grades ahead in reading and math. Hell, she’s writing like a damn doctoral candidate. Her teacher recommended an accelerated charter school for next year. All that despite not sleeping well for the last 7 months. You saw her, she is afraid to tell us what she can do. Afraid, Bethany,” Mike finally looked at his wife, “afraid of us thinking something’s wrong with her.” Bethany stared at her blank cell phone, “What if there is something wrong with her? This doesn’t seem like just ‘being bright’. This feels way different, Mike. I mean, this kind of genius can be fragile. She’s afraid, I’m afraid too.” Mike reached down and started the car. Silence settled onto the pair like a shroud.