Eric Praschan‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:
Description of Therapy for Ghosts:
Some memories will find you no matter where you hide…
Cindy James is a cognitive behavioral therapist in a quiet Missouri town, but her precisely patterned life spins into chaos when she is besieged by panic attacks. Forced to undergo counseling with a new, peculiar therapist in town, Tony Prost, Cindy defiantly resists both his unnerving charm and the truth behind the haunting images that are unleashing her anxiety.
As Cindy’s memory flashes increase in frequency, she is jolted by the terrible deed her beloved mother committed to gain their freedom from her father. That memory is one clue to the mystery behind her compulsive behaviors: carrying a headless Raggedy Ann doll throughout the five-story mansion in which she lives alone, spot cleaning the mansion’s thirty-one rooms, and crying herself to sleep in an empty red room. Cindy slowly recalls her grandmother’s dominating, divisive presence and a violent history shrouded by years of silence, binding three generations. She soon realizes that the key to her future is buried in her past, but finding the truth means embarking on a harrowing journey back into the heart of her darkest fears.
“Eric Praschan’s book comes with an amusing premise, charting the meltdown of Cindy James, a cognitive behavioral therapist, who is in critical need of…cognitive behavioral therapy. The story quickly turns serious, as Praschan explores her tortured psyche, leading us to the unimaginable trauma that keeps her imprisoned, like a ghost, in a house already haunted by her childhood tormentors. Judging from the crackling dialogue between Cindy and Tony, the therapist who loves and helps her, Praschan is well versed in the challenges of the doctor-patient duet. This is a fine and well-written psychological thriller. And I am partial to any male author who seeks – and succeeds – to create a full-dimensioned woman narrator.”
-By Sarah Kernochan, 2-time Academy Award winning screenwriter of “What Lies Beneath” and author of paranormal suspense novel, Jane Was Here
“Rich with imagery and wonderfully paced, Therapy for Ghosts is a deft tale of pain and redemption, smartly told via a struggling protagonist and an old house that, like all of us, has more history than we care to admit! Eric’s debut novel marks the launch of a brave new talent. Highly recommended!”
-By Ray Blackston, award-winning author of Flabbergasted
“Cindy James has some dark secrets. Her problem is she doesn’t remember them without great effort and sometimes trauma. Eric Praschan’s first venture into the novel format is a fast-paced psychological thriller. One in which the reader is immediately sucked into the underworld of a troubled psyche. Cindy’s efforts to recall and learn more about her past will keep you turning pages and wanting more from this writer.”
“Deep family secrets. Classic Suspense. The quality of writing is original, engaging and seamlessly flawless. This is a hidden gem, that when discovered will gain many reviews and accolades. I was folded into the complex web of the story till the end. Bravo Eric, your talents run deep and it will be exciting to read your next book!”
Therapy for Ghosts currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.2 stars from 27 reviews. Read the reviews here.
Therapy for Ghosts is available for purchase at:
An excerpt from Therapy for Ghosts:
Mama, I’ve been remembering you, and that scares me to death. These static days and sleepless nights have brought her back to me, the young girl covering her ears and cowering beneath her bed in terror. Our unspoken pact to forget is at risk. I wish you were here to guide me through the darkness, to remind me how to rid ourselves of what she has seen and what she knows, yet I am glad you are gone, because you will not have to face her again. She is coming for me, and I have run out of places to hide.
I stir awake, feeling sweat burning my body. My foggy eyes stare at the ceiling, waiting for the shadows amid the candlelight to shift. All stays still in the room, reminding me that there is no one else with whom to share the nightmares. I peel back the freshly ironed bed sheets and slide my feet into cushioning slippers. After slipping on my robe, I tiptoe to the bedroom door, undo the two deadbolt locks, and step into the drafty hallway, all the while seeking to purge the vivid mental image of the little girl hiding beneath her bed and covering her ears in dread.
In the darkness of the interior, the house features are not clearly visible, but I have walked these halls enough at night to know them blindly. The middle section of varnished wood down each hall has a faint, grooved indention from my countless footsteps traversing back and forth during post-nightmare purging sessions. A gaping space sits at the center of the house’s five levels, forming an atrium around which the rectangular levels of each hallway are built. At the four corners of each level is a wooden staircase. Every night I walk up and down the levels, glancing through the open doorways of the rooms to see the shadow-pressed presence of candlelight burning with tiny vigor only inches away from closed window curtains.
When I return to my starting point, if the mental image still has not vanished—like tonight—I make my way to the cherry wood door which stands alone on the far wall of the third level. Upon prying open the only door besides my own which remains closed at night, I enter an empty fifteen-foot by fifteen-foot room. Tonight the windowless, candle-less space appears darker than usual, forcing my eyes to squint in an effort to detect the color consuming the room. The walls, ceiling, and floor are a distinct, rich red, a shade which has only seemed to darken since the day I painted it liberally with a brush that was just one inch wide. For the life of me, however, I still cannot remember why I painted the room red.
While moving to the center of the room, I find the only occupant lying in one of her sleeping spots. Kneeling down, I pick up the headless Raggedy Ann doll and hold her reverently. The image of the girl hiding beneath the bed in terror creeps into my mind, but I dismiss it abruptly, choosing instead to clutch the doll tightly to my chest. Then I pry her away from me and gently lower her back onto the floor. I stretch out, lie beside her, and press my face against the cold, spotless hardwood. Tears fall from my eyes to puddle on the comfortless floor. The memory flash bursts like a reckless spark, igniting my kindled thoughts with the urge to remember.
I open my eyes and the foggy features of my office come into focus. I see blonde-haired Samantha Jackson standing stiffly in the doorway with mascara smudges gleaming beneath her eyes. “What if he doesn’t think I’m worth the effort it will take to change his behavior?”
I smile knowingly. “Samantha, if you won’t breach this subject with him, then you’re going to keep pacifying the very thing that damages you. I wouldn’t be a good friend if I were any less honest.”
She gathers herself with a reassuring breath. “Thanks, Cindy. Talking with you helps give me the courage I’ll need to face him.Sometimes it feels like I’m still coming to you for therapy instead of just being a friend catching up. Well, I’ve got to get home and cook dinner. Hope he comes home sober tonight.” She expels a weighty sigh and then smiles grimly. “See you soon, Cindy.”
“See you, Samantha.”
After she disappears down the hallway, I move to the door and close it quietly. Then I slump down in the office chair, hoping the heaviness in my limbs will subside. Three stacks of paper sit in evenly distributed piles on the far right corner of the finely polished cherry wood desk. A “Time” magazine lies just below the paper piles, marked with today’s date, April 1, 1995. An ornate desk lamp rests beside a brass square holder filled with uniform pens. A single picture surrounded by a simple glass frame occupies the space on the far left corner of the desk, a wrinkled three by five photo of Mama and me in my pink walled bedroom when I was thirteen years old. I find myself staring at the picture far longer than I intended, beginning to travel back in memory, dazed in emotional fog.
Brushing off the sensation, I slip on my coat and grab my purse on the way out of the room, seeing Samantha’s jacket—which she always used to leave behind in my house when she was a patient ten years ago—still draped around the coat stand. As I lock the office door, an odd tingling pricks my thigh and calf muscles. My vision becomes blurry, almost double. I stagger to the outer door, open it, and scarcely step outside before my fingers fumble and release the keys. The sound of clinking metal rattles from the concrete below. I attempt to reach down and retrieve the keys, but my arm feels as if it is struggling against a wave of water. A bizarre, unbalanced sensation swarms over my joints. Each muscle feels plunged into molasses, wobbling in painful slow motion, as if weighed down by lead. I attempt to scream for help, but my mouth remains closed and unresponsive. My eyes grow wide with alarm. Both weightless and immensely heavy, my body teeters, m y knees buckle, and I ungracefully careen backward onto the concrete sidewalk. I lie motionless, sensing terror quicken my heartbeat and restrict my breathing.
Breathe, Cindy, keep breathing. You’re having a panic attack, nothing more. Focus on breathing.
A full minute passes and my limbs lay limp without response.
Just breathe, keep breathing.
Another minute passes. Still nothing.
Someone, please come. Keep breathing, Cindy. Someone has to come.
My consciousness ebbs and I surrender to the mental void.
The memory flash continues propelling me forward, pricking my thoughts with the pull of remembrance.
My eyelids quiver, trying to open themselves. The throbbing in my backside informs me I am lying on a bed of some kind. The joints in my arms and legs pulse with dulling pain. A disturbing calm blankets each nerve. The desire to rest and remain unmoving beckons strongly, but I do not want to sleep for fear I may not awaken again.
“While I was driving home, I realized I had forgotten my jacket, so I turned around to go back to her office.” Samantha’s excitable voice echoes throughout the room. “When I got there, she was on the ground, not moving or speaking.”
“I’m just glad you found her,” Jody Simon’s voice replies with an even higher pitch. I picture Jody’s sparkling blue eyes and fiery red hair, her pretty face frazzled with concern.
Authoritative footsteps enter the room, precise in their cadence and deliberate in their direction.
“Ms. James, can you hear me?” A man’s deep, commanding voice bludgeons my ears. “If you can hear me, open your eyes.”
My brain gives the signal, but my eyelids are defiant.
Concentrate, Cindy. The sooner you open your eyes, the sooner you can leave.
I open my eyelids shakily, overwhelmed by the blinding fluorescent light above. My eyes rove in his direction and detect a tall, bearded black man in an angel-white jacket.
“My name is Dr. Shipper. I’m the neurologist on duty in the hospital right now. Can you follow my finger?”
His slender finger appears in front of my face and he waves it from side to side while my eyes try to track it.
“Good, Ms. James. Can you speak to me?”
My eyes stare at him, desperate to communicate something, anything.
He smiles knowingly. “That’s all right. We’ll get there. The MRI, the CT scan, the spinal tap, and the blood work came back negative. The only logical conclusion we can reach is that you experienced some type of stress disorder reaction. It appears that either the unprocessed accumulation of stress or some unresolved trauma in your mind has caused your body to mimic symptoms of health conditions you do not have. The body is reacting in a physical manner to something psychological. I want you to see a cognitive behavioral therapist.”
The ladies stand speechless. My eyes search his helplessly.
Jody smirks. “She is a cognitive behavioral therapist.”
He smiles supremely, eyeing me with a knowing gleam. “Then I suppose it will be quite an interesting experience for you. I want you to see a friend of mine, Tony Prost. He’s new in town. I’ll schedule an appointment for you and write down his address and phone number on your discharge papers. I don’t want you working for at least a week. Your body should regain strength soon. Once you’re able to speak and walk, you are free to go. I’ll be back to check on you in a little while.”
Without another word, he nods and makes his way out of the room, leaving us bewildered.
The mental flash returns me to the red room floor. I close my eyes and continue grappling with images of the young girl hiding beneath her bed and covering her ears to block out the horrid sounds coming from somewhere else in her house. I reach out and pull Raggedy Ann tightly to myself. I don’t have the heart to tell her that the real agony is about to begin. Something is stirring deep within my memory, and I don’t know how to keep it a secret from myself any longer; this time, it will consume me.
Therapy for Ghosts is available for purchase at:
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