"So, it's been a week. Did you try what we talked about?"
"What was that pause?"
"I tried it, but maybe not... as long as we discussed."
"Okay. We agreed on five minutes. How long did you stay on the roof?"
"I wasn't technically on the roof."
"I stood at the door of the stairwell. And it was more like thirty seconds."
"I tried. I should get points for trying. I mean, you're trying to help me, and I'm still paying you the full amount. So I think that proves that trying counts."
"Okay. Let's just back up and forget about going onto your building's roof. Let's focus on the reason you're here in the first place. You want to get over this fear of heights, correct?"
"Of course I do."
"Why? I'm a thirty-one year old woman who gets freaked out at work because my office is on the third floor, and we have a few too many windows. And then there's the new development..."
"Let's talk about that. This 'new development' as you call it. That's the reason you decided to seek therapy, right?"
"Well. Yeah. I mean, it seems unfair."
"Some madman at the army base puts all their top-secret super soldier experiments into the town water supply and, a month later, people start getting amazing abilities. You know, there's a guy at my work who got the ability to clone himself? Yeah, he doesn't even come into work anymore. He just sends one of his copies."
"So you're jealous of the abilities other people have acquired, while you--"
"Yeah. I can't wear high heels above a certain length, but now I can fly."
"This should be a life-saver for you."
"Well, no matter how high you are, you can't possibly fall. You can just catch yourself and zip around and then land safely wherever you want."
"You don't understand what it's like. It's not some magical, Christopher Reeve in front of a green screen ballet. It feels like I'm falling. Constantly. At least when I fell there would be an eventual stop. But the flying means I can just fall forever. How'd you like to fall into a bottomless pit, Dr. Murray?"
"It's terrifying. And sometimes it happens while I'm asleep. I'll wake up and my blankets will be draped over me like a cape, and I'll roll over, and I'll see my bed two feet below me. It's like a nightmare, but the screaming would wake me up if I was. And then I'm stuck."
"Hovering. Going back down feels like falling so I can't do that. So I just wrap my blankets around me and drift around my room until I fall back asleep or pass out from the stress. It has... not... been... restful."
"I can imagine."
"No. You can't imagine. Just like I can't imagine how Wally feels when he's in the shower and turns around to see there's another one of him using the shampoo."
"...they shower together?"
"I don't know... I'm just... I don't know what to do. I want to get better. I want to be able to use my ability to--"
"I don't know. Save on gas? I can fly now! I feel like I should be using that for something more than just scaring myself to death. The whole Peter Parker 'great power' thing. It's wasteful."
"Well, not everyone gained powers after the incident... and I'm sure there are a great many other people who gained powers and are keeping them quiet."
"Are you treating anyone like that?"
"...discuss your other patients."
"Right. But just because you have this ability doesn't mean you're meant to become some superhuman savior. Maybe it's just a gift that was given to help you cope with your own problems. Maybe the only person you're supposed to save is yourself."
"Great. What kind of costume should I wear as Selfish Girl?"
"I'm being serious, Connie. Look at my hands... do you see little dots of color? Are we inside nine squares on a comic book page? No. This isn't a comic book just because a few people have started putting on costumes and fighting bad guys. This is still real life. It's honorable that you want to overcome your fear of heights so you can use your power to help people. But maybe that's the reason your fear has become so crippling lately. You think that if you succeed, you'll have responsibility to do something with it."
"We're back to Selfish Girl."
"No, we're not. I didn't get any powers from the incident, but even if I did, I'd feel wary about going out to fight some of the criminals who have popped up recently. That's not selfishness, that's self-preservation. Outside of flight, you're still the same woman you were a few months back. Did you see the news last night?"
"A guy robbed a jewelry store by turning the employees into diamonds. The doctors say they might recover, but there's no guarantee. I don't care what my hypothetical power is, I'm going to hesitate about going after someone like that. And how would flight be an effective weapon against someone who could change you into a diamond. You should stop looking at the power as a tool to help others and look at it as a way to help yourself. Can you promise me you'll try to do that?"
"I suppose I can try."
"Good. And one more thing you can try, to get over the sensation of constantly falling... don't think of yourself as moving through the air. Imagine you're floating in the water, and you're so buoyant that you'll never drown. You can decide how high or how low you want to go. It's all in your hands. Will you promise me you'll try to go onto the roof again before our next session?"
"Excellent. I'm afraid our time for this week is up. See you again next Wednesday?"
"Sure. Thank you, Dr. Murray."
Dr. Murray let the office door close behind him and tugged on the handle to make sure it was locked before he walked to the stairs. He put on his hat and coat as he descended. Outside it was the gloaming, that wonderful and all too brief time of day after sunset but before dark when the world seemed to be lit from behind a multi-colored sheet. He fumbled with his keys as he crossed the nearly empty parking lot to his car.
His attention was drawn upward by the sound of someone shrieking. He recognized his patient by the clothing she had worn to their last session, but she was moving too fast for him to make out her features. She was falling head-first toward the parking lot, and his heart seized in his chest as his muscles froze.
Ten feet from the pavement, Connie changed her angle and shot back up into the sky. She corkscrewed, straightened out, and then pushed off toward the west much faster than he would have believed. Her shriek faded as she disappeared over a copse of trees.
Dr. Murray adjusted his glasses with his pinky and smiled.
"Progress," he whispered.
They would have a lot to talk about at their next session.