â€œI do not speak as I think, I do not think as I should, and so it all goes on in helpless darkness.â€? -- Franz Katka
Uncomfortably cold as I am, I know that by shifting my forearms further apart on the tabletop my skin would inevitably meet a much colder area of the aluminum table. But I know I keep forgetting this, and I immediately scold myself when I feel its surprising chill… I find it hard to carry complex thoughts and suppositions with me from moment to moment… And even when I am able, I soon notice a headache brewing. And even now I remark on this room, as a stranger to this world… As my eyes never seem to grow accustomed to the dull yet blinding florescent lights. But as the word ‘never’ enters my present thought, I find it holds no weight. No meaning. It is merely a word lodged inexplicably in my presupposed vocabulary. Indeed, I feel detached from its meaning… Betraying it… For it seems that my memory cannot extend to the “before” as it cannot extend to the “soon to be.” But I know that both exist; I have been told… I think. I suppose that just as a blind man cannot fathom sight without being told he lacks it, so I have been told by somebody (I cannot remember who) that the world extends beyond each… individual… instance… of the ticking clock.
Oh yes… The ticking clock. With its aid I understand my dilemma: I am just as unsure if thirty seconds ago somebody left through that door across my table as I can be sure that somebody will walk through it thirty seconds from now. Indeed, the clock goes on to mock me. For how long? I don’t really know. The most assuring glimpse of reality outside my present reference frame (in which my mind is prisoner) is my intellect and reasoning about the future. And here I find myself in abstract thought, outside of my reference frame and time altogether. Despite my unsurity (did I just make that word up?) of the probable events to take place beyond the present, my ever-present and strengthening intellect maintains its ability to predict such outcomes. However, because the oldest instances I remember now involve the second hand more or less thirty ticks opposite its current mark, the only reality that I can predict is that in a short moment, the second hand will move again in the same direction it has. But let me depart now from such dizzying thoughts. I can feel myself fatigue at such ponderings. Perhaps because I have pondered them before? Perhaps I have done so thousands of times today alone! No… Come now. Stop this…Try to relax. Every guess I make is a desperate stabbing in the dark, but with less fear: the dark seems to be all I know. 3:54 it reads. And thanks to a smaller wheel within the clock face, I know it is in post meridiem. Am I frightened? I don’t know… It is hard to understand what you’ve lost when its memory, like a waning candle, has blinked its last. If that candle was the last light you’ll ever know, the darkness embraces you with a similar warmth. And you learn to share in its embrace…
And it continues… The ticking from the clock, that is. And as if its ticking weren’t enough, it is situated right above the door and across from me, staring me down from any angle in the room. But even with my eyes shut, its ticking hits my ears like a woodpecker’s beak. To close one’s eyes is not darkness enough. One has to shut everything out. Everything that could give one their bearing or could guide their course. So close to darkness, they are the stars in the blackest sky; miniscule, but their faint shimmer is all one needs not to feel totally alone… or lost. I cannot grow bored in this room… Even sitting just here at this table. Sure, I can grow uncomfortable, but never bored. It seems my memory’s fragile and short disposition cannot allow for impatience and boredom. I do not even know how long I’ve been sitting here… How could I be upset? Well, I suppose it can feel like a long time since I first sat down. Like I said, I can grow uncomfortable. My buttocks might grow numb until I redistribute my weight to either side, and for a man of my age, this is especially the case. Though my arms might need moving, I do my best not to stray from that same, warm spot on the aluminum table. The table’s aluminum surface yields a sudden chill when I shift my forearms to newer resting places. But sometimes I can welcome the cold; it allows me to appreciate more the warmth of where I’d just been. The chair is also aluminum, but I guess the seat of my pants made sitting on it more comfortable. Starting at the clock, then turning right… I can see my bed, cubbied within the wall with minimal headspace. There was space beneath the bedframe but nothing to with which to fill it. Its thin grey blanket doesn’t add a whole lot of color to the room. Listen to me! I’m being sarcastic… But to be frank, I could spot some blues in its shade of grey that I failed to notice in the tile floor. But then again, it was difficult to consider the floor as grey or any one color because it was very reflective. I would almost say it is white, as it spends most of its time reflecting the blinding fluorescents that line the ceiling from one wall to the next. Like I said, I do not know how long I’ve been here, but it seems the lights must’ve just recently been turned on. I find myself squinting at everything, shutting out as much of the light as possible. Or perhaps they’ve been on for a while, and they are really just that bright? I can see an even brighter light creeping under the door. And that… that’s it. That is all in my room here. Oh! There is a nightstand near the bed with nothing on it. It is an ugly shape. A modern design, no doubt, as it stands in an ‘s’ shape, offering shelves like open limbs to hold anything. But there is nothing to put there. It’s made of plastic, I think. And its whiteness is even more aggravating than the blanket’s color. Couldn’t they easily have made it a wooden nightstand? --
“Thirty-seven seconds, Mr. Lyle,” says the woman across the table, and I must admit her words catch me in waking from a temporary absence of deliberate thought: a daydream, as it were. And as I prepare my response I see the clock reads 2:24 p.m. “I’m sorry, miss. Thirty-seven seconds until what?” I say as I shift my forearms, now meeting the much colder surface of a table made of what I can only guess is aluminum. “And you call me ‘Lyle’?” “I was talking about your short term memory, Mr. Lyle. It seems to have developed to a thirty-seven second capacity. This is good, Mr. Lyle. And I must sincerely apologize about the name… You should, by now… or have a sheet of paper with all your personal information stated.” The woman had said this with an oppressing lifelessness. And as she slowly cocks her head from one side to another, she continues: “That way you always know.” And now that she is finished speaking, I feel my only choice is to agree with her. With a single nod, I approve with her suggestions (far better informed than my own) while also displaying a hint at my inner fear and unsurity (I think that is a word). And now I can see that she takes this fear in my nodding into her notes: an immaculately ordered stack of paper. Taking a leaf from this stack, she confirms its blankness and hands it to me. “Do you remember how to write, Mr. Lyle?” She says, showing remarkable curiosity for my answer; her pen is ready, waiting to press down onto her notepad to form the first character. “I am not sure, Miss….?” “Haddock,” and as she repeats… “Doctor Haddock,” she leans forward and writes that name on my paper along with a time stamp of 2:15 p.m.. “So we’ve been talking for close to ten minutes, Doctor Haddock?” “Yes, Mr. Lyle.” “And have I already asked for your name?” I ask. “A few times, yes. And that is why we really need to write these things down for your reference. It might help your memory along. But anyway… Yes I should think you remember how to write. You used to be a philosophy professor, Mr. Lyle. Though I’m sure you cannot remember that. That is where you acquired your remarkable vocabulary.” Her voice is ringing with heartfelt sympathy, however her body language and limited mouth animation makes her words seem strangely sadistic. “And am I just going to sit here until my memory gradually improves?” I ask. “Well, no. We already tried that, close to three years ago with no luck to speak for. No, we now have you on a daily dose of an experimental drug trial.” She nods as she says this, as if assuring me, “we have you taken care of, Mr. Lyle.”
I stand now in a gymnasium. It seems my eyes never grow accustomed to its blinding florescent lights. They glow from frosted, rectangular tiles in the ceiling. And I stand and watch others, men and women dressed like me, moving about and exerting energy. Warmth fills the room as if all these people are fumbling in the dark after a waning candle blinks its last… This darkness, with all these lost souls grasping in unison at truth in the unknown, encompassed and unified humanity… And it is the warmth of this darkness that I consider now… despite the blinding lights of this gymnasium. But isn’t blindness just like darkness? Hmm… Maybe. But then blindness (and its correlation to ignorance) would bring warmth to a man’s soul…? How would he… how would he have any way of being sure? I mean, can a blind man fathom sight without being told he lacks it? I feel like I’ve been told by somebody (I cannot remember who) that the world extends in a similar way beyond each, individual instance of the ticking clock… What?
Wait! What? I cannot remember what I was just thinking about. Damnit! No! Wait, I think it was about darkness? “Hey, Gary!” I hear over my left shoulder and turn to greet the rest of the sentence. “Yo! How ya doin’, Gary?” And I surprise myself at allowing someone I do not know to call me a name I do not recognize. Gary… My name is… Gary. “Hey, sport…” I act chummy, but I have no clue who this person is. And I find nothing in my brain to say, except for, “These lights are really bright, huh?” “You don’t remember me? No, Gary. It’s totally okay. I used to be in the same place as you.” And here I stand struggling to hear this man, with dribbling basketballs like a stampede echoing against the white concrete walls. Which over his droll ramblings, I assume he is reminding me the details about himself that I had without a doubt already been told. Here he is: about to finish his sentence “…So I have to tell you something,” he says leaning in and talking over my shoulder. “I’m smiling at you, Gary,” and I turn slightly to find this true, “but I’ve been here for at least two years. You know how I know? My memory’s been working for that long. Yeah, but I’m just fooling them… Behind you there are the head psychiatrists: Haddock and Parsons. Trust me, something fucked up is going on here. Like, military grade shit, I’m telling you. And I think I’m getting to the bottom of it.” “What are you talking about?” I ask him exhausted. “Gary… Do you feel safe in this hospital?” His facial expression changes to one of horror. “Gary. This isn’t a hospital.” “I think you’ve gone too far--. Who are you?” “Saul. I’ve told you this a billion times, but it’s okay. I understand. But listen to me: you need to get out of here, Gary.” “Sorry, Saul but I’m going to forget everything you’re saying in a few seconds anyway, so why don’t you just move along.” “I know. I know! But remember this one thing! You must remember the time 9:43 p.m.. Just remember it and make sure you are awake!” After he says this, feel him slip a scrap of paper in my pocket. What’s this? There is already a folded piece of paper in that pocket. Unfolding it, I find written on it “My name is Gary Lyle” and “Dr. Haddock, 2:15 p.m..” And the new scrap reads, “Be awake at 9:43 p.m. – Saul.”
“Yes, you’ve asked me that before… many times. And it’s Doctor Parsons, Mr. Lyle. Jared Parsons. It’s no trouble at all so don’t you worry about it.” “I’m sorry,” I say, sitting up from my bed, “but you really should have knocked.” I realize now that I could’ve just lied in bed pretending to be asleep, as I really am not in the mood for visitors, but my upright posture is already realized and was made possible by the sudden surprise of Parsons’ entrance. I find my reading glasses on a short plastic table beside my bed, and, putting them on, I find Parsons already seated before an aluminum table with his hand stretched out inviting me to sit across from him. And I oblige. “More treatments today? I must say I--“ I am suddenly surprised by the cold surface of the table on my forearms. I continue… “I must say that I think I have been getting better.” The clock reads 11:32 ante meridiem. “Why, yes, Mr. Lyle. I’d have to agree. It seems your memory extends at least beyond forty seconds.” Parsons takes this opportunity to flip to a specific page in his notes. “Now, I have here that you’re still having trouble with your name. Is that true?” “As of recently, yes. But it seems to be coming along.” I am surprised I just said that and with such a cheerful smile. After all, I even now find within myself a visceral instinct to disregard everything Parsons is saying as lies. He gives me the creeps. Perhaps it is his snaggletooth with its unsightly yellow peeking out from his thin, grey lips. Admittedly, he may be my same age, but he clearly tries harder to hold those wrinkles at bay. Those wrinkles at bay…
“Those wrinkles at bay.” “I’m sorry, Mr. Lyle?” says Parsons. And I don’t feel embarrassed. I feel angry. Despite my broken memory, I recognize this anger at losing track as if it were déjà vu. And déjà vu is always something that both fascinates me and greatly annoys me simultaneously. “I… I don’t remember,” I say, “but I feel… something else.” I feel weird, as if I have just awoken from a long sleep just to find out that I missed my flight to Austin for an unmissable business conference. I felt a wave of realization: like I had miss-stepped onto a branch of reality for which I could never be prepared. And it comes to me now as I speak to Parsons… The slow birth of a stale memory. I spoke: “There was a light still on. From the garage. It’s not supposed to be on, and I looked at my brother Liam. ‘It’s done,’ he said ‘We can’t go anymore.’ We were only ten. Twins. We were really close. I remember the breeze on our faces, leaning out the bedroom window. You know, when the autumn settles in and that weird smell fills the air. That smell. It never gets old, does it? It makes the chill more than worth your while. This smell, carried by breezes whipping around the siding of our house… Around each corner. Anyway, I convinced him to go, and we climbed down off the garage roof by our window. The trick was getting to the barn without being heard or spotted from our parents’ bedroom window which faced the field. Though we knew those nights when dad was up drinking we would most likely be caught, depending what we farmed, it was possible. Well this particular night, it was soy, but just high enough to crawl through invisibly. I could feel those leaves brushing against my face as we crawled on our bellies to the barn’s silhouette on the hill.” And here I notice Parsons’ silence. So I continued… “I had to grab the tire leaning up against the side and stand on it to unlatch the door; it was so vast and heavy as Liam helped me pull it open. A screech let out from the rail the door skated upon, and as it did, a great yawn bellowed out from the annals of the shadowed interior. And a warm breath of hay and horse shit assailed our nostrils. And we stood there a few seconds, both taking it in and fearing the shadows, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the darkness.” And here, even in this well-lit room, I can almost feel that engulfing black, wrapping its arms around anything it is given license to. “But just then,” I continue, “our own silhouettes, etched in that same blackness grew stark from a dawn of light behind us. And I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach and the terror that blew up inside my head as the light scathed our skin.” And that is all I recall, but I now am filled up with this memory. And it endures even now. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------
“Is that the end, Mr. Lyle?” And I do not know what he’s referring to. But as I ponder this, I am stumbling onto a familiar image. And I tell him: “I remember the garage light was still on, and my brother Liam was afraid we’d get caught.” And here, the man before me interrupts. “And your parents’ bedroom window was facing the field?” I nod as he says this rightly. But how? “Mr. Lyle, you just told me this memory just one minute ago. But that is alright. This is the first memory you’ve been able to recover on your own. And that means we’re making progress. It seems we’re hitting the right dosage. With just a slight increase we’ll see how you fare tomorrow.” The man stands up and gathers his papers. “Where does the light come from?” I say watching carefully at the slightest response from the man. “I’m sorry Mr. Lyle. It seems you didn’t tell me that. Do you remember?” he says. “No… I do not. Nor do I remember your name mister…?” “Doctor. Doctor Parsons.” And he now speeds to remove himself from the room. But another thought jumps to me now. As I look directly up into the blinding fluorescent lights above my head, my eyes are dazzled and I address him. “Have I told you anything about alien abduction, doctor?” And as my sentence ends, Parsons is visibly affected by the question, looming darkly in the doorway. And a disturbing pause fills the small room. Then, through the narrowest space between his shriveled grey lips, come these words: “I’ll have to check my notes and get back to you, Mr. Lyle.” And I hear the door’s electronic lock click behind him…
“Mr. Lyle, I regret to say that I will have to take back that piece of paper I gave you last week.” She says this as I hold it over the table and read her name. Dr. Haddock. “Why? I thought this was supposed to help me,” I ask as I hand it to her. Receiving it in here pale hands, she immediately examines the writing on it, looking for something… She flips it over and examines the back. “It seems that one of our patients is growing paranoid and making the other patients uneasy. Writing things down on scraps of paper and passing them out. We’ve had to take a firm stand with him. We cannot have a variable like that disturbing the wonderful progress of the other patients. You understand?” It is apparent that there is nothing she deems unusual about the sheet of paper. But now I feel in my pocket a smaller scrap. I leave it there. “I understand.” I say and divert attention from my pocket. “I am so sorry about this. But it seems you are having no trouble remembering your own name lately. So we’ll just find other ways to help your memory recover.” She stands up now and wishes me a good day, exiting. And the electronic lock on the door clicks behind her.
I have been sitting in my room with this scrap of paper in my hand for a while. But how can I be sure…. Ah… there… the spot on my bed where I have been sitting bears a heavily wrinkled patch of blanket. “Be awake at 9:43 p.m. – Saul.” What does it mean? I’m sure I must’ve met Saul, but I cannot remember when. Well, I am awake… and the clock reads 9:43 p.m. As I wait…. Now I feel a low rumble from the bed and, indeed, the whole room. I watch as the second hand makes its way to the 12… And when it does, it stops suddenly. What’s that!? Over there!? A soft ‘click’ from the door. Did it just unlock? The bright stream of light beneath it flickers, and it seems there has been some sort of electrical glitch. That click! Was it the lock? Jumping up, I rush to the door and turn the handle. And from the vertical crack, another stream of flickering hallway light pours forth as the door opens… I listen cautiously… waiting… Surely I am not supposed to leave my room. But sure enough, Saul is on to something… As I creep through the doorway, the flickering lights strobe down what seems to be an endless hallway extending to my right and left. The sight is quite unnerving… I fear someone may see that I have escaped my chamber. So I run… I sprint barefoot on the cold, white floor down the hallway on my right. I am careful not to slip on its unusually smooth surface. I run past many rooms on my right and my left with doors that look just like mine. Yet mine is the only one open now… Though I try to keep running, those times in the gym wasted on abstract thought has left me grossly out of shape and out of breath. But I feel something powerful, urging me on… down this haunting corridor. I feel another rumbling below as my feet smack the floor with each desperate stride. Now a corner, an end to this hallway is visible in the distance, lit by a deep red light. Slowing down, the patter of my feet dissipate as I approach the corner with tremendous stealth. My heart is racing. God, how it is racing! I can feel the blood in my veins pumping… and now I’m growing nauseous. I try to slow my breathing as I peak my head around the corner, praying there isn’t anything there to find me… Nothing… Just a large metal blast door. What? And a control pad on the wall beside it. I waste no time. I don’t know how long this electrical failure will continue, but I expect the door should open easy enough. Trying the control pad, I mash a green button. And with a scrape and a deafening boom, a space just wide enough to squeeze through appears.
What is this? A half-opened door? Oh yes! I’ve escaped my room. But how? And how far away am I? Stop! Now’s not the time to think about that! Go on! Squeeze through the doorway. But as I am halfway, I stop. It is so dark inside and I wait for my eyes to adjust to any light inside that could put my fears at ease. Waiting… waiting… as silly as it seems to stand in the doorway of such a heavy electric door that could close any second, the darkness inside frightens me more. Much more… But what’s this? The soft glow of a computer panel not ten meters away… That is enough for me. I squeeze completely past to door and walk quickly in the darkness to the panel. As I approach, I notice strange markings by the buttons. It seems to be some sort of strange language with sharp edges and heavy lines. Which to push? I must push one! But how would I choose, each button looks as menacing as the last… But wait. There! This one is marked with a symbol. An open eyeball. Simple and neatly illustrated on the buttons golden surface. So… I press it… slowly with even force… And my heart almost stops as sounds all around me boom out in a mechanical chorus. A machine in labor, as light is born from cracks around me that had been invisible. Where am I? And I hear familiar words echo in my memory: “Gary. This isn’t a hospital.” The cracks of light widen, revealing large windows looking out into… Something… Something dark, but somehow brighter than this room it looks into. And I begin feeling at ease as I make out the twinkling of thousands of stars outside the window. I think this may be the first time I have ever seen the sky. At least… I cannot remember… And the metal plates that were blinding the windows are now collapsing down beneath the floor. Now… My awe at the beautiful stars is eclipsed. Because now I look just below their shine at the face of… earth. Here I am, looking out over such a horrifying sight. No… This is not a hospital. And I feel something pass over me… a sickening peril. All the light that creeps from the vast expanse outside these giant panoramic windows betray me. I hunger for the darkness once more… the thing that had so recently scared me senseless. Now it is all I could count on. I am lost. I am so lost… And the nausea in my gut is reaching a climax, and from my gaping mouth spews a tremendous volume of vomit. I have to get out! Recovering the strength in my core, I jump up and retreat back through the broken doorway. And as I scramble down the hallway in a terrific sprint, I notice tears streaming down my face. I am a complete mess… I can’t! I… I can’t… Where am I… What is this place!!! These thoughts scream in my head… But soon I am comforted slightly by a return to my open door and the darkness within.
“Mr. Lyle. You seem agitated this morning. Are you feeling alright?” Parsons says from across the table. Its seems that despite my best efforts not to appear shaken up from the memories of last night (unsure of how they still endure), my body language raises his suspicions. “I didn’t get much sleep last night.” And here I decide to fish for a response from Parsons. “Yes. I think something woke me up. Like the room was shaking.” Ah ha! I can see it in his face! His sudden unease. But then, still without having looked at me, his eyes squint slightly as a grin pulls his lips back ever so subtly. “Oh? Do you frequently feel the room shaking at night?” Parsons keeps his eyes fixed on his clipboard as he scribbles away. “Nope,” and I watch, waiting for him to look up at me. “Just last night.” But he doesn’t look up… “Well, perhaps it was an earthquake.” And the irony of this statement almost makes me laugh out loud. Yes. I suppose that would be so if we were on earth… Wait… How do I remember that? It’s becoming easier to recall… But then I remember his strange response to my question concerning alien abduction. And my thoughts lead to a dark and disturbing place. Am I… Have I been… Abducted? Is that where I am right now? It must be! And this thought shocked me so much I nearly said it out loud. No! It’s ridiculous! But then again… I saw it with my own eyes! And now I know, not absolutely, but with enough conviction, that I have to escape! I have to find answers… no matter how dangerous such an expenditure might be. The florescent lights above buzz on as if nothing had happened. But something had. Everything had. And the buzz drones on… and on….
“Gary, Dr. Parsons said you were irritated by something during his last visit.” The woman across the table (Dr. Haddle? Dr. Harold?), surprises me with what appears to be an expression of genuine motherly concern. “Gary, is everything alright?” Now I’m thinking… just for a moment. But I cannot be silent for much longer… I fear they already suspect my recent escapade. But for the life of me I cannot think of a response to misdirect her. But then… the words came to me… and I began speaking without knowing where they’d take me. “I think I remember… Wait, what was it? What… what was her name? I… I can’t recall… But her hair… It kept flying up off her shoulders all around her… In across her face. There we sat… with the wind whipping around us. It was from the highway. There was a highway light… high above and behind her. I remember it shed a glow around her head. But her face was dark… right in front of my own. And as the cars passed by the turn, their headlights zipped across my face and the back of her head. We were sitting… we were sitting in… I think… a hay field. We were on top of a haystack… Just staring at each other for some reason. I don’t remember. Something had just happened. And it was freezing out… My teeth were chattering, and she tried to quiet them by placing her palm over my mouth and adolescent facial hair. Dammit… I thought it was such a nice beard… but it probably looked like shit. Huh… But there were those seconds, when there were no cars passing… when neither of us could really see each other. But we sat there… even in the cold… we were warm just knowing we were sitting together on that haystack. It was all we needed…” Now I’ve run out of words. As if the memory were spent with nothing left to say or consider. And as vivid as this memory presented itself to me… I felt like it wasn’t truly mine. And it remained there… Incomplete. Like when you fit all the puzzle pieces together only to find some had been missing from the start. But it’s the best you can do… as complete as it can be… I could not even remember her name. And in this pause, I looked up and saw that, purely on accident, I had successfully misdirected the Haddock. That’s it… Doctor Haddock. “Well… Gary… Our session is just about over here… But I think I’ll leave you the rest of this time to reflect. It sounds like you need some time alone.” And though I found some comfort in her tone… I couldn’t shake the high probability that she and the other doctor posed a tremendous threat to my recovery.
Here I am, again in the dark. Watching the clock… 9:41 p.m. Though I highly doubt such an electrical fluke could happen again, I have to make an attempt to escape. How did I get here? How… Perhaps they are planning to experiment on me. Or maybe they have already done so! There are no markings on my body. With the aid of the hallway lights shining under the door, I examine my hands for any signs of scars. I scour their surface but find nothing. And these wrinkles that have come with the years… My own mortality… I must not fail in my mission… My mission to escape. Or at least die trying. A second look confirms no scars on my hands… That’s peculiar… Shouldn’t something be there? Somewhere… Nothing. Perhaps they’ve removed them… or literally erased not only my memories, but also any physical evidence of them. Or could I be a clone? A lab rat for their experimentation? Now I can feel the rumbling beneath me once again. With the flicker of lights outside, the whole room shakes violently now and I wait for the sound… the sound of the lock to click… The sound that could change my fate… The sound that could save my life… Ah! There it is! Much louder than I remembered, though I was anxiously awaiting it. And I jump up from the bed and bolt without hesitation out into the flickering hallway. This time, I take the hallway left and immediately break into a desperate sprint. Glancing as I pass at the small nameplates on the many doors, I find that same writing that seemed foreign to me on the observation deck. It must be their language. And as I fix my eyes on the darkened end of this long hallway, I run with everything in me. My feet pattering loudly on the cold floor. But now something compels me to stop at one particular door on my right. And looking at the nameplate, I feel I can almost read it. Or that it is somehow familiar to me. It’s Saul’s room. I slowly open the heavy door and the flickering lights follow my gaze into the pitch black room, casting my shadow on a layout identical to my own room. And there, I can just barely see, a figure lying on the bed. Approaching, I can make out Saul’s face, with eyes wide open staring blankly upwards. He’s shivering with teeth clenched and blood pouring out of his nostrils. “Saul… SAUL!” I scream, but he doesn’t seem awake. Then, after a terrible pause, his gruesome face turned towards mine and he spoke… spitting blood through his fixed grimace. “Gary. It’s you! Gary… They’ve blinded me.” And as he says this, I look down at his body to find him strapped taught to the bedframe, his wrists and ankles bleeding from the tension. “They’ve blinded me, Gary. But it’s alright. I’m going to die…”
Suddenly, I hear heavy footsteps like a stampede down the hallway towards the room. And I can feel my stomach drop as dread fills me up. I am trapped here… Is this where I am to face my death? “Gary. Hide beneath the bed. You must escape. You are our only hope. You must live! Cover your eyes!” And I have to obey. In a flash I swing myself beneath the bedframe and shuffle as far back towards the wall as I can. And just when I reach the wall, a group of feet enter the room and slowly approach the bed. I am surely dead now! And though I remain silenced by fear, I know I’m likely to be found. I should not have come here. “Why is your door open?” says one of the voices in a terribly low pitch. “He’s trying to escape!” says another. And now I hear from the other side of the mattress Saul’s waning voice. “Go fuck yourself, alien shit.” And immediately following comes the sound of Saul’s skull being beaten in with disturbing crunches and cracks. With each swing of their fists, his bones are being pulverized like an eggshell someone had stepped on. The mattress shook violently, its springs squealing… No!! I cannot scream, and I silence myself by biting ferociously down on my arm. They are still swinging! Their fists continue to crash down on him… over and over again. And feeling something warm and dark creep down the wall and onto my ear, I know it to be his blood. I cannot look back… Or even wipe it from my ear. I cannot move. Now… they’ve stopped. And as I wait a little longer, I can hear their footsteps leaving the room and continuing down the hallway. Unable to lie here any longer, I scramble out from under the bed. And though I know the sight will only be disturbing, I stare back at the remains of Saul in shadows on the bed. I can hear a faint trickling of blood as it continues to gush forth. And here again, I find my eyes filled with tears… I am unable to contain myself. And something compels me, I do not know what, to outstretch my hand and to make contact with his crushed face. Upon its touch, the warmth of his blood… Reignites my courage. I must push onward.
I can still hear their footsteps dissipating in the same direction down the hallway to which I had previously committed. And I walk quickly after them in the flickering lights. Though the darkness ahead obscures their figures, I can still hear the squeak of their shoes on the smooth floor. But now… they’ve stopped. And taking a few more steps forward, I stop with them… waiting for a sound. I hear a large metal door open with a loud whoosh and I break into a trot to catch up with them. But when, at last, I see the large door in the distance, it closes behind them. But what are these? On the walls… Wide panes of tinted glass. And I can see movement behind them. I am quick to press my face up against the glass with my hands cupped over my eyes. There they are… joining the others. A group of them lying down, naked into pods. A green light shimmers out from under them as they appear to fall asleep… And looking left and right, I can see the other doctors in pods as they lie deep in slumber. Perhaps this is what has caused the electrical failures. But I cannot be sure. In fact, I should not stay here any longer. There must be a way out. There must be some kind of escape shuttle. I have no idea how I might escape… but I know I must try. And I am only endangering my escape by staying here. “Gary. Good evening.” I hear behind me, and the voice startles me into a brief yelp. “You shouldn’t be out of bed, Gary.” And turning around, my eyes meet those of Dr. Parsons and Dr. Haddock about twenty meters down the hallway behind me. In a frenzy, I bolt in the opposite direction, further down the corridor. And I can hear them running after me in pursuit. I have to stop! If only for a second. And as I clutch my chest, I can feel my heart beating, ready to burst out of my chest! But I push on, somehow faster than they could chase me. Meeting a hallway intersection. I take a left and follow the way into an ominous blue glow of lights. As I run towards what only appears to be pitch black, I nearly collide into another large metal door… A dead end. But here… There is no control panel! No way to open it! And I can hear the footsteps of Parsons and Haddock stopping and turning at the intersection fifty meters behind me. Come on Gary! Shit! Shit! Shit! I frantically paw at the door, looking for a way to pry it open. My fingers, finding a narrow crevice, dig in, and with all my strength I try to open it. What at first I had admitted to be physically impossible surprises me now as the door opens. With just enough space to squeeze inside, I rush in and pull it closed. There is a faint light inside just above the doorway, and I use it to look around for a way to block the door. Here is a metal beam. Wedging it carefully into the door jam, I have succeeded. I can hear the doctors reach to door and bang on it with inhuman force, but it does not budge.
Turning around now, I am surrounded by pitch black. Though I can feel a presence in the room. A presence… familiar to me. Here… in this darkness… a memory finds me. A child. I was only a child. Maybe twelve years old. I shut the wooden door behind me and knelt down on the dirt floor in the garden shed. “Here boy,” I called to him in the calmest of tones. Though as I held my hand out into the darkness of the shed, my eyes filled with tears, and my sobbing was uncontrollable. And I heard from the house, the drunken screams of my father. “Deal with that fucking dog you little shit!!” And though they tried, my mother’s own screams of horror could not overpower him. They were faint, and so sad as they echoed out the frosty windows and met my ears in the darkness of the shed. My face was contorted in a gruesome expression as my beckons trembled in my throat like a viola string ready to snap. “Here boy…” And my outstretched hands shook… I reached up for the cord and pulled, but the light bulb had burned out long before. And I suppose I expected there wouldn’t be any light. But then I heard him, my childhood dog panting and crawling towards me. And I waited… for his matted fur to meet my shaking fingers. I could hear him limp towards me. Already so close to death… his pelvis must’ve been kicked so many times… all the bones were shattered. And my heart filled up with such tremendous hate for my father when I heard whimpering. And there… his fur touched my hands and I cried even harder. I could feel the leather of his collar as I grasped his neck and firmly squeezed… but he yelped and escaped my hold, biting me deep in my hand. I screamed and felt the blood flowing out. But I regained my grip around his neck and squeezed as hard as I could, wailing in tears and lamentations. In that darkness I could only feel… I could only remember the warmth of his body, and the chords and muscles taught and throbbing through my palms. He could not yelp or whimper anymore, and my body shook with him in my lap as he kicked and flailed. But soon… all was finished. And I could feel his body start to grow slowly colder, as I slept there that night with his body next to mine… keeping him warm as long as I could. And now… in this pitch black room… I can hear Parsons and Haddock continue to bang on the door trying to enter. Here, by the light above my head, I look down at my hand and can still not find those scars from his bite. And I feel now more alone than I had ever thought possible.
I step forward into the darkness. One step at a time. Further and further. And now… I hear a switch. One I must’ve triggered… as the room around me is illuminated by a series of lights awakening from slumber. And here… the greatest horror met my eyes… thousands of large glass tanks, with bodies suspended… being kept alive. And I recognize two… The first is Saul. Fully in tact with scars all over his arms, and tubes and chords stretching out like rays from hundreds of places on his naked body. A clone of him. And there was another… My own body suspended in front of me in a glass tank. Many years younger than my own… this body also has scars all over it. And the one particular scar that forces me now to fall to my knees in agony, is on his hand. A bite mark. His bite mark. Not mine. And in this instant, it is apparent to me how I could possibly pry open the heavy door behind me… with the same strength behind the blows to Saul’s pulverized face. And the familiar letters that led me to believe Saul would be in that room… Here was Gary Lyle… harvested for memories that I would inevitably consume. And when I had taken this man’s past… his defining moments… would I then be sent to take his place? To await further instructions… It is my purpose. But how could I do that now? As the pounding against the door behind me grew louder… I knew what had to be done… I found a control panel beside his tank and pressed the button marked by that language that was no longer foreign to me. And with a sharp hiss, the fluid drained out from vents in the base of the tank, releasing him from his suspension. And the glass parted… And as he awoke… his face met mine… now sobbing with sorrow for our collided fates.
I am awake. With my knees wet in the snow… I push myself up to stand on my feet. As I do so, my gloves press a few inches into the snow. I am bewildered… unable to recall how I arrived here. And though I hate the feel of gloves on my hands… I need their warmth right now… uncomfortably cold as I am.
Published on Jan 6, 2014
An elderly man, following a mental break, recovers from amnesia in a psych ward. As his memory returns, he begins to suspect a conspiracy be...