Reality or nightmare?
“They’re killing him!”.
“Shh, you’ll wake him!”.
“We haven’t even found the memories we need yet, maybe we should pull the plug?”.
“We’ve found a way to accelerate the process, we just need him to hang on a little while longer”
I’m an old man, my life is done, I’ve ruined everything, the end of the world is near. Regret, bitter tears, hatred, shame, pain, fear.
I’m a young man, my whole life ahead of me, whole career ahead of me, I’m apprehensive, excited, I can’t wait to see what the future brings.
I’m 95, barely alive, kept here by machines.
I’m 25, bursting with energy, invigorated, full of life.
Raymond woke up with his head spinning, sick and confused, he promptly threw up into the tin wash basin thoughtfully provided for him. Confused he looked around the room he was in and didn’t recognise a thing. The bed he lay in was rumpled from his disturbed sleep, he tried to find an image of this bed in his memory but the plain cream sheets were non descript, he could be anywhere. The room around him was just as bland, the walls and wooden floor boards were bare, there was a dresser and a small free standing cupboard along one wall, nothing personal of any kind was on display, no photos, no art… The room was empty and cold.
Heart pounding, mouth dry and shaking, he slipped out of the warm bed, noticed he was dressed only in his underpants and socks and tiptoed to the shaded window. ‘Where the hell am I?’ he thought to himself, trying very hard not to give in to the fear making his bladder loosen and his knees weak. Outside of the small window, he vaguely recognised the buildings from Eclipse Gardens that he had arrived at… yesterday? Was it just yesterday they had arrived? He struggled to remember what had happened to him, why he was here? He remembered the journey, holding Marge’s hand in the back seat while he looked over the small city of the base… He remembered the bad feelings he got and the sinister impression Dr Foster was giving him. The ocean of emotions came back over him and threatened to drag him back under the sloshing tide.
“Marge!” he called, turning, desperately seeking an anchor to keep him here.
“What’s wrong dear?” Marge questioned with evident anxiety as she rushed into the room. Raymond thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, her hair still in rollers, lipstick half applied, her untucked blouse pulled tight over her swollen abdomen. Raymond rushed to his wife and hugged her as close to him as he could.
“I just, I don’t know, I had a bad dream and I was a little confused… what happened yesterday?” He said, voice muffled against the crook of her neck.
“Yesterday?” she questioned, pulling back to search his eyes, “nothing happened yesterday dear, are you feeling okay? Did you have another episode?”
“Muuuum” a clear, high pitched voice interrupted from the mysteries beyond the bedroom door.
Mum? Raymond thought, lost and confused. It must be the neighbours kid calling, he tried to rationalise to himself, despite the sound of small thudding footsteps fast approaching the room.
In ran a toddler tornado, a miniature Marge, brown, curly hair flying out behind her, jam smeared on her chin, chubby arms reaching for his hand. Amelia… The touch of her sticky hand in his sent a shiver through him with a flash of memories. They’d been living at Eclipse Gardens for nearly two years, baby Amelia was coming up to her second birthday, Marge was carrying their second child… He remembered the work he had been doing for Dr Foster, he remembered…
“I’m sick, aren’t I?” He asked Marge with a tremor in his voice.
“Oh, dear, you have had another episode haven’t you, let me clean up this madam and put a pot of tea on and you can tell me all about it.
Later on that morning, Raymond sat, washed and dressed in a comfortable loveseat in the neutrally decorated living room of his rental house on the base. In his shaking hands he clutched at a steaming mug of tea with a decent glug of brandy in it. The fragrant stream wafted around his face and helped clear his head.
“The episodes are getting worse” he confined to the man sitting in the armchair opposite him.
“Same symptoms? Intense emotions, hallucinations, blackouts and temporary memory loss?” The doctor asked with evident concern, not Dr Foster, although Raymond had confided in him, this was a neuro-specialist who had moved here just to take care of him. Dr Arthur Maskell, was currently the world leader in anything brain related, his research was groundbreaking, using a technique called angiography, he was able to view the blood vessels in the brain, and monitor which parts were being used before and after his episodes. They hadn’t yet been able to capture the episode themselves.
“That’s right… This one, I have a feeling it was worse than ever, when I woke up… well for a few minutes there, I couldn’t remember the last two years, I felt as though I had just come here yesterday.”
“I can see you’re quite shaken up, if you want to pop by my office later, we’ll have a look and see what’s happening”
“Sure thing, thanks Doc, I just have to swing by the lab first, we’re doing an experiment today on the rats, we’ve removed certain genes and want to see how they behave under different conditions, it’s our best lead yet.”
“Sounds wonderful, I’m glad you still have your work to keep you occupied, you must not give up on your objective” He said with quiet intensity. “Though perhaps you wouldn’t mind sparing a few moments to walk me through what happened? Just so I can get it all typed up before I see you later”
“Sure I guess…” Raymond wiped a clammy hand over his eyes, his head was still pounding and he felt cold inside despite the warmth of the tea and liquor. Thinking back to the nightmare that had woken him, he struggled to describe the mood of the dream, “I had… to do something” He started unsurely.
“What sort of something? Something to do at work?” Arthur asked, making notes on a small notepad he took from his breast pocket.
“Yes and no…”
Arthur remained silent, waiting for him to continue.
“It was about work but not, I think I was supposed to destroy what I had discovered, like it was dangerous, there was someone chasing me. I was scared, terrified really of what would happen if they saw what I had. I was hurt I think, I remember there being blood…”
“Who do you think might try and hurt you? Someone here?” Arthur asked with fake nonchalance.
“Yes” Raymond answered in a knee jerk reaction. “No, I think, I guess, I was just worried the others would find me here” He corrected himself, his mind had warned him time and time again to not let on how nervous he was about his superiors and he always tried to stick to it. In fact his instincts were already screaming at him that he had said too much.
“Is there anything else you remember?”
Raymond thought back, he remembered someone chasing him off the cliff and the relief he felt while he plunged to his death and again his instincts screamed at him to shut his mouth. “No, nothing else, it was so fast and it’s starting to fade entirely now” he lied.
“Well, pop by later and we’ll go over it together” Doctor Maskell said standing to go. The two men shook hands and went their separate ways.
Raymond, after hugging Marge, as she prepared to leave for the day, baby Amelia in tow, went straight to his lab. As his hand fell upon the door handle he was stuck by another vision, a mild one in comparison and one he had seen many times before, the old him, dothering and senile, strapped to a metal cot, he was saying something, shouting “don’t trust the doctor!” a familiar message, one heard many times, “which one?” He shouted back, unable to make a sound. The vision faded, the man was gone.
These minor visions came so often now, Raymond often felt like he was living a double life, half the time he was a doddery old man, twisted by fear and paranoia, the other half, he was himself. Sometimes it became difficult to separate the two, the feelings followed from his mind into the real world.
Meanwhile, Arthur had popped in to see Albert, where they discussed the progression of Raymond’s ‘condition’. They weren’t together long, a few minutes at most, no one suspected a thing.
Stay tuned for the fourth and final part here next Saturday!