Time for the nightmare to end
Raymond walked down the stairs to his lab, still a little shaken but steadied by the brandy and the feel of Marge’s arms around him, her whispering in his ear how everything would be okay. He was nervous about his work, excited to see what happened. He always got worse in times of stress, nothing to worry about, he said to himself as his co-workers greeted him warmly. They knew of his condition, though only to the extent that Raymond himself knew, only Albert and Arthur knew the true reason for his outbursts.
The experiment went well, the mice behaved as expected, a huge success and a step forward in his genealogical work, the nightmare completely faded, the vision was forgotten but the feelings remained, creeping silently in the darkness of his mind.
That night, Raymond had the worst nightmare yet, it started out how his earlier dreams had. Him, a child, running around with his chubby knees, sitting in his mum’s lap, eating apple pie, he tried to hold onto the warmth, the haze of happiness but the dream progressed regardless, as before, he watched himself grow up, through the awkward gangly teen years, finishing school, meeting Marge, everything as it had been. This is where the road diverted from it’s usual route, instead of the amazing future he had come to love, a wasteland lay before him. The dream/ nightmare/ prophecy, was a warning. If he continued his research, it wouldn’t stop dictators trying to take over, it would stop the rest of humanity from being able to resist. An army of passive mice, cowering in the dark, helpless to stop the hunters.
As excited as Raymond was about the breakthrough in his work, as much as he thought it would stem the tide of visions, it only made them worse. The breakthrough at work, broke through a dam in his mind. Flooding his life with visions of another era, a darker era, time flowed backwards from future to present. His condition had deteriorated to the point he could barely function, time was blurred, the past and future had meshed together inside his mind, he barely knew who he was at any given time. Mixed in with the time confusion were visions of doctors screaming at him in rage, their faces twisted in fury, demanding answers to questions he didn’t understand. Images of his elder self, demanding he quit his work, destroy what he had learned so far, never let anyone else get hold of it. Crippled by his violent, spinning mind, his life consuming visions, months passed as he slipped further and further into what many called madness.
Unable to work, his project had grinded to a halt. There were a few logistical problems his technicians were unable to work out without him, not for lack of trying.
Raymond had been permanently moved into a hospital wing they had specially built off of the administration building at Dr Maskell’s orders. In one of his coherent moments, Raymond had tried to resign his position until he was able to fully commit to the cause he had signed up for but Dr Foster would not hear a word of it, Marge and his two children, Amelia now 3 and baby Johnathon were still warmly welcomed, Marge now ran a small nursery, caring for all the children on the base. Though horrifically worried over her husband’s state of mind, Marge continued to be as solid as a rock for him, supporting him in every way she could.
Only Raymond thought to question the generosity of it all. He wasn’t doing what he had promised, he wasn’t breaking any new ground, making any new discoveries, he wasn’t contributing in any way. More than that, he was a drain, he took up time and precious resources that could be much better use elsewhere. Why were they keeping them all there? What possible use for them could they have? These questions plagued Raymond when he had the forethought of mind to even question the happenings around him.
Dr Foster and Dr Maskell spent every waking minute pouring over test results and researching brain conditions, they even had a psychologist flown in and used hypnosis on Raymond regularly to try and bring him back to his current time but nothing worked. Months continued to pass without much change.
“His brain isn’t making the same connections it used to, I think we need to alter his medication, put him up to the next dose”
“Are you crazy? That’ll kill him quicker! We need to lower the dose and try to pull him back into himself for a while before we send him back”
“Look how emaciated he is! We only have weeks left, maybe even days to find out what he did with his work”
“And putting up his medication will make it hours!”
“Well what else are we meant to do?”
“Be patient I’m thinking”
Raymond swore he could hear voices whispering by his bedside during the night but whenever he opened his eyes no one was there. Often he thought he was listening to people whispering by the old man’s hospital bed but whenever he was there he was too weak to open his eyes let alone look around the room. What medication was he on? Where were they sending him? Was he dying? Now or then? His two lives were fully fusing together. When he was the old man, he often felt Marge’s hand in his, her sweet clear voice telling him about the children. As a young man in bed, he could hear the futuristic beeping of the yet to be invented machines keeping him alive.
Marge was pregnant again, though Raymond wondered how he could have done the deed being 95 years old. Or was he younger? What year was their third child born? He’s got grandchildren of his own now. No he hasn’t even been born yet.
The war is over in both times.
He failed to finish his work in time.
Both Doctors often referred to this when they were visiting him, yet they continued to try and push him into finishing his project. They kept saying he needed something to focus on to keep him from his hallucinations but every attempt at work sent him rocketing to the future.
Only Marge grounded him, when she was near, he didn’t care what year it was and where he was. Just her presence eased his suffering.
“We’ve found a way to send him back again”
“What do you mean again? He’s already there half the time”
“No, I mean send him back a year earlier again, where he was last week- to the experiment with the mice”
“Try it, we’ve got nothing else to lose”
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, he had the strongest sense of deja vu, he had ever experienced before in his life. He’d been here before, he’d done this before. He couldn’t shake the feeling.
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. 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? No he’d been here for years…
“Marge?!” He called as the ocean of emotions came back over him and threatened to drag him back under the sloshing tide.
He heard her footsteps approaching the door and knew exactly what she would look like before she stepped into view. Her hair still in rollers, lipstick half applied, her untucked blouse pulled tight over her swollen abdomen.
“What’s wrong dear?” Marge questioned with evident anxiety as she rushed into the room.
Raymond smiled uneasily, she looked exactly how he had predicted and used the exact words he knew she would speak. “Nothing dear, I just had another episode but everything is okay now”
“Muuuum” a clear, high pitched voice interrupted from the mysteries beyond the bedroom door and 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.
“Good morning sweetpea, I see you’ve been at the jam again, did you save me some this time?” He asked her teasingly, swinging her into his arms.
“Yes dada” she said squealing in delight.
“Well you seem to be fine, Dr Maskell sent over word he might pop in this morning so get dressed and let me see to this madam” Marge said, taking their daughter from his arms.
“If he does, tell him I’m fine and I’ve gone into the office, there’s something I need to do urgently”
“Sure thing, dear” Marge called over her shoulder, ushering the young girl into the bathroom.
Everything had fallen into place, for the first time since coming here, all the puzzle pieces fit together and he could see the big picture. For the first time in a long time, Raymond knew what he had to do. Throwing on a pair of trousers and a loose shirt, he left the house in a hurry, not even bothering to stop and kiss his family on the way out. Time was of the essence.
In all these years he really had been shuttled backwards and forwards in time. He was old, he wasn’t young, he was being sent here, sent here by them for his work. But each time he was given a message, one he didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand before but finally, it had gotten through to him. He didn’t know what happened to him but he knew, this time they had showed their hand.
He knew who they were and what they were doing to him.
He knew he had to end it.
He went straight to his lab, letting himself in before anyone else got there. Sorting through the filing cabinets he pulled out piles and piles of work. His blood, sweat and tears for the last years all scribbled down on pages and pages of thin lined paper. He scrunched them up into a rough bundle on the floor, grabbing everything he could see. He just had to get these to safe place, somewhere he could hide them until night fell, then he’d be able to sneak off of the base and destroy them once and for all. Dr Foster and Dr Maskell would know longer control him. He was taking his life back.
Raymond spent the day behaving as normally as he could, he pushed the mouse experiment back a few days, pretending he needed to work out a few small issues. He avoided the doctors, spent the day in his small office, hunched over a desk, scribbling nonsensical words to fill now empty files. Marge stopped by with sandwiches for lunch, as always her presence soothed his jagged nerves. The afternoon hours ticked by slowly, so slowly, Raymond started to doubt himself.
Were Albert and Arthur really as evil as he now knew them to be? Were they really doing to him what he finally realised they were? Was it possible to experience the past as vividly as he was? Just as his nerves were getting the better of him, he was hit, for what he thought would probably be the last vision yet. His elder self, time and experiments had sharpened him, there were no soft edges left, his bones jutted through the thin layer of skin stretched over his slowly shrinking frame. blue/ grey eyes watering, barely open looked straight into his and using what looked like all the energy he had he nodded his head, encouraging him to do what he needed to do.
Outside darkness had fallen. It was time.
Raymond walked across the base to his home, he kissed his wife, rubbed her stomach gently and held his daughter as close to him as he could. He told them he had to get back to work, he was on the edge of a breakthrough, he told them truthfully that after tonight everything would be different.
He changed his clothes into the darkest outfit he had, pulled a hat low over his eyes and snuck back to the now empty office. Rain had just started sputtering, he knew within the hour it would transcend into a downpour. This was a help and a hinder, the thick curtain of rain may help conceal him from his chasers, muffle any noise he made but it blinded him just as much, hid their noises just as well as his own.
Raymond cloaked his work under his heavy brown jacket and slipped out the backdoor of the building, keeping his head below the window line, he kept his back flat to the stony wall and crept towards the edge in exaggerated slow movements, keeping a keen eye out for any watchers. At the end of the building he crouched down to make as small a target of himself as possible and half crawled, half ran for the steep rocky side of the closest mountain pass. He thought he had just made it, thought he was in the clear when he stepped on a firm looking rocky outcrop, only to have it snap beneath his foot, sending him tumbling backwards towards the wet grass beneath him.
Sharp flints of rock sliced into the backs of his arms, his shoulders, his hips as he rolled head over heels, over and over before thudding to a stop. He landed awkwardly on his arm and heard his wrist snapping, the side of his head was covered in thick sticky blood. Pain however felt far away, like it was happening to someone else, dazed he got up and limped back to the relative safety of the rocks. The sound of him falling had alerted the guards, he could hear shouting and dogs barking in the distance, his time was running out.
He started back up the slope, he could barely see where he was going, blood was running into his eyes and the hard rain bounced off of the ground making it hazy and indistinct. The voices were getting louder, he could hear footsteps, right behind him they were coming. He wasn’t worried though, he’d been here before, he knew he would make it to the edge on time, destroy the papers, save the world, all in a day’s work he thought to himself.
Yet again, he found himself pushing himself onwards. A second struggle up a wet hill, feet slipping, sliding back and scrambling back up. The edge yet again approaches, a deep drop with the ocean beneath him, crashing against rocks and the deadly cliff. A spotlight lands of him, this time he knows who’s chasing him, Albert. He jumps into the empty air and feels his life draining, air rushing past, stealing his breath. A face pale, indistinct against the blackness of the night above shouts something indecipherable. The deadly plummet is about to end, relief flows through him before the world goes black.
Back to the present
Raymond Henson, 95 years old opens his eyes for last time, Albert and Arthur glare down at him in fury. They have been manipulating him, using medications, hallucinogens, electrical brain stimulations, they had succeeded in sending him back in time, though only in his mind, making him relive his experience as a young man, needing him to finish the project he could never bring himself too. Wanting to know, they inserted themselves into his life and pushed him into working for them. They didn’t know how or why he never fully immersed himself, couldn’t figure out how to untaint his young life, how to separate the now and then and they never would know.
Raymond had finally managed to escape the hallucinations, had fought his way out of the drugs and would never ever go back.
His eyes shone in the bright neon lights of the hospital as he mouthed the last words he would ever form.
And with those two words Raymond found peace at last.