I open my eyelids in a daze. I can see the outline of my eyelashes struggling to cling onto each other. As I come to my senses, a something piercing strikes the side of my head, and I cringe, but not from pain, from the feeling. Nails on chalkboard. My hands clench, my sharpened fingernails making curved indents into my overly dry and scratchy palms. I shiver, but not from the cold. A feeling coming over me, like a spirit of pure evil, digging on the inside of my stomach, trying to find a way out.
I try to make out my surroundings but everything is a blur, I feel like I am looking into an unfocused microscope. I reach my hands up to rub away the fuzz, but I can’t. Sharp cold rings of metal pierce the skin on the inside of my wrists. I feel the warm sticky blood dripping down my wrists and falling onto my lap. I have re-opened a scab. I can feel the blood already starting to dry, crusting over like the rest.
I feel no pain. Nothing at all. I know that I should be screaming in agony, pulling my shoulders up to support my head, my whole body tense, shaking, sobbing, the wet tears rolling down my cheeks onto my lap to join the blood, but nothing comes. I can feel the metal rings around my wrists I can feel the pulse of my headache but nothing more.
I can see more clearly now, my eyes focusing. It appears I am in a room if you were to call it that, it looks more like a science dungeon. The walls and floors are all painted a light grey, a soothing but slightly unsettling color. It’s not a very large room, about the size of a large bedroom. Across the room there’s a small desk, overflowing with paper and documents, a trash can filled with crumpled up pieces of paper. It looks like an overworked writers desk.
On the right side though, there are numerous cans of liquid, blue, green, red and purple, looking almost like a little kid’s science class experiment. The most surprising thing of all though is the object to the left of me, towering over me like a mechanical figure, a low whir of the mechanical gears turning, clicking on the beat every ten seconds or so.
I look down. I’m wearing worn out jeans, with what looks like purposeful rips. I am wearing a sock, the left foot of which is ripped and dark grey and my big toe is sticking out. On the other foot, though, I am wearing a high top red converse, perfectly clean. It fits perfectly, like Cinderella’s glass slipper.
I am wearing a light blue tee-shirt, words written on it, but faded so it is no longer legible.
Other than my not knowing where I am, being handcuffed, and this creepy mechanical figure next to me, everything should be fine, it seems that I am not in any huge danger, but there is something missing. I can not remember who I am. It’s not like amnesia because I can remember silly little things, like watching the the Princess Bride for the first time, curling up and closing my eyes, when the rat jumped out at Buttercup, and the empty beer bottles, and slamming doors after a fight. But I don’t know who I am, or where I lived. What am I doing here?
I hear footsteps in the halls. Tip toes. I strain my ears to hear more but they get quieter and quieter. I hear a small crash, and a low hoarse voice saying something. There is no answer and the man says something again but I can’t make it out. The footsteps get louder and suddenly part of the wall on the other side of the room swings open, and brightness floods the room. I did not realize how dark it had been. I squint to make out the figure who has stepped in. He wears a brown button down coat with an un-tied tie wrapped around his neck. He is wearing light wash jeans with a large hole in the knee. He has a badly shaven goatee and long hair pulled back into a ponytail.
He has cowboy boots on so they click as he takes steps towards me. The light streams in sideways interrupting his silhouette. He looks powerful standing there.
He vaguely looks familiar but I can’t grasp who he is. He approaches my chair, pulls a key from his pocket and unlocks me from the chair. Not saying anything, he grabs the chain between the handcuffs and pulls, causing me to stumble up and clumsily follow after him.
“Who are you?” I ask, my voice scratchy and quiet. He does not reply so I swallow and repeat myself. Louder this time.
“I said who are you?” He grunts. Annoyed, I stop walking.
“Excuse me, I said who are you?”
“Come along now. You don’t want to make trouble for yourself,” his voice is low and soft; he sounds like he would be a good dad.
“I am not moving until you tell me where you are taking me, and who you are,” my voice is more powerful now, and I sound a lot stronger than I feel.
“Now here listen, you stop those questions now and come along.”
“Not until you answer my question,”
“If you come along everything will make sense soon.”
“Well then at least tell me who I am.” His breath catches in his throat and he bites his bottom lip. He runs two fingers above his brow leaving a white mark.
“If anyone asks tell them your name is Elizabeth Brown.”
“But that isn’t my name.” He takes a deep breath.
“Yes it is,” he replies. I know it isn’t though. I close my eyes and wrack my brain, trying to find something to prove it, but nothing comes, it is like trying to reach something just beyond your reach and no matter how far you stretch you can not touch it. I am about to give up, when a scream erupts inside my head, a terrifying scream. I cringe, balling my hands into fists. My shoulders shake. But suddenly it’s gone. I slowly open my eyes to see the man staring at me, his eyes asking their own questions. I slowly straighten out, feeling weak again. I give in and follow him. After a few shaky steps, an odd feeling comes over me. A memory. I stop again, and the man turns around.
“My name is Myra. Myra Lowell.” His reaction is the worst I’ve seen. He shakily takes deep breaths, looking like he just saw a murderer.
“Your name is Elizabeth.”
“No it’s not I remember now,” I start to walk but this time he is the one who does not follow.
“Come on now.”
“You tell anyone who asks that you name is Elizabeth Brown alright?” his voice is shakey.
“Okay then.” I have a memory. I am satisfied.
He leads me on, and we walk along a narrow hallway painted the same grey color. I have an uneasy feeling in my stomach, and I feel a bit nauseous. A slightly familiar feeling coming over me like this was something I have done before. Day dreaming, I stumble as he yanks me into a room off to the left.
I stop dead in my tracks. There is a boy that looks not much older than me, but I don’t know how old I am so who am I to judge? He is in a trance like state with his eyes glazed over, half closed, staring into space. He takes short quick steps with his arms hanging loosely by his sides. There is a chain around his waist, and a man is leading him out of the room. I step back startled as they step through the doorway. The boy’s hand brushes mine as he goes by. It is clammy cold, and stiff and sends a chill up my spine.
The man leading me yanks me into the room, and pushes my shoulders down into a chair not unlike something you would see in the waiting room of a hospital. It is a long skinny room with a semi circle machine at the back. It is big enough to hold a person and I shiver from the thought of being put in there. There are what look like mini electrical wires connecting the wall to the semi circle thing. I watch as two men that look around fifty, undo a lock on the side of the chamber and pull open the side closest to me.
One of the men slides a boy out from inside of it and onto a stretcher. He puts his hand behind the boy’s back and pushes up, the boy’s back cracks loudly as he is forced into a sitting position.
“Jason complete. Number 713 next,” the man on the left says. His voice is higher than you would guess. Another man leads Jason out of the room. As Jason stiffly walks by, I think I see him wink at me. I shake my head. I must have imagined it.
“Bring her up,” the man on the right says. There is a pull on my chains and I stand. I start to walk towards the machine, but my leader steps in front of me.
“Wait here,” he whispers. I nod and stay put, trying not to shake.
He walks over to the other men and says something in that same low voice that I heard in the hallway. He briskly walks back to me and gives me a short quick nod. I warily follow him over to the machine. Closer up it is even more terrifying. The wires giving off spurts of electricity making me cringe each time. They unclip my handcuffs and I massage my wrists, turning them in circles, and cracking my fingers.
The man with the higher voice, pulls my feet out from under me, forcing me into a lying position. I scoot up on the pad, laying my head at the top. I take a deep breath as they close the door at my feet. It is dark in there and claustrophobic. I close my eyes preparing for the worst. I don’t even try to fight back, knowing I will not succeed. Maybe here I can figure out who I am and maybe, just maybe, Jason can help me escape. I thought I imagined that wink, but the more I think about it, the more I become sure that there was no mistake. He was trying to tell me something.
Someone pulls a lever outside the chamber and a low whir starts up, getting faster and louder every second. The whole chamber is shaking now, my head bouncing up and down with every rock. I can tell something is going to happen, and I shut my eyes. I am surprised I can still think. I thought the machine was going to take over my mind.
Someone shouts from outside the chamber and the walls on the inside start to compress, closing in on my body. I can’t breathe. My lungs searching for air that is not there. I feel myself drifting into darkness, my eyes closing, but suddenly the whirring stops. The walls start to move away from my body, and I inhale, oxygen surging through my veins. Confused, I open my eyes. Is this supposed to happen? Is this all just part of daily routine? The little door at my feet opens and I get quickly pulled out. I sit up quickly and look around.
The two men I saw earlier are sprawled across the floor, one of them has a little river of blood streaming from his mouth, eyes half closed, passed out. The other one has no sign of an injury. I wonder if he is dead. A little bit freaked out, my eyes skirt nervously around the room.
My leader creeps out from the side with his finger to his lip.
“Follow me,” he whispers.
I nervously slide off the seat and tip toe after him. We turn right and walk down the hallway, passing many closed doors.
As we walk I become slightly dreary, and suddenly there is another flash, another memory. I close my eyes as I watch the memory unfold. New York. 16. Dad. Mom dead. Apartment.
I have stopped in my tracks and as I open my eyes I can see my leader staring at me, eyes widened.
“Memory,” I croak.
“Come in here,” he replies, gesturing to a room to the left. We creep in and he shuts the door quickly locking it. He stays with his ear pressed to the door listening for a second, before he walks over to me.
“What do you remember?”
“Um. My father…..I live in New York?........an Apartment…….um mom is dead…..”
“Anything else. Anything else at all?”
“I think I am 16?” at this his face relaxes. He takes a deep breath.
“We can’t talk here, I need to get you to somewhere safe.” He starts towards the door and I follow him, but he turns back around.
“You stay here. If anyone comes in, pretend to be modifylied.”
“Modifylied is the procedure they use to erase your memory and make you obedient.” I nod. He wants me to be like Jason.
He leaves the room, and I just stand there, afraid to touch anything.
After about five minutes I hear people talking in the hall. More like arguing. I creep closer to the door so I can make out what they are saying.
“I know you are getting out of the treatment. I can tell.”
“Father you know I will not give away your secret, but the treatments are horrible, they are terrifying.”
“Jason, you know to much, I can not have you remembering. You work fine for the experiment and you have to agree to it. I can not have you walking these halls knowing what I am doing.”
“No. I will not have it. You will continue the treatment starting tomorrow and you will agree to it.
I sit here pondering what I just heard. I did not imagine that wink. Jason was getting out of the treatments.
Was his father the founder of this entire place? What was this secret they were talking about?
My leader returns and opens the door.
“Where are you taking me?”
“Somewhere safe. You are not safe here.”
“Why are you helping me?”
“It is my job.”
We exit the room and walk down the hall. My leader gestures his head towards the exit door across the wall, and I am about to step out, when an older man steps out from a room.
“What are you doing Samuel?” His voice is sharp and he lifts his eyebrow as to give a warning.
“Um...just bringing Elizabeth to her room now, Joe”
“Okay. Number 186 is scheduled for treatment tomorrow.”
My Attention is drawn away from the conversation as Samuel gestures his head back. I look behind me and see the room that Joe came out of. The door is cracked open, and the sign says FILE ROOM.
I glance over at the two men, hushed in conversation, and I take a quick step back, slipping into the room.
There are cabinets, and cabinets of files, filling the room. It will take me years to find mine. The cabinets are alphabeticalized. I reach over and lock the door. I find cabinet for M. I open the drawer. Tons of names. Mary, Margaret, Matthew, Mason, Max, Melanie, Melvin, Mel, Mina, Miles, Milan, Mitchell. I skip down to My.
Mya, Mychala, Mysha, Mycah. No Myra.
Maybe it is under L.
I open the L cabinet. All first names. No Lowell.
I am about to give up when I remember something. My leader called me Elizabeth. Maybe I am under Elizabeth! I glance outside. The men are still deep in conversation. My leader turns his head slightly and winks at me. I wink back.
The E cabinet is way in the back. Hidden. I reach it and slowly open the first drawer. It goes from Ea to Eh. Mine will be in the next drawer if it is there. I take a deep breath and open the door. I quickly scan over the files with my eyes, and bingo. There it is.
Elizabeth B. I pull it out and stick the papers under my shirt, tucked into my pants. I run back to the door and unlock it quickly slipping back into place. My leader blocks my view from the other man.
“Be good. Do not disappoint me.” The man says. His voice is very familiar. He is the man Jason was talking too. Jason’s father. The man who created this place. Once the man is gone, my leader quickly leads me through the exit door. Outside we run to the back of the building. We get in Samuel’s car and speed into the distance.
After a while I remember something. I pull out the file.
(Myra Lowell) number: 13896
Father: Joe Brother: Jason
Myra my dear,
Leave this horrible place, go have your own life
Samuel will help you. I have ordered him to watch over you.
He will lead you to safety.
Through all of this know that I love you and I wish I could be there
You have lost your memory. I have done it to you
I just hope that eventually you will remember me someday
I hope you understand that I did this to save you
Jason will stay here with me
I will come for you soon my dear
When you remember everything you will come home,
but for now be with Samuel
I love you,
Your father, Joe.