“After this story is completed, you will forget everything you have seen. Patient 39, room 132, beginning in 5.”
The woman’s voice beamed louder than they had mentioned. The room smelt like new paint dosed in several layers of pesticides, singeing the hairs inside my nostrils. My right arm ached furiously, it closely mimicking the feeling of my clouded head. I hadn’t opened my eyes yet, too afraid to see the scar that formed above the identity chip lodged into my wrist. My lashes fluttered quickly, the light shrinking the size of my pupils dramatically. After 30 seconds of struggling to keep my eyelids separated, I stared at the room in front of me; it completely engulfed in the brightest shade of white they could've found. A star-shaped flat screen TV sat in front of me, my reflection ceasing to exist across the clear iridescent screen. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion, darting my focus to the entirety of the sterile room. I felt myself layered in wires, my arms and legs bound to the cushioned chair by a belt-like contraption, and my head laid plastered with tiny suction cup equipment that I could feel with just the slightest movements. My heart felt as if it hit the bottom of my esophagus, causing me to gag. They told me this. I knew this was happening. I was picked for this. Danny said he didn’t remember. I’ll be fine. I sighed loudly, soon greeted by an unfamiliar voice.
“Good morning Mr. Wilmer and welcome to your trial. You are our very special 39th contestant in the state of Alabama! We provide the biggest turn of the 80’s you’d never see before! As your story goes on, we are pleased to watch you grow, for what you’re about to experience is life changing.”
The screen flashed a 50’s-esque woman pouring a glass of lemonade for the giggly man beside her–a couple most likely. His face carried a witty smile, imitating hers precisely, both of them sporting rosey sphere shaped goggles. The woman sat adjacent to the man, each crossing their legs in identical form. The table and chairs occupied by each of them were as white as eggshells and stood out against the undesirable setting. They began to sip softly at their glasses of lemonade, each filled exactly to the brim. I squinted harshly at the intense blue background, watching as the couple drank their sugary treat at a leisurely pace. The pair set their glasses down on top of the wooden coasters patiently waiting to be used in the middle of the table. The woman directly faced the screen a few seconds later, the man’s gaze meeting it soon after, both simultaneously removing their goggles at a turtle speed. Their pupils devoured their entire eye socket, coating their eyes completely black. My mouth grew wide and my irises dried as fast as butter melting into hot bread, the space around me emptier than before.
“Papa? Wake up!” My left hand met the side of my mouth quickly, sloppily wiping away the drool leaking from all corners. My eyes weren’t focusing correctly, but the room around me felt too familiar. The certain smell carried its way into the cracks of the walls and buried itself into the handles and knobs of every door and cabinet in the surrounding area. I rubbed furiously at my face, only annoying the child in front of me more.
“Papa, please?” The voice was small and echoey, feeling undesirably unrealistic. My stinging eyes adjusted to the lights enclosing the room and focused in on what I saw in front of me–her.
“Annie?” I forced myself to whisper the name I thought I’d never repeat in my life. She remained silent; her figure was pale and emotionless like still water, and her contrasting colored eyes twisted softly into a simple knoll of irish moss. She sat, tangled in a disaster of wires, all in which lead to a deniable cure. No one said anything about this. My arms ran frantically around my body desperately trying to find my phone or wallet, something that could tell me this was fake. My calloused fingertips met the cold device lodged inside my jackets right pocket, I pulled it out swiftly and checked the date. Tuesday, November 23rd. Anxiety greeted every one of my veins and my mouth began to tremble.
“You are not my daughter! I lost her on this date 8 years ago!” I unsteadily jumped to my feet and raised my pointer finger in blame. My breathing caught up with the beat of my heart–fast and overwhelming. This isn’t real, is it? She died. That is not my Annie. She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone.
“She’s gone.” I relayed aloud, my thoughts becoming real life words. I paced heavily, the petite girl in front of me licking her lips.
“Mr. Wilmer,” she began, “I know I’m not your Annie.” Her voice laid uncanny to Annie’s, causing my eyes to well into tears.
“But this is your story, and I’m your Annie Wilmer now. I died on Tuesday, November 23rd at 7PM from an intense case of pneumonia because the nurse forgot to give me my last dose of antibiotics. It’s 6:45 PM, and to fulfill your redemption in this experiment you have to save me in 15 minutes. It starts now.” She laid her head down and closed her dark eyes. I felt speechless and a different kind of loneliness I’ve never felt before. Everything felt like nothing right now, listening to my daughter’s voice admit to me how she died as if it happened on the norm. The only question circling my mind–that’s why my baby died? My chest curled into a tight knit ball and my temples narrowed with anger.
“She died because of you!” I sprinted ferociously out of the room, slamming my hands against every item in view.
“Give me a doctor! I need a doctor now!” My screams vibrated the area around me, yet no one seemed to pay attention. I stopped dead in my tracks and intently stared around. Every able sound in the room surcease to exist. The nurses, patients, and receptionists all talking and moving, but a noise couldn’t be heard from any of them. I began to grow angrier; why hadn’t she told me this? I stepped in front of a woman dressed in navy scrubs, a nurse I remembered instantly from the day Annie died.
“Can you hear me?” She didn’t look at me. She jotted down a name or two and turned her chair around to face another woman dressed in scrubs as well, this time they depicted smiley faces. I could feel the same lump form in my throat again as I carried on to the man next to her.
“Please tell me you can hear me!” This time my voice protruding louder than before, still receiving no answer. I grew weary, my fate settling in me like a sponge inside water. My gaze darted to the clock; 6:53 PM.
“No!” I muttered loudly, hurriedly making my way back into Annie’s room, still finding her eyes shut and body motionless.
“Annie, please tell me what to do.” The eagerness in my tone could be felt from miles away, yet with no persistence, she didn’t budge.
“Annie baby I need you to tell me how to help you.” I whispered despairingly, the hope practically being pulled away from my body.
“Annie..” I rested my head against her flush arm and let a sob overtake me, her words relentlessly making their way into my thoughts again. My eyes were shut as tight as nuts and bolts, realization hitting me like a truck. My tongue grew drier than it's ever felt before that even a simple swallow couldn’t cure its defeat. I could feel my sobs growing quieter as a new sound overcame my attention; the clock was ticking dramatically. Annie’s arm shifted under me, alerting me that she was sitting up. My head thrust upwards quickly, my focus meeting hers.
“It’s 7 PM.” She whispered; the cruelest and emptiest whisper you could ever grasp. Suddenly the room filled with the nurses I tried to speak with before, all of them staring directly at me.
“It’s 7 PM.” They repeated simultaneously, all standing in a symmetrical line. My breathing heightened, the aura around me becoming eerie and unwelcoming. I watched as their eyes filled with the same black coloring the couples eyes had been decorated with before. They began to break out into a tumult of humorous laughs, each sounding more terrifying by the second. I moved back in the metal chair trying to find a way to escape, unfortunately only being brought to a halt by the hollow wall behind me. The echoing noise caused the group to stop their laughter, their heads cocking to the right to meet Annie. She looked at me, tears coating her cheeks entirely, and swallowed harshly.
“Papa, why did you fail me?” She whimpered defeatedly, and in that moment, I felt the world be torn away from me. I watched as Annie’s arms and legs were strapped down to the cot by the gloved hands of nurses.
“Please don’t forget me papa!” She yelped, yet the words I needed to say remained locked inside my throat. I reached forward trying everything in my will to take hold of her hand extended out for me, the expression on her face causing me to cry intensely.
“I won’t forget you Annie baby! Please, I won’t forget you!” Tears devoured my complexion, my nose running and my mouth cracking at the corners. I kept shooting my arm forward in hopes of touching her hand one last time, but the chair held me hostage. The area around me turned the color of charcoal, the scene in front of me soon stretched farther and farther away from my view until I could hear nothing but her desperate cries to be unforgotten.
“Annie I won’t forget you! I won’t forget you! I won’t forget you!” I fastened my eyelids and began to bawl, angrily fighting my way out as I kept repeating my frenzied cry for help.
“I won’t forget you Annie!” I shrieked, shaking violently in the all white chair I found myself tied to in the beginning. I observed the once white room around me, this time the walls were decorated in a profound shade of red, it flashing on and off from some sort of alert system.
“Patient 39, defective. Patient 39, defective..” The familiar woman’s voice reverberated around the chamber repeatedly. Sweat began to bead off the sides of my forehead as I remembered what happened. I peered down to the rest of my body, uncarefully grabbing at the wires and restrictions to free myself from this newfound hell. Before I could stand up I felt a cold metal object stamped against the middle of my forehead. I shut my eyes in response to feeling, planting myself in the seat again and mentally preparing for what is destined to happen.
“Mr. Wilmer, you have failed our goal by remembering your story. Patient 39, room 132, session ending. We’re sorry.” I let out a small sigh of relief and nodded my head in agreement, patiently allowing the revolver to click into place.