“Let me out!”
Daniel pounded the solid steel door, the echo reverberating through the sterile room. Dr. Kreegan sat motionless at the table not looking up. The quiet hum of the fluorescent light overhead filled the otherwise deafening silence.
The gray door opened from the outside, and Daniel stumbled through and was gone. Dr. Kreegan slowly unclasped his hands and pulled the small microphone on the table closer.
“Patient 157’s response to test Alpha Victor…negative.” Depressing the stop button, he leaned back in his metal chair.
“Only one option left.”
“How are you feeling today, Daniel?”
Daniel sat, head bowed, not responding.
“Let’s do something different today, shall we?”
Dr. Kreegan adjusted his notes then continued. “What would you like to talk about?”
Something stirred in the young man’s shoulders. Peering through matted hair, he addressed the doctor.
“Is this real?”
“To what are you referring?”
“This. This room. You. Me.”
“Why would it not be real?”
Daniel snickered. Looking around the plain white room, he shook his head.
“Oh, I don’t know. All I have are memories…that and my cell, and this room. This tiny room with its two doors…and you.”
Dr. Kreegan leaned forward, resting his folded hands on the table top.
“What do you really want to ask? There’s something else.”
“Are my memories real?”
“Are you real?”
“Do you know what happened to me?”
“Why am I being kept here?”
“Daniel, you know why.”
“No, I don’t! It’s the same, it’s always the same: the same food, the same medication, the same weekly meetings with you. It never changes!”
“Daniel, what happened six months ago? Can you tell me?”
The burning anger in his eyes died into confusion.
“I…I…ahhhh! Every time I try to remember five months ago it all goes blank!”
“It’s ok, Daniel. You’re doing well. Much better actually than you’ve been doing.”
“Yes. When I asked you about six months ago, you corrected me and said ‘five.’”
“But, that means…five months…” He pressed his fists into his eyes as his body spasmed. “Fire…I…I couldn’t get them out….” He was weeping.
“Daniel, whom were you trying to rescue? Tell me.”
“I can’t remember! I can’t remember! They shouldn’t have been there!”
“It’s because there was no one there.”
Daniel’s wild eyes met Dr. Kreegan’s. “What did you say?”
“The building was empty. Empty, Daniel.”
“But I thought….” he faltered.
“Exactly. You thought.”
“Then why have I been locked up here?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m stuck here. Each week Mrs. Alexander comes to give me some medication, puts the restraints on me, and brings me to you. Why are you doing this to me?”
“Daniel, Mrs. Alexander left a week ago.”
“But then…who put these on me?” He raised his fists.
“Put what on you?”
“These zip ties! Are you blind? Look!”
“I am looking.”
Daniel launched to his feet slamming his fists on the table. The linked rubber bands encircling his wrists snapping on impact.
Dr. Kreegan didn’t move, didn’t blink.
Slowly, Daniel raised his hands. “Wha… but how…” He faltered, sinking back into his chair. His gaze met Dr. Kreegan. “They were never real.”
The doctor shook his head.
Dr. Kreegan still didn’t move.
“I remember everything.”
The breath he’d been holding slowly whistled through pursed lips. The doctor sank back into his chair, satisfaction flickering in his eyes.
Daniel looked up at the black door behind the chair where Dr. Kreegan sat. “I’m ready to go.”
A full smile washed across the doctor’s face. “I’ve been waiting to hear those words.”
“Will you let me?”
Dr. Kreegan stood and motioned to the door.
“My boy, it was never locked.”