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the lost one

By , Pomona, CA

I was driving my dad’s car to a 10:00 A.M class at UCLA. The news from Europe had just come over the radio. The early morning air smelled clean. The road ahead was empty I turned north on Francis and stepped on the gas. The Santa Monica Mountains were miles away, but I could see them clearly. I passed the Veterans Cemetery, suddenly I spotted something up the road. A beat-up Ford had pulled over to the side, standing next to it was a beautiful young woman who was waving her hands. She had long red hair and blue dress. I slowed down to help her and that’s when it happened. That’s when my life turned inside out. All at once, the road is wide as a football field, the Santa Monica Mountains are still in sight. I look at the road before me. It’s way too close, I’m in a car that’s half the size of my dad’s car. The controls look like those on a spaceship. A wide belt across my body is pressing me against the seat. I look for the radio, it’s when I catch sight of the face in the mirror. My face but aged many years. Suddenly the car starts to spin. I wake up on a table in what looks like a hospital. I’m at the corner of a large room. Three nurses sit behind it looking busy. My guess is that I’ve been lying there all day by judging the clock on the wall that says eight O’clock. I try to sit up but my head is hurting. I lie back down. A nurse comes over and says, “You’re lucky, you made it through the crash but your car didn’t. we wanted to call your family but you don’t have your driver’s license.”
“The car…dad is going to kill me.” I say. The nurse is looking at me kind of funny, but she goes on talking. “All of the sudden, I just couldn’t control the car. I was on Francis and-” “That’s strange.” The nurse says. “Our records show they picked you up going north the San Diego Freeway.” “Freeway? San Diego?” I say. “Listen,” the nurse says, “We need to know some things about you.” She pulls a pen from her pocket. “First, can you tell me your name?” “Sam Smith,” I answer. “Who’s your insurance with, Sam?” “I don’t know, my dad’s company covers me.” Again, the nurse looks at me funny. I am suddenly tired of all her questions. She asks a few more and then walks away. I close my eyes and think back to the crash. It seems like a bad dream. First I was in a car and then in a accident out of nowhere? Maybe I’ve been up too many nights studying, maybe I’ve lost my mind. Then I hear a voice. “Hello Mr. Smith I’m Dr. Gordon, I like to ask you a few questions.” “How many fingers do you see?” he asks, holding up two fingers. “Two.” I say. He ask a few more questions then he walks away. Slowly I sit up and rub my head. My hands are shaking with no one around I look at myself for the first time since the crash. I’m still in clothes but I’m wearing a coat and tie that I’ve never seen before. I spot a mirror on the wall but I’m afraid of what I’ll see. I face the mirror and see an old man. When Dr. Gordon returns I’m beside myself with worry. “Look doctor.” I say, “you have to help me. I’m not this old. Something has happened to me.” “Now, now, Mr. Smith,” he says, “take it easy, take it easy. You’ve been knocked around a bit.” “I’m not-” I cut him off, shouting, “You don’t understand! This is not a question of forgetting a few years. I’m a young man. I’m a student at UCLA in the class of 45’…I was late…It was morning… I was in my dad’s car on Francis-” “Mr. smith, stop before you go on, let me say something. We would like to help you but we can only accept people with insurance, now I’ve called General Hospital, they have a few beds free-” “Thank you doctor,” I say. What I’m thinking is that I have to get out of here!” “ I’ll see if I can get your papers ready. Don’t worry about a ride someone who works here will take you over.” Dr. Gordon leaves the room. Slowly I get to my feet. The room spins, no is watching me I carefully put one foot in front of the other. Soon I’m walking past the front desk, then the nurse stops me. “Oh” I say, trying to hide my fear that she won’t let me leave. “Didn’t Dr. Gordon tell you? I’m going to the other hospital, my ride is waiting.” “Good Mr. smith good luck.” The nurse says with a smile. I push the door and see sunlight! I’ve been thinking it was evening I must have been stay all night long. I reach into my pocket and pull out some dollars and a cigarette. I don’t know what the cigarette is for. I threw it away and count my money. I’ve a few dollars. I start down the steps. Either I’m in a strange place or a different time, I don’t know which. A young woman about my age comes walking toward me. I walk up to her and say, “Hello there. Would you mind telling me what part of the town is this?” the woman looks at me like I’m the one who’s strange. “Westwood,” she says. “Westwood?” “You got it” she says before walking away. Suddenly I remember that I look three times as old as I feel. Maybe I am the strange one, I decide to think twice before speaking. I walk a few blocks. A few blocks down, giant buildings almost block the sky. I decide to take the bus for home. By now it’s clear that many years have passed, for the city as well as for me. Suddenly, the largest thing I’ve ever seen on wheels is coming around the corner. When it stops the doors swing open. “Coming or going?” the driver asks. “Is this the bus?...” “You can call it that. Come on I don’t have all day,” I get in and hand the driver eighty cents. “Sorry the ride cost eighty five cents.” “Eighty five cents!” I shout. “I can almost fill my car for eighty-five cents!” “Eighty five cents or get off the bus.” I throw the money and take a seat in front. On the floor there was a newspaper, I pick it up and read the day’s date: Saturday, August 30, 1986. That makes me 62 years old. Finally I get off in Vernon Hills, a small town of homes in West L.A. I walk the few blocks to my home. I think again if I’m this old, my parents will be in their 80s.
Still, against all reason, I’m hoping to go home and find that nothing has changed. I’m hoping I’m just a kid who’s gotten into a little trouble with his dad’s new car. At the top of the hill I stop dead. At the bottom of the block where the woods used to be now there’s a lot of cars. Then it hits me. In the cash I was on a highway like this one. All of the sudden it wasn’t Francis anymore. What was it- the San Diego Freeway? Were there more than one of these freeways in Los Angeles? The highway I crashed went north and south. But why was it called the San Diego Freeway? Could it be that went all the way to San Diego? Suddenly, someone grabs my arm. I turn and see our gardener Pete. “Sam Smith,” he says. “It’s been years since I’ve seen you.” “it had been a long time,” I answer. “The place sure has changed since you lived here. After your parents died in  a plane crash… well, things have never been the same. A heavy sadness run over me. “My parents? Dead?” Pete keeps talking. “These days I don’t bother getting to know new people. I just do my job…so what have you been up to Sam? What have you done?” “Oh, keeping busy. I just thought I’d stop by and see the old place.” “Sure, you do that Sam and don’t be a stranger anymore ok?” “I won’t Pete. It’s nice seeing you again.” Then I walk toward the house where I grew up. A young woman open the door, I explain that my parents built the house. “Would you mind,” I ask, “If I take a quick look?” “Of course not,” says the woman as she leads me into the dining room. “I’m glad you came by. We had just moved in and found it in one of the back room. It’s a good thing I didn’t throw it away. Let me go get it.” She leaves and I look around. I step to the window that once overlooked the woods and watch the cars streaming by. “The Santa Monica wasn’t built yet when you lived here? I turn and see the woman in the door, she’s holding an old box. “No” I say. “It was more peaceful then.” “Take your time going through it I’ll be at the kitchen.” I sit at the table and open it up. I lift a book with “UCLA, 1945” on the corner, I turn the page and I found a picture of me smiling as if nothing were wrong. My whole life is held in this box. I’ve got some catching up to do. Setting my watch I thank the woman and I say I’ll be back for the box. I leave hoping that nothing stops me from returning. I walk down the street trying to put things together. Many things seem to be missing. Do I have a family, a wife and children, a home of my own? I find myself hoping I have amnesia. But of course that wouldn’t answer all my questions. Where was my family when I was in the hospital? Might they be looking for me now? Where was my driver’s license? I get a paper out of my pocket it has the address of my house, next to it a number to rent cars. I call then I walk few blocks down to get the car. I get in as soon as turn it on  a voice say “Please fasten your seat belt,” I turn off the car and look around, I turn on again. Still I hear the voice the I realize that the voice was coming from the car! Then I decide to take the San Diego Freeway. It’s the one they said I crashed on which scares me. Yet I’m thinking that driving might help me remember something. The map showed an exit off Sunset which is what I want. As soon as I’m on the freeway I want to get off it. It was scary to think I could handle all the cars and lights crashing through the darkness around me. I stay in the right lane, the next thing I know a sing reading “Sunset 1 mile” At Sunset, I get off the freeway and then pull over and stop the car. I wait for the traffic to calm down. Then I go back into the street. I turn left on Eastwood and what I see is a large rich-looking houses. Finally, I see the number 2250 below a from door. I park the car a few houses down, take out my keys and walk and stop at the end of the house to 2250. The house it’s  a long one-story building. The windows are dark but one light is burning at the far end. I move toward the backyard. I see a swimming pool, finally I force myself to look into the window. Inside, the same woman that I saw before the crash is talking on the phone. I can hear her voice even though the window is closed. She’s saying, “Yes Carlton, I know you asked me not to call until things calm down… yes, I got the office ready in San Francisco. Carlton, I need to know what happened! Sam never got on the plane!” “I went to where he said he leave me the car and it wasn’t there. Then I checked with Pam. They say he never boarded. I just got home his bags are still here on the bed, along with his password! Where is he Carlton?... that’s great. Now listen, we’ve got to think this thing out. I’m coming over to your office… well, what time would be good?...okay, I’ll meet you there in an hour that will give me time to check his office. I’ll see you at nine.”
I don’t know what to make all this. Is she worried about me or about something else? My guess is that the Carlton she called is a friend of ours? I think about going inside and show myself but I thought it was a bad idea. Something tells me this woman doesn’t have my best interests in mind. I stay out of sight until I hear her lock the front door. Then I watch her until she left. The next few minutes I spend looking for an open window. Suddenly I hear footsteps behind me. “Hands up!” a voice shouts. I turn around and I see a man pointing a gun at me. “Oh, Sam it’s you- I’m sorry. I was watching from my bedroom window. I thought you were a robber about to get in. But what are you doing here anyway? You’re supposed to be in Hong Kong.” “Oh, you know how it goes,” I say, wishing I knew the man’s name. “Some last minute business came up…say, I got a little problem here. I left my keys at the office. In fact I was just getting ready to break in.” “Don’t do that. I have a set of keys to your house.” “Alice asked me to check on things while you were both out of town.” “Thanks for keeping an eye on the house.” I say, taking the keys. I walk past the pool and open the back door. Then I walk through the living room, past a wall of river rock, there are two bedrooms then I find a suitcase in one of them, on top of it is my passport with my picture in it. From its pages drops a New York driver’s license. My name is on the license. There’s something not right here, I think. I walk into the study. From the table I pick up a book with pictures. The pictures show Alice and me on the day we got married. Looking closely I realize that Alice is the same woman I saw before the crash. I turn the pages I see us becoming older and better off. The next page of the book we’ve traveled all over the world. But I see no children. I step over the desk, there’s a small machine of some kind sitting in the center of it. I press the button on and hear a man’s voice. The man is talking very slowly. He’s saying, “Now, close your eyes. Think peaceful thoughts…find a spot in your mind where no one can reach you…” I realize that the machine records voices. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Then I realize that the man talking is hypnotizing someone. “You have no worries. You are feeling free, you-” I press the button that says, “Fast Forward” Now the voice is saying, “I used to smoke, but know I don’t do it anymore.” This man is trying to help someone to stop smoking, I press “Stop,” on the top of the machine says the name Carlton Breeze along with his place of business. In the corner is a note: “Sam, play three times every day.” Me? Smoke? When did I start smoking? And why I haven’t wanted a cigarette all day? I check my watch and I see I have enough time to get on time to Century City at 9:00. I want to be there for Alice’s meeting with Carlton. I take the recording machine with me. I went on Carlton’s office door, from behind I hear the voices of Alice and Carlton. “I know you’ve ordered people do things against their will. I know we’re into something that will change the study of the human mind forever. But it looks like this time didn’t work. Sam didn’t go to the bank.” Alice said. “How do you know?” said Carlton. “I called from San Francisco just before they closed…he didn’t go to Hong Kong, maybe he’s on to us.” said Alice a little worried. Carlton: I don’t think so. As of 3:35 yesterday he doesn’t even know you. Alice: if you first order didn’t work, what makes you think your second one did? Carlton: something outside my control stopped him from going to the bank. Nothing could stop him from forgetting you at 3:35 yesterday. Alice: I wouldn’t sit there smiling if I were you. He’s wondering around somewhere in this city… How this could go wrong? Let’s start. He came to your office yesterday for help with his smoking right? Carlton: That’s right, everything went well. Alice: You put him under? Carlton: I put him under and I gave him the orders and-. Alice: Stop. Tell me how you told him this. Carlton: This is what I said. “You have a 3:30 plane to catch this afternoon. Just before driving to the airport, you will go to the bank. There, you will put your money in your wife’s name. Then you will go to the airport and get on the plane and at 3:35 you’ll forget your wife, you will forget everything from the minute you met her. You will also forget this orders.” Alice: So why he didn’t go to the bank? Carlton: if his bags were at home, he probably headed there first. Alice: Of course! What time did he leave your office? Carlton: A little after 2:00. Alice: When I got home tonight, I took in a bag of clothes from the cleaners, there was a note saying they were late and that’s why Sam didn’t take his suitcase to the office. He knew he had to go back to the house for his clothes. But he never made it back to the house. Carlton: Remember what you told me when we were putting this plan together? How was I to know he didn’t have his bags? How I was to know he wasn’t going back to his office? I may control minds but I can’t read them. Alice: So he left your office a little after 2:00. He didn’t go to the bank because you told him to do that later. He left your office and drove home away from the bank, and away from the airport! He was probably on the San Diego Freeway, heading north, at about 2:30… Carlton: Wait a minute. There was an oil spill on the San Diego Freeway yesterday. The freeway was packed, everyone was trying to get out of town for labor day. Alice: that’s great Carlton Sam never went to the bank and he never went to the airport. At 3:35 when he forgot everything he was still driving on the San Diego Freeway… This was going to be so easy, you said. We got Sam to give me his money, then get lost in Hong Kong to never see him again. But no, everything went wrong! Carlton: I think you should just do as we planned. He decided to drop out, he left you and his business to start a new life. He’s a missing person. Alice: He’s well known in this city. The policy will post a picture, sooner or later someone will find him. Carlton: You don’t know a thing about it. Listen, people will know he’s not in his right mind. You’ll have him put away and then you can get him to sign over his money. Alice: All I want is to have what’s mine Carlton, I helped Sam make his money. He owns 19 buildings thanks to me. To be done with him is more than I can hope for. Carlton: It would have been easier if we had killed him. Alice: Oh, you know I wouldn’t kill anyone not even Sam.
I can’t listen to any of this. I leave Carlton’s office and go back to my car, finally the pieces are falling together. I married a woman who got herself tied up with a hypnotist. Together they planned to take my money. The cleaners’ slipup probably saved my life. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d have made the bank- and the plane. I would have been in Hong Kong now with half a memory. I decide to spend the night on the floor of my century city office. I’m filled with anger of this woman who calls herself my wife. I think about turning both her and Breeze over the policy but I want my memory back. Breeze hold the key to it and Alice holds the key to Breeze. The early morning sun wakes me up, the first thing I do is call Alice. She sounds surprised to hear my voice. I say I want to meet her and Breeze right away. She tells me to be at Century City at 7:00 AM, I open the door to Breeze’s office and find both Breeze and Alice already seated. Breeze is behind the desk, “Hello Alice” I say still don’t recognizing her as the woman I married. “Hello Sam,” she answer, like Breeze she looks unhappy. I take a seat in front of Breeze realizing my life s in his hands. I don’t say anything but I do take out the recording machine. I simply pressed “Record” now I place the machine on Breeze’s desk and press “On.” “this is what I said Alice word for word. You have a 3:30 plane to catch…” as Breeze’s voice plays I keep my eyes on him. He looks worried, his arms start moving below his desk then Breeze is pointing a gun at me. “Carlton no!” Alice shouts, “Now’s my change to do what I wanted to do for so long.” Carlton says. “I wouldn’t shoot if I were you” I answer turning off the recorder. “You see, I left a copy of this at my office, along with a note, it says if I don’t show up Tuesday morning, they’re going to call the policy.” By now Breeze is worried. “I want my memory back. Give it to me now, and I won’t go to the policy.” As I left Breeze’s office building, I reached into a empty pocket for a cigarette. It was then that I realized I had 42 years of memory back. I looked at the buildings around me, I remembered them. Finally I could remember my life. I remembered my parents getting killed in the plane crash. I remember being married to Alice. I remembered our fights over money, I remember coming here to Century City every day to work. I remembered Alice telling me about this wonderful hypnotist she met. He was going to help me stop smoking. I remembered my plans to leave for Hong Kong on Friday. I even remembered the first time I’d seen Alice, it was 1944. Where had we gone wrong? When had money become more important to us than each other? I thought again about turning Alice and Breeze over the police. But I wasn’t sure the police would believe me- even with the recording. Besides, I didn’t want to go back on my word not to turn them in. I looked at my watch. It was eight O’clock. At this time yesterday I thought, I was in the hospital. I’d living a bad dream for 24 hours. I got in the car and I turned onto the street where I used to live. I knocked on the door of the house my father built. The woman I met yesterday morning opened it. She said, “You’ve come for the box. It’s right here Mr. Smith,” taking them from her I said, “Thanks for holding on to these things.” Walking to my car, I thought I’ll hold on to them for the rest of my life. Three months passed. I was looking at the headlines in the L.A News when my eye caught the following: HYPNOTIST INDICTED FOR FRAUD. Breeze and Alice went to jail. I was glad that this was over and more that I knew that Breeze would never control people’s mind again. I thought about what happened to me last summer, and I was grateful, if Breeze and Alice hadn’t tried to get me lost, I might never have found that they were up to and I might never have found myself.






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