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“What year is it, Mr. Burnes?” the doctor asked coldly.
“Twenty-one…twenty-one thirty-seven,” Simon Burnes replied. “But why ask me?”
“It’s a test.” The doctor’s voice was icy, evil in all ways.
“Why are you testing me? I’m not psychotic, you know. It’s a mistake for me to be here.”
The doctor turned around and started walking down a long hallway. A nurse dressed in gray walked around the desk and grabbed Simon’s hand, pulling him down the hall after the doctor.
Simon Burnes looked around the hospital room he was standing in front of. It was bleak and gray. There was nothing on the walls. The bed looked as if it had been made from a rock. There was a single torn blanket on top of it, which was also gray. It was definitely not the nicest place in the world to be.
He walked slowly into the drab room, nervous. As soon as he was two feet in, the door slammed behind him. A lock clicked.
Simon Burnes spun around and ran back to the door, pounding on it with both fists. “Let me out of here,” he cried. “I’m not crazy! I don’t deserve to be in this cage!”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Burnes,” the doctor’s smooth, cool voice replied through the metal door, “but you family feels differently. You really have no say in the matter. Now, either be silent or I will subdue you myself.”
Simon turned around and sunk to the floor, still leaning against the door. He sat there through the night. That exact spot was, years later, where he would die.
The sunlight hit his skin, lightly caressing it. Simon Burnes’s eyes snapped open and he blinked, hoping it had all been a dream.
It had not been a dream. He was still in the drab, gray room. Absolutely nothing was different.
“I am sane,” Simon whispered to the air.
“Not if you talk to the air like that you aren’t,” a voice replied.
Simon turned his head and looked for the person that had said that. There was no one.
“I’m up here, stupid.” Simon stood and looked over at his bed. Only, it wasn’t his bed anymore. There was a beautiful young woman lying there instead.
“What-what are you doing here?” he asked nervously, leaning against the opposite wall.
“Well, you were on the floor. I figured one of us might as well use the bed. Why? Did you want it?” she replied.
“No. It’s ok. You can have it. I’m perfectly fine on the floor,” he replied.
“Come on. Sit by me,” the young woman said, sitting up and patting the space beside her.
Simon shrugged and got up, groaning. He stepped slowly over to the bed and sat on the very edge. The young woman rolled her eyes and moved over closer to Simon Burnes.
“What’s you name? Who are you? Where did you come from?” he asked almost eagerly.
“My name is Myra. You know me, Simon. We’re lovers!” she replied.
“I think…I think I remember you,” he said back, surveying the girl. She had fair skin with a few freckles here and there. Her hair was bleach yellow, almost white. Her dark green eyes contrasted it violently with a tint of brown. Myra was unnaturally thin, and had the look of a person who hadn’t been allowed to eat more than a tiny morsel a day for her whole life.
“Of course you do, Simon,” Myra cooed. She leaned forward a little and kissed him lightly.
Before they could do anything else, there was a knock on the metal door. Myra disappeared in a small puff.
“Myra? Come back, please,” Simon begged.
The locks on the door were unbolted. In walked the doctor from the previous day.
“Hello again, Mr. Burnes. Who was that you were talking to?” he asked. The doctor’s voice was hard. He had no emotion.
“I was talking to Myra, my lover,” Simon replied simply.
“Myra, eh? Well, what was she like, this Myra girl? Where is she now?”
“She disappeared when you walked in. Wait a minute! I know what you’re getting at. I’m not crazy. She was here I tell you!”
“Of course she was,” the doctor replied smoothly, jotting something down on his clipboard.
“I am not a madman,” Burnes said calmly, sitting on the very end of his bed.
“No one ever said you were, Mr. Burnes,” the doctor sniffed, turning around and walking out the door.
Simon sat there at the end of his bed, staring at the locked door. A pair of hands started massaging his shoulders he groaned in consent and gave in to the bliss.
The next few days went by in a blur for Simon Burnes. Everyday was the same thing: a little talk with the doctor and pleasure time with Myra. He stopped eating. He stopped drinking. He stopped doing anything that he’d have needed to in order to live.
Simon Burnes almost died. Almost. The only things keeping him alive were the forced feedings and his passion for Myra. He couldn’t leave her.
“Well, Mr. Burnes,” the doctor started in his monotone, “what fantasy have you cooked up for me today? Did you show your imaginary girlfriend how much you love her? What now?” the doctor was taunting Simon, trying to provoke him.
“Myra is sitting right here next to me. Something is clearly wrong with you if you can’t see that.” Simon leaned forward and lightly kissed the air next to him. In his eyes he was kissing Myra, who was sitting there next to him.
“Mr. Burnes, I have tried to be patient with you. However, there had been no change in your condition. We’re going to have to start treating you.” He said the last two words with a subtle joy; it was obvious he relished every moment of “treating” people.
“What?” Simon asked, turning once again to face the doctor. “What treatment? I’m not insane, you know. I am as sane as you are. What are you doing? Let me go!”
As Simon was speaking, the doctor snapped his fingers. Two burly nurses came in with a bed on wheels. One grabbed Simon and threw him onto the rolling bed. Simon’s struggle was no match for the two of them. He was strapped to the bed and rolled down the hallway to a small room. In it was a small machine. That was it.
“Start with level two,” the doctor ordered. A female nurse already in the room grimaced, but still nodded. She put small amounts of gel on the sides of Simon’s forehead.
Simon lay there on the bed and watched with curiosity. He’d never before seen a room like the one he was in. he had no clue what was about to happen, but he was scared.
A hard thing was shoved into his mouth. Then the pain began.
When Simon Burnes woke up, he was no longer in the room with the machine. He was in his room with the rock solid bed and empty walls. He tried to move, but couldn’t. Simon was so stiff, so sore, from something. He just couldn’t remember what it was.
One of the only things he could see from his position was that the door to his room was wide open. It was as if they were inviting him out into the rest of the building.
Simon forced himself to stand up. He swayed a little, but still stayed on his feet. Taking step after agonizing step, Simon trudged through his room until he finally got out the door. He was surprised to see that there were people out in the hallway, going about what seemed to be business as usual.
“Mr. Burnes! What on earth are you doing out of bed? You should be resting!” a nurse exclaimed, scolding him. Simon felt his head spinning. Then a pair of arms was around him.
When he opened his eyes and looked up, Simon saw a pair of blue eyes looking down on him. There was something in his mouth. A hand pressed itself gently on his forehead. Things became cleared as he looked around.
“What happened?” he groaned almost silently.
“Shh. You’ll be okay, Mr. Burnes. You just over exerted yourself. All you need to do is rest,” the nurse replied. Simon nodded and closed his eyes. Someone else started whispering things in his ear.
It was a full day later when Simon Burnes opened his eyes, his head was pounding through his ears, but other than that, he was fine. He felt as though he were seeing things clearly for the first time.
He put his bare feet on the ground which was, of course, ice cold. The entire hospital, and most of the people in it, seemed to be that way. Simon wobbled a little but didn’t fall backwards. It was a good sign.
Simon Burnes walked out his open bedroom door and into the deserted hallway. No one turned him around, so he wandered through the entire ward. The whole place was gray and empty, devoid of life. It was very strange. Simon turned around and walked back to his room and lay back down on his bed, silently staring at his ceiling.
Someone came in and left food on the small table by his bed. Simon didn’t move. He was spiraling down into a depression. It was strange considering he had just been in such a bright mood only moments ago.
“Simon,” a quiet voice whispered, “I have to leave you now. It’s my fault so much bad has happened to you.”
Simon sat up and looked around wildly for the source of the words, finding nothing. “Myra,” he moaned, “where are you?” she appeared out of thin air next to him.
“I have to leave no, Simon,” she said softly.
There was a small snap and Myra disappeared. No matter how much Simon called for her to come back, she never did reappear. He sighed and flopped back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling again.
“I really don’t want to do anything,” he muttered to thin air. “I have no reason to keep living.”
“And that’s the reason we need to treat you some more, Mr. Burnes.” The doctor was back. He’d come out of nowhere. It gave Simon the feeling that something was very, very wrong with the entire hospital, not him. “When we treat you, you’ll see that all we want to do is make you better. Just relax, and we’ll prep a room for you.”
Simon sat up, shaking his head vigorously. “No! I don’t need anymore of your damned treatment! Just let me be!”
Te doctor clicked his tongue impatiently. “Tsk, tsk now, Mr. Burnes. You can’t refuse treatment. It will help you get well again.”
Simon shuffled backwards to the head of the bed, still shaking his head. “If you don’t leave me alone…I’ll do something. Something bad.”
The doctor laughed. It was a cold, spine-chilling laugh. “Like what? Kill yourself?”
Simon waited a moment, not responding. Then he said, “No. that’s what you want, isn’t it? I won’t give you that pleasure. I will get out of here, though.” That last phrase was filled with determination and anger.
One of the nurses behind the doctor snorted. He shook his head a little. “There’s no way that you’re getting out of here,” the nurse said. The doctor elbowed him in the stomach. That peaked Simon’s interest, though. He sat up a little straighter and listened closer.
The doctor didn’t say anything more. Simon sighed, not knowing what to do. Both the doctor and nurse walked out of the room, slamming the metal door behind them. Outside, Simon could hear a whispered argument.
“-doesn’t need to know anything other than what I tell him!” the doctor hissed.
The nurse muttered something indiscernible and the doctor laughed his evil cold laugh. “What do you expect?” he chuckled. “This is what happens when you’ve seen what I’ve seen. You can’t help but be this way, always hoping they’ll just all die already and maybe, just maybe, let you go home and relax for once, instead of worrying about what might happen all night!”
Simon had, by that point, pressed his ear to the door, eager for more. However, there was nothing more to hear; the doctor had started walking away, muttering.
Simon returned to his bed, flopping down and staring at the ceiling as he’d done countless times before. Eventually, he, somehow, fell asleep. It wasn’t a very sound sleep, though. Dead people and empty homes kept weaving their way through his mind and dreams. On more than one occasion he woke up in a cold sweat. After the third time, Simon didn’t even try to go back to sleep. Instead he closed his eyes and started counting.
Hours seemed to drag by before the sun began to rise. The moment the rays flooded through the window, he sat up. Everything was, strangely, not gray for the first time Simon could remember. It was as if the entire world was starting to come into focus: colors were clear, surroundings were starting to change, and he could think clearly.
He was in a hospital still, but not a psychiatric ward. He was in a solitary room, surrounded by medical equipment. It was as if everything he had just experienced had never happened, but did at the same time. He could remember it.
“Daddy!” a high pitched voice squealed. Simon tried to push himself up farther, but found himself restrained. Arms wrapped themselves around his neck and squeezed hard. After a few moments, they released.
“What the-?” Simon started, stopping immediately. The doctor had just entered the room. And he looked the same as the doctor in the hospital he’d just been at.
“Ah, Mr. Burnes!” he started cheerfully. “I see you are awake. This is excellent!”
Simon tried to shuffle backwards away from the doctor, who was now leaning in to examine him. “Stay away from me,” he said nervously. “I don’t need anymore of your treatment!”
The doctor frowned. “He should’ve been past this by now,” he muttered to someone who was standing in the shadows behind him.
A young woman stepped forward and placed a hand on Simon’s brow. She looked worried. The little girl who’d hugged Simon wrapped an arm around her mother’s leg, holding on.
“Will someone please tell me: what is going on here?!” Simon asked irritably, never taking his eyes off of the young woman.
“Don’t you remember, Si? You thought it was too risky for anyone but yourself to test your project. You always went by your own credo,” she replied.
“What happened?” Simon demanded. “What was this experiment about?”
The doctor stepped forward a little more and started explaining. “You were trying to determine if it would be possible to implant certain memories into a human brain, even if the person hadn’t experienced them before.
“The computer tests looked hopeful, but ou weren’t entirely sure. It seemed wrong, in your opinion, to test this particular theory on anyone but yourself. So, I did the implant procedure on you. And we waited to see what would happen. You’ve been in a coma for the past three days. Something went seriously wrong; we didn’t think you’d ever wake up.”
Simon nodded a little. His memory was starting to return. He still remembered everything from the other hospital, though, as clearly as if it had actually happened to him. “What type of memory were you trying to implant?” he asked.
“One from the times when people came to hospitals for any help they needed, probably the early nineteen sixties to nineties. You never told me,” the doctor replied cautiously.
Simon remembered it all. Everything from before he woke up to find himself in a gray room. He was Simon Burnes, a pioneer in neurology, one of the most famed scientists of his time. He had a wife and daughter and was expecting another child.
Simon sighed and lay back down carefully on the pillow. He had a lot to think about.