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Mr. Johnson sat in his uncomfortably bright hospital room, staring across at the woman audibly scribbling on her clipboard.

“Now tell me, Mr. Johnson, how have you been feeling lately?”

“Better,” he answered. He meant it. She did not seem convinced. She looked down and continued writing.

“Have you had any luck remembering your first name?”

“No.” In fact, Mr. Johnson could hardly remember anything from before he checked in. He knew he had been staying in the mental ward for almost two months now, and yet he couldn’t manage to remember checking in to the hospital. Nor could he remember any details of his life before the hospital, save for a few precious memories he kept locked in the deepest parts of mind. These were memories of his family. The thought of his wife, Sharon, and his son, Stan, were all he really had left to hold on to. They were memories he knew he would keep with him, no matter how far gone they said he was.

But he wasn’t far gone at all. They said he was crazy, but Mr. Johnson knew they were wrong. He was thinking perfectly clearly, and yet the staff insisted he still be classified as mentally unstable. Worse yet, the staff seemed to be steadily increasing his medication, and Mr. Johnson knew there was nothing he could do about it.

“I see. Well, then I guess we are almost done here. Before I go, is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable? As you know, we still have lots of work to do.”

“You could let me go home to see my wife and kid.”

The therapist cracked a cold half-smile. “Always with the jokes, Mr. Johnson.” She finished adding the last scribbles to her clipboard, stood up, turned, and walked out. “An orderly will be back here in a little while to give you your medicine,” she added before closing the door behind her. He couldn’t believe what he had just been a part of.

The moment her footsteps faded, he jumped up and tried the door. The result was exactly as he expected: locked from the outside. He pounded on the door a few more times and shouted at the top of his lungs. He knew it would be no help, but at that moment he was so overcome with frustration he felt he had to at least try to get out of his room. He couldn’t understand why they still thought he was unstable. As far as he could remember, he had given them no reason to think he was crazy, and yet they still thought him to be. And the more he insisted he was getting better, the more medication they gave him. All he wanted to do was go home.
* * *

Through the small window at the very top of his wall he saw that it had since gotten dark. He sank into his chair, rising up a minute later when his door swung open. A thin orderly that he did not recognize walked through the doorway, carrying a tray of small cups filled with pills. Making his best effort to ignore Mr. Johnson’s glare, the orderly proceeded to consult the chart he had in his hand.

“Let’s see, Johnson…Johnson… Ah! Here we go then, Mr. Johnson,” he said, pulling a cup out of the tray and offering it to Mr. Johnson. Johnson looked up at the medication he was being offered, and moved further up to look into the face of the staff member who was offering it. He suddenly felt as though the only way he could get out was by refusing to cooperate.

“No,” he said, overcome with a surge of confidence, never breaking his gaze.

The orderly did his best to fake an encouraging smile. “Mr. Johnson, you have to take your medication. You do want to get better, don’t you?

“Mr. Johnson’s expression remained the same. “I don’t need to get better,” he said, adrenaline beginning to rush. “Medication won’t help me anymore. Going home will help me.”

The orderly flicked his chin to the left, keeping his eyes on Mr. Johnson. “You can’t go home until you get better. You can’t get better until you take your medication. Now, take it!” he said, shoving the cup further toward Mr. Johnson’s face. On an instinct, Mr. Johnson raised his hand to defend himself and, in doing so, accidentally swatted the cup, knocking it out of his hand and spilling the multicolored pills out onto the floor. The orderly’s face turned red. Closing the few steps that separated the two of them, he raised his hand and struck Mr. Johnson across the face.

“Do you think I have to deal with patients like you? Patients who just want to make things difficult?” But Mr. Johnson wasn’t listening. He had already begun to retaliate. Before he realized what he was doing, he was on top of the orderly, hitting him repeatedly. When he regained control of himself, he looked down to find his fists covered in blood.

Mr. Johnson looked from his hands to the bloodied orderly lying underneath him. The body lay perfectly still. Again, Mr. Johnson let his instinct take over and ran. Before anybody could stop him he had burst out the door and into the cold, dark night. It was snowing now, and he slipped a few times before regaining his balance and continuing to run as far away from the hospital as possible.

After a few solid minutes of running he arrived in town. He shivered in his thin hospital nightgown, thinking about where he could stay for the night. I still have an active bank account with some money, he thought. He, of course, didn’t know this for sure, but he knew this was the best chance he had. All I need is a hotel room to stay in for the night. In the morning I can find a train that will get me home, away from that horrible place.

He started off in the direction in which he thought he might find a hotel. He had no idea where he really was, but he knew he had to start somewhere. Behind him he heard a siren, and he jumped into the nearest alleyway. It took a few seconds for him to see the police car as well as the car it was chasing. He put his hands on his knees and sighed. They aren’t looking for me. At least not yet anyway.

Mr. Johnson spent the next hour drifting between the city blocks. His fingers and toes had long since begun to lose feeling, and he experienced the feeling of going in circles. The initial burst of adrenaline that carried him away from the hospital had faded into aching exhaustion, making each step feel a mile away from the next. The idea of sleeping in the streets became more appealing with each movement, but he knew he couldn’t stop. With temperatures the way they were, he would freeze by morning.

Even has he continued to push himself, it took another ten minutes before he caught sight of the first hotel. He squinted, but sure enough, less than a block away stood a huge sign reading “Super 8.” His exhaustion all but forgotten, he picked up the pace to as close to a run as he could manage. He swung the door open and stumbled his way to the front desk.

“Johnson,” he spat out. He was too tired to bother with being cautious. The shock of warmth to his limbs was caused him to shake. “I- I need a room for the night. My name is Mr. J-Johnson.”

The desk attendant looked up from his computer, raising his eyebrows at the sight of the shivering mess in from of him. “Of course Mr.… Johnson. It’s going to be $89 for the night. We can put you in room 12, if that’s ok.”

“Yes. Yes that would be great. My bank account number is 544…6…” he searched his memories for the numbers to his account. It had been so long since he used them, they were like a foreign language. “5446-…” His concentration was cut off by a pain in his head. The painful exhaustion he had begun to feel ever since leaving the hospital converged, giving way to a head-splitting migraine that extinguished any hope he had of remembering. “Just give me a second to remember,” he said, jamming his finger into the sides of his temples.

“Maybe I should get a manager.”

“No that’s not-”

“Mr. Johnson,” the clerk said more forcefully, “I really think I should get a manager. Wait right here.”

The clerk disappeared into a back room for the few minutes. Regaining control of himself, Mr. Johnson managed a few glances around the lobby. Even at this late hour, there were still guests scattered around the couches, most of them fixed around the news program broadcasting from a large TV mounted in the wall. A few seconds later he wheeled around to find himself face to face with the hotel manager.

“Mr. Johnson, I assume?” the manager asked in a gruff but friendly voice.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Perfect. Well, it appears you are having some problems with funding.”

“No, sir. No problems, I just need to remember-”

“Yes, it appears you have no way of paying for a room here.” The manager interrupted, allowing his voice to slip into a quicker tone. “I’m sorry, but I can’t just give out rooms here for free. If you absolutely need a place to stay, there is a shelter about a mile south of here. If you leave now, there might still be a few beds left.” His stomach sank at the thought of traveling any further than he already had.

“No, you don’t understand. I can’t go back out there. If you could just-”

“That’s him!” Mr. Johnson was cut off by a voice from behind him. When he turned around, he found that all the guests that were previously watching TV had turned to stare at him. After a moment of confusion, he looked around to see a picture of him posted on the news channel they had been watching. It was only now that he became aware of the dialogue being emitted, describing an escaped mental patient being charged with the aggravated assault and murder of a hospital staff member. He turned back to the manager, who had already picked up the phone to dial 911. For the second time that night, he turned and ran.

This time, however, his adrenaline carried him not just away from the hotel, but farther than he thought anyone would think to look for him. By the time he paused to catch his breath, he found himself far deeper into the city than even he meant to run. When he looked around to collect his bearings, he got a look at the houses around him. He took note of the abundance of boarded up windows and crumbling foundations, figuring he had discovered a neighborhood long forgotten by society. A few blocks down he spied an abandoned warehouse, and figured it was as good a place as any to pass the night.

Shutting the door behind him gave off a loud echo as he inspected the inside of the warehouse. The building itself was almost completely empty, with only a stairway leading up to the upper balcony, which in turn had a ladder leading up to the roof. He found a small corner to lie down in. As he tried to drift off, he noticed the aching giving way to a strange sensation, almost as if his bones had been physically broken and were knitting themselves back together. At the moment, however, he was simply too tired to care, and let the excitement of the night wash away into the sleep that he desperately needed.
* * *

“Mr. Johnson, we have you surrounded. Please exit the building with your hands in the air.”

Mr. Johnson was shocked out of his sleep by the sound of a megaphone from outside. For a few seconds he was confused, but eventually realized he was exactly where he had slept the night before. Only this time he could see red and blue lights flashing through the small windows at the top of the warehouse. He ran up the stairs to the top balcony to get a better view.

Upon reaching the top, he looked out to the ground floor. As far as he could see, there were four police cars parked outside, though he reasoned there very well could be even more parked around the other side. Giving up won’t do any good, he thought. They will just take me back to the institution. No, the only way to get out of this is to talk my way out of it from here. With that resolution firm in his mind, he went to climb the ladder leading to the roof.

Upon reaching the roof, he found there to be at least three more police cars parked around the other side. He decided to open the conversation by shouting down to the officer he saw holding the megaphone. “I know this looks bad, but trust me, I’m not crazy. I didn’t mean to kill that guy. It was an accident.”

“I’m not here to argue with you, Mr. Johnson. We all just want you to come down here. You want to see your family don’t you?”
The officer is right. What was I thinking, trying to get out of this? All I want to do is see my family. He turned to walk over to the ladder, but paused. Something was off. He turned back to the police officer.
“How do you know about my family?”
“Mr. Johnson, we know all about you,” the voice the loudspeaker responded. “Don’t you see that this is all for you? You know what needs to be done, Mr. Johnson. You know the right thing to do. Come down here, Mr. Johnson.”
Something in the officer’s words struck a chord. It was as though something had suddenly awakened. He didn’t fully understand what he was about to do, but he knew it needed to be done. He stepped back from the edge a few paces. He bent over, working up as much speed as he thought he would need, and jumped. He managed to clear the edge, falling for what felt like an eternity, until finally crashing against the ground. He felt a surge of pain flare throughout his entire body, before his vision faded and his consciousness was replaced by the sensation of nothingness.
* * *
He awoke to the blurred figures of rushing hospital staff. When his vision came back into focus, one of the nurses noticed that he was awake. Her eyes widened.
“Mr. Johnson, you’re awake!” Mr. Johnson felt an ache throughout his body, though he thought it strange that the pain was not nearly what it should have been. He willed himself to move around, but found his body to be mostly unresponsive, almost as if the muscles themselves were in a state of atrophy. He turned his attention back to the nurse, who he found was still apparently in a state of shock. "This is incredible! After all this time..."
Once again, Mr. Johnson found himself in a state of confusion. "All this time? What do you mean? How long have I been unconscious for?"
The nurse gave him a pitying look. "Mr. Johnson, you've been asleep for over two months."
The words came down like a ton of bricks. Mr. Johnson suddenly felt short of breath. "Two months? How is that even possible? How does someone go into a coma for two months after jumping off of a roof?" As Mr. Johnson's ramblings descended further and further into panic, the nurse once again flashed him a look, this time one of concern.
"Perhaps I should get a doctor to explain this to you." The nurse turned and walked out, leaving Mr. Johnson feeling less reassured than ever. A few moments passed before the door to his room swung open, allowing the nurse and who he presumed to be the doctor to enter.
"Good evening, Mr. Johnson. My name is Dr. Mike Webler, I've been your primary doctor for these last couple months. It's good to finally meet you. I'm sure this all must be very confusing." Mr. Johnson recognized the doctor's best efforts to be reassuring, and yet he still found himself to be completely lost. How could I have been here for two months when it feels as though only moments have passed since I jumped? "The nurse tells me you've been having dreams."
This caught Mr. Johnson's attention. "What do you mean? What kind of dreams?"
"Apparently, she said, you think that you recently jumped off a rooftop?"
What is this guy's deal? "Yes, of course. Why else would I be in a hospital?"
"Mr. Johnson, you've been in a coma for the last two months. Before that you were in a severe car accident."
Mr. Johnson almost started to laugh. "With all do respect, Dr. Webler, I don't know what they told you about my injuries, but they most certainly were not part of a car accident. I've recently spent time in a mental institution. I haven't been in a car for longer than I can remember."
"Oh, I assure you, I'm quite positive you were in a crash. You were admitted to the hospital with severe head trauma and multiple fractures. You've been unconscious and on pain medication ever since. Now, please tell me about this institution of yours. How long have you been in there?"
"Around two months." The doctor looked down and nodded. Mr. Johnson started to feel angry, as though there were some big joke that he wasn't a part of. "So what?"
"And have you been feeling any sort of pain over the last 24 hours?"
"I might have been."
"As I suspected. Mr. Johnson, I'm very sorry to have to tell you this, but what your life has been over the past two months appears to have been a hallucination induced by the medication we have been giving you. Yesterday I decided to take you off the meds. Apparently, this yielded good results."
Mr. Johnson was taken back. "No..." he said staring off. "No, there is no way... there's no way the last two months have been a lie."
"I'm sorry. I know this will be hard for you to accept, but you are going to have to trust us. Do you even remember how you got to this 'mental institution' in the first place? It wasn't real, Randy! Now if there's-"
"What did you just call me?" Mr. Johnson interrupted, suddenly snapping back into reality.
"What? Oh, I called you Randy... Randy Johnson. That's your name, isn't it?"
Randy. The name he had repressed. Randy. He was back in the car. He heard a woman scream his name. Randy!
Mr. Johnson slowly looked back up at the doctor. "What else can you tell me about the accident?" he asked, his voice hollow.
Dr. Webler looked down, away from Mr. Johnson's gaze. "Well it was a tragedy, really... I mean, the people on site did all they could to-"
"What about the rest of the people in the accident, doctor." The word stung in his mouth.
This time the doctor looked up, this time to exchange a look with the nurse who had yet remained quiet. Dr. Webler managed to look him in the eye for a least a few seconds before he spoke. "There was nothing we could do. We honestly tried our best to save them. Your wife, your son... the wreckage was just too harsh. If there is anything we can do... anything..."
Mr. Johnson barely knew how to respond. What he did know is that anger wouldn't do him any good. Instead he fell silent, sinking into his bed and staring up at the white ceiling. Once they were sure he no longer wanted to speak, the doctor and the nurse exited the room, leaving Mr. Johnson alone with his thoughts. Somewhere he knew he would have a lot to decide... where to go from here, what to do about his family... However, for that moment, Mr. Johnson was perfectly content to just stare.



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