The experiment was just conducted yet this girl voluntarily lent herself to this prison as if it were the newly discovered planet B. She had entered the room with such serenity and sauntered to the front desk where the final contract awaited her signature. As she motioned to pick up the dripping fountain pen I couldn’t help but wonder whether the girl knew the secrets hiding behind these glistening white walls.
Two days ago I was dragged from the comforts of my home into this institution. I had gotten into a few mix ups at school while learning to drive and my mom decided it was time to be disciplined. As usual, there was bold refusal making minimal difference in the status of her decisions.
My mother wasn’t the type of person with whom to tangle. She had a perpetual grimace and stated every opinion as fact. Often times I would try to express my point of view only to find myself encountering a seemingly insurmountable barrier.
She forced me into the passenger seat lying, “It’s only for three days. You will love it. Just get in the car!”
After arguing the matter until it was wrung dry, we had arrived at the hospital. The rooms were sparse and functional. Every area was blank and every bed covered in the same white sheets, but there was a sinister underpinning to their purpose.
My first day here, a nurse offered a penny and led me to a new location upon my acceptance of her gift. With floors of slate grey and lifeless walls, the hallway had a personality similar the rest of the hospital. The light seemed bright in vivid contrast to the gloom of my previous chambor. We finally reached the room’s door, dull and brown like all the others, yet its inside was anything but colorless.
“Here is your resting place for the day.” The nurse smiled calmly and opened the door wider.
While peering into the room I saw people and machines surrounding a bed with red covers.
“Why must I stay here today?” I asked. “It is very different from my typical surroundings. Returning to my room would be preferable.”
The nurse stood for several seconds and eventually responded, “That won’t be possible. I apologize.”
It was then one of the men in the room pulled me into the bed and slammed my head onto the pillow. My hands were tightly clamped down and my feet anchored to a metal bar at the bed’s end.
“Let me go!” I demanded.
I shouted, “Get me out of this torture device!”
I felt my mouth squeezed shut and coated with duct tape as the metallic taste of blood overpowered my senses. Fiddling with the ends of my sheets I stared at the contraption lowering from the ceiling.
I quickly read the print on the machine’s edge and it said, “A penny for your thoughts. Any memory can be analyzed.”
Cold terror flowed through my veins. I heard the mind reader squeak closer to my scalp. It sounded old as if the experiment had been placed in action decades ago.
The iron tips fastened to my head and shimmered with remarkable hues. They flashed before my eyes as a sea of memories came flooding into my brain. Conversations and events I hadn’t recalled for years were spilling into my thoughts.
I was able to recollect my first time rock climbing as a child. Grasping the narrow ledge and less than adequate handholds I was thrilled with my agility and capabilities to be adventurous. The adrenaline pumped through me as I leapt from one rock face to the next. Shards of gravel dug into my palms yet my smile remained wide.
It was a priceless memory, but forever lost as a loud buzzer sounded and the contraption’s lights flickered away. The machine was raised into its original position and my mind was blank. Everything was a blur and part of my existence seemed to be ripped away.
As my body was yanked from the bed and piled into a wheelchair, the doctor murmured, “You are free to leave.”
I sighed, “Yes, I will be taken to my room now.”
The nurse wheeled me down the hallway of white and shiny everything. I stumbled into my bed and reached into my pocket where the smooth bronze penny remained. I threw it to the floor and started to weep.
I glanced at the mirror placed at the top of my blanket and trembled at the reflection of a blond girl staring back at me. She looked about 16 and wore tattered clothing. I couldn’t remember who she was or why she was here, but as her cowardly eyes locked with mine, it was clear my life would be forever changed.
Now, I watch as the girl writes a sloppy formation of her signature on the contract. She shuffles through some papers and takes her receipt.
She asks, “Is the process complete?”
“It is, however, this is a tedious procedure, so we offer you this penny for your troubles.” The receptionist grins as she gestures to the metal.
The girl reaches out to snag the penny like it is a valuable present.
I consider yelling to her, but I don’t know why. Something about the receptionist’s appearance makes me gag. Gaping at the penny, I try to recall its significance.
Thoughts scramble together as the girl’s fingers are seconds away from destroying her own life. I feel drawn to warn her, but of what? Consequences? Deception? I try to focus, but this is an impossible task.
I finally scream, “Stop! Don’t take the penny, it’s a hoax!”
The girl pauses for a moment until the receptionist mutters, “You must accept our gift to stay at the hospital sweetie.”
The girl walks in my direction as a nearby nurse shoots me a glare. The girl gazes at me. She seems puzzled as she opens her mouth to speak.
Before getting a chance to inhale a breath of air she is pulled backward, deposited into a wheelchair, and snatched away.
The nurse turns to the rest of the customers and extends her arm so everyone can see the shiny metallic circle of bronze clenched between her fingers.
She smiles with a face of deception and utters the question, “A penny for your thoughts?”