I felt myself slowly coming out of my deep slumber. Without opening my eyes, I stretched, and turned under the covers. It certainly felt that I had a good long sleep. All I had to do was open my eyes, and discover where I really was. Did I want to find out? Would I back in the lab, or would I find myself to be still in the spare room? I really wished that I had returned to the lab, and to some sort of normality.
I thought back to yesterday, Bloody hell that was without doubt one pretty grim day. Now I was sure why I had never married! This new other Martin, what a horrible guy – I really did not like him one bit. How is it possible that I could be so different to him? Caroline, poor Caroline. I clearly remember sharing the other Martin’s thoughts for just a few minutes - what a selfish bastard he was. He was deceitful, could not help himself from constantly lying, cheating on Caroline, and he certainly had no respect for her. And what about Pauline? It’s very odd, there I was worrying over a wife and daughter that were not mine, it was just so strange. Then of course speaking to my mother, or rather getting spoken to by her. It was just so difficult believing that all these events really took place. The more I thought back on yesterday’s ghastly events, the more I was desperate to find myself back in my own world. I really couldn’t see how I could get through one more day like that.
With some trepidation I pulled the covers down, and slowly opened my eyes. I was back in my room in the complex. Great – I was really back! I quickly looked around, yes this is definitely my room, and I’m undeniably back! I punched the air with joy. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off me, and I was instantly transformed. I could at last look forward to today. Not just today – I could at last look forward to getting out of this damn complex, and to finally get on with my own life once again. I closed my eyes again and as I did so, I could feel myself grinning with relief.
So, this time I had only been away for less than twenty-four hours, and today must be Saturday. No - it was Saturday in the other world, but I have returned here, so it was still Friday. Very confusing. I supposed that Alistair and the rest of the team would want me to stay for another day or two, that was okay – I could live with that.
Never again! There is no way that anybody is going to convince, or cajole me into doing another ‘little run’ for them. No way in hell. Doing one run was daft enough, but doing the second run, now that was plain stupid. No, I would leave in a day or two, and never return – never!
Still elated, I opened my eyes again to look around the room. In a few minutes I would get myself refreshed with a shower - I really couldn’t wait for the rest of the day. I certainly had one hell of a story to tell them all. What on earth was I going to say about what happened between Sarah and myself? I suppose I could just leave it out, couldn’t I? At the very least I could change or alter the story a little. Yes that’s what I would do - after all, they would be none the wiser.
As I continued thinking about what I should and shouldn’t say, I began to realise that there was something rather odd about me being here. This room, I shouldn’t be here, why did I find myself in this room? I should have woken up in the dentist chair in the lab - not in this room. In fact the more I thought about it, the stranger it became. I now reasoned that I should have been only in the chair for around ten to fifteen minutes, and then I should have woken up. What the hell happened? Maybe I did not wake up properly after the run, and they bought me to this room. Did they get the sedative wrong, and I simply slept for too long? It was all so bewildering and very strange. However, I was sure there was a logical explanation to this, and I would find out very soon.
I glanced over at the bedside clock to see what time it was. It read 06:20 – that was not right, it couldn’t be the morning, could it? It should have been the afternoon, Friday afternoon. So what was going on? There was something else that was strange - it was the clock. I’m sure that it was somehow different to how I remembered it. It was different, of that I was sure. I took another good long look around the room. I don’t know why, but I was beginning to think that there were subtle differences as I looked about me, but I wasn’t sure. Maybe I was just imagining it all - yes that was probably all it was. After what I had just been through, imagining that things were a little different around me was the least of my problems. But what about the time on the clock? That couldn’t be right. Something was not right…
Once I got myself showered and dressed, I was pretty sure that everything would come together and hopefully make more sense. I could remember how paranoid I had let myself get after I completed the first run – I was not about to do the same thing. I knew once I was fully awake and had spoken to Alistair and the rest of the team that it would all fall into place. I was sure, wasn’t I? I could feel a chill go right through me, and I decided to take that shower.
I didn’t know how long I had been showering, but it must have been for quite some time as the whole bathroom was full of thick steam. I could hardly see a thing. Surrounded by the swirling clouds of heavy steam I stepped out of the shower and began to dry myself. I was feeling an awful lot better already, and definitely much more relaxed. I would go and get myself dressed.
I opened the wardrobe door and was immediately taken aback at the clothes that I was staring at. These clothes were not mine. As I examined them all a little more closely it was clear that none of my clothes were here. It was only then that I realised that the dressing gown I had put on after I had dried in the shower was not mine either, it was very similar, but not mine. So what on earth was going on? Now I knew why I thought this room was a little different to how I remembered it…it was because this was not my room! I had woken up in somebody else’s room…but why had they put me into another room? None of this made any sense to me, and just how was I supposed to get myself dressed?
Was this Alistair playing some sort of a prank on me? I wouldn’t put it past him…put me into a different room, change the time on the clock. Well if that was the case he had better have my clothes ready when he finally came to the door! What else could it be? If indeed it was Alistair up to no good, it still did not explain why I had not woken up in the lab – that was very odd, and try as I might I just couldn’t get my head around that one. I checked the time again, it was just gone half seven. What was I supposed to do with myself with no bloody clothes until eight or half eight? That was the usual time that somebody usually came to collect me for breakfast. I looked at door of my room. That’s what else was different with this room, there was no wall mounted telephone beside the door. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t even contact anybody.
I had had enough. I knew full well that I wasn’t supposed to just walk out into the corridor on my own - I didn’t care. I would walk out and wait to be accosted by one of the many soldiers. With all those secret cameras hidden away around the complex they would soon spot me. A civilian walking around in only a dressing gown and barefoot would not impress them for a moment - I would get my clothes pretty quick then, and have a little fun myself – that would teach the jokers in here!
As I got to the door, I reached out and turned the handle. It was locked! These rooms were never locked from the outside before. This was getting less funny by the minute, and I was becoming very frustrated. I banged on the door, only to find that it was so solid that hardly any noise was made. No point in trying to bang the door then. I headed back to the bed and put the television on. I had no choice in the matter - I would just have to wait for somebody to come and collect me.
I was very quickly becoming very annoyed, and frustrated, with the ridiculous situation that I was in. In fact I was so wound up, that after about twenty minutes I found that I wasn’t really paying any attention to the television at all. Realising that I was getting myself worked up, I decided to try and calm myself down by doing my best to concentrate on the news that had just started.
Was this some kind of a joke? This could not be the news. Who or what are they talking about? I had never heard of these politicians before, and I certainly did not recognise any of them. And as for ‘Ukazonne’ the company involved in the scandal, who were they? No - this was unquestionably not the real news, no way. This could only be some previously made-up news piece that was played back to me when I put the television on. This was very much like the dream sequence they had given me before I had done the first run. They had already made one false reality for me, that much I knew, so if they had done it once before, surely it would have been easy enough for them to put this film together? Was this Alistair’s doing as well? Wait till I saw him…that was another thing I would get him for!
I continued to watch the news in disbelief. It was all fabricated – all of it. It was almost as if I were watching some comedy spoof, or part of a film. Although I did have to admit to myself that it was actually very well done, but it was definitely not the news. I glanced over to see the time and it had just gone eight twenty. At that very moment, I heard the door unlock. I turned to face the door just as it was opening.
In walked a man, dressed in what looked like a white male nurse’s uniform. I had never seen him, or his uniform before. Who was he? He slowly came towards me.
‘Good morning Martin. How are you today?’
Once again I could feel a chill going right through me - I knew instantly that something was very wrong here. There was something about the very matter of fact way he addressed me, almost as though he knew me. So what is going on? I picked up the remote control and turned off the television. I sat myself up in bed so I could see him better.
‘Yes good morning. I’m as well as can be expected, thank you,’ I replied, deciding not to ask who he was, or why I was in this room. I could now see him properly as he stood about ten feet from my bed. He definitely looked as if he were some sort of a nurse. I reckoned that he was in his mid thirties, probably just under six feet tall, generously built, although not what I would call fat and had short ginger hair. He was purposely examining the notes that were on his clipboard, before looking up to give me a long hard stare.
‘It’s nearly half past eight Martin and you’re not dressed,’ as he spoke I could see him carefully studying my reactions. ‘Did you have another one of those dreams?’
This was damn funny. It was almost as if I had woken up as a different Martin in yet another different world. But I couldn’t have, could I? I didn’t know, and my mind was now going into overdrive as I thought through all the various possibilities. I was at a loss to know how I should respond, and so I simply returned him a blank stare.
‘I see. This is third morning in a row Martin. I can see that you have completely forgotten who I am, and probably everything around you. Am I right?’
‘You seem to know, why don’t you tell me.’
‘Okay Martin, we have done this before, and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last time. You’re not dressed because you think that the clothes in the wardrobe are not yours. I know this because we keep having to do this. What I will tell you just now is that they are actually all your clothes – you have just forgotten. So this is what we are going to do. I am going to leave your room and return at nine. That will give you around half an hour to dress yourself, and then we can go and get some food. We can then sit down together, and talk this through afterwards. Okay with that?’
‘Whatever,’ I replied.
‘Good. I’ll see you shortly then.’ He turned and left the room. I could hear the door lock behind him.
I could feel my heart pounding away, and I was again feeling very hot and uncomfortable. I was again utterly confused, and at a complete loss to understand what on earth was going on. I jumped out of bed and made straight for the bathroom so that I could have a good look at myself in the mirror. The steam had now gone and I could see myself very clearly in the well-lit large mirror. I now slowly prodded my face, trying to see if I could tell if I were slightly different. I had no strange scars or anything else strange for that matter, and my hair was just as it was yesterday - as far as I could tell I was exactly the same. I was me – and nobody else. No, I really could not see that I had become another Martin - that just did not seem possible.
Still utterly confused I left the bathroom and made for the wardrobe. I pulled out all the clothes and carefully laid them all out on the bed so I could get a good look at them. No, these were not my clothes. I have never seen any of them before. I gave them another good look over. They were definitely not mine, but they were nevertheless the sort of clothes that I probably would wear, and they did look to be my size. I picked out the jeans, a shirt and a jumper. What about the underwear? I knew I had to dress myself, but in somebody else’s underwear? I did not much fancy that. I pulled out some socks and some underwear. I sighed to myself, well there was not much else I could do if I wanted to dress myself was there?
I finished dressing and made for the mirror in the bathroom. Everything fitted pretty well and all things considered, I didn’t really look half bad kitted out in these unfamiliar clothes. I returned to the wardrobe to look at the footwear. I had a choice of either the brown leather shoes, or the set of trainers. I decided to try the trainers as I had jeans on. Before I put them on I gave them a good look over, and found they were not exactly what I would call new. Yuk, first it’s somebody else’s underwear, and now it’s used shoes! Refraining from giving them a sniff, I gingerly put them on.
These clothes and the trainers were all a perfect fit. I could understand the clothes, but somebody else’s old trainers? How on earth could they be such a perfect fit? That just did not seem possible, could it? I paced up and down the room trying to work out how this could be. I did not believe for a moment all that crap that the nurse, or whoever he was, had said…there was nothing wrong with my memory. There must be some other logical reason behind this, there must be. Was this Alistair’s doing? If indeed it was, I could not see how or why. It just didn’t make any sense. Nothing did, not any more.
My confused mind was quickly snapped out of its various wanderings as I heard the door behind me unlock and open. I spun around to see the same man again coming into the room. Who the hell was he, and why was he dressed as a nurse?
‘Good you’re dressed. Shall we go and start the day with some breakfast Martin?’
It wasn’t only his question to me that I found unsettling, it was his whole body language. It was as though we had done this same routine many times before. I did not like this one bit, and I could feel myself getting more and more wound up with anxiety.
‘So how do I look in my clothes then?’
‘Fine, just fine. Shall we?’ he asked as he gestured towards the doorway.
Feeling that I really had no other options, I reluctantly concluded that for now all I could do was to go along with what was being asked of me.
‘Yes, let’s get some food,’ I replied. I followed him out my room and into the corridor.
If I was confused and disorientated before, I was doubly so now. My room was almost the same as I had remembered from before, but this corridor - this was completely different. This can’t be, I must surely be in a different place. Am I still in the complex? If I had not returned to the complex, where could I possibly be?
The moment I had left the confines of my room it was as if I had stepped into another world. My room was as pretty much as I remembered from before, including the unfinished rock walls. But now I had the distinct feeling that I was walking through the corridors of some hospital. No heavy duty round steel doors here, or military personnel - this is not the same place at all. Where the hell was I, and more worryingly, how on earth did I get here?
As we continued walking through more corridors and swing doors, the more I became convinced that I was in some sort of hospital. Not only did this place look and smell like a hospital, but the man beside me was definitely dressed as a nurse – and he wasn’t the only one either. Since leaving my room we had also walked past a few other people who were similarly dressed. I was in a hospital – of sorts, no doubt about it. We turned the corner of our current corridor and I could smell food. It was only then that I realised that I was actually feeling rather hungry. The nurse beside me stopped walking and I did the same. He turned to me and said in a rather apologetic manner, ‘Martin I’m sorry, it has only just dawned on me. My name is David,’ and he now thrust his hand out for me to shake.
I paused for a few seconds before I finally did shake his hand and replied, ‘Don’t tell me David, this isn’t the first time you’ve told me who you are.’
He didn’t respond to my remark, instead he simply said, ‘Let’s go into the canteen Martin and get our breakfast,’ and he gestured for us to proceed to the end of the corridor. Following his lead we walked into the canteen. Dotted around at the various tables were differently dressed people. Clearly some of them were nurses, both male and female, and it was quite possible that some of them were doctors. Now I was sure, this was without doubt a hospital. Or was it some sort of an institution? Is that where I found myself, in an institution? Confused or not, I was now directly behind David at the food counter and my thoughts quickly turned to food. I was starving, and I decided to take the Full English Breakfast. The waitress behind the counter came over to attend to us both.
‘Morning David, and what are we having today?’
‘Give me two of your pancakes with all the trimmings please, Margaret.’
‘And how about you, Martin, just the usual?’
It’s kind of funny; I was already starting to accept everything weird around me. This strange place, standing beside me there was David dressed as a nurse, and now Margaret behind the counter, who for whatever reason seemed to not only know me, but my usual as well. After everything I’ve been through, I might as well bluff my way through this as well. I wonder what my usual was?
‘I’m not so sure Margaret. What do you think I should have today?’ I replied with a smile. After all, we were all old friends in here.
I could see that my answer had not been what she had expected. She gave me a sideways glace before resting her forefinger just below her lips as if in knowing acknowledgement. Pointing her finger at me in a friendly gesture she replied, ‘You know who you are today don’t you Martin?’
‘Were you expecting somebody else? I can go out and come back in, would that be of any help to you?’
For the first time I began to take notice of her as she burst out laughing. She looked to be in her early twenties, she was incredibly thin and must have been about five and a half feet tall. Behind her very large glasses she looked quite pretty, and I could see from the few wisps of hair poking out from beneath her catering hat that she was a brunette.
With her laughter subsiding she replied, ‘Oh you crack me up, Martin. This is the first time in nearly two weeks that you have recognised me. God you’ve had some really weird dreams. I don’t think you’re normal, but you make my day that’s for sure.’
I had no idea what was going on. Was she play-acting just like all the others here, with the intention of trying to fool and deceive me? I didn’t know, but at least I could have a little fun and enjoy myself. I glanced over at David, who I realised had been very carefully studying us both.
I turned back to Margaret as she said, ‘I think it best if you start your day off with the Full English Breakfast – your usual. How’s that sound Martin?’
That was bloody strange. When it comes to food in canteens, I don’t have a usual. So how was it that my usual happened to be just what I wanted? A coincidence? Maybe – but very unlikely though. Yet again this was beginning to turn out to be another ghastly day.
‘Sounds fine to me Margaret, and don’t forget to put it all onto David’s tab!’
She was again convulsed in fits of laughter. I didn’t think I was that funny, but at least she had cheered me up. Composing herself she said to us, ‘I’ll bring your food to your table in a few minutes when it’s ready.’
We both thanked her before we turned and I followed David to a table in the far corner. Those few moments of fun with Margaret had relaxed and cheered me up. However, as we began to take our seats my mind quickly returned to much more pressing matters. Where the hell was I? Who or what was David? And more importantly, why did I not return to the complex as planned? Maybe I did return to the complex. Was I part of some inexplicable experiment? No, I could not see how that could be. But then again, how could I begin to explain any of this?
‘Was that you just having a bit of fun back there, or can you really remember any of who you really are Martin?’ enquired David.
‘I thought you were the expert. Don’t you know?’
‘I’m only trying to help you Martin, we all are. There really is no need for any silly games. So tell me, do you know who you are?’
As much as I wanted answers to my current predicament, I did not trust anybody anymore, and that included David. I saw absolutely no reason to co-operate on his terms at all. As far as I was concerned, the less I told him the better, and if that meant being difficult to everyone around me, so be it.
‘Well, I know who I am, and not only do I remember yesterday, but I can also remember all of the rest of my life as well. How about you David?’
I could see on his face that David was not sure if I was being straight with him. ‘If, as you say you do know what’s going on, why the pretence when I first came to your room? You didn’t seem too sure about anything then. So what’s changed?’ I could see David carefully studying me before I answered him.
‘Look at it from where I’m sitting. How do you think I feel when I can’t remember where I am every day? I woke up this morning feeling just fine, no funny or weird dreams. No today I am just me, plain old normal Martin. So why shouldn’t I have a little fun from time to time. If I offended you I apologise - I was just getting rid of some frustration. You do know where I’m coming from don’t you?’
Before David could respond, the lovely Margaret appeared with our breakfasts. I decided that I would try to prise some information from her before she left us.
‘Thank you Margaret, once again you’ve done us proud. Now here’s one for you to puzzle over. Yesterday, I didn’t know who you were right?’
She nodded with a smile.
‘And today I knew who you were. So, have I known you for only a day, or is it longer? In fact how long have you really known me?’
I could see her opening her mouth to answer, however, before she was able to utter a sound, David quickly said in a very imposing manner, ‘Thank you Margaret, you can go now.’ He continued to glare at her as she turned and left in a hurry. He then turned his attention to me.
‘Very clever Martin, yes very clever. You know you almost had me convinced there. So why did you need to ask poor simple Margaret how long you’ve been here?’
‘What’s wrong with trying to make a bit of conversation?’
David smiled at me as he picked up his knife and fork and replied, ‘I’ve known you too long Martin, too long. Let’s forget it for just now and eat. We’ve got the whole day ahead of us.’ Once he’d finished talking he now started tucking into his horrible-looking pancakes.
I was completely at a loss to understand what had just happened between David and myself. That little remark of his made it sound as if we often sparred with each other. I really had no idea, and he clearly had the advantage over me – and he knew it. I looked down at my ‘usual.’ I had seen better, but on reflection I suppose I had seen worse, and I was very hungry. At least it looked a lot more appetising than the hideous looking pancakes sitting in front of David.
No sooner had I started into my meal when Margaret reappeared. I noticed that she looked a little more sheepish following the warning she had received from David a few moments ago. ‘Hello Martin, I’ve got your medication for you.’ She now placed the little saucer she was holding onto the table, before hastily leaving. I looked down at the saucer in front of me. At its centre was a small glass of water, and just beside it was a rather large looking yellow capsule. The more I stared at the yellow pill, the more I became aware of something gnawing away at the back of my mind.
David stopped eating and fixed me with a long hard stare, clearly waiting to see what I was going to do next. Then I remembered. The yellow capsule - was this the yellow pill that Caroline had told me about in the Gautier home? Is this where I now found myself? I could feel a chill going right through me as I continued looking down at this yellow thing, whatever it was.
I could feel David’s eyes burning through me as I continued to stare down at the pill. I just knew he was waiting for me to take it. Just what was I supposed to do? The easiest and probably most sensible thing to do was simply to take it – wasn’t it? But, there was no way in hell I was going to swallow that yellow thing. I had no idea what it was, and I knew that I did not need it. I was going to have to make a stand.
I avoided his gaze and continued with my breakfast. We both ate in complete silence, and I never once looked up from my plate. What was he thinking? What was he going to say or do? As I had finished eating, I determined to be as confrontational as I possibly could. We both looked at each other as I pushed my empty plate away.
‘That wasn’t too bad I suppose,’ I said with a bit of a smirk. I leaned forward and very deliberately picked up the glass of water, slowly examined it as though it were some expensive wine, and then downed it in one gulp. I let out a sigh of satisfaction and then returned the empty glass beside the yellow pill.
‘Nice of Margaret to bring me some water – made all the difference,’ I said, looking directly at David.
It was me that was now studying him, trying to work out what he was thinking. However, he was giving nothing away. He just continued to stare at me blankly.
‘Martin I really don’t care, it’s your call, but like I said to you yesterday, this is your final chance. We are only trying to help you Martin. This is a two-way process and, at the end of the day, it’s down to you to work with us. Still, there it is - yet again you refuse your prescribed medication. I will return you to your room, do my report, and then we’ll see. Shall we go?’
He gestured for us to leave the table and we both began to walk back in silence towards my room. I really was at an absolute loss to know what I should say or do, and so I stayed silent. As we continued through the corridors I was suddenly confronted by the sight of a man strapped to a trolley pushed by an orderly. As they crossed corridors ahead of us I could clearly hear him crying out.
‘You can’t do this to me, you have no right. I demand to see somebody else, somebody in authority, you can’t do this it’s…it’s not right…’ his words fading as he disappeared out of sight down one of the corridors.
I felt really quite shaken by the bizarre scene I had just witnessed. I had no idea if the poor man was genuinely being helped, or was his distress genuine?
There was now no doubt in my mind as to where I found myself. This place was some kind of psychiatric unit. It had to be. What else could it be? David stopped us walking and said pointing in the direction of where the man and trolley had gone
‘That could well be you tomorrow Martin. Too late now eh?’
I could tell from the look on his face that he was enjoying this. Doing my very best to not look bewildered or scared, I simply returned him a blank stare and shrugged my shoulders. We continued to walk in silence until we reached my room that was just around the corner. David unlocked the door and gestured I go in. He remained by the door as I walked passed him.
‘Well Martin, I’m going to get my report done, and somebody will be along soon to get you sorted out. Don’t worry…it will all work out. It’s for the best. Be seeing you.’ He closed and locked the door as he left the room.
The moment I stepped into my room I immediately realised that something had changed. It wasn’t just something. The whole room was different. What had happened to the rock walls, dug out of the mountain? This was just a normal room – a hospital room! All the furniture, the size of the room, and the layout of the room, was all as it was before. But, it was transformed into…what? I was pretty sure that we had walked back to the same room as before. I was sure, wasn’t I? How could this be? What was happening to me? I could feel a horrible chill going right through me.
I took a deep breath before lying down on the bed. Confused, I stared long and hard at the ceiling. What the hell was going on? Try as I might, I could not even begin to work it out. I was completely mystified, and very frightened. Surely I must have somehow woken up as yet another Martin – it was the only explanation I could think of. But if I had, and was indeed this other Martin, why was my new room just the same as the one back in the complex when I first awoke? Then it struck me – if as I suspected I was another Martin, then at some point in the future, possibly even in a matter of hours, I would then return back to the complex, and I would be myself again. Yes, now that I had stopped panicking like some deranged madman, when I thought things through logically, I really did not have anything to worry about did I? All I had to do was wait.
That was all well and good, but what about my immediate predicament in this hospital or wherever I was? What were they going to do with me – and why? What were they going to do with the guy in the trolley? Or, was that all part of some fantastic charade for my benefit? As far as I was concerned they may well have simply wheeled out the trolley just as I was walking through the corridor. But if they had, why go to all the trouble, just for my benefit? No, I could not fathom it out – I just hoped my adventure here would be at an end soon.
My mind was still in its overdrive mode when I heard the door of my room unlock and open. I sat up to see yet another male nurse in white uniform. He remained at the door for a few moments before saying, ‘Okay Martin, we’re getting you moved to another room.’
‘Why the move?’ I asked.
‘It’s for your own good. Come on, let’s be having you,’ he answered as he opened the door a little wider.
I saw no reason to protest any further and did as instructed. We walked around the corner of my room and into an elevator. As we got in I noticed we were on the fifth floor – there were twelve in all. We ascended to the seventh and got out. We then proceeded along yet another maze of corridors, until we came to the door of my new room. The nurse, or whoever he was, unlocked the door and showed me in. This room was similar to my last one, but this had two beds.
‘Your bed is on the right Martin. The administrator will be along later,’ he said locking the door behind me.
Between the two beds were two chairs. In front of the chairs was a small table, with various magazines on top of it. There was nothing else for me to do, so I decided to sit in the chair that was closest to what was going to be my new bed. I just hoped that when I next fell asleep my current nightmare would over, and I would awake back in the complex.
I wondered what my new roommate would be like. I hated sharing rooms, but on the other hand I might get some much-needed company. Knowing my luck he, or possibly she, was going to make my day even weirder. It was just as Alistair had promised me, weird all the way! It’s funny, now that I thought about it, Alistair, the project, the complex, all of it - it all seems so far away. It’s almost like all of this had a dreamlike quality about it. Was any of it real? Was I just in a dream?
I looked down at the magazines; maybe there was something to read that would help take my mind of everything. Before I was able to reach down to any of them I heard the door unlock and open. A female nurse came through the door pushing a man in wheelchair. He was looking a little dazed and had a white towel wrapped around his head. He did not seem to be aware of my presence at all.
The nurse looked in my direction and said in a very matter of fact way, ‘Hello Martin, I am returning Simon. He’s just a little confused just now, and his short-term memory is a little funny – but he’s okay. You don’t mind looking after him for a bit, do you?’
‘Isn’t that your job?’ I enquired.
‘Simon is perfectly well, he doesn’t need any medical help, just a little hand-holding that’s all.’
‘Is that why I moved rooms, so that I could baby-sit? He doesn’t look too good to me. What’s wrong with him?’
‘Nothing is wrong with him. Don’t be so bloody pedantic Martin. We all know what you’re like. Now stop pissing about, and just keep an eye on him for a bit,’ she said as she started to close the door.
‘Why don’t you all burn in hell!’ I shouted back at her just before the door closed. And there I sat, looking at Simon, in his wheelchair, just sitting there, not moving or saying anything. What was wrong with him? Or, what had they done to him? Was this all part of a charade?
I continued to sit in my chair for a good three or four minutes and still no signs of life came from Simon. I sighed and reached for one of the magazines. As soon as I had begun to lift one of them, Simon slowly began to look in my direction.
‘Hello Simon. Are you okay?’ I asked. He stared at me in an almost drunken fashion for a few moments before answering.
‘Is no use you know.’
‘What’s no use?’
‘The magazines. They won’t tell you anything,’ his voice was a little faltering. I had no idea what he was trying to tell me.
‘I don’t understand, why do you think I was after anything from the magazines?’
‘Information. You won’t find it, these are special magazines. God, my bloody head hurts. Bastards! I never told them though. They won’t get it from me.’
‘Simon, I’m afraid you’ve lost me. What information? And what won’t you tell them? And who are these people?’
I could see from the look on his face and body language that he was beginning to wake up a little. Had he been drugged? He smiled a little before answering.
‘The magazines, any written material, it can help you work out where you are, or more likely where you are not.’
I stared back at him, I obviously was not getting it, and I could now sense his frustration as he continued, ‘For God’s sake, wake up man. You had bloody well get it together, because they are coming for you next!’
‘What the hell are you on about Simon, who’s coming for me? And why?’
‘It’s all gone wrong see. You’re not supposed to be here at all. They don’t want you running outside telling everybody, and they will make very sure that you don’t.’ As Simon finished his latest incomprehensible ramblings, he began to slowly lift himself out of the chair. I quickly moved forward, as he looked very unsteady on his feet. However, he held up his hand and said very firmly, ‘No thank you…I can still manage on my own.’ Slowly he made his way to his bed, sat on the side and fixed me with a long hard stare.
‘You haven’t worked it out yet, have you?’ he said.
‘Nothing, not a bloody clue,’ I answered.
‘Maybe that’s for the best then, because if you knew…mind you, it doesn’t change anything for you. They will probably give you your first treatment tomorrow. They don’t care.’
‘What treatment are you talking about?’
‘The ECT, that’s what!’
‘What are you talking about? What’s ECT for god’s sake?’
Simon looked at me for a few moments; I could see his disbelief with my questions and answers.
‘ECT, its electro-convulsive-therapy, and you don’t want it. Its Shock treatment if you will, and I’ve now had my fifth treatment. Makes your fucking head hurt. They will tell you that it’s for your own good, but I know what they are doing. Trying to muddle up my memory that’s what, first its short term memory loss, then…then well who knows?’
‘They can’t do that to me, there’s nothing wrong with me. Why would they want to muddle my memory? Anyway, I have not given them my consent for any shock treatment,’ I protested.
‘You really don’t remember anything do you Martin? The last time we spoke together was, God when was it? Six, yes six days ago. You were the worst of all of us here. You couldn’t remember a bloody thing. That’s why you’ve been here so long. Anyway, you told me that you would not let them give you ECT, no way. You were going to do a runner and said I should do the same. That’s what you said.’
As he finished talking Simon got to his feet and slowly started to stretch and walk near his bed. As the room fell into silence I realised that I still did not know where I was, who these people were, or even who I really was. I needed some answers.
‘Simon, I am still none the wiser. Can you please tell me what’s really going on here.’
He made his way back to the edge of his bed before answering, ‘Martin, they are going to start your ECT tomorrow. They want to make you forget who you really are. I saw Jenkins two days ago - you don’t remember Jenkins, do you? Doesn’t matter, well I can tell you the man’s a rambling idiot now. Bastards! They did that to him. They are going to do the same to all of us. Bastards! You have to get out Martin, tell the world what you know, for all of our sakes!’
‘Tell them what? I don’t know anything. Anyway, why do I have to get out? Assuming I can get out, why didn’t you escape and save yourself? Simon, nothing you have said stacks up – and you still haven’t told me anything about this place.’
‘Martin, believe me when I tell you that for just now, in this place, the very fact you don’t know who you really are, or where you are, is a godsend. In fact it’s what has spared you till now. Unfortunately, your time has run out and they are going to get you tomorrow. Why did I not escape? Same as everybody else Martin, we never got the bloody chance to. The only person to have nearly succeeded was Jenkins, but they got him. And now I…I don’t know what those bastards did to him, now he just sits there - completely dead inside. You have to get out Martin, for your sake and ours.’
‘So how the hell can I get out, if nobody else has?’ I demanded.
‘Some of us including Jenkins planned this out – the last part, getting out of the building, you have two options. Unfortunately Jenkins chose the wrong one, and he got caught. I knew what he was going to do, and what he did wrong. So you should be able to get out. It’s up to you Martin.’
‘If it’s that simple, why don’t you escape yourself Simon? In fact, if you do know how to get out, why has nobody else escaped?’
‘You have to be able to run very fast downstairs Martin. It’s the only way to make your escape good. And I can’t run, not with my legs. Ain’t no way I can get out – but you can. You have to - you must get out and tell them what’s going on.’
‘But I don’t know what’s going on Simon. Who would I tell? And, what would I tell them. I don’t know this place, and I don’t even know you. You could be telling me anything – and I would be none the wiser.’
Simon smiled at me and tapped the temple of his head with his finger ‘But you do know Martin. You are the only one here that can remember back to the beginning, you know who you really are. You know why you have all these different memories. What you don’t know is how all of this really happened. Even if you did know and understand all of this, who would believe you? Nobody, anybody you told would think they were listening to the ramblings of an idiot. That’s what they are trying to do here Martin, turn you into an unreliable freak show. You have to get out, and soon.’
‘So what would I tell anybody? You said yourself that nobody would listen to me. So what’s the point?’
‘Do you know where in the building we are, Martin?’
For a few moments I returned him a blank stare before answering, ‘All I know is that we are on the seventh floor – there are twelve in the building, I can remember that much from going in the lift.’
‘Exactly Martin, we are on the seventh floor. You need to run down the stairs down into the basement. That’s where they keep all the records, in the room marked ‘Laundry 2,’ that’s where you will find the records, in there. Your file is in there, it’s a big dossier, and inside the front cover is an electronic record as well. Not only will the dossier tell you what you need to know, it’s also your proof Martin. That’s what you need to show the world. It’s all there, you just need to get it, get out, lie low for a few months or so, and then when the heat’s off, tell the world what these bastards are doing.’
I didn’t know if I should just laugh at him, or try to take any of what had been said seriously. Within half an hour of meeting a complete stranger - with a towel wrapped around his head I am told that I must escape, steal my own secret dossier, and tell the world about all these diabolical people. What was I supposed to think or do? Fantastic charade or not, one thing I did know for sure was that I did not want any bloody shock treatment – no way. If that meant I had to escape, then yes I suppose I would consider that option. Secret dossier? I could not begin to think who would have a dossier on me, but I was intrigued. If there was such a dossier, what did it say about me and all of this?
Two or three minutes must have passed since Simon had finished telling me that I should escape. I wasn’t too sure how I should now respond. I let out a sigh before saying, ‘Simon this is all very difficult to accept as fact, so if you don’t mind I think I will just lie on my bed for a while and think things through’. As I finished talking I left my chair, got to my bed, and once again lay on my back to look at the ceiling. There was no response from Simon as I heard him getting onto his own bed.
I had to make some sense out of all this. Was Simon mad, or a plant? Was this all a charade, or was this all a bad dream? I closed my eyes and tried to relax myself before going through it all in my mind. My name is Martin Chalfont. I am forty-two, recently retired from a very successful career in the city working in the bank. When I returned to Upper Monkham I met up again with Alistair – it was he who introduced me to the project. I was taken to the complex, told about infinite dimensions, shown the amazing multi-coloured floating machine that gently hummed in its gold cavern. I can remember it all, like it was yesterday. These are my real memories, they must be. Meeting Caroline, my wife in another dimension, and cheating on her in another dimension with Sarah – now that was weird. And what about all those strange shadow people I kept seeing out of the corner of my eye? And then I woke up as this other Martin – I must have jumped into yet another dimension.
I thought back to what Simon had told me. Run down the stairs he had said. Run down the stairs! Great escape plan! His story sounded ridiculous – No, it sounded outrageous. But, what were my options for the here and now? I did not want any shock treatment, and what had I to lose in trying to escape?
‘Okay Simon, let’s for the moment assume that I believe what you have told me. How do I get out of here?’ I asked as I sat myself up.
Simon got himself sat upright and stared at me for a few moments before answering, ‘If you are serious Martin, you don’t have much time. I expect the administrator will visit you very soon. It’s all bullshit Martin. She will spend a couple of minutes here, tell you how disappointed she is that you refused your medication, blah blah blah, and that’s why she is sanctioning ECT for you. All of course for your own good. Like I said - all bullshit. Then tomorrow morning they will come for you, and that’s it, then it’s too late. So if you want out, we got to do it after the administrator visits. It’s up to you. So what’s it to be Martin?’
‘Tell me what I need to know – I want to get out of here.’
Simon came over and sat beside me on my bed. He must have talked for well over half an hour as he explained in absolute detail how I was to escape, taking my secret dossier with me. He then gave me a couple of keys for the stairwell and laundry room. I did not ask how he had got hold of them – I didn’t really care! For whatever reason, I was pretty sure that he was genuine. I just had no idea if he was completely mad. I thanked him as he returned to his own bed.
I again resumed my stare at the ceiling – was I looking for some sort of divine inspiration? Possibly, but I would much prefer If I were to fall asleep and awake back in the complex. That was all I really wanted, just to go home and put all this behind me.
I again focused my attention to where I was now. I could only be in some type of institution – I had to be. Was this ghastly place the Gautier home? Perhaps. I looked over towards Simon and asked, ‘Tell me Simon, how is Caroline? Is she still here?’
However, before he had the chance to answer, the door unlocked and opened. I was astonished to see who now walked through the door. It was Davila. But how was this possible? A male nurse followed her in and stood beside the open door. She marched straight up to me and stopped about three feet from the end of my bed. She had a smart business suit on; she looked just as I remembered her.
‘Mr Chalfont, let me introduce myself. I’m Dr Lebronska, the administrator here.’
I quickly interrupted her, ‘What the hell are you playing at Davila, what are you trying to do?’
‘Who told you I was Davila? Nobody is allowed to use my first name in here. No matter. Lets not get sidetracked shall we? I think you know why I’m here so I’ll get straight to the point. We have all been very patient with you Mr Chalfont. We have done our very best in trying to help you but clearly it’s not working. That’s why I have sanctioned the ECT commencing tomorrow morning. Now I know you, like everybody else, objects to this form of treatment, and I do understand. However, we believe this to be the best course of action to take. I will come back and see how you are responding to the treatment in around two weeks. I’m sure we will see some improvement then. Good day to you, Mr Chalfont,’ and she turned on her heels and made for the door.
I was completely dumbstruck as I watched her now disappear out of the door. The door started to close, and then it slowly re-opened a little. Davila stuck her head through and said with a slight wink, ‘You never did tell me about that office party Martin!’
She left, the door closed, and then it was locked.
Has the story ended? Clearly not. Do you remember the Introduction of the book? I think you should read those couple of pages again and then perhaps you will realise why the story is far from over and continues to unfold even as you read this. Will you hear more of Martin’s story? Perhaps…
Martin by Andrew Weaver / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes