Two nightshift workers walked side by side down a hallway at Ash Grove Asylum.
“Okay, rookie, so this is a pretty do-nothing job. Nothing to worry about, really,” said a mustached janitor, having just reached the end of a long exposition.
“How can you say that, when you’re housing the most criminally insane in the tri-state area?” asked his lanky greenhorn companion.
"Spring" from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played in the background. The mustached janitor let out a loud ha! “We medicate these people to hell and back to keep them nice and docile,” he explained.
“… And that works?” the lanky man asked skeptically.
“Yeah. These freaks are too busy watching the paint peel to do much of anything.”
The mustached janitor pointed at a cell door with a brass plaque that read: “Jones, C.”
“For example, our esteemed guest, Mr. Carl Jones, here was once a crack accountant on the outside,” the mustached man explained. He scratched his chin. “That is, until they found him under a highway overpass, delirious and covered in blood. Not to make any accusations, but he’s a suspect in a number of grisly murders.”
They peeked in the cell through iron bars to see Carl sitting still with a blank expression. Beside him sat a radio.
“He can’t be all bad. He’s listening to classical music, for crying out loud.”
“Oh that? He plays that damn song about every day. He doesn’t do much else.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Well what do you suppose made him snap?” the lanky man asked?
“Beats me,” shrugged the mustached janitor. “He probably walked in on his parents at a young age, and just now decided to be traumatized about it.”
The lanky man sighed.
“Still, I guess those details are for the white coats.”
Today easily qualified as one of the best days of Carl’s young life. He, some co-workers, and his fiancée occupied a booth in a restaurant called Romano’s. The atmosphere of the place exuded class and refinement. Glass chandeliers dangled from the ceiling, and each table was draped in white cloth. The red walls were adorned with alluring light fixtures and paintings. A string quartet mellifluously played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The party expected a hearty meal. As the group waited, they idled away the time with craft beer and friendly banter.
“Congrats, you two lovebirds,” said Mark.
“Yeah, it’s about time,” agreed Ralph.
Carl rubbed the nape of his neck modestly.
“Thanks, guys. I’m very lucky to have Amelia,” said Carl as he hugged the soon-to-be spouse sitting next to him. He then kissed her forehead.
“It took you long enough,” said Amelia, beaming widely.
The pair had been together for five years. If ever a perfect couple had been conceived, Amelia and Carl were it. It was only rational that they be united in holy matrimony.
“And now he’s scaling the corporate ladder. Lucky bastard,” teased Ralph as he delivered two nudges with his elbow to Carl.
Carl worked assiduously at his job in the accounting department. One day, Carl’s manager called him in to his office saying how impressed he was with his performance. He then proceeded to tell Carl that he intended to promote him to supervisor with all pursuant benefits. Evidently those days of clocking in early and working overtime paid off.
Carl nonchalantly took a sip of his dark stout. “Ask and you will receive, my friend.”
“A lot of guys got tenure over you, and you’re still the one moving on up,” praised Mark.
“Just in time for the family you two will surely start building,” said Ralph with a wink.
Amelia couldn’t help but blush at that statement. She was always so demure. Not to mention that their relationship was a chaste one.
“Well, all in due time,” Carl said dismissively.
Just then, waiters arrived with their meals. Silver dish lids trapped the heat of the contents inside. Carl lifted his lid to discover a formidable specimen of a lobster the size of his forearm. He bit into the lobster to find it succulent and delicious. Looking across the table, Carl noticed the elation that the food brought his companions. Ralph sawed through a sizzling steak on a hot skillet, Mark took a bite of salmon — Mark’s face registering pleasure in doing so, and Amelia nibbled on a decadent salad.
They whittled the evening away drinking and talking sports.
“On the golf course, I’m a regular Tiger Woods,” boasted Ralph.
“Whatever,” retorted Mark, “My handicap is better than yours. Besides, Tiger Woods is on the decline.”
As these two entered into a friendly drunken dispute, Amelia turned to Carl and asked, “We’ll always be together, right?”
“Of course, dear,” replied Carl, “you’re my world.”
“Even if I grow old and decrepit?”
“Even if I fall down on my luck?”
“Even should the world stop turning?”
“Of course a thousand times over.”
Carl and Amelia then locked lips. They both believed, from the fabric of their being, that their prospects for the future were bright.
It grew late. The group paid the exorbitant tab, and staggered out of the restaurant. Amelia, maintaining the greatest degree of civility and sobriety, was made designated driver. She dropped Mark and Ralph off at a bar called the Hootenanny as they requested. Mark and Ralph exited the silver Hybrid Prius leaning on each other shoulder-to-shoulder; their night by no means over. Amelia was now in the process of dropping Carl off at his place.
“How have I come to be so blessed?” asked Amelia rhetorically.
“You understand me on such an intimate level, my parents adore you, and you’re the one man I can completely depend on for anything.”
“Believe me, you’re my better half. I wouldn’t be half the man I am if not for you.” Responded Carl.
“That fateful encounter on the beach feels like yesterday,” Amelia reminisced.
“I remember. You cut your foot up really bad, so I rushed to the trunk of my car for the first-aid kit,” said Carl.
“Who even comes that prepared?” Amelia teased. “And you, a complete stranger, came to my rescue. You even went the extra mile of taking me to the hospital.”
Carl recalled the incident all-too-well. He had sprinted two miles for the roundtrip fetching supplies. While his intentions were good, he had thought his coming to the rescue to be the perfect ploy for wooing Amelia. Carl had wanted her badly. Back then, he doubted it would’ve worked so well, yet here he was now, in the loving arms of the woman he had so desperately wanted to court.
Just then they pulled up to Carl’s apartment complex.
“I really enjoyed myself tonight,” Amelia declared.
“Yeah, it was—” Carl was about to agree.
A small pin-prick on the back of his neck interrupted his train of thought. It was so imperceptible that he wondered if he felt it at all. Just to be sure, Carl patted the back of his neck.
“Fun?” Amelia posited in an attempt to finish Carl’s sentence.
“Yeah, fun. Anyway, I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Okay, dear, I look forward to it.”
Carl entered his apartment on the second floor. He realized how groggy he was.
Damn, that alcohol’s really getting to me.
Carl imbibed two pitchers of beer that evening which accounted for the nausea. Still, Carl knew his own tolerances, and knew the amount he consumed shouldn’t be enough to impair him so severely. Without warning, his legs gave out from under him toppling him to the floor. A lamp crashed to the floor as he did so.
What’s happening to me!?
Carl attempted to raise himself only to find his motor skills failing him. He reached for his phone to no avail as his body helplessly convulsed. The world faded to black.
Carl awoke to discover himself in an all-white room. The room had a sterile, anti-septic feeling to it.
Am I in the hospital?
Other than the bed he was lying on, there were no distinguishing features in the room. The room even lacked an entrance or exit.
“Hello? Anybody there?” Carl hollered out.
Carl tried once more.
If this is a hospital, these are the most negligent employees I’ve ever seen.
Carl felt relieved that his faculties were returning to him. For all he knew, he might have suffered a debilitating stroke or seizure earlier. He tried raising himself up from the bed, but restraints held his wrists and ankles fast. This perturbed him greatly.
Perhaps I’ve been arrested for public menacing? Perhaps I’ve died and gone to Purgatory?
All Carl could do was speculate on his condition. He yelled in frustration.
This is horse shit whatever it is. I have a job and girlfriend to return to. They can’t hold me indefinitely.
After minutes of his fuming tirade, Carl understood that it attained him nothing. He settled down, though no less at ease. The room lacked a clock, and it seemed like an eternity of waiting. He was about to doze off until a section of wall and floor parted with a sound like a car window opening but higher pitched.
Of the wall, Carl could make out humanoid shapes behind tinted glass. Their more exact features were indiscernible as they appeared before him as silhouettes. These silhouettes sat in a sitting posture.
From the floor, a circular platform fitting the opening lifted two beings clad in what appeared to be white hazmat suits: the same white of the room. With them, they carted a table carrying what Carl supposed to be medical instruments. Carl wished for a return to the empty lying and waiting.
“Hi there. Can any of you please explain to me where I am or what’s going on?” Carl nervously enquired.
The beings either didn’t hear him, didn’t understand him, or ignored him, as his question elicited no response. Carl suspected the third possibility.
“Hey, assholes, I at least deserve an explanation as to what the ****’s going on!” Carl said vociferously.
The beings on the ground floor continued to work clinically on their alien instruments while the people above sat motionless. Carl began to fear for the worst. He began to wonder if he was in an operating theatre. He held out faith that wasn’t the case.
Those barbaric practices have been discontinued, you moron.
Carl’s attempts to delude himself weren’t helping matters. He couldn’t resist feeling like a frog about to be dissected. For all he knew, he was as good as a cadaver in the morgue. He desperately clung to memories of Amelia and the sympathetic environment of the hospital he transported her to. At that moment, it occurred to him. What if Amelia had been abducted too? She was nearby when these people snatched him up. Whatever fate was in store for him, Carl couldn’t bear the thought of Amelia being in the same situation. Self-preservation made him shut that thought out.
Then it started.
One of the Hazmat-suited beings approached Carl with a vice-like device. Carl’s head now stood between two clamps. Carl violently shook his head around, but the device slowly compressed the instrument tighter to his head as it made a pumping noise. Carl could now only stare rigidly at the blank ceiling with the silhouettes in his peripheral vision. They looked on.
A thin layer of sweat formed on Carl’s brow.
“Guys, guys, can’t we talk about this!?” Carl begged
He hated being left in the dark to his surroundings. He could only hear the hazmat-suited beings shuffle around. They didn’t speak. The lack of sensory input more than anything bothered Carl. All that changed as some kind of needle punctured Carl’s bicep.
“Ow, what the hell?” he exclaimed.
Many more needles stabbed into his limbs, enough to lose track. His appendages at first tingled, but then began to burn with searing pain, as if his very blood was boiling. He yelled out in agony. Carl writhed on the table though his range of motion was highly restricted. He imagined hearing the snapping of bones and cartilage, but the pain did not register. The pain from the injections eclipsed any anatomical problems he was having. After minutes of enduring this onslaught, he went entirely numb.
The experience from then on seemed out-of-body. Carl’s sense of touch grew dull to the point of nothingness, and he felt his mind begin to degenerate.
Has my soul exited my body?
Only that his gaze remained locked on the white ceiling did he rule out this possibility. Carl could still hear the hazmat-suited beings move around, but was unable to see them. Carl prayed that they didn’t do anything else unsavory to his senses.
His prayers fell on deaf ears because at that instant Carl’s eyes widened. The two hazmat-suited beings towered over him with a vial roughly the size of a tennis ball container. Inside the vial was something that resembled a segment of gray extension cord. The extension cord jerked restlessly about the confines of its container. Carl couldn’t tell whether the thing in the vial was organic or inorganic.
One of the hazmat-suited beings attached some kind of syringe at one end of the vial. After checking that the apparatus was secured, the hazmat-suited being neared the vial towards Carl’s face. Carl sweated profusely. Never before had he felt so impotent. He tried shouting, but all he could do was mumble.
The hazmat-suited being holding the syringe lodged the instrument in Carl’s left nostril.
No! Anything but that!
The hazmat-suited being then callously injected the contents as Carl’s worst fears were realized. Carl could feel something worm its way through his sinuses. The sensation felt akin to snorting back a large volume of snot. He coughed up phlegm that tasted like iron. A great pressure built up behind Carl’s eyes to the point that he feared they would explode. Fluids dripped from his facial orifices and ran down his face. Carl wanted to throw up as the world faded to black.
When Carl came to, he was in bed at his apartment. Still drowsy, he allowed himself to lie there for 15 additional minutes. He inserted four Eggo waffles into the toaster before hopping into the shower. When he emerged, he ate breakfast. He checked his phone for the time.
Making good time, but better get going soon.
Carl got dressed, and headed for work.
His daily commute in the black Honda Civic was pretty routine. Same traffic density, same route, same everything.
Should I stop and get coffee? Better not or I’ll be out-of-character late.
It was as Carl pondered this that he grew feint. He rubbed his eyes, but his head fell to the steering wheel. The car then veered off to the side.
A violent jerk brought Carl back to reality. This lapse in consciousness caused him to collide with a Toyota Camry. The owner of that vehicle pulled off to the side of the road, exited, and gestured for Carl to pull over. He did so.
“What the hell is your problem, nimrod?” said a gruff, heavyset man.
“Sorry, I blacked out at the wheel,” Carl defensively said.
“Sure you did.” The man said sarcastically as he took a drag of his cigarette. “Anyway, let’s exchange information. If you jacked up my ride, there’s gonna be hell to pay.” He continued.
“Fair enough,” said Carl.
All this seemed unreal to Carl. He had an immaculate driving record which just went to pieces at this instant. Worst yet, the incident was entirely Carl’s fault. He walked back to his car slouching. When he got there, the right headlight was broken and the hood somewhat caved in.
My insurance company is going to have a field day with this.
Carl searched his car for five minutes before finding the papers he wanted. Disturbingly, he found himself repeatedly looking in spots he already checked. He chalked this up to a combination of being rattled by the collision and never finding an occasion to present his insurance information. Nonetheless, the search took far longer than it should have. Carl returned to the other driver.
“Took you long enough,” the man said irately. Carl went through the process, apologized profusely, and went on his way. Miraculously the car still worked.
Just be grateful that you didn’t swerve in to oncoming traffic, you idiot.
Carl seriously weighed whether or not to clock in to work today. He opted for the work day. He drove on without further incident to his place of business. Other than the indignity of having onlookers gawk at his damaged fender, the rest of the drive was uneventful. He parked in his usual spot.
I’m going to be the figure of ridicule at the office with my front end smashed in as it is.
Carl exited his vehicle and entered the elevator of the multi-level parking garage. He ascended a few stories, to reach the floor that housed his cubicle. When the elevator doors parted, Carl was greeted by his superior, Ben, with arms crossed.
“You’re late,” Ben said flatly.
Carl’s heart palpitations quickened.
“Sorry, sir, it won’t happen again! You won’t believe the morning I—”
“I’m kidding, Carl,” said Ben
Carl looked perplexed.
“Leave it to Mr. Workaholic to overreact to a harmless jape,” Ben chuckled.
Carl checked the time and indeed he was technically on time. Admittedly, Carl was tardy by his own standards.
“Don’t let it happen again,” Ben teased as he rounded the hallway corridor.
Great, I probably just lost face with my manager.
Carl promptly got to work in his office space. As Carl worked, he made far more syntax errors than he was normally prone to doing. He spent far too much time verifying computations that were usually routine for him. What’s more, Carl’s computer monitor caused him serious eye strain. Overtime, it became unbearable. Carl rubbed the bridge of his nose to relieve the pain.
Secretions then dripped from Carl’s nose and eyes. He absentmindedly wiped his face with the sleeve of his dress shirt and was shocked to discover his sleeves dyed red. Making matters worse, his eyes and nose continued to exsanguinate.
What the ****!?
Carl spent an appreciable amount of time padding his face with tissues lying on his desk. Mercifully, the flow of blood eventually abated. By the time it stopped, his trashcan was half full with bloody rags. Carl placed the bin underneath his desk where it wouldn’t draw attention.
He tapped his face to find the sensation hot and sticky. He peeked in the hallway, luckily it was vacant, and discretely made his way to the bathroom where he could rinse. As he cleaned the red splotches off his hands and faces, that’s when he saw it.
Carl just froze.
He witnessed some kind of eye floater swim in the whites of his left eye. Carl stared intently at his reflection in the bathroom mirror expecting the thing to resurface. It never did. He would’ve waited longer had another co-worker not entered the restroom. Carl headed back to his office.
Don’t panic. You must’ve imagined it.
Carl was hardly productive for the rest of the day. Not only were his cognitive skills dulled, but the recent stressors were causing him great worry. "First a car crash, now medical problems. What’s next?" he thought. More than anything, Carl desired the company of his fiancée, Amelia. Short of her, Carl felt withdrawn from the rest of the world. A knock interrupted Carl’s solitude.
“Hey, Carl, last night was awesome," said Ralph jovially.
“Perhaps too awesome. You didn't get too out of it and wreck your shit, did you?” Ralph said mockingly.
“So you’ve seen my car?”
“Who hasn’t? Everybody’s talking about it. And what’s with your sleeves? Is it that time of the month already?”
Carl wasn’t his usual colloquial self. He didn’t much care for this conversation with Ralph. Ralph could be anything but tactful. Regardless, Carl politely listened.
“It happened during the collision,” Carl lied.
“Tell me all about it,” Ralph said inquisitively.
Carl recreated the story though omitted the blacking out part. Carl had trouble recalling finer details of the incident, such as the street it occurred on, but said enough to satisfy Ralph’s curiosity.
“It’s impressive that you showed up for work today at all,” Ralph said.
“Some of us hold ourselves to a higher standard,” Carl said snidely, about fed up with the man.
“Heh. Anyway, I’ll catch you later,” Ralph said in parting.
That guy can be insufferable at times.
Carl spent the remainder of the workday in his office. At last, the hour struck when Carl was free. Carl took shame in how little he accomplished that day. He understood that his livelihood couldn’t persist if things kept going as they were. As Carl brooded on his troubles, he pressed the button that would call the elevator/lift. While he waited, someone planted a hand on Carl’s left shoulder.
“Carl, are you feeling okay?” asked Mark.
Mark wore a countenance of genuine concern.
“Of course. Why do you ask?” Carl said curtly.
“Your car's bent to shit, you’re covered in blood, and I haven’t seen you all day.”
“Just drop it,” Carl said with agitation.
“If something’s bothering you, you know you can tell me.”
“Just leave me the **** alone!” Carl barked.
Mark threw his hands up disarmingly and his eyes expressed astonishment. Carl’s sudden outburst garnered attention from nearby co-workers who stopped what they were doing to glance in Carl’s direction. Carl bolted for the staircase now reluctant to wait for the elevator.
Carl wept as he ran down flights of stairs. The fluorescent lighting irritated his eyes. His descent was analogous to a plummet to hell.
What’s gotten into me? All Mark tried to do was help and I pushed him away.
Carl felt wracked with guilt as he turned the keys to ignition. He sped off for his house. As Carl corrected his rearview mirror, he saw bloody tear stains on his face.
Something’s horribly wrong, but why now when I’m on the brink of being promoted to supervisor?
He sorted out today’s events, but perturbingly found his memory fragmented. He had a poor recollection of the tasks he completed that day.
Carl arrived at his place of residence without any complications. He heaved a big sigh as he passed the threshold of his door and kicked off his shoes. It was as he was retiring in the evening that Carl observed something shimmer on the floor behind the curtain. He investigated the object to discover a lamp shard. Traumatic images flashed before Carl’s eyes as the world faded to black.
“If you would like to speak to an operator, press zero. If you would like to renegotiate your insurance premium, press one. If you would like to file a claim, press, two. If—”
Carl pressed two; the first of numerous attempts that he successfully dialed to reach this dialogue.
“Please hold,” the automated female voice said without inflection.
“Oh, thank you,” Carl murmured under his breath.
Carl’s memory and retention worsened substantially over the last few days. He also now suffered from extreme dyslexia and an inability to reason long strings of numbers.
So severe had these problems gotten, that Carl called in sick for five consecutive workdays. He had to plead with Mark to do his work in the interim of his absence. Mark happily obliged showing no indication that he’d been upset about earlier.
“Hello, you’ve reached accidents and claims. My name is Jeff. How may I help you?” said a well-rehearsed male voice.
“I was in a car wreck a few days ago, and I need to report it,” Carl said hysterically.
“Okay, no problem. Could you please state your account number?”
“Just a sec.”
Carl stepped over a charred tile from one of his recent cooking fiascoes and searched the clutter that was his apartment. Spoiled food, magazines, and work-related documents littered the floor. He long ago abandoned trying to breathe any semblance of order into the place. He hadn’t left his house since his last day at the office.
“I’m unable to find the papers I need,” Carl said with resignation.
“Don’t worry about it,” replied Jeff, “Just provide me your first and last name.”
There was a pause.
“Okay, Mr. Jones, I see here that you are eligible for coverage. Simply recite your pin number, and we will gladly cover any and all expenses after an assessment of damages.”
Carl racked his brain, but was unable to recollect the combination he needed. He explained this to the agent who went on to advise that Carl visit the company’s website where he could answer recovery questions— a daunting preposition to Carl.
“Bye, Jeff. Thanks.”
Carl let out a loud grunt and threw the phone against the wall.
At least that will shut up that asshole who keeps bombarding me with hate mail.
Then another thought hit him.
No, how will I get a hold of Amelia!?
Carl, who once had Amelia’s number down by muscle memory, now depended on the contact list on his phone to get a hold of her. This rash action may have just severed his life-line.
Amelia was the only good thing in his life at the moment. He conversed with her over the phone frequently, but omitted details such as blacking out, bleeding, and the eye floater. Comforting as she was, Amelia sensed that Carl was hiding something.
“Why won’t you let me in? Just tell me what’s going on, Carl,” Amelia begged.
“I can’t. It’s complicated,” Carl would say in response.
She often insisted on coming over, but Carl kept her at bay. As much as he needed Amelia’s support, he contradicted himself in not wanting her around. He refused to allow her to see him reduced to what he was now.
Carl rushed over to the phone.
Please don’t be dead!
Thankfully, other than an unsightly crack on the screen, the phone, at a glance, still worked. Carl exhaled a sigh of relief. Then the device in his hands buzzed. It displayed a reminder of his appointment at the MRI clinic. He had two hours.
Carl was well aware that he was in no shape to drive. Even if he elected to do so, Carl’s sense of direction would fail him. Carl figured it best to make the journey on foot.
Carl relied on Google maps to navigate where he needed. His phone was his shepherd in this outside world now so foreign to him. He kept his senses glued to it.
“Take the next right on Oak Street,” the device said.
Carl’s fit of anger must have damaged the phone, as the earpiece would fade out intermittently. The spotty directions compounded by Carl’s weakened mental state often required him to abandon the path he was on, and walk a new one. He had to hold out faith that he’d eventually reach his destination. After trekking for some time, the device vibrated with a message displaying “appointment missed.”
No, oh God, no!
This was his only chance at reversing his condition. When would be the next opportunity he could be seen? What would his faculties be by then? Carl, refusing to be turned away, pressed on; unsure of how much progress he made towards the clinic.
By 4:30 PM, Carl got to where he needed to go. He fell to his knees, exhausted physically and mentally. After allowing himself time to recover, Carl entered the building and approached the receptionist. She looked up cheerfully and opened with:
“Hi, do you have an appointment today?”
“Yes. Carl Jones,” he said, trying his best to keep his composure.
She turned to her monitor and typed commands on the computer.
“I see here that you had an appointment with Dr. Jenkins at 3:00 PM today.”
“I know. But it’s an emergency. Is there no way you can schedule me in?” he asked in a quaking voice.
She reviewed the schedule.
“It says here that there’s an opening tomorrow at 8:00 in the morning. Would that work for you?”
“Tomorrow!?” Carl said incredulously.
“It’s either that or two weeks from now.”
Carl clenched his fists and gritted his teeth so hard that he cracked the enamel of one his back molars. After accepting he could do nothing, he relaxed.
“Okay, fine,” Carl spitted.
“Let me call Dr. J to see that that’s alright with him.” As she lifted the phone from the receiver.
Carl waited with bated breath.
“He said okay. 8:00 sharp it is,” reported the receptionist.
Dusk fell, and the world became shrouded in black. Carl decided to stay up all night to ensure he wouldn’t miss the appointed hour. He didn’t dare go home, as he couldn’t afford to be late again. He sat in a nearby back alley for the entire night, huddled in a fetal position, cold and afraid. The coming of dawn had never before brought as much relief to Carl as it did then.
Carl’s phone battery had expired long ago, so Carl had no means of determining what time it was— not that he even remembered when he was supposed to be there. He spent the early hours pacing like a madman in the vacant parking lot. Carl stepped inside the clinic the instant it opened to the public. The staff who saw Carl with his grimy clothes and disturbing mannerisms made a conscious effort to avoid him. He approached the receptionist from yesterday.
“Is it time?” Carl asked.
“Have to see doctor,” he rephrased.
“Yes, allow Dalia to escort you down the hallway.” He followed Dalia who would let out a nervous chuckle after every statement she made around Carl. She led him to a white room. Carl was about to express his gratitude, but already forgot the name of the lady before him.
“Dalia, thank you.”
“If you’ll excuse me.”
She left him to his own devices.
Don’t worry. It’s not going to be like last time…
Despite Carl’s lingering suspicions, he continued to disavow that he’d ever been abducted. Regardless, the room still caused Carl to shiver uncontrollably. The table and scanning equipment weren’t helping matters. The experience was enough to make Carl consider abandoning this visit altogether. Then Dr. Jenkins entered.
“Good morning, my name is Dr. Jenkins. My friends call me Dr. J. How are we doing today?” he said in a friendly tone.
“Fine,” Carl succinctly said.
Carl described all the medical symptoms he’d been exhibiting. Dr. Jenkins patiently listened with empathy.
“I see. Well, please wear this apron and lie down on the table,” Dr. Jenkins ordered as he handed Carl some kind of green vest.
This request upset Carl causing him to hyperventilate. Dr. Jenkins was at a loss for what to do. After a few seconds, he wrapped his arm around Carl’s right shoulder saying:
“Don’t worry, Mr. Jones, this is a common, non-invasive procedure. You’re in very capable hands, and have nothing to worry about.”
This did nothing to mitigate Carl’s worries, but Carl acquiesced; understanding that there was no way around this. He begrudgingly donned the apron and lay flat on the table. Dr. Jenkins instructed Carl to keep his head fixated as the machine hummed over him. When the procedure was finished, Dr. Jenkins told Carl to wait until the team processed the results. Dr. Jenkins returned a half hour later bearing news and a folder of medical images.
“From the results of the CAT scan, we concluded the absence of any anomalies or foreign bodies in your body. I advise that you consult with other experts to reach a diagnosis.”
“What do you mean?” asked Carl.
“As I said, we didn’t detect anything unusual.”
Carl’s face turned beet red at this statement.
“That’s bullshit! I saw them inject me with it,” Carl said vehemently
Dr. Jenkins raised an eye brow.
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Those… people. Hell, I don’t know,” Carl explained.
Dr. Jenkins scratched his head.
“I can show you the images if you like,” said Dr. Jenkins as he spread the x-rays across the desk.
And indeed the scans were completely nondescript to any technician or medical practitioner. Carl, however, heard none of it. He was livid, and now believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that whatever transpired that night had very much indeed happened.
He knows! That’s the only explanation.
Carl lunged for a nearby stapler, and struck Dr. Jenkins upside the head with it. Dr. Jenkins fell to the ground. The man pleaded, but Carl continued to bludgeon him. Carl in his mania felt no remorse for his actions.
I’ll get those bastards back for what they did to me!
What started with arm flailing became attempts to shield his face. What became attempts to shield his face, became twitching. What became twitching, became limp.
Carl reduced the figure’s head to a pulpy mess. Brain matter eked out of the occipital lobe much like a smashed watermelon. The attack scattered hairy bone fragments which stuck to the ground with cementitious gore. A torrent of blood drained from Dr. Jenkins head, staining his pristine white coat a dark crimson.
Damn, I should’ve demanded answers.
Carl panted like a mad dog, inhaling the pungent fumes that wafted through the room. He was high on his triumph. Then the gravity of what he’d just done hit him. He examined his clothes, which clearly showed evidence of a messy struggle. It was time to leave.
Carl switched the lights off, and cast the room in darkness. Carl’s world became black.
Carl walked as if in a daze. His eyes didn’t blink, and he dragged his feet. He passed nobody in the halls. At the sight of Carl’s bloody form in the lobby, the receptionist ducked under her desk and whispered prayers for her safety. Carl paid no heed to her, and exited the premises.
It’s over. It’s all over.
The horrendous scene he left behind remained etched in his eyes. Whatever Carl’s minor victory over the men who ruined his life, a part of him knew he still had the law to answer to. He considered going home to wait out his final moments of freedom.
Right, no more Google Maps.
Carl wandered the vast cityscape aimlessly. Other pedestrians on the street gave him questionable looks, but Carl saw past them. He may as well have waded through a sea of shadows for he couldn’t recall any of their features even if he tried. Then a voice rang out that woke Carl from his trance.
“Carl, is that you?”
He turned around, and his wild eyes met with the love of his life, Amelia. Her face expressed worry. Carl bit his lower lip, and embraced her in a hug.
“Let’s get off the streets,” Amelia suggested. When the two entered the silver Hybrid Prius, Amelia questioned Carl to no end.
“Why are you covered in blood?”
“Why haven’t you returned any of my calls?”
“What were you doing on this side of town?”
Carl remained reticent.
“You’re stonewalling me again. Carl, please.”
Seeing that Carl wouldn’t budge, the two fell silent for all the drive back to Amelia’s house. When they got inside, Carl broke down. Droplets of blood trickled down his face.
“Oh my god, sweetie… is this what you’ve had to deal with?”
Carl shook his head.
“You poor thing. Let me take you to the hospital.”
Carl’s emotions went from self-loathing to anger in that instant. Carl had a revelation.
This deceitful bitch! She’s in on it too!
“Carl, we’re leaving right now,” she said as she grabbed her purse. “It’s my turn to take care of—“
A blow from behind cut her sentence short and knocked her prone. She turned over on her back and looked with terror at Carl looming over her with a lamp. His eyes were full of malice.
“Carl, this isn’t you! Stop!” she cried.
He brought the crude weapon down again, and inflicted an abrasion on her right cheek.
“Honey, why?! I love you!”
He repeatedly swung at Amelia who continued to beg. In due time, squishy sounds replaced the begging. Satisfied, Carl dropped the lamp on the hardwood floor with a dull thud.
Carl battered Amelia’s face beyond recognition. A deep gash on her forehead pooled a soupy mess of bone, blood, cartilage, and teeth. Three ribs protruded out of her shirt. Amelia’s family and friends would mourn her passing at a closed-casket-funeral.
I had to do it. She would’ve taken me to them…
Carl paced around the living room for hours. He felt accomplished and conflicted all at the same time. But no matter how he tried to reconcile it, he felt tormented by the murder of his fiancée. Carl tasted bile in his mouth.
It’s not my fault. It’s not!
Carl entertained suicide right then and there. Instead, he ran out the front door of Amelia’s house and into the night. He didn’t care where he went; he just wanted away from it all. Street after street passed by him until the world faded to black.