Friday, April 18, 2014

How It Appears

I’m staring at a white ceiling with dim lights humming around me. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. I don’t know where here is.

“She’s awake.”

I turn to the sound. A man in scrubs is in the room with me.

“What’s going on?” I know I spoke the words, but they don’t sound like me. My voice is richer, stronger than it has ever sounded.

A woman in a pencil skirt clicks into the room. Behind her, a man in a tailored suit that cost more than I make in two years closes the door.

I shrink into the covers of the soft bed.

“How do you feel?” the man asks, lifting my eyebrows while shining a pen light into my eyes.

I jerk away. There’s a lot I want to say, but I don’t like the voice I hear when I speak.

The woman smiles and comes to the other side of my bed. “Considering what you looked like when we got you, we’ve done an excellent job putting you back together.”

The man steps back. “I’m Doctor Williamson. And this is Doctor Howe.” The woman nods. “What do you remember about the accident?”

“What accident?” There’s that voice again. I don’t know what’s wrong with it.

Dr. Howe turns on the tv. A news reporter speaks and the screen flashes to a security camera on a busy street. A beautiful woman, a woman everyone in the country knows, starts into the crosswalk. A van speeds next to her, throws open the door, and pulls her inside without stopping.

“Rachel Evans, the daughter of the media tycoon Doug Evans, was kidnapped in plain sight.” The reporter keeps talking in the background. The video footage continues. A police car, siren blaring, blazes by the camera not five seconds after the van passed.

Dr. Howe turns it off. “The police caught up to the van a block away. The kidnappers drove into the MediaState building. The explosion was huge. You were the only one to survive. If we didn’t have video footage of who was kidnapped, we may never have known who you were or what you were supposed to look like.”

“That wasn’t me.” I try to ignore the voice that comes out of my mouth.
They ignore it too. 
“That wasn’t me in the van. I’m not Rachel Evans.”

Now they look at each other. “If you’re not Rachel Evans, then who are you?” Dr. Williamson speaks to me like he would to a child caught in a lie.

“I’m Bridgette Torry.” Saying my name with this new voice makes me feel like I’m lying to myself.

The man in scrubs who hasn’t introduced himself starts typing on a computer.

“Who’s Bridgette Torry?” Dr. Williamson asks.

“I’m from the Pine region. I work at the lum…”

“Bridgette Torry. Married to Zane Torry. Two kids.” The man reads from the computer screen. “Worked at a lumber yard in the Pine region. Killed in an accident at the yard.”

“Killed?” I put my unfamiliar hand on my chest. “I’m not dead. I’m right here. I was at work and a rope snapped. The load it carried dropped to the floor of the yard. No one was hurt.”

They all look at me, expecting me to say something else. “I’m not dead and I’m not Rachel Evans. I don’t live in the city. I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but I’m not the person you say I am.”

I look down at the metal tray of food sitting in front of me. Nothing about my face is familiar. My eyes are wider apart, bigger. My lips are fuller. My nose is smaller and turns up more. I look at my chest. Those have definitely never been there. 

I only notice the doctors have left when the door shuts behind them. I hear a lock switch into place. They think I’m crazy. Am I?

I know I’m not Rachel Evans. Everyone knows who Rachel Evans is. She’s who every woman dreams of being. Her life is glamorous. I would know if I was Rachel Evans. I wouldn’t remember the brush of the fresh cut wood on my calloused hands. I wouldn’t remember the back breaking labor I’ve been doing since I was twelve years old. I wouldn’t remember the hunger, the desperation of poverty.

I also wouldn’t have the memories of love that make me feel like I’m going to burst when Zane’s face comes to my mind. I wouldn’t remember the overwhelming joy of my kids, the way their little hands wrap around my fingers, the way their arms curl around my neck. No, I’m not crazy. I’m Bridgette Torry.

Throwing the covers off my unfamiliar legs, I run to the small window at the door. The doctors are talking with a man even more famous than his daughter, Doug Evans. At least they’re not looking at me.

I back up and hurry to the windows on the opposite side of the room. The view is dizzying. My head spins for a moment. I shake it and try to get my bearings. The latch on the window slides open when I test it. I climb onto the ledge and lower my body onto the balcony below mine. I don’t know what floor I’m on. I only know that I want to get to the bottom and there’s only one way to go: down. It takes a few floors to get accustomed to the motions my new body makes. With different limbs, my coordination isn’t what it used to be. I don’t bother looking in the windows I pass. If someone sees me, what does it matter? This may be my only chance to get away from this madhouse and back home.

My feet drop to the cold pavement and I break into a sprint. I’m in the city, but on the outskirts. The Pine is only a short distance away. I run faster, anxious to see my family, anxious to find out how I ended up in that hospital, how my obituary was in the system. I’m a block from my house and I’m breathing wildly. Then, I’m on my doorstep. A black ribbon is woven through the wooden banister surrounding the porch. The glass window reflects an image I’ve only seen in magazines. I really do look like Rachel Evans. What if I can’t convince my family I’m Bridgette? What if they only see my image, hear my voice, and start the rumor that Rachel Evans is crazy? What will I have left to live for? My family is everything to me. My job was inconsequential. It was only there to pay the bills. But Zane and all that we’ve created together, that’s my life.

I knock because I don’t feel right barging in on them looking the way I do. It’s late so I know everyone is home. A chair screeches and I see Zane’s silhouette through the window. His hair droops over his eyes. The door opens slowly. Dark circles underneath his brown eyes make them black. His shoulders are stooped and a black armband is tight on his loose sleeve.

“Zane,” I breathe. I lean toward him, raising my arms around his neck.

He backs away quickly, lowering his head in a bow. “Miss Evans.”

“Zane, it’s me, Bridgette.”

Submission disappears from his face. His eyebrows tighten. “What did you say?”

“I’m Bridgette. I’m your wife. I woke up in a hospital and everything about me was changed. The doctors made me look like Rachel Evans, but I’m not her. I’m your wife.”

He steps further back.

I wring my hands. He doesn’t want me to touch him and what I’m telling him is upsetting. “I can prove it to you. Remember when Taylor was born? Remember the words you said to me? You told me…”

“Stop.” The look in his eye ties my tongue. “Look outside. Don’t you see the black ribbon? Are you so crazy that you don’t know what that means? My wife is dead. You’re not her. Go back to the hospital you ran away from. Leave me and my family alone.”

My heart starts to disintegrate. What can I say that will convince him? All he hears is this voice. It’s so different from the voice he used to listen to in the dark when we talked for hours in the quiet of the night. What can I do to show him I’m Bridgette? All he sees is another woman, a woman he shares nothing with. None of my features are the same. My body is different. All of my distinguishing features have been taken away. I am nothing to him.

I can see I’ve hurt him. He thinks I’m dead. Am I? “I’m sorry to bother you. I made a mistake.” 

I turn and leave the porch. I don’t have any purpose now. I walk without a sense of direction. My mind swims with panic. What am I going to do now? An emptiness permeates my chest. There is nothing to fill it. Everything I’ve worked for, my marriage, my kids, my life with Zane, is gone. Other than scrape together enough money to have my features changed back to what they were, to have my voice returned to what it was, there’s no way I can convince my family that I belong. If I worked my entire life, I would never come up with that kind of money.

A car screeches to a halt next to me.

“Rachel, honey…” It’s Doug Evans. “It’s freezing out here. Come get in the car.”

A plan beings to form in the void left by Zane’s rejection.

Mr. Evans is out in the cold now. Snow swirls around us as he wraps a heavy coat around me. I let him help me into the back seat. He sits beside me, his arm around my shoulder rubbing warmth into my body. It doesn’t help. He tells the driver to take us home. I don’t know where that is. My home recedes behind us as we drive away from the Pines and into the city.

“Dad?” I whisper.

A smile of relief fills his features. I’ve never seen the man show any emotion in front of the cameras that broadcast his life across the tv. It doesn’t soften the lines on his face. “Everything will be all right, Rachel.”

What is worse? Acting like his daughter in order to get money for a surgery that will return me to myself, to Bridgette Torry? Or suspecting him of turning me into his daughter in the first place? How did he know I would be at the Torry home? How did he know I would run to that neighborhood?

The car pulls into a gated driveway that opens as we approach. An ambulance is parked in the rounded courtyard. Drs. Howe and Williamson step out as our engine dies. “I’m sorry sir. We wouldn’t have woken her if we suspected. Like I explained at the hospital, sometimes a donor’s memories will transfer with the organs. It’s a rare phenomenon, but not impossible.” Dr. Williamson steps aside.

Donor? Who donated what to whom? Did I really die in the accident at the plant? Were my organs donated to Rachel Evans body? Whose brain am I using?

Dr. Howe has a syringe in her hand. “This should erase her confusion.”

The needle is in my neck before she finishes her sentence. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Taken - Part 3

Below is the third installment of my story, previously titled Deviant on my other posts (I've gone in and changed the titles now). When I first started writing this story years ago, I'd called it Taken. After a lot of thought, I've decided to go back to my original title with a slight tweak, so it will now be titled The Taken. For the first installment, click here. For the second, please click here.

If I’d thought things would be semi-normal most of the day, I was sorely mistaken. I shared class with eight boys, and they’d done nothing but whisper and snicker behind my back all day, not that they’d been very quiet about it. Bets were being made on how far I’d “go” with Billy on our date tonight. At first the comments had been relatively harmless, even though they’d still caused my face to burn red-hot as my embarrassment level had shot off the charts. And then their ruminations had gotten a whole lot worse.
And it was irritating the hell out of me.
Mr. Higgins—Greg, outside school hours—was our teacher. For the most part, he spent his teaching time reading the torn and stained textbooks word for word, only allowing us a about ten minutes worth of time for q-and-a’s at the end of each subject. Every day we started off with English then we worked on Math before moving on to Science. Mr. Edwards came in during that part of the day since he was our resident Science Guy. Sometimes he would take us to his lab and show us whatever inventive masterpiece he’d been working on that day, and other times he merely bounce ideas off of us. I was one of his favorite students since I seemed to have a knack for technology, and he always appreciated any input or random thoughts I had.
Today, we went over “what went wrong” with his lighting experiment. Last Friday he’d tested out a new design on a way to light the caves more efficiently. It had gone so terribly wrong that we’d all had to escape the classroom for the rest of the day, until the smoke cleared out. Somehow the little light had caught a chair on fire.
“I think we overpowered it,” I said when he called on me. “If we can lessen the wattage that’s being pumped through the light, then there should be less of a chance of it blowing.”
“Very good,” Mr. Edwards said approvingly. For so long, we’d relied on fire and candles to light our way, but with as many supply raids as we’d gone on over the years, many of those supplies were running low. That need had kicked Mr. Edwards into action, and he’d started to find a way to light the caves using light bulbs—which there were plenty of, from what I’d heard. “How do you suggest we do that?” he asked.
“I think,” I replied, not waiting for anyone else to answer, “That if we string more of them together that it would lessen the wattage that’s being forced into each bulb.”
His answering grin proved I was right. “And how do we figure out how many bulbs are needed?”
Well that all depended on how much was being pumped out of his invention. As he’d shown us last week, and from my many visits to his lab, he knew it was sort of like a hybrid generator. They’d brought in some generators they’d found during a raid a long time ago and decided to fire them up, but soon after the loud engines were started, our Haven had been attacked by a deviant and we’d lost two of our men, so that idea had flown out the door as fast as one of those creatures had found us.
Mr. Edwards called on one of my classmates, Daylen Roberts, to answer his question, and the science lesson quickly turned into a math one.
After Science, we broke for lunch. The whispers were even worse in the mess hall. Obviously the betting had gone a lot farther than in the classroom. If that hadn’t been bad enough, all that talk had made its way to Billy, who was now staring at me with that annoyingly stupid half grin.
I forced down my soup and roll as quickly as I could, wanting to get a break from the stares and comments that surrounded me. Of course this had to happen the day Mom and Dad weren’t here to eat with me. They must have been held up, because they normally beat me to mess hall and saved a seat for me. It was sortof a ritual of ours. Family time in the middle of the day to see how everyone’s day was going. But here I was, eating alone. Taking my bowl over to the wash basin, I dropped it into the water. As I turned to leave, I ran into someone large, stumbling as I bounced off him.
“Hey Em.”
Backing up a step or two, I looked up, my eyes narrowing. “Billy. What do you want?”
He snorted and dropped his bowl into the basin as well. “Isn’t it obvious? I thought we’d discuss our date.”
“You know,” I said, trying to walk around him. “I think I’m suddenly feeling sick. I really should cancel. We don’t want to start some sort of epidemic, right? I’d feel awful if everyone here caught sick just because we went on a date.”
“Ha,” he laughed, stepping sideways and catching me before I could pass him. “I like this side of you. I’ve never seen it before.”
“Keep it up and you’ll see a lot more,” I said. Mentally willing him to go away so I wouldn’t have to spend any time with him at all. “Let me pass.”
“Soon. I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be waiting for you when you get out of class. I don’t want to waste one minute of our date.”
“Fine, whatever.” I finally pushed around him.

He stepped to the side, finally letting me by. “See you in a few hours,” he called out as I rushed from the room.

Copyright © 2014 Katalyn Sage
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