WARNING: This is the final of a trilogy of Creepypastas. If you haven't read the first two yet, here they are.
Seriously, read those two first. Otherwise, this will be confusing. AND TAKE THIS ONE IN CHUNKS. This will be a lot to swallow.
Holy crap, this was a beast of a finale to write. Somehow, it took me less time than the second one did, despite being twice as long. (16 pages in Microsoft Word - what a monster!)
And of course, if Mutahar reads this, it should be word for word. (This one I'm requiring, because otherwise the ending won't make sense.)
"When the blameless and the righteous die, the very gods for vengeance cry." - Vlad Taltos
Part 1 - RecursionEdit
"Until a person can say deeply and honestly 'I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.' that person cannot say 'I choose differently.'" - Stephen R. Covey
“Wait, I thought you said earlier that your son was in high school. What changed that you haven’t told me yet?”
“Well, at this point in the story, I was just as clueless as you are now.”
I was able to get back downstairs just in time to see Kyle scooping a spoonful of spaghetti onto the plate I had set out for… well, not for him. After that, I lost track of what happened. Time seemed to slow down. I had to put so much effort into breathing that my vision was blurring and my head was getting dizzy. Just what the hell was going on?
Leaning against the kitchen table, I noticed that Kyle’s temperament wasn’t cheerful, which didn’t surprise me - he had just lost his younger brother – but I couldn’t quite put my finger on how he was feeling. His face was a blank slate – no one emotion visible over the other. At least, that’s what it looked like to me. It’s hard to put your finger on the emotions of a person who until recently you had no idea existed. I wasn’t sure how I would describe myself in that moment either. I felt like I was seesawing between surprise at the stranger who shows up at my door claiming to be my son, frustration that these problems just wouldn’t end and panic in that I was quickly losing control of a situation I had just had a firm grasp on moments before. This new person who had just waltzed into my life had taken me completely off guard, and I couldn’t respond. I heard Kyle say something but couldn’t focus on the words.
“What?” I asked, trying my best to listen this time around.
“I said I’m glad you got my email.” He responded sarcastically. “You didn’t show up at the airport and I had to catch a taxi. Do you even get ON your computer anymo…?” He stopped mid-sentence, staring at my face. “Mom, you look terrible. Your face is pale, and you look like you’re about to throw up.”
“Believe me, as terrible as I look, I feel about ten times worse.” He grimaced. Putting the back of his hand to my forehead, he tried to feel for a fever. I was expecting him to assume that I had some sort of illness.
“This could be a side effect of that medication you’re on. You should check the pill bottle and see if they’re causing the problem.”
“Sure.” I responded, confused. Medication? I didn’t remember being put on any medication. I was getting into my mid-50’s, but my health was still above average. I hadn’t been on any medication since the narcotics for my broken leg. I was fairly certain that what I was feeling wasn’t caused by any medication, or illness for that matter, but I decided to humor him since explaining what had happened in the past week would have sounded crazy. “I’ll go check it in a second. First, I want to hear all about your trip.” I was determined to answer a few questions about the stranger finishing off his lunch.
“Okay,” he vented, the frustration evident in his voice. “I’m just going to pretend that those pills have wiped your entire memory accidentally and retell you everything. It wasn’t a vacation. I left for Russia to study abroad 6 months ago. Three days ago, I get a message about Jesse. I get packed and get on the first plane home. End of story.” He slurps the last noodle off of his fork, stands up and takes his dishes to the sink. My stomach felt worse after he mentioned Russia, but at least that explained the suitcase. There were three huge questions that still needed answers, though: Where did my high school aged Kyle go? Why couldn’t I remember anything about this Kyle? And which one of them was really my son?
“So, is that your only suitcase?” Kyle threw up his hands in the air. He was clearly done with me.
“Yes, mom.” He said, exasperated. “I took ONE SUITCASE of stuff for a six month study abroad program.” Losing his sarcastic tone, he said, “The rest of the luggage is being shipped home since you weren’t there to pick me up. Check your email more often!” I rolled my eyes. I wanted MY Kyle back. But now that he mentioned it, I HADN’T been on my computer since… well, since I could remember. I didn’t trust my memory too much now, as it seemed to be getting more and more spotty, but it had to have been at least a month. I wrote a note to myself saying to get on soon and check to make sure I hadn’t missed anything else important.
THE BITTER PILLEdit
Fed up with the unfair amount of grief I was getting from Kyle, I decided to go up and check the mystery pill bottle for any listed side effects. At least this puzzle could be solved without a lot of hassle and frustration. I took the long walk up to my bathroom. Looking in the mirror, I really looked bad. There was a post-it note above one of the sinks. Pulling it off and holding it up to my eyes, I read it to myself. “Take one daily with lunch. DO NOT TAKE MORE THAN ONE A DAY.” The handwriting didn’t look familiar. I shrugged. At the time, I didn’t see the importance. Bending down and taking the pill bottle out of the bucket of medical supplies I keep under my sink, I expected to see a label full of words and numbers. Instead of side effects, however, the only words on the label were the name of who I assumed was the prescribing doctor. There were no side effects, no directions, no dosage – not even the name of the medication. I rolled my eyes. “Figures.” I muttered to myself. I should have known that it wouldn’t be that easy.
Walking back downstairs, I pondered how I was going to get in touch with… what was the name of the doctor? I glanced back at the label. “Dr. Kahler?” I racked my brain, but the name didn’t sound familiar. “Kyle?” He glanced up from the book he was reading. I shook the pill bottle. “Do you know of a Dr. Kahler?” He thought about it for a moment.
“Unless you switched doctors and forgot to tell me, which wouldn’t surprise me after seeing how bad your memory is getting, he’s not your normal doctor.” My shoulders sank and I heaved a weighted breath. Time to find a phone book.
After what felt like hours of skimming the Yellow AND White pages, I had come up with all of one number that had a chance of being the one I needed. Why didn’t we still live in the days when operators connected you through switchboards? When I went to my cell phone, though, I discovered that I had wasted all of my time. Dr. Kahler’s number was one of the saved contacts in the phone. Resisting the urge to touchdown spike my phone into the ground, I dialed the number. After several rings, he picked up.
“This is Dr. Kahler.” I was surprised at how ragged he sounded. He sounded like a doctor tired of doing his rounds.
“Hi, Dr. Kahler, this is Lori Davies.” I paused for a moment, unsure exactly what to tell him. I decided to go with the path of least resistance, which could have been anything but the truth. “I believe that I’ve been experiencing some side effects with a medication I was prescribed by you, but I’m unable to do research on the medication because the name isn’t on the label.” The other end of the call was silent for just a moment too long.
“You said you think this medication is causing the side effects?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“And the name of the medication wasn’t on the label?”
“No. In fact, the only thing on it was your name.”
Another pause that lasted just long enough for me to start becoming nervous.
“Ma’am, you need to see me as soon as possible. This is VERY important. When’s the earliest you can come in?” The urgency in his voice came out of nowhere. Now I was worried.
“Um… I can come in now if it’s really that urgent.” I stammered. I didn’t know what else to say. If my health was at risk, it seemed that the earlier I got in to see him, the better.
“Good, good. Do you remember how to get here?” Like I would remember anything with how shaken up I was getting. Where was here even?
“No, I don’t. Could you give me the address?”
“I’ll text it to you.”
“I appreciate it.”
“Just please… get in as soon as you can!” There was a click at the other end of the line. About ten seconds later, I received the address. Plugging the address into my in-phone GPS, I got in my car, pulled out of my garage and sped about 10 MPH over the speed limit the entire way there.
I sat, alternating my gaze between the address on my phone and the address on the building I was currently in front of. “There’s no way this is right. This is an office park, not a hospital.” Maybe I had forgotten my way around the city. It would have been just another item on that long list of things I’d forgotten recently. Deciding that I might as well ask whether or not I had the right place, I walked into the building. Right inside the door, there was a directory of employees for Momento Pharmaceuticals. ‘Okay,’ I thought to myself as I rubbed my temples, ‘the OTHER place you can get medication.’ At least I knew I had the right place. Finally, I was about to get some real answers. I glided up to the receptionist.
“Welcome to Momento Pharmaceuticals. Do you have an appointment?”
“Uh, yes… hi. I’m here to see Dr. Kahler.”
“But do you have an appointment?”
“He made it pretty evident that he was clearing his schedule to see me.” I had to hold back a small laugh, remembering how stressed out he sounded after I told him about the side effects. She pointed to the elevator.
“Third floor, second lab on the left. Knock before you enter.”
“Thanks…” I said, once again distracted. I thought I misheard her. Did she just say a lab?
I knocked on the lab door. Expecting an older doctor, I was instead surprised to see a man in his early thirties open the door to greet me. After hearing his voice on the phone, the last age I would have placed him at was in his thirties. He sounded tired and worn down – not the picture I should be getting of someone at least twenty years younger than me.
“Thank you for coming so quickly.” He ushers me in and offers me a seat on a chair that looks like it should be in a dentist’s office. Papers were stacked everywhere. This guy had obviously missed the news headline that read ‘INVENTED: FILING CABINET’.
“I think we’re both looking for answers. For starters, I want to know why I have this medication in the first place. I’m perfectly healthy, aside from having a slightly high blood pressure”
“Well, actually…” He paused. A glimmer of recognition appeared in his eyes. “Are you here to report small bouts of memory loss?”
“Yeah, how did you know?” It was really the only symptom I could relate directly to the medication.
“Well, other people in the trial have reported the same side effect. The memory loss pretty much always tends to be the worst of the side effects. There’s also nausea, fatigue, lightheadedness. You know, the laundry list of generic symptoms you typically hear in commercials for other medication. This is actually light fare compared to the number of symptoms other medications give you.”
“I don’t mean to interrupt, but did you say trial?”
“Oh, right!” He said, smacking his forehead as if he had forgotten something very important. “This pill is currently in a clinical trial, and you volunteered to be a test subject for the medication. That’s why your normal doctor’s name isn’t on the bottle – because it’s not available for prescription. Yet, anyway.”
“But there isn’t ANYTHING on the bottle except for your name.”
“Yes, well… that’s for confidentiality reasons. We can’t have one of our competitors finding out that we have a new pill in trial. Placing unnecessary information on the label could increase the chances of corporate espionage. Of course, for any company to try and rip off this pill would be a theft of unprecedented value.” He holds up the bottle that I had brought with me and shakes it. “This pill has received more funding from government and private donors than any medication to date and is expected to make money in the BILLIONS…” He says the next words carefully. “In the same week that it streets.” I was floored. For a pill to be projected to make money that quickly, it had to be something that everyone needed… or wanted... or both. It would have to be on the same level as the cure for cancer.
“I don’t mean to offend, but that seems like a lot of responsibility for someone in their thirties to be working on a breakthrough of this caliber.”
“Well, that’s probably why I’m only here to manage the trial. They didn’t let me anywhere near the pharmacology lab that whipped up this moneymaker. But hey,” He shrugged. “You play to peoples’ strengths. I keep meticulous notes on everything every patient reports. My bosses say I’m one of the worst micromanagers they’ve ever seen, which is probably why I got the job.”
“Yes,” I said, glancing at all of the papers strewn about the room, “I can see why. So all of these notes are reports from patients?”
“Yes, we have to report every finding to the FDA. This is one pill that has to stay above board. If we were to dance around the rules, people could end up getting hurt and because we’re projected to sell so many pills in the first week, we have to reduce that risk as much as possible. That’s why I sounded so worried on the phone. Your health wasn’t in danger so far as we know, but I have to protect the trial patients and every potential future patient by reporting the side effects. For example, since the trial has started, we’ve discovered that it shouldn’t be taken with four other medications. No one died by the reactions, but a few have been hospitalized. Because you don’t take any other medication aside from OTC pain medication, you were put into our control group.” I was both peeved and relieved that my health wasn’t the reason he sounded so urgent on the phone. At least I could move on from that scare.
Glancing around the room, a thought leapt into my mind. “Do you happen to have any notes about me in these piles of papers?”
“I’m sure I do somewhere, but I only organize them once the trial ends and I prepare my report to the FDA. It would take hours to find. We’ve run almost fifty clinical trials as a company and this is the first trial where we’ve actually had to reject people. There are more than five thousand participants.” Again, I was shocked. For that many people to sign up to take a pill that wasn’t even cleared as safe, these people must be some of the most desperate people out there. And I was one of them.
“You still haven’t told me what the pill DOES. Why are so many people scrambling to take this drug?”
“Well, the idea for this drug is what got our company started and played a huge part in what the company was named by our executives. Do you remember the movie Momento? It came out in 2000 and the story was about a guy who had anterograde amnesia. Now, anterograde amnesia is typically the result of some sort of trauma to the brain and is where the brain can’t create new memories. That really has nothing to do with the pill, but the basic parts of the story are that you experience trauma and memories disappear.” He smiled as if he was trying to sell the drug to me. “This pill targets particularly traumatic experiences and erases them from the user’s mind. Completely. As in, leaves no trace of the traumatic experience in your memory.” I had no idea what to say. I signed up for a pill that targets traumatic memories? Why on earth would I do something like that? I mean… I don’t remember having any traumatic experiences, but that would just be proof that the pill works.
“But why would doctors prescribe something like that?”
“Actually, most of the people that will prescribe something like this won’t be doctors, but rather psychiatrists and therapists. It’s the type of medication that deals with the mind rather than the body.”
“And how in the world would something like this work? It seems like something straight out of science-fiction.”
“It does sound rather unbelievable. If you want more than a basic rundown of the mechanics of the pill, you would have to talk to the pharmacologists, but the first pill erases the memory and every subsequent pill keeps the memory from coming back. At least, that’s what we’re assuming. We have a group of people in the trial that only take the first pill and then we see if the memories return – you’re in that group by the way. So far, it looks like the one pill is doing its job, but until we know for sure, that’s how we’re advising everyone else to take the medication.” I was silent for a moment. If this pill really worked, I could understand why they went to such great lengths to keep it below the table. But one thing was still nagging at me.
“You said a moment ago that the people who send participants to the trial will mostly be psychiatrists and therapists. Why did I sign up to participate in the trial?” Dr. Kahler’s face sagged as soon as I said it.
“I’m sorry, but there’s no way I can answer that question. Normally, when people come in to receive their first pill, the experience they want to forget is very personal and very painful. We make a point of not opening that wound more than we have to, which is why we don’t ask them to tell us about it. We just give them the pill and hope that we can relieve a bit of their anguish.” I let out a sigh. This was getting rather tedious. “The person who recommended the trial to you would know more than I do. And the name of that person…” He began flipping through his papers. “Ah, found your notes. Lucky you. You wanted to see them, but there really isn’t much to see.” He flipped the piece of paper towards me and I saw a few scribblings of side effects I had reported earlier, with general memory loss the newest entry on the list. “The name of the psychiatrist is Dr. Shanker.”
“Okay, I’ll see if I can get in touch with him.” I took his hand. “Thank you very much for your time. You’ve helped clear up a lot of questions.” I headed for the door.
“I’m glad I could help. Just remember that you signed a non-disclosure agreement! You can’t tell anybody about the trial you’re currently in.” He shouted to me as I left the lab.
Part 2 - CagedEdit
"The human consciousness is really homogeneous. There is no complete forgetting, even in death." - D.H. Lawrence
Walking out of the building, I still felt as though I was in a dream. Did that really just happen? It seemed too… strange to be true. I still didn’t have the answer as to why I was on the medication, but now I had an answer as to why I forgot that Kyle was in Russia. Perhaps hallucinations were also on the list of side effects too. I would have gone back in and asked Dr. Kahler, but it would be difficult for him to find anything in that mess of a laboratory. Remembering the last time I needed to find a phone number, I went to my contacts list, and sure enough, Dr. Shanker’s number was there. After three rings, he picked up.
“Hello, Lori. What’s up? We weren’t scheduled to have a session until next Tuesday.” That made me pause. The fact that I was still seeing a psychiatrist meant that even if I couldn’t remember it, the problem hadn’t completely gone away.
“Well, I have a couple of questions I need to ask you about a pill you recommended me for. Do you mind if I come in and ask you them?”
“No, of course not. Come in any time.”
“Okay, I’ll be there in about 15 minutes.” I hung up the phone. Surprisingly, this was one of the few places I could remember the directions to. I guess in the same way that muscle memory works, the more that I go to a place, the more I can remember about that place. I must not have gone to Momento more than a few times, but what did that mean about Dr. Shanker’s office? How often had I needed to see a psychiatrist? The thought scared me.
I arrived at his office twenty minutes later hoping that he wouldn’t notice that I was slightly late. Then I realized that he probably wouldn’t care since this wasn’t an official appointment. The building was surprisingly small, leading me to believe that his office was the only one in the building. At one time, this may have been somebody’s house but it must have been recently converted. Walking up to the door of the building, my hands started shaking as I put them on the doorknob. Was I scared about rediscovering what had happened to me? Or excited that I was finally going to discover the truth? How would my life change once I walked through this door? I went inside.
“Ahh, Ms. Davies. You look surprisingly good for how you sounded on the phone.” The first thing I noticed in the room was its lack of furniture, aside a desk that you nearly walked into as you entered and two folding chairs against the wall behind it. A few plants filled up what was left of the space in the tiny reception area. Dr. Shanker looked to be somewhere in his mid-50’s with a beard that was just starting to turn gray. Some bits and pieces of my memory were still there. I remembered how this guy didn’t pull any punches when it came to his thoughts on your mental state, which is apparently what I was going for in a psychiatrist. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him before, but I liked that in him now. It was nice to have a brutally honest person in your life. He would do whatever it took to help you – even if it meant hurting your feelings. It helped me keep perspective – stay focused on what really mattered. And what mattered were answers.
“Dr. Shanker,” I said, taking his hand, “I don’t have a lot of time to talk. My son just arrived home from Russia and I need to go over some things with him, but I had a few questions I wanted to ask you regarding my referral to Momento’s clinical trial.”
“Of course, of course,” He replied, gesturing me to go into the appointment room. There was an ordinary chair for him and the stereotypical couch against the wall right underneath the window – everything you’d expect a therapist to have. “Please, have a seat.” He said, motioning to the couch. I sat down. “Now, what is it you want to know?” I didn’t know where to start.
“First of all, why was I recommended for the clinical trial?”
“Well, I’m sure you know what the pill is supposedly able to do - you were recommended because you went through a particularly rough experience. At first, I was able to talk you through your feelings, and then suddenly about a year ago, your mood started going downhill. It appeared to me that you were taking drastic steps towards self-harm, so I had to intervene. We put you on the new clinical trial and suddenly not only was everything back to normal, but you appeared to be better than ever.” My eyes narrowed. He was being intentionally vague.
“I don’t get it though – if the pill helped me move on from whatever pushed me to the brink, why am I still scheduling visits?”
“That’s just so that I can confirm that you are still okay. I have to do my due diligence. Also, I have to make sure that your memory doesn’t come back. I’m sure that Momento is keeping their own notes on this, but it never hurts to double check.”
“See, that’s the thing…” My hands started shaking again. I was so close to the truth… I looked down at my knees. Was this really what I wanted? I made a snap decision before I could talk myself out of it. “What would you tell me if I asked you to tell me what memory the pill wiped?”
He put on his glasses and looked down at a folder which he had just pulled out of a filing cabinet. “I would tell you that it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as you make it sound.” My heart sank. Of course it wouldn’t be easy. Everything seemed to want to keep me from discovering the truth. “As your mental state started to decline, I got this nagging suspicion that you weren’t telling me everything that was troubling you. In order for me to do my job properly, there has to be complete and total transparency between us. Otherwise, I can’t help you through the things that are really causing the problems. I can tell you why YOU said you were declining, but I can’t be 100% sure that what you said was the truth, or at least the whole truth.” I sighed. It was better than nothing. At least this obstacle could be blamed on me and me alone.
“At this point, I’ll take whatever I can get. Why did I tell you I was breaking down?” Hoping for an answer, I nearly pulled out my hair when he shook his head.
“I’m sorry, but after seeing you go so low before, I’m afraid that reopening that wound could cause major psychological damage and potentially push you back towards self-harm. And if you WERE to harm yourself, that would open me up to liability lawsuits by your family.” He said it as if the potential lawsuits were the only thing he cared about. I knew better than that, but it was still enough to get my blood boiling.
“You won’t really have to worry about that,” I said through clenched teeth. “My youngest son died a few weeks ago and all I have now is my older son.” His face sagged.
“I’m so sorry. I had no idea.” He peered down over the top of his glasses and gave me a look that I will forever call the therapist stare. “Is that why you’ve gone on this relentless quest for answers?”
“I don’t know, you tell me! You seem to be the one with the answers! But for some reason, no one wants to give me any!” I was close to losing it. I didn’t want to yell, but it was absurd the amount of obstacles I had to overcome just to get here… and now there were more.
“Calm down, calm down,” he said in a soothing tone, putting his hands up in the air. “I understand that this is probably frustrating for you, and I can tell that nothing is going to stop you from finding out eventually, so there is one thing we can do. On my practice’s website, I have a release form available for my patients to print out. Typically this would be a form that would allow me to release otherwise confidential information to people involved in criminal investigations, but in this case it would release me from liability associated with whatever result comes from me telling you what you want to know. All you have to do is sign it and bring it back to me at your next appointment and I’ll tell you anything. I just hope,” he mentioned as he wrote what appeared to be a web address down on his prescription pad, “that you’ve worked through whatever was bothering you, because you absolutely will NOT like what you’ll discover.” At this point, everything that had happened in my life in the past week was so surreal that it could have been anything. He could have told me that I was abducted by aliens and I might have believed him. I sighed.
“So all I have to do is sign the release and bring it in and you’ll tell me whatever I want to know?” He nodded. “Is there any way you could see me tomorrow?” He glanced down at his phone.
“I think I can fit you in at noon.” I smiled longer than I probably had in the last week combined. The answers were less than 24 hours away.
A BATTLE OF WILLSEdit
When I got back home, I found two Post-It notes on the kitchen counter. The first was my note from earlier that morning. The other one was from Kyle.
You were out of milk, so I went to get more. I’ll be back in about an hour.
I laughed. I was never the milk drinker in the family. I was lucky if I could get through one gallon in two weeks. Flipping it over, I grabbed a pen and wrote “Dr. Shanker, noon tomorrow” on the back. I trusted my memory now more than I did this morning, but it still never hurt to be safe. For that same reason, I decided to go print off the release Dr. Shanker needed before anything else. If anything, it was to prevent even more frustration on my part. I had already overcome every obstacle. It was time to put this mystery to rest.
Walking up the stairs to my office, I pulled the prescription pad note out of my purse. Seeing the handwriting for the first time, I suddenly realized that I had seen this handwriting before. Walking into my bathroom and holding the prescription pad note up to the instruction post-it note above my sink, I compared the handwriting. They were identical. ‘Well, that cleared up another question.’ I’m not sure why I was so surprised that the handwriting was Dr. Shanker’s. Dr. Kahler had mentioned that psychiatrists and therapists wrote these prescriptions. Dropping my purse on the bed as I walked past, I finally made my way to the office and my computer. As I sat down and pushed the power button, I thought about how little I had actually used my computer. I read somewhere recently that only about 20% of people my age and above use technology like computers on a regular basis and about 35% know how to use a computer at all. I attributed that to my generation not growing up with the technology, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to learn. Kyle and Jesse got me the computer for Christmas two years ago and it just sat there for about 10 months until I asked them to help me learn how to use it. They were very patient with me, for which I was grateful.
The computer finally booted up and I entered the password on the log-in screen. My desktop was still empty, but I almost cried when I saw the picture. Jesse, Kyle and I were sitting in front of a Christmas tree, opening the box that held my computer. I didn’t want to think about how these times would never happen again. It made me once again feel depressed. Trying to ignore the sick feeling, I went to the start menu to get to my internet browser. And saw something that absolutely wasn’t supposed to be there.
Thinking it was some sort of mistake, I clicked on it. To my dismay, it opened up the program. It was no mistake. Someone had installed it on my computer intentionally. Could this possibly have been a coincidence? With the events of the past week, that seemed unlikely. Once I actually got a look in the window, I noticed that the first drop down menu was already clicked and there were two options. Load and Quit. Confused, I went to the load option, HOPING for something normal. I should have known better. There was only one file available to “load.”
“Oh my God...” My voice trailed off as I realized exactly what I was staring at. The file was called RUN. The program was ZSNES. And suddenly, before I even realized what I was doing, I found myself clicking the load button.
And nothing happened. I waited for a full minute. Nothing. The screen stayed black. Was it possible that the file had been corrupted? Hoping so, I went back to the menu to make sure the game had loaded. Then, just as I was about to close out of it entirely, text started appearing on the screen.
This would be the part of the game where “You stopped running.” appears, but you never really stopped, did you?
Damn it, this was the same game. I felt like punching my computer screen.
Welcome back, Lori.
At this, I froze. Then I started shaking. Then I started yelling. “What the fuck do you want from me?!? I just lost a child!!! Do you have to haunt me just like you haunted him??? Just let me grieve!” I was angrier than I had been in my entire life. This game didn’t seem to care that it was the cause of Jesse’s death and that it was the source of most, if not all, of my misery. I was expecting a harsh rebuke from the game, but nothing could have prepared me for what the next message said.
Don’t you mean another child?
“What… what do you mean ANOTHER child?” I stammered, struggling to find the words.
Although “lost” might not be the right word for what happened.
I sat there, reading and rereading the text for maybe twenty seconds, trying to process what it meant. Before I could fully piece together its meaning, the screen suddenly transitioned to a stage in the game. At this point, I didn’t need an instruction manual to tell me what I was supposed to do – after Jesse’s letter and my talk with Melissa, that was pretty straightforward. It was time to run.
As soon as the screen showed some color, I immediately noticed that I was playing as Yoshi with Baby Mario floating above my head. I didn’t have enough time to think about it at that moment, but I recognized the sprites from Yoshi’s Island – a game I got for Jesse a few years ago. The screen started scrolling rapidly and there was a clock counting down in the top right corner. Baby Mario was crying. Obviously, I was supposed to catch up to Baby Mario, but as I kept running, he stayed just out of reach. And the clock kept ticking down.
Eventually, I started getting worried. What happened if the clock reached zero? I never watched Jesse play Yoshi’s Island enough to see it happen, but it was obvious that nothing good came of it. Then I noticed that I had some eggs trailing me from the beginning of the stage. Being careful to not take my finger off of the run key, I started experimenting with other keys to see if any threw the eggs. Sure enough, I found one and a cursor appeared on the screen. A few practice throws later, I felt ready to aim at Baby Mario. I was about to think through my decision to throw the egg at him, but then I saw that the countdown clock had three seconds left. Not enough time to think it through – just enough to act.
I panicked. I threw the egg. If I had more time, I might have chosen differently. Really though, what other choice did I have? Looking back, I wish that I hadn’t even opened the cursed game. I could have just gone on with my life. Instead, the egg popped the bubble Mario was in and the momentum of his forward movement carried him into a pit that just until then was off screen. The crying coming from my speakers got softer and softer and then out of nowhere came a sound I could only define as the sound of a person hitting the ground after a long fall. It was extremely loud, making me jump back in my chair. And then the memories came flooding back. What happened to me, why I signed up for the clinical trial – all of it in an instant. It made my head spin, like the brain freeze from hell.
It also explained a lot.
“Uh oh. Looks like the single pill prescription doesn’t work like they were hoping.”
That voice… the voice that used to sound so familiar to me just that morning suddenly sent chills through my veins. I turned slowly to see Kyle standing in the doorway, leaning against the door frame and tossing one of my pills up and down in his hand. He did NOT look happy to see me. And now that I remembered everything about what happened, the feeling was mutual.
“Okay. We’ll get her ready for her first round in about half an hour. If you’ll follow me to my office, we can get the committal and insurance papers signed…”
The orderlies came and guided her out of her room to an unknown destination. They were pleased. Most other patients put up more of a fight. But then again, most other patients seemed less sane. One of the more curious orderlies wondered why this woman was even slated for electroshock therapy at all. But that was the job. They came in all colors, shapes and sizes. And mental states. When the doors opened to the treatment room, she started to put up more of a fight, which was what was expected in the first place. Against four men who physically trained for this job, she never stood a chance. They half carried, half dragged her to the table, next to which was a cart with a battery and a piece of headgear. She kept screaming about how she wasn’t crazy, but everyone said that. Above the treatment room was the observation room, in which Kyle, Dr. Shanker and the head psychiatrist at the mental hospital stood watching. As they strapped her down, she still tried sitting up on the table. After one particularly intense struggle, her eyes went wide, and a look of shock marred her face. They used this moment of peace to strap her down completely so that she couldn’t move. The headgear was put on, and the last thing she said before the switch was flipped, the electric current passed through her brain and she lost consciousness was “KYLE, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!?” All of the orderlies in the room assumed she was talking about her son in the observation room, but what none of them could see was a high school aged boy sitting in the corner of the treatment room, curled up into the fetal position, with his eyes closed and an evil smirk across his face.
Walking out to his car, Kyle actually didn’t mind the rain coming down upon his head. It helped to hide the tears welling in his eyes. Did he really just commit his own mother? Knowing what he knew? Unlocking the door, he got in and sat down. Adjusting his rearview mirror, he saw a familiar, yet unwelcome face in his backseat.
“That was a Jesus-Judas level betrayal.”
“Just lookin’ out for ya, bro.”
“Please,” high-school Kyle scoffed. “Let’s not act like what you just did was based out of anything other than self-interest.”
“But seriously, for everyone in your family to encounter the hack? If I didn't know better, I'd say your family's cursed." Kyle aimed his death stare at the ghost of his unborn brother in his back seat.
"That was NOT funny." But as he looked in the rearview mirror, the unwelcomed stranger smiled. It wasn't a happy smile - it was the smile of someone about to put a knife in your back.
"I’m curious though… how long have you known about the abortion?”
“I found out about it about 6 months ago. When I was going through the attic, I found some of mom’s papers in the attic. In them was a feelings journal that Dr. Shanker had told her to write as a way of coping with you. She also wrote down some reasons why it turned out the way it did…”
Backseat Kyle sighed, leaning his head against the window and looking out of it. “She wrote about you. You do realize that if you hadn’t been born, she would have had me, right? But she was all worried about responsibility and who would have taken care of you if she had di…”
“STOP. We had an agreement. I committed her and you left me alone about that.”
“True. And I will. But you do realize that you just traded one guilty conscience for another, right?”
“Don’t remind me. I already feel bad enough about it.” Kyle looked down to start the car and when he glanced in the rearview mirror again, his mother was in the backseat.
“It makes it worse that this was an action of your own choosing. You’ll have to bear this for the rest of your life.” The apparition started to disappear. “If you need a guilt trip for this, you know where to find me.”
“I promise you I won’t come calling.”
Lori shrugged. “Either way, enjoy your thirty pieces of silver.” And with that last statement, she was gone. Saying nothing more, Kyle put the car in gear and drove off towards an empty house.
Well, there it is. I finally got it finished. This was a fun ride, although I wasn't expecting the ending to be quite that twisted.The epilogue I thought up at the very end, but never really wanted to add it to the story, as I felt it was complete without it. I added it to avoid people thinking this was a story with "the unreliable narrator." I feel that I must say that no, Lori was in fact not crazy.
I actually had alternate endings written for this series - they'll be written and posted on my profile blog at a later time. As with the other two, all feedback - positive or negative - is welcome.