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Creative Writing

The Redemption

“Please, I can remake it.” Jaelyn was stood before Dr. Snow, Orion, Dr. Hyber, Andromeda, and Mars. “I can. I just need a night.”

            “Your project can’t be judged with the others,” Dr. Snow explained with no empathy in her voice. “You can’t.”

            “Why not? I’m not the one who destroyed it!” Jaelyn looked over all of them all and begged “I can get it done in a night. I can. And then it can be judged.”

            “Judging already started,” Andromeda explained. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other students if you got more time than they did.”

            Jaelyn felt the anger start to hit a boiling point. It had been since nearly the beginning of the school year that she had been working on her project for the International Space Society. How could they tell her now that it wouldn’t count?

            “It isn’t fair that my project got destroyed by another contestant,” Jaelyn retorted.

            “She has a point,” Mars said. “If she can get it done in one night, why shouldn’t we give her the chance to remake it?”

            “It was made at a professional level, Mr. Addington,” Dr. Snow cut in. “She can’t recreate that.”

            “I can,” Jaelyn added. “I can do it. Please.”

            Glancing between each other, Mars looked at Jaelyn and said: “Can you step out for a minute so we can discuss?”

            Jaelyn nodded and walked out the doors behind her.

            She couldn’t hear what they were talking about inside the room. Even if she could, she felt like her heart was pounding in her ears. They needed to give her the chance. They had too. She needed a shot at winning this.

            Sure, there wasn’t any professional staff members there at this hour to help recreate the prototype. Jaelyn knew she didn’t have any idea how to recreate what they did, but she knew she had too.

            She didn’t work her ass off to get her scholarship for nothing. She knew she was capable – she was one of three people who got a 100% on the test. She got a 100%, the only one in her school for that matter, on the first draft of the prototype. She never let Tanner treating her like garbage stop her. His words were knives, but she pushed their pain and cuts deep into herself and kept the surface clean. She never let the garbage she lived in stop her.

            This was her only chance to get out of the slums of her homelife. She wasn’t guaranteed anything after secondary school was over, but with this internship she could get a full ride to university. She had to keep reminding herself that’s what she was putting all of her blood, sweat, and tears into. She needed to escape.

            Andromeda came to the door to let her back inside after a few minutes. She walked around the table and say back in her place. “We have decided that we will give you the opportunity to recreate the project.”

            Jaelyn felt a smile creep across her face “Thank you. Thank you-”

            “-However,” Andromeda continued, “You will get the blueprints that were created by the lab assistants. You have to recreate it exactly to what they made it. If anything is different, you will be disqualified. You have one night.”

            She nodded. “I can do that. I understand.”                

            “You will be supplied with the materials.” Dr. Snow stood up and adjusted her black turtleneck. “I will overlook the blueprints when you are done.”

            “Can I get to work now?”

            Dr. Snow nodded.

            Jaelyn looked at Mars. He was smiling at her. Jaelyn turned and walked out of the room, speed walking down the hall to where the lab was where her creation was built. She knew she had to get to work immediately if she wanted to finish before sunrise.

            She didn’t know what time it was when she took a break. There were no windows in the lab. The clock was behind her. She was too invested in the recreation to turn around. Even though she gave herself a break, she couldn’t stop looking at it.

            There were so many little pieces. Her project wasn’t much bigger than a refrigerator, but it felt like every little computer chip and the solar cell was the size of a blade of grass.

            Doubt began to creep into her mind. There was no way that she would be able to finish this before the morning. She wasn’t even a fourth of the way done, and she felt like she had been in the lab for hours. Her eyes hurt from straining them to look at the little pieces. No wonder three people built this together – one probably barked directions at the others.

            She heard the door slide open behind her. She didn’t care to look. It was probably one of the security guards going on their nightly rounds. They knew she was there. They would just close the door and leave.

            But they didn’t do either.

            Jaelyn waited to hear the door shut. When she didn’t, she turned and looked over to see who it was.

            Delta.

            “What are you doing here so late?” Jaelyn asked. She turned back to her work.

            “Orion told me about what happened,” Delta said softly. “I’m really sorry.”

            “Not your fault I was lied to by someone who I thought was my friend.” Jaelyn picked up a bolt and checked for the serial number.

            “He told me they’re giving you a shot at rebuilding it, too…” Delta stepped into the room and shut the door behind her.

            “Yeah. I have until sunrise. But there are so many tiny little pieces-” The bolt slipped out of her hand and rolled away. “Oh come on!”

            Delta picked up the bolt as it rolled to her feet. When she handed it back to her, Jaelyn noticed her outfit.

            White lab coat, non-slip shoes, and leggings.

            “Why are you coming into your internship so early?” She asked as she took the bolt. “No one is here. Just me and the security guards.”

            “I know,” Delta said as she sat down next to her.

            Jaelyn looked at her and asked, “What are you doing?”

            Delta pulled her hair back and tied it into a ponytail. “I’m going to help you?”

            “Why?”

            “Why not?”

            Jaelyn rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, considering Ember destroyed my project, I didn’t think anyone would want to help.” She added, “And, this is a competition.”

            “It may be a competition, but it’s not fair that your project got destroyed.” Delta slid the blueprint in front of her. “I want to win, but I want it to be fair. You deserve to be here as much as the rest of us do, you know.”

            Jaelyn looked at her and said after a moment “Thank you.”

            Delta nodded and smiled at her for a moment, before turning her attention back to the blueprint.

            It was easier with two people. Jaelyn knew what it was supposed to look like, and Delta had experience building similar inventions. Delta taught her how to install solar cells properly, where to stand when installing something above your head, and how to slide a wrench into the tightest of spots. The later the night became, the closer they got to completing the project.

            Jaelyn rubbed her eyes. She yawned and leaned back on the wall, overlooking the project. “I think we did it.”

            “We did.” Delta leaned back against the wall next to her. She stretched and said, “What time is it?”

            “I have no idea.” Jaelyn looked for the clock.

            Delta pulled up her sleeve. “5:23 AM.”

            “I haven’t stayed up this late in years.” Jaelyn half smiled and asked, jokingly “Is this what a sleepover is like?”

            Delta chuckled “I couldn’t tell you.”

            “There’s something we have in common,” Jaelyn replied. She overlooked the shiny metal exterior.

            “I hated you when I met you,” Delta said after a few minutes.

            “Because I smeared chocolate on your dress?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Ember convinced me that you were a bitch. So I took her word and hated you too.”

            The two girls laughed together.

            “You’re nice,” Jaelyn said.

            “So are you.” Delta looked at her and asked, “When all of this is over, we should talk.”

            Jaelyn didn’t say anything.

            “After,” Delta repeated, smiling gently, “so we don’t have to worry about the stress of this project anymore. Maybe… we could find out what those sleepovers are like.”

            “I would like that.” Jaelyn looked at her.

            “Then it’s a plan.” Delta stood up and said “I should go. If they catch me here, we’ll both be in trouble.”

            “Thank you again, Delta.” Jaelyn smiled at her.

            “Of course.” Delta smiled for a moment. She flattened her jacket, and she left the lab space.

            A few minutes passed when the door opened again. Dr. Snow walked in and looked at the creation in front of her. “Are you all done?”

            Jaelyn stepped forward and nodded. She handed her the blueprints.

            Dr. Snow took them and opened it. She observed the outside of the machine first. She examined the doorways, vents, bolts, and bracing. She looked at the inside after. Jaelyn swore she could see her counting the number of computer chips, which she knew there were hundreds of.

            It took longer than she expected for Dr. Snow to overlook every aspect of the machine. She even turned it on and listened to the way that it sounded. When she turned the machine off, she said: “You did it.”

            “I did?” Jaelyn smiled and asked, “So I’ll be judged with the others?”

            Dr. Snow nodded. “I will say, I am impressed that you were able to do this work in one night that took three people two weeks.”

            “I really want a shot at winning this.” Jaelyn rubbed her eyes and said, “Does this mean I can go home and go to bed?”

            “Mars has a futon in his office. Ask him if you can sleep there. Falling asleep on the monorail isn’t a good idea.” Dr. Snow placed the blueprints on the workbench. 

            Jaelyn smiled a bit. It was the first comment Dr. Snow had made to her that was a kind, genuine comment.

            She took the elevator up to Mars’ floor. She stepped out and knocked on his office door.

            He opened the door, smiling. He said, sounding chipper “Good morning, Jaelyn. Did you do it?”

            Jaelyn nodded.

            “Yes!” Mars smiled and continued “I am so proud of you.”

            She smiled, then asked “Can I nap on your futon? Dr. Snow told me that you had one in here.”

            Mars chuckled, and he let her come into the office. Jaelyn saw the small futon in the corner. Her body dragged her there, filled with exhaustion. She collapsed onto it and shut her eyes immediately. She was conscious long enough to feel a blanket be draped over her body, and a pillow be tucked under her head by a gentle hand.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Trials of Identity

The doctor standing above my body was smiling. It was all I could notice in the first moments of coming back into consciousness. There was a dull pain in the back of my head, sending waves of agony to the back of my eyes.

I closed my eyes again and felt the world around me begin to fade back into darkness. There was a shuffling of papers at the end of my bed.

*****

The next time I woke up, the doctor was gone. In his place was a tall nurse. Her hair was pulled back and I could see the blinding light above my bed glisten on her gray hairs. My eyes shut again, and I focused on trying to stop the spinning in my skull. The pain was still there. I couldn’t get it to go away.

I didn’t remember why I was there.

*****

When I woke up a third time, the nurse was next to my head, kneeling.

She spoke softly “Can you hear me?”

I glanced at her, unmoving. My mouth drooped open, but I couldn’t speak. I shut my lips and nodded slowly.

“The doctor will be in soon.” She looked at me and asked, “Do you want to go back to sleep for a while?”

I watched as the nurse walked around to the side of my bed. I tried to turn my head to watch her but found the pain in my neck prohibiting me to do so. Something brushed against my arm. I saw the little clear tube that stuck out of my skin. Was she added more pain killers? God, I hope.

 I faded back into the darkness and felt myself go weightless. I could hear her stand up and stride out of the room, her sneakers squeaking.

*****

“How are you feeling?” He asked me, a clipboard in his hands. The doctor smiled down at me and nodded as I spoke. When he came back to my bedside was a blurred memory now, but I was glad he was there. He scribbled down notes and muttering to himself, “Disoriented… pain… can you rate your pain for me? One to ten? Seven? Okay, I’ll write that down.”

The blonde nurse stood on the other side of my bed. I felt a gentle tug on my arm as she pulled on the IV attached to me.

“How about your drowsiness? Is that better now?”

I shook my head. It was difficult for me to even keep my eyes open. They would flutter shut and snap open every other second. Anytime I woke up from my inevitable slip into a nap, my head would be pounding. I thought I was dying each time. I would press the alert button over and over again. The nurses were sick of me at this point.

“Do you remember where you are?” The doctor asked. He pushed his glasses further up on the bridge of his nose.

I knew I was in the hospital. It wasn’t a normal hospital.

I didn’t have my own room, which I thought was strange at this point. I had been here for almost as long as my memory would allow me to know. The only thing separating me from the other patients was a thin beige curtain on either side of my bed. The one at the foot of the bed was pulled open so that the doctors could watch me. I didn’t know why they wanted to do that. I didn’t know much.

“So, you’re saying that you don’t remember much? Do you remember what procedure we performed?”

No.

“Not at all? Do you remember your name?”

No. Maybe something that started with a C?

“What is today’s date?”

February 23rd? Judging by the way he is looking at me, I must be wrong.

“It’s February 29th.”

There aren’t 29 days in February. Unless I can’t remember that either.

“Do you know what time it is?”

There’s no clock in the room. How am I supposed to know?

“It’s 9:30 PM.” The doctor scribbled something down on the clipboard and said without looking at me “You’re going to be staying overnight for observations.”

Fair.

The nurse came around to the other side of the bed, standing next to the doctor. She had her hair tied up as if it was a cinnamon bun on her head. God, when will they feed me?

“Your name is Cadence, dear,” Her voice was like honey. Specifically, honey used as a sweetener in tea. Why is my throat so dry? “Cadence Rockland.”

The nurse turned around and opened a neon green bag. I watched with half-lidded eyes as she proceeded to pull out what looked like a wallet. She slid out a card and handed it to the doctor, saying “Show her this.”

The doctor turned the card around for me to see.

The name of the girl was Cadence Rockland. She had black hair cut in a bob. Her eyes, though they were fuzzy, reminded me of chestnuts. She wasn’t smiling and her nose looked curved. I didn’t know why she wasn’t happy in the photo. Those pictures stay on your license for years, you should at least try to look nice. I didn’t know why she had that haircut either – it wasn’t flattering in the slightest.

The one this I did know was that the girl in that picture was not me.

The nurse gave me a funny look when I stared at the photo. “What?”

“That’s not me.”

“Very funny, Ms. Rockland,” the Doctor rolled his eyes and scribbled away on his pad.

“That’s not me. That’s not me.” I felt myself getting frantic. I knew that wasn’t me in the photo.

“Hmm…” the doctor rubbed his chin, turning to the license, and then he looked back at me. “You must be experiencing some side effects from the surgery.”

“It happens all the time, dear.” The blonde nurse came back over to my side. “Once you’re feeling better, you’ll start to remember.”

“That’s not me.” I looked up at the nurse. They had to have grabbed the wrong bag.

“This is your license,” The doctor said, examining me out of the corner of his eye. “On this paper, it says that your name is Cadence Rockland. Is that you?”

“That’s not me.” I didn’t know if the name was right or not. I only knew that it was not me.

“You seem to be experiencing amnesia, Ms. Rockland,” the doctor explained, “this is you. This is your license. It is in the bag that you put your things in before the surgery. You are the one who put that wallet in that bag. No one else.” His voice was beginning to slide. Or was it always that deep?

“That’s not me. It isn’t.”

The nurse leaned over to the doctor and whispered something into his ear. The doctor rolled his eyes, but he nodded. He placed down the clipboard on the tray furthest from my bed, and he said: “I will be back in a few minutes.” He left the ‘room’ quickly after, the nurse following him.

How did I get here? I don’t remember putting my stuff down. Where the hell did that green bag come from? And who the hell was that woman on the card? I could feel the pounding in my skull get louder, deafening my senses as I clutched the sides of my head. Who the hell was I? Why were the doctors lying to me?

They were supposed to be helping me, why the hell would they suddenly hide my actual identity from me? There had to have been a mistake. This isn’t how hospitals are supposed to be. I knew who I was, they didn’t.

I sat myself up and rubbed my temples, trying to alleviate some of the pain that was radiating through every inch of my body. The white blanket fell off the bed as I stood up, collecting in a pile on the floor. The thin yellow socks were barely protecting my toes from the shiver-inducing tile floor as I stumbled towards the green bag.

I looked at the ID in the wallet, again. Maybe I was crazy, and maybe I just could not remember what my face looked like. Maybe I was reacting poorly to the anesthetic that they used for the surgery. Yeah, that had to be it. It had to be that I just didn’t remember. Hospitals are supposed to help people, not hurt them. It must be a side effect, just like the good doctor said.

The picture still sent my stomach into a knot. I knew, deep down, that wasn’t me.

I gripped the edge of the bed and stared at the photo. They looked nothing like me. I knew they didn’t. If that was me, which it wasn’t, I hadn’t looked like that in a long, long time.

“Hon, how come you’re standing? The doctor said that you were barely able to get your eyes open.” I turned my head as the old nurse spoke. Her eyes matched her vibrant blue scrubs. She stepped towards me. “Do you need to go to the bathroom?”

I nodded. I needed to know who I was. I needed to remember.

“Well, let me help you walk, then.” The nurse came over and took my arm in her hand. Her palm was gentle, but her spidery fingers wrapped around tightly like she was suffocating me. The grip of her hand led me between the curtains.

I squinted my eyes and scanned the perimeter, keeping an eye out as to where my doctor could be. Or, whatever he is. I wasn’t sure he was a doctor anymore, or that this was a hospital. Why would they let me walk free like this if it was a hospital? Why wouldn’t they show me my actual ID, and show me someone who was trying to pretend to be me? None of this made sense.

The old woman pushed the bathroom door open and flipped on the light switch. She looked at me and said “Do you need any help? Or do you think you’ll be okay?”

I didn’t give her an answer as I stepped in past the threshold of the door, closing it behind me. I turned and faced the mirror at the sink.

The person staring back at me had gaunt-looking eyes. Their collarbone could be seen through the baby blue hospital gown. Their hair, while dark, was shaved and spiky along the top of the head. The look they were giving me sent chills down my spine. It was hopeless, with any sign of life drained away. Behind them, in the mirror, was a wall of swirling red water. I could only call it a river to hell. I was in hell.

I stumbled back, bumping into the wall behind me as I stared. I gasped, sinking down on the ground. I’m in hell. Oh, fuck, I am in hell.

“Everything okay in there?” I heard the old woman say. She knocked on the door.

After a few minutes, I heard another familiar voice on the other side of the door. “Cadence, you shouldn’t be up. You need to come back to your bed.”  The doctor sounded like an angry now. I leaned my body up against the door to try and keep him away. If I was in hell, then I didn’t want him anywhere near me.

“Ms. Rockland, open the door. Don’t make me ask again.”

I could hear them whispering through the door. Bits and pieces of their conversation came to me.

 “-them and get them here, now.”

“But won’t that upset-”

“I don’t care anymore. She is a danger to herself and the staff.”

My heart pounded against my chest. I was shaking and breathing heavily, finding it difficult to hold the air in. My throat and lungs burned. My arms began to tingle, radiating through my body until I was having my own mini earthquake.

It wasn’t hard for them to open the door once the key was placed in. The door was able to sweep me away towards the wall. The old nurse knelt down in front of me and looked into my eyes, asking “Are you ready to go back to your bed?”

“That’s not me.” I couldn’t stop shaking.

The two nurses, old and young, lifted me to my feet. My legs were like jelly beneath me, and the feeling of walking made it nearly impossible for the shaking to cease. I needed to run. I needed to get far away from this place, and they wouldn’t let me.

They brought me back to the curtained room. I lied in bed, and the nurses pulled the white blanket back over my body. The doctor stood at the foot of my bed, watching my every move.

“Now, Ms. Rockland, you need to relax.” He sounded like a father speaking to their toddler. “Further action will be taken if needed to ensure your safety.”

“That isn’t me.” I looked at the doctor and repeated it to him. “That wasn’t me. This isn’t me.”

The doctor smiled, with his pearly white teeth hiding a venomous snake behind them, and he stated: “You’re just having a bad reaction.”

I didn’t realize that the blonde nurse had placed a clear surgical mask on my mouth and nose. The last thing I saw before fading away into the comforting black abyss was his bright white smile.

*****

*This piece, though stemming from a true nightmare, is a work of fiction.*