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Groggy and confused, Sarah couldn’t tell where she was. She was either in a room of complete darkness or blind, and the voice that kept asking her questions wouldn’t answer her own. She tried hard to focus on the words coming from the man she couldn’t see, and yet couldn’t comprehend her own response to him. It was like he was speaking to a tiny secret part of her that she didn’t even know existed, with what she knew to be her real self, her everyday self, struggling to listen in while on the edge of subconsciousness.
Every so often a sharp pain would shoot through her, causing fear to again rise within, Voice then reentering and calming secret self before she could make contact with it. Why was this piece of her siding with the enemy? She felt so betrayed. What were they talking about? The harder she fought to make out their conversation the more secretive she felt they became.
With one last effort Sarah gathered as much focus as she could and charged ahead towards their deceitful dialogue. But when they caught wind of her move they responded with another sharp pain, this one engulfing her so much that she lost her last remaining grip on the edge of her conscious state and fell into the unknown.
Rejoining Cormier and Stevens, Mancini stepped out of the motel room he and the other two agents had duct taped pitch black, removed his night vision goggles and pocketed the syringe he was holding. ‘She appears clean, but she might be having a psychotic reaction to the Sodium Pent. Her I.D., which checks out, shows her as Sarah Moore, but she gave me a different name. Gloria Borelli. And only responds when I refer to her as such.’
‘Did you run that name?’ Stevens asked.
‘Yeah, but no match.They all come back too young or old to be her. But that’s not all. She swears we’re in the year 1984, and keeps asking for her husband John.’
‘Alright, get rid of her I.D. We’ll drop her off at the nearest hospital with a psych ward and hope she sticks with the new name and story. The name will keep her under the radar from possible friends and family, and that crazy story should be enough to keep her drugged up until all this blows over. We’ll check in periodically, and first sign of her coming round, we’ll snatch her up and see what she remembers.’
Twenty minutes later, Sarah’s unconscious body was dropped off near a quiet hospital entrance, a couple of orderlies from the graveyard shift going out to fetch her after receiving an anonymous call.
He was used to popping caffeine pills as he ran around the country looking for her, but now he had taken the other route, going through two bottles of Nyquil in three days while being locked away in his hotel room before the right dream came to Jimmy. The special dreams had always been so vivid, so true, that he never had a problem of mistaking them for the less connected random ones that were far more dull in comparison.
He had tried to stay within the same vicinity that he had felt the energy, but every room along the Mardi Gras route was booked tight, so the closest he got was about a mile away from the epicenter. He had reassured himself that there was no guarantee that staying at ground zero would have produced any better results anyway, for what he believed to be her presence could no longer be felt.
His best option, his only option, was to rely on his theory that their spiritual telepathy would show him where she was sooner than later, especially if she was still relatively near.
Jimmy had prepped for a week’s hibernation, making sure he would have enough food to eat, enough medication to sleep, and affixing the Do Not Disturb sign on the door after paying for the room in advance for a full seven days. He knew he was kissing his job goodbye, but he also knew in his heart of hearts that he and his beloved had come closer to physically reuniting than ever before.
Jimmy’s instinct had been proven correct on that third day of self-induced unconsciousness. The two held each other close while lying atop a mobile bed, bright lights passing over them as they kissed one another’s lips with a kind of desperation. The feeling was one of separation anxiety. Fear that the muffled voices around them that pushed their bed through long hospital-like hallways were conspiring to split them up. All Jimmy could make out was the occasional use of the name Gloria, and knew they were referring to the woman in his arms.
Through their kiss his great love spoke for the first time. ‘Oh John, after all we’ve been through, they still want to keep us apart.’
As always their faces were so close that Jimmy couldn’t make out hers, and was afraid that if he tried doing so it would be the end of their reunion. Although he didn’t recognize her voice, something about it was familiar, as was the name she had called him and the name they had referred to her by. Like a faded memory of a childhood nickname, being called John didn’t seem as foreign to him as he would have thought.
As the passionate exchange between their mouths deepened the anxiety decreased while clarity enhanced and Jimmy knew it was time to turn his sixth sense towards the revelation of their location. He could have tried asking her first, but his intuition let him know that the answers were best found as they always had been. And so he allowed himself to be overtaken by her hands stroking him, the pleasure taking him into lights above as the images of hallways became images of an entire wing, the interiors of which then transformed into exteriors of the building as a whole. It was there where he found the visual he had been searching for for the past two days; New Orleans Sacred Truth Hospital.
Jimmy was so nervous as he walked through the entrance of the hospital that his hands were slightly shaking, using the gift basket and balloons he held to draw attention away from them. Thankfully, while in his dream state, he had caught a glimpse of a sign on the wall, Psychiatric Unit, and just needed to find out which floor to go to. The get-well gifts had cost him the last of what little savings he had left, but he felt they would help in making him appear to be a legitimate visitor.
Approaching the information desk Jimmy cleared his throat, swallowed hard and spoke as confidently as he could muster. ‘Excuse me, what floor is the female psychiatric unit on?’
‘Fifth,’ the woman behind the desk answered.
Jimmy turned to head towards the elevator, but was stopped in mid motion by the attendant’s voice. ‘Sir, you’ll need to leave an I.D.’
Nervous that showing such would somehow expose his secret, Jimmy went for his back pocket. ‘Is that new? Requiring I.D. to visit someone?’
‘Not really. Been in place ever since 9/11.’
She looked at the out-of-state identification and started to fill out a form. ‘And what is the name of the patient you’ll be visiting today, sir?’
‘And the last name?’
Jimmy’s heart started to race. ‘Uh, actually Gloria is my friend’s sister. I don’t know her last name, but I promised him I’d deliver these flowers to her.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry sir, but only family members are allowed to visit the patients in the psychiatric unit. I could make sure she gets them though.’
His heart sank. What could he possibly do now?
His eyes quickly shifted from the cuffs on the belt of a security guard near the entrance to the attendant. ‘I’d better see if I can get my friend on the phone and check with him first.’
‘Ok, sir,’ she said as she handed him back his I.D.
He then stepped outside to collect his thoughts.
Unable to figure out a way to get to her, Jimmy went back through security and headed straight for the elevator, trying to keep his face behind the balloons as he walked past information, the attendant now occupied with someone else.
‘Sir, excuse me… Sir…’ The attendant’s voice seemed unnecessarily loud, but he ignored it and hoped to catch the elevator just in time. Unfortunately he was the one caught at just the right moment, a hand coming down atop his shoulder just as the door began to open.
A security guard tried guiding him back to the information desk, but all Jimmy could think of was keeping those cuffs from possibly being placed around his wrists, so he just kept walking. Past the scolding bitch at the desk, past the onlookers and their stares. The guard stopped following him when he got past the exit, and as he went on walking the ribbons in his hand rose up and out of it, the balloons they were attached to free to fly off into the deep blue sky above.
The stuffed bear and the get-well card were the next to be let go, followed by the gift basket as Jimmy slammed it down on the sidewalk beneath his feet.
Tears began to feel his eyes. For five long years he had been totally consumed by the need to find his long-lost love, and now that he knew where she was, the one thing that was keeping him from her was something as obstinate as institutional policy.
Institutional. Why was that word sticking out in his mind? Institution… Mental institution… “Psychiatric depart-“ The bitch’s words came back to him.
Jimmy looked up and found himself standing at an intersection, through the vision of teary eyes spotting a costume shop on one corner and a bank on the other. ‘Eureka, bitch…’ he mumbled to himself.
Minutes later and Jimmy was in a chicken costume, the salesperson who had been assisting him at a loss for words when he stormed out of the shop and towards the bank across the street.
Cars swerved and horns blared as he sprinted through traffic and bolted towards the bank’s plate glass window, throwing himself through it with full force and shocking everyone inside.
He opened his eyes to the receiving end of a few gun barrels pointed down at him, then closed them again.
So far so good.
‘The loss, the confusion… I felt like a chicken running around with its head cut off.’
Jimmy’s plan had worked. He had given the same explanation to the police upon being booked, who in turn had placed him in the care of the nearest public hospital with a psychiatric department. And now here he sat, in the same building as his beloved, being assessed by some intern, resident, or whatever he was,the guy being no older than Jimmy.
‘And why do you suppose you felt this way, Jimmy?’ Aaron asked while seated behind his mentor’s desk. To most, including Jimmy, Aaron Beckett appeared nothing more than a typical text book nerd, with his geeky glasses and proper boy haircut. The young assistant to Dr. Moran was aware of how the world in general viewed him, but he also knew that if he would have distracted himself with such superficial judgments he never would have made it through med school at such a young age.
‘You ever see those Planet of the Ape movies?’ Jimmy replied. ‘I believe something like that is about to happen, only with the bird species. We humans eat over forty-nine billion chickens a year! Do you think bird flu is some cawinkadink?! It’s a survival mechanism. Another fifty years or so, we’ll be the ones in chicken coops!’
‘And what makes you think this is possible? Apes and humans share about 98% of DNA, while chickens are more like 60%. I’m not all that familiar with the films, but hypothetically speaking, I believe they were able to enhance the intelligence of the apes and chimps based on the fact that we are so close in genetics. Chickens, on the other hand, don’t have anywhere near the same level of brain capacity.’
This is the approach Aaron had developed during his years of study. To listen to the patient, let him have his say, then, staying on their level of perception, ease rational thought into the conversation. It was a variation of some of the modern day practices in psychiatry, with his theory being more liberal. Instead of being authoritative and talking down to a patient with an air of superiority he would keep himself on their level, as if they were colleagues, so that through their more open communication the subject may discover, and therefore want to correct their irrational behavior themselves. Of course not all patients could be treated with such a technique, but for those who proved receptive it could knock years off recovery time.
Aaron’s mentor Dr. Moran was more old school, relying a lot more on medications than ‘new age crap’ when treating patients. But Aaron would sometimes find the opportunity to try out his approach when conducting these initial evaluations for Dr. Moran, and did so now with this latest patient to come into their care.
A theorist himself, Jimmy had been drawn into the conversation more so than he had anticipated. Who would have guessed that fish would have ended up crawling out of the sea? With some even developing wings and taking flight! Evolution has produced some amazing happenings, so who’s to say that a species couldn’t develop a defensive mechanism against humans? Probably not through intelligence, but merely as a way to ensure survival?
But no, he wasn’t here to debate theories; on the contrary. He was supposed to be coming off as some nut case. Well, maybe not totally crazy, but unstable enough to warrant hospitalization. The chicken scheme had been spur of the moment, but it had gotten him this far, so he couldn’t just ditch it.
Jumping up on the desk which separated the two, Jimmy began to kick up papers with his hospital issued slippers and cluck his arms about in a version of the chicken dance. ‘No way, doc! The bird flu ain’t no accident!’ he yelled. ‘Look at tic tac toe. They know what they’re doing!’
The spectacle had worked, the pale flesh behind Aaron’s wide glasses flushing with reddened panic as the young resident dispatched for help. Within seconds Jimmy was placed under control by a couple of orderlies, a nurse then coming forward and stabbing him with an injection that had him giving himself over to the invading hot acid of subduing chemicals.
Jimmy hoped he hadn’t overdone it. He would need a clear mind to strategize his next move. As the darkness of unconsciousness overtook his light of awareness he sent out what he hoped to be a telepathic message; I’m here, my love. I’m here…
Chapter 5, posted shortly.