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Phillip Hall

Flirting with Reality

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Giovanni Boldini

It’s been three days since I was taken by the agents of NASCORP. Every Citizen dreads the day they come for the Quarterly Collection. When they arrived at my front door, they came with a team of medics and armed guards. “We’re taking you for processing.” They said. Before I had time to react, they quickly escorted me into an ambulance with flashing red lights.

So many seasons passed by without me ever being chosen. So many seasons came and went that I finally began to believe I was immune. But no one is immune. In fact, I was asked for specifically. They were especially interested in me because my blood type was the most conducive for hosting the Parasites–microscopic computer chips they inject into your bloodstream to erase your memory. The Parasites replace all of your thoughts with new ones so NASCORP can work with a clean slate. Most people go mad otherwise.

I sit, alone and nervous on the edge of a not-so-comfortable bed.

I’ve already tried escaping once, and that didn’t go so well. Two large men grabbed me from behind, threw me onto the ground and injected something into my lower back.

“He’s a strong one.” A voice said.

“Fast as lightning!” Echoed another.

The voices faded. Then, everything went black.

When I came to, I was curled up into a corner on the floor, and now I’ve been sitting here for the last twenty minutes. I rub my hand across my face, wishing that the pain in my head would subside. It doesn’t seem likely. I slowly get up and start pacing back and forth, trying to get a grip on my situation. Every piece of furniture in the room is bolted down to the floor. I see absolutely nothing that I could possibly improvise as a weapon. Next to the wall are a wooden chair and desk. I gradually make my way over, and sit down.

Suddenly, the door swings open. In walks a man wearing navy blue scrubs. He pulls out a syringe and then flicks it with his finger. “This will go a whole lot easier if you don’t give us any trouble.” He says.

I see behind him the two goons who had handled me before. I quickly remove my belt from my waist. I’m not going down without a fight. I think.

Suddenly, one of the large men grabs my arm. My thick belt connects with his nose, and I hear a loud crack.

The other man tackles me, trying to pin me to the ground. “Call security!” He shouts.

“Wait!” Says the man with the syringe. He suddenly plunges the needle into the back of my writhing arm.

I scream in pain, and flail about wildly with all my strength. Somehow, I manage to slip out from underneath their grip. I push the door wide open, and run as fast as I can down a long hallway filled with several other rooms.

Faces of prisoners stare at me in disbelief as they slowly walk from one place to the next.

“No running please!” I hear someone call out.

What’s wrong with these people? I wonder. They’re acting like robots. I pause for a moment. The mind-control serum must be working on them.

One young lady walks up to me and touches my shoulder. “Charles?” She asks.

I quickly jerk back. “No.” I say.

The lady begins to weep.

Turning away, I rush quickly to the end of the hallway and try the door to the stair well.

Locked. I try another door. It opens and leads into another room, just like the one I had left. Sitting on the bed is a haggard, old woman with a pacifier in her mouth. My face contorts with horror. “What did they do to you?” I ask.

She begins to rock back and forth, mumbling to herself.

Looking next to her bed, I see that her room is equipped with a small window leading to the outside. I rip off the pillow case from her bed and wrap my knuckles in it. I don’t have much time. I think. I ball my hand up into a fist and start to beat the window. My face grimaces in pain as my hand starts to bleed at the knuckles. The glass has begun to shatter.

Suddenly, the door flies open. In jumps the man with the blue scrubs, followed by five others.

I back up and brandish my belt as blood starts trickling down my forearm.

The old woman sitting on the bed laughs hysterically.

“Someone get her out of here!” Shouts the man in scrubs. He then turns to me. “Stephen.” He says.

“How do you know my name?” I ask.

“Never mind . . . just, please . . . put the belt down.” He glances at my hand. “Look, you’re bleeding! None of this is necessary.”

I back up some more, wondering if this man can actually be trusted.

“Listen.” Says the man. “I know you might be upset, but we have counselors here you can talk to. We can get you help.”

I start to lower my belt and unwrap the bloody pillow case from around my hand. “Yes.” I say, finally. “I think I would like that.”

The man in the scrubs gives a sigh of relief. “Well I’m glad to hear it!” He laughs. “I gave you Haldol, that’s the most powerful antipsychotic drug that we have!”

I furrow my brow. “Huh?” I peer through the shattered glass in the window. On the side of the building in big letters I see a sign that says Littleton Psychiatric Hospital.

The man in scrubs explains, “A few days ago you came to us saying that you’d been experiencing various symptoms of paranoia and acute psychosis, so we admitted you for a brief stay.” He says.

Gradually, things start to come to light. “Yes. Yes, I remember!” I say. I look at the floor and it all comes back. “I was pulling an all-nighter on a project for work and drinking Red Bull like a fish. My insomnia was terrible. I started hallucinating and thinking paranoid thoughts. That’s why I came in.”

The man in scrubs puts his hand on my shoulder. “Steve.” He says. “I’m glad to see you’ve come back to us. We’ve scheduled a therapy session with Dr. Walker. You can go ahead and go back to your room.”

As I turn to leave the room, the woman I had seen in the hall grabs my arm, sharply pinching my elbow. “The mind-control serum is working on you!” She whispers loudly.

“Yes!” I say, “And am I ever so glad!”

She quickly puts a note into my hand.

Suddenly, a nurse calls to the woman. “Rhonda.” She says, “It’s time for you to take your meds.” Rhonda begins walking away toward the nurse.

As I walk back to my room, I open the note.

If you want to escape from NASCORP, be by the water fountain at midnight. Instructions will follow. It says.

My eyes widen. I turn around to look for the woman, but she has vanished.


About the writer:
Phillip Hall’s short story “Special Delivery” will appear in the August issue of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Last year Hall earned a 2nd place for his short story “The Brave Gardner” in the student writing contest at Thomas Nelson Community College co-sponsored by its Communications, Humanities and Social Sciences Division and its Office of Student Life and Leadership.

Image: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). No medium specified. No size specified. 1897. Public domain.

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