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20 Questions

“Do you know Carl can tell what you’re thinking?” I asked.

Gerald laughed, “Yes as a matter of fact I do.”

“That’s not normal. It’s intrusive. I feel invaded."

“Yes, it’s not something you ever get used to.”

“I heard Ann call you Ivan. It’s funny. I had wanted to name my son Ivan. My husband’s late father’s name was Matthew. My son's first name was picked by default, but I got my choice of his middle name.”

“That is quite flattering Calynn. We knew each other for several years before you left. I’m curious what did you choose for your son’s middle name?

“Alan spelled A L A N; I wanted him to have a marginally uncommon name.”

“My middle name happens to be Alan, spelled the same. I would love to know what else you have remembered.” I was stunned to learn that there was a reason I liked the name, Ivan. When I suggested the name to Dave, he acted like I was crazy.

“Oh, what the hell. I’ll play along with this ridiculous shit. How well did we know each other?” I peeked in the bag, tore off a tiny piece of bread, and popped it in my mouth.

“Call me Ivan or Gerald. You used to call me Gerald. You made fun of me for having two first names. It’s strange to hear you address me so formally. We were good friends, colleagues of sorts. You and I worked closely together, and we knew each other’s views on practically everything. It was difficult for me when you left. You and I were good friends. We shared more than just a casual working relationship. We didn’t abduct the wrong person. We aren’t confused, and I can help you remember.”

“I would like to know what I’ve stepped into. All this, it’s like waking up in somebody else’s life. I don’t know how to react when I talk to someone who thinks they knew me before. Ann and Carl seemed so rejected when I didn’t remember them. It’s obvious they cared for this woman that you think I am.”

“This morning was my fault entirely. You shouldn’t feel bad. I should have gone with you or sent someone out to get you something. I don’t know what I expected to happen. It was plain stupidity on my part. I know you are concerned about David and Matt. I’ll get you a briefing tomorrow. I promise you they are fine. Your focus today needs to be on repairing your injuries. Stress and worry will undermine your progress."

“All this, it’s just surreal.” The mention of my son and my husband weakened me, and I was fighting to hold back tears. “Are you sure that I was here before, me, not somebody else?”

“Yes, I’m positive. We need to find you a permanent home. It’s important to have a place to anchor ourselves. It will help establish your new reality. Help relieve some turmoil.”

“I have a home in Cold Spring. I want to go back there. You want reality. I have bills due and a job I need to get back to so I can pay them. I don’t have time for this cloak and dagger shit. I don’t have the luxury of being able to drop off the face of the planet because a handful, of very odd people I might add, think I belong here. I don’t even know where here is.” We reached the doors of the main medical building. Gerald stopped and looked down at the ground.

“Cal, going home may not be possible for some time. We are working on your other obligations. I’m sorry I know this is not what you want to hear but I don’t want to you clinging to false hope. In the end, false hope and lies only make things worse. If I can’t share something with you, or I don’t know, I’ll tell you. You always trusted me with everything, and I suppose I’m expecting you to respond to me the same way as before too.”

I could feel the tears streaming down my face, and the prickly sting of heat on my bruised face as the rage and hopelessness welled up in my chest. I was never any good at hiding my emotions, but today it was impossible.

“What are you thinking right now Caly?”

“Why torture me like this? Was I such a monster before that you can’t spare any kindness for me? It was easy for me to kill those men and I’m not the least bit sorry. I must be a bad person. If you’re going to kill me anyway can’t it be quick? Does it have to be piece by piece like this?” Ivan guided me a few feet off the path to a concrete bench under the bow of a huge evergreen tree. I never wanted to go home so badly, but my single-minded goal was not going to be attainable.

“Look at me Cal and breath. No one here wants to hurt you. No one is judging you. You are not a bad person. It’s just not that simple. There is some room for compromise, but I don’t know how much you can ask for when you have nothing to bargain with.”

“What if I can’t remember, whatever it is I used to do, will they let me go home?”

“Home in that instance would most likely be serving out a prison sentence. I don’t know what has been decided in the criminal investigation, but you killed three men, there is going to be some fallout. You will remember on your own, and you will be able to bargain then. This may seem cruel to you now. Bottom line, they want you working for them, and you can’t be in public until you can prove some level of control.”

“Carl said something. How can you stop somebody who can astral project? What is that? He acted like I was supposed to know what he was talking about?”

“This is way too many questions for one morning. Let’s go inside and attend to that head wound. You have to calm down, or you are going to undo all my stellar work. You have some fat sandwiches in that bag; we can share them over a rousing game of twenty questions. I’ll get housekeeping started on your cottage. We have to save some drama for tomorrow.” Gerald helped me stand up. I was angry, but I needed his help. Whatever painkillers he was giving me work, and I needed more.

“Speaking of undoing my work, I meant to ask you about your dreams last night. You thrash around quite a bit in your sleep. Do you remember any of it?”

“Oh, it’s an old dream I occasionally have. It’s stupid really.”

“Well, it’s interfering with your sleep and your recovery. Please tell me what it is.”

“I drive up a corkscrew hill, and at the top, the steering wheel locks up. The car goes off the side, just floats out into the open air. It hits the treetops and flips around a few times. As I approach the ground. I see red blood splatter across the windshield. I wake up choking. Sometimes I realize it’s a dream. Usually, it fools me. I’m sure it’s because of my car accident. It probably wasn’t as dramatic as my dream, but I relive it occasionally.”

“That sounds fairly gruesome. You dream in color?” Gerald asked.

“Sure there’s color in most of my dreams, smells too, like a wood fire burning or perfume.”

“We will need to document your sleep habits over the next few weeks. They might be your brain trying to piece together a fragmented memory.” Gerald jotted something down on the notepad he kept in his jacket pocket, and we continued inside.

“Carl said something else. He said they take you through a painstaking process when they block your memory. My memory is awful. Then Ann said she was sure I was here before my accident. Was something done to me so I couldn’t remember this place? Is that why my memory is so bad now?”

“Carl is quite the conversationalist. Yes, something was done to block your memory, and the they Carl mentioned, is me. You asked to leave, and that meant I needed to give you a surgical implant to block your memory. The implant is no bigger than a grain of rice, but it’s been effective for blocking your psychic abilities as well as your memory. Both should return once it has dissolved.”

“Oh, please that’s a load of horse crap, psychic really. If I were psychic, don’t you think I would have won the lottery by now or known to stay out of the steak house altogether? I’d have my own fricken reality show. You know, you people almost had me. ”

“Calm down. Damn it all. Those are examples of specific talents that you don’t possess.” Gerald was upset with himself he had said more than he meant to. I could see it on his face, and I got a little more worried than I was before.

“So I’m not a sniper, and now you’re telling me I have some psychic ability that’s not useful? That’s just perfect.”

“That’s a highly subjective question. Say you were shot, bleeding to death. Someone who could remove the bullet and heal you would be more useful to you than any lottery numbers.”

“So I can remove bullets?” I asked confused.

“Possibly, but that was just an example of a beneficial nonmonetary ability.”

“I think you are totally full of shit. Do you even know why they are keeping me here Gerald?”

“I am aware of what you were capable of years ago, but I have no Idea what you are capable of now. I have a few theories on how we can shrink the rest of the implant and restore your memory. It involves needles, which I know you hate, but I can make that less bothersome.”

“I’m willing to try anything if it can help me get my life back, but I have to confess I have a severe problem with needles. I can’t …”

“I know you do. Don’t think about it right now. Carol is available. She is precise and very skilled with needle sticks. My most experienced nurse. Put it out of your mind. I’m prepared to do a trial run later this afternoon, iron the wrinkles out of my theory.”

“God I’ll try, but I can’t promise I won’t totally freak out on you.” I wanted to go home, but the thought of needles in my already battered arms made me start to hyperventilate.

The outside air was cold and thin. Gerald settled me into a recliner and put me on oxygen once we got back inside. I could see how Gerald and I would have been friends. He was patient, and he listened. Although, I think he already knew the answers to the questions he asked me. There seemed to be many topics he wasn’t going to discuss, but so far, he didn’t lie.

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