“What did the patient say?”
“The same thing, Doctor.”
“So then, no change?”
The Doctor looks at the dusty box sitting on his desk.
“Then this is supposed to hold the key.”
“You gotta read it first, I guess. He won’t talk to us until then.”
The Doctor sighs, takes off his glasses, rubs his tired eyes, and sits calmly for a moment. He puts his glasses back on, straightens his spine, and addresses his Assistant.
“Thank you. You stay with the patient. Keep at him. I will go through this box and see what I can uncover. Let me know if anything changes.”
The Assistant nods his head, turns around, and leaves the Doctor sitting alone in his office, staring at the box. The Doctor leans forward and stares at its uniform whiteness. He slowly lifts the lid. Inside is a solitary book. It is creased and sweat-stained - a worn journal. It has been tied closed with dozens of mismatched strings. The Doctor removes a pair of scissors and begins to cut through the ties. He places the discarded strings into a nearby wastebasket, then stares at the small book. After staring at it for several moments, he shakes his head and grabs it, pulling it out of the box. He quickly opens the cover and begins reading.
“Book III: Account of the Last Man, c.18 months P.E.”
The Doctor turns the page.
“Note to reader: They took the first two journals. This is all that’s left. Nothing else is real.”
The Doctor frowns, turns the page, and continues reading.
The alarm goes off. I wake up to false darkness. I am used to my narrow bed by now, but there is never any comfort. Never any easy sleep. My dreams continue to haunt me, showing me the faces of those long dead. I hear their screams – my friends and my family. My beloved sons. My wife. I call to them to join me, but the ground splits, separating us, and I am alone. I am alone.
Spent time working on the calendar today. Timewave Zero is still perplexing. The first proposers of the Timewave believed that the ebb and flow of novelty would increase the interconnectivity of the universe as the main teleological attractor. But the Mayans refer to a “Black Road,” and I believe that is the real Timewave Zero, because they based it on the ephemerides, showing a causal relationship in the synchronicity of Locational Astrocartography. See, they were the first to study the zodiac. But what did the Mayans see? Had something come before from the Black Road, promising them certain destruction? If I only had the entire inscription… But I know I am close.
I try not to think about my family.
They are lost.
Spent today working. I started by checking the water levels, then the filtration system. I watered the plants sparingly, making sure the lights were working at peak efficiency. I try to waste nothing, because I don’t know how long it must last. No, I can’t let myself think of that just yet. No past. No future. Just this false dusk. I hope I sleep better tonight.
It’s hard, I know. Sometimes the words all run together and I lose sight of how it all fits together. It stops making sense.
Honey, I stared at your picture for hours today. It’s the only one I have, just you and the boys, laughing. You tilting your head back like you always did, mouth wide and carefree…
I wish you were here, honey. You’d know just what to say.
I spent an hour running laps, doing push-ups, sit-ups. Then I studied more. I feel like I am so close to figuring it all out. See, I’m thinking, maybe the translations were wrong. They translated “Nibiru” as planet, the 12th planet. But maybe that’s not right. It could actually be the real Nemesis star, proposed by Mueller in 1984.
Thinking about that made me remember that I hadn’t finished reading 1984 yet. I left off just after the main guy had been captured. There’s something about this one passage that’s bothering me. It says that throughout his imprisonment, he still knew where he was… Then they tried to break him.
Could that man be – me?
Because I think someone, or something, is knocking on the hatch.
A knock sounds at the door.
The Doctor looks up, startled. A knock sounds again. The Doctor gets up, crosses to the door, and opens it.
The Assistant is there.
“Doctor, you said to inform you if there was any change, and, uh…”
“He said he’s ready to talk to you.”
The Doctor raises his eyebrows in surprise.
“Well, then, bring him here.”
The Assistant nods and leaves. The Doctor returns to the desk and picks up the journal.
Today a breakthrough! As I was looking at my calendar, I saw again where the “b’ak’tun” ends, according to the Mayans. It was the 13th b’ak’tun! I then crossed referenced that with the great quake of 2011 that they also predicted. Only now I realize that they weren’t predicting – they were passing on a message! Only we destroyed most of it, so it got mixed up… this is why the earth was murdered.
We didn’t get the message.
Honey, I need you so bad right now.
The noises were especially loud last night. The banging woke me several times but whenever I opened my eyes the noises stopped. Am I losing my mind?
Or am I experiencing the next stages of HPNS?
It’s getting worse. Strange noises plagued me throughout the night. Even the voices seemed to get louder and I almost understood what they were trying to tell me. Open… open something. It was as if
They are HERE! They want me to open the bunker, want me to let them in. They tell me lie after lie, promising me sight of my loved ones, my two boys, my beautiful wife - but I won’t listen! I won’t let them win. They can’t get to me here. I have to remember – “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” I must stand firm. There’s no other way. Won’t let them get to me. Will not open the door. Will not listen. Have to find out, have to connect the evidence. Have to find the rest of the message. So little time left, now, to save everyone.
I messed up. I spoke back to them. Or to that thing, that voice. It wants me to open the hatch. Says I had a breakdown, I’ve been missing. Missing! Oh yeah, “missing” from their little games, tucked safely away here. Only now they found me. And that voice is telling me that everyone is alive, that they’re all waiting for me. That my family needs me – my boys… my wife. My perfect wife…
It’s NOT her voice!
I know it’s not. I have to believe it’s not. They’re lying!
I know that I did have a breakdown before I came here, but only because of what I realized. I was not just obsessed with conspiracy theories – I started to prove them right!
But I couldn’t get to them in time, couldn’t save them. My boys…
And maybe that voice is just another sign of HPNS… buried as I’ve been here in the deep for so long. Just another hallucination. Yes. That’s all it is. I’m safe here. I’m alone. There is no one else.
I am not obsessed. I know what happened.
I have ruined my haven. I’m afraid I lost control today. Everything is in tatters and I think I broke some of my filters. The lights are flickering now. But I couldn’t help myself. Maybe it’s not a hallucination. She said – no, IT said, she is sick. She may not have much time left. But I know – I KNOW – that she is gone. She has to be. She must be. They all must be. I know what I saw. Their ships. Heard their bombs. They came and they killed… everyone. December 21st, 2012, they came and destroyed – everything. Everything!
This “age” I live in I have named Post-Earth. I am alone because… I am the last man.
This may be the last chance I have to tell you – who are you? Will you ever see this? It doesn’t matter, I guess, because now I have to know. Are they alive? Is that really her voice? Could I be wrong? All I have to do is open the hatch. Just like that book said. For everyone there is something they cannot endure. I can’t endure this, not knowing, hearing her beg me to open the hatch… So I will do what I must. I will do… whatever I must. I’m going to fi
The journal ends mid-word. The Doctor thumbs through the rest of the pages, but they are blank. He closes the journal and rubs his eyes. He looks worried and unhappy.
He picks up the journal and turns it over in his hands. There is a knock on his door.
The Assistant opens the door and leads in the Patient, who walks oddly, as if the medicine he has been given is affecting his body. He sits awkwardly on the chair in front of the desk. Two orderlies wait behind him.
The Doctor nods to the Assistant.
“Thank you. I will call you when we are finished.”
The Assistant nods in return and leaves, closing the door gently behind him. The two orderlies remain just outside the door.
“So you finished, huh?” the Patient whispers.
The Doctor looks down at the journal in his hand.
“Yes, as a matter of fact. I want to talk to you about it-”
The Doctor pauses.
“None of that’s real.”
“Then why did you write at the beginning that –”
“You don’t get it, do you, Doc?” The Patient laughs softly. “This place – it’s just another one of their games they like to play, using people the way we used to use lab rats.”
“Listen, please. I know you believe this absolutely. But I also have to tell you that you had a breakdown. You were brought you here so we can help you. Don’t you remember your children? Your wife?”
“Don’t you dare speak about her!” The Patient clenches his fists. The Doctor reaches out to press the emergency button, but the Patient doesn’t move.
“Does it disturb you to hear about her?”
“I – no, I just, my head hurts when I think about her. Them.”
The Doctor gives the Patient a sad look.
“Don’t you remember? You were court-ordered here because… you killed them.”
The Patient’s entire body starts shaking.
“No… that can’t be… you’re lying…”
“I’m sorry, but we need to talk about this fantasy you’ve constructed around their deaths. The world did not end. We are still here, the sun still rises and falls each day. And you experienced a severe trauma that has led you to –”
The Patient gives a weak laugh, interrupting the Doctor, but there are tears coming from his downcast eyes. He looks up at the Doctor and stares at him intently.
“I’m not a murderer. I know. I –”
The Patient stops to take a deep breath to try and calm his trembling. It does not seem to help.
“They want to see how many times they can break us. And it’s not just curiosity, Doc, it’s for their amusement. Their amusement! They’re laughing even now, watching me talk to a person who doesn’t even exist.”
The Doctor also takes a deep breath. He then leans forward to address the Patient.
“I need you to try and remember what really happened. I know you believe utterly that all of what you wrote in this journal actually happened, but the truth is that, per order of the court, you have been sent here for treatment. We have –”
“We’ve all been re-located, Doc! All the ones that are left. Moved and caged and kept performing like little rats. Don’t you understand?”
“Please, calm down. These feelings of dislocation are often symptoms of PTSD – not HPNS. And you experienced a trauma that led you to take the lives of your family. It is likely that this sense of dislocation will abate over time. We have medicines that can help you with that as well as recover your memory.”
The Patient laughs, softly, but there it a hint of hysteria in it. He is on the edge. His chair is starting to shake with the force of his convulsions. But when he speaks, it is still in a whisper.
“Ah, Doc, don’t you see? You’ve been dislocated, too. This – this hospital, this room, these lights – none of it’s real. I’m not real to you, and you’re not real to me. Don’t you get it? They’re playing with us, trying to see what makes us tick. But they don’t care, you see, what happens, because we’re already dead. Dead! Dead!”
The Patient lunges forward to grab the Doctor. The two orderlies burst in to restrain the Patient. The Assistant follows, quickly injecting the Patient with a serum to calm him down. The orderlies begin to drag his limp form away.
“Hey, Doc?” The Patient’s head lolls and he stares at the Doc. “Can you hear them? They’re laughing… laughing at us.” The Patient starts laughing. “This is a just a game to them, nothing else is real. Nothing else… is… they’re laughing… laughing!” His voice trails away.
The Doctor turns and stares at the journal on the desk. He sighs then turns on his computer. He begins to take notes on the Patient. After a few minutes, he hears a commotion, distant yelling and slamming doors. Startled, he starts to rise when his office door bangs open.
“Doctor!” His Assistant comes in, out of breath and frantic. “He’s gone! He’s gone!”
The Doctor abruptly stands up and crosses over to the Assistant. “What do you mean? Who’s gone?”
But suddenly a strange look comes over his face, a mix of horror and realization. Before the Assistant can gasp out his answer, the Doctor takes off at a run. He reaches the end of the hallway, then turns right. He reaches the end of that corridor, then turns right again. He sees a group of orderlies clustered around a door. He arrives at the door, breathless, and rushes into the room. It is empty.
He stares frantically around, completely baffled by the disappearance of his Patient. His eyes catch on the bed, and he reaches down below the balled up pillow. He pulls out the photograph of the patient’s family, planted there just within his eyesight. It is just as it was described in the journal. He stares at it for a moment then looks up, fear pouring from his gaze. His eyes flick back and forth, and for an instant, he seems to meet our gaze through the wall of cameras and metal caging him in.
He is starting to understand.
We nod in satisfaction and turn to another screen. It is dark but there are sounds of movement. A light clicks on. It is the Patient, relocated to Experiment 1. He sits up, opens his journal.
We nod. Time to begin again.
Three knocks sound out. The Patient looks up slowly.
We begin to laugh.