Marcus opened his eyes. A bright-lit ceiling greeted him. He groaned and tried to get up. His body ached. His world spun. Marcus collapsed back onto a soft pillow. He took a deep breath and tried to gather his thoughts. Something was definitely wrong here. He just needed to figure it out.
A woman announced. “Good evening, I’m glad you’re awake. I have just notified Dr. Young and she’ll be with you shortly.”
“Who said that? Where am I?” He asked. His voice sounded hoarse and dry.
Marcus looked around, trying to find the woman. Instead, he found himself alone in a small unfamiliar room. Everything looked very clean and clinical. To his right, he noticed a small cabinet, two chairs, and a rather large window with fading sunlight shining through. To his left, there was a door, his only exit, although he had no idea what was on the other side
The woman replied. “I did. I’m Miranda, your friendly virtual assistant. Here to help you with any of your tasks. As for where you are, you’re in a recovery room in Lake Hill Medical Center. You were brought here after getting involved in an accident.”
An accident? That didn’t sound familiar. Marcus searched his mind, trying to recall what happened. The information was somewhere in his head. He just needed to focus. Yet the more he focused, the more he found. It was like there was a gap in his memories. But how? Maybe the accident had something to do with it. He knew some accidents can cause head injury which can affect a person’s memories. Marcus wondered if this was going to be permanent.
Hearing the door open, Marcus snapped out of it. He turned toward the door and noticed an olive-skinned woman entering the room. He assumed this must be Dr. Young. She was dressed in a white doctor coat and medical scrub. Her long wavy brown hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail. Her hazel-green eyes studied her glass-slim computer tablet.
“Thank you, Miranda but I’ll take it from here.” The doctor said approaching the bed. She glanced up from her tablet and smiled. “Hello there, it’s good to see you up. I’m—“
“Dr. Candice Jane Young.” Marcus interrupted her. He didn’t mean to but was compelled. His mind became flooded with information about her. He knew everything; her family history, educational background, bank accounts, and even dating profile. It was like he memorized her record. But how. He couldn’t remember meeting her before, or maybe he was wrong. “Have we met?”
The doctor frowned, shaking her head. “I’m afraid not. I will, however, supervise your recovery.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small bottle of water. “Would you like a drink of water?”
“Please,” Marcus nodded.
The bed propped him into a sitting position as the doctor unscrewed the top and brought the bottle to his patiently waiting lips. The cool, refreshing water flowed into his mouth, splashed around his tongue, and continued down his dry throat. Marcus drained the bottle of its liquid, enjoying every minute of it. Once he was done, the doctor took the bottle back.
She asked. “Better?”
“Yes, thank you.” Marcus nodded, gathering his thoughts. “Miranda told me that I was in an accident, but I cannot remember anything.”
“Really?” She reached into her pocket again. This time the doctor pulled out a slim penlight and shined it into his eye. “Can you tell me your name and follow the light for me, please?”
He followed the light even though stung a little. “My name is Marcus.”
“Well, Marcus. You appeared to be fine,” Dr. Young said, writing her findings on her tablet. “As for what happened, you have a special visitor who will answer your questions.”
Marcus’s body tensed. His mind went into full alert as he wondered who this person might be. It could be the person who hit him, probably come to apologize. Or it could be another way. Maybe he was the one who hit someone. That person came to give him an earful. Marcus frowned. He didn’t think of that. What if that person got seriously injured. That would be horrible.
Dr. Young asked. “Are you ready, Marcus?”
He took a deep breath and nodded. Dr. Young walked toward the door and opened it. A tall, muscular, dark-skinned man entered the room. He was dressed in a khaki police uniform with a utility belt filled with gadgets and weapons. Marcus noticed the man’s left eye was an optic implant and his right arm was also a prosthesis made of sleek black metal over steel bones.
Dr. Young said. “Marcus, this is Sheriff Bishop.”
Marcus already knew that. Like the good doctor, Sheriff Franklin James Bishop’s record appeared in his mind. His was more colorful than hers. He was an ex-military who fought in African Conflicts during which he was one of the first volunteers to be augmented. He led a squad of augmented operators in several operations before finding a job in the Lake Hill police department. This man was dangerous, probably more dangerous than the people of Lake Hill knew.
“Hello, Marcus.” The sheriff said moving toward the bed. “How are you feeling?”
Marcus replied. “I feel fine. Dr. Young said, ``You can tell me about the accident.”
“Yes, but can you tell me what you remember?”
Marcus shook his head. “It’s all just a blank.”
“Okay,” Sherif Bishop nodded, “Let’s start from the beginning.”
The sheriff told him everything about the accident. How one of his deputies and their family found him in some kind of machine after hitting him with their car. It sounded very far-fetched. Like it came out of the science fiction vid or novel. Marcus didn’t believe it. He couldn’t. The truth was still out there and if the adults weren’t going to tell him. Then Marcus was going to figure it out himself.
Marcus focused, diving into his mind as if it was a large pool of information. It was somewhat peaceful as there were no people, loud noise, nor tech. It was just him. He dived deeper, confident the information he desired was somewhere. He had records on the sheriff, doctor, and even Miranda. The chance was good that it was here. He just had to find it. Suddenly there was a flash. Marcus found himself glancing up at a young olive-skinned girl with wavy brown hair and full lips. Tears streamed down her cheeks as a smile filled her face. Wait a minute, I l know you. Your name….
“Peyton Chu.” He said loudly. He snapped back into the room.
Sheriff Bishop nodded. “Yes, Peyton was here. According to EMTs, she saved your life, gave you CPR until you were revived. Wait a minute! You remember her.”
Marcus nodded. He remembered everything about that scene. The mixed sensations of hot and cold on his skin. The stink of chemicals ravaged his nose with each breath he took. The bitter taste on his tongue. He heard Peyton crying. It was such a small yet important sound. It broke his heart. The look of confusion on her face as he said her name.
“What else do you remember?” Sheriff Bishop asked.
Curious, Marcus dived back into his mind-scrape. He focused, diving deeper and deeper. But he couldn’t recall anything beyond Peyton. There was an emptiness where his memories should be. It felt different than the accident that felt like he simply didn’t know anything. This was a massive hole in his head and his mind was trying to fill it. He focused harder when a sharp pain hit him like someone stabbed a needle into his eye. He tried to brush it off but the pain only grew. Until it felt like his head was smashed up against a brick wall. Then he felt hot white flashes. What is this? A warning?
Dr. Young shouted. “Marcus!”
He snapped out of it. Marcus looked up at her and noticed the look of horror painted on her face. Then he felt something in his hand and on his shoulder. Marcus turned to shoulder and gasped. The sheriff’s prosthetic hand was on his shoulder. It was being crushed by his hand. Marcus felt the somewhat soft metal against his grip. He heard the crushing of metal. He quickly released it. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“That’s okay,” Sheriff Bishop said, examining his hand. “I’m just glad I didn’t use my real hand. So want to tell me what was that all about?”
“I can’t remember anything else.”
Marcus shook his head. “I got nothing.”
“No parents, relatives, birthday, social security number, anything that can tell us who you are.”
Marcus tried again but drew blanks on everything. No answers came out of his head. He retorted. “No, but shouldn’t you know all that already. All that information should be in my record.”
“Marcus,” Sheriff Bishop said, licking his lips. “You don’t have a record.”
That was impossible. He had records on them. He knew everything about them. How could they not have his record? He studied their faces. They were firm and grim. They were telling the truth. “Then where did I come? Who put it into that machine? Why did they do that?’
The sheriff sighed. “We don’t know. We don’t know anything about you.” He reached to touch Marcus’s shoulder but stopped himself. “I know this is a lot to take in, but we are going to figure this out. You need to relax and get better.”
This was impossible. Marcus watched the adults filter out of the room. He was alone now, alone with his thoughts. He wondered what to do next. He looked at his hand, amazed by their strength. Maybe whoever put him into that machine gave him that strength. Who are they? Why did they do this to me? As expected, no answer came from his mind. But he wondered what else he could do.
Marcus sniffed the air, catching the faint mixed stink of metallic blood, chemicals, and liquid cleaner. Should have guessed I was in a hospital by the smell alone. He focused on his hearing. He caught the thumping of footsteps, the beating of a heartbeat, and random conversations.
“You shouldn’t have told him that,” Dr. Young said, walking down the hall.
Sheriff Bishop agreed. “You’re probably right, but I couldn’t lie to the kid. He deserved to know what’s going on. Have you guys completed the bloodwork?”
She replied. “We’re still running some more tests but all signs showed that he was given powerful anesthesia. It was enough to keep him sleeping.”
“For how long? How long has he been in that machine?”
Dr. Young sighed. “I don’t know. It could be days, months, or years. As I said, we’re running more tests. And speaking of tests, I’m seeing if he’s augmented. That strength was not normal.”
Years? Marcus gasped. He could be missing years of his life. He didn’t feel like it but how he was supposed to know. He could have spent years in that machine. How could no one not notice he was missing. Someone should have noticed. Unless they didn’t care.
“Agreed,” Sheriff Bishop said. “Nothing about this is normal. The machine has tech that we have never seen before. I don’t know if it’s just a prototype or someone from Mars made it. It’s important. He’s important. As for his memories, will he ever get them back?”
Dr. Young replied. “Maybe given some time, if not his memories will be gone forever.”
Forever. The word echoed in Marcus’s head. He wasn’t quite sure if he should or could accept. All his memories were left in the dust. What if they were good ones? What if they were bad ones? Maybe his mind was trying to stop him from remembering. Marcus sighed. His life was now a puzzle, a challenging one. Marcus grinned to himself. He had a feeling he fathered a good puzzle for better or worse.