Chapter 1: Bolted to the ceiling
They come in brief flashes of light. Memories. Like some sort of frantic movie montage. Lights in the sky. Running through a forest. My hand clutching the hand of a woman. A woman that I’m deeply in love with. We are running scared. Something from the sky is chasing us. The lights perhaps? I hear her scream. She screams my name. She is yanked away from me. Upward, upward into the night sky. Darkness. Nothing.
I stare up at the ceiling fan that slowly turns above me. The room is well-lit and a comfortable temperature. The large window beside the couch I lie on is bright and fills the room with afternoon sunlight. This is much nicer than most of the psychiatry offices I’ve been in before.
Old Dr. Drew’s mustache twitches a little as he finishes his notes. He looks over the glasses perched on the tip of his nose at me. “Anything else, Fenris?”
Yeah, that’s my name. Fenris Perrywinkle. I still can’t decide if the orphanage that gave it to me was some sort of drug den, or if they really just took an instant dislike to me when I showed up on their doorstep in a basket forty years ago.
I slowly shake my head back and forth. “No, that’s it. Nothing new I’m afraid. The meds don’t seem to be doing anything.”
The good doctor picks up the bottle of bright blue capsules on the coffee table between us and squints at the dosage instructions. “Go ahead and double your dosage. I don’t see any dire consequences if you do.”
I sit up and place my head in my hands. “So, four a day now?”
He swishes his mustache back and forth for a second, then gives a little nod. “Four, yes.” He places the bottle back on the table and makes a note of the new prescription on his tablet device. “Any last questions?”
I look up and shake my head.
He nods and presses a button beside his chair. A loud buzzing sound fills the air and the door to the room opens. Three armed guards in full power armor enter and level their energy weapons at me. “Up you go, prisoner 776. Nice and slow now. Let’s see those hands.”
I still have no idea why they have to suspend me thirty feet in the air at the top of the maximum prison facility in northern New Mexico. It’s one of those circular prisons that looks like a stadium from ancient Rome or something.
I grunt a little bit as my arms and legs are pulled in all directions. I feel like some sort of art piece on display for all the other prisoners to look up at and enjoy. Everyone hoots and hollers whenever I have to go to the bathroom. It’s like they have nothing better to do.
It must be about three o’clock in the afternoon now, because here comes little Tim. I don’t know why, but I always get a kick out of watching him waddle under me and climb that huge ladder of his. Everyone will start chanting his name when he’s about half way up. I swear it’s the best part of everyone’s day.
“Doc says you get two pills now,” he says with a notable stutter.
I sigh and nod my head.
“Open up now. No funny business!” Tim presses the capsules to my lips and I suck them down without making a fuss.
I suddenly open my eyes wide and shout “Thanks, Tim!” at the top of my lungs. The little man yelps and clutches his ladder to keep from falling backwards. Laughter erupts all around us as the other inmates begin banging their metal cups against their cages.
“You… you promised!” the little man whined.
I give little Tim my best smile. “I know I did, buddy. But I just can’t resist pleasing the crowd.”
My little friend cusses under his breath as he starts the long trip back down to the ground. Poor little Tim. I shouldn’t tease him like I do, but I get really bored suspended to the roof like this.
An annoying buzzing sound comes from behind me. I roll my eyes as a tiny drone whizzes to a stop in front of my face. A little LCD screen flips up from the top of the drone and the warden’s face appears.
“Prisoner 776. What did you learn from Dr. Drew?”
I try my best to hide a scowl. I really don’t like Warden Jefferson much at all. “Nothing that the other twelve shrinks you’ve sent me to didn’t already deduce, WJ.”
“You will show proper respect and address me as ‘Warden Jefferson’, prisoner 776. Do you understand?”
I give my cheesiest smile. “Yes, sir, Warden Jefferson, sir!”
I see the warden’s face twist into a rage on the tiny screen. “If you weren’t so dangerous, it would be my extreme pleasure to come up there and wipe that smirk off your smart face, mister!”
I’ve got his goat, and I’m not giving it back. I do my best pouty face. “Awww does the wittle warden not wanna come pway wit me?”
His face turns so red that there’s a real chance it might burst. I shouldn’t tease myself with rosy hopes and dreams like that though.
“It would be a real shame if I had to tell the governor that you had some sort of fatal accident! A real shame!” he screams.
I laugh out loud. “Just like the last time an ‘accident’ happened? How’s the back of your head anyway? Has the hair grown back yet?”
The warden looks like he’s going to blow a gasket. The little LCD screen folds down and the drone disappears back into the darkness of the prison depths below.
“Always a pleasure, Warden Jefferson!” I shout after it.
“Fenris, we’ve talked about this. You’ve already got enough enemies as it is.”
My heart flutters a little and I look down from my rooftop vantage point to see the only beautiful thing left in my life. Two gorgeous green eyes stare back up at me.
“I know, sorry. But, he just gets under my skin, you know? Hello, by-the-way, Amanda. You look beautiful today. You know, just like every other day.”
She closes her eyes and shakes her head with a little smirk. “What did we say about the flirting?”
I scrunch up my face as her gentle rebuff hits me like a swarm of bees. “Ahhhh sorry,” I grunt. “But you’re not playing fair. Two buttons undone? You know you’re standing directly beneath me, right? Just what kind of view do you think you’re giving me?”
Beautiful Amanda runs a hand through her silky chocolate brown hair before slowly doing up her second button. Her blouse looks like its not big enough to be buttoned up that far -- she leaves her white lab coat open. “Better?” she asks.
“No, actually,” I say with a little wink.
She sighs and shakes her head again. She’s being all business, but the twinkle in her eye tells me it’s all an act. I’m pretty sure she wants me.
An industrial sized scissor lift purrs to a stop beside her and one of the maintenance guys helps her into the lift basket. A few moments later, the basket and its lone occupant come to a stop a few feet from my face.
Amanda flips through a few papers on her clipboard. She looks into my eyes for a moment and I swear my heart stops. “Dr. Drew’s report doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. What were some of your feelings during the session? Anything interesting? Any new flashes?”
I feel bad shaking my head at her. I feel like I’m disappointing her or something. Disappointing Dr. Amanda Vincent is the last thing I want to do in life. Actually, scratch that - I don’t want to disappoint her ever. I’m actually kind of hoping the last thing I do in life is Dr. Amanda Vincent.
“Is there anything you want to talk about?” she asks softly.
I know what she’s asking, but I just can’t help myself. “Yeah, so… where did you grow up? What do you like to do for fun?”
I know what she’s going to say to that. Her job requires her to say it, but it’s still going to hurt to hear it.
“I’m not here to talk about me, Fenris. My job is to evaluate and understand the psychological needs and growth of the inmates of LifeGuard maximum security prison for the great state of New Mexico. Now, do you have anything relevant to say?”
She always tries to be all business, but I saw the corner of her perfect lips move upward a bit. She’s so into me.
I slowly shake my head and try and look as earnest as I can. “No, ma’am. I’m sorry. I truly wish I had something relevant to say right now. I really do. Honest.” I try and flex my pecs or something to display manliness, but I don’t think the meager result of that action was enough to impress anyone.
“Then we’ll try it again in a few days,” she says quietly. She reaches out and uses her thumb to pull my right lower eye lid down a little. Her hand on my cheek feels like heaven.
She looks into my eye and surveys the slight discoloration. “I’m going to order chef to increase the amount of vitamin powder in your meals,” she continues in her soft voice. “Are you sleeping okay?”
I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying this moment right now. There’s just something about physical contact with someone you’re crazy about to brighten even the darkest corners of your existence.
“No, ma’am,” I whisper. I think I’m actually getting a lump in my throat. I hope she accidentally has crazy glue on her hand.
No luck. Her hand withdraws and it starts tapping on her clipboard computer tablet. She looks up and her eyes meet mine.
“I can prescribe a mild sleep aid for the next few days to try and get you in a proper sleep rhythm if you like. Would you like that, Fenris?”
All I can do is nod at this point. I think I’m going to start crying. Some tough guy I turned out to be.
And then, everything goes to poop.
A siren starts blaring and the warden’s voice booms over a loudspeaker, “There is an unidentified flying object directly over the prison. Every inmate and staff member to safe quarters. Repeat, every inmate and staff member to safe quart—“
The idiot warden’s warning is cut off as an energy beam punches a hole through the middle of the ceiling and obliterates the central guard tower. The resulting shock wave sends everything flying, including the scissor lift my lovely Amanda is standing on.
Everything goes slow motion as I watch her fly toward me with a look of horror on her face. My emotions max out as she wraps herself around me in a panic. I barely even notice the strain on my arms and legs as her fabulous body clings to mine thirty feet in the air.
A cloud of dust envelopes us and we cough and sputter together. I’m going to consider this our first date.
“What’s happening?” she manages to scream.
“I dunno,” I shout back. “Hold on to me. Don’t let go!”
I feel her grip tighten and I suddenly find it hard to breath. This woman is much stronger than she looks. I’ll have to compliment her on that later when we’re not in danger of falling to our deaths. I wonder if the cables holding me in the air were designed for our combined body weight?
“Do something!” she squeals.
Do something? Did she really just say ‘do something’? I’m tethered to a badly damaged roof here. Does she think I was hanging up here because I had nothing better to do – like I could have escaped any time I wanted or something?
“Just… just hold on! My arms and legs are still attached to the ceiling, remember?”
A loud humming sound fills the air around us and some sort of alien looking drone thing emerges from the dust cloud. I’m going to say it’s alien because it’s covered with fancy lights and isn’t using propellers to move through the air. Multiple lasers fire from the strange object and all four of my restraints are instantly severed.
Amanda and I fall into the whirling dust cloud below. Everything goes dark.
“Get off me.”
“What?” I blink a couple of times. I’m not splattered on the prison floor. In fact, I’m not in the prison at all any more.
“Get off me. You’re too heavy.”
“What? Oh!” I roll off of Amanda and she takes a deep breath. “Where are we?” she asks and sits up.
I look around, but all I see is a fuzzy white room. “I…” I desperately want to say something manly and heroic right now, but “…I dunno,” is all that comes out.
“How did we get here? Why aren’t we dead?”
I wish I was smart and well put together like her. I hadn’t even considered those questions yet.
A strong voice echoes through the chamber. “Welcome, Fenris Perrywinkle, champion of the Everbright.”
“Fenris?” Amanda asks in a slightly accusatory tone, “What’s going on?”
I take a deep breath, ready to take command of the situation and be a manly man. “I dunno,” is all that comes out again.