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Solutions: The Dilemma of Hopelessness

James Gerard

Solutions: The Dilemma of Hopelessness


Dedicated to us who understand "Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it."


BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
81669 Munich

Five

Charles strolled down the tunnel leading to the bowels of the Solutions Center with an envelope swinging at his side in unison with the gait of his descent.  As he moved towards a light ahead, his attention focused on a string of beacons lining the pat.  He used the lights to carefully avoid the coils of thick wire and domed assemblies of a high-resolution lighting system the electricians had laid on bare floor.  He thought it peculiar that such a breach of security would be tolerated—then again, he thought, strange was the norm in this subterranean fortress.

All of a sudden a murmur of familiar growls began to echo between fortified walls.  They alerted Charles to the sight of silhouettes positioned within the frame of an arch.  He figured the sentries below only detected clicks of heels and the form of a figure.  If not, the zooming eyes above would have certainly made the distinction as to whether he was friend or foe.

Without warning, beams from a red laser stung his eyes as he approached the sentries.  The envelope quickly swung up to his face to shield the act of apparent anxiety.  “Please,” said Charles, “lighten up guys.”

The envelope dipped just enough to reveal the absence of beams that had targeted him for possible elimination, and then dropped back to his side as he stepped into the room.

Though it had only been twenty minutes or so since he had made his way through the checkpoint, he noticed a distinct change within the hole.  The grayish hue of walls that covered a hollowed shape scratched smooth from solid rock was now dripping condensed droplets from its cool faces.

“It is just me,” said Charles with a smile.

The sentries sneered and still stood silent with pistols raised.

Charles ignored their alerted posture while his nose crinkled in reaction to a whiff of the musty odor circulating in the steamy hole.  “What’s that smell?”

“The dehumidifier is in a state of cardiac arrest again,” a sentry answered.

Charles sensed the sentry’s annoyance.  He figured he too would be irritated if confined six hours at a time in this sauna just to defend this think tank against those who dared entered.

He appreciated the extreme measures at the center.  The tightened security only increased his hatred for those who desired to reap the benefits from the perverted schemes its inhabitants tried desperately to devise.

Charles directed his attention back to the young man and woman and listened to the flow of air whistling from their noses.  He interpreted the sounds as desperate attempts to release tension that gripped the muscles and the unforgiving heat trapped within stained and soaked uniforms.

Hoping to ease any suspicious thoughts that he was indeed the same man they had seen just twenty minutes ago, Charles flashed his identification badge dangling from fingertips before the eyes of the sentries.

Charles smiled.  “Could you please put the pistols away?  They may go off in the heat of the moment.”

Apparently lacking composure, they shoved them back to holsters hanging from hips.

“It was a joke guys.”  No sense of humor at all from these automans, he thought.

“The envelope sir.”

“It has already been examined.”

“Sir.”

The sentry took custody of the envelope and dropped it into a tray.

“Place your right hand on the scanner sir.”

“No problem.”  Charles watched the glow of the translucent surface smother his palm and fingertips—providing a useless umpteenth opinion, he thought.

“Remove all items from and off your person sir and place them on the tray.”

Charles smiled.  He popped the clasp of the stainless steel watch free from the wrist then tossed it into the tray.  “That is all I have.”

“Sir, through the fluoroscope towards the canine.”

Charles grinned as a shower of light penetrated his body but revealed only the bones hidden under flesh.  The smile turned to a smirk, however, as he dragged his feet toward snarls.

The sentry opened her hand and released the leash to its full extent.  “Seek,” she commanded.

“What fun,” said Charles as the canine pounced toward him and sniffed his person.  Tje beast tjem growled and snapped at his leg.

The sentry yanked the canine away.  “Good girl,” she said with rewarding pats.

“She must be picking up the scent of the cat I came in contact with up in the couriers’ room.”

She raised the pistol from its holster.  The red dot of the laser sighting was sitting between his widened eyes.

“Is this necessary?” asked Charles.

“Sir.”

Charles turned, slapped palms on a sweaty wall, then widened his stance.  He reasoned the frisk was unnecessary having just been groped at the primary checkpoint above, yet that fact was obviously no concern to them.

He felt the sentry’s hands grope about the flimsy attire of a green, cotton jumpsuit and the recesses about the body.  The hands reached upwards to closely inspect the cavities of mouth and nostrils and ears and ended with a run through the curly brown hair.

“Are you satisfied?”

All Charles could do was smile as they ignored the question as they peered over separate copies of the center’s delivery manifest for the day.  Their eyes then scanned his body.  They appeared to analyze for posture jittering about, eyes diverting from direct contact, or facial tics and tremors indicating underhand intentions.

“Your destination and purpose sir?”

“I am headed to the basement to see Doctor Johnson and one of his subjects.”

One of the sentries scanned the sign-out log, and then announced, “Doctor Johnson is not within the center at this time.”

“May I ask where he is?”

“No.”

“May I ask when he is due to return?”

The sentry scanned the log again then picked up a receiver perched amidst a puddle covered desk.  “This is secondary checkpoint…yeah.  According to my log, Doctor Johnson was scheduled to arrive back at the center ten minutes ago.”

While Charles eavesdropped on the sentry’s words, all he could do was smile.  He wondered if they knew just how idiotic this nonsense appeared.  After all, he thought, once the assigned personnel entered the bowels, they were allowed to scurry freely about its stairwells and hallways and rooms.

“Yes, Doctor Johnson, do you have an appointment with Charles Stevens?...Well, he says that he has a meeting with you and one of your subjects…yes,” he scanned a list held on a clipboard, “but my directory does not show that citizen to be at this center…I understand.”

“What is the problem now?” asked Charles politely.

The sentry glanced at him, and then looked to his partner restraining the growling canine close to her side.  “Take the receiver while I get out the other directory,” he said.

A ring holding keys clattered as the sentry yanked them out of a pocket, and then slipped one into the keyhole of a lower drawer.  He fumbled about a mess of papers for a directory.  “Here,” he said, tossed the folder to his partner.

“Doctor Johnson…the name of the subject...Timothy O’Neal,” she announced.

With a nod her partner acknowledged.

“Describe Mister Stevens…yes…yes…yes…yes…yeah…that’s enough,” she said while jotting the features on a slip of paper.  She handed it and the receiver back to her partner.

“Dr. Johnson, please repeat his physical features.”  He responded by penciling checks next to the noted scribbles, then showed it to his partner.

She nodded an acknowledgement.

Come on, thought Charles.

“Yes…I understand Dr. Johnson.”  He slammed the receiver down.  “Do you know where his office is sir?”

“Yes.”  Charles retrieved the watch from the tray.  He clasped it back to his wrist and said, “It has been a pleasure as usual.”

“Johnson says he will meet you there in twenty minutes."

Charles smiled as he gently removed the envelope from the sentry’s grip, then strolled to the basement door.

As the metallic sounds of the heels of his shoes clicked with each step and echoed in the descending chamber, the eyes of sensors blinked at his presence.  Charles hoped the meeting would be the last of the loose ends he needed to tie up before submitting his proposal to the solutions’ representative.  He knew that unless every minute detail of the plan was accounted for, the proposal would be deemed weak and improbable—like so many of the dirty deeds that were disapproved in the three years the center had been in operation.

“This is it,” he whispered as he stood before a door.  It creaked as it opened.  Charles stepped into the basement’s hallway.

As the clicks from his heels tapped the naked floor leading to Dr. Johnson’s office, Charles smiled in response to a flow of cool air drying droplets of sweat from his face and began to cool his heated body.  Along the way his hand brushed the wall’s dry plastic skin to feel the coldness of its face.  He stared at the gray walls unadorned by colorful paintings, posters, or anything for the dimness of overhead lights to reveal.

“Charles, this way,” a voice called.

He turned around then strolled back down the hallway.  The face ahead came into focus.  It was a young man, Dr. Johnson’s assistant.  Charles remembered their chat prior to meeting Johnson the first time.  He found him to be more than willing to cooperate by confirming information concerning Timothy—information already known.

“Doctor,” said Charles as he stepped up to him.  “How are you doing today?”

“Just fine thanks.”  The young doctor turned his back to Charles and led him into a lab.  “Sit down.  He’ll be here shortly.”

“Timothy?”

“Dr. Johnson.”

The young doctor marched to a corner of the room.  He sat down before the glow of a monitor.

Though Charles was somewhat annoyed with the assistant’s abrupt change of behavior, he opted to spend his energy to examine the appearance of the room.  The computer terminal where the doctor sat glowed in one corner.  A desk dented with age, stacked with files and its drawers stuffed with sheets of paper sat in another.  The other two corners were occupied by long tables cluttered with coffee stained sheets of paper and black mugs tilting on their sides.

He looked to the wall and whispered, “Like the hallway.”

“What was that?” asked the young doctor.

“Oh, the walls…gray and bleak.  It has the feel of an interrogation room.”

“Yeah.”

Charles looked at a panel of black switches and notched dials wedged between the two tables.  The dials sat underneath small screens.  “So this is the monitoring system you told me about?”

“Yeah,” the young doctor answered without turning.  “Do you know how to use it?”

“I think so.  It looks to be an earlier version of the system Senator Sorensen employed to record all meetings convened in his office.”

Charles glanced at the doctor’s back, his attentive fingers busy typing data onto the monitor filling up fast with words and numbers.  He then swung his attention back to the system.  Reddish flakes cracked as he lowered himself onto the metallic seat of a rickety chair.

Slowly, he reached a finger to the face of the panel then flipped a switch.  The screens flashed and filled with tones of gray, black, and white images.  He watched one person eating something in a closet spaced cubicle while another reading what looked like a magazine below the beams of a lamp.  He snuck one more glance at the doctor still busy with the task of hands.

“Ahhh,” he whispered as he turned his attention again to the screens.  There was Timothy.  Perched in an armchair within a cubicle, he was motionless before a glow of changing lights.

He thought Timothy appeared to be mesmerized by scenes flashing before him while seemingly listening to voices speaking to him.  However, Charles could not sense what Timothy was feeling through his shadowed facial expressions and the contoured ridges on the face that formed from the haze of the rapidly changing glow.

“Charles,” a voice suddenly called.

His limbs twitched.  The focus swung around and witnessed Dr. Johnson stroking a cat cradled in his arms.  Charles smiled as he looked at the pale, oval shaped skin surrounded by red.  “Good morning.  You did not use any sunscreen?”

“Forgot.”

The cat suddenly hissed, struggled in Dr. Johnson’s hold.  “It’s okay boy.  You’re safe in here,” he said as he stroked the cat.

“What is it for?” asked Charles.

“The screens?”

“No, the cat?”

“Just part of my experiments.”

“What kind of part?”

“I need to see if my subjects can sense the presence of animals.”  He stroked the cat, “You’re a good kitty aren’t you.”  Dr. Johnson approached the screens.   “Have you been trying to observe him?”

“Yes, he is right there…well, he was there.”

Dr. Johnson laughed.  “Don’t worry, that’s normal behavior for him.  It seems Timothy has a unique ability to sense when he’s being observed.  He will leave the room within two seconds over ninety-eight percent of the time; ninety percent when sleeping.

“ESP?” asked Charles, already knowing it was not.

“No, not really.  It’s more like tuning into meta-communication from others.”

“But through the eyes of the camera?”

“I know, it sounds unlikely, but somehow he’s able to pick up the signals of body language of those who watch him.”

“Could the sound of the cameras account for the behavior?”

“No….”

The cat hissed.  It suddenly wriggled its way free from Dr. Johnson’s hold.   It leapt onto Charles’ leg then jumped off and scurried under one of the paper cluttered tables.

Charles reacted with a vault from the chair.  He resisted the urge to kick it for its startling jump to freedom.  “What is wrong with it?”

“He’s just a bit skittish.”   Dr. Johnson dropped to his knees.  “Here kitty kitty.”

Right, thought Charles.  It is more likely that it knows you intend to torture it.

“As I was about to say, the technicians have eliminated any and all noise from the cameras.”  He crawled to the table.  “Come on kitty kitty.”

“Then is it similar to ESP?" asked Charles as he flopped back onto the chair.  He bent over to catch a glimpse of the cat’s location.  “It must be picking up the scent of the dog.”

“Well, he can’t read the thoughts we think, only feels the vibrations.”

“Could the behavior simply be coincidence?” asked Charles.

Dr. Johnson laughed. “Hell, we must have experimented four, five thousand times for the ability, and when the camera goes on, he moves to another cubicle usually within two seconds.”

Charles turned.  Eyes squinted at the screens.  “Fascinating.”  He then turned back around.  Amused at the sight of the doctor’s limbs scrawled about the floor, he chuckled.

“I think so,” said Dr. Johnson.

“So, Timothy is a participant in a solution plan you’re assembling?”

Dr. Johnson reached for the cat, but quickly withdrew the reach as it hissed.  He rose to his feet then flipped off the system.  He marched to the desk.

“He was, but now I feel he is incapable of what I desire him to do.  He’s become a citizen who feels the world, doesn’t think it.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that though he has the ability to avoid detection, he no longer has the ambition to…well, to escape from the eyes.”

A drawer screeched open.  Dr. Johnson fumbled about its contents.  Charles looked at what appeared to be a smirk on his face and believed the expression disguised more than disappointment over Timothy’s lack of so-called lack of ambition.

Charles asked, “You once made a living in the field of forensic….”

“Psychiatry, yes,” Dr. Johnson abruptly answered.  He pulled a few rubber bands from the drawer and looped them together.  He then carefully taped a crumpled piece of paper to one end of the stringed rubber.

“And you were an expert in the study of pathological….?

“Serial killers,” Dr. Johnson again answered abruptly then dropped back to his knees.

“Is he a killer?”

“I consider him one.”  He jiggled the papered prey just beyond the reach of the cat.  “Come on kitty.”

Charles watched the paws swat at the wiggling prey.  “Is he a killer or not?”

“Maybe.”

The cat quietly stepped out from beneath the table.  The predator slowly and quietly stalked the papered prey.

“Then he is not a serial killer?”

“You mean the cat?”

“Timothy?” responded Charles.

“I didn’t say that,” said Dr. Johnson as he reeled the jiggling ball of prey towards him.  The cat followed it with an instinctive eye of a hunter.     

“I have painstakingly researched all official records concerning Timothy, and I did not find any such incidents that even resembled such a crime.”

“So?”

“So, he is definitely not a killer?” asked Charles.  Maybe you are the one that should have his head kicked.

“Of course not.  I wouldn’t let you have him if he were.  I’d continue to use him myself.  But why do you care?”

“Being aware of your background I assumed I missed something in my research.”

“Whatever your research told you, it was correct.  The only difference now is that he’s passive.”

“That is how you would describe his current mental state?” asked Charles.

“Yes, I suppose,” answered Dr. Johnson as he reeled the cat in closer.

“What do you mean by suppose?”

“I mean he has cooperated with the questionnaires I have given him and doesn’t cause us any problems.  But for some reason he refuses to take the personality pills.”

“If he is not taking the pills, then how can he be passive?”

“Because we’ve mixed the medication in with his food.”

“Then you know he flushes the pills down the toilet?” asked Charles.

“Of course.”

“But you haven’t turned in him.  Why?”

“I have my reasons.”

Knowing the doctor’s background, Charles was well aware of his reasons, but that was an issue unrelated to his needs.  “So, all he receives are synaptic inhibitors?”

“Among others.”

“And your assistant says that you do not talk with him?”

“Why should I?”

“Well, isn’t it required that his anti-social….”

“Please don’t even say it,” he blurted out.  Dr. Johnson snatched the cat and nestled it in his arms.  “It’s okay.  I’m not going to hurt you,” he said as the cat struggled to escape the hold.

“But....”

“Charles, there is no need to talk with him because my special blend of inhibitors work too well—Timothy can’t remember anything about certain events.  He has required no coaxing.”

“Still….”

“Look,” shouted Dr. Johnson, “Timothy has his nightmares, and the impending collision of the asteroid is our nightmare, but you don’t see either one of us begging for the memory to be wiped out.  In fact, I bet you live with a number of nightmares Charles.”

“I do not have….”

“You appear to be emotionally well-adjusted.”

“Well….”

“You’ve worked in politics which more and more has been scrutinized.  And you certainly wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a trusted and respected citizen.  But you haven’t needed any medications or personality support.”

“Yes, but….”

“Granted, like all of us, I’m sure you have a dysfunctional memory or two that haunts you.  But like any normal citizen of society you have kept it to yourself; in your mind.  You have required neither medication nor personality support.”

Charles was not in the mood for this—some doctor acting in pride, showing off his superiority concerning the human condition.  It was enough he hated the Solutions Center.  He viewed the so-called professionals that scurried freely about the center as nothing more than scum infected rats surviving off worm infested minds of those that made the center possible.   Nevertheless, he figured he would stroke the doctor’s ego by playing along.  “I do not believe that I have any such wounds.”

“Where did you grow up?”

“On a farm on the outskirts of Boston…an only child.”

“And your parents?”

“Well, my father was stubborn and proud, too much so to seek outside assistance, so my mother helped him in the fields.”

“Did you help?”

“Yes, but my education was paramount to him.”  Charles rose, paced the floor.  “I loved the farm work, being out in the fields, and getting lost in the work.”

“But you’re not a farmer.”

“No.”  He shook his head.  “One day my father came to me—I had just turned ten.  He told me of his and my mother’s past.  At first I couldn’t understand, but shortly thereafter, I came to hate it.  For I had a purpose in this world, and he was going to make sure I fulfilled it.”

“What’s wrong Charles?” asked Dr. Johnson.

The cat hissed.

“What do you mean?”

“Look at yourself.”

Charles felt the throbbing in clenched fists, the envelope’s edge crushed in the grip, and felt a flush of red burning his face.  His chest rose and rose, then slowly sunk as he blew out the tension within.

Fists opened.  The breathing slowed.  “Oh, I did not want to involve myself with politics,” he said.  “Next thing I knew after high school I was attending Harvard.”  A smile suddenly formed over clenching teeth.  “Ah.  Point well taken.  But that cannot be called a disabling memory event?”

“No,” answered Dr. Johnson as he stroked the cat.  “By the way, is that your interest in Timothy, his past that is?”

“First,” said Charles, “would you expand on his personality state.”

Dr. Johnson shrugged his shoulders.  “We’ve only observed him for seconds at a time before he disappears from view.  Other than catching glimpses of him in normal activities, I really couldn’t say.”

“So you have been running isolation experiments and are not interested in his daily behavior?”

Dr. Johnson walked to the system, flipped on the switch.  “Watch.”  Timothy scurried from the view.  “Along with the questionnaires I have him fill out, that’s the extent of my experiments.  My focus has been on that ability and how to use it.”  He flipped the system off.

Charles sat back down.  His fingers slid across the crinkled edge of the envelope.  Of course it was, he thought.  That is why he has spent the last three years avoiding the submission of whatever solution he thought would speed up the fear.

“Understood,” Charles responded.  “Now, I know as part of your solution plan you have kept Timothy isolated for the three years he has been here.”

“True.”

“And you have conceded that he is not much use to you now?”

“Look, if you want him he’s yours.  As I said, he is not capable of my solution plan.”

“Fine, I understand that, but I require a straightforward answer to this question before you transfer him to me: Do you think Timothy could survive a ten year journey in space?”

“I take it that is part of your solution?”

“Yes.  How about it?”

“Hmm, I suppose so…alone?”

“Yes.”

“Then definitely.  But why Timothy?”

“I am talking about ten years of isolation.”

Dr. Johnson smiled.  “He has lasted the longest, that’s for sure.”

“Then you will transfer him to me?”

“I see no problem with that.”  He turned to his assistant, “Bring Timothy up here.  Tell him that there is someone who has a proposal he may be interested in.”

“No problem.”

“If it is all right with you,” said Charles, “I prefer meeting him in private.  In your office.”

Dr. Johnson paused as if in deep thought, then broke his silence, “Sure, but I think it’d be a good idea if I accompanied you.  Though Timothy has become docile, he may become unsettled from being dragged from the closed environment.”

“But I prefer to see him alone,” said Charles.  “I believe I understand him.  I will know what to say to make him feel comfortable.”

“I don’t understand?  What’s the big deal if I tag along?” asked Dr. Johnson.

Of course he wanted to include himself, thought Charles.  But he figured his newfound concern over Timothy to be that of self-interest.  He believed the doctor only sought to have his name placed upon the copy of the plan to make it appear as if he were in on the solution from the very beginning.  And besides, Charles knew he had bugged the lab, not the office.

“I just prefer to see him alone,” said Charles.

“Doctor,” he shouted.

“Yeah,” a voice shouted back.

“Take him to my office.”

“To your office.  Will do.”

“He’s all yours Charles.”

“Thank you.”

As Charles strolled away from the lab, his thoughts turned to Timothy.

“Hey,” he heard Dr. Johnson shout out, “when are you going to tell me about your solution?”

Charles stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and shouted, “I assume you will find out at the next solution meeting.”

“What’s the secret?”

“I guess I would feel embarrassed if the solution is rejected.”

“Join the club.”

“I have no intentions on doing that,” Charles shouted.

“Whatever.”

The assistant brushed Charles as he stepped past him from behind.  “He’s waiting.”

“Thanks.”

Charles once again clicked his heels along the stark hallway towards the office.  Though his opinion of the inhabitants within was less than favorable, he did not feel that way towards everyone.  There were citizens at the center he thought fondly of, especially the newly arrived ones.  He viewed their offers to assist the desire of his solution as nothing more than acts of childlike enthusiasm; however, he had no choice but to reject their cries to help.

The experienced ones like Dr. Johnson could not be trusted.  He reasoned their so-called devious imaginations were born from pure fantasy and always ended up exposing themselves as amateurs in the art of cunning behavior when acting alone, creating only misery and madness.  No matter, he thought, the focus was now on Timothy alone.

Four

Timothy sat in a chair bouncing a beat with his heels off the hard floor while strumming out a rhythm from a rubber band stretched between thumb and forefinger.  He waited for the stranger to disturb his temporary sanctuary.

 

As he conducted his musical rendition of anticipation, his eyes scanned the surroundings to carefully inspect the room.   They scanned the gray walls, a computer sitting silent in a corner, and a black mug anchoring a stack of papers flapping in a stale breeze that flowed atop a desk.  He then peered over the ceiling.  “Different,” he whispered.  “No cameras.  The room’s a lot warmer.”

 

Curiosity led him to the desk and its stack of files leaning against an exposed lamp.  Timothy figured while the opportunity presented itself, he would satisfy his curiosity and take a peek at any information buried amid the mess that might concern the doctor’s true intentions toward him.

 

As his hands fumbled about the tiers of folders, the glint of a paper clip lying twisted on a bed of concrete amid balls of paper discarded to the floor, struck his eyes.  His chin rose.  Eyes squinted at the brightness beaming down upon him.  He reached towards the shadeless lamp, twisted the notch on, and then reached to the side of the door and flipped off the switch to the lights above.  Better, he thought.  Comfortable.

 

Timothy quickly turned his curiosity back to the desk when he suddenly froze.  Like an animal having heard a distant snapping of twigs, cracking of dried leaves under steps prowling in the dark his breath ceased.  Timothy raised and then slightly tilted his head to concentrate on clicks looming closer, louder, from the hallway.  The noise sent him dashing to a darkened corner chair where he went flopping onto its splintered seat.

 

The door creaked open.  A faint background of light cast a shadow of the stranger’s head upon the wall just opposite him.  Mesmerized by the shadow, a ghostly image, he heard a voice softly whisper “hello.”

 

As Timothy watched a head pop out from behind the door he sat silent.  A thought of the same old questions the proper citizen would certainly ask him popped into his mind: Tell me about your family history, Past medical problems, Have you had allergic reactions to any medication, What medications have you tried so far?  He could never understand that in a world where information was a keyboard finger away, that such an archaic manner of attaining information still existed.  What was the reason? he wondered.  It had to be some probing method they all learned in a lecture oriented class like Standard Annoyances, 101.

 

“Timothy?” the voice whispered.

 

“Here.”

 

“Ah, there you are,” he heard the stranger whisper.  “If you weren’t told, my name is Charles.”

 

Timothy peered over the contours of Charles’ expression distorted in shadowy peaks and valleys.  His eyes focussed on the movement of the envelope swinging at his side as he strolled into the room.

 

In the available light, he then strained to discern whether Charles’ intentions were friendly or not.  Then again, he thought, I could never tell anyway.  He watched Charles position himself on a chair opposite him.  He fought the urge to jump from his perch and flip on the beams of overhead light.

 

“I’m not a personality engineer if that’s what you’re thinking.  I just want to talk with you,” said Charles.

 

“Oh, how lovely.  Please, let’s chat.”

 

“Well, to begin with, I’m curious to know if Dr. Johnson ever explained to you the nature of this center or your purpose here?”

 

Timothy smiled.  “You don’t want to know about that.”

 

“That’s part of my reason for being here, yes.”

 

“You mean to say Dr. Johnson was rude and hasn’t told you?”

 

“He told me what he was up to.  But I’m curious to know what you think.”

 

Timothy looked away from Charles.  Staring at the silent computer, he contemplated the inquiry about his thoughts.  “You want to know what I think?”

 

“Yes.”

 

He continued to stare at the computer.  He found it hard to believe that someone dared to talk with him face to face after all this time, let alone probe his mind.  However, at the same time Timothy wondered why his heart continued to race excitement throughout his senses and send fidgety impulses about the seat.  Maybe the years of isolation had awakened the craving for speech?—though serious doubts remained about that.  Perhaps the conversation would be short-lived?  But whatever the reason, he felt if he continued his show of glowing happiness he just might attain an explanation concerning the devious circumstances that stirred within his mind.

 

He looked back to Charles with beaming eyes and wide smile, “I’m here so I can be like a normal citizen.”

 

“I take that to mean that’s what you really believe?” asked Charles.

 

Timothy calmly answered, “Yes.  Therapy has helped me.  Let’s be friends.”

 

Charles smiled.  “My, my, aren’t we just bubbly today.  But what kind of therapy?”

 

“I don’t know.  But then who am I to question such wonderful doctors?” he responded while maintaining a broad smile across his face.

 

“I know it’s a silly question, but please indulge me.”

 

“I am sorry.  I am being rude.  Along with the synaptic memory inhibitors I take, I suppose something to do with…with infliction of loneliness to make me see that I’ve been a bad citizen all my life.”

 

“I suppose you could say that,” laughed Charles.

 

“What do you mean by ‘suppose?’”

 

“Does he talk with you?”

 

“Not fair Charles.  You’re not answering my question.”

 

“I’ll get to it, but first answer mine.”

 

Timothy sat silent but continued to smile.  He could not figure out what Charles wanted by what appeared to be a smirk on his face.  He was somewhat certain that he was putting on an act, but why?  Did he know the truth, or was the purpose of the questions discovery, an evaluation as to whether or not the status of proper citizenship was deserved?  As much as it ached his mind to just straight out ask what his intentions were, Timothy just could not take that risk just yet.

 

“Answer my question about the ‘purpose’ first.”

 

“The purpose,” said Charles, “is to alter your mind.”

 

That’s better, thought Timothy.  Alter makes much more sense than repress.  “But that’s his job.”

 

“Tell me, what else does he do for you?”

 

“Who is he?”

 

“Dr. Johnson.  Now, what else does he do for you?”

 

Timothy looked to the computer sitting silent.  His mind pondered over the reasons why Charles might be attempting to ignore the questions.  Again, instead of risking the possibility of being uncovered he chose cooperation.  His attention turned back to Charles.  “He has me fill out questionnaires.”

 

“What sort of question are they?”

 

“Usual things like how I feel, but he never seems to be satisfied with my responses in that area.  But that does not matter.  Would you like to have lunch with me?”

 

“What do you mean by he’s never satisfied?”

 

Timothy caught himself bouncing the beat of heels again in an attempt to drain anger from his mind out through his feet.

 

“He always writes back on the next questionnaire that I’m not answering the questions right.”  He paused, turned away from Charles, and again stared at the computer.  “It’s like he wants me to feel the way he wants me to feel, not what society wants me to feel.  That’s very bad,” he stated harshly.

 

“Okay.  What else has he done for you?”

 

“I told you he gives me memory inhibitors.”  Timothy smiled.  “They’ve worked so well.”

 

“What else?”

 

“He’s such a nice man.  You know that he watches me with a camera to make sure I am safe and doing well.  Would you like to hear about my lovely family?”

 

“The cameras aren’t necessary, and some of the pills are memory inhibitors,” said Charles, “but some are a special type…let’s just say type of vitamin.”

 

“Who are you?” asked Timothy; smiled.

 

“Drop the act.”

 

Timothy grinned then wagged a finger at Charles.  “That’s not very nice.”

 

“I told you I’m not a personality engineer, so quit acting like you don’t know what’s going on.”

 

Timothy dropped his eyes to the floor and reflected on the strange variety of capsules—sometimes red, green, blue, brown, yellow, multicolored pellets, or vials of syrupy green liquid—that had been provided throughout the ordeal.  Of course they weren’t for the purposes I’ve been told, he thought.  So after awhile he had decided to stop swallowing them, would spit them in the toilet, and then flush them to the septic tank over the years.  Now he figured for sure Charles knew as much as he did—if not more.

 

Charles laughed.  “Okay Timothy, I’ll play along.”

 

Timothy rubbed his hands together, “Oh boy, we’re going to play a game.”

 

“All right then.  Let’s play a game called drop the nonsense.  It starts out by me telling you that Dr. Johnson has not been serving you as a personality engineer, and that he knows you’ve been flushing both the inhibitors and the memory erasers down the toilet.”

 

Timothy spread his arms out wide.  “Oh, I understand the game.  Now I say that he is a personality engineer and I’d never do that.”

 

“Very good,” Charles responded.  “You must’ve played this game before.”

 

Timothy’s face blushed with red.  He shrugged his shoulders, “Well…gee…yeah.”

 

“Then you know that I respond that the guy’s a bad man.”

 

“But he cares about me.  End of game,” Timothy gleefully shouted.  “I win, I win.”

 

“Oh, he cares about you all right, but for his own desires.  Now drop the act.”

 

Timothy still could not be sure if Charles really did view his happy display as an act.  And even though his real emotions cried to burst free, he felt he had to follow the flow of the conversation and keep up the happy façade.  He tunefully responded, “You could be lyyying.”

 

Charles stood then paced the floor.  “Come on, think about it.”

 

“Then tell me why am I here?”

 

“You’re an educated man.  Why do you think you’re here?”

 

Timothy tracked Charles’ rapid pace around the office.  Though it may end up as a grave error, he simply could not repress the voice of rage from blurting out its feelings.  “The doctor’s conditioning me for something.”

 

“That’s better,” said Charles.

 

“You’re not going to ask where my smile went to are you?”

 

“As far as I’m concerned, I could care less that you’re not smiling.  Now, let me tell you something.”

 

Timothy plopped his elbows onto bouncing knees tjem buried his eyes into propped up palms.  He could hear Charles’ harsh utterances as he continued to speak at him, but the words sounded garbled once they penetrated the mind.

 

Timothy always had doubts about the center—no, more than doubts, but discovered that whenever he casually tried to correspond with Dr. Johnson to ascertain the truth of the matter, his questions were returned rephrased, left for him to answer on his own.  Now, he sensed a tide of anger sweep over excited thoughts and felt a sea of agitation storm his turbulent mind.  Finally, the truth was at hand—not a manipulating piece of paper that reeked of deceit.

 

“Are you listening Timothy?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Why are you here?”

 

“You know why.”

 

“I mean what’s your problem?”

 

“What’s my problem,” snapped Timothy angrily.  He vaulted from the chair, paced between the grayness of walls as he rapidly wringed his hands.  “I’m losing.  That’s the problem—I’m losing.”

 

“Losing what?”

 

“It’s so hard to take all of you on you know,” Timothy answered with a laugh.

 

Charles sat back down.  “You’ll never win you know.  You have to realize,” he said, “that they began this selective personality plan to better the quality of life.  You can’t defeat what they desire.”

 

Timothy chuckled.&

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