“This… this is take two. Generation nothing, where nothing chaotic, or traumatic will ever happen. This is where all the war, depression, blood, fighting is all erased. Everything is under control. You are under control. Just relax. Breathe. Exhale.”
I can’t. There’s something blocking my throat, sticking to my tongue. There’s no taste. There’s no nothing. I try to speak but no sound comes out. Or am I just not hearing anything? Static clings to the air, to the white walls, to me. Everything is shrouded in mist.
“Hold on to her legs, I’ll grab the medication.”
Blue masks, blank eyes, they all swim into my vision. My legs, arms, head, they all feel so heavy. My limbs kick and writhe, it feels like I’m swimming through water, black water, foamy waves, with shoes on. The face, the face with the blue mask, struggles with something. I’m causing trouble.
“Get me the pills, quickly.”
A meaty, pink hand grabs my face, fingers stretching my skin, forcing my jaw open. Blue pills appear, coming towards me, through the mist. I scream, shake my head, looking for something to bite.
“You need help?”
“No. But she’s a stubborn one.”
I thrash out and kick, strands of copper colored hair falling across my forehead. I can’t stop it. I can’t stop The Power. He mashes the pills into my mouth, slaps his hand around my face until I’m forced to swallow. I retreat back into the scratchy fabric of my pillow, where I feel emptier than I ever have before.
“Will ever happen. Ever, ever, ever.”
“She’s awake again.”
“Should I get more pills?”
“Let’s just see what she says first.”
My eyes open, reluctantly, and then burn in the bright, florescent lights tinted with blue. My eyelashes are wet and stuck together. I move to fix that, but my arm won’t lift.
A face comes into view. Blue mask, brown eyes, brown hair. Average, ordinary. I think I’ve seen him before.
“Lights, camera, action.”
“Hello,” He says, in a voice tinged with fake cheeriness. “Nice to see you awake.”
“How long… how long have I been here? Is this a hospital?” My voice doesn’t sound like my own. It’s hoarse and broken. I think of my old favorite doll that I smashed, long ago, legs twisted and distorted. I wonder what happened to her.
“Time…” The man, a doctor I think, muses. “It’s a relative thing, isn’t it?”
I don’t reply.
“Do you know who you are?” The doctor asks. He makes his eyes, his face go blank. I wonder what he doesn’t want me to see.
I have to think this over. My mind is filled with white noise. But I fight, I stretch. I reach into the depths of my memory. My fingers grope, search. Finally, they wrap around something, a distant sound, and cling to it.
“I’m Lilly.” I say, and suddenly, I am sure of it. “Lilly.”
For a brief second, the doctor loses control, and I see his eyes glaze over and then turn to stone. But then it passes. I wonder if I imagined it.
“Oh no,” The doctor argues. “You must still be feeling drugged. You’re number twenty four.”
“Everything is under control.”
The space between my eyebrows breaks, forming crinkles. It hurts. My skin feels like plastic. “No, what’s my name?”
“You have no name. You are simply number twenty four.”
“Lilly! Come inside!”
“Want to go get coffee, Lilly?”
“Lilly, wake up honey.”
My name triggered something. Memories come flooding in, memories without faces or pictures. Just voices, echoing through my head.
“You are under control.”
“Why did you drug me?” I demand. I whimper. I try to sit up, but the doctor’s hands turn into metal claws that grasp me by the shoulders and shove me back down. “What? Stop!”
“Bring me back the pills.” The doctor says. His voice breaks, and so does his control. He’s tired.
This time I don’t fight it when the blue pills are shoved into my mouth. I swallow. I exhale.
It’s morning I think, the next time I wake, because the doctor is holding a cup of coffee and has dark blue circles accenting his muddy brown eyes.
“Number twenty-four.” He greets, nodding to me. “How are we feeling today?”
I don’t like the way he says “we”, as if we’re a team of some sort. I don’t like him. We are not a team. It’s just me, just Lilly.
“We’re feeling good.” I reply.
Images, moving images, flicker through my mind.
Summer, warm breeze, long grass stretching and dancing along my ankles, dragon flies darting through the air like rain drops.
Card games, green dumpsters, monster faces, moving, distorted. Flies buzzing, whining, hands batting them away.
Lake, blue, mud, ripples. Ruffles, red polka dots, twirling, showing off a new bathing suit. Sand, thick and dense between my fingers, falling in tufts as I create my own personal storms.
Men, men in uniforms, navy blue, gray hair, so official, so full of authority. I hide behind a woman with a blue cotton dress when they come to the door, their hands brushing against a black, metal device strapped to their belts. Eyes, blank, so blank, like paper when they speak. Their voices, they sound like robots.
“Everything is under control. Control, control, control.”
Blinds, closing, closing, daylight, gone. Darkness. No more card games. No more catching dragon flies. No more trips to the lake. Dark, must, mold, clinging to every corner, every curve.
“Independence is just an illusion.”
“Lilly, we’re going to play a game, okay?” The woman with the blue cotton dress and eyes like melting chocolate says. She kneels, in front of me. I look at her.
“I like games.”
“And this is a fun one. I’m going to explain the rules, alright?”
Head, up, down, up, down.
“When you hear someone knock on the door, from now on, you don’t answer it. You stay far, far away from the door and go hide some place, alright?”
I muse this over, playing with a copper colored curl. “Like hide and seek?”
She nods eagerly. “Right. Like hide and seek. But this time, you can absolutely not be found.”
“We’re feeling good,” I repeat. I make eye contact, force my eyes, my face, to go blank, blank like paper, like the doctor taught me. “Perfect.”
The doctor nods. “No more hallucinations, then?”
They found me; they found me even though the woman with the blue cotton dress told me they couldn’t.
Hands, pulling me up, shoving me. Black, silky cloth wrapped around my face. Need to breathe, can barely breathe.
Scream, try to scream. I try. No sound. Help. Shoving, so much shoving. I stumble, get pushed again. The temperature changes, I’m outside. I kick, try to bite. Struggle. Shuffling. Something comes into contact with my chest; I’m on the ground, aching, all over. Inside, someone screams my name.
“No,” I answer. “No more hallucinations.”
The doctor nods, pleased I’m cooperating. “Ready for your pills, then?”
Blue pills, three of them, in my hands. The doctor watches, waits. I put them in my mouth, smile, smile like I mean it. Swallow, pretend to swallow. The doctor turns away. I spit the pills out, crush them, crush them with my fingers. Stuff them in my pillow case.
“Lights, camera, action. Take two. Everything is under control. Control, control, control.”
I slump into my bed, pretend to sleep. Make them think I’ve given up. I’ll come back fighting. Because after all, this may be generation nothing, but I’m not number twenty-four. I’m Lilly.
Videos play, dancing on the backs of my eyelids, colors and shapes whizzing by as I struggle to identify them. Voices tune in and out, like a cassette tape. Doctors come and go. My eyes are blank, blank like paper. Clean slate.
Claire Seymour, Age 14, Grade 9, Packer Collegiate Institute, Silver Key