Story Time: Christmas Ever

Merry Christmas, Dear Reader!

As you may know, my good friend and missive writer extraordinaire, Cade Fon Apollyon, unexpectedly died in July. What you may not know, however, is that at the start of 2022, he was about to be made homeless…

*It’s not been great, Clicky..*

… Fortunately, that didn’t happen but the start of January was a worrisome time; he had to decide what to do with his stuff that he couldn’t carry on him, which included his computer and all his writings on it…

*That was a epic scrolling sesh through DMs last night to find Cade’s permission, Clicky…*

Christmas Ever was Cade’s first foray into fictional writing and it appeared in Underdog Anthology IV in December 2017. It is kinda long, so I suggest you get yourself a drink, settle back and enjoy because the pay-off is spectacular… 😉

*******

Christmas Ever

by C.F. Apollyon

Voice: What is clean?

Patient 4: I’ve had some thoughts about that.

We spend a great deal of time trying to work out the particulars of the concept of clean. We remove. We add. We remove one thing by adding another. I sometimes wonder about the mechanics of the processes involved in cleaning, and the oversight involved in determining what is worthy of the label: clean.

Aren’t all of those things connected? These things that are removed….where do they go? And where did they come from that they needed to be here? What is this strange factory that produces these things that need to be removed? And is that company also owned by the same people that create the things that need to be added to remove the other? Anyway, these particular rooms definitely appear…clean.

Four white walls covered by what appears to be an ocean of white paint. Upon closer inspection, hundreds of small rivulets of this paint can be seen just about everywhere, so one might assume that the entirety of the painting process was done in rapid fashion. Maybe we are onto something there as to the origins of this cleaning process and its necessity. Perhaps cinder blocks, or, “breeze-blocks” as they are known elsewhere in the world, were not meant to be painted?

The channels of mortar between the gaps in cinder blocks appear to be the catalyst for the paint rivulets. Perhaps the paint itself is to blame, or even the choice of paint type? What if the blocks were painted prior to installation? No…that wouldn’t work. Surely the masonry workers are as hasty about their work as the painters, and there would surely be chipping of the paint as these heavy blocks were moved about from place to place. I wonder how many times these blocks were moved from place to place before finally arriving here where I find them today. I wonder what the person who manufactured this particular block here, had for dinner last night.

What did I have for dinner last night? Was last evening last night? I try not to think about day and night that much anymore.

White flooring with slightly shiny and reflective tiles that are somehow not slippery except when wearing only socks as a footwear choice. They take our shoes, and only give us socks to wear here. Only one door to get in and out. I know where the door is, but considering the socks and how slippery the floor is when wearing them, I won’t be getting out of this room in any hurry. I guess I could take them off. Under duress, I wonder if I would have time to remove my socks, and how the time taken to remove them would improve the amount of time it would take to cover the distance to the door. To be as complete as possible in my thinking, there would be much more distance to cover once one were out the door and beyond this room. Perhaps I should take my socks with me should I need to put them on again.

Thinking about it now, and under certain circumstances, I’m not too sure as to how “clean” this single door design can be. But it appears that someone worked it out as being acceptable, and now here it is, willed into existence. Never mind that the locking mechanism that can only be opened from the outside is going to be a hindrance should I need to vacate this room post-haste. I don’t recall anyone mentioning that we were to be housed in locked rooms to which we, the volunteers, would have no key.

Brightly lit. I’m not sure that I’ve seen this many light fixtures in such a small room before. Not that the room is particularly small. It’s actually quite large, and certainly large to be a room designed for a single occupant. Irrespective, the number of light fixtures seems…excessive. The manufacturer who makes these light fixtures most likely had a heart-attack at the amount of money to be made on this contract, should they be the one to win it. It was probably simultaneously heart-breaking as they carved pennies off of individual components here and there to come up with a winning bid. I wonder if they kept track of how much money was lost by being the winning bidder. Considering the number of light fixtures in this room alone, multiplied by the size of this facility…Wow. I would imagine it would have been enough to pay off the mortgage, and still have enough left over to buy summer homes for every employee in the company. Not that companies are known to do that. Probably just paid a lot of overtime wages for the duration of the contract in lieu of wage increases, and the workers were probably thankful for it. Make hay while the sun shines.

Does the sun even go down any more?

The desk is rather small, and the chair quite uncomfortable. In tandem, it is quite uncomfortable to sit and write for any period of time. Such a massive room compared to the “major” components that currently occupy it. A room designed to be occupied by a single occupant. I wonder how far the designers went in calculating who and what would occupy this room. Much to think about there with respect to who chose what and where over spans of time. Perhaps the desk is not small, but that the room is big? No. I can’t think like that. Destructive thinking in a constructive environment serves no one. There can be no standardization within standardized testing without a certain resonance to maintain that flow. They certainly didn’t hire anyone familiar with Fung Shui to design this place.

I can only assume that “flow” from a scientific perspective, requires room. Vast amounts of room, with little to no hindrances. Sounds more like a vacuum to me. And that’s what this pressurized and climate-controlled “clean” building feels like – a vacuum. But doesn’t science also contend that vacuums are “unnatural”? Maybe that’s what causes the underlying “insidious resonance” that permeates this place. An unquenchable desired to return to its natural state, which is foiled by exacting dimensions of exacting specifications, that are relentlessly reinforced by the electricity that drives the machinery, which never allows this structure to relax. Pressures and temperatures are strictly maintained, and inputs closely monitored to determine outputs. All routines are…well…routine. These routines are extraordinarily involved, and yet quite mundane. So much for “exemplary” being anything other than “average” I guess. But isn’t that the nature of flow? Aggregate? “No one raindrop thinks that it calls the flood?” or something like that?

I noticed a hole in one of my socks this morning. I wonder how long it would take me to locate and reassemble those missing fibres?

They’ll be coming soon. I’ve no idea what time it is since they don’t afford us clocks, there are no clocks in the hallways nor anywhere else, and no one wears watches in the entire facility. Not that I’ve seen anyway, but I do know that they’ll be coming soon. I can only wonder what they will make of these most recent – how do I describe this? – “Most recent events”. I certainly don’t understand them.

It is certain that I can comprehend these changes in myself and my room, but I’ve no understanding of them nor what transpired as to what cause them. Unusual that they would happen at a “less-interaction” time period. A scheduled period of time where no staff interacts nor engages directly with me for a specified time. These times vary, and I never know how long these periods will be. Or at least, I’m not supposed to know. But, I have gotten quite good at guessing when they will occur and for how long. Irrespective of my ability to interpolate and estimate quite accurately, and my newfound quandaries as to when estimates cease being estimations, I can honestly say that I didn’t see this coming. I only need to move the bed before they get here. Or should I leave it for contrast?

It’s doubtful they will notice I’ve left my clothes locker in its original position. It’s small since it only contains three t-shirts and two pairs of these sleep-pants they make us wear. It remains firmly planted on the floor in its original position, just to the right of the door as one enters my room. Have I mentioned that there are actually two doors in my doorway? The outside door opens out, the inside door opens inwards towards the room, and I suppose that this is to act as a noise buffer. I once recorded some of my music in a recording studio that had the exact same design. Two heavy oak doors that were meticulously hanged in their frames, and further sealed with sound-proof weather stripping wherever there was a gap. Quite clever actually.

They aren’t fond of change, changes or changing. The logic in this thinking of theirs baffles me since the whole point of their drug testing program and programs are to actuate and facilitate change. To be more specific, they are trying to change a change that is in mid-change. No wonder they seem to despise change. They are doing the equivalent of throwing a running chainsaw into a wood-chipper to see which one wins, under what circumstances, and repeating that same test over and over with completely new and different subjects. Trying to isolate and quantify a variance that they themselves are generating.

I wonder if they see their methods the same way that I do. Irrespective, their methods most likely keeps chainsaw and wood-chipper manufacturers happy. Perhaps scratching their heads as to where all the trees are coming from, and where they are going to, but happy. I wonder if those manufactures also had to bid for their contracts. I guess I’d better digress before I get too silly with my analogy that somehow compares a competition between chainsaws and wood-chippers, to modern medical drug testing programs and their methodologies. Dumping a medication into a person isn’t even remotely close to a competition between shredding and chopping devices….is it?

It baffles them that I know exactly how long I’ve been here, yet keep no calendar, nor do I mark time in any way. 3 years, 4 months, 16 days. Strange that I never know whether it is day or night. I wonder if they are simply humoring me by telling me that my knowledge of my time spent here is exact. I’m certain that my inability to know whether it is night or day confounds them. The staff works odd shifts, and they rotate these shifts so as to keep all of the drug testers off-balance is my best guess. However, I can only assume that certain staff actually live on-site for certain periods of time, which is how they somehow appear to never sleep, arriving at all hours of the day and night.

I can’t remember what it is like to sleep. “To sleep? Perchance to dream?” I cannot help but giggle to myself that I remember those lines, but yeah…that’s destructive…don’t go there. That does get me to thinking though…I wonder if the staff, or at least some of them, are actually former drug-testers like me.

Perhaps I should mention how long the tester, 17 doors down from me, has been here. Or maybe both the tester 17 doors down and the tester in the adjacent building that is in room A-11-A on the 7th floor. I can only wonder as to their reaction should I be correct. Perhaps they should shuffle us in our rooms and see if my sequencing abilities remain intact. Or if not, how long it takes them to re-coalesce. Why should a room be numbered “A-11-A” that is on the 7th floor? And should I tell them that I also know that sequencing schematic and all of the particulars as to why they do it? The tester across the hall was bleeding for some reason last night. Not sure from where, nor why, but there is a bit of blood that remains on the t-shirt they used to stem the bleeding. I’ve never actually seen the tester across the hall, but I know them a bit. I know they went to great lengths to remove the blood from the shirt, and that they are nervous about the staff discovering it.

Oh no. The tester across the hall is bleeding again. I hope they know that I am on the verge of tears over here. Not to make them feel guilty; I certainly don’t want that. Just that I know that they are worried and scared, and that I’m not trying to intrude. I feel for them. Good thoughts. Good Karma. Good vibrations. Fung fucking Shui. Chi or Chee or vanilla chai tea or whatever in the hell it would take to make them feel the slightest bit better.

God almighty! Am I beating them up with Kung-Fu Kindness? I shudder at that thought. Is that possible? Suddenly, that “killing with kindness” quip sounds less appealing than ever. Maybe just a quick prayer of sorts will be sufficient. The time has come for me to move the bed, and I’ve estimated it’s going to take me approximately 6 hours to do so. That’ll leave about 17 minutes. 17 minutes before the first of what will most likely be a record number of visitors today. I wonder who they will be.

I just had the most odd of impulses. I have these impulses all the time, but I usually dismiss them because of the staff rotations. But I have the strangest feeling that my first visitor is going to be one of the directors. One of the directors meaning, one of the managing directors. He’s a doctor. Actually a doctor many times over, who holds multiple PhD’s in medicine and business. Also a Master’s Degree in music of all damn things. I’ve met him before, we’ve spoken, and I can only assume that my being a self-taught musician, and his holding a Master’s in music is cause for some of the friction between us. Ironic that we are both musicians whose musical careers were both commercial flops. Perhaps we should start a band. Heh Heh Heh. Got to go, but maybe if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll inquire as to his interest in starting a band. I guess I’ve got 6 hours and 14 minutes to think up a band name.

It just occurred to me that I’ve been here for 3 years, 4 months, and 16 days. I entered this room on August 8, of 2014. August 8th is my father’s birthday. Or at least, it was my father’s birthday until he died. Anyway…that means that today is Christmas Eve. Wow. Why are specific dates suddenly flooding into my head?

That means today is December 24th of 2017…Christmas Eve. That means, that tomorrow is Christmas…Christmas Day.

Note to self: I may or may not want to wish Dr. Music a “Merry Christmas” and “A Happy New Year”. Gotta factor in that this day will probably stick with Dr. Music for some time to come, and perhaps the rest of his life. Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Ever for Dr. Music and his colleagues and investors and family and on and on and on. It’s a lot to think about, and it really does weigh on me. Ironic that visually, I would assume that not much would appear to be weighing on me at all. But he can make his own best determinations as to the physical qualities of my being when he gets here. I’ve no idea what to tell him. Maybe “the band idea” will lighten things up a bit. Why am I suddenly calling him Dr. Music?

***

Voice: What are you doing?

Dr. Mews: I wish that I knew.

The sun is setting. It’s low in the afternoon sky. That cannot be right.

Voice: Why not?

Dr.Mews: Because my alarm clock will be going off soon. There is no clock on my alarm, so why do I still refer to it as an alarm clock?

Voice: Only you can answer that.

I’m standing alone in the living area. The view is outside the rear window on this house. I say “this house”, because I do not live here. Or at least, I don’t own it. It’s owned by the Company, and used to temporarily house employees that are in site-to-site rotation. Its rear window, made of four huge glass panes that must be at least twelve feet tall each, faces the river. And the river is to the east. I am facing east, and looking east, yet the sun is setting. Why is the sun setting in the eastern sky?

Voice: Where is your family?

Dr.Mews: They are at home. Asleep like me. I’m dreaming. I’m thinking of them, but I’m not dreaming of them. Is that an unusual distinction to make within a dream?

Voice: I’ll let you answer that one as well.

I have to be dreaming this, because the sun is setting in the eastern sky. The sun is in the correct position to set were everything flipped and facing west, but the sun rises from this same easterly direction in a completely different place. So it has to be setting. It’s entirely too far south to be rising.

Voice: That picture there. Is that your family?

I listen to the voice as I continue to look out the window at the unusual setting sun, turning my head slightly to notice the picture of my wife and three children that is sitting on the small table next to the window. It’s the only personal item that I carry with me when I travel. As with the rest of the contents of the room, everything is oriented as it should be within the photo. Correct places, correct orientations, my wife’s wedding ring is visible and on her left hand, which appears to the right since she is facing the camera.

Dr. Mews: Yes, that is my family.

Voice: How many are in your family?

I count the faces in the photo.

Dr. Mews: My wife and three children. So…there are four in my family.

Voice: I see five.

The alarm seems to work in one regard. I’ve no idea what time it actually is, but the crests of where the horizons of earth and sky meet seems to be the correct shades of blue to properly indicate morning. I guess it works in all regards: one, it’s loud; two, it’s precise; three, I’ve no idea what time it is and; four, it’s efficient and effective.

It’s also irritating on virtually every level, but at least I can sleep. The same cannot be said for many of the residents on-site, but hopefully that will change. That’s the goal. Or at least, one of them.

This is quite a nice residence, but I admit that I hate being on-site. I cannot bring my family, and it makes me feel so distant from both them and everyone else that lives here. Like some rogue interloper that’s always leaving one family for another. Let’s skip the coffee and get to the pertinents.

The Time-Sequencer-Variant-Unit, or, Tim’S VU. Not very creative with respect to acronyms, and the “VU” portion admittedly took me aback when I first heard it since “VU” usually refers to a Volume Unit Meter. But when I learned that the person who created this apparatus was named Tim, and that Tim was also a musician, it started to make a bit more sense to me. Time and timing is everything in music. Many parts, at many times, and Tim’S VU was much more than some randomly timed noise-maker that told you when to prepare for sleep and when to wake. It was more like a clock of clocks that somehow kept no time, and yet kept perfect time, as if it were somehow dialled in and connected to the universe itself.

I’ve understood the basic premise of the device since I was first introduced to it. But the embedded nature of some of the thinking that Tim did to create it still confounds and amazes me. I wonder sometimes about asking Tim to actually connect a VU Meter to one of these devices for me so that I could perhaps watch it rise and fall as it does whatever it is that it is doing. I’ve spent some time in a recording studio myself, and watching the VU meters rise and fall on the large mixing consoles was always like watching a choreographed dance of indications as to the sounds being routed from and to their proper places within the whole of the music being played and recorded. Needs a little more here, a little less there. I’ve no idea what led him to, nor how he actually connected these things, but he did.

Now the entire system is connected via satellite via a complex routing of a minimum of computers and infrastructures. “A Merging” is how Tim himself describes it. “Non-Impact-Architecture” is what the base system has become to be known internally. An active and passive sonar system of sorts, that pings only when and where it can, and listens the rest of the time for these opportunities to present themselves. How it pings, who it pings and when, Tim admits is as much a mystery to him as everyone else. He simply stumbled across these “time gaps” while looking for something else entirely. The dimensional aspects of these gaps, and how the system calculates them is also quite involved yet mysterious. The system has no database and no records are kept.

On record: This is Dr. Issac Mews dictating. We are currently on-record until otherwise specified. Again Dr. Issac Mews dictating on unknown date, at unknown time, and I am dictating post a successful TSVU sleep arousal from a successful sleep cycle. Sleep cycle commenced at unknown time on unknown date. Sleep cycle was alone, in a bed, and occurred in unspecified guest residence on unspecified site. Specifics will be amended per standard procedure in what should be Appendix A of this report unless otherwise noted.

One dream in the most recent sleep cycle, and the dream was fairly lucid and clear. Contents were primarily known landscape and known infrastructure within a known and familiar environment, with the only discrepancy being that certain aspects outwardly were reversed, such as the sun setting in the correct position but in the wrong direction, while certain inward aspects remained constant, consistent and correct. Inward aspects that remained correct were and are, familiar and/or personal items that displayed dimensionally correct. Physical proportions in all cases, inwardly and outwardly, remained consistent in scalar terms, and no size aberrations were noted. Initial post-sleep conclusion being that the most recent dream-state is indicative of both normal REM sleep and continued normal sleep patterns.

Off-record. Good Morning to you Transcriptionist Number 74.

I’ve no idea who Transcriptionist #74 actually is. I only know the procedures and protocols that are used within the division of the Company that handles all of the transcription, and know that the suffix of the report number on each transcribed report refers to a specific transcriptionist. As in “Report #AAA000.74”, with the “.74” portion of the report number being a reference to a specific person.

I know this, because up until about 4 years ago, this number was always changing when I proofread my transcribed dictation. Typically, I had to send a report back 4 to 5 times with corrections. After speaking with several others about the quality of their reports, and their telling me similar with respect to corrections, I became convinced that some department had to be padding their particular cost-center numbers for some reason since our cost-center is billed by the line with respect to transcribed reports. An internal conspiracy may be a bit of a stretch under the circumstances perhaps, but after reading the reports while listening to copies of my own dictation, I could not understand how the most simple of words could be misheard and mistyped by a professional transcriptionist.

Professional medical transcriptionist no less. While we typically do no use much medical terminology in most of our dictation within the company, we are most of us medical doctors. These medical transcriptionists are people who spend their days typing at a furious 80 to 100 words per minute, and these words are mostly what one might refer to as “25-cent words” of the medical variety. Words like “Ganglioglioma” and “Gastroenteritis” and “Gastroenterologist” or “Campylobacter” would probably be considered some of the more tame terminology in our unusual vernacular. I can only imagine what the word count per minute must be within transcribing reports that contain a more common and less medical vernacular. I am thinking of both “less-medical vernacular” and “Campylobacter” in the same thought. I’ve no idea why that sprung to mind. Which reminds me that I need to eat.

I made a few inquiries as to the quality of my reports, and eventually everything began to change. The quality did not improve, it got worse. So, I made a few changes myself. Upon listening to my own dictation, I began to notice things on the recordings that seemed to synch-up with some of the errors on the transcribed reports. Things like me coughing, or turning my head, or dictating while I was driving, or on an airplane. One of the worst though, was leaving my hand-held recorder on after I had stopped dictating. I later learned that the transcriptionist must sit there and listen to the silence, no matter how long it is, to ensure that I do not begin dictating again. Most transcriptionists do not get paid to sit and listen to silence.

I also learned that there are routines built-in to the software that transfers the dictation portions from the recording device to the transcription servers. During the upload and transfer of the digital audio recordings, these routines search the digital files for extended periods of silence, remove them, then concatenate the file portions that contain audio back together. However, these routines are typically not successful when the recorder is left on where people are talking in the background. I suddenly became aware of the possibility of a transcriptionist having to sit through a sudden romantic interlude between me and my wife that occurred on the kitchen table because the children were out of the house and we were alone. We were not; some damn fool had left the handheld dictation device on just prior to our rendezvous. We’ve been known to be…spirited.

This got me to thinking about audio levels, which got me to thinking about Tim’S VU. I discussed some thoughts about automation with my colleagues, but they suggested that I was already on the right track by attempting to be more mindful about when, where, and how I was dictating. I agreed with them. Automation is not always the answer, and sometimes not even “an” answer. Automation doesn’t always exist, and where it does it exist, augmentation to existing processes always has the potential to create more problems than it resolves. In addition, they congratulated me on having a frisky-wife and added that they would love to hear the audio, should it ever surface. Doctors can be cantankerous. But in parting there was yet another glimmer of hope – it was noted that transcriptionists are quite well versed in both poor dictation habits and cranky doctors with attitude issues. Also that transcriptionists tend to be quite discrete and even protective of those who they transcribe for. There are more than just and only doctors and transcriptionists involved in these processes. We are dealing with patients and those patient’s personal information. Personal information so sensitive, that most of the time this information is only shared between doctor and patient via a patient that would most likely rather not be sharing it. Noted. It’s amazing what we sometimes forget, and why.

On-record: Aberrative observations. One: A detached voice of a primarily interrogative but seemingly non-malevolent nature. Approximately 3 to 5 questions were asked, all were addressed directly to me, and were all specific to me. However I would add that direct as though these question were, there was an unusual vagueness within the specificity of the contents and contexts of this and these inquiries. Almost as if the unseen presence already knew the answers to the questions I was being asked.

Note to typist: colon aberrative observation one comma footnote one colon to follow. Continuing current dictation, comma, I would also note that this exchange was brief but within the confines of what can only be described as a casual conversation between acquaintances, with no further qualification as to the depth of the relationship between these acquaintances. The lack of any further qualification being an attempt on my part to avoid any unnecessary nomenclatures or distinctions.

Off-record: Hello again Number 74. I actually think I said good morning the first time, but I hope that you are having a good day, whatever time it is where you are. I’m going to take a quick break and then try and skip down to aberrative observation one, footnote one. I apologize for having to insert that note where I did, and hope that my jumping to old school dictation techniques didn’t throw off your rhythm too bad. I just remembered something that I think important during the process of me trying to recall my dream. I’ll let you know if we need to start anywhere other than footnote one. Be right back.

I double and triple check the handheld dictation recorder any time that I turn it on or off. Perhaps Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is actually some personal penitence that we assign ourselves to keep us from repeating our same mistakes.

Whoever Transcriptionist #74 is, they are a master at what they do and have been so since the first day they appeared in my life. I didn’t request them nor anyone else, nor have I requested that #74 remain the only transcriptionist that transcribes my reports. But that is how it has worked out.

I no longer have to dictate punctuation. They add it for me, and it’s almost always perfect. Why is my mind suddenly wandering to Patient #4? I’m going to assume that it is the “4” in “74” that has my mind straying a bit. I rarely have to inform #74 that they need to call up certain templates for certain reports, but I tend to try and do so. A horrible thought has just crept into my head. What if #74 were to suddenly disappear? Would I be dictating a linguistic nightmare to whoever replaced them? I think my head and heart are suddenly feeling just about as low as humanly possible right now. What sort of corporate nightmare have we created?

I appreciate everything that this person does for me, all while simultaneously taking it for granted. My God…has this person ever even had a vacation? Had to take off sick? Bereavement? I depend on this person absolutely, and yet I know nothing about them. I’ve always considered my dropping by to meet them in person as being rude, and potentially even creepy, never mind that it violates Company policy to do so. Is that why I feel so comfortable? Company policy?

Still off record Number 74. I’m going to start off with footnote One, but I did want to give you a bit of a heads-up. After the footnote is complete, and barring any other unforeseens, I will be moving on to form Alpha Eleven Alpha. That’s capital letter “A”, dash one one, dash capital letter “A”, or Alpha Eleven Alpha. I hadn’t intended on this, but I think I’m going to need a special form to prepare for today, so if you want to go ahead and do whatever it is you need to do to call up that particular template, maybe this little heads-up will help. I have to pause here for a second.

It’s not unusual for doctors to make “off record” notes in their dictation. However we always try to keep it brief, to the point, and as business related as possible. However, it is also not unusual to make non-specific personal annotations and comments directed specifically at whoever is listening to the recording of the dictation and actually transcribing the report. However, only one person transcribes my reports, and has for several years now. Is that what’s bothering me? Or is it my upcoming visit with Patient Four? What the hell. You only get one opportunity to fuck things up completely and correctly, so why not.

Still off record Number 74. I don’t know who you are, but I just want you to know that I appreciate everything that you do. I apologize if and when I take you, and what you do, for granted. Even though you will not be transcribing the previous sentence, I’m sure that it would contain all of the commas or any other punctuation in the correct places. I do notice these things and I thank you for noticing them too.

On-record: Aberrative observation One, footnote One.

I had to pause again. I was tempted to fall back on older methods and actually dictate the punctuation and any other specifics, but I feel I cannot do that here and now. I have to let them be who they are. It is, after all, why they are where they are. I guess I better take a few more breaths and collect myself before continuing. I have to rely on them, and rely on myself to rely on them.

An interesting note about a specific exchange within the scope of the conversation that took place within my dream-state. There was a particular query that was originally thought by me to be rather straightforward and direct. The question asked of me by this detached voice was simple: How many are in your family? My answer appeared to be incorrect according to this unseen participant. Within my dream, there was a picture of my wife and children, and it was and is the same photo that I carry with me when away from home or travelling. I have one wife, and three children, they are all in the photo, so in response to the question asked, I responded four. The detached voice quickly but gingerly corrected me, and stated bluntly that they saw five. “I see five”. That was the verbatim response. I can only assume that the fifth member of my family to which this voice was referring to was me. In my dream, this voice had specifically referenced the photo, so I simply counted the faces of my wife and children. For the sake of space, I will be omitting further comment at this time. However, I’m going to request that an additional copy of this report be sent to my office so that the report can be amended later.

Off-record Number 74. And if you could pull up that Alpha Eleven Alpha template now, I should be dictating less hindered from here now that I have that footnote off my chest. It felt like the elephant in the room was sitting on my chest. Apologies for the parlance.

Beep Beep. The Time-Sequencer-Variant-Unit just beeped twice. That means two hours until my visit with Patient Four, give or take ten minutes either way. Once you start operating on Tim’S VU time, absolutes with respect to time, as we know it, go right out the window. Did I think the word “fuck” earlier? What in the hell has gotten into me?

***

Voice: What are you doing?

Patient 4: I have no idea.

This is not what I expected. Not where I expected to be. It’s been four hours, and I’ve somehow managed only to move the bed to the opposite side of the room. On the upside, the bed itself is upside-down. Heh heh. A strange upside perhaps, but an upside nonetheless. I’ve two hours to go. Perhaps I’ve missed something?

Moving the bed may seem like a simple task, but not here, and certainly not now. The beds here are more of a cot than an actual bed. The bed’s frame is light and rather flimsy, topped by a thin, soft mattress that gets replaced every few months. More aggregate and more vendor contracts to contemplate. I wonder what they do with the old ones.

I had six hours to complete my task of moving the bed, but I didn’t calculate that it would actually take that long. I also need to remember to move my clothes locker a bit once I get the bed moved. But just a bit.

I was quite convinced that there were no surveillance cameras in the rooms, but I was only partially correct. There are cameras in the room, or at least, a camera. One – in the corner – above the clothes locker, and the clothes locker is situated to where it is out of view of the camera. I suppose so that the blind spot in the corner would be the only place where someone could hide, and the clothes locker being placed in that particular corner prevents someone from hiding there. Anyone standing in front of, or even crouching in front of it, can be seen by the camera.

Quite clever actually. Someone obviously put a hell of a lot of thought into this. If the clothes locker is moved at all, even slightly, it will be visible to the camera. If the clothes locker is moved to a different part of the room, they will notice and assume that someone is hiding unseen in the corner. I’m sure they have some sort of checklist for when they first turn the camera on, and the clothes locker is most likely the most important item on that list. Not that there is much in the way of furnishings in this room, but there is some beauty to the simplicity of it all.

The cameras are almost never on. They turn the camera on a few minutes before any visitors arrive, leave it on for the duration of the visit, then turn it off a few minutes after the visitor leaves. The camera is tiny, well placed, and it took me a long time to discover it. I’ve never actually seen it, but I know it’s there.

My thinking is that if I move the clothes locker just enough, its top corner should be visible in the camera when they turn it on. This should cause them to change their visitation protocol for the current visitation, and Dr. Music will not be my first visitor of the day, but my second.

Any visitors after Dr. Music will most likely have to draw straws among themselves. I can’t imagine anyone being anxious to drop by. But Dr. Music will be. He’s already anxious about visiting, but I get the feeling he’s very nervous.

Voice: Any ideas as to what he might be nervous about?

Patient 4: Camera. Wait…not “a” camera…but…cameras. Cameras, as in…plural.

Voice: Pictures?

Patient 4: Pictures? Or…”a” picture? Yeah. A picture.

Voice: So, if I’ve got this straight, your Dr. Music is nervous about cameras, plural, but only “a” picture. Do I have that straight?

Patient 4: That’s the best that I can figure.

Voice: Pretty good at figuring are you?

Patient 4: Not really.

A few tics under two hours. I won’t move the clothes locker until I can get my bed moved to where it needs to be. Perhaps I should move it back to where it was, and start over.

Voice: Whatever you think is best.

Let me try a few other things first. I’m not fond of going backwards. The last time I went backwards when doing something like this was quite unpleasant.

***

On-Record: This is Dr. Issac Mews, dictating from Residence One, Site One, and the current date is October 24, of 2017, exact time unknown. We are currently in the year of a twenty two cycle, that’s two two cycle, so the actual date is December 24, 2017, with October 24 being two months behind the current actual date. The uncanny nature of the lack of numerical variance within randomization routines is, ironically, remarkable. Not only is the lack of numerical variances within approved randomization protocols remarkable, this significance is augmented by the numerical significances of the numbers themselves. Even attempts to randomize the randomization routines themselves have returned result sets that can only be described as extraordinary.

God almighty…I have to pause for a moment. The date is supposed to be October 24, but it’s actually December 24. Two months forward, and two months back. Two plus two equals four. Two four two. Or even, twenty four forwards, forty two backwards. These numbers meant nothing to me until I stumbled into the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. Don’t numbers start to lose their meaning when we tinker with an established and relevant base? I’ve no idea. Or at least, I don’t know any more.

I swear, if there is an afterlife, and I get there, I’m gonna punch someone in the nose for all the grief they’ve caused me. Not really, but it’s a funny thought to imagine to take the edge off. What in the hell am I doing here on Christmas Eve? Gotta remember to punch Carl Jung in the nose at some point. Maybe I could call it “The Synchro-Fist-City Punch”…or something like that. I only know that the numerics portions of his “Synchronicity” concept are cause for a great deal of dismay in certain sectors of this modern world of ours. I guess even the most staunch of any discipline or belief system can be bent or broken under the right circumstances.

Form Alpha Eleven Alpha, and I am recommending Alpha Eleven Alpha, Back To Front Protocol. All eyes, all departments, all eleven divisions, All eleven exclusions. It is my recommendation that standard randomization protocol be followed for the eleven exclusions of eleven, and under no circumstances is standard randomization protocol to be modified in any way prior to the randomization event. One exclusion per division, and the eleven excluded employees are to be included within 24 hours of report delivery. Standard procedure dictates that the eleven employees randomly selected for exclusion are to be included 48 hours after an A11A report delivery, but I am modifying this ad-hoc to 24 hours, and recommend that this be the only deviation from any and all A11A handling protocols with respect to this particular A11A report.

Break. Personal annotation.

There are those groups, within the company and elsewhere, that tend to scoff at the significance of numerical patterns, and I include myself within these groups although I personally do not identify with any particular group or school of thought. However, the basis of most all work with numbers, is in fact, the search for numerical significance and significances. I cannot help but note the duality that becomes apparent in two different contexts of finding these numbers we seek. Set A being finding the numbers we seek, and Set B being finding the numbers we were not seeking, but expected. One tends to bring happiness and possibly even relief, and one set tends to bring anger and possibly even dismay.

I feel it necessary to point out that in and among these duality sets lurks a third set, and that is Set C – finding numbers that we were not seeking, unexpected and/or do not understand. Finding numbers of this and these qualities tends to invoke fear, and perhaps even inspire terror, as we find ourselves, for lack of a better term”off the map”. I must also point out that in my studies, subsequent to the events that provoked their necessity, have shown that these unforeseen results sets are anything but “off the map”, and are in fact quite well documented. At the risk of sounding a shade, for lack of a better word, “edificationistic”, the numbers recently so common in our studies are indicative of not the numbers being off the map, but rather it is that we ourselves are “off the map”. What exactly this means, I am not entirely sure. I am simply of the mind that any and all considerations should be given to the significance and insignificance of our findings, and that both are potentially equally applicable.

There are going to be some who aren’t going to like me changing the delivery time frame for excluded employees, and they aren’t going to like it one bit. But it’s within my power to do so, it’s my prerogative, and I’ve never done it before. Never felt the need. I wonder if #74 even knows what “Back To Front Protocol” is? I better mention it.

Off-record: hello again Number 74, I’m going to be as thorough as I can here, but I feel the need to start with the History section since there will most likely need to be some need for oversight and fact checking with respect to Form Alpha Eleven Alpha, going all the way back.

Wait…scratch that…I’m sorry….I need to start with Requests and Recommendations, pending, and then we’ll go to History from there. Are we straight on that Number 74? God I hope you are, because I’m all over the place today. I apologize for that. Also, not trying to tell you your business, but it just occurred to me that you may not be familiar with the “Back To Front Protocol” for form Alpha Eleven Alpha. I described it in my dictation a bit, and it simply means that everyone within the company will get a copy of this report. So I guess that means you’ll get one too, so you may not want to make any typos. Just a little humor Number 74. Oh, and eleven employees will be randomly selected to be excluded from receiving the report for 48 hours, but I’ve amended this to be reduced to only 24 hours. Just thought you might like to know that in the event you didn’t already. I guess if you don’t get the report when everyone else does, it won’t really matter since you are hearing it’s contents well in advance.

I’ve little doubt that there are those… um….”within the architecture”, we’ll say, who listen to each and every dictation by each and every person. I’m also quite sure that there are most likely some of these “less official” raw diction recordings that “make the rounds” when they are of particular interest to whoever they are of particular interest to. If so, I’m sure that my sudden banter with Transcriptionist #74 will most likely raise some eyebrows, but I don’t care. I tire of the voyeuristic nature of the managerial processes and processors that are completely removed from the processes themselves, yet somehow deeply entrenched in the process. I’m not even sure that my synopsis or estimation of what is transpiring where, and at who’s behest, is even quasi-accurate. Hell, I’m not even sure it’s quasi-classifiable. I don’t despise my fellow executives and managers. It’s as tough a job as any. I’ve no idea what I’m trying to convince myself of here.

On-record: Requests and Recommendations, item one. External. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the request is dated October 23 of 2017, and this is this actual date of request with no internal amendments nor alterations to the date specified on the request. Specific contents of request and copy of letter to be included with this report. Summary of request is the addition of four to eight more wildlife observation sites on and/or at Company Site One, internal site designation Potomac Plus. Fish and Wildlife observation sites are to be equipped with one video camera and/or one trail-cam per site. These additional four to eight observation sites are needed to augment the existing thirty-two sites that already exist, and The Department of Fish and Wildlife states that they need these additional sites to augment the existing gaps in coverage that exist because of oversight with the design and placement of the original thirty-two sites.

Jesus H. Christ. I’ve had this request for barely a week now, and it makes my head want to cave-in just thinking about it. It was sent and received, right at what is now two months ago, and I’m already quite certain that someone has already somehow taken some further liberties with the existing observation sites that they installed three years ago. I’ve got to settle down a shade; stay positive, keep your humor, just…tame it, OK? Fuck it.

Request is approved for eight additional sites with conditions, and conditions to be met are as follows.

Condition 1: Each site is to be equipped with either a single video camera or a single trail cam, and not both. Any wildlife observation site, including existing sites, that is found by company security, maintenance, the lawn care team or any other employee of the company, to have, or appear to have more than one camera of any kind, will be hereby authorized to take any/all additional cameras, as long as they leave at least one at the individual observation site where the additional cameras were found. They may then do whatever they choose with this and/or these additional cameras, as they are now their own personal property, since there is only supposed to be one camera per observation site.

I can guarantee, that the NSA or CIA or FBI or even all of those, are going to be falling over each other trying to get those additional cameras off-site before they can be proven by their own internal investigations departments that there are in fact, more than thirty-two cameras currently installed on-site here at Site One. Should be quite the rugby scrum between agencies to see who owns which ones.

I must say though, that I am already feeling sorry of the Department of Fish and Wildlife employees who’ll be caught up in this mess, but I’m sure that there are already plenty of people internal to that agency that are well informed as to other agencies and their interests. A sharp-eyed groundskeeper found the first “aberrant” site, and it was actually one of the twenty-eight sights that are actually on Company grounds, on-site, and not one of the four sites that are just beyond the perimeter fence. That land is also owned by the Company, but technically not on-site. Hence the distinctions of Site One and Potomac Plus, which are actually the same thing. Site One is everything inside the perimeter fence, Potomac Plus is the entire site, which includes Site One.

The camera housing was pointed at the sky, but the camera itself appeared to have been removed from the camera housing, and the internal camera portion was now held to the bottom of the camera housing with duct tape. It was also now pointed directly at building three. They obviously had issues in the process, and had run a new cable that they didn’t even bother to bury in some places out near, and just beyond the perimeter fence. The groundskeeper who found it was actually trimming the hedges nearby, and the camera looked broken at first observation. But upon closer inspection, he noted the duct tape, was worried that something else was going on, and he reported it to security. For the most part we ignored it. We reported to Fish and Wildlife that one of their cameras appeared to have a wardrobe or some other malfunction. They quickly came out to “fix it”, and according to our own security team, there now appears to be at least four cameras at that particular site.

There are those within the Company that have spun some wild tales as to who tampered with that first camera, up to and including the gardener who found it. The logic of some being, the government is watching us, and they wanted us to know it. I’ve no idea, and to be honest, I don’t care. That sounds hateful. I need to dial this back.

Condition 2: Each additional site is to be maintained by Fish and Wildlife, with no exceptions.

Condition 3: That the Department of Fish and Wildlife submit for review, plans for suggestions of any sites that can be restructured, repositioned and/or removed completely.

I guess they think I don’t pay taxes, but I do, just like everybody else.

Condition 4: That the Director of Fish and Wildlife, along with the Director and/or Directors of the specific studies and or programs related to the observational data provided by the on-site video of Site One or Potomac Plus, watch the video marked 337 dash XC in Patient Four’s file, before any new observational equipment of any kind is placed on-site at Site One and/or Potomac Plus.

Condition 5: That the aforementioned meet with me personally to discuss the contents of this video prior to any additional sites and/or equipment are installed.

There have been multiple attempts within the Company to report these anomalous findings on a regular basis to The Department of Fish and Wildlife. However, we are not contractually obligated to do so. We are actually obligated to do nothing other than say yes or no to the sites themselves and what they can or cannot contain. But I guess thinking about all of this sticky mess right now is about the only thing keeping me grounded.

We, as a company, have reported what we’ve found, when we’ve found it. Thinking that it was some corporate intrusion was quickly ruled out, and The State Department has assured us that no foreign government needs to be investigated, because of all the cameras do indeed belong to The Department of Fish and Wildlife…even the extra ones. They have assured us that only one camera is ever in use at any one time, and any additional cameras are simply backups that were allowed for under the maintenance clauses of the original agreement. This revelation caused an internal relaxation of security procedures, protocols and infrastructure utilization…and that’s when everything started to change.

Please contact my office to regarding scheduling of the aforementioned meeting. Thank you for your considerations and attention to this matter, sincerely, Dr. Issac Mews, President, CEO, Chief Medical Director, Managing Director of Special Projects.

Break for item number two.

Still on-record, Requests and Recommendations, item two. Internal. Personal request, executive level, request dated July 3, 2017. Request for time off, dates of December 24 to December 26 of 2017, and the request is from Dr. Issac Mews. Request was approved by Human Resources on August 8 of 2017, and forwarded to executive management for final approval also on August 8, 2017. Received and approved by managing members on August 9,2017, and forwarded to the offices of the President/CEO for final approval on August 9, 2017. All company guidelines and procedures appear to have been followed. Please mark the request as denied, no reason given, add copy to employee file.

Off-record: that’s all the requests I care to add here Number 74, but I would like an amendment of a footnote for one other request that I have here before we get to the history section.

On-record: Requests and Recommendations Footnote A, request from a Ms. Melanie Chadwick for a personal meeting with me, details as to reason were unspecified. However, Ms. Chadwick is former patient in prior practice. Meeting is approved, and I would like to schedule a tentative date of Monday March 6, 2018. I would also like to personally draft a reply, and do not want to use any standard form letters. This has been added to the footnote section since I will need to draft the reply myself, and will also need to wait on a response from Ms. Chadwick. Will add details to any and all subsequent report and or reports if, as, and when necessary.

Off-record: That’s all of the requests. Next will be History, and once we are through that, that should be all of the dictation we can get to prior to my visit today.

I don’t know if Fish and Wildlife will actually take the time to watch that video of Patient 4, but they should. It’s possible they’ve already seen it, but I’d really like to know why the sudden need for more sites. Every single camera points inwards to Site One, and the site really isn’t that large. Certainly not large enough to necessitate 40 camera sites to monitor both migratory and indigenous regional bird life in this one small section of land near the Potomac River in Virginia.

Patient 4 was attending a birthday party for one of his nephews. His ex-wife’s brother’s son, and the party was being held at the residence of Patient 4’s then brother and sister-in-law. The video, taken in the living area of these relatives’ residence, shows Patient 4 sitting in a chair, directly in front of a fish tank, and he, along with the rest of the people in attendance. are watching Patient 4’s nephew open their presents. The video itself is not of Patient 4. But the camera does pan over to and across him as the person who was shooting the video, presumably Patient 4’s daughter, is primarily filming the present opening process. This video was filmed on what was later to be determined to be a personal handheld digital video camera.

As the video progresses, it is clear that Patient 4 is sitting very close to the fish tank, with his head almost touching the glass. After later examining other photos and video, it was determined Patient 4’s daughter was seated next to Patient 4 in front of the fish tank at times, but in the video in question, the chair next to him is empty, indicating that she was filming the video. After the anomalies were found in the video, subsequent interviews with Patient 4’s children and ex-wife have confirmed that Patient 4’s daughter in fact made the video.

It was almost better to show subsequent first-time viewers the video back to front. But it was decided that this would prejudice anyone watching as to what they are seeing, assuming that they see anything at all. There are those who don’t see it, but those who originally discovered it were slightly perplexed as to what they were seeing. That is about the time that video came to my attention.

In the last three shots where Patient 4 can be seen sitting in front of the fish tank, it becomes clear that all of the fish in the tank have began to school just behind Patient 4’s head. Upon rewinding the tape, it is clear that in the first shot, Patient 4 had only recently sat down in the chair, as the fish are spread out rather equally all throughout the fish tank. The tank itself was estimated to be between a 40 to 50 gallon tank, fresh water, containing approximately 50 to 75 Fan-Tail Guppies fishes, and between 5 to 10 other species of fish of no more than two per species. As the video progresses, it becomes clear that the fish behind Patient 4 are migrating from all areas of the tank to directly behind Patient 4’s head which is directly in front of the glass. Patient 4 appears oblivious to the fish gathering behind his head…until the second to the last image of him.

Patient 4 seemed quite relaxed in the entire video, until the video catches him turning around for some unknown reason to look at the fish tank, and he seems to notice the fish massing behind his head. When Patient 4 turns back around facing forward, his facial features have changed from a relaxed comfort, to one of what can only be described as panic. There is almost a knowing in his eyes as to what is happening and why, but his posture and body language changes rapidly to almost a fight or flight type posture.

There was only one more shot of Patient 4 in the video, and although his posture seems to have relaxed a bit he has, what can only be described as, an uncomfortable smile on his face. Not quite a smirk, but also not quite a smile. It was as if in that short period, he had worked out what was happening, why, and what to do about it. Review of the video and photos that are time-stamped post-video observations show that Patient 4 was only seen sitting in that chair one other time, and his daughter was seated next to him. The fish were once again massing directly behind his head.

He has to know something. What that is, I don’t know. Perhaps I don’t need to. Perhaps he doesn’t know, and is figuring it out as he goes like the rest of us.

I do know that I’m very glad that I left my visit with Patient One out of the reports thus far. Visiting both Patient Four and Patient One in the same day might be looked upon as excessive. But I’m here, and so are they. All of the paperwork was done properly. It all remained outside of my office completely until returned approved, and so my personal final approval is in line with everyone else’s approvals. There is no way I could have possibly known that things would develop that required Form A11A. But, that’s what you are going to need to visit Room A-11-A, and it looks like I’ll be visiting there today as well.

I also know that I need to get something in my stomach. I’m starving.

***

Almost there, and with plenty of time to spare. Assuming the bed continues to cooperate with my calculations, I should have about 1 hour and 15 minutes to spare, plus the additional 17 minutes. And I gotta remember to move that clothes locker.

Voice: Do you know how that bed stays where it is?

Patient 4: Gimme a break. You know that I don’t. I mean, I kinda do, but not really in a way that I am prepared to try and explain.

Voice: So what are you going to tell them?

Patient 4: If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll talk about the singularities a bit, and then…

Voice: Sorry to interrupt, but what about the program and how these are related?

Patient 4: I’ve no idea. I’ll do the best that I can. They’re going to want, and even need to talk gravity. That means I need to stay within the context of time, so I can stay within the context of gravity, and stay the fuck away from the inter-dimensional and multi-dimensional bullshit.

Voice: Multi-dimensional, and inter-dimensional bullshit, eh? Tell me about it.

Patient 4: Go fuck yourself. I’d rather piss-glass.

Voice: No to the first, but I’ll see what I can do on that second one.

Patient 4: Fair enough. Something sad must be coming. You always try and get me giggling just prior to me thinking about something sad.

Voice: You’re too busy thinking about Patient 1 and Patient 7.

Patient 4: We’re the only three left of the original group.

Voice: Three of the original ten are left. And those three are still in a program that originally contained six thousand, three-hundred, and thirty-seven in total. Only three left out of that entire group. Should make headlines worldwide with a body-count that large.

Patient 4: I’m happy that they’ve all been released, that they are all safe, and living their lives.

Voice: Not all.

Patient 4: It’s rare that I don’t think about Patient 74.

Voice: Patient 1, Patient 4, Patient 7, and Patient 74. Three alive, one…erm…not so much. What do you think the odds are that those specific numbers are significant?

Patient 4: I’d rather try to explain to Dr. Duncan the particulars of singularities and their significances within a multi-interdimensional framework.

Voice: Sounds complex. You think Dr. Duncan is dumb?

Patient 4: No. Not even a little. Actually, I find he’s extremely smart. Just interested in other things.

Voice: I would agree with that appraisal. Have you considered what will happen if Dr. Duncan hangs out with you for a while and tries to get his own appraisal of the situation?

Patient 4: If that’s the case, then Dr. Duncan gets, and probably deserves, the particulars of singularities and their significances within a multi-interdimensional framework.

Voice: You know, your sarcasm and less-than-optimistic appraisals of situations are actually quite funny.

Patient 4: Thank you.

Voice: You are welcome.

Patient 4: I just don’t think that he’ll stay for very long. No matter who walks through that door, nor when, I’m winging it and making it up as I go.

Voice: Good thing you’ve got help.

Patient 4: All you need is love.

Voice: I like The Beatles too.

I’ve decided on a band name. Two Makes A Third. Two…makes a third, as in 1/3. Two, plus one, plus three, equals 6. Six can be interpreted as two threes. Thirty-three and 1/3. A numeric stretch, but connectible. Two failed musicians, two failed careers, joined by fate for a third attempt at stardom and fame. It’ll never happen, and it’s a stupid name, but Dr. Music might find it amusing. I doubt he’s happy about being here on Christmas Eve. I know that I am not, although I’ve no idea where I would be were I not here. Where will I go when and if they release me?

I don’t see it as such a stretch that musicians tend to be at odds with one another. Can you imagine sticking two painters in the same room to work on the same painting? What about three painters, or four, or even five or more, all working at the same time, and different times, to paint the same painting? That’s kind of how I see the process of musicians working together to make music. I’ve no further qualifications to add to that analogy.

***

Tim knows more about the Time-Sequencer-Variant-Unit than anyone, and not just and only because he invented it. Tim likes to say that he discovered it more than invented it. That said, there are many that understand Tim’S VU quite well, and even come up with some amazing challenges and additions to it that even Tim admits that he never would have thought of. But it’s discoveries like these that keep Tim at it. Whenever someone suddenly knows more, Tim rises to the challenge and will find multiple new dynamics based on a single find of another. It’s what he does.

Tim also is a bit of a study in virtually any and all things. He and his knowledge of more esoteric types of thinking is how I stumbled into some paths that have both helped and hurt me immensely. Based on my time spent in these areas, that’s just how it works. Help, and hurt. The study of some of the more “ancient” types of knowledge and wisdom have led me down some strange pathways to be sure. But I find solace in knowing that everything comes from somewhere.

To think that our elders and predecessors were somehow all incompetent nincompoops, is almost akin to denying our own existence. We could not be where we are were it not for them. That said, Tim has given me a way to find not only a newfound respect for mathematics and especially geometry, but he’s kept me reigned-in a bit, with respect to my enthusiasms for these strange realms. I can still recall the conversation that helped me a great deal. Like finding a master guru at something you’ve been pursuing, after you’ve spent decades trying to go it alone. Upon stumbling into this master guru, they afford just five minutes of their time, and completely sort you out in the span of that five minutes.

Tim, what about this and these ancient sites, holographic multi-dimensional whatever it is, and this sacred geometry nonsense,” I asked almost hatefully.

Tim responded with an empathy I did not expect. “Look, if you are an architect, you don’t keep the protractor or ruler or whatever tool you need on the page the whole time. You find the tool you need, you use it to do what you need to with it, then set it aside. A template for helping to create and maintain templates, irrespective of what that template is. A 454 cubic inch Chevy engine is a template.”

This took me aback. I had never thought of a car engine as a template. A template made of, and from, templates. There was almost a flicker of understanding, but he continued. “Issac, you’re a medical doctor for chrissakes. It’s in your nature to overthink, over-add, and over-reduce, all so you can find what you are looking for. You personally could have a penis the size of a Howitzer cannon, and that would not negate your trained need, plus any personal need to compensate and overcompensate. So much for society’s compensation theories that are anything but contextual and situational observations of a temporary nature.”

Tim had an odd look on his face, and I can only imagine it was based on the look on mine. I have no idea if I understood that second bit at all, but I was suddenly transported to my youth, and thought of name-calling and labelling types of associations. Temporary things that can and do change, and what changes when and where.

I’m with you. Keep going.” I somehow managed to stammer, and wondered if I was participating, or simply interrupting. He certainly had my mind working in some new ways.

Would you use a reflex hammer to take someone’s temperature, or your stethoscope to check someone’s prostate?” I would have expected a grin from Tim, but his face was stoic and rigid as he awaited my response.

Those would not be my first choices, no,” I responded, all while trying to work out the dynamics of how either of those could work under any circumstances.

I see the gears turning Issac. You are most likely trying to figure out how to best utilize a doctor’s bag, that for whatever reason, only contains a reflex hammer and stethoscope. You’ve got two more patients to see. One patient has flu-like symptoms, and the other patient is complaining that it feels like he has a football up his ass. You’re trying to make do with what you have, and make both of those people whole in the process. Who are you omitting Issac?” Tim finished on a quizzical and yet decidedly parochial tone.

I suddenly return to the present and remember the voice.

Voice: I see five.

Am I forgetting myself? Let’s go back.

OK…wait a minute Tim. I kind of sort of see what you are getting at. But you almost simultaneously validated and invalidated virtually everything within not only modern medicine, but also most modern modalities and schools of thought with respect to the benefits of accumulated knowledge.” My head was decidedly spinning and not spinning at the same time.

What the hell good is accumulated knowledge to you as a caregiver when you’ve got a guy who’s prostate is swollen to the size of a tennis ball, and only a reflex hammer and stethoscope an to fix it? Are you going to beat him to death with the reflex hammer to put him out of both of your miseries?” Tim’s argument would be almost vapid were it not for the distance that we’d already covered. But my being at a loss somehow turned to my advantage.

Maybe. Maybe that’s the exact way to proceed. I can let him wear the stethoscope so that he can more accurately listen to me do it,” I fired back.

Tim looked shocked. His eyes grew wide with dismay at my response, but then his face relaxed and he broke out into an uproarious laughter that made him start coughing.

I get it,” he said between coughs, and continued to laugh. “You worked out that the blows would probably be much louder if he were wearing the stethoscope. Some dramatic music of sorts to listen to as you go out. That’s funny. I hadn’t thought of that,” he coughed more than spoke.

Well Tim, I hadn’t realized that you had thought of any of this.”

I hadn’t Issac. Making it up, off-the-cuff, as we speak, based on my experiences here and there. Where and how we can relate, and maybe where we can’t. We each of us, handle our successes and failures however we do. But there is a lot more to life than just success and failure. Life is not just and only some constant state of peak or valley. How the hell would we know that there was a peak to summit if there were no valleys?” Tim finished on a tone that sounded as if he had given me all that he had available to give at this time. I found this an odd coincidence, as I was already dreamily wandering elsewhere myself.

Life, is not a constant state, of either peak or valley. I like that.” I must have sounded like someone who had just stumbled onto the exact coordinates of the last known location of The Holy Grail.

Feel free to make as many mistakes as you like with that one.” He was smiling again. “I enjoy talking with you Issac. You challenge me to think.”

Dah Dah Dah, Dah Dit, Dit. Tim’S VU roused me from my thinking. One, in Morse Code: Dash Dash Dash, Dash Dot, Dot. One hour to go. I need to get with it.

On record: History. Site One no longer maintains more than one-thousand five hundred patients at any given time. Total patient beds on-site is two-thousand two-hundred, divided between three main buildings and two auxiliary buildings, all of which are designed for patient occupancy. All buildings on-site are adequately staffed with medical personnel, including those buildings which do not permanently house patients, the only exceptions being the on-site executive housing which are detached and separate structures located at various remote locations on-site, and the motor pool and maintenance buildings which are both co-located in close proximity to one another and both adjoin Main Building One.

All current programs are in the process of being eliminated. All programs and their associated participants are being consolidated from remote sites and routed through Site One as these programs terminate and the participants released from their contracts. At present, there are six-hundred and thirty-seven patients, and six-hundred staff that are housed on-site at Site One. The majority of on-site staff occupies the same quarters as patients at various times during the rotation schedule, and do so in rotating shifts. All patients and staff are rotated to new quarters every seven to ten days. With current patient and staff occupancy numbers, there is a vacancy of nine-hundred and sixty-three unoccupied quarters. However, these unoccupied quarters are included within the rotations, and no quarter goes unoccupied for more than thirty days.

The rotation schedules can and do change based on needs as, if, and when they arise. The only exceptions to any of these protocols being four more or less permanent and/or long term on-site occupants. These occupants are the remaining participants of the original programs, and are patients classified as follows:

Patient 1 – Program A group A, and all programs beyond.

Patient 4 – Program A group A, and all programs beyond.

Patient 7 – Program A group B, continuing through Program E.

Patient 0 – Program 0 and beyond.

All of these participants maintain residence in the same rooms, and have done so throughout the entirety of their participation and stays. Patients 1 and 4 are located in Building Two, specific locations are classified as restricted. Patients 7 and 0 are located in Building Three, with Patient 7’s location being classified as restricted, and Patient Zero is located in Room A-11-A, although the specific location of this room is classified as restricted.

Today I will be visiting both Patients 1 and 4, with the focus being on the visitation with Patient 4. An unplanned visitation of Patient 0 has arisen via unforeseen events and/or necessity. No specific details are currently available as to this necessity, nor can specific events be cited as cause.

Standard visitation protocol is being followed, and a second doctor will be on-site at time of visitations to act as a backup to my being primary should any anomalies or other need arise. I do not know who the second doctor will be, and they have been randomly selected from a group of three doctors within site rotation that will be available and on-site at the time of visits. Doctors within that rotation for today are Doctors Duncan, Percy, and Soldano.

At this time there are no plans to change the current rotation schedule. All current programs are scheduled to be completely eliminated and participants released from their contracts within twenty-four months of January 1st 2018. All subsequent programs are currently slated to begin on or about 12 months from January 1st 2018.

Recruiting for new programs is currently underway, contract signing will begin on or about June 1st 2018, and continue through the end of calendar year 2018.

Report to continue post-visitation.

Off-record. Thank you Number 74. I’ll talk to you on a different recording when I get back. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours.

God I hate this shit sometimes. The upside being, that the majority of the planet is probably in a pretty good mood right now, and will be so for the next day or so. I’m certainly not in a bad mood. I just have this weird feeling that I’ve forgotten something, or I’m going to forget something, and it’s going to be important.

***

Good day to you. Dr. Mews to see Patient Four.” I recognize the attendant for the ward on this floor, but don’t recall a name. She’s pretty. Nice smile, and very relaxed face. Like a Buddha that’s just pulled a 16-hour shift like it were a walk in the park. But she also looks like someone that most likely has training in several martial arts, and can break your arm with a pencil.

And a good day to you Dr. Mews. Dr. Duncan will be acting as your second today, and he has already called and assured me that he will be ‘either early or late, but still on time’. His words. Not entirely sure what that meant, but I guess we’ll figure it out.” She was able to be sarcastic without sounding bitter. Hopefully she can cheer up Dr. Duncan if he’s having a rough day.

Let me ask you something. Do you have any training in any martial arts?” I asked as delicately as he could.

Yeah, actually I do. Some anyway. I used to box semi-professionally and took some martial arts classes here and there. Why?”

Well, I have a daughter who has expressed an interest in taking some martial arts. She seems more interested in devising a valid reason for taking these classes above and beyond the typical “for self-defense” reason that most quote. She tells me that it looks interesting, and that’s the only reason she wants to take martial arts class.”

What’s wrong with that?” replied the attendant.

Nothing. And I’ve told her as much. She herself thinks that is not a valid enough reason, and I take that to mean that her friends may be exerting some influence.”

Well, I can’t say for sure why I took martial arts classes except to perhaps help me with my boxing. That’s the best I have to offer. Oh, and the second office behind you and to the left is available until time.”

Thank you for entertaining my query, and I appreciate your input.”

She didn’t offer a name and I’m not going to ask. I feel like an idiot already for not asking in the first place. I’m going to crawl into the empty office, shut the door, and pretend my attempt at being a normal human is damn near impossible when in this place. I guess I don’t think of myself as others may most likely or potentially see me.

Fifteen minutes.

***

Look, I have to be on the 8th floor of building two, in fifteen minutes. I won’t be up there long, I’ll bring it right back. If I’m not back in 30 minutes, you can walk over to building two, and drive it back yourself…it’ll be parked right out front,” Dr. Duncan told the motor pool attendant.

Dr. Danny Duncan could be a persuasive influence when he wanted to be. Everything made sense to him. Or at least, in a world where everything was designed specifically for Dr. Danny Duncan, everything made sense. Dr. Danny Duncan did not live in a world where everything was specifically designed for Dr. Danny Duncan, therefore, he had to improvise.

Dr. Duncan, I can’t let you take the grounds keeper’s golf cart. Much less, take it just to drive right back to a building that you just walked all the way from for the sole purpose of taking the golf cart for a spin.,” the motor pool attendant said with a hesitant indignance. The poor guy drew the short stick in some cosmic lottery for today. Not only is he working on Christmas Eve, he’s having to deal with Dr. Danny Duncan’s broken dreams of someday becoming a world champion stock-car driver.

Well, I also came to see about requisitioning a car for the evening,” Dr. Duncan fired back.

Dr. Duncan…you are on-site in rotation and can’t leave the campus.”

Is there anything you don’t know?” Dr. Duncan asked dryly.

I don’t know why you’d walk all the way over here just to borrow the grounds keeper’s golf cart so you could drive right back to where you just came from. But I’ll be happy to drive you back in it. Fair enough?”

No…but it will do until I can talk you into letting me drive it.”

As promised, the motor pool attendant dropped Dr. Duncan off out in front of Building Two, and only had to stave off two requests to stop the vehicle and let Dr. Duncan drive while they were en route.

Dr. Duncan fancied himself as a comedy writer of sorts. Always trying to find humor in any situation. During his time as an emergency room doctor, he had found that humor always has a place, even in and among the gore and tragedy that tends to overshadow that realm’s triumphs. Under duress, and under stress, Dr. Duncan was a master of timing with respect to when and where a comedic edge would serve, and when and where it would not. The rest of his time was spent planning and plotting, constantly devising scenarios, no matter how bizarre and far fetched, to ply his comedic wares.

Like the time when a woman – drug overdose, suspected suicide attempt – was brought into the emergency room. She had chosen hydrocodone, an opiate, as her way out. But once the Nalaxone was administered to counter the opiates in her system, she came out of the opiate induced slumber in a rather agitated state. Presumably, something similar to the state that landed her in the emergency room in the first place, without the aid of the calming effects of the medication she had tried to overdose on. A floor tile had recently been replaced in the emergency room stall she was admitted to, and one of the workers had left a razor-knife on one of the counters. Long after, it was a subject of debate as to how long that razor-knife had sat on the counter unnoticed and unchallenged, but it would eventually demonstrate how a light bit of humor, at the right time, can change the most determined and able of ships.

The woman had obviously started casing the room for anything handy, spotted the razor-knife, sprung from her bed, was oblivious to the IV catheter that ripped from her arm and vein as she went, grabbed the knife, and threatened everyone in the room with it whilst she retreated to a solitary corner in the room.

Dr. Duncan, who was just next door checking on a patient, heard the commotion, politely excused himself, and proceeded next door. Upon arriving, the patient immediately pointed the knife at him in a threatening manner, and commanded him to stay back. He proceeded to one of the cabinets, calmly opened the cabinet, procured some gauze and tape, turned to the woman and said, “Honey, if we don’t get something on that arm where you’ve ripped your IV out, you are going to bleed to death.”

The woman looked down at her arm, saw the blood streaming from it, and immediately started to cry. After a moment or two of reflection, the woman said “That’s pretty funny doctor. I wouldn’t have noticed had you not said something.”

By the time the woman finished, Dr. Duncan had already slowly and calmly walked over to the woman, knelt down, and begun to clean and dress her arm, all while she held the razor-knife in her hand. As he finished cleaning and dressing her wound, the sound of the blade being retracted could be heard with an audible ‘click’.

She held it towards one of the nurses, who delicately took it from her. “You know, if no one claims ownership to it, and you don’t mind removing the blades from that, I wouldn’t mind keeping that.”

***

BEEP!Dr. Mews? Dr. Duncan is here,” the Ward Attendant’s voice informed me over the intercom.

I’ll be right there.” Why in hell was she using the intercom when I’m right across the hall? Did I doze off to sleep? I stood up and went left the room. “Good day Dr. Duncan.”

And a good day to you Dr. Mews,” Dr. Duncan greeted me jovially. “I just got a ride in the groundskeeper’s golf cart.”

And I cannot wait to hear all about it sometime later today Dr. Duncan.”

Ward Attendant glanced at each of us coolly. “Are the doctors ready for protocol?”

Dr. Issac Mews, present and ready.”

Dr. Danny Duncan, present and ready.”

The Ward Attendant continued, “Dr Mews, who authorized visitation today?”

I did.”

Correct. Dr. Mews, who selected Dr. Duncan to act as second today.”

No one.”

Correct. Dr. Mews, what is the override password?”

There is no override authorization for today, no spaces, one five one one three.”

Correct. Dr. Mews, do you wish to override?”

I do, with right to retract.”

Correct. Dr. Mews, what is the override authorization retraction password?”

Forever.”

Correct. Dr. Duncan, are you ready to act as second?”

I am.”

Protocol is verified, awaiting audible confirmation from TSVU.”

Beep beep.

Audible confirmation has been attained and confirmed via all attending parties and via TSVU at unknown time on unknown date. Should any anomalous discrepancies be identified during the visual portion of this process, Dr. Mews will be in authority, and Dr. Duncan will proceed with the visitation of Patient 4. Dr. Duncan, is this acceptable?”

It is.”

Dr. Mews, is this factually accurate?”

It is.”

Only the briefest of upward of flicks of the Ward Attendant’s mouth outwardly betrayed her complete satisfaction. “Doctors, if you will please follow me to the security room, we can proceed with visual protocol and analysis procedures.”

It was a short walk to the security room. The room was cavernous looking. Previously there was an entire room lined with video monitors, and staffed by three security staff personnel that monitored patients and access passages twenty-four hours a day. Now, there was a single monitor, and it was currently black since no active monitoring takes place, anywhere, except within the room of the patient being visited by medical staff.

Preliminary security protocols have been completed. If you would, please activate the camera in Patient #4’s room,” the Ward Attendant instructed the guardian of the monitor.

The security attendant had not even looked at us when we entered the room. One person, sitting alone, staring at a lone monitor that was powered on, but had only a black screen. He knew we were coming, and must be anxious to get his bit over with so he can leave. Possibly even for the day, and get home to loved one’s for Christmas. A nice thought, but he’s probably in rotation, and won’t be going anywhere except outside of the room once we are finished.

The security person flipped a switch, the screen flickered to life, but instead of a plain black screen, there was now only a plain white screen. Nothing. Plain…white…nothing. The room was completely empty.

At that moment, the security room that we occupied, even with four people present, seemed as empty as the room that we were looking into via the video monitoring system. Is this even possible? I’m not sure about the others, but there was some unseen force acting on me that was somehow keeping my blood from running completely cold. Were we looking at ourselves?

Um…Dr. Mews?” The Security Attendant sounded hesitant.

Yes. I’m all ears,” I replied, still stunned and rapidly calculating.

Doctor, this may seem out of line. But when you came into the room, I noticed that your pants were unzipped.”

That’s why he was so goddamn stoic when we first came into the security room! He was probably trying to figure out how and when to tell me my pants were unzipped. That also must be what I was so worried about forgetting earlier. No wonder I was so worried.

Thank you sir and excuse me ma’am and sirs, while I remedy one of two immediate items of concern.” I did the standard male version of the “pants zipper check”, confirmation was attained, pants were zipped. I couldn’t help but think that my pants might be zipped up in one way, but my pants were quite down in another. One issue down, one issue to go.

I’d laugh my ass off at the timing of that particular revelation if I weren’t currently so dumbfounded with amazement in what I am not seeing on the video feed right now,” Dr. Duncan said just lightly enough to be heard by all.

Most likely less than twenty seconds had passed since the camera monitoring Patient 4’s room had been activated. I’m certain that the Ward Attendant would have already asked me for instructions had she not been interrupted by the security attendant’s method of dealing with this unfolding saga.

Dr. Mews, how would you like to proceed?” The Ward Attendant was falling back into character, and back onto protocol, but was cut short by Dr. Duncan interrupting excitedly.

WAIT!!! Right there! Bottom left corner. You see that?”

I leaned in for a closer look at the monitor. He’s right. “The clothes locker is there,” I replied.

And it’s out place,” agreed Dr. Duncan. “That means that Patient 4 wanted us to see it.”

That means he has to be in there,” I added.

What? Why? Wait.” Dr. Duncan frowned. “I agree with you on the point that he wanted us to see the clothes locker. But how in the hell does that also mean that he’s still in there? There’s nothing that indicates there’s anything in there except the clothes locker,” Dr. Duncan said in a not entirely unconvinced voice.

And how long did it take us to determine that?” I queried.

And the status of your zipper,” quipped the Ward Attendant.

Dr. Duncan stiffled his laugh at the Ward Attendant’s addition, while simultaneously turning his head to give her a look of approval. “I would say we are at about one minute, if we are including “The Zipper Heard Round The Room Incident”. If not, I’d still say the same thing.” Dr. Duncan was trying to find some humor, but retreated. “That means he’s expecting one of us in about one minute. He’s in there.”

I was already convinced, and got the feeling that Patient 4 wanted to convince me and everyone quickly. One down, many more to go.

I know Patient 4 a bit. So does Dr. Duncan, which is why Dr. Duncan is entertaining any and all possibilities at this point. I continued in my line of thinking as best I could decipher based on the information we had at that moment. Suddenly I realized that the Ward Attendant was right. Our musing to ourselves was not going to get us anywhere, and it was going to get us there rapidly.

I’m telling you, he’s in there. Something else is afoot, but I’m telling you…he’s in there. And Danny, we’ve got to get you in there too.”

I’m ready,” Dr. Duncan confirmed. He said it with a determination and confidence that filled me to the brim with a hope that was only just previously absent.

Dr. Mews, am I to assume that we are proceeding with Dr. Duncan as your alternate?” the Ward Attendant interjected.

You may. And I’ve not forgotten about you. Just trying to maintain my composure and do this right, whatever that may be.”

Issac, never mind Patient 4, where’s the rest of the furniture?” Dr. Duncan added, half-whispering in my direction.

Danny, if it were up my ass, I’d most likely know exactly where the rest of the furniture is. But it’s not, so I don’t. I think we’re all quite certain that the clothes locker is there. That one single fact is thanks to your keen eye, and that’s the best that I have to offer at this time.” It really was the best I could muster under the circumstances, and it garnered a snickers from both the Ward and Security attendants.

Noted,” replied Dr. Duncan with a slight smirk on his face. I could tell he was making a note of that one, assuming that he’s not heard it before, to use again somewhere, some day. Knowing Dr. Danny Duncan, it’s entirely possible that I originally heard that analogy from him.

Security zipper guy,” I addressed the Security Attendant. He slowly turned to look at me, obviously carrying the weight of the moniker I just just bestowed upon him. “If you wouldn’t mind, pick up that phone next to you, and get me the motor pool.”

Voice: I see five.

***

Wait…scratch that,” said Dr. Mews.

Good. I thought I was going to have to mention to you, that a vehicle with fewer than four seats would be less than preferable.” Dr. Danny Duncan was indeed a master at comedic timing.

All right, here’s what we are going to do. The hold password for protocol anomaly detection is ‘FOR’…that’s Foxtrot – Oscar – Romeo. Sylvia, I need you to make some calls for me.”

How do you remember my name?” the Ward Attendant asked with mild incredulity.

I don’t know how, but I’m glad that my first guess was correct. That said, I need you to call the motor pool, and have them call maintenance. Have the motor pool attendant tell the maintenance attendant they they need to call IT support for the security division, and have IT to run diagnostics on all security systems, starting with the video surveillance systems in Building Three first, and then Building Two.”

Why Building Three first?” the Security Attendant interrupted.

Because it gives us a complete on-site analysis with contrast for a better picture of what is actually happening where. We know the camera is working, we just need to follow the rules as best we can without causing some kind of panic,” Dr. Mews responded. “Anyone here feeling panicked?”

The occupants of the room looked at each other, and all shook their heads no.

Good. Let’s keep it that way, do our jobs, and we can all dream of going out for pizza and beer when we’re through this, even though we actually can’t. Sound good?” Dr. Mews was finding a confidence he didn’t know that he had. Maybe he had it, and just didn’t remember?

Again the room’s occupants looked at each other, and nodded agreement.

One more thing,” Dr. Mews continued, “I need maintenance to check their records for any maintenance done within the last thirty days, on any video monitoring systems in all buildings, starting with building two. I only need to know what if any maintenance was done and when, and any issues or discrepancies that the diagnostics results return. We’ve got four minutes, so let’s get to it. Danny, come with me. You two, I’ll be right back.”

The two doctors left the room, and went out into the corridor.

Since when do we have four minutes?” Dr. Duncan asked with quizzical twist to his face.

Since whenever we do, but trust me, we do. That’s the best that I can figure from here, and the best that I have to offer as a response,” replied Dr. Mews.

Issac, barring your sudden time variance, the best I can figure it thus far is that your plan is bordering on genius. But I think I need to remind you that you are simultaneously adhering to, and breaking protocol at the same time.” Dr. Duncan’s voice contained only concern, and no doubt.

I know that Danny. One of the privileges of helping to write the structures that holds everything up, is a simultaneous knowledge of what will bring it all down. Those can be handy things to know at certain times.”

Fair enough. But can I relate to you aloud how I’m interpreting this plan of yours as I see it happening? I want to make sure you know what I’m thinking that you are thinking, and that we are at least within a few zipcodes of each other on the map as to our thinking as a team.”

Fire away, and don’t hold back on me Danny. Not now.”

Well…since you put it that way…simplicity.”

I’m listening…”

You’re basically pulling up the drawbridge to the castle without actually doing so. Is that close?”

So far, so good.”

If there’s no smoke, and no fire, there are no alarms to sound, even if protocol dictates that you should do so. That’s why you routed that request to check the security cameras in the way that you did. To get more than a select few people involved in the goings on. Not just and only us four, and Patient 4, wherever he is. To get the gears turning without actually engaging the mechanism that sounds a warning.”

You and your powers of perception continue to amaze me.”

That there is strength in numbers, with no need to further qualify what that number is with respect to amounts. One army is still one. Raising the alarm without actually raising or sounding it. Keeping things calm, so as not to disturb a calm which already exists. Everything is already in motion, and has been for some time. Anyone who comes crashing in now, is not going to save anything or anyone, rather, they’ll bring the storm with them. Patient 4 taking the time to intentionally move that clothes locker and make it visible really did the trick for you didn’t it?”

Yes it did Dr. Duncan. Everything in that room, including Patient 4, is gone. We now know that the clothes locker is there, and he wanted us to know it was there…that’s why he moved it. He had to know that the clothes locker would be checked during the visual phase of visitation protocol. He’s telling us that he’s there, and that it is safe for someone to come in.”

Any ideas as to what I’m going to find in that room other than the clothes locker?”

I’ve not ventured there and I’m trying not to. But I maintain that Patient 4 is indeed in there, and Patient 4 needs some help. He needs some help, and he’s not sure how to ask for it nor what kind of help to ask for. It appears that he’s prefaced this need to ask for help by giving as much help as he can prior to asking.”

Saying a great deal without saying much at all. Not saying anything actually, which I find odd because I’ve always known Patient 4 to be quite verbose at times.”

Me too. And I appreciate you taking the time to ponder these things Dr. Duncan. I’m glad that it was you in the rotation today.”

Me too Dr. Mews. Anything you want me to take with me?”

Just your sense of humor wrapped in that big brain of yours and even bigger heart that powers it all.”

I think you intentionally listed those smallest to largest.”

That’s what I like about you Danny. If there’s a bright side, you’ll find it. You want me to walk down with you?”

Let’s skip that so as to keep the protocol breaches to a manageable figure, and you go back in and do your job while I do mine. Fair enough?”

Fair enough. The doors are already unlocked.”

Dr. Duncan started down the hallway, toward his rendezvous with Patient 4, while Dr. Mews retreated back into the security room.

***

Voice: 3D? You call yourself 3D?

Dr Danny Duncan: Sure. Dr Danny Duncan in 3D.

I’m always working on my comedy routines. Gives me some contrast. This walk down the hall should give me some time to work on that routine a bit if I slow up my pace just a shade. It’s not a race. Keep it casual…so says Dr. Mews. Noted.

Plenty of time to prepare to be completely unprepared…it’s the only way to prepare. If there’s one thing that my time in the trauma unit taught me, it’s that everyone, and every situation is different. All of the medical training that exists cannot prepare you for dealing with the reality that you have no clue what is going to come through your door, nor how, nor when. This is not a trait indigenous to only the trauma unit, nor even only to practising medicine. You’re never prepared for the first time you fall off your bike. Likewise, you are never prepared for the first time you see someone else fall off their bike. You can apply that to just about anything and everything with respect to life and the processes involved in the experiencing of it. The first time is always the first time. Even the second time is the first time that the second time has happened. Yikes…psychiatry. That has the potential to get repetitive real quick, so let’s change the subject.

So yeah…comedy. Not much of a subject change really. Not that I view psychiatry as the “tragedy” portion of that combination. Danny…you’ve no idea what you are saying nor trying to say, so change the damn subject.

Voice: Where are you going?

Dr. Duncan: I’ve not a clue. Wait!

I’m headed to a performance. A performance, in a mostly empty room. A performance, in a mostly empty room, containing, most likely, only a clothes locker. That means that I’ll have potentially one audience member in an otherwise empty auditorium. I wonder if the clothes locker is empty as well? Would that make a difference? A performance in an empty room to an empty clothes locker sounds more something generated by the likes of Dr Mews’ professional music career than it does my professional comedic career – Bad da ching – I’ve trained my entire life for this moment. And I’m opening to an empty house. And now, I’ve spent my entire walk contemplating everything but comedy. That’s pretty funny. It’ll do.

Now I’ve gotta focus on Patient 4. He’s the reason I am where I am. If Issac is right, and he needs help, please God, let me be the person for the job at this stage in the show. I’m opening for Dr. Mews. That’s pretty funny as well. A mediocre, but compelling and entertaining comedy act, opening for a horrendously terrible musical act. That also, is quite funny.

Patient 4, and his troubles lay just beyond this door.

Just and only, Patient 4, no less, and no more.

Who chooses to step through?

I, Dr. Danny Duncan do.

Voice: Well said.

I guess 3D is ready to hit the stage.

Wait a second…is Patient 4 supposed to get medication today? Damnit. We completely skipped protocol for the most part, and I didn’t think to ask. Shit! Calm down Danny. We’re not even entirely convinced he’s in there. Review, then change the subject. I’m here, Dr. Mews didn’t mention it, I didn’t think of it, and we are completely off the map anyway…so…composure check, then keep going.

Voice: Keep going…

Dr. Duncan: Damn right. Keep going.

Voice: I like the sound of that.

***

Upon arriving at the door of Patient 4’s room, Dr. Duncan thought to himself that now would be a good time to have X-Ray vision. Windows on the heavy sound-proof doors would have worked just as well, but neither were currently available.

Should he knock? It was not required by procedure to do so but Patient 4 had to know someone was coming. Dr Duncan decided that Patient 4 most likely knew that he was standing outside of his door right now. Things were already completely sideways, so he surmised that a light knock on the door couldn’t hurt. It may even be the polite thing to do, considering the circumstances.

Knock, knock knock.

Dr. Duncan rapped as gently on the door as he could. He wanted it to be heard, but also knew of the sensitivities to sound that Patient 4 has. He could only imagine what those “gentle” raps must have sounded like to Patient 4.

Volcanic eruptions? Claps of thunder? Nuclear explosions? He wouldn’t knock again and opened the outer door as quietly as he could.

Dr. Duncan contemplated the differences in sound generated by the outer door which opened outward, and the inner door which opened inward. Surely there was a great difference between the two from the perspective of Patient 4. Upon opening the inner door, there would no longer be a buffer of any kind to guard against sound from the outside environment. Not to mention, that any sound generated by opening the inner door itself, would mostly be directed inward and reverberate in and around the inside of the room itself. He gently turned the doorknob which responded with some light clicking of metal parts contacting one another, and the heavy door easily swung open inwardly into the room.

His eyes confirmed what was shown on the video monitor via the video camera in the room – Patient 4 was nowhere to be found. His bed, his desk, his chair, also missing. Dr. Duncan peered deeper into the room, and glanced to the right to check the clothes locker. Sure enough, it was there, but there was no Patient 4 crouching in hiding, waiting to pounce. Dr. Duncan thought it odd that he had not previously considered this an option.

I guess I’d never imagine Patient 4 doing such a thing, he thought to himself.

Keeping his feet planted firmly in place, Dr. Duncan leaned deeper into the room so he could see if the clothes locker had in fact been moved. There was a slight gap between the clothes locker and the wall directly behind it. Dr Duncan wondered if Dr Mews could see his head in the video surveillance camera feed. He leaned even further into the room and glanced upwards at the camera, giving a visual thumbs up.

What do you have for me today?”

There wasn’t enough humor in existence to make sense of what was now tumbling through Dr. Danny Duncan’s head.

***

Voice: How’d that “preparing to be completely unprepared” go?

Dr Danny Duncan: We’ll have to wait and see on that. But it would appear…so far, so good.

If only I hadn’t thought of that X-Ray vision shit just prior to entering the room. Thank God! Something tangible to beat myself up with. We’ve made this poor bastard invisible somehow, and I was just thinking about how cool it would be to have X-Ray vision. Way to go Duncan. Good job. Nice thinking.

It’s odd how we as individuals are able learn how to think nice thoughts.

Wait a second. Wait just one damn second here. My heart is racing yet my brain hasn’t yet caught up with my ears. That was Patient 4’s voice, but it didn’t come from a direction in which I’m normally used to detecting a voice from. Why do I suddenly feel as if someone has just yelled at me from a rooftop, while I’m walking on the street below? Reverberation. Time. Timing. That’s probably why my brain could be said to be failing my ears.

I don’t want to see this, but I have to see this. Or at least, I have to look in the direction my stupid thumbs up signal is pointing. Up. Up. Up. I have to look up.

There is Patient 4, seated on his bed, which is also somehow up there on the ceiling, looking directly down at me and smiling. If Patient 4 were a woman, that would be the most marvellous smile I’d ever seen. But Patient 4 isn’t a woman, so whatever I can make of it later will have to do. There was no contempt, and it became clear that Patient 4 had gone to great lengths to make this…this…revelation…as painless and friendly as possible.

Family. Why am I thinking family? Family and friends…who they are…and when…and who gets to decide. Patient 4 may not be family, but he’s certainly a friend. We continued to look at each other, and even though our positioning perspectives are radically different, suddenly, there is really nothing unusual about the things that are transpiring. We have, both of us, covered some ground. Together…separately…yet all together, even when apart. Lots of knowing goes into knowing I guess. The smile on Patient 4’s face broadened as if he were about to giggle at the length of time it’s taking me to collect my thoughts.

What do you have for me today? Do you have anything for me today?” Patient 4 said rather matter-of-factly, without sounding the least bit condescending.

I’d say you’ve had enough. But let me go check just the same.”

Patient 4 snickers slightly and gives me a thumbs up, the smile never leaving his face. as I retreat from the room, closing both of the doors quietly behind me.

*******

*Yeah, I miss him too, Clicky…*

Have a delightful Christmas, Dear Reader and… Have a Song… ❤

2 thoughts on “Story Time: Christmas Ever

    1. ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’ – Cade died in his sleep; I hope he’s having a good dream ❤

      Like

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