Although he should have expected it, Buddy was surprised to see they were now in front of the hospital. He got out of his seat and looked at the front door.
“So, you’ll be waiting for me, right?” Buddy asked Alexa, his eyes focused on the door.
“Don’t get your hopes up, old man. Strictly business. Artie asked me to get you home, that’s what I’ll be doing. Gotta run real quick, but I’ll be back before you know it.”
Alexa disappeared. Buddy paused, staring at the empty space previously occupied by the oddest form of travel he had ever seen.
Buddy walked up the steps to the front door of the hospital. He twirled the pen-like gadget between his fingers as he walked through the door. After signing in, Buddy was ushered to the third floor of the hospital’s west wing and directed into the office of Dr. Algen.
“The doctor will be right in to see you, Mr. Jackson, please take a seat.”
Buddy looked around the room and was astounded by the number of plaques hanging on the wall. Accolades from several different institutions decorated the room, ranging from his seven medical degrees, all stating with highest honor, to his award for Surgeon of the Year.
The door opened quickly and Dr. Algen walked in.
“Mr. Jackson, I’m glad you could make it in on such short notice. You’re doing me a huge favor by coming to talk to our John Doe.”
“Not a problem, Doc. You said he had asked for me?”
“Yes, it was the strangest thing. When the nurse was checking his vitals this morning, his eyes suddenly opened and he said ‘Buddy’. He’s been a bit more vocal since then, but consistent in his refusal to answer any questions until he talks to you.”
“Okay, well, let’s get in there then.” Buddy said, ready to complete the odd task given him. He wasn’t entirely certain why he had agreed to such a task without promise of compensation, but was very anxious to complete it quickly.
“Well, it’s not exactly that simple, Mr. Jackson. You see, there are some government agents who claim to have a vested interest in this man.”
“Just like everyone else, huh?”
“As you wish. Anyways, they asked to speak with you before I allow you to visit him.” Dr. Algen seemed uncomfortable mentioning the agents. “I’ve already given them a call notifying them of your arrival. I would assume they will be here very shortly.”
“Dr. Algen, Agents Kent and Parker are here to see you,” the intercom buzzed.
“Like clockwork. These guys seem to know just when I’m thinking about them,” the doctor said, giving Buddy a glance. He pressed the button on the intercom, “Thanks Caroline, go ahead and let them in.”
The door opened and two men entered the room. The men could have been easily lost in a crowd. They both wore blue suits and carried briefcases. Buddy couldn’t help but think they appeared to be impossibly unremarkable in their appearance. The man on the right wore an odd watch. It contained a red blinking light, which began blinking faster as they walked into the room.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Jackson, my name is Special Agent Thomas Kent,” said the man on the right, “and my associate here is Special Agent Fred Parker.”
Buddy stood to shake their hands. “Nice to meet you both. What can I do for you?”
“Well, Mr. Jackson,” Agent Kent continued, “it appears you have made fast friends with the man you saved the other night. We have some concerns regarding the background of the man in question and therefore would like to know whether or not you have any recollection of meeting this man previously. It’s very important that we understand your relationship with him before we allow you to speak with him.”
“Well, I mean, I’ve seen him naked and all, but that’s just the way I found him,” Buddy joked nervously. He couldn’t help but notice Agent Parker was staring at him. Buddy felt uneasy, but couldn’t look away. The world around him went out of focus and all he could see were the man’s dark eyes peering into him.
Then he felt something pulling him. He felt himself pulled away from the room, to somewhere far away. The world went dark.
He opened his eyes and found himself in a room illuminated only by some unseen spotlight. He looked around and heard footsteps getting closer. Agent Parker stepped into the light.
“What the– Where am I?”
“Don’t fear, Mr. Jackson, you are still in the room with the good doctor,” Agent Parker’s voice echoed, although his lips did not move.
“What? Where the hell am I?”
“This is a corner of your subconscious, a part of your brain relegated to idle thoughts and forgotten memories. It seemed a fitting place for our conversation.”
“Alright, awesome, so I’m having some sort of stroke dream or something, right? How long till I wake up?”
“I assure you, Mr. Jackson, this is no dream, you are completely conscious, well, in a sense at least.”
“Alright, whatever pal. So, what am I supposed to do in this dream? Are we going to go off in rocket packs and explore Manhattan while fighting some giant monster?”
“Is that what your dreams normally consist of, Mr. Jackson? Interesting. . . “ Agent Parker began walking around the edge of the spotlight, looking in the shadows.
“Seriously, guy, what’s this all about?”
“Oh, nothing for you to concern yourself with. I like to allow those I’m interrogating to be present as I peruse their subconscious.” Agent Parker turned his back to Buddy and the spotlight disappeared. He heard yelling and screaming all around him and saw a sudden a flash of light as a man was engulfed in flames. The spotlight reappeared. “Very interesting. . .”
“What the heck was that?”
“Just a dream you had recently. Do you remember it?”
“A dream? What the hell is going on here?”
“Yes, Mr. Jackson, a dream. Do you remember it?”
“What does it matter if I do?”
“I would be quite useful to me, and beneficial to you, if you were to cooperate in this procedure.”
“Listen, pal. I still have absolutely no friggin’ clue what this procedure is.”
“There’s no need to get hostile Mr. Jackson. This is all very much by-the-book, I assure you.”
“Who’s book is that?”
“I’m afraid I can’t answer that.”
“Well then tell me, Mr. Parker, what can you answer?”
“A whole lot. . . about you. For instance, what can you tell me about this memory?” An image appeared next to Agent Parker of Buddy and Maggie when they were younger. They were sitting next to each other on the front steps of a house. Buddy instantly recognized it as his childhood home.
“I’m not telling you anything.”
“I truly wish you would work with me, Mr. Jackson. I’m simply reviewing your subconscious in an attempt to determine how much of a threat you pose.”
“Well, quit it. I’ve got some dreams I’d rather not re-live.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Jackson, that’s not an option. My mission is clear.”
“I don’t care about your mission. Get out of my head, you freak!” Buddy ran toward Agent Parker and shoved him. The darkness faded momentarily and Buddy could see the interior of Dr. Algen’s office briefly before returning to the spotlight.
“Oh, I wish you hadn’t resorted to this type of behavior, Mr. Jackson.” Agent Parker closed his eyes and a chair appeared behind Buddy, sliding in beneath him and causing him to fall into it. Giant steel coils wrapped around his arms and legs, keeping him from moving.
“Get me out of here!” Buddy exclaimed.
“I’ll make this quick. If all goes as I hope, you will be freed shortly.” Images flashed around Buddy and Parker, filling the room with glimpses of giant creatures, bloody corpses, flaming wreckage, and in the middle of all of these images was a picture of a young Buddy, wearing a green spandex suit. Each version of himself looked angrier than the last. Buddy cringed as he saw each image, remembering them from his dreams, where they had struck fear and pain in his heart.
His worst nightmares came to life directly in front of him moving in fast-forward. He saw himself on the verge of death over and over again, in the grips of other-worldly creatures, at the hands of crazed-looking lunatics, and finally by his own hand. He heard the screams of thousands, the explosions of buildings burning away the lives of millions. He saw faces of pure fright in every corner. Each face looked at him for help as he sat helpless in the chair Agent Parker had manifested.
Buddy closed his eyes and cried out in agony, begging Agent Parker to stop the nightmare. And just as he cried out, the room went silent.
“Mr. Jackson? Do you understand everything I have told you?” Buddy heard Agent Kent’s voice. He opened his eyes and saw he was back in Dr. Algen’s office. Agent Parker was still staring at him.
“Mr. Jackson?” Dr. Algen asked.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. Yeah, I got it. We all good to see that guy now?”
“And you are completely certain you have never met, or had any dealings, with this individual in the past,” asked Agent Kent in an accusatory manner.
“I’ve never met the man.” Agent Kent looked at Agent Parker and Agent Parker gave a slight nod.
“Well then, Mr. Jackson, you are cleared to talk with the patient.”
“Perfect,” Dr. Algen said. “Now, if you would follow me, Mr. Jackson, I can take you to get acquainted with our Mr. Doe. If he responds to you in any way similar to the way he’s responded to everyone else, you should be in for quite a treat.” Dr. Algen walked between the federal agents and entered the hallway. Buddy and the agents followed the doctor.
“Oh, and Mr. Jackson,” Agent Kent said, as he moved forward to walk alongside Buddy. “I need to ask that you wear this earpiece while you are in there speaking with the patient.”
“Just an act of precaution.” Agent Kent handed Buddy a small black device.
“Okay. . . “ Buddy responded, as he turned the earpiece over in his hand.
The group arrived at a large set of doors with the words OBSERVATION ROOM printed on them. The doctor opened the doors and gestured for Buddy to enter. He entered a dark room with a bay of windows overlooking a well-lit area. In the dark room was a variety of surveillance and recording equipment, all whizzing and whirring in rhythm with each other. In the room below, Buddy saw the man he had rescued.
With the man was a queen-sized bed. The sheets on the bed had been ripped off and were laying in a heap at its foot. Other accoutrements, such as a rocking/reclining arm chair and a big screen TV were also in the room. The man Buddy had rescued was pacing in the far corner of the room, arms crossed, staring at the door, and looking very agitated.
“Sheesh, you folks have really got this guy set up, don’t you?” Buddy asked.
“As we’ve already discussed, Mr. Jackson,” Agent Kent said ominously, “this man could pose a serious risk to the security of our nation. We cannot afford to allow him much freedom until we know what he is capable of. The amenities we have provided are in an effort to help him feel comfortable enough to open up and speak with us. Once again, please use extreme caution when talking to this individual. You may find his reaction to you is quite different than you would expect it to be.”
“Alright, awesome. I’m feeling safer by the minute.” Buddy said, reconsidering his decision.
“You should be in no immediate danger. However, there is nothing wrong with being cautious. Please feel free to enter the room whenever you are ready.”
Buddy looked down into the room once more, hoping there would be something to relieve him of this responsibility. Since the chances of another monster falling from the sky was highly improbable he shrugged his shoulders, sighed, and descended the stairs to the door leading into the room.
“Well,” Buddy said to himself as he placed the earpiece in his ear and pressed the button on the top of the pen, “at the very least, this is a helluva lot more exciting than the I Love Lucy marathon I had planned for the day.”
Go to Chapter Eight