Why’s it so cold? What’s that sound? I open my eyes and need to squint because of the light shining down on me. I try to sit up, but it’s only then do I realize that my wrists and ankles are tied down.
A voice booms around me in the room, scaring what little life out of me that I had, “stay calm, Verni.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Nico and I’m the doctor here. Can you answer a few questions for me?”
The wall in front of my feet becomes transparent and there is a man on the other side, holding a microphone to his face speaking through a mask. I have to lift my head up slightly to see him and it caused a sharp pain in my head that spread my entire spine.
“Can you tell me your name?”
“My name is Verni... That’s what you called me.”
“Do you know your last name?”
The man, who I assume is Nico, looks to his left at someone leaning on the table writing in a navy lab coat.
“That’s alright Verni. Can you please tell me the last thing you remember?” I close my eyes, pulling against the wrist constraints, “please stay calm, Verni”.
“Why am I tied up?”
“It’s alright, Verni. We just to keep you safe, you’re alone in that room and we’re out here there’s nothing to worry about. What is the last thing you remember?”
“Just darkness. But not nothingness, just sitting in darkness.”
“Alright, Verni. Is it alright if I come inside with you?”
I say nothing, but feel my heartbeat pick up when the wall goes back to being blank and white. I hear a door open behind me. “Who is that?” I shout, struggling against the restraints again feeling the sting of cuts forming.
He moves to stand to the right of me, watching me intently. “It’s me, Nico. From the wall.”
“Why can’t I remember anything? Shouldn’t I remember... everything?”
“Actually, no. This is completely normal. If I take off the cuffs, can you promise me that you will stay sitting there?”
I nod and he pulls out a small card and inserts it somewhere into the side of the bed chair thing I’m laying in, all four restraints release at the same time and I immediately pull my knees close to me and cross my arms in front of me.
“What happened to me?” I whisper.
“The world is a little messed up right now, I’m afraid. You’ve been through a lot, though you don’t remember it all. How does your head feel?”
He chuckles, “that should go away soon, we don’t do this often, so we’re not entirely certain how you’ll truly react to it. Do you want to try sitting up?”
I nod and he puts his clipboard down on the ground and puts one hand behind my neck and another out in front of me in case I need to grab it, which I do. I grunt, but am able to swing my legs to the side of the chair and am sitting up. He looks me up and down before letting me go.
“What happened to me?”
“There’s a lot to explain to you, but you’re in an underground bunker. It’s one of the last safe havens on Earth. You went above ground several months ago and never came back, until a recovery team found you. You’ve only been back four days.”
“So you know me?”
He looks down and picks up the clipboard mindlessly flipping through pages. “You could say that.”
“Did I say anything about what happened during those months?”
He clears his throat, he looks to be holding back tears. “Yes, but nothing we could make out, you weren’t exactly in your right mind.”
“My right mind?” My lungs begin to sting with the breath I hold waiting for his response, which feels like it’s taking hours to come.
“Like I said, something happened to you during the lost months. Hopefully memories from before then will come back, but we’re not quite sure of anything.”
“Did I give you permission to mess with my brain? How dare you all make that decision for me! Now I’ll never know!”
“Please stay calm, Verni. Will you let me show you?”
“Show me what?”
“Some semblance of an answer.”
“Can you stand up?”
“I should be able to.”
Nico puts his hand out to me and I take it, shakily rising to my feet. He continues to hold my hand and support me until we reach the door to the room and he opens it, releasing my hand to do so. I take a step out and the hall is not too different from the room we were just in. The walls are all white painted cinder blocks. Except the floor, which is not painted at all and only their natural, dull grey. Dozens of people walk in each direction, most of them stare at me as we pass. Every single one of them has a weapon of some kind. Most of them swords, but there are several with a half dozen knives strapped to their belts.
A few doors down, Nico opens a door into another room on the other side of the hallway and holds it open for me. Inside, there is a metal table and a large mirror that takes up one wall. He closes the door behind us and gestures for me to sit on the table.
“The only information we have about your time away is that something so traumatic happened that it caused the strongest person I know to lose her mind, and the experience demolished her body.”
I look up at him as he moves to the left side of the mirror, “you love me. Sorry- loved me.”
He is sure to keep his eyes away from me. “Before you left, you were the love of my life.”
“I’m sorry” is the only thing I can think to say.
“Don’t be. I know you’re looking for answers and I’m sorry I cannot provide any for you” he pauses. “Take your shirt off.”
“Just do it. I’m trying to help you understand why your memories are gone.”
I hesitate, but find the hem of my shirt with my fingertips and lift it up over my head. What I see causes my heart to stop in my chest for a moment. There are scars everywhere. Red scars, they haven’t fully healed. I assume I got most of them from the months away. One of the scars starts at the base of my throat and trails down my chest, disappearing underneath the dark wrap over my chest and down to my belly. Another one trails on top of my right collarbone. In addition, there are what feel like thousands of smaller scars everywhere, some older than others.
“Some of those are from before, but they are no accident.”
He looks down at his clipboard, “yes”.
“We don’t know”, standing up, I make my way to the mirror to look closer and that’s when I notice the ones on my back. “You never said where you were going.”
“You said I wasn’t in my right mind. What happened to it?”
“We don’t know. Although you always said that the body often reflects the mind.”
“I sound pretty cheesy.”
He laughs and I unglue my eyes from the mirror to look over at him. “Sorry, even without a memory, you’re still you.”
I look away sheepishly. “No need to apologize.”
“Come on, there’s something else you have to see.”
“There’s a video. There’s surveillance in that room you were just in.”
“Why do you look scared?”
“You should be too.”
I stand next to Nico next to a computer terminal as he concentrates. Nothing on the screen makes sense to me, but I watch it while mindlessly running my fingertips over the rough scars on my back.
“Here it is” he hits a green button next to the screen and the sound of screaming fills the room.
Nico looks down and moves to the far corner, as far away from the screen as possible. On it, is me. I’m covered in blood and dirt and my hair is long and stringy. I am wearing nothing but a tank top with no white left in it and tight black shorts. Every muscle in my body is flexed as I fight against three large men who hold me tightly and drag me into the room. They pin me down on the chair and the restraints hold me down.
“Get off me! You have to let me go. They have to die. I have to kill them. They’re going to kill us, they’re going to kill me!” I shriek and struggle, new blood flowing against where the clasps hold me.
One of the men gets closer to me and tries to hold my face, but I bite him, drawing blood. He turns around, cursing and I see it’s Nico.
I continue to struggle and scream more of the same, not allowing anyone to come close. There is a cut in the footage and I am now asleep in the chair, still dirty and bleeding. Nico walks into the room quietly and although he is silent, I jolt awake and look over at him in terror.
“It’s alright, Verni. I’m here, you’re safe. You’re going to be okay, you can still be happy, we can still be happy. Make that family you always wanted and leave all of this behind. The world can fix itself, it’s just you and me.”
I shake my head vigorously. “No, we can’t, my love. They- they destroyed me. There's nothing you can do now. You have to let me go. You have to say goodbye, but say it now while I’m here.”
“Verni, what are you talking about?”
I begin to sob and I see my arms and legs begin to struggle again. “They destroyed me Nicky. I’m gone. You have to wipe me.”
“What? No! You’re talking nonsense. You’re safe Verni.”
“Wipe me, Nicolas!” I scream, causing Nico to jump. “Wipe me! Get it out!” I thrash in the chair and never stop. Until a large machine lowers over my head and flashes a light so bright I’m forced to look away from the screen, when I look back its gone dark.
“That was us wiping you. The only thing that happens after that is you falling unconscious for two days and getting you washed up.”
I turn around to Nico, who is staring at the floor. When I walk towards him, he still doesn’t move. “You did the right thing. I needed to be wiped.”
“But you’re gone, you remember nothing.”
“That’s true. But from the looks of it, the bad memories would have consumed me. Maybe they already did,” he nods, now crying. “This is for the best, now I get to start new. Although learning why we’re living in a bunker underground and why anyone above would want to do this to a person might not be a blast,” he chuckles. “I don’t want to know, I don’t want to remember.”