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Science Fiction Suspense Fiction

“It isn’t important,” she tells herself as she reworks the measurements she’s just taken. It’s the mantra he’s taught her to use whenever she stressed. Having the numbers not quite right is definitely a stress. 

A fleeting sense of déjà vu interrupts her work. She sits down on the edge of the stool, letting the feeling pass. She knows better than to pin down the moment. She’s a scientist and won’t attribute it to more than the neuron misfire that it is. But still, she does. The little imaginary checklist in her brain that forever counts, adds a tick. She doesn’t mean to be obsessing this way, but like all of the other times, the increasingly occurring sensation gets collected, sorted and filed: this place, this light, this emotion, this thought. 

Her cell phone dings, pulling her back. An unwelcome distraction in her work, increasing her worry that again she won’t get this timing perfect, yet she blindly reaches for the phone with one hand as she steadies the beaker on the stand with the other. Another LIKE to her post on the journal thread. More name recognition. This is good. Another checklist in her mind, her own little private ranking system, springs into action while she resists the urge to investigate who the LIKE is from. “It isn’t important,” she mumbles, knowing full well that WHO does matter. “It isn’t important,” she mutters with more emphasis, trying to satisfy herself instead with the knowledge that she’ll check later. And the flash of déjà vu washes over her again, setting off the checklist counter: collect, sort, file. 

The parade of doctors had dismissed her anxiety and obsessiveness as stress. Just the typical response of any hard working grad student. Nothing to worry about, they had agreed, all but one.  She is still grateful he is treating her. 

Her phone dings again, this time an alarm reminding her to take one of the little pills that he’s prescribed. It’s easy to forget when she isn’t yet convinced they are really helping. She wonders if the tiredness and lethargy are more than just symptoms from a dosage that needs to be adjusted. Now there are the déjà vu flashbacks. Just a new side effect he has assured her.  While they may be connected to the medication, they’ll be temporary and aren’t a concern even though they are increasing in frequency. “How can he know?” she wonders. “Because he’s the best,” she calms herself trying to breathe in the confidence she needs. She needs to learn to trust. But still her self talk continues, “get a grip!” 

Now she is on this project with him as her grad supervisor. Such luck! The move to his lab transpired after she became his patient, so she’s assured herself it is all above board. No conflict of interest here. He’s just kind. This project, in this lab, with someone of such renown is incredibly prestigious. 

She uses the pipet skillfully to measure the minute amount of titrate, then moves to fill the sample vials. She’s pleased with the progress. It’s going as she had hoped and she expects to have initial results soon. He’ll be pleased. She senses she might quickly become a star in this lab, well, she hopes for that, despite the episodes.  And she’ll get those under control. She relies on the accolades even though they are few and far between. Her success will make a difference and be a huge step towards a tenured position. Still she’s been slow to get on with the writing she needs to get done. And there are application deadlines looming. She has so much on her plate and everything takes so long. Maybe the first doctors were right. If she reduces her stress, she’ll reduce her anxiety. 

Her phone dings. She reaches again, involuntarily. Another LIKE. Check. “It isn’t important,” she repeats to herself. But as she sets the phone back down the déjà vu washes over her again. And again the checklist counter fires up: collect, sort, file. 

The last vial is filled. She slides the tray into the incubator, and double checks the latch on the door. Then she triple checks. Control here is vital. Nothing can go wrong. 

The lab door opens and he strolls in. Tall, confident, arrogant some would say but she doesn’t see him that way. He’s her saviour, stepping up with solutions when others were minimizing her concern. 

“Good, you’re still here” he notes not expecting a reply. “We’ll do the form before you leave.”

He knows she’ll comply. She always does. Her eagerness is attractive, arousing actually, though he pushes that thought out of his mind. It’s late and he needs to get home. His wife will be expecting him for the dinner party she’s hosting though he’s not much in the mood. He’d rather stay and watch her work. The way she curls her hair with her finger while she’s writing.That’s part of why he insists she writes the notes on paper. Beside he doesn’t want them in the data file. Not this project. And there’s the adorable way she lines things up so perfectly, checks, double checks. He suspects that others would find it annoying but he’s always found this kind of quirkiness intriguing, probably part of what drew him into neurology initially, certainly into this narrow little side specialty on neural control. The rapid progress she’s making is tantalizing. 

He gloats inwardly at his own little secret: She’s become the perfect subject for the very experiment that she is helping him with. Such a clever set up. Plus she’s pretty, yet so keen for his approval, for his commendation; he’s confident she’d never turn him in. She needs him and he likes that. In fact, he feels it stir in him.     

“Have you been practicing the mantra?” he asks as he does each day. It’s crucial that he reinforces its importance.

She nods obligingly taking the form from his hand. That he still wants to collect data on paper intrigues her. Old fashioned, but that’s just him. She’d love to bring him into the twenty first century; she’s offered to help set things up online but he shows no interest. In ways it suits him, a part of his quirkiness, the part that’s not creepy like when he comes too close or the way he is always so intense, watching her. She wishes he wouldn’t do that. 

She sits down at the counter just as the lights dim. Seven o’clock on the automatic timer. Later than usual. She should be getting home though there’s nothing to rush home to, except the cat. There is food out but the cat never eats until she’s home and settled in. 

She reaches over to straighten the three pencils already lined up beside the note pad. This is where she always does the questionaire and so she leaves the pencils sharp and ready.  Just two pages and the questions aren’t difficult given her mental checklist, how she documents each déjà vu event so carefully in her mind. 

He sits down too, across from her but she isn’t surprised. It’s their nightly ritual. Still she asks, “Don’t you need to get home?” 

“It isn’t important,” he answers softly as she starts to write. He practices this prompt with her each time he comes to collect the data but this time the response is immediate.

The déjà vu is strong this time. It sweeps over her quite suddenly. She’s been here before: the dim light, him sitting there watching, the smell, the quiet, the rush of blood from her head, a wave of cold followed by a sensation of pure calm that goes on and on.. 

He watches. Curious and removed, initially he stays still. He doesn’t want to disturb her yet. This is the best extended lapse he’s witnessed and he sees that she is ready. Now he can extend the time, try more. Her slim body continues on normally, just as he had expected. Just as he wants. She isn’t even aware she’s completed the questionnaire when he reaches over and slides it away from her. He realizes that now he can learn to stretch the altered state beyond these few minutes? In his excitement his mind wanders. Is her body warmer? How will she respond if he asks her to lay across this counter?  He senses she is ready for that and he is eager to try? He’s reminded that he’d like to touch her. He hasn’t done that yet. 

And then she’s back. Collect, sort, file. The storing of each episode has become autonomic, like breathing or keeping her heart rate steady and even. 

She catches her breath and focuses again on the task at hand. The quiet is eerie and she’s concerned. She looks up at him, watching. “I’ve had four episodes in just the last hour. Should I be worried?” She twists her finger in her hair and bites the tip of the pencil, catches herself and pulls it out hoping he didn’t notice.

“Are they all different?” He leans in to hear her response.

“I can’t quite pin it down. Just now,” she pauses, noticing only now that the paper has moved to his hands. The tip of her pencil moves towards her lip but stops midway. She needs to look professional. 

“You’ve just had an episode then, while I was sitting here?” his voice is gentle and it distracts her worry. She nods. “Can you describe it?” he asks subtly shifting the form off to the side.

“I know it’s silly. It’s just a skip or a loop in my brain. But the feeling is so strong. It’s as if I’ve circled back in time. I have a wave of certainty that I’ve done this before, not so much this very moment, but a larger sense of having lived through this space in time, of taking up time, or being time itself. It is more the emotion, an emptiness stretching out, longer and longer each time,“ the scientist in her reasserts herself, “although I’m not actually able to time how long.” She shrugs then adds, almost as an apology, “I really can’t explain it.” 

She remembers the form and the lapse that moved it away from her. She covers her confusion by setting her pencil down, straightening it perfectly beside the other two.

He reaches over and takes her hand in his, stroking it gently. Her skin is soft and warm like he’s imagined. “Trust me. We’ll get it sorted out. This is normal. It just confirms that the medication is working, but we need a higher dose to get these episodes under control. Let’s increase to five times each day, instead of just three. That will help.” Holding her gaze he nods encouragement as he speaks.  “You’re doing fine. We’ll get you there.”

“Get me where?” The question flashes through her mind but she shakes her head to clear it out. She will not doubt. He’s helping her. She needs him. She trusts him. She commits to increasing the dosage as directed and reminds herself, “it isn’t important.” The sensation of pure calm returns and once again she loses herself in time.

“Let’s leave that,” he softly orders, the thrill rising in him again as he sees her calm settle in, her breasts rising with her breath. “You’ve done enough for today. You’re tired. I’ll take you home.” 

“Yes,” she agrees as she rises from her chair. 

June 24, 2022 15:53

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6 comments

Amanda Fox
22:15 Jun 27, 2022

This was such a great story - I really enjoyed it. My one teeny hiccup was when you switched perspective into the man's head for a couple paragraphs.

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Betty Gilgoff
14:48 Jun 28, 2022

Thanks for taking the time to read and for the feedback Amanda. I'll think on how to do that differently so as not to confuse the reader.

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Valerie Vince
12:35 Jun 26, 2022

Your story pulled me in and engrossed me. A lot of innuendo, the reader is filling in the blanks. I was able to visualize the scene - you created a world. At first I thought it was sci-fi but maybe this is psycho-pharma-drama. Well done, and excellent use of the prompt!

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Betty Gilgoff
16:55 Jun 26, 2022

Thanks Val. Your feedback means a lot especially as that is definitely what I’m working at trying to do. And yes, unfortunately not perhaps particularly sci-fi. Maybe too real.

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Mary Trokenberg
17:53 Jun 24, 2022

So we’ll done! You were able to sustain suspense all through the story and your character was very believable. The doctors character was a surprise and highlight of the story and then went into its denouement…he was well drawn too! Re ally enjoyed reading it!

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Betty Gilgoff
18:28 Jun 24, 2022

Thank you Mary. It’s a bit scary for me to put a story like this out there but I worked hard on the characters so it is great to hear it worked.

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