Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Blinding flashes descended from above. Sadie closed her eyes, and they opened without her consent. She tried to shield her eyes, but her arms were too heavy to move. As she shouted for help, her voice whimpered and cracked. While she fought through her tears and weakness, she rolled on to her side and forced her eyes to stay shut.
How can this be happening? Is this a dream? Am I in a coma? Sadie was lying on top of a soft surface, and a large cloth covered her body. Was she tucked under the covers of her bed? Once she found the strength to control her arms, she ran her hands all over her body. There were no wounds or bandages on her skin.
This wasn’t her apartment or the university dorms. The bed was too firm, and the bright lights weren’t good for parties. She stopped moving. There was a party. Did her friends and classmates go to the same party? They went somewhere, but she couldn’t recall everything that had happened last night.
She sat upright, and the image of her furious parents popped into her head. Her parents were never that angry before, but it used to be her imaginary fear. They hadn’t talked or seen each other for over a year, ever since she had run away and attended her university. Sadie moved her legs to one side and found the edge of her bed.
As she got off the bed and tried to stand, a cramp constricted all of her muscles. Sadie fell on to the mattress, and her body spasmed like eels flailing on dry land. She stopped fighting her body and concentrated on her breathing until her lungs were saturated with air. Then she shouted with all her might. Her voice echoed back, and no one replied to her call.
Questions plagued her mind. She opened her eyes and endured the excruciating aftermath. The tears stopped flowing, and her sight became clear. A gray wall sat in front of her, and the mattress was covered with white linens. It was a hospital bed. Pale skin and corrosive emotions prodded Sadie’s mind. Hospitals were lonely places.
Fluorescent bulbs shined from the ceiling. The room was a concrete cube. A black door sat on Sadie’s left, and there was an open bathroom to her right. She had spent a night in a San Diego hospital. This place was poor and gloomy in comparison.
Sadie regained control of her body and returned to the edge of the bed. She shivered when her bare feet touched the floor. As she stood, her knees buckled, and she struggled to keep her balance.
She took two steps, fell, and caught herself on the bed. Then she slid one foot in front of the other. Her lack of coordination worried her, yet she shuffled across the floor. The door was within her reach, but her bowels squelched and churned.
Her stomach grumbled, and she farted. Sadie turned around and treaded to the bathroom. The pressure grew to a critical point inside of her gut. She sprinted to the toilet. It was a close call, but she didn’t make a mess.
The entire situation stressed her out. Sadie drank water from the faucet and washed her face. It was refreshing, though she had to dry her face with her gown. Then it occurred to her that she was wearing a paper gown. She couldn’t recall what she’d worn beforehand, yet she was positive her current underwear didn’t belong to her.
After she found relief, Sadie inspected her body. Her skin was a pink beige, and she was relieved to find no injuries. She reached for a lock of her hair, yet it wasn’t there. There was no mirror in the room, so she grabbed her head and felt clumps of short hair. Someone had butchered her hair.
It had taken her weeks to cut her hair. Her ideal length was one inch past her shoulders. That allowed her to style her hair without having to spend too much time washing it.
Suddenly, the memory of a party, a tuxedo, and gelled hair came into her mind. She needed to know more. She ran to the door, yet it wouldn’t budge.
“Someone, help me!” shouted Sadie.
There was nothing, but silence outside the door. With no other choice, she pounded on the door and shouted for help. If this was a hospital, a doctor, nurse, or visitor had to hear her.
Something screeched, and Sadie covered her ears. The noise came from a speaker hidden somewhere in the room. It diminished after a second and became a soft buzzing in the air.
“Hello, T4. Please try to relax. We have a busy day ahead of us.” The voice belonged to an elderly man, but he had confidence that didn’t match his gravelly tone.
“Please, help me,” said Sadie, “I need to call someone.” If I’m alright, maybe, Lars can tell me what’s going on.
“Who would you call? The police, a lawyer, or some figure with political influence?”
“I need to call Lars. He’s my boyfriend.”
“What an odd request,” said the elderly man.
“Understandable and improbable. I do love conversation.
However, I can learn all I need through extensive testing.”
Two men dressed in white-collared shirts, blue slacks, and security badges opened her door. Both were tall and rather muscular. Neither of them spoke.
The men grabbed her by the arms and carried her out of the room. Sadie screamed in their ears and thrashed her body. She lost her strength, and her feet dragged on the floor.
They carried her through multiple hallways. Gray doors pocketed the walls, and more guards roamed the area. People that wore white coats walked through the halls and passed through the doors.
No one made any clear movements to help or even acknowledge her. Sadie called to a woman that wore glasses and had a ponytail, but the woman turned away and walked out of sight. The men opened a door and brought Sadie into another room. A table with suitcases sat nearby the entrance.
She was carried to the center of the room where a pair of chain cuffs hung from the ceiling. This place wasn’t a hospital. Sadie screamed into the closest man’s ear, spat in his face, and kicked him. The man slapped her across the face before they shackled her arms and walked to the table.
While she cursed the men and dangled from the ceiling, the guards unpacked and loaded an assortment of guns. The two men dealt with the weapons as if it was a normal task. Guns of many sizes and shapes were laid on the table.
Sadie looked at the wall behind her. It had many holes and cracks on its surface. An expended bullet sat at the base of the wall. The guards pointed their guns at her. She begged for her life, but the intercom blared over her words.
“Gentlemen,” said the old man, “the recording devices are ready. You may fire at will.”
Then gunshots drowned her screams. Every shot exploded in her eardrums. The bullets were hot pokers piercing her flesh. She swung on the chain as if death were toying with her.
Her life was over, and she clung to her last happy memory.
Eight twenty-nine p.m., it was later than Sadie expected, though she didn’t mind going out for dinner. Hours ago, she had left a university party. Her friends asked her to stay and join them later for another party. She used tomorrow’s ceremony as an excuse to go home.
Although she lied, there were no consequences between friends. Sadie needed to be sober. She may have organized her classmates’ vacation within a single day, but she didn’t want to risk embarrassing herself tonight. This dinner could make or break her future.
Sadie showered and dressed for the evening. She had put on a black dress and tied her brown hair into a bun. After she judged her looks, she spotted a patch on her neck and covered the blemish with makeup. Her clean, rosy skin was a quality from her British grandfather, and her curved eyes came from her mother’s Korean family.
A knock came from the door, and Lars opened the door. He paused, appraised her from head to toe, and said, “I love your drive for perfection. I’ll be waiting in the car.”
“Thanks, see you in a minute.” Sadie enjoyed his kindness. Lars told her that his manners came from Britain, and his love for science came from Italy. She expressed her gratitude for his generosity whenever she could. He was her best friend, and she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.
Pleased with her work, she locked their apartment and went downstairs. Lars greeted her in the driveway. He wore a tuxedo with his hair gelled and combed. They were a color-coordinated couple with their hair and outfits. When she reached their car, he got out and opened the door for her.
She sat and tapped her feet together. The car rattled and sputtered, but she liked it. San Diego was a large city, and she couldn’t imagine traveling without a car. Her apartment building was the center of the neighborhood. They had driven to beaches, clubs, and parties. Their car brought them everywhere and more.
“Where are we going tonight?” said Sadie.
“Let me think.” Lars drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and said, “Frankie’s BBQ?”
“Aren’t we a little overdressed?”
He smiled and nodded as he drove the car. She playfully slapped his shoulder and told him to be serious. Lars imitated a cheesy French accent and said, “Tonight, my dear, we will be dining at Le Perch.”
“Le Perch! No way.” Sadie tried to prevent her legs from shaking, and she asked if he was joking. Lars told her it was true, and his answer worried her. Critics articulated how fascinating and delicious the food was. However, they also described the high prices on the menus.
“Hey, you got awfully quiet. Don’t worry about the money.” Lars reached over with one hand and massaged her shoulder. He explained how a friend of a friend obtained their reservation for a table hidden in a dark corner. “It’s still pricey, but it’s worthwhile. We’re celebrating my new career.”
“Oh, right, I was thinking about your master’s degree…” Sadie opened her purse, took out her phone, and checked her social media. No one had posted new advice, so she silenced her phone and put it away. She took a couple of breaths and braced herself for whatever could happen.
“You know,” said Sadie, “world-saving research can be done here. California has lots of potential.”
Lars didn’t give her an immediate answer, nor did he try to talk about something else. Sadie stared at him. There was an uneasy twitch at the corner of his lips. She stared out the window and sulked at his reflection.
“I have goals. If I’m going to make a difference, I have to leave the state,” said Lars.
“What about me? Am I part of your goals? I wanted to be a musician, and I didn’t plan on finding you in my life.” Sadie felt a tear on her cheek, and she covered her face with her hands. The fear and sadness, that accumulated over the last week, broke through her facade.
“We can still call and text each other. I’ll visit every holiday, and you can come over during your breaks.” Lars rubbed Sadie’s back, and she cried louder. She sobbed and told him to take her home. He made promises for their future and tried to make her laugh with no success.
“I wanted to save this for dessert, but it looks like you need it now.” Lars reached into his jacket, moved his clenched fist to her face, and told her to put her hands out.
She opened her palms, and he handed her a velvet box. Sadie stared at him, and an exciting expectation rose as she opened the box. It contained a gold ring with a jade stone.
“It’s beautiful,” said Sadie. “Is this what I think it is?”
“So, will you marry me?” said Lars.
“Yes, I will.” She slipped the ring on to her finger and kissed him on the cheek. His face glowed with a pink blush, and a tear formed in corner of his eye.
He raised her hand and kissed it. “I’m so happy. You have no idea how much that means to me.”
“It means we’ll be together,” said Sadie. “I’ll get my master’s degree by next year. In the meantime, we have to video chat, every morning and night.”
Suddenly, the car was jostled, and they were forced into oncoming traffic. A large truck collided with their car and sent them flying. The world was filled with shrieking tires, banging metal, and car horns. Sadie held her ears as their car tumbled and spun.
It took a while for Sadie to realize that they had stopped moving. She tried to turn her head, but her neck was sore. The car was flipped upside down. Although she wanted to unbuckle her seat belt and stop the blood from rushing to her head, she had serious pain coming from her chest and one of her legs.
Her seat belt and her injuries restrained her body. She asked Lars for help, but he hung motionless from his seat.
When he didn’t answer, she raised her voice and tapped him on the arm. Lars had his eyes closed, and blood dripped from his head. While she tried to wake him, she placed her hand near his nose and felt his weak breath.
The happy life became bleak. Sadie grabbed a hold of his hand. There were wishes and comforting words she wanted to say, but her tongue slurred all of her sentiments. Her hand became numb as everything faded into nothingness.