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The Woman in Blue, Part 3 of 3

The Woman in Blue, Part 2

…Jack Simons walked into the house. It seemed mere seconds since he had left it that morning. He was tired and aggravated, although he didn’t know why. And his finger hurt. Slowly, he parted his fingers and saw two words, cut in tiny strokes on the side of his left ring finger. Stay calm.

Someone must have known about his outburst the night before.

He sat down at the computer. Hi, Sarah.

Hi, Jack. How are you feeling today?

He felt like crap and wanted to punch something, but he forced a smile onto his face. I feel great. How about you?

I’m good, Jack. I’m good.

 

Over the next few days, it seemed as if everything in the house began conspiring against him. The next day, the toaster started smoking on its own. That made the sprinkler system go off, which soaked everything in the house, including his bed, but strangely, not the computer. Sarah had no explanation for this, as much as he accused her of setting it up.

Stay calm. The words rang shrilly in his head, making him more angry, if anything, but he contained his rage. This got easier when he discovered an extra heating unit and other electronics stuffed inside the mangled remains of the toaster and he knew that they—whoever they were—were testing him, trying to get him angry.

On the night of May 21st, Jack was woken up by sounds of movement coming from the living room. He went out and turned on the light to see a burglar—no mask, though—standing in his living room, filling a large bag with electronics and knick-knacks.

“What in Styx do you think you’re doing?” Jack asked, although it was pretty obvious.

“Go back into the bedroom and you won’t get hurt,” the burglar said. He was young, in his early twenties probably. He gave Jack a saucy sneer and suddenly Jack wanted to kill him. Not for the stuff he was stealing—it wasn’t Jack’s anyway—but just for being an arrogant prick who thought he was tough and thought he was in control.

Stay calm.

Stay calm.

Stay calm.

Of course, this was only another test, to see what he would do. Jack forced a grin onto his face. Are you watching this, Sarah? he thought.

“Ah, come on. You’re not going to hurt me,” Jack said, suddenly changing his tone and giving the burglar a easy grin. “You just want this stuff and then you want to go, right? How did you get in?”

“Uh, the back door. It was unlocked,” the burglar said, suddenly unsure of himself.

“Makes sense, I honestly can’t remember ever locking it. Hey, do you want the TV?” Jack asked. “I don’t watch it anyway.” He unhooked the cables from the back and then carried it over to the door. “I’ll get the microwave for you too.”

Twenty minutes later, Jack and the burglar had stripped the house of anything of value and piled it by the back door. Everything except the computer and the telephone. Jack had offered them, but the burglar had declined, not surprisingly.

“Now go into the bedroom and shut the door,” the burglar ordered. “I’ll carry this stuff outside.”

“Fair enough,” Jack said. He went into the bedroom and lay down, listening to the burglar moving things out of the back door. He wondered if the burglar lost his memories every time he went through. That would be pretty funny. He wondered if Sarah was watching all this and what she thought of it all.

He heard the door shut and then there was silence. A moment later, the phone rang. Jack smiled and then got up to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Jack. I saw you were up anyway.”

“Yeah, funny thing about that.”

“Jack, I’m here to tell you that it’s over. The experiment, that is. They say you passed.”

“Okay, now what?”

“Now, you can leave, for real.”

Jack heard a buzz and a click. Looking out in the hall, he saw that the front door was standing ajar.

“You’re in prison, Jack,” Sarah’s voice said. “You were sentenced to life in prison for killing two men, but you were lucky enough to be chosen for this experiment, to see if your behavior could change if you had no memories—to see if you were fundamentally bad or not.”

Jack knew he should shut up. His brain kept telling him to, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Is that what you think of me? That I’m a robot that has a GOOD-EVIL switch that might get flipped to GOOD if I couldn’t remember being a criminal? And you were going to prove this by trying to make me angry? Anger doesn’t equal evil, Sarah, and calm doesn’t equal good.”

“Jack,” her voice was sweet but warning at the same time. “They passed you; don’t try to convince them to undo that. This is only Stage 1. If you go out the front door, they will still be monitoring you, although you won’t know it. You’ll forget everything about this place and about prison. You’ll have a new identity and wake up in a hospital, supposedly with amnesia.”

“Amnesia?”

“The Department of Corrections isn’t too creative with their ideas,” Sarah said and there was a hint of amusement in her voice.

“Will I remember you?”

“No, you won’t.”

“Then tell me: who are you, Sarah?” Jack asked.

“I am your fiancée,” she said, after a pause. “We would be married now, if two men hadn’t broken into your house a week before our wedding. You beat them both to death. The warden asked me to help in the experiment as a control, because I knew you. I was the one person you could never forget and they wanted to prove that you could. I love you, Jack.”

“I won’t do it,” Jack said. “If I have to be in prison for the rest of my life, so be it. I don’t want to forget you, out there. I’ve been trying to remember you in here and I couldn’t. I don’t want to live like that for the rest of my life, especially now.”

“Jack,” Sarah said, “you don’t remember now, but there was a time when you fell in love with me. You pursued me and charmed me and made me fall in love with you too. You told me you did this experiment for me, so let me do this for you, Jack. Let me find you and make you fall in love with me again.”

“Okay, I’ll trust you. What do I do?”

“Just walk through the front door. There are machines built into the door frame. You won’t remember anything after that and we can start again. I love you, Jack.”

He wanted to return the feeling, to say he loved her too, but the words sounded false in his mind. He didn’t even remember her. “I will love you too,” he said. Then he hung up the phone and walked out the front door…

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The Woman in Blue, Part 2 of 3

The Woman in Blue, Part 1

Time flies when you only remember six hours out of every day and for Jack, the next few days seem to slip by like ghosts in the night. There were no more scratches on his body or messages in his briefcase, although he pored through every scrap of paper in it.

He talked for hours with Sarah, although the conversations were dry and often frustrating. She would not reveal anything about herself and he knew almost nothing about himself to tell. She was constantly asking how he felt: if he was angry, if he was relaxed. The questions themselves put him on edge, but he never told her that.

Jack began to fixate on her more and more as the days went by. She was the only person he knew in the world and his only contact with the human world. All his pent-up frustration, suspicion, loneliness, and lusty desires—they all became focused on her. He found himself loving her and hating her both, without even knowing who she was.

He wondered what she was like and if he had known her before—out in the real world. For all he knew, the Jack outside knew her and the two of them had lunch together every day. Not that it helped the Jack in here any.

If he was in a good mood, he would tease her and try to cajole her into telling him more about herself. What’s your favorite color? Come on, what’s it going to hurt? Let me guess: is it blue? All he ever got were smiley emoticons and avoidance.

On the fifth day—May 14th according to the computer’s calendar—Jack walked through the door with a sore foot. The pain was coming from the inside of his left foot. He sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV, covering that part of his foot with his hand and slowly stripped off his socks. He pretended to be stretching and raised his hand slightly to see the side of his foot. Here, the cuts were deeper than before and easier to read. Sarah bday, they read.

He had sent himself another message—against the rules—to say it was Sarah’s birthday. That must mean he knew her on the outside, unless this was only part of the experiment. He was getting frustrated with the whole thing. Sarah would not even tell him when it was going to end; just to be patient. Maybe there were other, darker forces lurking behind her, telling her what to say. He tried to see her as a victim as well in order to shield her from all the rage that were boiling inside of him.

Jack sat down in front of the computer. Yo Sarah, happy birthday!

For a moment, there was no response. Then, How did you know?

May 14 is your birthday, right?

How did you know? Did you remember it? Tell me, Jack, did you remember it was my birthday?

It was either that or admit he had read it off scratches on his foot. Finally, he typed, Yeah, I saw it was May 14 and suddenly thought it was your birthday. I guess I was right.

What else do you remember? Do you remember me? Describe me.

The only thing he associated with Sarah was the icon of the woman in the blue dress, but that probably wasn’t even her. He didn’t even know if the person on the other end of the chat program really was Sarah. They knew he didn’t remember and they were trying to trap him. Suddenly, he didn’t care anymore.

You’re eight feet tall with a lazy eye and long fingernails, he typed. You like raw seafood and nude demolition derbies.

There was no response to this. “Answer me,” he growled. So, what are you doing tonight for your birthday? Got a hot date lined up?

He barely even knew what he was typing. All he wanted was to get some sort of reaction out of her, to make her show herself as human, to show even a little of herself to him.

Wanna go out with me? Come on, just come pick me up. Or just come on in and we’ll screw on the couch.

There was no answer. Jack had been getting more furious as he wrote and now something seemed to explode in his head. “Answer me!” he screamed out loud and picking up the chair, he hurled it at the window.

The chair rebounded off the glass without even leaving a mark. Bulletproof glass. He was looking around for more furniture to throw when the phone rang.

The phone was in the kitchen. Jack had picked it up when he had first arrived, but there was no dial tone and he had ignored it as only a prop. Now, he strode over to it, jerking it savagely off the cradle.

“What.”

It was a woman’s voice on the other end. “Jack, what are you doing?” She sounded scared.

“You got me in a prison here,” he said. “And now I find I can’t even break the windows? I’m done with this. Let me out.”

“Jack, you agreed to do the full length of the experiment.”

“Yeah, well now I’m unagreeing to it. I want out and I want to keep my memories.”

“Jack, please.” There was pleading in her voice. “You must be patient. I know you don’t understand right now, but you have to trust me.”

“Why should I trust you?” Jack demanded. “I don’t even know you. Who are you anyway?”

“I’m Sarah.”

“Do I know you, out there?”

“Yes…yes, you do, but I can’t tell you how.”

“Just tell me if we are related. Are you my sister, cousin, mother?”

There was a slight pause. “No, we’re not related,” Sarah said. “Listen, I have to go. Remember Jack, be patient and trust me.” The line went dead.

Jack put the phone down and went back to the computer, but Sarah had logged off. That night he dreamed about her, but she always seemed to be just beyond his grasp.

The next day Jack got up and robotically went about getting ready. At 7:35, he stood in front of the door with his briefcase full of meaningless lesson plans and student reports. It seemed to get harder with time, having to walk through that door that erased all his memories and deposited him, a second later, back in the same place and hours later. Finally, he sighed and stepped forward…

…Jack Simons emerged from the model house attached to Northcross Prison and was immediately surrounded by guards. They took his briefcase and while they watched, he undressed and was handed an orange prison uniform.

Sub-Warden Neese, walked up to him with a tablet computer, shaking his head slightly.

“How did I do in there?” Jack asked.

“You got violent, Jack,” Neese said. “You tried to break a window with your chair. I was about to pull the program right there, but Sarah convinced me to let her call you and calm you down. You’re not doing well, Jack.”

“It’s not fair, though!” Jack said. “If you would just let me know what was going on, I’d behave for you. I’d be as good as gold.”

“You know why we can’t do that, Jack. Of course you can play nice for a while. What we are trying to determine is if you are a fundamentally dangerous and unstable person. I’ll see you back here in ten hours.”

“It’s all bull, if you ask me,” Jack’s cellmate, Chris Jamer said. They were lying on their bunks, staring at the ceiling. “Who wouldn’t get anxious and violent in a place like that, where they don’t tell you anything? They’re trying to get you to fail.”

“I have to try to get another message through to myself,” Jack said.

“Man, you know they said they would cancel the whole program if they caught you doing that again.”

“I’m going to fail anyway,” Jack said. “They said Sarah phoned me in there. I wonder if I recognized her voice. I gotta do this for her.”

“If you get caught trying to sneak another message in to yourself, you’ll never see her again,” Chris said. “You were lucky enough to be chosen for that program. Don’t screw it up now.”

“Give me your razor. I’ll make it small and put it between my fingers. They’ve never checked there yet.”

“You’re a fool, Jack,” Chris said, but he reached under his mattress and pulled out a tiny razor blade and handed it to Jack.

At 5:00, the guards came for Jack. They led him to a staging area where he undressed fully and stood naked while the guards checked him for contraband and messages.

“Arms up.” He raised his arms. “Fingers spread. I said, fingers spread!” One of the guards seized Jack’s ring finger. He looked at it for a second, then gave a harsh laugh and threw the hand down. “I didn’t see nothing,” he said in a low tone, “but you’d better follow your own advice in there, cuz after today, you’ll never see the inside of that house again, if you don’t.”

Jack got dressed in his teacher clothes and was handed his briefcase. Then he walked through the door and into the house…

The Woman in Blue, Part 3


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