I recall the nightmare as it repeats itself over and over again in my mind. One thing was sure. Monsters are real, and for a while, I was one. I was lying in bed when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remembered everything that had happened to me. I had slipped into a coma, and the doctors thought I would die. They hooked me up to life support machines, feeding tubes, and IVs. Nothing was going to bring me back. Then I made a miraculous recovery in a matter of milliseconds. I came out of my coma, and there was a strange man I had never seen before greeting me. He had weird eyes that seemed to pierce through me and just stared at me with an unrelenting gaze. I didn’t recognize this man at all. He was handsome, but he had disfiguring scars near his head and blue-gray hair. He wore no beard but looked as though he needed a shave. He seemed so happy to see me, and while I didn’t recognize him, I felt sorry for him. I was sorry he knew me, but I did not know him. Two weeks went by after I woke up from my coma. I still had not been released from the hospital because the doctors wanted me in a recovery program to help me learn how to use my body. I lost a lot of muscle during my coma. I woke up having another night of terror. They seemed more frequent as I had memory loss when I awoke from my coma. Monsters were crawling down a wall – coming for me. I screamed as I shot up out of a dead sleep sweating with tears falling down my face. I was still having trouble moving about on my own and learning to use my legs. When I attempted to crawl out of my hospital bed, I fell onto the hospital floor, causing two nurses to rush in and help me back to my bed. They gave me an inhaler as I was struggling to breathe. The other placed a cold washcloth on my forehead, and the other proceeded to get me ice water. Once they had me calmed down, I tried to compose myself. I thought of my son; my sweet child was worried about me. I thought of his smiling face, and happy tears filled my eyes. Then, with dread, I remembered everything that had occurred before—the laboratory, the experiments, the maniacal doctors, and then him. Charlie was alive. I felt grateful but also frightened when I realized he had saved my life. What had he given me?
Buzz buzz, my cell phone vibrated on the nightstand next to my new bed. My bed was hard, and my pillows were mediocre, but the fact that my ex-wife, Evelyn, and her new husband, Rick, let me stay in their guest house was beneficial. I was able to visit with my twin sons every day now. It was weird seeing them both so tall and carrying on a conversation with me. Evelyn had greeted me with her typical scowl the morning I arranged to meet her. That is until she saw my face and saw that something very wrong had happened to me. I had convinced her I was working in a war-torn country, which is why I had so many scars. I explained I still couldn’t talk about my government work as a doctor, and she seemed to accept it upon viewing my disfigured face. “Is the blue hair part of your injury?” she asked sarcastically. “Not exactly,” I began. “Fashion statement.” I lied.
“Oh, trying to date younger women? I figured, given colored hair is all the rage with the young these days. Gotta stay cool, I guess..”
“No, I -” she never let me explain further that it wasn’t to pick up younger women. She let me meet my sons, Michael, and Adam, who were now almost 14 years of age. I was meeting them for the first time in eight long years. I was so worried they’d hate me for being gone so long. Michael didn’t bat an eyelash. “Want to shoot some hoops, dad, like old times?” It was music to my ears. Adam has always been shy; he hugged me as tears fell down his cheeks, my sensitive boy. Evelyn and Rick agreed to let me live in their guest house while returning to civilization. How far those nightmares of Dulce labs seemed in moments like these. It was a nice break from reality until the phone shook me out of a dead sleep.
Present-day -3 AM
I sat up and did not recognize the number. Wearily, I rubbed my eyes, picked up my phone, and selected to answer the mysterious call. “Hello?” I answered and was shocked by my deep raspy voice. “What did you do to me?”
A woman angrily asked on the other end of the phone. She sounded panicked at the same time. It annoyed me to be woke from my slumber at such an hour in such a way. Then I realized it was my dear friend, Karen. I softened immediately. “Karen?”
“I remember everything. What did you give me, Charlie?”
“What’s it going to do to me?”
“Nothing. I swear it. I thought I took the same thing so far; it has done nothing to me,” except blue hair. “It was developed to cure all the effects of the experiments. Let me come to see you, and I can explain everything.” “No. I don’t want to see you. I don’t want anything to do with experiments or you again.” I didn’t understand why she was so angry with me. I stood up and took a deep breath. “Karen, I would never do anything to hurt you.”
“How did you survive? You were dead!”
“It was what Dr. Randall gave me. I don’t even know what it was. Can I talk to you? I have so many things I need to say.”
“How do I know it’s you? You could be one of those clones! I want my life back, Charlie! No more doctors, no more experiments. I want a normal life.”
“We have a son together now,” I said, and she became reticent. “He’s not like other children. The things he can do are because of those experiments. I can help him understand. He will need someone who understands the ramifications of such powers.”
“He’s my son, Charlie.”
I relaxed, understanding the source of her anger was more about being overprotective. “I suppose you think you know best, but I saw what Willy is capable of doing with my own eyes. He’s nearly two years of age but the size of an eight-year-old. I know that scares you because he is aging so quickly. Let me help you. Let me help him!” There was a long pause. It was so long that I was afraid Karen had hung up on me, and finally, she spoke.
“Alright,” there were tears in her voice. “Andy is bringing him to see me tomorrow afternoon around 1. Come then.”
She hung up on me, and I laid back down and tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. A part of me was now excited to see Karen and Willy.
The following day, I found myself rushing to get to the hospital. There were butterflies in my stomach, and I struggled to maintain my composure when I finally got to Karen’s room. I stopped and took a deep breath before I walked in. Andy was leaving, and I watched him scowl at me as he walked past me and down the hallway. Willy looked at me through black sunglasses on his face.
“See, I told you she would remember you.” he smiled at me. I looked at him and nodded.
“Yes, you did. You’re brilliant, aren’t you, Willy?”
“Mom says I need to work on manners, but I’d say I’m smarter than most adults.”
I saw Karen sigh and look at him shaking her head. “Willy, do you want a soda from the vending machine?” she asked.
“Sunkist? Can I?” he asked excitedly, as an eight-year-old child would be.
“I have some money in my purse. Go ahead and get it.” Karen said to him, trying to maintain her composure, but I could tell she was a little annoyed with herself as she struggled to move toward her purse. She was weak from her recent injury.
“Here you go. I got it, Karen. I know it isn’t much, but it is the least I can do.” I said, looking at her blue eyes. She looked so tired and frail. It wasn’t the woman I recalled when I first met her. She was barely recognizable in this state, and I knew it was my fault deep down. I wish I had not taken her from Dru’s apartment that day. I couldn’t change that now. All I could do now was try to undo all the damage. Willy walked out the door into the hallway toward the vending machine at the very end of the long hallway. “He’s a good kid.”
“I know I raised him with Andy’s help.”
“Are you and Andy together now?”
“No. What gave you that idea?”
“Andy just seems overprotective,” I said
“Have you never had a best friend, Dr. Zozo?” It took me aback her calling me Dr. Zozo. She had always called me Doc or Charlie; this was Karen’s way of hurting me.
“I have had a few. I consider you a good friend. After all, we have been through.”
“You never tried to find me. Why didn’t you come to find your son if you were alive? I could have used your help.”
“I know, but I thought the world had ended when I awoke after the explosion. I couldn’t get out of the laboratories. I was stuck down there, and after a while, I gave up. Then something miraculous happened. I heard your voice asking me to find you. I believe it was when you were first in a coma. Then when I met Willy, he told me he felt me and reached out using his newfound powers.” I sighed.
Karen seemed lost in thought over it for a long time, and then I slowly leaned in closer and touched her hand. I don’t know why I did it, but then she pulled her hand away from me so quickly you would have thought I stung her.
“I took you.”
“What?” she looked at me, confused.
“I didn’t have to, but I took you from Dru’s house that day. I reasoned that I did it to protect you. In the end, you are better off because you would not have been under my protection if Dr. Randall had gotten a hold of you. Dru used to talk about you all the time. I felt like I knew you.”
“I have no idea what to say.” the look in her eyes said it all. I had just killed something inside of her. Karen trusted me, and then she took a deep breath. She nodded and then looked at me angrily. “You felt like you knew me?”
“Yes. Dru showed me photos of you both. She spoke of wishing I could meet you and had me look you up on the internet so that I knew more about you and her. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I started reading your quotes of the day online. You were everything I wasn’t. I was in hell. You were like this, an angel, a muse- someone free to be who you wanted. You gave me hope that there was still good in the world. I was like the Phantom of the Opera. I am so sorry.” Tears welled up in my eyes, and I found myself getting emotional. I was so guilty that I wanted to confess all my sins to Karen. Karen began to well up in tears as well. She said nothing; she looked down and then abruptly looked up at the door of her room. Wiping her cheeks, she tried her best to sit up.
“Where is Willy? He should have come back by now.”
I stepped into the hallway and looked around. I could see the vending area and briskly walked down the hall and turned the corner. An older man was sitting reading the paper. “Was there a little boy wearing black sunglasses over here?” The elderly man looked up from his newspaper and shook his head. I went to the nurse’s station and asked both nurses at the station. Neither one of them saw Willy. I ran into Karen’s room and looked at her shaking my head. She struggled to stand, but she did and nearly knocked over the bedside table. I grabbed her before she fell to the floor. I helped her up so she could walk into the hallway to see herself. When she received the same response from the nurses and passing strangers as I did, she wandered back into the hospital room and picked up her cell phone.
“Andy, it’s me, Karen. Please tell me Willy is with you!” She dropped her phone when she didn’t get the hoped-for response. I picked up the cellular and called the police. We spent the next twenty-four hours trying to find out what had happened to Willy. He couldn’t have vanished into thin air. I was fearful that if someone had taken him, it was someone with Dulce Laboratories. I didn’t think anyone knew about Willy, though. Karen had kept him close and rarely let her out of her sight. Karen was careful not to let attention be drawn to Willy. She was fearful that someone would come and find him. We sat in her room, Karen, Andy, and I waiting on answers. Finally, a detective asked me if we could watch surveillance footage of a little boy walking hand in hand with a woman.
We didn’t think much of it, and I was sure it wouldn’t be my son. The detective played the footage on his surface pro, and Karen and I both sat looking at the footage.
In the video was Willy walking down the hallway toward the vending machines. Before he got his soda pop out of the vending machine, he stopped. Turning his head to look around the corner, he walked closer to someone. There, in the hallway, was a tall woman with short brown hair. We couldn’t make out her face, but then she looked in the direction of the surveillance camera and smiled. Karen and I both looked at each other.
“Dru is alive?” she asked me.