The Beginning: episode 1-2

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People walk along the street oblivious to the fact that the moorings of reality are slipping their knots, and the entire world is drifting toward madness. There they all are acting as if everything is normal.

How can anything be normal in a world where people pretend they are your wife, strap you to a chair and make you forget who you are. You don’t even know what normal should be for you. Are you happy? The nervous type? Confident? Important or nobody? Rich or poor?

“Who are you?” Six looming threateningly over you; you locked in the chair. He was so angry. You have no idea how you felt when it happened.

When it happened…How could it have happened? Did it really? Could such strangeness be real in a world with these people, these passive unknowing faces which pass by you. You are irrationally angry with them, these passers-by, precisely because they are passing by. You could be crazy, probably are, and none of them care.

Seven standing passively behind Six, watching it all happen.

But maybe someone does care. Maybe. You stop unsure whether to go back to Helen or press on to Sunnyvale.

When he bumps into you roughly and then politely excuses himself it takes you a few precious seconds to recognize him. Maybe it’s because the smile he gives you looks almost warm, not at all like the dream. In those few precious seconds, you mumble some incoherent apology and then you two pass each other.

But it was, and now you are beginning to realize it was, it really was the man from your dream, not the angry one, the passive one. Seven.

You turn rapidly and there he is just disappearing around the corner of a building. Helen, Sunnyvale, none of that is important now. Now what matters is finding him, getting answers from him.

You run after him confident that he will just be immediately around the corner but when you turn it he’s just turning another corner, this time to the left. How did he?

You are running at a sprint now. He is still moving at a calm easy walk so you are bound to catch him this time. You turn the next corner and there he is further down the block now, two streets down, turning again. Did he just look back at you and chuckle? He did. You pick up the pace yet again.

You’ve been running for awhile now. You’re not sure how long. You’re really not even thinking anymore. You feel like a rat in a maze.   It’s probably futile but you have to keep going. Here he is again, maybe this time. Maybe you’ll catch him this time. Another corner, and there he is again turning ahead of you. Are you closer now? Is he slowing down? Yes, he is!

He is crossing the street nonchalantly heading toward another blind corner so you start to sprint across the street to cut him off.

The car which almost hits you honks, breaking your stride and making you realize how tired you are; tired and winded, and suddenly, unable to run. Where are you? How long have you been running? A long time, you suspect. You stand in the middle of the street catching your breath, watching him disappear around yet another corner. You are preparing for another sprint when someone gets out of the car you are blocking and comes towards you.

“Troy”

It’s Helen. She is looking at you like you are a rabid dog, a family pet perhaps, affection but mostly fear.

“I’m not…”

“Just get in the car, Troy.”

“No”

You don’t even know where you’re going. What are you doing, just wandering the streets?”

“I have a plan.”

“Well, good for you, but you asked me to prove you were Troy and then when I start to do it, You’ve run out the door! Come to think of it that’s probably the best proof of all.”

You stop walking and stare at her.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying  just get in the car.”

You look back toward the car stopped in the middle of the street, engine still running;  you turn and start walking away from the car. Helen walks after you,

“You’re not listening to me. I said I can prove it.”

“Then prove it. Who’s stopping you?”

“When you left… I went to get your ID.”

You stop walking and turn toward her, “ID?”

“Yeah, ID. It proves you’re Troy.”

“How do I know you haven’t faked it?”

“How could I…? What are you saying, Troy? Listen to yourself. Anyway it doesn’t matter.”

It’s really bothering you that she sounds so reasonable and you sound so crazy. Thinking about the last few hours since you woke up it’s suddenly occurring to you that maybe the world isn’t going mad. Maybe it really is just you. What were you just doing? Chasing a phantom?

How do you know if you’re crazy?

Maybe if what you are saying sounds crazy even to you. Maybe that’s why you at least decide to look at the wallet she’s offering you.

You look through it and find a little cash, but surprisingly no ID. You look at Helen questioningly and, you hope, not madly accusingly.

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. It doesn’t matter. It’s all gone. No ID at all. But I swear to you it was all there last night when we went out.”

“We went out?”

“Well, that’s probably putting it charitably. But yeah, we were together and we ate. I saw your ID where it normally is when you paid the bill.”

“And now it’s gone?”

Helen shrugs and you are angry again. Angry and confused and wondering how you being crazy would make your ID disappear. It wouldn’t would it? And besides maybe the fact you sound crazy to yourself means you aren’t crazy.

If you were you wouldn’t know it, right?  You’d think it was normal.

You start walking away again, but not before sneering, “Convenient.”

“Seems inconvenient to me” replies Helen.

You turn to Helen again, confronting her directly, “No! It’s very convenient for you. For some reason you want me to believe I’m Troy and suddenly all the ID which could prove who I really am is missing.” Is that you speaking? You are surprised at the bitterness in your voice. You’re not yelling but you see how your harsh words are affecting Helen.

You take the cash out and toss the wallet back to Helen.  “Leave me alone.”

Helen catches the wallet and as if the weight is too much for her drops her hands immediately to her side. Her head follows, drooping and with surprise you see that she is starting to weep.

“You are so stubborn, “ she says through the tears, “I told you I can prove it and now you won’t even let me try. You won’t even get in the car. Please Troy, don’t give up now. If it’s over fine, but not this way, not without you even knowing about us, about…”

You can’t hear Helen’s final words or maybe she didn’t actually finish, her mouth still moving in gasps and sobs.

You aren’t sure what to do. Truth is, you feel like a heel, but you don’t even know why. It’s not like you’ve hurt someone you care about, is it? Surely this is just pity, normal human compassion. Would you feel normal human compassion if you were crazy?

Yet you turn and keep walking away, when her words come back to you, her words and something in them perhaps, “…not without you knowing…”

What is it you don’t know? What can she tell you?

Sighing, you turn back. Helen is poised to get back in her car.

“How?” you ask.

“How what?” she says tiredly.

“You said you could still prove it. How?  How can you prove to me who I am?”

Helen looks up at you, eyes already drying, “Work. People at work can identify you. Lots of them. Receptionists, tellers, guards, any of  the employees at the bank.”

She gets in the car and sits behind the wheel waiting for you, apparently, to get in.

You reluctantly get in the car and ask, “I’m a banker?”

Helen turns the car in a graceful u-turn and starts driving.

“No, you are the bank. They know you. You spend more time there than you do with me.”

“I’ve never spent anytime with you.”

Helen sighs, “You used to spend all your time with me, Troy.  You used to love me.”

“I never loved you.”

You can see she is starting to cry again, but trying to hide it while she’s driving. You weren’t trying to be mean. Or maybe you were. You were angry. Now, you’re not. Anger is draining out of you, being replaced by something else.

“I..I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…well I did, but…look you surprised me back there. I didn’t realize…it’s just that it never occurred to me that you …well that you thought it was real. I thought you were acting. I don’t know what’s happening. I thought you were in on it, because I just can’t believe what you’re saying. I can’t believe this is my life. I’m a banker named Troy with a beautiful wife whom he doesn’t pay enough attention to. That’s not me. That’s not my life. I know it’s not.” It isn’t you. It doesn’t feel right…but it’s not all wrong either. You do feel something for Helen. Is it affection? Or just guilt?

“I know you’re my husband.”

“I see that now. I mean I see that you really believe it. I don’t know what’s happening. Maybe someone is playing a trick on both of us. Maybe you’re not the enemy. Let’s go to the bank. You’ll see. I’m not Troy, but maybe we can find him.

“And I know I love you Troy. See, I’m even willing to say it, if it will bring you back.”

Her voice is rich with emotion and you believe her. For the first time you believe her. Without thought you reply, “Right at this moment, I almost wish it were true, that I was Troy.”

“Almost.” She repeats softly, voice still shaking with emotion.

“I can tell you this. I know I’m not this Troy person because if I was, I never would have preferred the bank to you.” Awkwardly you pat her hand resting on the console between you. She smiles briefly and then looks troubled.

“Troy, Listen. I’ve got to tell you something. This isn’t…”

“What? What is it?”

“Nothing. We’re here.”

You turn to climb out of the car, looking up at the tall black building she’s pulled up in front of. You freeze halfway in and halfway out of the car. 911 Eden Avenue. It’s not a bank. It’s…

“Sunnyvale. This is where they did it to me.”

You look back in confusion at Helen.

“I’m sorry, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”

Even as you look at her in disbelief, you scold yourself for your gullibility, and at the same time are intensely aware of the two men in nicely pressed suits coming towards you from the Sunnyvale building. Your muscles are tensing, body poising,  eyes scanning and you are listening. It’s all happening without thought. Confusion is gone, emotion is gone, you are simply responding; not reacting, but pro-acting. You step from the car listening for Helen, so you’ll know without looking if she’s cornering you on that side, listening even to the steps of the men coming toward you gauging who’s slightly slower. It’s the one on the left. He’s got a small limp; so small you can’t see it, but you can hear it. For a brief moment you are distracted, no longer assessing, but doubting.

Can one hear such a thing? Are you just crazy?

That distraction almost leads to your capture,  but your doubt is immediately cleared when you catch a glimpse of the man standing in front of the big doors to Sunnyvale. The suit, the smug arrogant smile, the condescending superior nonchalance. You know this man and you hate him. You’ve hated him from long before your dreams.

Seeing Six standing there releases you from the paralysis of thought. Leaping from the gutter, using the curb to propel yourself you effortlessly direct a perfectly aimed roundhouse kick at the faster man on the right, following the momentum of your kick, sliding easily past the slower limping man, along the side of the building and down the street. towards a narrow alley behind Sunnyvale.

You still think you are a banker, friend?

You are listening for them to run after you, but all you hear is Helen saying, “Troy! Wait!”  And all you can see is the older man, the one you were chasing through the maze of streets, Seven, walking towards you. You quickly make a turn to the left crossing the street away from Sunnyvale, away from Helen, away from Seven. You are surprised not to hear them running after you, but perhaps because you are listening attentively, you do manage to hear Helen say, just before you turn a corner out of sight and out of earshot, “Wait, wait. Let me talk to him. This went wrong, but I can get him back.”

(Click here for next episode.)

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