I apologize for the delay.  In preparing for the first conference of the year, I fell a little behind on this story.  So, here is an extra episode this week.  I’ll be back again on Wednesday with episode 5-3.  As promised , answers start coming in this half of the story,  A big one, in this episode with more even larger revelations to come.

The Stolen Man: Endgame?  (Episode 5-2)

(S.M. Table of Contents)

Similar and yet not identical.  It’s Dan instead of Six and Seven is speaking instead of standing idly by.  And of course it’ s not identical, that was a dream or a memory (you are now confident this is so) and this is something actually happening actually here.  In fact, for the first time in living memory (which granted is only about 24 sleepless hours), you feel present..  The drugs must be leaving your system, the confusion and fog beginning to dissipate by the physical presence of the diamond room, the yin-yang symbol, the machine and Dan’s words.  It’s like putting on bifocals for the first time; sure there’s still adjustments, but somethings are starting to come into sharper focus.

“It’s not the only way,” Seven says and your response is immediate.

“Seven!”

Dan looks at you strangely and then shaking his head he speaks, “Look, you’re going to remember soon enough.  There is no Seven, buddy.”

“But he’s right there…behind you.”

Dan looks over his shoulder to see what you are pointing at, then turns back to you, ‘There’s no one there, Troy.”

“What are you talking about?  He’s right there!”

“Troy, listen, Seven was a conceit.  Something we made up to justify our actions, your actions,  Six’s actions.  There is no Seven.”

“He’s right there.  I keep talking with him, seeing him.”

“It’s this freaky machine.  I’m telling you dude, it has a way of rewiring things in your head.  I told you.  It doesn’t just erase memories, it changes them.  It makes imaginary things real and real things imaginary.  Six created Seven in your head with this machine, just like he stole your life.”

“But why would he do that?  That makes no sense.”

Dan nods at the switch in your hand, “Just push the button.  You’ll understand everything then.  If Seven is here, how come he doesn’t do anything, say anything?”

“How come you’re not saying anything,” you ask Seven.

“The machine doesn’t work that way, Troy.”  Says Seven calmly.

“There, “ you say to Dan, “You heard him.”

“Nothing, Troy. He’s not there.”

You are only barely hearing Dan as he says this, because Seven is continuing to speak at the same time, “This is what Dan does, Troy.  He simply wants to confuse you.  He and Six, are working to together to confuse you about what’s true.”

“Six did this to me.  Are you saying Dan works for Six?”

“Dan claims to work only for himself, but nonetheless, their goals are the same, and you’ve completely bought what their selling.”

“What are you saying?  Six says Helen’s my wife, Dan says she’s not.”

“Each has played his part perfectly to convince you that Helen is not your wife; convincing you that you are not Troy.  First they scrub your memory with the machine, then Six plays the enemy trying to convince you of something you know is not true, while Dan adds credibility by being the friend who agrees with you.”

“I don’t know.  I can’t believe that.”

“Think about it, Troy.  If everyone had tried to simply convince you that you were not Helen’s husband you would have been suspicious and fought to believe you were Troy.  You were one of the first to realize that when stealing lives, it is best to coerce the victim into fighting for precisely what you want him to believe.”

Dan is speaking again now, urgently, “Con on Troy.  Push the button.  I don’t know what you’re hearing, but it’s just what Six had in mind.  It’s just misfiring neurons, wrong connections.  Are you going to let Six screw with your brain to create truths for you that aren’t real?  Or are you going to push the button and find the answers you’ve been looking for.”

Seven is moving toward you passing carefully around Dan without touching him, “Don’t push it Troy.  This is reality.  You, me, Dan here.  We’re all here.  Helen is your wife.  You are Troy.”

Dan continues to show no awareness of Seven, but his words seem a perfect counterpoint to Seven’s and he too begins to move towards you, “Push the button Troy.  It only gets clear if you push the button.  Undo their work.  Find yourself so you can help me!”

You close your eyes, thinking about the revelations you’ve learned about yourself in the “Divine comedy” treatment, thinking about the yin-yang, the photos in your jacked pocket, conversations with Six,  with Seven, with Helen.  With your eyes closed you aren’t even sure whether it’s Seven or Dan or possibly even both who finally asks you, “Who are you going to trust Troy?”

You open your eyes and see Seven rushing towards you at the same time you push the button.  Seven reaches you, but makes no effort to stop you.  Instead, he places his hand briefly on your hand and whispers in your ear, “a gift.”

And then you see Dan’s smiling face.  It’s not a joyful smile exactly, but it is gleeful, victorious.  Seven seems to back away from you, Dan too, but then you realize it’s not them.  It’s time, running backwards, or more precisely memories running backwards.  You never leave the chair, never feel yourself moving, but the events of the last day are clearly playing out in front of you, like a movie, like a virtual experience.  The conversation here, the race into this room, Lorelei, running backwards gun drawn (why didn’t she shoot?), the entire wilderness experience, played backwards, even more surreal than it was forwards, Lorelei, Helen, all of it running backwards and then you reach the dream, your earliest memory.  You in the chair but you also standing watching you in the chair (how could you be in both places, even in memory?)  It slows here, almost stops and then begins rewinding again.  Its unclear what you are seeing now, it’s going so fast, and suddenly it slows, stops again, starts running forward, something you’ve not remembered before, but as you see it, it plays like a move you remember seeing once, but only as you watch it.  It is a memory and it is coming back.

Troy (you) is sitting in the same chair, but there are no restraints.  Six is nowhere to be seen, Seven is standing in front of you and he’s reading form a list of some kind.

“Paul Anderson.  Father of four.  Wife who love him.  Stolen.”

You watch as Troy in the chair replies, arguing with Seven’s characterization of “stolen,” justifying his actions somehow.  You know this because you feel it, you remember how it felt.

“Reassigned.” you say.

“Stolen.” repeats Seven, “Senator Joyce.  Stolen”

“Reassigned!”

“Stolen.  John Danforth, Michael Sheets, Phil Bryant, Helen Warner,David Mac…”

“Enough!”  Troy puts his head in his hands.  He/you looks about to weep.

“Indeed.  It’s more than enough.  It’s too much.  And yet there’s more.  Too many more.  You need to hear them.  You of all people, have to hear them.”

“But I”ll never forget them.”  The despair in your voice is beyond anything you still remember ever feeling.

“No, you won’t,” Seven agrees.

“But…they were just reassigned.”

“No, they were stolen, some murdered, almost all destroyed.”

“No.  No.  It’ can’t be.  I can’t bear it.”

“Taken, just like Dan.”

The rewinding starts again, pauses once more.  Troy is sitting again, this time on a couch in Helen’s living room (in your living room, you now realize.)

“I killed him.  I killed Dan, ”  Troy is saying.  You have no idea what he’s talking about.  You vaguely remember saying it, maybe, but you still have no idea why.  Did you kill Dan?  How can that be?

Before you can ponder this too long, the residing starts again, scenes flashing past too quickly to process now.  Another pause, another brief scene forward.

Troy, standing this time, yelling at Helen who is sitting on the couch, “Is he even mine?  Is he?”

Scenes flashing by, some you don’t even seem to be in, but maybe you just don’t see yourself.

Pause, forward.

Dan and Helen sitting together at a table in the coffee shop.  Laughing, enjoying each other.  The anger you feel at this moment is reflected on the face of the Troy walking in the coffee shop.

Rewind

Pause, forward.

You and Helen sitting together on a couch.  She is clearly pregnant.  You are both very happy.  You remember this, you remember the feeling.

Rewind.

Briefer pauses.  Moments in your life with Helen.  Memories you are reclaiming.  Scenes of Dan and you.  Scenes of you with Helen.  One scene with Lorelei.  Sunnyvale, your house, the coffee shop, your wedding to Helen.  At some point the rewinding stops, freezes and starts moving forward again.  Too fast to watch, but as they play you begin to remember.  AS the mental tape forwards back to this moment, you are beginning to remember.  Not everything, a few very important things are still missing, but lots of it.  Most of it even. You remember the moment Six did this too you, it plays much as it always has, and then you are here, sitting in the present, answering the question that Six asked you…how long ago was it?  Just a day?

Looking up at Dan, who is waiting expectantly (not dead.  Clearly not dead.) you speak one single sentence, and it oddly seems to frighten him,

“I’m Troy.”

 (Next Episode)

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