Serial Saturday: The Stolen Man: Episode 1-6

S.M. Table of Contents

The Beginning: Episode 1-6

You are sitting on the bottom two steps. Dr. Sexton is helping you take a drink of some strong liquid. It’s beginning to dawn on you that you must have passed out. Your head has shrunk back to normal non-pulsing size and your chest feels looser, but your knees are killing you and you are still having a hard time understanding what you are seeing.

The door, for example. It says L1, but you are in the stairwell, not outside it. It beings to slowly dawn on you that the label must be on both sides. You start to stand up and Dr. Sexton helps you, watching you as you walk to the door. You push it open and see the long well-lit hallway on the other side. You step out and Dr. Sexton follows, “Troy?”

You ignore him and walk into the hallway. As you walk back towards the office you pass a door on the left labeled 1-1 under the gray frosted window.

To the right is the rec room, and for the first time you see that it is labeled 1-2. This one also has a picture underneath the window: a pool cue and pool balls.

“But there’s no pool table in the rec room,” you say somewhat irrelevantly to Dr Sexton.

He nods. “I see. Is this the hallway you were looking for, Troy? Of course this floor is different from the rest, but we do have the numbers and the pictures on the doors. You see, Troy. It’s all there, just confused in your mind.”

You nod, but mostly because that’s the easiest thing to do.

“Do you think you are up to seeing the the other floors now?”

You nod again, and the two of you walk back through the door to the stairway. (Ah! It is  labeled identically on both sides.)

You walk silently up the first round of stairs, (Wow, your knees hurt!) reach a landing and then turn and go up another few steps. And then here you are, another door. This one labeled L2.

Dr. Sexton, says nothing, but pushes open the door to this hallway. You walk through the door ahead of him and look.

Eight doors. Four on each side.

As you walk down the hallway you see the doors in this hall are labeled 2-1 through 2-7 The fourth door on the right side is marked “Maintenance.” They are gray like the ones in your dream, but with numbers instead of symbols. except for the door to maintenance, which has a picture of a mop and a bucket. Instead of frosted windows, though, you see that the little squares above each number are actually panels, apparently opaque, for what purpose you don’t know.

Dr. Sexton stays at the stairwell door, content to let you roam. You try one of the doors and he doesn’t stop you. It’s locked.

“It’s a patient room, Troy. This floor happens to be all empty but we keep them locked when not in use.”

You return to the stairwell and you begin walking up the next flight.

Dr Sexton begins to talk now as you walk. “As I said there are 9 floors, all but the first one, identical to the one we just saw. “

For some reason Dr. Sexton’s voice is setting you on edge. The tightness in your chest is beginning to return and perhaps it’s for this reason you begin to sprint up the stairs, despite the pain in your knees. Dr. Sexton yells after you as you run.

“Stop running!”

You are standing in front of the door labeled L3, he arrives behind you.

He is shaking his head and chuckling, “See, Level 3. You’re always running, Troy. You’ve been running for a long time. Helen noticed it before you did, she tells me you’ve been trying to outrun your life for awhile. A few months ago it caught up with you so you found a new way to run: To just forget it. To refuse to accept this is your life.”

“That’s psychobabble.”

You push open the door and walk through. You walk the length of the hall and back. Just as Dr. Sexton said, it’s identical to the previous hallway with the exception of the doors being labeled 3-1 through 3-7. There is the same maintenance room with the same bucket and mop symbol on the door. You open this door and see what you suppose is a typical janitor’s closet, complete with mop and bucket.

When you return to the stairwell, Dr. Sexton is standing easily, apparently unconcerned, and he continues the conversation, as if without break.

“You’d rather believe in some nefarious plot to brainwash you, make you think you’re someone you’re not? Some mysterious machine in some strange hallway behind doors with meaningless symbols, with Helen in on it? Does that really sound more plausible to you then that you, a man with a stressful job and a troubled marriage, just decided to take a break?”

“Why would Troy need a break. Troy’s life didn’t seem so bad. I almost wish it were mine.”

The two of you continue up the stairs to the next level.

“It is yours. Why do you think you’re so quickly attracted to Helen, so easily trust her?”

“If I’m so happy with her, why would I run,” you counter. But once again you are disturbed by how untroubled Dr. Sexton appears. He is not behaving like a man with something to hide. Are you?

The two of you arrive at the fourth floor, L4. Dr. Sexton holds open the door and you walk in. You only take a few steps down the hallway, as you can see even from here the identical hallway with identical doors (labeled 4-1 through 4-7). You consider walking to the maintenance room again, but you’ve got no real reason to and Dr. Sexton is still talking.

“I don’t think you understand the weight of your job. Responsible for the care and management of billions. Rubbing shoulders with the most elite power brokers, carrying at all times a certain appearance. Feigning confidence you didn’t have, shaking hands you detested, smiling when you wanted to scream and always being on demand from your employees and your clients.”

There is something resonant in what he’s saying. You return to the stairwell and the two of you continue up.

“You seem to know a lot about it.”

“I spent a month with you learning about you, remember?”

You are persuasive, but, no. I can’t believe that would make me crazy.”

“You’re not crazy, Troy. Never have been. Just confused. And you’re right, the turning point was something else. Something with you and Helen.”

L5, a door just like the others. Dr Sexton waves towards the door, but does not push it open, and continues up the stairs.

You open it and look inside. Another identical floor. Doors this time labeled, as expected, 5-1 through 5-7.

You let the door close, following Sexton up.

“What? What supposedly happened with Helen?” You are trying to sound skeptical, but your interest is evident, you are sure, to Dr. Sexton. That makes you think about his earlier point. Why should you care? Why do you care?

You two start up the stairs, moving slower now as you converse.

“You were going to have the perfect life. You were rising fast in your career and Helen was the perfect complement to your life. Smart, pretty, confident, and you two adored each other. Everyone agreed, you two made the perfect couple. Your whole life had been carefully planned out and it seemed to be falling exactly into place. The perfect job, the perfect marriage. It wasn’t long before you two realized that the marriage wasn’t quite what you had anticipated. but still, you did love each other, and perhaps in time you would have found the life you were looking for with each other. You simply had to adjust the plans. Then Helen got pregnant.”

“What? I—uh, I mean, Troy, has a kid?

You’ve reached the first landing, at the turning point on the way up. Sexton stops walking and turns to look at you gently. He speaks softly but clearly,

“Troy, Helen miscarried. To her it felt like she’d failed you and this made her defensive and angry with you. Your loss and her anger were just too far outside your picture of the life you’d planned. It was unfathomable that this should be your life. You fixed other people’s lives. You made rich people richer and powerful people more powerful. That such a person should not get the life they wanted was hard to take. So, you tried to create a new one. You refused to accept the hand you were dealt and turned it all in for a new hand. “

As he speaks you are increasingly troubled. It does make a sort of sense. Even now, as he talks you are weighed down with sorrow, afraid to hear more, but unwilling to hear less. Would it resonate so, if it weren’t true?

“Do you remember, Troy?”

Your answer is quiet, without challenge.

“No, no I don’t. It could be though. I see that.”

“That was 5 months ago. Our time put you back together. You seemed ready to accept your life as it was, but now, here we are again. “ He pauses and looks earnestly at you. “What triggered it Troy? Can you remember anything?”

“There was something. Something important. “

“What Troy? What was it you had to tell someone?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know about the whole thing. It doesn’t sound exactly wrong when you say it, but something is definitely not right.”

Dr. Sexton begins walking again and you follow. Together you move up to the door marked L6.

“Of course it’s not right. You’ve forgotten your own family, Troy.

Dr. Sexton pushes open the door to L6 and this time steps through himself.

“Come on, Troy. Let me show you something.”

You follow him in, wondering what there is to see. It’s another identical hallway, this time labeled 6-1 through 6-7.

“If you could just remember what triggered it. Do you remember anything?”

“Helen said we were out a week ago. She said it was a rare date. One of the few we’ve had in a long time. We were celebrating…well, anyway, it was a rare moment.” You say, quoting Helen precisely.

Dr Sexton looks at you with renewed interest,

“Hmm. I think I see. Yes, of course, that would do it.”

“What?”

“You don’t see? She must be pregnant again Troy. It makes perfect sense. At first you are overjoyed, celebrating. Then the fear sets in and when you wake one morning, you’ve abandoned your life again. “

You are starting to feel slightly dizzy again. There is an awful sort of sense to what he’s saying.

Dr Sexton stops in front of room 6-5, “This was your room Troy. Does it jog any memories?”

He uses a key to open the door and you walk in looking vaguely around.

So this is a patient room. It’s pretty sterile, not very large. It’s like a small hotel room. There’s a bed, a wooden chair. In the corner is a dresser. On top of the dresser is a computer monitor. Oddly the monitor sits inside a cage of some sort and you don’t see any computer anywhere around.

Something about that monitor…it’s troubling. Why put a monitor in a cage?

You try to see who’s dragging you by the elbow. You are able to look up now and it’s Dr. Sexton, long loose doctor’s coat flowing around him. He ushers you into a room, this room, 6-5 and shuts the door.

You are no longer convinced of these flashes though. Are they memories or delusions?

You shake your head but it only starts the pounding again. You sit heavily on the bed, trying desperately not to pass out. Not here, not how.

Dr. Sexton sits next to you on the bed and forces your head down between your knees. At first you resist in confusion, but then the world starts to come back into focus. It’s helping. He’s helping.

When you are able to sit back up, he speaks again, “Maybe you should just go ahead and stay for the night. It’s basically still ready for you. No one’s been in this particular room since you left it.”

You are surprised at this, “In 5 months?”

Dr. Sexton shrugs, “We’re not that busy. Have you had dinner?”

You think and shake your head no.

“I’ll have some brought to your room. We’ll talk in the morning.”

Dr. Sexton begins to close the door.

“Wait a minute. How did you know I had something to tell someone?”

Dr. Sexton pauses, holding the door. “What?”

“I said I had something important to do. You asked what it was I had to tell someone. How did you know the important thing was a message?”

Oddly instead of answering, Dr. Sexton closes the door.

The next words come from behind you, startling you. Turning around you see the disembodied head of Dr. Sexton in the plexiglass cage, speaking from out of the monitor. There are no buttons on the outside of the cage, no apparent way to control it from your end.

“You told me, Troy. “

“No, no I didn’t. I told Helen. But I never told you.”

“It’s been a long day, I’m sure you’re just misremembering”

“I never misremember conversations.” As you say it you realize it’s literally true. Thinking back you recognize you could repeat every conversation you’ve had in totality since you woke from the dream. You can’t remember anything from before, but since then, “I remember everything I hear.” you say out loud.

Six smiles at you from the cage, “So you do. Well then, Helen must have told me.”

You start to address the computer again, but change your mind, facing the door, choosing to yell through it rather than speak to the caged head.

“When? I told her at Starbucks and we came straight here from there. There was no chance.”

You move toward the door. Can he see you? Is the panel a screen? Where’s the camera?

“How did you know?” you ask again.

“Troy, you’re tired; it’s been a long day. There will be plenty of time to discuss all this tomorrow. Have a good night, Troy.”

You try to open the door but it’s locked. You turn again to the monitor, but it’s gone black. For a moment you simply sit on the bed, thinking about everything that’s happened and waiting for the pounding, the chest tightening to happen again. Instead, you are starting to feel clear, like you did at Sunnyvale when the two men attacked you.

Your coat is lying casually next to you where you must have dropped it when you entered the room. What you see surprises you. You think back over your day. You searched this coat, this very pocket, this morning. There was nothing in it except the card from Sunnyvale. And yet now, there is clearly something else. A small envelope tucked neatly in the pocket.

Pulling the envelope out of the jacket you see it’s labeled, “TROY.” Do the quotes indicate that is not your real name? Does someone know something?

Opening the envelope you find inside three pictures.

The first is a close up of a great steel door. A Sunnyvale door, but instead of a number there is a symbol on it. A Yin-Yang.

The second is a closeup of a strange machine that seems to consist primarily of a chair, wires, a read out display of some kind and a bright lamp. There is a logo of some kind on it. A diamond.

The third picture is a close up of someone sitting in the chair. You don’t know who this person is, but you do recognize him.

It’s you, it’s the person they are calling Troy.

(Episode 1-7)

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