“I hope the wait wasn’t too long, Mr. Boeing.” Said the doctor as he walked into the cold beige and white room.
“Oh, I’ve dealt with longer waits than this, but thank you for your consideration.” Mr. Boeing shifted his weight so he could better focus on the doctor.
“Do you have any questions before we begin?”
“None, sir. Your nurse explained the whole procedure to me clear as day. What a kind gentleman. My grandson is single. I should give him his number. They’d get along I think.” Mr. Boeing began to take out his phone as well as a pen.
“Maybe you can ask Mr. Clark after the procedure, right now we should be getting you ready to be put under. Have you had anything to eat in the past 8 hours?”
The two went through a checklist of precautions and safety measures before placing a plastic helmet over Mr. Boeing’s head, with a breathing mask hanging under.
“Breathe deeply and evenly.”
Mr. Boeing nodded. He went under quickly. For a while, his brain was static, empty, clean of thought. Then the doctor and his technician began to find the readings they were looking for. Activity flashing red and white on the screen.
Boeing, however, felt a series of flashing experiences. He experienced an empty sky, a dark forest, the smell of pine, a light off in the distance, a woman’s voice saying the word “behind,” the feel of a blanket, and finally a hand grasping his. And then it happened again, quicker, but looser, feeling like frayed edges of a ripped cloth, but slowly healing.
And then he opened his eyes, a slight ache in the back of his head, but he had definitely felt worse before. He sat up and looked over to the computers and his doctor.
The doctor smiled. “How are you feeling, Mr. Boeing?”
“I’m a little sore, kind of around here.” He began to rub where he neck met his head. “Is that normal?”
“Perfectly fine. Just take some ibuprofen and it will clear up quickly. We have your drive ready for you whenever you are feeling ready to move.” The doctor lifted up a small grey thumb drive, waving it back and forth.
“Oh, I’m just fine. I can…” He tried to stand up and quickly sat back down.
The doctor stood up quickly, reaching out his arms as if to catch him past the desk. “Oh, uhm, please, just uhh, take a seat for a little while and we will let you go afterwards. Does that sound good to you?”
“Haha! Sorry about that. Must be dizzier than I thought.” Mr Boeing, implacable, smiled heartily as the doctor walked around the desk frowning.
“Okay, so here’s the drive. This is really important, but you cannot play it for at the very least 5 hours from now.” He looked at his watch and did the math in his head. “That means by at least 3:27, okay?”
Mr. Boeing nodded, still smiling.
“You should wait at least a week before playing it, but the risks drop off drastically after 5 hours.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“It’s not common, but some people get lost in the moment if they run it too quickly, and we’d rather not lose you. Let your brain recover for a spell before you do anything.” The doctor reached out his hand, holding the drive, and helped up Mr. Boeing. He took the drive, shook the doctor’s hand and started to head toward the station. “And, Mr. Boeing… it gets better.”
Mr. Boeing took a train home, twiddling the drive between his fingers the whole time, until he took out a piece of tape and wrote “April 23, 2015” on it. The rest of the ride he kept the device in his hands. When he got home he took an often forgotten drawer and shoved the thing in there. He sighed deeply as he looked across his now empty home.
On the first day back, he managed to keep the device out of his mind. He struggled at times, but not once did he touch the thing. But he had to turn around a couple of pictures in his home for the second half of the day.
On the second day, he found himself twiddling with the device regardless of what he was doing. He read the date while he was doing the dishes. Kept it right in front of him while reading.
On the third day he knew he had to get out of the house, so he went to an electronics store, to see the new model of the projector he was going to use to play his device. He bought it, brought it home, and set it up immediately, even though he told himself he wouldn’t.
On the fourth day he folded, plugged it in, and started the memory.
At first his vision went blank, and then he couldn’t hear anything. Finally, his other senses started to slip out as well, except the small sensation of the remote in his hand.
He could smell the woods the day after it rained. And then he could hear the sound of crickets, followed by the grinding of steps on gravel.
“Hey Michael, catch up, you’re falling behind!” Ivy turned back around and kept chatting with Julie.
Michael picked up his pace, walking briskly through the dark woods on the gravel path up Radar Hill. He went up the steep shortcut to beat them to the top. Julie and Ivy were laughing at him for being out of breath, but he didn’t care. He was just happy to be there with his friends.
Ivy unrolled the blanket she brought with her. “Jules, this your first time up here?”
Julie spoke up quickly, almost cutting off Ivy. “I’ve always wanted to, but everyone’s been busy.”
“Exams. Now come on down, we’re going to miss the shower.” Ivy patted the ground next to her.
Michael looked around, seeing the bright red lights far off in the distance, the three radar towers that gave the hill its name. He laid down and stared at the sky.
For the longest time, Michael held the memory closely and was grateful that he could never forget this day. He smiled, thumbing his remote, as he realized he never would either.
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