the brown fog of a winter dawn

[Editor’s note: These passages are in no particular order.]

#

Eli awoke with a start to find himself lying half under a thin white sheet in a cold featureless room.  Sitting up, the thin mattress shifted slightly beneath him and he shook his head trying to remember how he had arrived here and where precisely here was.  The room was lit by a single circular window of about two feet in diameter let in a large swath of yellow-grey sunlight.  Besides the bed, there was no furniture in the room – the green-grey walls seemed to drip in front of his eyes as they ran uninterrupted all around.  As he stood up to walk towards the window, his senses swam as the blood rushed from his head.  While he rubbed his eyes, he walked in the direction of the window, vision clearing just as he approached to look out on the familiar street-scape far below of Lexington Ave.  His tired eyes followed pedestrians going about their meager daily business until Eli realized he must be in a room at the new Mt. Sinai Psychological Hospital that he had watched rise outside his office window.  Forgetting the street, his head rang with confusion and alarm just as he heard a quick tapping at the door.

A thin, frail looking young woman in a pale blue knee-length coat appeared in the doorway, her neck craned low over a clear plastic tablet.  “Excuse me, Mr. Sellers, but Dr. Wolfram will see you now.  He has the results of your evaluation.  Please follow me.”

Too bewildered to answer directly, Eli simply nodded and followed the young woman out of the room and down a wide corridor, lit at the far end by another circular porthole – the walls of stainless steel sheathing reflected the light down the hall in diminishing hues of yellow.  The young woman tapped at the plastic tablet, upon which small charts flashed, shrank, altered, and calculated in ways Eli was unable to follow in his present state.  Every few steps, he would close his eyes to regain some sense of what had happened.  His mind raced thinking about his wife and young daughter, his recently deceased father and widowed mother, and his distraught brother on the west coast – surely they knew he was here?  Perhaps they were close by.  At this thought, he glanced about for a doorway towards what might be a waiting area, but none presented itself.  Anxiety mounting, he leaned forward slightly on to the balls of his feet to ask the young woman where his family was.  Just as he did so she turned sharply down a hallway to her left and opened a soft plastic door to a rather small office.  Saying nothing, she stepped to the side and lifted her hand, palm up, gesturing Eli inside.

A rather corpulent man, presumably Dr. Wolfram, was seated at an immaculately organized desk of the same material of the young woman’s tablet.  He too was tapping and gesturing intently at the flickering desaturated images embedded in its surface.

“Ah, Eli, good to see you looking better today,” Dr. Wolfram said with a quick wrinkled smile and an outstretched hand.

“I – thank you. Doctor, I’m afraid I have no recollection of how I got here or what exactly is going on.  If you could so kind as to start at the beginning and continue slowly, I’d greatly appreciate it,” Eli replied after shaking Dr. Wolfram’s hand and seating himself quickly in front of the desk, eager to get down to business.  Somehow he wasn’t entirely sure something was amiss, yet his presence in this strange hermetic psychiatric hospital suggested otherwise.

#

“Oh, heaven’s no, you are one of many cases turning up these days.  We have discovered survivors – if you can all them that – intermittently for about 5 years now.  The first wave came after they unearthed a portion of diseased concrete that triggered an epileptic reaction in a passer-by, the first of you to make yourselves known – just imagine the vast amounts of latent information that may be lying dormant within the confines of the subconscious minds of general populace.  It’s really quite extraordinary that we can recover the information that we have.  After having compiled the positronic brain imaging scans of only a handful of survivors, we can actually reconstruct the space without having a single trace of its construction.  There are no remaining photographs or aerial imagery of the structure that we know of and, interestingly, there seems to be a collective amnesia about the entire incident.  If it weren’t for people such as yourself, that building might as well have not existed at all…” Dr. Wolfram trailed off in thought, his forefinger tapping an uneven rhythm on his left cheek.  “If there weren’t so many of you, I’d venture a hypothesis that it in fact didn’t exist.”

#

“What these two contradictory images show, is that not only was the building deteriorating from the inside out, but those of you who had taken up some sort of residence in the space were keeping some kind of perverse maintenance alive.  Evidence shows that on several occasions, ‘residents’ would destroy portions to recreate something to their own necessity or liking – a shelter here, a machine shop there, and in one case an accountant’s office.  That last example was a bit of a blip; some poor soul couldn’t handle the psychic trauma as well as you and your peers, and began to revert to his previous life.  He used a mix of waste and dead animals to fashion his old office.  In a fascinating way he wasn’t too far off.  A shame nonetheless…”

 

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