A man's life is normal... Too normal. The prelude of Some Broken Circles.
Some Broken Circles
Part One: Loop
By Áine Martin
The bus screeched as it slowed to a stop. “Five minutes late again,” I thought. Really, the bus was always late, so I don’t know what perplexed me so much. It was always five minutes late. Always… five minutes… The horn honked, startling me. I lost my train of thought as the bus pulled away. “Wait!” I shouted. With a look of mild agitation, the driver stopped the vehicle and let me in. After a few hurried apologies, I walked past. It was plenty crowded. I brushed past shoulders, knees, and elbows; slowly working my way towards an open seat. Hit a girl in the head with my shoulder. A quick apology and a few steps later, I found myself sitting next to a man.
He was about five foot six, with a square jaw and sharp features; brown hair that was cut in a simple manner, plain and forgettable. His clothes seemed unassuming, a simple grey shirt and jeans. All around a very average person. We sat in an awkward silence for about ten minutes. Apparently, he felt it necessary to break the silence, so he tried to start up a conversation.
“So...” he paused. “Where’s your stop?”
“Kings and Trinity”
“Oh… good… good…”
This was followed by an even more awkward silence than before. We sat quietly for another ten minutes. The guy was obviously embarrassed, so, reluctantly; I tried to start up conversation again.
“Nice to meet you.”
After that, I just gave up on conversation. Luckily, I got off at the next stop, so I didn't sit in silence for too long. I paid the driver, and hopped off the bus.
I turned to watch it speed away, and looked up at my surroundings. In front of me was the office in which I worked. It was five stories tall, about the normal size for buildings in this section of the city. Behind, Kings Street and Trinity Way crossed in an x, buildings almost crowding the intersection. They were all different shades of gray, some blue-grey glass, others sturdy concrete and stone. All around uninteresting.
I walked across the stone sidewalk and opened the glass door that led to my office building. After an uneventful walk up two flights of stairs, I entered my office space. I fumbled for the light switch and flicked it on. The soft yellow tint of the light was familiar. Comforting. Sitting in the cushioned swivel chair, I turned towards the desk and booted up my computer. What was I supposed to be doing? I had forgotten. A fear gripped me. Whatever had slipped my mind, I somehow knew it was important. More important than what I was currently doing. I was… supposed… to be… my gaze wandered to a sticky note on my computer.
Funny, I didn't notice it before. It was a reminder to write up the quarterly report to present to the Board. Ah, yes, that’s what I was supposed to be doing. A little alarm went off in my mind that something was wrong, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. Nothing was wrong. This was what I did every day. After a bit of shifting for comfort in my seat, I began typing. I just typed and typed and typed. Pushed everything out of my mind and put words on the screen. I didn't know quite what, but I did. Finally, I was finished. Hours of effort. Yes, it was perfect. Perfect. I gave a relieved sigh, and looked out the window at the sky.
It was nighttime. Midnight. I never thought to look at the sky before. Why didn't I look at the sky before? I began to panic. I shouldn't be working at night, I had a desk job! Why would I work at night? Didn't I have a family? I wracked my brain. Why did I need to think about that? My vision tunneled as my hand hit the wall, heart beating faster. Then it started to come to me, and I relaxed a bit. No, I didn't. I got a divorce a couple months ago. Yeah, that’s right, she took the kids. Trinity did. That was her name, Trinity. I sat back down, calm flowing through me.
Appeased, I turned back to the computer to review what I just typed. It was a graph with a few pages explaining why our company needs to expand. There was some jazz about exponential growth and why the company is ready to broaden its horizons, pretty normal corporate stuff. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right.
I checked my watch. It was late, really late, so I stood out of my seat. My fingers moved the mouse to save what I’d done, and my legs carried me out of the room. "Man, I'm hungry," I said to nobody in particular. So I slinked, stomach growling, into the break room to get some chow. I walked down the stairs and entered my destination. Took my dinner from the fridge. Funny, I didn't remember putting that there. Eh, it was probably such a normal activity that my brain just didn't record it or something.
I took a bite. It was turkey, with mayo, lettuce, and cheese. Good, but forgettable. Forgettable. What was I forgetting? Something big and important; a thought or an idea had evaded me. Bits of information came back to me. It was while waiting for the bus. I was, yes, I was thinking about how the bus was always five minutes late... Exactly five minutes late, to the second, without fail. That didn't seem possible. Life was funny sometimes. I started up the stairs again.
Then I stopped. Something struck me. Nobody was about the office. Nobody was around. I was alone. That didn't seem right. Surely someone would check on me in the time I was here. A cold dread lifted up in me. This couldn't possibly be real. My legs felt weak, sunken in fear.
Everything today was routine and perfect. Far too much so. Did I wake up today? I couldn't remember. Desperately, I tried to recall when my birthday was. I drew a blank. Who was my employer? Nothing. What was my name? I didn't know. A wild scream escaped my mouth. I felt claustrophobic. Panicked, I fell against the wall. This wasn't possible! None of this was possible! I clawed at the walls, my breathing choked and tortured. This room was too small! What was I forgetting? Clutching my head, I fell to my knees. I desperately gathered myself, still feeling a creeping ache in my stomach. What was my last memory before the bus stop? It came slowly at first, then hit me like a truck. I remembered… a stinging pain, like a needle in my flesh… I was constrained… the smell of metal…
* * *
I opened my eyes. I was sitting in a small, smooth room. It looked like glass of sorts, but I couldn't see through. A man came in through a door hidden in the smooth wall. He was about five foot six, with a square jaw and sharp features; brown hair that was cut in a simple manner, plain and forgettable. His clothes seemed unassuming, a simple gray shirt and jeans. Alarms rang in the back of my mind.
This man did something to me before. I had to get away! I had to run, get out of here, go anywhere, escape! He walked calmly behind me, grabbing my arms and swinging them at a painful angle behind my back. With his other hand, he pushed down my head. I struggled with what little strength I had left, throwing my weight around, flailing as many limbs as I could move. But I was weak, undernourished. Powerless. He pulled the arm behind me tighter, and turned my head down at a terribly painful angle. Another man came in, though I couldn't see him. The one who just entered spoke.
“So he’s broken the serum’s hold again.”
“It would appear so.”
“Did he recognize you? Or was he unable to retain his memories this time?”
“Well, seeing by his look of confusion when I entered the room, no. I think we’re getting
“If the amnesia is now permanent, I believe our research is coming to a head.”
“The planted memories worked perfectly with the hallucinogen, and I think I've ironed out what makes him and the others immune with this next batch of serum. You see, it was all about the inconsistencies. So I tweaked the encoded memories to reflect reality better.”
“Impressive." He paused. "Should we try the new formula?”
The man in the front of the room passed something to the man behind me. Satisfaction creeped through his voice as he gave his answer.
“By all means.”
I felt a stinging pain, a needle in my flesh. I smelled metal.
* * *
The bus screeched as it slowed to a stop. “Five minutes late again.” I thought. Really, the bus was always late, so I don’t know what perplexed me so much. It was always five minutes late. Always… five minutes… The horn honked, startling me. I lost my train of thought as the bus pulled away.“Wait!” I shouted. With a look of mild agitation, the driver stopped the vehicle and let me in.