Mike

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 63

Photo by Henry Lai on UNSPLASH

The injected serum doesn’t knock me out; it merely renders me temporarily paralyzed.


One Week Ago, Tuesday

“No, not Sherrie. Cheryl, with a ‘C?'” I say.

“You have seen no clients named Sherrie or Cheryl this year,” Chrissy says.

I’m getting mad. Chrissy sees my mood turning.

“Here, look at the screen, if you don’t believe me,” she says, tapping the monitor.

I walk behind the front desk, look at her screen. I remember she was my first client of the day, but now, that booking placeholder is empty.

“I saw her, right here,” I say emphatically as I firmly tap the now empty 2 o’clock session.

“Not according to MAXIMUS. What did you say her last name was?” Chrissy asks. I get the sense she’s trying to help me.

I tell her the last name. Chrissy searches for her by her full name.

“There’s no one in the system by that name,” she tells me.

One thing aging is teaching me is to not put too much confidence in my memory faculty. But I remember Cheryl vividly. I remember her face, how she comically moaned as I pulled her left leg to shift her pelvis into alignment. I remember how she would talk about her daughter, Marie. Marie had mommy and daddy wrapped around her little finger. Cheryl exists, right? I mean, most of my memory faults have been those of omission – not remembering some name, person, or commitment I’d made. My memory couldn’t fabricate an entire client, would it?


Friday

“You don’t remember Julius?” I say to my manager Theresa. “Were you still at Deep Ellum? I mean, maybe you guys didn’t overlap at all?”

“I swear to God, Scott, I do not know who you’re talking about. As far as I know, there’s never been a therapist named Julius at this clinic.”

I see Mike arrive for his shift. Certainly, Mike still remembers Julius.

“Hey, Mike. You have a second?” I say.

He’s wearing a goofy grin, and I think he’s going to say something about ‘deez nuts.’ But then he sees my expression.

“What’s up?” he says as he enters the office, sits in one of the office chairs.

“This place is crazy, or I’m losing my mind,” I tell him.

Of course, both options might be happening, and that’s the most dispiriting thought.

“Do you remember Julius?” I say to him.

“What? Of course, he’s only been gone two years. He was the one that used to work in that prison in Michigan. He always lowered his table to like a foot off the ground. Why? Did something happen to him?”

“Nothing major, just his entire existence is now up for debate. Theresa says she doesn’t remember him. Also, there’s no record of him in MAXIMUS.” That’s what we call the software package that books sessions, tracks employees, logs appointment status, does payroll, does everything.

“Really, Terr? You don’t remember Julius?”

“Oh, now don’t you start on me also,” she warns him, while grinning. I’m about ready to drink.”

I see my client walk in. I reluctantly table this for later, but something is wrong here.

My memory isn’t that flawed, or is it? It couldn’t have fabricated two people, could it?


Sunday

Theresa is salaried and doesn’t work on weekends. Today I see the assistant manager, Jimmy, working at the front desk.

“Hey, Jimmy,” I say.

“Hey, Scott.”

I stand still while he scans my forehead with the temperature gun.

“You’re good, ninety-seven point seven,” he says, flashing me the gun’s display.

“Did Mike drop some DVDs off for me yesterday?”

On Friday, he had promised to lend me his collection of myoskeletal instructional videos. He said he’d drop them by the clinic on Saturday.

“What are you talking about? Who’s Mike?”

No, no, no, hell no. I’m not crazy, damn it.

“Mike? The therapist that works here, Mr. Deez Nuts? Don’t joke with me, please. It’s not a good time.”

I’m nearly shouting.

“Client,” Tory hisses as she stands so that we will not make her feel uncomfortable with our discussion.

“Oh, hey, Tonya,” I say to my client. “You ready?”

She nods once. I sense she senses the awkwardness that was brewing between Jimmy and me. I walk her to my massage room, treat her sciatica and tech-neck.


Tuesday

Today, I have evidence, photos we took at last year’s team-building outing. It was a locked room mystery place we went to for our annual meeting. I could have sworn I had it on my phone, but when I searched for it last night, it wasn’t there.

In it, I’m standing on Theresa’s right; on her left are Julius and Mike. We all have smiles. The four of us had solved the locked room in record time, and we are having our picture taken by the establishment. We each wore red-bordered, white name tags.

Enough with the gaslighting; let’s see her denying knowing Julius and Mike now.

“See? That is Julius and Mike; do you remember now?” I say accusingly as I point my phone screen at them like it was a weapon.

“And this person, right here,” I say as I tap on her likeness, “Is you.”

Checkmate.

Something passes between Theresa and Jimmy, but I can’t make out what.

“Let me see that,” Theresa says.

But I’m weird about handing people my phone. Instead, I hold the phone closer to her face.

Theresa glares at Jimmy.

“I thought you were going to wipe his phone. What the hell, Jimmy?” Theresa says.

“I wiped it,” Jimmy says, moving past me. He closes and locks the door.

Wiped my phone? Erased pictures? Is that what she means?

“Yeah, I can answer that one,” I say. Theresa looks at me, startled like she forgot I was in the room.

“This one isn’t the photo they took with my phone. This one is a picture of the picture that hangs in the lobby of Marta’s House of Mysteries. See the trophy we’re holding? The one on my phone didn’t have the trophy in it.”

I have about a million questions now, but seeing Jimmy lock the office door, then stand in front of it, has left me nervous.

Who are these people?

“Well, this sucks,” Theresa says. I can’t tell who she’s talking to – me or Jimmy.

“Yeah,” Jimmy concurs weakly from close behind me.

I feel a slight sting on my back.

I wheel around, see Jimmy holding a dripping, empty, hypodermic.

That’s when they, Theresa and Jimmy, shed their human form.

Soon, I wish that whatever was in the hypodermic would knock me out. I don’t want to see or hear any more of this. Their two extra rows of razor-sharp teeth, the terrible tearing sound their jaws make as unhinged and resettled in their reconfigured, nightmarishly long faces.

The injected serum doesn’t knock me out; it merely renders me temporarily paralyzed.

It didn’t anesthetize me either, and I feel everything as the two of them feed on me.

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