Lest We Forget
rating: +1+x

The alarm went off.

Patterson’s eyes flashed open and he stared at the stained ceiling. He slowly propped himself up on his cot and looked at the clock, which was in the shape of a cartoon pink bunny. It was a gift from a researcher who worked here before. He couldn’t quite remember her name. The clock’s digital face flashed orange over and over and displayed the time: seven o’clock. Patterson jabbed the off button, silencing it. He took a moment to scratch his side through his blue uniform.

He glanced around his cramped room in silence. The chipped sink on the opposite side of the cot was leaking from the faucet. The mop that he had left leaning on the wall last night had fallen down beside the bright yellow bucket. The radiator, once painted white now sat beside the cot, lowly humming and rusted beyond repair. Patterson’s radio laid on the plastic chair by the door, on top of his navy blue cap. Due to some kind of coincidence, the radio beeped just as he laid his eye upon it.

“Janitor, we need you at the cafeteria immediately. Janitor, do you hear me? Get your ass down here.”

Patterson got to his feet, grabbed the bucket and mop, his radio, and the remaining part of his dignity.

The shiny white hallways of Site-19 greatly pleased Patterson. They made him feel clean and safe. He made his way down towards the elevator and tapped the button. Instantly the doors opened and Patterson was greeted by the sight of a security officer. His helmet visor was down, shielding his face from any recognition and with his impressive height he stared down at the janitor. Patterson picked one foot up to take a step into the elevator, hoping that the guard would make way for him. Instead he was halted by the masculine tone of the guard’s voice.

“Random check, show me your clearance card.”

Patterson looked into the guard’s visor with mouth open. He nervously chuckled as the guard’s demand remained.

“You’re kidding me, right? Let me in the damn elevator.”

“Do I look like I’m kidding? Show me some ID or you’re in a world of hurt.”

The security officer placed his hand on his collapsible baton which was strapped conveniently on the ride side of his utility belt.

Patterson quickly shuffled through the pockets of his janitor’s jumpsuit. His hand found the plasticy feel of his Level One clearance card and dug it out. He handed it to the officer and saw his own reflection through the man’s visor. The officer glanced at the card and handed it back swiftly. He quickly hit a button inside, and the doors closed in front of the janitor.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” muttered Patterson.

After a detour down the stairs, Patterson reached the cafeteria. The smells of breakfast foods filled the air as the electronic double doors slid open for him. It was breakfast hour and the room was full of researchers and guards. Even a few agents were there. He held his bucket close to his chest, the small amount of dirty water inside swayed around as Patterson desperately attempted not to bump into a white lab coat. He began to overhear conversations all with different topics. There was a group of researchers talking about last night’s big football game, a herd of agents complaining about their workload, and a couple of white-haired doctors arguing over whether the Site’s margarine was healthy or unhealthy. He froze in his stride as his eyes met those of a stern-faced scientist.

“There you are, what took you so long?”

Patterson stood quiet, unsure of what to say. He was having trouble focusing through the clamor of the room. The scientist let out a somewhat exaggerated sigh.

“Whatever. Some Junior Researcher dropped a bottle of ketchup and it broke by the drink machine. Clean it up please.”

In the janitor’s closet, Patterson flipped through the calendar hanging from the wall. His eyes zigzagged through the rows of days until he reached today’s date. In the little boxed numbered 16, he read the handwriting.

MONTHLY PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION

The letters were written in black ink and skinny font. It looked foreign. The letters were wonderfully curvy and “halfway to cursive” as Patterson imagined it in his head. There was something off about it but the janitor couldn’t put his finger on it. Patterson shrugged the thought off and decided this was no time for a “moment” and left his closet immediately.

After a long trip down the facility’s stairs, the janitor reached the medical wing. He scanned his card at the door, and the electronic reader gave out a high pitched beep and a comforting green light. In the lobby of the wing, he was greeted by a single computer terminal that rose from the ground. He walked up to and entered the requested information on the keyboard. Patterson eyed his fingers carefully and made sure he didn’t misspell anything.

PATTERSON, SCOTT CL01 // MONTHLY PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION

Patterson hit the enter key, and almost instantly the nearby metal door slid open. Out stepped a man dressed clad in a Foundation lab coat. His dark skin gave great contrast to his immaculate coat and matching white glasses. His skin was worn like leather but his expression gave off the notion that he was far from overworked. Patterson quickly glanced at his brown loafers as he approached.

“Mr. Patterson, it’s nice to see you again.”

The Doctor quickly ended the sentence with a smile as if he had made a grave mistake and was hoping his audience of one would not notice.

“My name is Doctor Ocanas. I’ll be performing your evaluation today. Please, follow me.”

The Doctor turned back through the metal door without looking back. Patterson followed closely behind. The two entered the first room on the right.

Patterson was hit by a blast of cold air as he entered the interior. The room was dark and gray, the floor was made of metal. A single lamp with a stainless steel lampshade hung from the ceiling and illuminated the heavy wooden desk below. The janitor couldn't remember if his last evaluation was held in this same room. No, it definitely wasn't.

“Please, have a seat.”

Patterson didn’t even notice the chairs. The one on his side of the table was a dinky folding chair made of cheap metal-colored tan. The Doctor’s chair, however, was wooden and carried finely stitched green upholstery to aid in comfort.

“Let’s begin.”

The janitor heard a footstep by the door and turned his head. In the doorway stood a tall white man dressed in a black suit. The Foundation logo was printed on his coat’s pocket. Sleek sunglasses sat upon the man’s arched nose, concealing his all-seeing eyes. He was fitted with an earpiece. The janitor imagined the kinds of weapons he could be carrying underneath his coat.

Doctor Ocanas was caught off guard by the agent’s presence and attempted to ease Patterson’s nerves.

“Oh don’t worry Mr. Patterson, that’s Agent McHendricks. He’s only here for security purposes.”

Ocanas ended his words with a slow chuckle, hoping that Patterson would follow suit. The janitor did not chuckle.

The Doctor looked at the agent. McHendricks stood there stoically, not moving a single visible muscle. Patterson watched his chest slightly rise and fall as the agent breathed in and out. The Doctor gestured toward him.

“It’s fine, you can leave us.”

McHendricks nodded and stepped backward out of the room, disappearing around the corner. The metal door slid shut.

Doctor Ocanas fixed his gaze on the janitor.

“Mr. Patterson, please tell me your job description.”

Patterson took a moment to think. He had only woken up an hour ago and he smelled of ketchup. The combination made him groggy and slightly nauseous.

“I’m a janitor. I’m tasked with keeping the facility clean.”

Patterson looked for more words to make his life seem more meaningful but failed.

“Do you work throughout the entire facility?” asked Ocanas.

“No, no. I’m not the only janitor. Usually they just call me to clean up stuff near my quarters.”

Doctor Ocanas shifted himself away from the table and nodded. He smiled once again at Patterson in hopes of keeping the man happy and calm.

“How would you describe your conditions, Mr. Patterson?”

The janitor thought about all the shit he had to take today.

“I think they’re okay. Food is nice. I could use better quarters. My closet is really cramped most of the time.”

He paused.

“The staff is really nice. I love working with security guards.”

The Doctor nodded and produced a notepad and pencil. Patterson sat up straight in his chair, feeling anxious.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to start the evaluation now, Mr. Patterson.”

Patterson nodded quickly and firmly.

“I’m going to read out some numbers from my notepad, and I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Please bear with me, this test is very…”

Ocanas looked around the room for a good word.

“Abstract.”

The Doctor flipped open the notepad and looked at the first line. Patterson stared at the pencil. Ocanas held it perfectly perpendicular to the notepad’s paper with a determined grip.

The first number came out quickly than Patterson expected.

“173.”

Patterson’s eyes widened. He thought immediately of blood, feces, bones, and concrete. He looked down in an attempt to hide his expression as a single bead of sweat trekked down his forehead.

Patterson jerked his head up to meet the Doctor’s eyes.

“The drink machine.”

He briefly choked on his own saliva.

“In the cafeteria.”

Ocanas let out a brief smile.

“Ah, maybe 173 is the code of your favorite drink?”

“Something like that.”

Patterson fidgeted in his chair. His eyes darted around the room. There was no drink with the code 173. Why would there be? What kind of drink machine has up to a 173 drinks? His train of thought was severed by the next number.

“096.”

Steel cube. Mauled bodies. Fingers. Patterson clasped his hands together on his lap. He thought he was hallucinating. Patterson forced himself to spit out an answer.

“I don’t know.”

Doctor Ocanas looked up from his notepad.

“You don’t know?”

The Doctor raised one of his eyebrows.

“Nothing comes to mind?”

Patterson gritted his teeth behind his lips.

“Like you said, Doctor. This is a very abstract test, right? You’re just saying numbers. 096 doesn’t mean anything to me, okay? It’s just some random number.”

The janitor felt his voice raising and quickly stopped. He felt the light of the lamp above. The heat slowly pushing him to the edge. He brushed the hair on the side of his head back with his fingers.

“You seem uncomfortable Mr. Patterson. We don’t have to continue.”

“No, no. Please. I’m fine.”

Patterson could feel the sweat sticking to the back of his jumpsuit. He regretted his answer to the Doctor’s last question. What if he had called it? He really felt sick and everyone feels sick. It would have been a good excuse. They would have let him go, he could be on the way back to his closet now.

“Okay, one quick question.”

Ocanas reestablished the grip on his pencil.

“Do your duties ever take you into the Euclid or Keter Class wings?”

Patterson opened his mouth and hesitated. The beads of sweat were now noticeable and were making their way to his neck.

“Oh, my bad. You probably know them as Light Containment and Heavy Containment.”

Patterson grabbed his edge of the table for support. All attempts to contain an outburst failed. His voice reached an unprecedented volume and the tone of his voice shifted every few words as evidence of his insecurity and madness.

“No Doctor, I’ve never been to those places. Other janitors go there. I don’t. I just mop the hallways and bathrooms. Just this morning I was at the cafeteria. Some idiot researcher dropped the ketchup bottle. I cleaned it, I mopped it and I left and returned to my closet. I looked at the calendar and I had marked today as my monthly psych-eval, but you don’t understand all of it. It wasn’t my handwriting, I didn't write it there. I don’t even have a goddamn pen!”

Ocanas burst to his feet.

“McHendricks!” yelled the Doctor.

Immediately McHendricks and another agent rushed through the metal door. They grabbed Patterson by the arms and pinned him to the metal table. Patterson squirmed and fought, but he couldn’t overcome the strength of the two agents. The janitor began to scream, yell, and holler for the nonexistent possibility of someone or something to come to his aid. In response the second agent covered his gaping mouth with his hand. McHendricks pulled back his suit jacket, revealing a leather belt holding several syringes. He looked at Ocanas.

“What’s it gonna be, Doc?”

“Class C amnestics, get him to medical after. Let the record show that I am suggesting complete termination.”

Now Patterson was stressing his vocal cords to make a sound that would bypass the agent’s hand. He kicked in every direction he could but the best thing he could hit was the folding chair. McHendricks brandished a syringe marked with a yellow sticker. He quickly sank the needle into the janitor’s neck and unleashed the full dose.

The alarm went off.

Patterson’s eyes flashed open and he stared at the stained ceiling as the chirping kept playing. He slowly propped himself up on his cot and looked at the clock, which was in the shape of a cartoon pink bunny. It was a gift from a researcher who worked here before. He couldn’t quite remember her name.

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