Silence Is Not a Valid Answer
rating: +39+x

D-4413 sat in the empty waiting room. At his side were numerous periodicals and magazines, none of which interested him. He gave occasional glances to the secretary, but would always lower his head when she looked back at him. He never noticed her concerned smile.

"Clark?"

Dr. Ashtekar stood in the doorway. In his hand was a clipboard and on his face was a smile. D-4413 stood up and made his way over. Ashtekar held his hand out, and D-4413 shook it, but he never matched the doctor's smile.

"How are you, Clark? Excited?" Dr. Ashtekar motioned towards his office.

I have a number, not a name. Dee-Dash-Four-Four-One-Three. "I'm okay I guess."

Dr Ashtekar sat in his chair; D-4413 sat opposite him.

"Just okay? I thought we had made some progress since last time. Are you looking forward to Monday?"

D-4413 looked down at the floor. He wished, desperately, that he was anywhere but here. That thought was snuffed out quickly; He's trying to be nice to me. It's not his fault.

"Most people look forward to their last day."

D-4413 continued to say nothing. He twisted his hands together into various shapes and positions. After a while it started to hurt.

"Try to relax. This final session is just a formality at this point."

Nothing. Set in stone. Like I could change it.

Dr. Ashtekar gave a small sigh and rubbed the tip of his beard. He put the clipboard aside and reached into a small refrigerator next to his desk. "What would you like to drink? And I'm not taking silence for an answer."

"Coke."

"I've got Pepsi."

"Okay." Dr. Ashtekar handed a cold can over, and D-4413 popped the tab open. The doctor grabbed a Dr. Pepper for himself. D-4413 took a sip, savoring the sweetness of the sugar. He hated Pepsi.

"Do you have any alcohol?" D-4413 was surprised he had spoken. Stupid stupid stupid.

"Err, no, I don't. Do you want some?" Dr. Ashtekar seemed curious.

"No. I don't know why I said that." D-4413 felt his face burn red. He pretended to pick at his shoes. Dr. Ashtekar flipped through the clipboard until he found the ID page. He nodded as if he had confirmed something.

"You've never had beer before have you?" There was a click as he put his pen to paper. He expected a response.

"No." Why did I ask that? Why did I think I could ask him like he's my friend he's just a doctor that wants to know if I'm going to hurt more people in the future.

Dr. Ashtekar flipped back and forth between a few pages. "Yes, I can see that. Unfortunately, I don't drink, but once you are out of here nothing is stopping you. Just be responsible."

"Okay." There was more silence. Outside, D-4413 could hear the secretary greet another patient. He could swear she sounded less enthusiastic than earlier.

"Clark." D-4413 turned back to look at the doctor. "Are you worried about your release?"

"No." A lie. D-4413 could feel tears brimming in his eyes. He hated that he didn't know how he felt and he was ashamed of it. I don't want this. Any of it.

'You've been here for almost sixteen years. That's almost half your life. It's okay to be worried." Dr. Ashtekar was somehow both leaning forward and sitting back at the same time. Like an animal about to strike.

"I'm not worried." Lying. Why am I always lying? Why can't I just take that leap and try to understand why I'm like this I wish I could explain it but I can't and now I'm stuck with myself because someone had to.

Dr. Ashtekar's gaze was unrelenting. He knows. But he then nodded and wrote something down.

36 minus 16 equals 20. "Are you going to help me?" Take me back to the cell, please.

"You'll be given employment through a Foundation operated company. Consider it a probationary period so we can see how well you adjust."

"And if I don't?" D-4413 could feel his heartbeat start to accelerate. He felt like he was getting there, to the point. I can't do this.

"I'd rather not think about that. You've made great progress these last few years. Not just in terms of testing, but personal growth. The Committee certainly thinks you are ready."

D-4413 didn't respond. Can I still say no? That was what he wanted to say. To crawl back into his regulation bed and fall asleep until the next round of testing. I can say no… I can tell him I'm not ready, I don't want this I hate how this feels I don't want to live like a fish through a glass where I can't make out why everyone is so happy and I feel like I'm trapped looking out I want to feel something I want to be like you.

A familiar throbbing sensation pulsed behind his forehead. The Doctor's voice droned on in the distance, ever farther away. Just tell him. You aren't ready. He opened his mouth to speak. No one will help you unless you help yourself. You've been hiding for so long how can you expect others to understand?

Why would anyone care?

I don't want to be a burden.

"I guess I'm ready."

That earned him a large smile. Dr. Ashtekar clicked on his pen and wrote something down. "That's what I wanted to hear. You'll do fine, trust me." He stood up and held out his hand. Like a programmed routine, D-4413 reached and and did the same. They shook hands. "Congratulations, Clark, or formerly D-4413. You are now officially rehabilitated."

This means nothing. "I have a question."

"Yes?"

"Will you guys remove my memories?"

"No. It feels counterproductive to the process to remove the context behind your change."

"Oh."

Silence.

"What if I told people though?"

This earned him a hearty laugh. Dr. Ashtekar gave him a gentle slap on the shoulder.

"Do you really think anyone would believe you?"


Once, a few years before he broke, he had a dog. Savannah was a beagle, and a light in his life. In a rare moment of tranquility, his parents had left him alone for the day. He spent it outside, running with Savannah.

When he got tired, he took a breather on the porch. He called for Savannah. No response. She had been sniffing around some bushes earlier. Oh well. He went inside and made some lemonade, bringing the pitcher outside.

There sat Savannah, with something between her teeth. It twitched and bled, and for a moment he could see a large singular eye. And then it closed.

She dropped it at his feet. A rabbit. Savannah gave a bark of happiness and rushed off again. He didn't know what to do, so he ran inside and grabbed some gardening gloves. Gently he picked up the little rabbit. It's hardly a baby. It didn't move.

He only realized after that he felt nothing. If he had, it was lost in such a place. He simply sat there, corpse in hand.

Savannah reappeared. She had another; this one already dead. Again, she dropped it at his feet and ran off. He laid the one in his hands next to its sibling. He still felt nothing.

The cycle repeated again and again and again. By the end, he found himself with five murdered rabbits, and one proud beagle. He tried to scold her, but the words wouldn't come. Instead, he patted her on the head and sent her inside.

Later, while digging a hole for them, he realized what was wrong. I didn't stop her. I sat there as she ran and killed and I could have done something. The emotion was real this time, but fleeting.

Why did I do nothing?

But he knew of course.

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