Rooted

garden-1020507_960_720Ashleigh had grown roots.

It wasn’t something she intended to do, but having happened she couldn’t make it unhappen.

She had stood still too long, and the place had gotten to her.  Feathers feelers came from the soles of her feet, reaching down into the dirt of the town while the dirt reached up to embrace them.

Threadlike things those roots were and her friends tried to convince her it wasn’t too late.

Her friends didn’t have roots.  They could travel and stay gone and never feel the effects of being uprooted.

“Just come with us,” they would sing and coo.  “There is no reason you can’t.”

She had intended to graduate.  She had intended to go to college.  She had intended to move to the big city, to get a good job.  She had intended to grow, to go away, to never look back.

She stood in her own yard, looking at the horizon she could never cross.  In her blood she could feel the history of the town, being fed to her by the hairs on her feet.

“You can grow here,” her mother told her. “You can thrive.  I’ve done well.  Look at your father.  You’ll be happy like we’re happy.”

Her mother’s roots were strong and firmly planted.  They reached and traveled far under the dirt of the town, embracing it all.  In the spring her mother flowered.  Her father was broad and strong and his roots so deep she thought he would live forever.

They had done very well.  They were very happy.

But they could never leave.  Never for long.  Outside of the town her parents aged and wilted.

She knew it would be true for her too.

Her roots were young, but they were roots.  They would grow far, like her mothers.  They would grow deep like her fathers.

Closing her eyes she sighed and turned her face to the sun.

Ashleigh had grown roots, and now she would thrive.

Inspired by: Roots

The Clean Room

With a great gasp of air, the man sat up on the stretcher. His eyes were wide and frightened at the sight of the equipment all around him.

There was a crackle of static, then a voice over a pa system.

“It’s okay son, you’re in a hospital. You’ll be okay, but I need to ask you some questions. Do you know who you are?”

The man looked down at his body, crossed and crisscrossed with wires and medical tape, IVs ran into both of his arms.

“Why am I here?” he asked.

“Do you know who you are?”

“What happened to me?” his voice was touched with panic. He’d never been in a hospital where the nurses only spoke over the PA. Maybe he had been infected with something, some virus. He’d read that it could happen.

“We will answer your questions later, first you must answer ours. Do you know who you are?”

“My name is Daniel. Daniel Facet.”

“That’s right. Very good.” the voice answered, as if he were taking a quiz and passing.

“Do you know why you’re here, Daniel?”

“I….” Daniel looked around the room. Sterile white walls, no windows, one door. It didn’t look like a normal door at all. It looked secure. A clean room. Why was he in a clean room.

“Daniel?”

“I don’t remember. I can’t.”

“Do you know where you’re from, Daniel? Do you know your hometown?”

“Macon.” he said without hesitation.

“Do you know your parent’s names?”

“Molly and Gerald Facet.”

“Good. Good. Do you know why you’re here, Daniel?”

He was here because…because of something important.

His eyes went back to the door.

“Am I sick?” He asked. “Did I catch something. Some government bug?”

“We will answer your questions later, Daniel, but we need you to tell us why you’re here.”

Daniel jumped as one of the machines beside the bed began to whir. He tried to stand up, but his legs seemed to be strapped to the bed. His eyes kept going to the door. The door.

His arms tingled where the IV needles went in.

“Daniel?” the voice asked.

“I’m here because I killed a girl.” he said suddenly, surprising himself. “Her name was Amanda Peet. She was seventeen. Used to date my neighbor’s son.”

“Is that true, Daniel? Is that why you’re here.”

The whirring machine shut off. Daniel closed his eyes and saw the door. Him being led through the door by two men. Him laying down on the table. He remembered the vial. The blue vial.

“No.” He told the voice. “I killed her, but that’s not why. That’s not why I’m here.”

“Why are you here Daniel?”

“I’m here for you to experiment on. I’m a guinea pig. A lab rat.”

“Very good, Daniel, you’re remembering well now. Do you know why you’re here?”

“I’m here because I killed Amanda Peet, and you came and told me that you wanted to use me, test things on me, and if I survived I would be a free man.”

“That’s right, Daniel. And did you survive?”

He closed his eyes again, saw the blue vial, the needle. They had to stick in in his chest, in his heart. It hurt. It hurt badly. He remembered his body straining, hrememberedrd the men holding him down and he remembered…

“No. I didn’t survive. I died. But you brought me back. You keep bringing me back. You wont let me be dead.”

Daniel cried, sobbed until his chest hurt. Everyone would laugh at him if they knew how he cried, but they would never know. They wouldn’t know because he was dead. Over and over again he was dead.

“Did it hurt Dainel?”

“Yes.” He said. It hurt quite badly. But the blue one was better. Not as bad as the green one.”

“Good, Daniel. Good.”

The door hissed open and two men came in. One of them carried a case as white as the room. The case had a bio-hazard symbol on it.

“Do I get to go home now?” Daniel asked, knowing the answer already.

“No Daniel. Not yet. Not this time. But soon, Daniel. Soon. Just as soon as we get it right. The regeneration formula is imperfect yet. But we have to make a painless death to keep those human rights monkeys off our backs, or everyone will know something is not right at the executions. When you die a painless death and live again, then you can go home, Daniel.”

One of the men pushed Daniel down, and he lay back willingly, as the other man prepared the syringe. The vial was red this time.

He knew he would never go home. He knew that if it didn’t hurt, that if he died a painless death and came back, they wouldn’t let him go home, they would use him as a soldier, like the rest of them, or they would keep him in the lab and make him be a monkey in another test.

As the needle slid into his arm he prayed that it would hurt very badly, and that he would stay dead this time.

(Originally posted in 2006 on Noner’s Notebook)