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Co-Writer Paul Robison*
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
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Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Paul Robison
Nov 16, 2017
16 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!uwDCym2YpkwRkRtMwYpaposted on PENANA

He seemed to be climbing a long, steep incline.  Up ahead, he could see a dim light.  No, not really---only a lessening of the darkness that now surrounded him.  He stumbled.  What the hell was he walking on?  A road?   A walkway?  A deck?  It appeared to be smooth and hard.  It leveled off.  He put out his hand, touched a smooth surface----cool, smooth, yes, but also rough.  Paint, flaking paint.  He felt some come away and brushed his hand against his leg.  Felt cloth---loose, rough.  He kept going; the light brightened.  A corner, sharp----not curved? copyright protection29PENANAby3dCVexAj

A voice.  It stopped him---short of the corner.  Careful---careful---Danger!copyright protection29PENANAe5PSIofKmE

Voice hard, rough:  "Son-of-a-bitch's gotta come out sometime."  Another:  "Yeah, he'll get hungry."copyright protection29PENANA5TvpKZbgXA

Hungry---food----yes---that was it---but---Danger! Danger!copyright protection29PENANAq99umMpBj0

He pressed against the wall, fear, overpowering awful fear, striking him.  His legs started to tremble, a whimper grew; his hands covered his mouth.  Quiet.  Be quiet.  Danger!copyright protection29PENANAVy5LqN9Gxw

The footsteps---going away; the fear subsided, his hands dropped, he moved to the corner---careful----go slow.  Slip around---empty hall.  The light brighter, coming from an exposed globe, hanging from a wire, revealing brown, dirty walls, cracked paint, brown, dirty floor, a door.copyright protection29PENANAkDpQ29PdqN

Careful---trap?  Round handle; he reached out, touched, pulled back.  He stepped back.  The door stayed open.  Shouldn't it close?  No.  He gave it a slight push; it swung easily---slammed!copyright protection29PENANAOQWYljKLV4

Noise!  Danger!copyright protection29PENANALQDQB3ELKc

His knees began to tremble again; he backed quickly around the corner, the whimper building into his throat.  He crammed his fist into his mouth to silence it, but still a whine of fear escaped.  His knees gave way; he sank to the floor, curled into a ball, his knees pulled up against his chest, one arm clasped tightly against his legs, trying to make himself as small as possible.copyright protection29PENANAh4PGURQK5g

Then---footsteps.  Coming toward him---Hide!  Hide!  He curled tighter, arms over his head now.  The whimper grew into a cry, crawled up his throat....."Help me.  Please!"copyright protection29PENANAxU7uSsOCdJ

A voice.  Different.  "I'm coming---wait there!"copyright protection29PENANAGZzjPbnuW7

The footsteps came around the corner, stepped beside him.  A hand----was it?  Fear!  Something touched his arm gently; then the voice again---soft, slightly accented, full of compassion.  "Oh, Tommy----I was so worried.  Why did you run away?"copyright protection29PENANAGecvU6nLRt

The fear let up.  Slowly he relaxed, uncurled a little, looked up and up, along smooth legs, to white dress, to arms reaching down, hair, swinging around a face----a smiling face.  Danger?  Illusion?  A trap?  Another whimper.copyright protection29PENANA2pn9TfCHRQ

"No---no, Tommy, don't cry.  It's all right.  I'm Marissa.  You remember Marissa, don't you?  Come, take my hand."copyright protection29PENANAryP1RFcfa9

Marissa?  Marissa was---nice---gentle---yes, she---she would help.  Slowly he put up his hand and took hold of hers.copyright protection29PENANAmQnzmiFK3x

"Jolly good, Tommy---you remember.  Come, now, get up.  You must be so hungry."copyright protection29PENANAd5WAfQPSyH

Hungry?  Yes.  When had he eaten last?  What?   No memory came.  Wait.  A tray?  Bright colors?  No---a bowl---dull, but food. copyright protection29PENANAIZfy06edmo

He began to uncurl more, her hand encouraging him.  He got his feet under him, pushed up----against the wall---his hand still holding tightly to hers.copyright protection29PENANAmJfJiC2Ym5

"Good for you!  That's fine, Tommy.  Come, let's go and find you something to eat."  She tugged gently at his hand, toward the corner----toward danger.copyright protection29PENANAvzbsariZjR

He stiffened, pulled back; his pull drew her toward him, off balance.  She tripped, fell.  He grabbed at her, held her by the shoulders.  Soft.  Nice.  A girl; no, a woman!   He looked down into her face---turned up to his now, eyes widening, meeting his.  Slight frown......copyright protection29PENANAG2QVBR2P4p

"Tommy?  Let me go now, Tommy."copyright protection29PENANAeq8uaq6cps

"No!  I---I want to----to...."copyright protection29PENANAiU2tncUGce

"What, Tommy?  You want to what?"copyright protection29PENANAxSgnOReRHi

"I.....want..." He stopped.  What did he want?  Her shoulders were soft but firm; they felt good in his hands---deep within him, something familiar----a warmness---a...copyright protection29PENANAgWJpqUPx6f

"Hey!  What's he doing?" Shout.  Harsh, rough hands reaching, pulling. "Get away from her, you nut!"  A slap, a blow against his head. Danger!  Danger!copyright protection29PENANA0p92SxfNdr

"Stop!  Oh, stop!  Rob, don't. Please!"copyright protection29PENANA2Kki88an0S

"Why?  Crazy nut----whadya think you were doin'?  Why'd ya let him get so close?" Big harsh hands yanked him off balance, threw him around the corner.copyright protection29PENANAFgPpGgjvNq

"Hey, Wilt!  Here's our Superman.  Caught him fooling around with Miss Cooper."copyright protection29PENANALNPUQIs5wF

Another set of hands---hard, coarse---caught him, slammed him against a wall.copyright protection29PENANAxyqRRy02V1

"Don't! Please---leave him alone.  He didn't mean anything."copyright protection29PENANAUBiK1Y0kuO

Something was thrown around him; his arms jerked and pulled---forced into sleeves, twisted.  He was spun around, shoved again, against the wall.  His face scraped over the rough, peeling pain.  He jerked back from the pain, only to receive a crashing blow on the side of his head.  Blackness reaching....copyright protection29PENANALfCAasjCyP

"Hold still, goddamn it!  We'll teach you to keep your dirty paws off our nurses."copyright protection29PENANAh6nIYfgYhc

"Rob!  He didn't mean anything.  I tripped---he helped me.  Kept me from falling.  Oh, don't---don't put that bloody thing on him.  Please!"copyright protection29PENANAZcNhWOgX9K

"You tryin' to tell me how to do my job, Miss Cooper?  I've seen you with this jerk before---you're kinda soft on him, ain't ya?" the voice snarled.  "Hey, Wilt, pull those straps tighter----wanta lose him again?"copyright protection29PENANAMUZov9ROLq

The yanking grew rougher; his arms were pulled around his sides, binding; he struggled; the wail grew to a scream of sheer terror.copyright protection29PENANAE3w2Luh2ty

"Aw, shut up.  Dammit, ya'll start all the loonies in the place howling.  Shut up!"copyright protection29PENANAetK2LHQ1E0

"I'll report you, Rob!  When Dr. Bush hears about....."copyright protection29PENANALrUKPqUGeF

"Oh, no, kiddo---no ya won't.  I'll tell him I saw you snuggling up to this----this Superman.  He don't look so pretty now, does he?  Face all scraped like that.  Aw, gee---ain't that a shame?  He fell down and bumped his pretty face.  Nah, you tell Bush, and next time, I won't be so gentle with him.  C'mon, Wilt, let's get this little piggy back to his pen."copyright protection29PENANA7TJDVu8cxC

As if from a great distance he could feel himself being hauled up and dragged along by the straps of the jacket binding him----saw a door pushed open---bright light blinding him----felt himself pushed, staggering.  He fell, full-length, his hands instinctively struggling to break the fall, but they were tied to his side.  He crashed to the floor, his head hitting hard....darkness again.....Pain!  Awful pain!  Another cry:  "Help me!  Help me, Sp----Spock?  Help me!"copyright protection29PENANAKL5vNRcESR

Silence---dead, deafening silence.  He blinked......looked again, avoiding the light.....saw a bed beside him.  Low---gray mattress, rumpled sheet, but better than the floor.  He raised himself, got his knees under him, pushed against the wall.  Up-----staggered to the bed----collapsed again, on the bed this time.copyright protection29PENANAEEizo8ZiPe

"Water----must have----water!  Spock?" His voice echoed.   Silence again.  "Help---help me?  Spock?"  No, not Spock----Marissa!  She said she'd help......"Marissa!" he cried.  "Where are you?" His throat was sore; it ached from thirst and his screams.copyright protection29PENANAYW7HA2cIeK

A noise.  A clanking.  The thugs again?  Danger!  Hide, hide!copyright protection29PENANAlZvqvjhIYa

"Tommy?" The softie.  "Tommy?  I'm here....."  A swirl of white, a figure rushing toward him.  He opened his mouth to scream.  "No, no, Tommy.  I won't hurt you---shhh---it's Marissa."  Soft hands on his face, stroking, pushing back his hair.  "Tommy---those idiot hurt you.  I'm so sorry."  Face close to his, eyes----blue-violet eyes---peering anxiously at him; eyes moist with tears.  A soft, cool wetness on his cheek.  Water?  A cloth, soft and wet....copyright protection29PENANAACOTbd1bwQ

Pain!  Sharp!  "Hurts."copyright protection29PENANApvNxcnAp6O

"Shh, Tommy, let me clean up your cheek; it's scraped and bleeding.  Now, now, Marissa won't hurt you---shh."  The soothing voice crooned, the pain lessened, was gone.  Gone with it some---most of the fear.copyright protection29PENANA9rOFSjZa2X

In place of the fear, a growing thought.....copyright protection29PENANAkCA9vMmwXT

"Marissa?"copyright protection29PENANAnnoaUByu0E

"Yes, I'm here, Tommy.  Come, sit up so I can undo these straps."copyright protection29PENANAja68PYsP9u

"Where, Marissa?  Where?"copyright protection29PENANAMu6nDB9086

" 'Where' what, Tommy?" she asked gently.  For the first time in the six months that he'd been there, she thought she saw a change in him.copyright protection29PENANATvuiGpTeTT

"Where---am---I?"copyright protection29PENANATd3ZmTYOJ8

"This is----a hospital, Tommy.  You've been very sick.  I am a nurse.  I am taking care of you."  She spoke each word slowly and distinctly.copyright protection29PENANAjvCpSg12g9

He frowned, shook his head as if to clear it, and then looked into her eyes again.  "Sick? am I sick?"copyright protection29PENANA9aFDsm2lBW

"In your mind, Tommy," she said gently.copyright protection29PENANAfuajuwdtlW

"No---no---no!" He started to get up.  Couldn't; with his hands still confined, he was off balance, helpless.  He sank back on the bed, thrashing his head from side to side, tears pressing out from between his tightly closed eyelids.  "No!  Not that!" he cried.copyright protection29PENANABEse4lu6nL

"Tommy, don't, please.  I'm sorry.  Hush, now."  Marissa Cooper caught his rolling head between her hands and held tightly, meanwhile murmuring quietly to him.  At last he stopped fighting her hold and lay still, sobbing softly, like a heartbroken child.copyright protection29PENANAgwWWapicKT

Marissa's mind was racing---he knew what she meant!  So far as she knew, this was the first time that an idea had registered in his mind.  He knew the implications of a sick mind.copyright protection29PENANA90okjSQxmc

"Tommy, come, let me get this horrible jacket off you.  Sit up, please?" she coaxed, smiling.copyright protection29PENANAtXRVcWhH2E

He looked up at her, at her smile, drew a shuddering breath, and struggled to sit up.  She helped, and soon he was sitting on the edge of the bed.  She quickly unfastened the buckles and straps of the heavy canvas straitjacket that held him.  Pulling it away from him, she tossed it disgustedly to the floor.  He sat looking at her, rubbing his hands together.  The sobbing stopped.  Once more he shook his head, then rubbed one hand over his face and his eyes as if to clear away cobwebs.  Again he looked at her, a tiny smile crooking one corner of his mouth.copyright protection29PENANAsibpelOwyz

"Thank you," he said.copyright protection29PENANAqIzO2THTq3

Marissa felt a thrill of hope.  Yes!  There was a change.  She was strangely attracted to this man.  Many times she'd tried to work with him, but never before had he shown any sign of coming out of the black pit of horror that seemed to enfold him.copyright protection29PENANA5U1XPdT7UV

She thought back to the day he'd been brought in----six months before.   She'd been in the admissions office when two policemen had come in  supporting, almost carrying, a man who fought and screamed and sobbed in absolute terror.  Orderlies had come running with a jacket and shortly had him bound securely.  A doctor had come and administered a very heavy sedative, and soon he'd been slumped in a chair.copyright protection29PENANALneXNsiBZR

"Who is he?" the police had been asked.copyright protection29PENANAapAKeCEVv4

"We don't know.  We found him staggering along a back road, near the city limits."copyright protection29PENANAYBYZzOcsV7

"What's that costume he's wearing?"copyright protection29PENANAoHuCEi4XT4

"Never saw anything like it---that yellow shirt, the insignia, looks like some kind of team shirt or something.  Strange material.  He was covered with dirt----musta fallen a lot---but it brushed right off."copyright protection29PENANAP4tpPH1tDx

"Any identification?"copyright protection29PENANAxB9wAIlNag

"Nothing.  Not even any pockets in that outfit.  We'll inform Missing Persons.  Somebody will probably claim him...." The police left shortly afterward.copyright protection29PENANAUyXpaCHfzB

The man was admitted, his strange clothes marked and packed away, the doctors examined him----a well-built, physically healthy man in his mid-thirties, as far as they could judge.copyright protection29PENANAjoFNNuvPX8

He was listed as "John Doe"---the few words he'd mumbled or screamed were English---American English---and he was started on a series of tests and treatments.copyright protection29PENANAmvJw1ken7p

Nobody came looking for him; his fingerprints weren't on file anywhere.copyright protection29PENANAD2XBr8d9oN

She was glad when the strange man was assigned to her wing of the giant hospital.  Something about him appealed to her.  When he wasn't in one of his periods of violence, he at times would stand quietly looking up at the sky through the barred windows.copyright protection29PENANAKHcqu0U0PS

One day, when he was standing so, she'd stopped beside him and had spoken to him, calling him "John."  He'd turned, looked at her, and said very clearly, "Tom."copyright protection29PENANA8coSIqcWNj

Then, almost as if the name had been a signal, he'd become violent.  Since then, except for only a few unconnected moments, he'd dropped back into the wall of horror that seemed to engulf him.  At times he was like a small child, whimpering and sobbing.  She'd found that calling him "Tommy," as one would a child, sometimes brought response.  Other times he'd rage and fight and need restraints.  He'd been given all the tests; one doctor swore he was a schizophrenic, another a manic-depressive, but it all added up to a big zero.  They really didn't know.   They changed his name to "Tom Doe," after Marissa had told of his response, but beyond that---nothing.  Except for periodic treatment, medication to calm him when he was violent, nothing could be done.  He became just one more poor unfortunate, forgotten patient in a large, overcrowded, understaffed state institution.  No one cared, except Marissa Cooper.  With the limited time slotted to her, she did her best to see that he was cared for.copyright protection29PENANAlqlj2NsfXQ

When she'd come on duty this day, she'd been told that her "pet" had escaped into the hospital's basement.  She had been teased before for bothering with the "Superman," as the orderlies who attended him called him, partly from his strength and partly from the strange clothes he'd been wearing when brought in.copyright protection29PENANA3Hyf73f235

The rough treatment he'd received wasn't unusual.  But the special care Marissa Cooper gave him was.   The pay for orderlies was low.  As a rule, only people who couldn't find other jobs applied her.  Marissa often felt sickened by what she saw:  the sadism of the orderlies, the laxness of nursing care, the indifference of many doctors.  She often wanted to quit, but she couldn't.  She just couldn't walk away, so, to the limit of her strength, she did what she could to help the unfortunate beings in her care.  She tried not to favor any, but in Tom's case, she couldn't help it.  Something about him kept drawing her back.copyright protection29PENANAUbhi30IfWv

Now, finally, after all this time, a sign of comprehension---a few words----two words:  "Thank you."copyright protection29PENANAziWVCYJ5eG

Marissa's smile lit her face. "You are welcome, Tommy," she said happily.copyright protection29PENANAVhotxvwNxz

"Tom," he said, glancing at her sharply.copyright protection29PENANASsLaLPat47

Her mind flashed back to the other time, and she caught her breath.copyright protection29PENANAZEpVA2Uk78

He frowned. "Tom," he repeated.  "Yes, Tom---not Tommy...." He smiled again.copyright protection29PENANA03qowXU3Kr

"Tom what?" she urged.copyright protection29PENANADDUoNFdX9i

"Tom----I---I---don't---Just Tom," he said, looking worriedly at her; she saw tears forming and hastened to say, "That's all right, Tom.  It doesn't matter.  Come, now, let me get you down to the dining room....there's still time for supper."  She took his hand and urged him to his feet.copyright protection29PENANA49Xu4ywZSE

At the dining-room door he stopped, looking around a little wildly.  The clash and rattle of dishes startled him.  Marissa remembered when, another time that she'd tried to bring him in, he'd broken and run frantically back up the hall.  This time, however, he just gripped her hand tighter----hurting her, although she'd have endured much more if he would only keep improving.copyright protection29PENANA8SHyhewbhg

"Everything's all right, Tom," she said. "Come, I'll get you your supper."copyright protection29PENANADVTxkHcyEm

As usual, she was revolted by the quality of the food the patients were given---coarse, unappetizing, often greasy, colorless, unrecognizable food.  She knew it was probably nourishing; the patients didn't starve, but why couldn't the food be made to look attractive?  She sighed and picked up the battered spoon.copyright protection29PENANAQJvOdAmKzf

"No," Tom said.copyright protection29PENANApH76gpkMAC

" 'No' what?"copyright protection29PENANA3dxXLREYpj

"I----I can."copyright protection29PENANAkg2P5gqs10

She sat back and watched while he took the spoon from her.  Dipping it into the grayish mess that was some kind of starchy casserole, he began to eat.  She sat quietly beside him, hope building.  She couldn't believe the change in him.  He was awkward with the spoon; it was hard for him; a fork would've been better, but forks are sharp.  He spilled the first couple of spoonfuls, but gradually he did better and soon was eating easily.  He drank thirstily from the cup of cold coffee, made a face.copyright protection29PENANAHqHPwYeRKO

"Cold!  I never liked cold coffee," he said clearly, as casually as if they'd been talking for hours.  He glanced at Marissa.  "Please---I want some hot coffee."copyright protection29PENANAuN21KNToLj

"And you shall have it," she said, standing up quickly and starting for the serving counter.copyright protection29PENANAI6AKWG1m82

"Marissa, no!  Don't leave me!" He jumped up frantically, shoving back his chair.  Marissa turned back quickly and caught hold of his arms.  He was as tense as a bowstring, ready to panic.copyright protection29PENANAmPt4FZ2TRM

"Tom, Tom, I'm here.  I won't leave you."copyright protection29PENANAIlAKnkyhJk

"Marissa?" He whimpered, and her heart sank.  Was he regressing again?  She'd been a fool to move so fast.copyright protection29PENANABrqbcmRdJ0

"Yes, I'm here, Tom.  Come---you come and help me get the coffee."  She took his hand, and he followed her.  This time she moved more slowly.  She kept talking to Tom, and he quieted, the fear slowly leaving his eyes.copyright protection29PENANAg5QJ9vJcoA

Taking a clean cup, she drew some fresh coffee from the urn and carried it back to the table.copyright protection29PENANAY7WzSkTqBD

"Now, Tom, be careful, the coffee is hot," she warned.copyright protection29PENANAKc4bohxgug

He picked up the cup and carefully tasted the steaming liquid.  A smile lit his face.  "Good," he said.  "That's how I like it.  You programmed the selector just right, Marissa."copyright protection29PENANAgLm7uwCdI1

"I---what, Marissa?"copyright protection29PENANAOH8Kg04arG

"I said, you programmed the selector just the way I like my coffee."  And again he drank from the cup, deeply this time.copyright protection29PENANANbTSmh9UyE

"Oh.  Yes----"  She was puzzled.  Programmed?  Selector?  Just what kind of strange ideas were these?  He seemed so sure of what he'd said, as though it were perfectly natural.  Programmed---that was something you did with a computer.  But---a selector?copyright protection29PENANAbOpxVT4y6M

"Tom, what is a....?" Suddenly a bell sounded in the hall, a loud, clanging bell, signaling the end of visiting hours.  Marissa hated the bells; they always startled her, and she'd seen many patients react in fear at the sudden onslaught of sound.   This time was no exception; all over the room, bodies stiffened, cries of fear were heard.copyright protection29PENANAzUuIFLIKVa

There was a violent crash beside her.  Marissa looked around, to see Tom standing beside his overturned chair.  He was looking around, his lips moving. "Red Alert!" He started for the door, not running, but moving fast.copyright protection29PENANAqIlkAIBKD9

Marissa hurried after him, caught up just outside the door.  He was looking up and down the hall. "Where is it?" he asked when she came up to him.copyright protection29PENANAoOYNmUGqsN

"Where is what?" She'd expected to find him frantic with fright, but he seemed almost calm and businesslike.copyright protection29PENANAd2IIKntt8o

"The turbo lift.  Which way?" He snapped out the question.copyright protection29PENANADz7ZTIHusk

"Tom, there's no---turbo lift here," she said.copyright protection29PENANAER9DEvxlW0

"There must be!" He started down the hall, striding rapidly along, not shuffling or running---striding!  She had to run to keep up with him.copyright protection29PENANA892QSNelgm

"I've got to get there.  It's a Red Alert!  They need me!"copyright protection29PENANAJUWRTPzBk2

Almost as she said it, the bell stopped its clamor.  He took a few more steps, then slowed to a halt, turning slowly to Marissa.  "It's stopped.  What happened?  Why did the....?" He frowned, trying to remember.  "Marissa?  Where---where is----is----?" She saw helpless confusion growing in his eyes, saw him raise his fist to his mouth, heard an all-too-familiar whimper start to build up in his throat.  Her heart sank; she reached out her hand, and he took it, like a lost child.  Tears formed in his eyes. "Marissa? It's gone.  I almost...." He started to sob quietly.copyright protection29PENANAWYT5BxB9Sx

"Sh-shh, Tom.  Come, I'll take you back to your room.  It's late.  Come," she urged, drawing him down the hall.  Once in the room, he quieted, and the sobbing died away.copyright protection29PENANA91HcRzZ6Vf

Finally she said, "Tom, I must go now.  The orderly is coming; he'll help you get to bed.  Will you let him help you?" She knew that he sometimes fought the attendants, who would just go away and lock the door, letting him sleep on the floor if he wanted to.copyright protection29PENANAtFapw4e6Fy

He didn't move even when she said good night and went out the door.copyright protection29PENANA8Cx2I9Akjt

He was alone.  He lay on his back, staring at the window at the foot of the bed----a window covered with a heavy webbing of bars.  The night sky was awash with brilliant stars.  While he lay there looking at them, something moved---a late plane at a great height, only a pinpoint of light.  He watched it, only his eyes moving, until it was gone.  A sob grew in him; a line of tears formed and ran down the side of his face.  His lips moved silently; then words formed:  "Spock?  Spock?" It was only a whisper.  "Help me? me?" Finally he slept.copyright protection29PENANAStuzFm9Es5

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