Center

via Daily Prompt: Center

The Unpredictable Adventures of Inspector J.R. Pinkerton – Volume 1, Issue 4

Inspector Pinkerton had been in the university’s research center for quite some time, he had been meditating on it to try to recall just how long he had been in the facility.  It was a tough thing to figure, but his best guess was somewhere in the neighborhood of five years.  With his regained sight and hearing, he felt more alone in the quarantine room than he had ever felt in his life.  J.R. fantasized about leaving the place, but he was burdened with a cautious anxiety over the things he had heard his doctors speaking about.  It wasn’t that he feared the doctors and researchers, as he was pretty sure they still believed his ruse – that he was still deaf and blind.  It was that he now knew just how long he had been in the center, and he was wary of the ways the world may have changed in that span of time.

Pinkerton looked at himself in the mirror and thought to himself that he hadn’t aged one bit.  There was no way the doctors and researchers were telling the truth, it must be a test. They must be baiting him, enticing him to speak out, trying to confirm that he could see and hear everything that was happening around him.  Then the most curious thing happened.

He had been pacing, alone in his cell, thinking his way through his anxiety and reassuring himself to hold his steadfast resolve to never let them know that the procedures had worked.  There was a researcher, a young intern, watching from just outside the room, and the most unfortunate thing to happen to Pinkerton in a long time occurred with a flurry of profanities.  He tripped over a slipper.

When J.R. tripped, he lost his battle with the doctors and researchers, lost his calm collected appearance, and lost eight teeth.  He had been pacing with his eyes closed to keep himself from looking around and giving himself away, and he slowly had been drifting closer and closer to the bed with each pace.  Pinkerton tripped over his slipper and hit his mouth – with all the force of Murphy’s Law and the laws of physics combined – squarely on the corner of his nightstand.

Pinkerton had unleashed a ferocious string of obscenities in multiple languages – he was fluent in English, Danish, Arabic, and Spanish – while spitting out blood and teeth and smashing the nightstand against the wall.

The intern ran as fast as he could to the lead researcher’s office while the lead researcher ran as fast as she could toward the quarantine rooms.  If it weren’t for the CCTV system in quarantine, this would have been J.R.’s saving grace.

The intern rounded the corner in the corridor on his way out of quarantine with all the speed of an Olympic sprinter; with his head down and his lack of training in sprinting he began having difficulty keeping his breath. The intern started to experience tunnel vision and auditory exclusion, as the position of his head was constricting his airway and his muscles were demanding more oxygen than he had ever given them.  His adrenaline was pumping, and his 100-meter dash at this pace would have handily been below ten seconds.

The lead researcher had been running through the park with her dog every day for five years, so she was no slouch.  When she saw J.R. smack his mouth into the nightstand, she immediately took off in a graceful run, not an adrenaline-fueled sprint, but she was still moving at a pace that would make fairly high marks in a 5k competition.  She entered the corridor leading to quarantine and could hear the multi-lingual obscenities echoing up from Pinkerton’s room.  She decided she should probably pick up the pace a bit.

It sounded like a tuna had been dropped from some height into an ice tote.  A wet, crunching, reverberating thud.  A 230-pound intern traveling at about 25 miles per hour had just run headlong into his boss, a 140-pound Ph.D. traveling just over 12 miles per hour.  It was like seeing a pickup truck hitting a deer, nobody wins, everyone gets damaged.  They both awoke to the smell of ammonia.  A student had seen the doctor running across the campus and followed her.  The student witnessed the gruesome collision and called for an ambulance, then waited outside the quarantine building for them to arrive.  Neither the intern nor the doctor could remember what had happened.  They had sustained serious concussions along with some sprains and strains in their arms and necks.

The doctor and the intern returned to the university to continue their research a few days later and went to visit their favorite subject.  Pinkerton had been worried about them, as the sickening cacophony of their bodies colliding was loud enough to stop his tantrum and he hadn’t heard anything about their condition in days.

Inspector Pinkerton was sitting in a chair with his usual wry grin.  The doctor thought his teeth were a bit whiter than before.  She recalled them being slightly tea-stained, but they were brilliantly white that day.  Were his eyes tracking her?  No, that couldn’t be possible.  Must be the concussion, maybe a hallucination of some sort.

As the doctor approached him, J.R. unconsciously stopped hiding his renewed abilities of sight and hearing.  He responded to her half-mumbled thoughts about his eye movement with a wink and a nod.  The doctor thought that it must be a continuing illusion.

Pinkerton said, “I think I’m done living in this place.  Thank you for your hospitality, but I want to leave the center. Oh, and if you haven’t already, go watch the CCTV footage.”

“You might want to look at my calendar then.” replied the doctor.

J.R. looked down at the doctor’s calendar and the shock hit him, he had been in the quarantine unit for twenty years and there was a dramatically different world waiting outside the center.

 

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