Lest We Forget
rating: +2+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 his clock, which was in the shape of a pink cartoon 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: 7:00. 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 eyes 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.

“Random check, show me your clearance card.”

Patterson chuckled.

“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 janitor looked at the officer’s holstered sidearm. The thought was crazy, but it was a thought nonetheless.

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 face plate. The officer glanced at the card and handed it back swiftly. He quickly hit a button inside, and the doors closed.

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

After a brief detour down the stairs, Patterson reached the Site-19 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 security staff. Even a few agents were there. He held his bucket close to his chest and walked through the bustling tables. He felt tense as his eyes met those of a stern faced scientist.

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

Patterson stood quiet.

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

* * *

“I’m getting too old for this shit,” he thought.

The doctor straightened his patterned red tie in the mirror of the men’s restroom. He noticed he still had bags under his eyes despite the fact he told himself they would be gone after a good night’s sleep. He might have been correct if such a rest ever occurred. He remembered repeating the same mantra in his head last night. “The act of lying down will give me rest. The act of lying down will give me rest. Sleep is only an option.”

The doctor became disgusted of his reflection. His tanned wrinkled skin, once smooth now was evidence of experience in the field of stress. His head of hair, once oily and neatly trimmed was now unkempt and had flipped over to the color of gray. He looked pale, for some reason. He figured it was so bad that the melanin in his skin were already calling it quits.

“I need some coffee,” he thought.

Ocanas prayed on his march to the break room that no other doctor was there. Not this early, he wished. He knew that any conversation with his colleagues would bring up his recent off-site activities. As he rounded the corner into the proximity of a bright vending machine he laid eyes on the bane of his existence. Another doctor, leaning over a bowl of cereal looked up at him.

“Doctor Ocanas! Jesus man, how are ya?”

Ocanas hated him. He hated his healthy looking hair, slicked back and down to his neck. He hated his olive colored skin, rich with life and happiness. He hated how he was nearly ten or fifteen years younger than him yet they were workplace equals.

“Doctor Escuella. You’re looking very sharp this morning.”

Escuella chuckled as he stirred his Lucky Charms.

“Thanks, man. Oh hey, I read about the report on the factory. The one from the team you were a part of. Great stuff. It seemed like an easy mission!”

Ocanas nodded as he dared to move closer to the coffee machine.

“How was it over there? I know you guys had a pretty buffed up security detail with all the gunfire and what not.”

Ocanas began pouring himself a mug of coffee. He could tell it was cold. The machine had been unplugged.

“Well, I’ll put it this way. We wore ballistic plating the entire time. Didn’t let us take it off. If you really want to know what it was like just volunteer for it. That shit repeats every 11 seconds.”

Escuella let out a hearty laugh.

“Anyways I was looking for someone to help me out with an experiment going on today. They requested two medical personnel to be on standby. You know how I feel about the assistants so-”

“Can’t. Doing interviews today.”

Escuella paused and let go of his spoon.

“Huh.”

Ocanas poured the remainder of his coffee down the sink.

“No shit. You talking research personnel or-”

“Cleaning staff. Janitor.”

Ocanas turned to leave the room.

“Hey if it were up to me I’d get rid of all them. They’re doing a job the D-Class can do just as well.”

Ocanas glanced back slightly, only to make sure that Escuella was listening.

“Then who would clean up the bodies?”

* * *

Today was the day. When Patterson woke up he didn’t think it was going to be today but now it was. The ketchup bottle and the guard in the elevator were the last two straws. His heart raced as he walked back and forth in his closest. Everything was making sense. Everything had been making sense since his last visit to the medical wing. They could inject him with all sorts of stuff that would make him forget but the clues kept persisting. Patterson just needed one last piece of evidence to confirm his suspicion to the end, and only that way he would have the confidence to make today the day.

Maybe it was because he had finally left himself enough clues. Maybe it was because he had truly reached his limit, or because of sheer coincidence and phenomena. That didn’t matter. He couldn’t think about it, not now. Now he remembered.

He craned himself behind his radiator for the note. It was there. He grabbed it with one arm and uncrumpled it, reading it out loud.

“Foundation is wiping my memory. I am a potential risk. I clean up everything everywhere so they must make sure I am not a risk. They can kill me but they have chosen to keep me alive and they wipe my memory over and over so they don’t have to find more janitors. Need to get out. Need to get out.”

The next step came to him swiftly. He nearly pounced toward the calendar hanging off his wall and rapaciously flipped to every month, starting with January. On every page in the little box numbered 16 was inscribed with the same message.

MONTHLY PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION

Same handwriting. Same dark ink. It wasn’t Patterson’s handwriting. And he didn’t own a pen.

He flipped to this month. There it was again, marked on the 16th. Monday. Patterson’s eyes widened. Today is the 16th. Today is the day.

* * *

“So the subject is…”

She scanned through the clipboard.

“Patterson, Scott. 30 something year old janitor… Been working here since he was 18. Sheesh. Anyways all of this other stuff is not really important…”

Ocanas watched her face as she continued. Her beautiful looks stood as a testament of hope to the doctor. Youth was so fleeting, he thought, but that didn’t mean there was nothing left to live for. In another life, he repeated in his head. In another life.

“Oh.”

The assistant frowned.

“Looks like Mr. Patterson has been labelled high risk.”

She lowered the clipboard.

“You’re most likely going to have to treat him today.”

Ocanas smiled as their eyes met.

“Nothing I haven’t done before.”

The assistant returned the smile.

“I wonder…”

Doctor Ocanas gravitated toward the young lady. His fingers walked his hands toward hers which was resting on the nearby counter.

“…what it would take it to treat you.”

Ocanas now felt alive, with a new kind of blood coursing through his veins. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he couldn’t help it. Who knows, there might very well not be a tomorrow.

The assistant retreated an inch.

“Steve…”

Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Ocanas spun around to see Escuella through the glass. He cracked open the door just enough to stick his head through.

“The boss-man wants to see you.”

* * *

Go to the medical wing. Do the interview. Buy time. Bargain.

Patterson repeated these words as he took the stairs up to the medical sector. He didn’t bother bringing a bucket or a mop. Traveling without one would usually warrant some reprimand but he had no fear. Today was the day.

He walked past researchers and scientists alike, attracting many eyes but fomenting no action. He reached the door to the waiting room, where many staff members would travel for their own personal checkups and such. He took one last breath before opening the door.

* * *

“And the whole time we were dogging him about working in the FBI. Skipper this and can that. You should’ve been there sir.”

The preceding laughter died down. Ocanas’s grinning visage met level with his superior.

“Well Doctor Ocanas it definitely sounds like you had a great time in the field. I’ll be sure to recommend you for more of those adventures.”

Ocanas felt a pain in his chest.

“Anyways I know you’re a busy man so I’ll get down to the chase. I’m giving you a formal complaint due to your behavior lately.”

The grin had now completely expired off of the doctor’s face.

“B-but sir. I-if I may… Can I ask simply… Why?”

Underneath his silver hair he tensed his lips and simply stared back.

Ocanas let out a puff of hot air.

“15 years. 15 years I’ve been here and now a formal complaint? What the fuck have I done? You even said the work I did on that field-op was some of the best you’ve seen.”

“Doctor Ocanas.”

Ocanas rose in his chair.

“Do not tell me this is about me and Evaline. She is my assistant and nothing more, I-”

“Doctor Ocanas that’s enough!”

He sunk back into his chair.

“This is about your work. On site. And frankly I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that bit about you and your assistant.”

Ocanas attempted to collect himself.

“S-sir, I meant no-”

“You’ve been absent from your duties and no longer communicate with your colleagues. When someone needs you you’re nowhere to be found. The only spark of motivation we’ve seen from you is when that field-op came up.”

Ocanas fell speechless. Tears began to build in his eyes.

“We’ve lost far too many staff members to termination because of you. I’ve reviewed the reports myself and see that you’re cutting corners. It’s almost like you’re sentencing these people to death for enjoyment. You seem to agree with us that you should be far far away from this site. Let this formal complaint be what it should be, a warning. One more slip from you and you’re gone.”

* * *

Patterson marched right up to the reception desk, sealed behind glass. He was breathing fast, and droplets of sweat hung on untrimmed hairs on his cheek. He rapped the glass divider to get the attention of the assistant sitting on the other side.

“Patterson, Scott. Here for my monthly evaluation.”

The assistant looked up through her glasses.

“Mr. Patterson…”

She was in disbelief.

“Oh, we’re expecting you. Stay right there.”

The assistant soon entered the waiting room, flanked by Doctor Ocanas.

“Doctor this is Mr. Patterson the janitor.”

The two men of vastly different fates exchanged looks.

“Mr. Patterson, we can begin your evaluation. Please follow me.”

Evaline’s worried gaze met Ocanas as the two began to depart into the depths of the medical wing. Ocanas mouthed “I’ll be okay.”

* * *

Ocanas was pinned on the concrete wall of the interview room. He felt the claws of death dig into the flesh on his neck. He couldn’t believe that his assailant was a janitor who smelled of ketchup. The glass shard bit at Ocanas’s neck, deterring any idea of fighting back.

“I say one word and they’ll race in here to beat you to a pulp,” said Ocanas through gritted teeth.

“You say one word and this piece of ketchup bottle enters your throat.”

Patterson had one hand wrapped around Ocanas’s neck, pressing him into the wall and the other armed with the shard, held at an angle converging on the doctor’s jugular.

Ocanas let out a grunt. He couldn’t die like this. Not after the threat of termination. He had come so far. 15 years could not be put to an end by the hands of a janitor.

“Alright. What do you want?”

“A way out. I’m getting out of here. I know what you’ve all been doing to me. Decades I’ve spent here and finally I’ve grown a brain. All of it ends today.”

“Who do you think I am? No matter what I do or what you do there’ll only be two outcomes.”

Patterson eased off the shard, just enough for the doctor to continue speaking without much fear.

“You kill me and they’ll kill you in a heartbeat. No question about it. That’s what you were sent here for anyways. You’re right. You know too much. We would have had to terminate you in the end anyways.”

“What’s the other option?”

“We do the same exact thing. Again. Wipe your memory. Send you back to that closet. Have you work for us like nothing ever happened. All that if you let me go.”

Patterson let go of the Doctor and took a step back. Ocanas slid down to the floor and touched his neck, feeling the sting of his wound. The janitor caught his breath.

“Termination,” said Patterson between pants. “What would that be like if I hadn’t acted up today?”

Ocanas looked up from the ground.

“Lethal injection. Something more humane than having a bunch of security officers gun you down into a hot mess.”

Patterson looked up at the ceiling.

“But today’s not over. We can make a deal.”

“What?”

Patterson fixed his gaze on a spot on the dimly lit wall

“You submit me for termination like nothing happened. I don’t stab you to death in this room.”

The room fell silent. Ocanas slowly rose to his feet.

“So you’re saying that when given the choice to return to your old life or to die, you would choose death?”

Patterson released the glass shard. It dropped to the floor with a symphonic tinkling. The janitor shared his last glance with the doctor. He whispered.

“Please.”

* * *

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 his clock, which was in the shape of a pink cartoon bunny. It was a gift from a researcher who worked here before. He couldn’t quite remember her name.

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