Cover Art

Fragments

by

Mercedes Rothwell

Kendra has been having dreams of a young woman trapped in a shadowy room. Who is this girl and why is Kendra dreaming about her? She goes on a quest for answers.

Fragments

A Short Story

“I've been having dreams again.”  Kendra looked past her therapist and through the window. Beyond it lay a courtyard with a small gurgling pool surrounded by flowering plants. It was wonderfully peaceful—so unlike those dreams.

“What kind of dreams?” Dr. Lorrig leaned forward in her seat and adjusted her glasses, as they had slipped to the end of her nose.

Kendra thought Dr. Lorrig was interesting,  and starkly different from other therapists. For one, the woman had a small stud in the side of her nose. Her hair was short, with the side shaved, and it was dyed a blue-gray color… or perhaps she had gone gray early.

“Kendra?” Dr. Lorrig asked, tapping her pen against her clipboard. “Are you alright?”

“Hmm, sorry what?” Kendra asked, shaking her head and blinking.

“I asked you what kind of dreams you were having.” She leaned back in her chair and crossed one leg over the other. “Are they always the same?”

 “Kind of.” Kendra leaned back in her own chair and crossed her legs as well. “There's always young woman, and she’s sitting in a dark room.” 

“Who is the woman? Is she someone you know?” Dr. Lorrig cocked her head to the side. Kendra wondered if there was some psychologist training course on how to appear interested in patients while being secretly bored by them.

Kendra looked out the window, refusing to look at her psychologist. “I don't know; I can't see her face.” 

She heard the scratching of a pen and turned to see Dr. Lorrig scribbling something on her file before asking, “What is she doing?” 

Kendra sighed and closed her eyes. “She's afraid...” 

Dr. Lorrig leaned forward again, gripping the clipboard tightly. “Why?” 

 “Someone is there watching her; he’s got her chained to a bed. Sometimes I see his face, but it’s always distorted and half in the shadows. He hurts her.” Kendra began to hyperventilate, and her body began to shake.

“You’re okay Kendra. You’re in a safe place.” Dr. Lorrig reached out to touch Kendra’s hand, but the woman recoiled away. 

“No, don’t touch me! Leave me alone! Please…” She curled up in her chair, screaming, “Why are you doing this! Let me go! Please...” She whimpered, hot tears pouring down her face, and saliva rushing into her mouth. After a few moments she regained her composure, adjusted her dress, and turned to the therapist again. “I’m sorry, what were we talking about?”

“Your dreams.” Dr. Lorrig put a hand on her wrist. “It’s alright Kendra, it’s just a dream.” 

She pulled away. “But it feels so real!”

“Have you considered the possibility that this is a repressed memory?” The therapist leaned back and crossed one leg, placing her file in her lap. “Sometimes when we experience something bad, our minds hide it away from us. These dreams could be a way for your subconscious to deal with it.”

Kendra crossed her arms. “I’ve never been kidnapped.”

“Our subconscious mind tends not to show us things exactly how it happened. Maybe you feel trapped, or someone in your life is making you feel threatened. Does anyone come to mind?”

“There’s no one!” Kendra waved her hands in exasperation. “I’m single, I work from home, my family lives in Missouri. My neighbors are either female, or too old to harm anyone!”

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a man—”

Kendra cut her off, her voice cracking, “Why aren’t you listening to me?” She used a shaking hand to brush a strand of red hair behind her ear. “These dreams aren’t normal! That man, what he does to her—” As she said those words her heart quickened, beating like a drum in her chest and in her ears.

Its rhythmic pulse was strangely hypnotic; as she listened, the therapist's office began to fade away. The open window was replaced by one shrouded in thick tattered curtains. She was chained to a bed; the metal was tight on her wrists, and there were scars from her continuous attempts to wrench free when she had first awoken in that room. That room had been her prison for a long time; she had lost count of the days that she lay in the dark, weeping at the pain inflicted upon her. He didn't come often, maybe once or twice a week; not as often as he had come in the beginning. She feared he was getting bored with her. She knew that would not outlive her usefulness for long. Unfortunately, she had given up hope of rescue after she wore out her voice from shouting for help. All it earned her was her face bashed against the wall until it bled, and she had fallen back dazed on the mattress. She hadn't even had the strength to fight him when he pulled up her skirt and pinned her down. As she considered her fate, there was a loud crash, and then someone was calling her name and flashing a light across her face.

“Kendra?” 

She opened her eyes, blinking rapidly. Dr. Lorrig had taken hold of her head with one hand, and was a waving tiny flashlight back and forth across her eyes. “Are you alright?” 

Kendra pulled back out of Dr. Lorrig's grasp. Her head was spinning and she felt sick to her stomach. After a moment, the feeling was dispelled, like nothing had happened. She stood quickly, making Dr. Lorrig jump back. Then, she reached down to grabbed her purse and her jacket, fishing out her car keys from the pocket. 

“I'm fine Doctor; I just need to go.” 

“Are you sure?” Dr. Lorrig's usually smooth forehead was now distorted by worry. 

She exhaled, “Yes... yes, I'm sure. I just, I need to go.” She put a hand to her head and pushed her hair back, “I’m running late for… something.”

A sudden chill came over her, and she pulled her jacket on, walking out of the building while rubbing her arms. Whatever Dr. Lorrig said, there was definitely something weird going on. Her recent dreams were unlike any that she had ever had before and now they were bleeding out into the daytime. She put her key into the ignition and started her car. As she pulled out of the parking lot, she felt determined to explore other options; if Dr. Lorrig didn’t believe her, she’d find someone who would. When she got to her apartment, she ignored her roommate’s requests for help with programing the DVR, and raced to her room. She tossed her purse onto her bed, an action that took out a pile of stuffed animals along the way. After that she plopped across her bedspread with her laptop in hand.

She muttered as she typed into the search engine. “Vivid dreams, kidnapped, tactile experience.” 

She paused to rub her right hand; for a moment, it felt like something was squeezing it.

“Crystal” Someone whispered, “Can you hear me?”  She started and looked behind her; her door was closed and no one was there.

Kendra began scrolling through the results, ignoring the first three links suggesting that she’d been abducted by aliens.

“Sleep paralysis?” She clicked on a link from a medical blog and scanned the article that explained the connection between the ailment and strange hallucinations that caused people to believe that they were being haunted. She considered it for a moment, then shook her head. It simply didn’t explain her experience in Dr. Lorrig’s office. She hit the back arrow and looked at the next result. “Hmm… Visions of the Paranormal and Other Aspects of the Occult. Sounds promising.”

The website belonged to a Dr. Eric Davidson whose main area of expertise was in visions as a communication between the spirit world and humans. His page asked clairvoyants to participate in a study to increase the solidity of their visions. 

“Me a psychic?” Kendra rested her chin in her hand. “Well I like that story a heck of a lot better than being crazy.” She caught sight of his address; it was a university in the next city over. “Oh thank god, he’s local!”

She clicked the ‘Contact Us’ link and pulled up his number, and then took her phone out of her pocket. Someone picked up after two rings, “Hello, this is Dr. Davidson’s lab. How can I help you?”

“Uh, yes, hello?” Kendra asked, nervously tugging at her hair and twirling it around her finger. “I think I might qualify for his experiment?”

The woman on the other end sounded like she was spouting a rehearsed line. “I’m afraid his experiments are nearly concluded, and he is not taking any more participants right now.”

“Please!” Kendra begged, gripping the comforter on her bed tightly with her free hand. “I need help!”

“I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can—” The young woman stopped talking, and there were muffled voices coming from the line, as if a hand was over the receiver

After a moment, a man came on the phone. “Thank you Mia. Hello? This is Dr. Davidson; I hear you’ve got a problem?”

She breathed a sigh of relief, “Yes sir, thank you. I’ve been having some weird dreams lately… they feel way too real to be normal, and I don’t know what to do. No one is listening to me!”

“Hmm I see…” Unlike Dr. Lorrig, this man seemed genuinely interested. “Can you explain them to me?”

“I keep seeing a dark room, with a scared girl who is all chained up, and a window with an old curtain. And it’s not just happening at night anymore. I think I’m having some sort of weird connection with a kidnapped girl or something.”

“Now, are you looking down on this scene or are you a part of it?” As he spoke, Kendra began to get the strange feeling that she’d heard his voice before, but for the life her, she couldn’t place it.

She leaned back against her headboard, pulling a stuffed whale close to her chest. “I’m seeing it from her perspective.”

“The victim’s? Intriguing…” The doctor’s voice faded at the end, as if he were considering her words carefully.

“Yes!” She was beginning to feel excited now. Her words began to pick up speed. “And I feel everything too! She’s very confused; I think she’s sick because it seems like everything is spinning.”

She heard a tittering sound coming through the receiver, and then the doctor said, “Well it certainly sounds like you are experiencing something paranormal. When can you come in?”

“Wait… really? Oh my God, thank you!” She didn’t expect to get this far. “Um, I dunno, anytime. When do you want me to come in?”

The doctor offered a suggestion. “Are you available now? I’ve just had a cancel—“

“Yes!” She cleared her throat, “um, yes. Yes I can.”

“Good,” she could practically hear the smile in his voice. “I’ll let security know we’re expecting you.”

“Thanks again sir!” She beamed widely. “See you soon!” The phone beeped and she set it down. Then she looked at the whale in her arms and balanced it on her knees so she could look him in the eyes. “I told you I wasn’t crazy.”

It felt almost as if she blinked and was suddenly at the college. It was disconcerting for a moment, but she regained her poise and began to search the empty campus for a security guard to guide her. An old man with gray hair sticking out of his ears and nose sat on a tiny stool in front of a tall building made from glass and brick.

“Where is everyone?” Kendra asked after greeting the man.

He grunted. “It’s a Sunday. Everyone is sleeping, like you.”

She frowned at him. “What do you mean by that?”

He ignored her and pulled a comically giant ball of keys from his pocket, and fiddled with the lock trying to find the right key. When he did, the door made an eerie sound as he pushed it open, almost as if someone were weeping.

“Will that be fixed soon?” She asked.

“Whenever you want it be.” The old man said, ignoring her quizzical look once again. He then pointed a gnarled white finger covered with brown age spots at the elevator bank directly in front of them. “When you exit the elevator, his lab’ll the fifth door on the right.”

The elevators opened with a ding and she stepped out of them. Unfortunately, the basement was exactly what she’d imagined, but not what she’d been hoping for—rickety looking walls made of unfinished wood, flickering lights, and a bare concrete floor. It was as if she’d stepped into a horror film. She reached a shaking hand into her jacket pocket to wield her keys as a weapon; she’d seen enough of these kinds of films to know where things were going.

She counted the doors carefully, “One, two, three—“

The fifth door popped open and a man popped his head out, “Crystal?”

She jumped and sputtered. “My, my name is Kendra?”

“Ah, yes.” He stepped out of the room and walked towards her. “Dr. Eric Davidson; you can call me Eric.”  He smiled widely and propelled her towards his lab with a hand on her back, “Security let me know you were coming. I’ve got everything set up for you.”

The inside of his laboratory was far more modern and promising that the hallway had been. Every surface was made up of stainless steel and there were bright fluorescent lights attached to the ceiling. Eric pulled out a stool for her and helped her climb onto it. She examined his face in the better lighting; he was young, much younger than she’d expected a professor to be, maybe late 20’s, early 30’s. His blond hair was combed to the right, like a 50’s greaser, but without the gel. His face was calming… familiar somehow.

“Have we ever met?” She asked, head turned to the side.

“Not that I know of.” He said, climbing onto a stool of his own.

Her head started to spin, and her stomach was writhing. She closed her eyes for just a moment.

She heard a cacophony of different voices. “Let’s go people, let’s go! Get that cart in here, I need it yesterday!”

“Is she going to be okay? Oh my God, please no! Oh God!” Someone else wailed.

She blinked again she was back in Eric’s lab. She must have slipped off of her seat because Eric was holding her up.

“You alright there? What happened?” He asked, helping her back onto the stool

“I just…” She shook her head and raised a hand to hold it.  “I felt a little faint. I’m alright now.”

“Good, just as I thought.” Then he asked, “Are you ready then?”

“That fast? Don’t I need to sign some—“

“Clear!” Eric shouted, and pushed her off the chair. 

Kendra screamed as she hit the ground. “Wait, what are you—”

“Come on! You can do it Crystal!” He loomed over her and dropped to the ground beside her, and then looked over to his right, “Ready? Clear!” 

Kendra coughed as he punched her in the chest.

“Come on! You can do it baby!” He cried, gripping her arm tightly.

She tried to push him away but she couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe; her chest was tightening, and her hyperventilating was only making it worse. Everything was a blur, and the bright florescent lights of the laboratory were flickering rapidly on and off. Everything went dark.

When Kendra opened her eyes again, everything was in various shades of green and the world was spinning. 

“What… where am I?” She croaked.

She felt someone grasp her hand. “You’re awake!”

It took effort for her to turn her head; she felt so weak. Sitting framed by bright light shining through a window was a dark figure. 

“Who?” She asked. 

The dark form leaned forwards, and she looked him up and down; it was a young man with rumbled clothes. His blond hair was askew and his blue eyes were rimmed in red; it was as if he hadn’t slept in days.

She mumbled, “Eric?” The man before her seemed to crumble, though she couldn’t figure out why.

He squeezed her hand, swept a stray strand of hair away from her face, and swallowed. “Don’t you recognize me baby?” His voice sounded almost as cracked as hers.  “It’s me—David…”

She repeated, “David.” Kendra paused for a moment and then added, uncertain, “Erikson?” He nodded at her and his eyes glinted, almost as if he were to cry. She raised her left hand up to her face. Her wrist was bandaged, and on her ring finger was a diamond set into a silver band, glinting in the fluorescent lights of the hospital room. “We’re married?”

Before David could reply, a doctor walked in with a huge grin on his face, “Well hello there sleeping beauty!” He sat on one of the chairs beside the other bed which sat empty and rolled towards her, “How are you feeling Crystal?”

She frowned, “My name is Kendra.”

David spoke up, “She called me Eric when she first woke up.”

The doctor looked at her, “You’ve been through a lot; it’s understandable for you to have experienced some memory loss and confusion. Amnesia is our body’s way of protecting itself from trauma that it can’t process.”

The man calling himself her husband squeezed her hand as she glanced over at him, and then back at the doctor. “Will I get any of it back?”

“Only time will tell. But I think with some therapy, and some hard work, you should be able to regain a sense of normalcy.” He looked at her chart one last time, marked something on it, and then left.

Soon afterwards she was visited by two police officers, a young woman with red hair, and a stud in her nose who looked strangely familiar, and a middle aged man with dark hair.

The middle aged man pointed at his own chest and gestured to the woman beside him. “My name is Sargent Olmen, and this is Officer Lorrig.” Kendra’s eyes widened at the familiar name. The officer continued. “We were part of the team that found you.”

“What-what happened to me?” Her voice was still hoarse and it hurt to talk. She coughed and the nurse taking her vitals poured her a glass of water.

“Do you know a man by the name of Ignatius Belcher?” The female officer asked, pulling up a rolling chair and sitting beside her.

She had water in her mouth, but David answered for her, shaking his head sadly. “The doctor says she has retrograde amnesia and that she will probably regain some of her old life back, but that the last two months might never return to her.”

The officers nodded grimly. “We were afraid of that.” The Sargent said. “We can build a case without your testimony, but we were hoping for an eyewitness report.”

“Who did this?” Kendra asked. “Who is Ignatius?”

Officer Lorrig replied, “He was a janitor that worked in your office building. He became obsessed with you and held you captive at his cabin for two months. When we found you, you were close to starvation and were suffering from dehydration-induced shock.”

After a while, the words they were speaking didn’t register anymore, and she wanted them all to go away. She rolled over on her side to get away from the two officers. 

The nurse said, “Alright, that’s enough for today, I don’t want her being overwhelmed. I’m sure her husband has some things to say to you out in the hallway.”

“Huh? Me?” David’s head snapped up from gazing into Crystal’s face. “Yes, of course, no problem.” He squeezed her hand for one last time and then he disappeared from her sight as he walked out of the room.

“Thank you.” She whispered to the nurse.

The woman stroked her hair gently. “I know things must be very confusing for you. Next time you need me to throw someone out, just press the call button and I’ll come running.” She patted the young woman’s shoulder and rolled her cart out of the room.

She glanced down at the ring on her finger and shuddered. Everything about this life felt so alien to her: her name, the man who claimed to be her husband, the story about what had happened to her. As far as she knew her name was Kendra Anderson, single woman, who had never been kidnapped, except for being attacked by a mad scientist in the basement of his laboratory.

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