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Alex Hale

Australia

A library is a hospital for the mind

The lesser of two evils

November 6, 2015

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“Run, run, never look back,” echoed a voice in Tom’s head, taunting him over and over again. “Faster, faster.” So he ran. Through the lush green forest which hid him from the eyes of the enemy. His feet pounded the rocky ground. Suddenly, a blood curdling sound shattered the atmosphere. 
“They are getting closer,” the voice says. Tom could feel the rage and hatred of the assailants, echoing through the trees, as their bombs continue to drop all around him. Yet he continued to run; past the lifeless bodies that lay caked in their own blood. 
Why he had agreed to fight in this senseless war, he thought to himself. And what is so important that so many innocent people must die?
“I can’t stop now, otherwise they will find me,” Tom mumbled under his breath, in his attempt to push away any thoughts that would distract him from his mission. He gazed towards the ominous dark sky that overshadowed the moon above him, and continued to run. Run from the enemy that was closing in on him, the horrible images that were now permanently etched in his mind, and from the shattered hopes and dreams that he once held so dear.
Then, after what seemed like hours, Tom came to a stop. Panting, his eyes scanned his surroundings; forever hyper-vigilant, looking for a place to hide. His eyes darted around the landscape before resting on a giant, grey bolder, situated between two large oak trees. Without thinking, he sprinted towards it; a gun clutched between his clammy hands. 
Then; suddenly, a veil of silence enveloped him, and it was like the world had suddenly stood still. All he could feel was a sharp pain, penetrating down through his spine, as though it was shattering like glass into a million pieces. 
And then there was nothing but an empty darkness, leaving him numb and and emotionless.
Gasping for breath, Tom sat up in his bed, beads of sweat tricking down the sides of his ashen, coloured face. He became conscious that his heart was racing, like a runaway train, destined for disaster. Frantically, Tom looked around him, the sickly smell of the room, a harrowing reminder of the painful memories that penetrated the tender fragments of his mind. 
“Sweetie,” a soft voice whispered in his ear. “It’s me, Indi; you’re safe now.” Slowly, Tom began to relax, as he felt the warm presence of his wife embrace him; temporarily washing away the memories of the wars in which he had fought. 
“Where am I?” he whispered shakily.
“You’re in the hospital Tom”, she said. “A psychiatrist is here to check on you and review your medication”.  
Sighing, Tom sunk back into his bed. “Okay, thanks Indi”, he mumbled softly.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps penetrated the silence that had engulfed the room.   
“Tom Scrivener?” bellowed a man, whose sudden presence cast a dark, foreboding shadow over Tom’s bed. “What would you say if I could take all your pain and suffering away. Erase your nightmares and PTSD forever?” 
“Go on” Tom said, suddenly alert and interested in what the psychiatrist had to say.
“Well, after years of scientific research we have devised a chip that has the potential to erase the mood disruptions, intrusive thoughts and emotional pain you are currently experiencing.” 
Without a moment’s hesitation, Tom stretched out his arm in front of the doctor, indicating his willingness to participate. 
“It hasn’t been trialled on humans yet; so we cannot conclusively anticipate the results”, the Psychiatrist responded. “Are you sure?”
“I don’t care!” Tom cried out. “I’m sick of all the pain.  I just want it all to go away”. 
With that, the Psychiatrist turned his attention to Indigo, requesting her to leave the room whilst the chip was inserted. 
The last thing Tom remembered, as he felt the anaesthetic surge through into his veins, was Indigo’s beautiful smile and her reassuring words that everything was going to be ok.
Several hours later, Tom woke once again, to the putrid smell of the room in which he lay. However, this time, although not consciously aware of it, the intrusive memories of the wars he served in, no longer penetrate his waking existence. He sat up in his bed and stared aimlessly at the cream coloured walls that surrounded him. 
Suddenly, a woman with wavy, sandy coloured hair and crystal blue eyes walked towards Tom’s bed. She knelt beside him and began brushing her fingers through his hair. “Hey sweetie, how are you feeling?” she said. 
“Sorry,” Tom responded, as he attempted to subtly move away from the beautiful, but unfamiliar woman. “Who are you?”  
 

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