Chapter 2: I Need a Cigarette
It’s almost midnight and I’m fiending for a cigarette in a bad, bad way. Everyone is asleep as far as I know. We were sent to our beds at 9pm, but I’ve been tossing and turning just completely unable to sleep. The cigarette situation is a problem. We had dinner at 5 pm, which is the earliest I’ve eaten dinner in my entire life as far as I know. Pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans. Veggie burgers for the vegans. There’s 3 in the group. I feel so sorry for them.
I went to see Dr. Nelson earlier, like I was supposed to, and I have to say, this set-up they have going is a lot like a prison. For example, the only areas we’re allowed to be in are the common room, our dorms and the bathroom. The common room has 3 exits. Exit 1 leads to our dorms; Exit 2 goes to the greater part of the building where Dr. Nelson is, and the last exit is the testing room where we’ll be getting our daily doses. As I said, prison. My dad’s in prison. Did I mention that? Another time.
I was escorted to Dr. Nelson’s office by 2 security officers who typically stand on the other side of the door of the common room. It's a heavy ass door made of metal and requires a code and thumbprint scan for entry and exit. The two stoic guards escorted me beyond that door down the hallway and dropped me off at the doctor’s office and just left me in there.
So, I was just sitting there facing an empty desk looking at all of Dr. Nelson's stuff. He doesn't have much, not even a picture of any family. Just folders, files and a big mug of cold coffee. I felt a little uneasy, especially with what I was wearing. Did I mention we had to forgo all of our civilian clothing and wear scrubs during this shit? Well, we are. So we have a big list of things that make me feel weird; No smoking, shitty attire, that smelly bastard in our group and the wonderful feeling of being in prison… things are not looking up for me.
After several long minutes later Dr. Nelson entered the room. He’s an old man with glasses, white wispy hair and an overgrown goatee. He gave me a once over and sat down sighing. I don’t know what the hell he sighed about. I mean I know I’m not in the best shape here, but I’m not the biggest loser in this experiment by far. Then he just smiled. So, I smiled, and we were both smiling at each other for the longest most awkward amount of time.
“How are you holding up, son?” He said, finally.
“I'm alright,” is all I could think of to say.
“Have you adjusted, okay? Are the other doctors treating you alright?” He said as he grabbed a folder and put it down in front of him. The label tag on the folder had my full name and then “Subject 15” right next to it. I don’t know whether to be scared or grateful for the moniker. My first thought was to talk shit about the bald prick who was yelling at us all morning, but I decided not to. Guy probably has enough problems.
“Well, Sir, I’d be a hell of a lot better if I could get some smokes,” I said nonchalant with a slight yawn for effect, as if it didn’t matter, but in my head, I was screaming and begging for him to give me the answer I wanted.
“No smoking during the trials. That’s non-negotiable, I’m afraid,” he replied flipping through my file.
“Well, you didn’t mention that on the online advertisement” I shot back faster than I intended. He seemed to notice my irritation and looked up at me.
“Would you have not applied?”
“Why can’t we smoke?” I decided to dodge his question because the truth is if I didn’t get this trial, I’d be in the hospital with broken legs for not paying my bookies.
He glanced back to my file for a few seconds and then closed it and looked back up at me. He wasn’t smiling anymore. “Jack, the compound that we’re testing isn’t…. fully understood. We can’t have variables in the experiment that might throw off any results. Do you understand?”
I thought about it for a few seconds, and I replied, “Well, how will you know what the drug effects are for the smokers?”
I felt like I was at my old sales job. Maybe I could actually sell this!
He chuckled. “Depending on the results this first go around, we may broaden our testing to include other variables, but not at this time.”
Well, that settled that. Dr Nelson 1, Me 0.
“What is this Formula 35c drug supposed to do anyway? What’s it supposed to treat?” I asked. They actually never explained any of that earlier.
“Good question, that’s why I invited you in here.” He said with just the slightest little croak in his throat. Was he nervous? “The truth is, here at Nexus Mind Research, we are focused on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Are you familiar with it?”
“That’s like when old people lose all their memories right?” I responded, a little more intrigued.
“Yes, that’s one of the symptoms of greater or lesser degree, but the end stages are a total loss of self. It’s a very big, big problem. 1 and 6 people over the age of 65 will get it.” He said, and I detected a sadness in his eyes.
“You’ve seen it with a friend or a family member, haven’t you?” I dared to ask.
He took off his glasses and started to wipe them down. “You’re very perceptive. Yes, my father, when I was a boy.” He placed his glasses back on. “It’s how I got into my line of work.” He then placed the file he had on me back on to the stack.
I stared at the stack for a few moments and visualized all the information I could get on the other people in this trial if I could just get into this office somehow. No Jack, bad Jack. That would get me kicked out.
“So, the drug we’re all taking is going to do something increase our mental abilities, or what?”
“Well, that, is what we’re aiming to find out.” He answered and for a brief second, I saw a look of total anxiety. He’s hiding something… I reiterate, what have I gotten myself into?
“Don’t worry too much about it. I’m overseeing everything and have done clinical trials like these for many, many decades. You’re in good hands.” He said with a perfect script reading voice. A few seconds later his phone rang, and he picked up. He listened for 2 seconds and then gruffly said, “let’s have him”.
He looked me over and said, “Thank you, Jack.” I stood up, felt compelled to reach out my hand for a shake but he ignored me and grabbed a new folder.
It was then that the security officers entered the room with Michael, the Columbian chef guy and escorted me out. The meeting was a little brief for my liking. I decided to throw in one last question, “Are we going to meet like this every day?”
He looked back up at me and responded, “Not likely, but I will be reading all of your entries into your laptop, so be sure to mention anything and everything that comes to mind, okay?”
“Yes, doctor.” I replied and thought, shit… they’re going to be reading our entries. I knew there was a catch to this free laptop deal. The two security guys nudged me out the door and I heard Michael in his thick South American accent greet the doctor effusively as I was leaving.
As I was walking down the hallway back to our designated area, I noticed how eerily still and quiet the place was. There are doors going all the way down and God knows what’s behind them. It occurred to me that no one knows where I am. Not a soul. I know we’re not in Boston because they picked us up in blacked out vans and drove an hour to get wherever the hell here is. Scary.
I suppose you are reading this Dr. Nelson, as you stated you would in your office earlier today. I hope you don’t take offense to anything I’ve said, you did say to write anything and everything, right? I also hope this shit’s confidential because there’s no telling what’s going to pop up out my head during this stint at Nexus Mind Research Penitentiary.
Anyway, I should get some sleep.
Big fucking day tomorrow.
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