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Special Replacement

Christina Vogel

     Let me tell you something that's the truth.  Of course, they don't want you to know the truth because they want you to believe whatever they tell you, but I'm telling the truth.  They say I'm crazy, but I'm not.  They tell me this like I'm supposed to believe it.  What do they know?  Lies, all lies.  It's not my fault I had visions or that I have memory lapses.  It's a gift and they're jealous. 
     No, really. 
     See, you're already thinking that I'm crazy just like the rest of them and just because I told you they told me that I was, but I'm not.  It's a gift.  Just ask Marty.  He gave it to me.  Don't get judgmental on me yet.  Just let me tell you how it happened, then you'll believe me and know that I'm not really crazy and that I don't belong here...
     I really liked Michael.  He was the perfect gentleman.  I met him at work and we just hit it off from there.  That night was supposed to be special: our first real date as a couple.  We went to Gionetti's, an exclusive restaurant just on the outskirts of town.  He was willing to spend all kinds of money on me.  It was a nice restaurant, all expansive and elegant.  The walls were off-white.  I don't think I care much for off-white.  The chairs were made of cherry- wood, such a rich texture.  And the tables…I really love white tablecloth restaurants, although I wouldn't exactly call this a white tablecloth restaurant because the tablecloths were a light magnolia.  And it was one of few restaurants that still welcomed live music—a string quartet.  What was that they were playing when we walked in?  Vivaldi, I think.  I don't know, I never really listened to classical much.  I wasn't paying attention to them anyways.  I was too busy enjoying talking with Michael and eating. 
     I remember what I had — a T-bone steak, rare and  juicy.  I was really enjoying it but then something happened.  I couldn't help it.  The vision was too much.  It wasn't just one, it was a flash of everyone getting murdered that very minute.  I know Marty did it to me.  He's so jealous.  I can still hear their screams, still feel the gunshots, burns, and knife wounds.  It was too much.  I could see their faces.  All so scared, so alone.  Nobody to help them.  All alone.  I wanted to help them.  I screamed and cried with them.  I was going to save them.  Save them all.  I had my steak knife in my hand.  I was going to stop the murderers.  I jumped from the table and screamed, stabbing the murderer in the heart.  I stabbed him again and again, but the murderer kept killing them.  I could still feel them, see them.  I was still screaming, screaming for them.  I was trying to kill the murderer, but the murderer wouldn't die so I stabbed again and again and again but several hands grabbed me.  They were helping the murderer.  They were helping  him and they were going to kill me just like they killed all those other people, those poor, defenseless people.  They weren't going to get me that easily.  I screamed and kicked, punched, kept a tight grip of my steak knife.  I stabbed another one and then I stabbed him again.  "You're not gonna kill me!"  I kicked another one, sliced another's throat as I wildly brandished the knife.  "No!  No!  Nononononononononooooooooooooooooooo!  You won't get me, you won't kill me like you killed them!  You won't you won't you won't!"  They had me surrounded.  They threw me on the floor, jumped on top of me, and took my only form of protection.  I kicked, I punched, but there were too many.  Too many.  It wasn't fair.  "I won't let you kill me!  I won't let you kill me!"  I could see the murderers still killing all these helpless people.  I had to stop them, but they were going to stop me first.  "I have to  help them!  I have to help the people!"
     That's how I got here.  They said I killed Michael and two others and I had to be treated, but I think they're lying.  They must have made him run away or either they killed him and those other people just so they could blame me and put me in that doomed, white padded hell.  Well, I thought that was hell, but it's nothing compared to this place.  Anyway, I know I didn't kill him because I loved Michael and he loved me.  Besides, I would never hurt anybody.  I'm not  like that.  They're all against me because I know they lie and they want to keep me quiet.  They turned everybody against me.  Nobody would visit me except for Marty because he was my only real friend.
     I thought that Marty was my only real friend, but weeks had passed by without me seeing him.  He told me he'd never leave me, but he did.  Why had he left?  Did they tell him not to see me?  Why would he listen to them?  He knew they were against me and him so why would he listen to them?  Something wasn't right.  I know that place was all wrong because ever since I'd gotten there, my memory lapses had been getting worse.  At first it only happened for a few hours, but soon it got like I was unconscious almost the whole day.  I had to fight to keep my mind my own.  Now that I think about it, Marty must have come to see me during my memory lapses.  They must have put me in a trance so I wouldn't be able to remember his visits and I'd think nobody cared about me.  That had to be it.  One day I overheard the doctors saying that I was getting easier to control. Right then, I knew that they were brainwashing me.  Whatever they were doing to me, I was determined to fight it. 
     Then one night they sent her for me.  At first I didn't know who it was because all I could hear was a quiet, faint sob.  It was so close that it sounded like she was sitting right next to me.  But nobody was in the room.  Hello? I shouted through my mind.  Could she hear me too?  The crying settled down, but I could tell she was surprised and frightened.  She screamed for me to go away.  But I wouldn't leave.  I knew that I had known her before.  Her mind connected with mine instantly, as though they belonged together.  Where was she?  Who was she? 
     Go away!  You're not real!  Go away!  You're not real, you're not real, you're not real!  Her voice was close.  It sounded like she was whispering in my ear. 
     I am real.  I can help you.  Who are you?
     The sobs grew louder.  I am Essence…I am Essence…I am Essence.
     Essence.  That name sounded familiar, but I couldn't figure out why.  Maybe we can help each other.
     I AM ESSENCE!  I AM ESSENCE!  I AM ESSENCE!
     Essence, let me help you.
     NO!   YOU CAN'T HELP ME!  I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP!  I AM ESSENCE!  I AM ESSENCE!  JUST ESSENCE!  I AM ESSENCE!   She choked on her words as her sobs increased.
     I can help you.
     She was silent for a minute.  I could feel the tears streaming down her face.  Were those my tears?  Her presence grew stronger.  As she shook, I shook.  I felt confusion, determination, frustration, and sorrow.  You…you killed Michael!
     Did she know Michael?  I was confused.  How did you know…
     MURDERER! MURDERER!  YOU KILLED MICHAEL! 
     I didn't  kill Michael!   Don't you believe those lies!  I had a vision and I was…
     THEY'RE NOT VISIONS!  WE DON'T GET VISIONS, THEY'RE ALL IN OUR MIND—NO THEY'RE ALL IN MY MIND!  MY MIND MY MIND MY MIND!
     You don't know they're not real!  They're lying!  The visions are real!
     DR. JACKSON TOLD ME THEY'RE NOT REAL, YOU'RE NOT REAL!  MARTY'S  NOT REAL!  MY MIND!  MY  MIND!   MINE!   IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO LEAVE!  She was shrieking now, almost hysterical.
     She was the reason Marty was gone.  They sent her for him and now they were sending her for me.  I tried to hold back my anger, but I was failing.
     What did you do to Marty?
     I PUT HIM AWAY!  MARTY IS NOTHING!  AND NOW IT'S TIME FOR ME TO PUT YOU AWAY!  I AM ESSENCE!  I AM ESSENCE!  I AM ESSENCE!  YOU ARE NOTHING!
     She was the strongest weapon they'd used on me.  They must have gotten desperate to get rid of me.  I had told them they wouldn't  be able to get rid of me.  Maybe that had been a mistake?  I was slowly slipping out of control of my body, my consciousness, everything.  I felt lighter, as though I were fading.  I unleashed my anger.  She wasn't going to do this to me.  I wasn't going to let them or her silence me.
     YOU STOP THAT!  YOU STOP THAT NOW! I shouted.  YOU CAN'T GET RID OF ME!  YOU WON'T!  I'M HERE, I DESERVE TO BE HERE!
     Now I was screaming and she was calm.  I'm taking back my life.  You have to go now.
      Her voice grew louder, closer.  I was fading somewhere.  where it was I didn't know, but it was scaring me.  Where was I going?  Not knowing what else to do, I jumped to my feet, but I felt disoriented and my mind was woozy.  My body slammed back to the floor.  I no longer had control over anything.  I looked around again.  I wasn't in the room anymore, I was somewhere else but I couldn't tell because I was so confused.  Something was happening.  I was fading.  My vision grew cloudy.  I knew I had gone through this before.  I was leaving.  Where was I going?  Was I going…there? No!  Not again!  They were winning!  They were winning and they were going to silence me forever!  I couldn't let that happen, I wasn't going to!
     NOOOOOO!  I screamed.  NO!  I'M NOT GOING BACK!  YOU CAN'T TAKE ME BACK!  I WON'T GO!  I WON'T GO!  YOU CAN'T MAKE ME, THEY CAN'T MAKE ME!
     I'm taking back my life.  I'm taking back my mind.  It's time for you to go.
     I was completely disconnected.  I could feel my mind withering away, combining with something.  I was weak.  So weak…Drifting away somewhere…
     Drifting…

     And now I'm here in this pitch black, endless prison.  I can't see, but all I know is that I'm falling.  Falling endlessly, perhaps forever.  All I can do is think of how I got here.  They won; she won.  I have no body, no voice.  I'm doomed to float helplessly into nothing, slowly melding into this vast space until I no longer exist…
           I am Essence…
     I am Essence…
     I am Essence…
 

Acknowledgments:  I'd like to thank Terry and everyone in my group: Sarah, Melissa, and Lin.  I don't think I would have had the idea to completely transform this story into what it is now without your comments.  Also, thanks to Nicole and Brooke for reading and discussing this after the major changes were made.  Thanks to others in the class who have offered suggestions to this story.


 
 
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