I honestly couldn’t tell if the music was still coming out of the tent or if my ears were ringing and I was the only one who could hear it. The rope around my body had suddenly started to hurt; it felt like someone had just tied me up. I didn’t know for how long I had been unconscious. It was still dark but it felt like I hadn’t been conscious for days. When I looked around, I saw that Marty and Evie were also tied up, but they were still unconscious. Jeremy lay on the grass in front of me, just looking at the sky. When I made a movement and sound, he tilted his head to look at me.
“Ah, you’re awake. It’s such a beautiful night,” Jeremy said, resuming looking at the sky.
“What the hell is happening?”
When I moved a little more, I could feel the grass under me wet and that’s when I figured out that I had peed myself, even though I was hoping I hadn’t, and I stank of different things. I was disgusting.
“Wait,” Jeremy said. And then he called out to the man behind all of this. “Dr. Fujita! Vivien Turner is awake! The Quaalude girl.”
Fujita felt like a familiar name, but I was in no shape to dig in to my memory. But when the man came out of the tent and removed his gas mask and stood in front of me, I didn’t have to dig into my memory because I recognized him instantly. It was Dr. Itsuki Fujita, the psychiatrist who used to practice in Hemlock Creek a long time ago. He was born and brought up in our town, and I remember when I was in middle school, a lot of Creek High’s students were his patients. He was forced to leave town when he had started doing drug experiments on the high school students and almost everyone was always spiralling and were getting addicted to Dr. Fujita’s special drugs. I had never officially met him, he wasn’t ever my doctor, but he was in the news for the shit that went down at Creek High, and that’s how I remembered him; only on TV, and in the papers. But that night, he was right in front of me, and in a position of power.
“How are you feeling, Ms. Turner?” He asked in his deep voice, with his hands at the back.
“What – what are you doing here???” My head was spinning and it was a struggle to keep my eyes open.
“Yes, I shall tell you that, of course. Jeremy, wake her brother and her friend up, please.”
My eyes followed Jeremy. He picked up and wore a gas mask before entering the tent. When he came out of the tent, he was holding two needles. He went over to my brother first, and put the needle in his neck.
“JEREMY!” I cried, “What the hell are you doing?”
“Relax, child. It doesn’t hurt. Much,” Dr. Fujita said to me.
My brother started to move. He was trembling at first, but then his body slowly started to calm down, and he opened his eyes.
What followed was a series of curse words thrown at Jeremy, a few “who the fuck are you anyway” directed to Dr. Fujita, and a few tears that were shed in the fear of the situation. I was really scared too, which is why when Marty started crying, I joined him.
“Tch. Tch. Look at the Turners weeping,” said Jeremy, chuckling at our misery.
He then went on to wake up Evie. Evie awoke the same way that Marty did, her body trembled at first and then slowly started to calm down. But the minute she looked around and realized that she didn’t understand anything that was going on, she freaked out, and fumbled a lot, so I didn’t quite understand a word she said. At one point of time, all three of us were talking simultaneously. We wanted answers, the ropes around our bodies hurt us, and we obviously weren’t completely sober.
“Shut up! Just, shut up everyone!” Dr. Fujita shouted. “I haven’t assembled you here to listen to this constant nonsensical indistinct chatter. I have assembled you here to help you. And I can’t do that until and unless you cooperate with me.
“Help us? We don’t need your help, Dr. Fujita,” I said, crying.
“Fujita? Oh God, is this the same Fujita who was banished from the town when we were in middle school?” Evie asked, bewildered.
I could see rage building up on the doctor’s face, but then I also saw him drop the rage and take a calm and composed tone with Evie.
“First of all, my child, I wasn’t banished from Hemlock Creek, I left on purpose. All I ever wanted to do was help everyone, but everyone in the town had such closed minds, I could never have achieved what I desired here in an office without patients, because everyone thought my methods were dangerous; it’s utterly outrageous, to call my methods dangerous. They’re not dangerous, they’re unconventional. They are experimental, and they are fresh, and humans fear any and everything they don’t already understand. Their demeanor told me that I wasn’t a part of my own town anymore, and that’s when I left. I left and I formed a group, a group of people with open minds, people willing to try new things, people willing to give life a chance. Don’t think of me as your enemy, children. I’m not it. I’m only here to help,” Dr. Fujita closed his eyes after he finished talking, took a deep breath, and let the breath out, and opened his eyes.
“By group, you mean cult, don’t you, doctor?” I asked. “I don’t want to listen to your bullshit. You have to let us go, all of us, or this time you will be kicked out of the town, maybe literally.”
“But you see,” the doctor sat down in front of me, pulled on the string of rope attached to my chest, with his index finger, “I can’t let you go. Not yet, anyway.”
“What the fuck do you want?” I was agitated and it was showing.
“I want to make your lives better, it’s as simple as that, my child,” he said, slowly moving away from me. “I want to help you see life in a different light, I want to help you live your life better.”
“And how are you going to do that?” Evie asked. She sounded scared.
“By altering your brain chemicals, of course. I’ve been doing this experiment on your brother,” he said to Evie and then turned towards me, “and your friend. And the other boy from your school and when I’m done, they’re all going to feel much better and they’re going to lead extraordinary lives.”
“What you’re doing, is going to ruin them. You were the reason behind so many students’ deteriorating mental condition when you used to practice in the town. I remember everything. It was all over the news. You call your methods unconventional, but you know that they are dangerous, and sick,” I said.
“Well, I’ll agree they are a tad dangerous, and I’ll take pride in it because a little risk is necessary to reap benefits properly.”
“Little risk?! It’s not little! You’re toying with the minds of young people, why don’t you realize that? Ever since Jeremy’s party the other night, Ava has been acting weird. Not happy, but weird. Like a fucking zombie. Who knows what she’s going to be like when you’re through with her. Where is she anyway? Still unconscious in the tent?” I asked.
I could see Dr. Fujita’s face turn red. I was annoying him, I was making him angry, and I wanted to continue doing that because some part of me thought that he would let us go. But it really wasn’t going to go down like that.
“Enough talking. Jeremy, get them inside the tent. It’s time we start the healing process,” the doctor said, put on his gas mask, and went inside the tent. When he came out, he was holding three needles. He gave two of them to Jeremy who went on to inject the needles into my brother’s and Evie’s skin. I could hear them screaming, resisting the needle, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Dr. Fujita. His gas mask made him look creepy, and I remember I didn’t resist and I let him inject me ‘cause I knew there was no getting out of that situation. Not yet, anyway.
When I woke up next, my eyes opened for a very brief period, I looked around but couldn’t see anything except for smoke and the color red. I could hear the music and the chants. I knew I was inside the tent. I wanted to move and get out but before I could do that, I breathed, and I was unconscious again. The next time I woke up, I woke up with a flinch. I sat up immediately and had major difficulty breathing. I was lying next to Marty and Evie, both of them unconscious. I wanted to get up and run away, but I couldn’t feel my legs. I turned around, while sitting down, and saw that I was not alone. A guy I had never seen before was standing behind me.
“Jeremy!” he screamed. “Come out at once, one of them has woken up. Jeremy!”
“Please, please let me go,” I held the guy’s leg and begged.
Jeremy came out of the tent, wearing his gas mask, and holding a needle. He took off his gas mask, and threw it over me for the stranger to catch.
“Go inside, Zachary. The doctor needs people. I’ll deal with her.”
Jeremy sat down, and came close. I wasn’t tied up, but I felt like I was. It was really hard to move.
“Aren’t you a feisty little girl?! Now c’mon, let’s go back to sleep,” he said, and was about to poke me with the needle, but somehow, I gathered strength, and punched him in the gut. He wasn’t expecting it and dropped the needle accidentally. I quickly reached for needle, and even though I couldn’t feel my body, I think it knew what it was doing. I jabbed the needle in Jeremy’s neck and before he could scream, he drifted into a deep slumber. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. I could hear the chanting, and I had to get away from there before anyone came out of the tent and caught me. I crawled my way to Evie, reached inside her jeans’ pocket, and took out her car’s keys. And then I crawled for as long as I could and when I could get up, I did, and walked out of the forest. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I got lost, and bruised, but what matters the most is I got out of the forest, I started the car, and I went straight to Hemlock Creek’s police station. I drove in a very rash manner; if I had encountered any cars in the way, I would’ve definitely hit them. I wasn’t sober, but I made it to the station alive.
It was an arduous task to explain to the officer what was happening. I was fumbling with words and I kept feeling like I would pass out any minute.
“Miss, calm down and tell me what’s going on,” Officer James said.
“No, we have to hurry, the doctor and his henchmen are going to ruin our lives. We have to go to the forest. NOW!” I was definitely panicking.
I think I passed out in the station after that. The process was pretty simple thereafter; the cops busted Fujita’s practice and retrieved everyone. Fujita and his men obviously had a terrible fate waiting for them, but to say that we were better off would mean underestimating the damage that had been done to us. When I woke up in the hospital, I couldn’t tell what day it was. I saw my Dad in front of me, and before I could talk to him, I passed out again. The next time I woke up, I saw my Mom on the chair next to me, but she was fast asleep. I wanted to get up but couldn’t, cause I was hooked to a machine and to a glucose bottle. I felt heavily sedated so I tried to close my eyes and go back to sleep, but I just couldn’t. So I decided to wake up my mother.
“Mom! Hey, mom! Wake up!” I whispered, but she didn’t move. Then I realized we were in a room and I didn’t have to whisper.
“Mom!” I yelled and she woke up with a start.
Disoriented in the beginning, she soon realized that I had woken up and that it was a big deal but instead of saying anything to me, she ran to the door, opened it, and shouted for the nurse to come in.
I wished back then and I wish even now that I would’ve woken up with Dad in the room. But, at least I was conscious again.
“How are you feeling?” A question that my mother should’ve asked me instead came from the nurse.
“A bit sedated, but not enough to go back to sleep,” I said, clearly. I was surprised I wasn’t slurry.
“The doctor will be right with you!”
The nurse left the room and my mother just stared at me.
“Are you not going to talk to me?” I asked her.
“No, honey, I just thought you weren’t ready – ah – forget it. How are you feeling?”
“No wonder, sweetheart. Can I hug you?”
Before I could say yes, I started crying, and then in between tears I said, “About time you did!”
It felt like a really special moment back then, but every time that I have thought about it since, it hasn’t felt all that special. I was directed to stay at the hospital for one more week. For that one week, I saw neither my brother, nor Evie. They were directed to stay in the hospital for one more week, and so was Ava. After I was discharged, I didn’t go home. I stayed in the hospital, in Marty’s room and waited for him to wake up. It was cold in the hospital, so I had asked my Dad to bring me my coat from home. I was sitting in the chair next to Marty’s bed, just looking at him, waiting for him to wake up, all the while rattling the bottle of pills I was prescribed to keep the withdrawal symptoms in check in my coat’s pocket. When I started to fall asleep on my first night at the hospital after my discharge, I felt like Marty woke up and tried to talk to me. But I realized soon that I was hallucinating. The next morning both the doctor and my father suggested I go home and rest. But I refused to leave Marty’s side.
“At least go take a walk. Don’t stay holed up in a room,” the doctor said.
But I didn’t go for a walk. I swallowed two pills and asked at the reception for Ava’s room. I had to see Evie too, but Ava had me really worried. When I reached her room, I opened the door, and saw that her mother was sitting on the edge of the chair, as if just waiting for Ava to open her eyes. She looked at me and got up.
“Vivien! How are you, child?” she came up to me and hugged me. It was warm. I hugged her back.
“I’m doing okay now, Mrs. C. How are you holding up? And how’s Ava?”
Before she could reply, she broke down.
“She hasn’t – hasn’t woken up. Is she ever – is she going to wake up?”
“She has been through a lot, Mrs. C. But don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll wake up soon,” I reassured Ava’s mother but I wasn’t sure about when she would wake up, or if she would, myself. I planted a kiss on Ava’s cheek, and walked back to Marty’s room, too upset to say another word to Ava’s mother. That night, sitting in the chair next to Marty, I had a nightmare. I saw that all of us were back in the forest and we were tied to the trees and the ropes were searing and leaving burn marks all over our bodies. I woke up with a violent jerk when it started to ache too much in the dream. I was trembling and I reached for my bottle of pills and downed three of them. After that, I called my Dad and asked him to come over. Dad brought me some lasagne from home which I hurriedly ate.
“Dad, I think I wanna go home,” I said; I was really tired. I hadn’t been home in god knows how many weeks and I needed to rest in my bed. I couldn’t have waited forever for Marty to wake up.
“I’ll give you a ride and then I’ll come back here,” he agreed.
“Oh, one last thing!”
I had totally forgotten about Evie. I had to pay her a visit. I asked for her room and one of the nurses took me there. When I opened her room, I was happy to see that she was awake and her father was feeding her soup.
“Vivien!” She said, with her mouth full. “It’s so good to see you. I’ve been asking about you since morning, how are you doing?”
“I was discharged a few days ago; I just stuck around in the hospital to be with Marty. You look well,” I said that because she really did.
“Yeah, my dad here has been taking care of me. Dad, this is my friend Vivien, who I was telling you about. Vivien, this is my Dad, Noel.”
“Hello!” I gently said, and Evie’s father flashed a big smile and nodded, with the soup bowl in one hand and a spoon in another.
“How’s Marty?” Evie asked.
“He still hasn’t woken up. Neither has Ava.”
“Shit! I hope they’ll be okay. I’m getting discharged tomorrow, I think.”
“That’s great, Evie. I’m going home right now. I’m very tired,” I said to her.
She smiled at me and said, “No wonder you are. Get some rest and I’ll see you soon.”
I walked over to her, kissed her on the cheek and left her room.
When I reached home, my mom asked me if I wanted to sleep in her room and I refused. I told her I needed to lie down in my own bed and be alone for a while; away from people checking my temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate all the time, away from all the machines, away from everything. When I lay in bed, I felt the need to take some Quaalude. I started sweating and reached for my bottle of pills again. I took 5 of them and went to sleep.
Ava took some time, but eventually woke up but to this day she is dealing with the trauma of what happened to her. She regularly visits a psychiatrist, some days she’s good, some days she’s back in the forest in her head and she sees and hears things that don’t exist but existed once upon a time. My brother on the other hand, never woke up. He died in his coma. The doctor said his body couldn’t take so many drugs mixed up and that even if he were alive, his withdrawal would’ve been very hard to treat. Evie had a speedy recovery and left town to go to University in a big city. It has been five years since the incident, since we encountered and fought a psychotherapy cult. I myself see a psychiatrist every now and then, because of my anxiety and the trauma that I went through partly because of my own mistakes. That’s the thing about mistakes, I guess. We either learn from them, or we repeat them. But under no circumstance can we eradicate them. We ruined our lives to a point where some of us had no life left to live. And we can now not afford to repeat our mistakes. We have no other option but to learn; we have no other option but to live.