“That. The guy who just left the office. He has it too.” Doctor Amari stood from her desk, hands in her lab coat, walking over to the secretary. “You see it right? The tattoo on their wrists with numbers?”
“All of them have that tattoo around here. It’s to mark them, apparently it’s way cheaper than making numbered clothes.” responded the secretary as she stamped papers rhythmically and transferred them to a pile.
“I heard the security out front saying it’s a code for mental programming. That’s why they kept sending these guys in for me to check. Everyone’s number was different, right?”
“I don’t know. Why are you so interested again?” Her secretary slammed a stack of paper against her desk and placed them on top of another stack. “You’ve been here for a month now, doc. You should know this.”
“I know, it’s just so fascinating. Plus it didn’t help that they didn’t tell me anything-”
“Whatever. I’m going home. You’re closing the office today.” The secretary loudly stepped away from her chair, pushed it in, grabbed her back and coat, and strode right outside the office door before the doctor even finished talking.
It was one full month since doctor Amari accepted her job at the psychiatric ward of the Nightingale correctional facility. To commemorate this, she thought about going home and getting some good dinner, maybe play with her dogs, walk them in the park, or maybe just a calm TV night with some caramel corn.
As she left the office, she noticed on the top of the secretary’s pile of paper a string of numbers. 4937872, it read. There was a name at the top of the file but it was grayed out per protocol. Looks like this person was a doctor before arrest. She shrugged and left the office, locking the door but her key just won’t turn all the way. She tried it again, harder this time. No luck. Again with less force? Still no luck. Just as she wondered what was wrong, she twisted it one more time and it worked as usual. Doctor Amari stepped into the elevator and pushed the button, waiting to be taken nine floors down to her car.
The elevator door opened and she noticed her car in the distance missing a wheel and a security guard standing over it.
“Hey!” he called. “Are you the owner of this car?”
“Yes I am. What happened to it? Where’s the wheel?”
“One of the guys that was supposed to come in to fix the pipes in the yard backed his truck a little too far and broke the wheel axis unfortunately. It’s alright though, it is his fault so he’ll compensate.”
“But how will I go home? I can’t just walk seven miles!”
“Seven miles? Where do you live?” He asked, typing numbers into his phone.
“So where Bennett lives.” He muttered, punching his number in and dialed. After a few minutes of talking, he returned to the scrambling doctor. “Alright doc, you wouldn’t mind riding an eight-wheeler, would ya? My partner Bennett works the construction yard and he lives in the area so he’ll drive you to and from work. I think he’ll do that for a full week until your car is repaired. How’s that sound?”
“That sounds wonderful. Thank you so much. How would I ever repay you?”
“Oh, it’s nothing doc. Thank you for the great work here at the facility. We really appreciate you being here.” He raised two fingers to his forehead and signed off. He then asked her. “By the way, doctor Amari, what was that number you saw in the office?”
She felt as if there was a lapse in her memory. “What number?” she asked, her vision blurring and her legs weakening.
The security guard smiled and waved her goodbye as she was suddenly slipping out of consciousness. Every time she blinked, she saw flashes. She was in a brightly lit room. Now she was back to the parking lot. She was getting numbers tattooed on her wrist. Then she was on Bennett’s truck.
Then she woke up on her couch with her dog sleeping at her feet. Her favorite series was on and her pizza was half eaten. What the hell was that dream? Doctor Amari shrugged and continued eating the pizza slice, completely unaware that her and thousands of other murder suspects like her were floating in tanks of fluid, dreaming about a world that never existed, working jobs they never worked, living lives they will never get to live.