short stories

the pine

this is a short story written about a nightmare in days past. I’ve always dreamed about pregnancy, children, and dying. It’s why the themes always appear in anything I write, but it was this particular story I felt had to be put to paper. My childhood imagination seems to never wither as I age, and this dream was certainly vivid enough that I’ll never forget.

March 22, 2020  12:48 AM


“It’s the funniest idea about this whole time thing. Say you find yourself in a place in which you’ve already been. You see, dearest Paul, if you change one version of yourself, you change them all provided only that you stay in the same place. Operations could prove fairly useful in the future, but who am I to speculate? What’ll you have for supper when you return from Moscow?”

-Letter to Paul Lichtenberg from Madeline Lovelace 

retrieved from Moscow, Russia c. 1815 from the desk of Dr. Lichtenberg following his mysterious disappearance and return


“The procedure has shown significant success in the removal of stage four tumors in the past, but without your help to practice, we might never know the true limits of success of the procedure.” The man in the white jacket tells me.

Next to me, my husband grips my hand tightly. It feels like my fingers might fall off from lack of blood flow, but I don’t mind. It distracts me from the constant cramping in my gut.

“So you want to operate? On our son’s infant brain?” He asks them. He’s never been fond of doctors, calling them “whitecoated monsters.” 

“Yes, but with certain unique circumstances.” The man in the white jacket tells us. “New technologies allow us to enable more creative methods to remove the tumor before it grows too big a size to be manageable.”

“Why can’t we wait?” My husband asks, his hand somehow tightening more on mine. “I had one, they removed it when I was twelve, and well, I’m here, aren’t I?”

“That’s just it, sir, new technologies allow us to remove it before it even becomes problemsome. The probability of spread is… mildly predictable at best, and as for your son’s tumor being like yours, no two are the same”

I don’t like the man’s big words. My son had been born a few weeks ago, precious and with a head full of dark curls. He’d seemed normal to me, crying, kicking, screaming like most infants I’d seen, but tests proved something to be wrong with him. A few spots in his tiny brain had cancerous cells according to the doctors, and from the get-go they’d been insistent we try a new potentially life saving treatment for his little pre-tumors.

“How?” I ask. “How will you remove them?”

“The test employs rather unique methods as I was saying, and if you consent, I’ll have my colleague explain it to you. It would involve one of you. The highest successes have involved the mother, but we’ve had some fathers participate as well.” 

I think back to that little face, dark eyes, blissfully looking at me like only I could take care of him, like I was the only thing in the world he needed. His sweet, warm chubby cheeks that feel like velvet when I run my fingertips over them, they curve up in the most gentle ways when he smiles. I think of these things, and I realize I have no other option.

“What must I do?” I ask, dropping my husband’s hand to clasp my hands in my lap as if to signify I mean business. 

“If you sign these papers, I’ll take you to my colleague. She will explain everything.” The man in the white coat slides me a crisp, typed, white sheet of paper and sets a heavy fancy metal pen on top. 

I see my husband gaping at me in my peripheral. He’s gobsmacked I’m obeying the “whitecoated monsters.” I don’t ask him before picking up the pen. It feels like solid lead in my hands and jiggles in my grasp as I sign my name crookedly on the paper. 

“Deirdre…” The husband tries. He grabs my elbow as I stand, as if touching me will cause me to abandon my boy. He’s sorely mistaken.

I snatch my elbow free, and the man in the white coat gestures for me to follow him.

“My colleague will be elated you complied. She’s always looking for more people to try her procedure. It’s quite revolutionary, madam. I’m sure it will do wonders for your boy.” The man in the white coat continues to ramble as we parade through the white halls, the linoleum floors, the rooms that smell like antiseptic mixed with sickness. I don’t hear his words. 

We round a few corners, pass through a few different units, and finally we reach a hallway of small rooms. Offices, I realize. He stops at one towards the end of the dark hallway. Inside a petite woman with fiery red hair tied delicately into a bun at the nape of her neck types furiously away on a computer. 

The man in the white coat knocks on her door, and she startles. Beholding us through the mesh between the glass panes, she tugs on her white coat quickly before smiling and waving her hand for us to enter. 

“This is Dr. Cassandra Lichtenberg.” The man in the white coat says, opening the door with a hand reaching above my head so I could walk through before him. “Dr. Lichtenberg, this is Mrs.-”

“Deirdre.” I say flatly, pulling my sweater closer around me, hiding the slight shiver that creeped up my spine and the still swollen stomach from all those weeks ago.

The woman notices my unease, and her startling grey eyes meet mine. They hold for only a moment, but it’s as if she can read down into my soul.

The man in the white coat continues on awkwardly, “Deirdre. Her son was born a few weeks ago. I believe I sent over his file.”

She severs her gaze on me before bending down to her computer. Her fingernails click clack on the keys before she finally stops. Several scans fill up the big screen, the false light illuminating her face, casting gaunt shadows on her high cheeks. 

She nods her head slowly. “Yes, yes, the infant parietal pre-tumors. Yes.” 

“Mrs- um, Deirdre, has agreed to discuss your new procedure.”

Her demeanor changes entirely, her grey eyes looking away from the scans of inside my son’s head. She’s excited, clasping her hands in front of her delightedly. 

“Have Deirdre’s son prepped for OR two, please, Malcolm!” Dr. Lichtenberg smiles at me, and the man in the white coat leaves with a nod of his square chin.

“Please,” she motions for one of the burgundy leather chairs across from her desk, “have a seat.”

I sit gingerly but still with a soft squish and hiss of the seat. Dr. Lichtenberg examines her computer screen for a few more moments before her startling eyes meet mine again.

“So, you have been informed of the state of your son’s pre-tumors?” She asks.

“Yes,” I mutter, hands wriggling in my lap. “Not bothersome now, but… They will be.”

“Correct. However,” she lifts a single finger and grabs a file folder from inside her desk, the drawer crashing back with a crack as she shuts it with a hip. “Your son is a fantastic candidate for my procedure.”

“So I’ve been told…” 

“Yes, my means are anything but traditional.” She bites at her pink lips thoughtfully. “May I speak candidly, Deirdre?” 

I frown at her question. Why wouldn’t she? I think to myself.

“Well, yes.” I settle on saying.

“Most of the time when I tell patients this, they get a good laugh. Parents of patients that is. Are you familiar with the idea of, forgive my lack of a better term,” she clears her throat. “Time travel?”

If I hadn’t been scheduling my son’s first emergency surgery, I would have laughed at those words. It sounded completely and utterly ridiculous, and what did it have to do with my son’s poor, sick brain?
“Well, only what I’ve seen in the movies.” I choke out.

“That is a matter of fiction, nothing like what I can do. Advancements from some of my colleagues from school have proved it is indeed possible to visit another time, another place. Worlds identical to our own, worlds that can be manipulated and cause near identical changes in our own. My procedure employs just this.”

I sit frozen in the seat. I don’t believe I’ve ever sat so still in my life, and if it weren’t still for those grey eyes pinning me to my chair, I believe I would have dashed to the door, found the man in the white coat perhaps ushering my husband to a waiting room, and ripped the contract sheet from his hands, shredding it to pieces in my grasp. But I was here for my son. My baby boy-

Before I can think any longer, the doctor continues.

“In such identical worlds to our own, my colleagues can visit years in the future. We can extract patients from times in which it is more beneficial to operate. Your son, for example. His small, infant brain is virtually impossible to operate on currently considering the tumors are only a few cells, but at age ten, eleven, or twelve it would be a large enough work space to extract all of the rogue tissue. To eliminate all disease itself.” 

“And in changing one version of my son..”

“You change them all.” She smiles, extracting another crisp white contract from inside her file folder. “I’ll explain. In an alternate world of ours, your son is currently being extracted from his home a decade and some time from now, whenever technicians decide is best. They bring him here, to an operating room, where he is prepared for surgery, which I will perform. All we need is your… cooperation. Extraction can be… traumatic for the children, and any surgery upon the brain I prefer to keep the patient conscious in order to prevent any missteps.”

“So I will-” I pause, taking in a deep breath so fast through my nostrils I hear a squeak as the air rushes in. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Perhaps I am dreaming. Perhaps my husband left me to doze off this morning after the baby kept us up all night crying. “I will talk to him? My son? My grown-up son? I will talk with him as you repair his brain.”

“Yes, Deirdre.” The doctor maintains her bright smile, and I steal a glance back into those eyes. “Yes, you will keep him with us until I have removed the problemsome tumors, and then we will send him back, and, we believe, in all these separate places, your son will no longer possess these tumors. They’ll be gone, and you will not need to fear ever having to worry about them again.”

She slides the crisp paper towards me, and it bristles in the cool air conditioner that blows above us. She sets a metal red pen nearly identical to the one I’d used before on top.

How odd are these means- to save my son? His infant brain, so riddled with disease already. His fragile arms, legs, why shouldn’t his brain be the same? But to rip him from some other me? Some decades in the future? Repair his mind and suddenly all my problems run away? 

It almost seemed too good to be true. This pining for him- for my son, the one I held in my arms after oh so many hours of hard work, it wouldn’t stop here. Yet, I tell myself, think of the heartbreak you could spare. 

A grip on the red pen, ready to sign before the doctor’s voice pipes back up.

“One more thing,” she grins, hand resting on the smiling black box surrounding the line on which I need to sign. One hand resting on the box that will lead to saving my boy.

“Because our methods are so unique, the government believes it best only the physicians involved understand the means by which we must perform these procedures. I’m afraid you or your son, won’t remember the exchange. After the procedure, we’ll procure you a drug, which will remove any interaction with your future son from your memory. A fair trade, we believe, for saving his future life. Not to harm, but to protect our practice.”

I pause, finger clicking the pen. Open. Closed. Open. Closed. 

It felt wrong not to remember such an encounter, yet so worth it to save his life. I think of his tiny hands wrapping around my forefinger, not big enough to even mask two of my digits. 

I nod, and I sign the paper quickly, my signature shaky and uneven.

Dr. Lichtenberg grins again, and after she takes the paper from me, she stands from the desk and leads me through one of the back office doors, and I try not to shudder.

After clearing several halls of people bustling in scrubs and white coats, we push through a small door hidden in the corner of the grand hall. The resulting pathway is white and so narrow, I feel like I’m practically suffocated inside. The doctor ushers me into a room, pushes through a set of double doors, and I’m nearly blinded by the bright white lights, the white walls, the white floors, white ceilings- 

Dr. Lichtenberg’s hair stands out like a forest fire against them. She rests a hand on my shoulder, guiding me into a dark room. My eyes squint against the change in light. I look through the two big windows showing another room accessed by two swinging double doors, the only sense of brightness in this dark space.

“In a few minutes, we’ll walk through there,” she nods to the set of double doors in the corner, “and we’ll start the operation. I’ll have a nurse fetch you some sterile clothes, and go get changed myself.”

With another reassuring smile, she heads back to that narrow hallway, and I wrap my arms around myself. A nurse enters the room with a stack of clean garments and requests I change, handing me a bag to place my street clothes inside. 

“We’ll be ready to go in thirty minutes.” The nurse beams, and as she exits the room, I stand still. I still feel like I’m dreaming, like this can’t be real. I glance through at the neighboring room through the clear glass window panes, desperate for some light in this dark room.

I startle as two men, presumably male nurses, usher in a squirming lanky boy, dark hair curling down to the nape of his neck. He wears a simple green T-shirt, a pair of jeans messy and torn around the knees and ankles, and a pair of beat up black Chucks on his feet so familiar to mine squirming and twisting on my own feet. 

They set him down into a chair nearby, and I hear one of the large nurses tell him to stay put while they fetch him some new clothes. He still squirms in his seat before the nurses leave before turning around from them with a defiant look in his eyes and crossing his arms. 

He can’t be older than eighteen, still unused to his gangly height. From the looks of how those jeans were short around the ankles, he’d recently bolstered in height, which was typical for his age. I took in his hair, dark like a raven; his eyes, a gentle chocolate brown; and his cheekbones, high and familiar- 

That’s when I noticed. His hair matched my husband’s, and those eyes, those eyes I knew better than anyone else’s. They were my own, reflected back at me. 

He notices me staring through the window, and his broad shoulders sink. He swipes a few unruly curls from his face, as if it might make what he sees just a little bit more clear. His lips part as his jaw drops in shock at me- younger than this boy had ever beheld his mother before. He, older than his young mother had ever beheld.

He stands from the chair slowly, and swallowing my fear, I push open the doors.

The room is somehow even brighter than the other, the pure white attempting to envelop us both, but our dark features rival in their richness. 

I pull my sweater close around me as I make my way out of the door, and then I behold him fully. Tall, much taller than I, however short I am for a woman. His nose, so like his father, yet those eyes, all my own. I can’t help but notice the hitch of both our breaths.

“Mom?” He chokes out in the silence. His voice is deep, yet still young. Similar to my husband’s, yet uniquely his own.

At the mention of that word, I want to fall to my knees, plead heavenward, my son, my son, my sweet baby boy, born into this world not nearly a month ago yet here I behold nearly seven feet tall with eyes nearly identical to my own but with deadly masses locked behind the walls of his skull. My baby.

“Brennan.” His name is but a whisper on my lips.

Before I can stop him, he walks near me, gait just as lanky as it was before, and he wraps his long arms around me, stifling me in a tight embrace. I could burst.

It’s a few minutes before he releases me. “Mom, what am I doing here- why do you look so- young?” His voice ends in a little crack as my assumptions are realized.

“I-” How does one begin to explain such a thing? “I’m your mother, but I’m- I’m not your mother. I’m not your mother now.” I struggle.

His dark brows furrow, face contorted in confusion. “The nurses said something about time… You- you’re my mother from- before?”

“The past. I held you today. One month and five days old.” I grimace, crossing my arms across my chest.

He swipes a hand through his hair, ruffling up his dark curls. I have the urge to swipe them from his eyes, but at his tall stature and my small one, I didn’t try. He collapses into the chair and lets his shoulders drop.

“How?” He mutters, fiddling with a braided bracelet tied around his wrist. In beaded letters strung evenly were the letters AMANDA. I smile gently at them.

“I really don’t know.” I mutter. 

“I was walking back home after soccer practice, and once I got to the house, these men told me I had to come with them. Said it’s what you wanted, so I went with them and now I’m- here.” 

I slowly place a hand on his back, rubbing soft circles into his dense shirt. “Do you know about the tumors?” I ask quietly.

His head pops up suddenly, eyes meeting mine quickly. He hadn’t known, I think. His eyes fearfully search mine.

“Tumors? Like- cancer?” He asks. Oh, those big dark eyes, they glance back at me terrified.

“Yes. You’ve a couple in your brain. Right… here.” I place my hands on the side of his skull exactly where the doctors had pointed to on his infant head. His eyes never leave mine, still wide in shock and panic. Before I remove my hand, I rub my fingers through his curly hair slowly feeling its feather softness.

“Tumors in my brain… I’m in a hospital, aren’t I?” He tugs on the edge of my cardigan, the action jolting me a bit, and I notice the corners of his eyes getting wet.

“Hey, no, it’s going to be all right.” I wrap an arm around his enormous shoulders, pulling him close so he can rest his head on my abdomen. He wraps his arms around my waist slowly, and I pet the back of his head gingerly, still running my fingers through those lovely strands. 

He sniffles a bit, and I look down to see his tears wetting the fabric of my cotton shirt. I wipe a few from his eyes delicately. My grown son, weeping. My grown son.

“How old are you, Brennan?” I ask, fingers still brushing across his cheeks, now weathered instead of baby soft. 

“Seventeen.” He says, arms still wrapped tightly around me. “I’ll be eighteen in fifteen days. And- I know you don’t know, but I’m sorry I failed my driver’s test twice, and I’m sorry about that time you caught Mandie and I drinking beer in the treehouse. I’m sorry I-”

I break him off with a laugh. “You needn’t apologize for anything. I’ve a feeling you already have and will for many times more.” 

He glances up at me with damp eyes and finally removes his hands from around me when the nurse returns, now shocked there are two people in the room instead of one. I offer him a careful smile, and he hands me the stack of blue scrubs with a hat to match on top.  

He flicks his eyes down to Brennan, as if telling me it was my job to get him dressed, and I offer him a soft tilt of my head. He leaves the room with a click of the door that seemingly disappears into the white wall.

I grab his hand, large and clammy in my own, and he meets my eyes, his still brimming with fear. “I’m going to go change in that room through there.” I point to the double doors I came from, and head off in that direction.

He doesn’t release my hand, though, and I nearly crash into him at the pull back of his hand gripping mine so tightly. I turn my head around, gathering myself before meeting his fearful eyes again. I pat his hand softly.

“I’ll be right back, I promise. Just a minute.” I say quietly. After some tugging, he finally releases my hand.

I dress faster than I ever have, tugging the scrubs up onto my body and flinging my other clothes into the bag. I seal it with a click of the plastic, and then push through the double doors. 

Brennan sits with his head in his hands, breathing uneven and ragged. 

I pause in my tracks, still tying the waistband of the blue pants. His large shoulders shake at each breath, hands rubbing up and down his arms as his body quivers. He’s so afraid. I think of that squirming, squealing baby I held in my arms just a few hours ago, and suddenly they don’t seem too different, these sons of mine. One in the same.

He looks up, as if finally noticing I’m in the room, and I realize his tear stained cheeks, red rimmed eyes. Before I can let my own eyes fill with tears, I grab the stack of clothes from where the nurse left them and I squat before him, setting the stack in my lap so I can brush a few of his tears away with my thumbs.

“It’s going to be okay,” I whisper, cupping his cheeks in my hands. He grabs hold of my wrists, tears still making their way down his face, dripping off of his nose, his chin, splattering the cotton fabric of the stack of scrubs in my lap. “They’ll keep you awake. I’ll hold your hand, and we’ll talk the whole time.”

He nods his head slowly, not wanting to let go of my wrists just yet. As a baby, I think of his cooing at my touch on his soft face and reflexive smile. This wouldn’t work for my grown son, nearly an adult himself. I sigh, tilting my head to think. 

“I’d like to hear more about you, since we’ve just met. Both of you, that is.” At this, he gives me a small smile, blinking away a few tears. “And I’d love to hear the story about how we caught you drinking with this Amanda girl in the treehouse. Something tells me you two are trouble.”

He laughs, his breath close enough to warm my face. I hand him the stack of clothes, and he releases my wrists. We stand, and I grab the plastic bag for his clothes, turning around to give him a bit of privacy as he changes. 

As if we silently understood, he hands me each piece of clothing as he changes, the fabric still warm from the heat of his body. I stuff them into the bag as we go, only the shuffling of his feet and clothes to keep us company.

Once I have all of the clothes, I seal the bag with a click and set in on the chair. Brennan crosses his arms anxiously, and he startles when the doctor enters. I chuckle, reaching up to grip his shoulder, and he covers one of my small hands with one of his large ones.

“Deirdre…” Dr. Lichtenberg beholds me again with those startling grey eyes. She’s changed into blue scrubs similar to the ones I wear and a mask dangles from her ears. “I see you’ve met Brennan.”

I glance up at Brennan, not sure what to say next. I finally choke out, “yes, Brennan, this is Dr. Lichtenberg. She’ll be doing your surgery today.”

I hear Brennan swallow abruptly as if his mouth had gone dry, and I grip his shoulder a bit tighter. Dr. Lichtenberg stands still while several more physicians bustle in behind her, all dressed for the procedure.

“Your mother’s right, Brennan.” The doctor grins. “And you’ve nothing to be afraid of.” Her eyes lock on mine. “She’ll be with you every step of the way.”

She pauses for a second before heading towards another set of doors and waving her hand for us to follow. Behind the doors is a surgical theater set up with a bed positioned upright, a curtain with a skull shaped hole, and plenty of medical personnel rushing about. One man sets a chair next to the bed, and I realize that’s where I’m to sit.

Brennan startles at the sight, and I feel his back arch as if he wants to leave the room. I look up at his face and see wide dark eyes, a jaw quivering in fear.

“It’ll be okay,” I say, stopping with him a few feet from the bed. 

A nurse helps me guide him into the bed, where we settle the sheets and blanket over him carefully. His eyes never leave mine, and when we’re finally finished, his hand snatches mine up quickly. 

“Warm?” I ask.

He nods his head, curls bouncing in agreement.

Another nurse comes by with a tray of needles, and Brennan flinches away. It’s for an IV, I realize, and I pat his hand gently.

“She’s just got to stick you once. In and done,” I smile, my eyes still stuck on his. “Just look at me.”

“Okay,” he whispers, grip on my hand tight. I’ve got to distract him, I realize.

“You said you play soccer at school?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he smirks, eyes still locked on mine. “I made varsity sophomore year, and I’ve been on the team ever since.” He winces a bit when they stick the needle into a plump vein on the top of his hand. I squeeze his other hand tightly.

“Star player, huh?” I smile. The nurse continues her work, hooking up the tube to a cart full of several bags. 

“Kinda, I guess.” Brennan gives me a half smile. “You never miss a game. You, Dad, and Mandie are always the loudest cheerers. Louder than the cheerleaders, that’s for sure.” He rolls his eyes, and I get a feeling there’s some story behind it.

“However did you convince me to date this girl?” I ask, eyes flicking down to his wrist. He hadn’t removed the bracelet when he’d taken off his clothes.

He smirks again, and I shake my head. “I- Dad and I talked about it. He’s the one you should get mad at…” His voice trails off a bit, and his eyes get droopy, blinking like he’s tired. I glance over at the nurse, who moves away from his IV bags. The medicine must be working.

“Oh, your father.” I say, shaking my head again. I look over to the curtain, which has been securely fastened around the side of Brennan’s skull. Through the transparent plastic, I meet Dr. Lichtenberg’s eyes, which tell me she grins back at me behind her mask. She nods to her crew of physicians, and I know the procedure has begun.

I hear an electric razor begin to buzz, and Brennan flinches. I grasp his hands tightly.

“You can’t move, okay? It’s just the razor.”

His eyebrows knit together quickly, and he says, “a razor? They’re cutting my hair?”

I smile, happy he’s finally still. “It’s too long anyway.”

He blows out a long breath and frowns at me. Once his gaze settles on mine, though, the frustration in his eyes melts away, and despite the steady hum of the razor and saw, it’s just me and him. 

For hours, I talked to my boy. We laugh, he cries a little bit, and I never let go of his hand. Only the soft whispers of the physicians and the crisp smell of antiseptic keeps us company. A few times, they reach parts of his brain he needs, and his speech slurs or stops altogether. One time he seizes a bit, his grip on my hand loosening. It takes all in me not to panic or scream, but the doctors get him back to me, and I hold his arm to my chest as he cries afterward, tears of my own stinging my cheeks. 

He rubs the back of my hand gently with his fingers, “you okay, Mom?” 

And I nod because even if I’m not okay, I’ll always be for him.

A few minutes later, a nurse taps me on the shoulder, “we’re almost ready to stitch him back up. Tumors were removed with no problem. Say your goodbyes.”

I look over the curtain, and Dr. Lichtenberg’s eyes glisten back at me.

I glance down at Brennan, whose eyes blink back at me sleepily, I swipe a finger down his cheek and he smiles at me.

“I love you,” I whisper, hand still gripped on his. He squeezes back, and I bend down to his head, pressing a small kiss to my boy’s forehead. 

He offers in return a crooked smile, and the nurse waves her hand once more for me to leave through the double doors. 

“I love you, too, Mom.” He says, and with every muscle in my body aching, each single skin cell on my fingertips hyperaware, I slide my hand from his. I walk away from the room where the doctor sews his skin back together behind the curtain, and I never let my eyes leave his.

I swipe a few tears from my eyes as the nurse helps me undress in the dark room. I put my street clothes back on, replacing them inside the bag with the scrubs. The nurse seals the bag and smiles at me, lacing her arm through mine.

“Okay, miss! We’ll give you your meds in the next room over, and you’ll be good to go!” She beams.

I freeze. My meds? Oh, I’ve forgotten. I won’t get to remember this encounter. It’s part of the exchange-

But it’s not quite fair, is it? To take away this memory of my son- all grown up, tall, and with eyes that match my own? I can’t- I won’t- forget him.

I rip my arm from the nurse’s grasp, “no.” I say quietly.

“I’m sorry?” The nurse turns to face me with eyes filled with fear and disappointment.

“I said no.” I snap, scared at the venom in my own tone.

“Miss, you must-”
No.” I say again.

The nurse bites her lip, glancing around herself fearfully. I feel someone grab me from behind, no- two sets of hands. They drag me back, but I resist. I kick and scream at them, thrashing my limbs wildly around me. 

They won’t take this from me. Not my boy! I think.

They shove me into a room with blue walls, and I see the bed, decorated with restraints for my arms and legs- they’ll force the drug upon me if I resist! This can’t be right. No-

The hands push me onto the bed, and despite my continued kicking and screaming, it’s no use. Their muscles overpower my own. Traitorous tears leak from my eyes as I hear them buckle the restraints on my arms, my legs.

Heavy sobs rack my chest, shaking my whole body as I listen to voices from the hallway. A familiar one, I realize.

“What’s this?” Dr. Lichtenberg asks, tone more forceful than I remember.

“She refused the meds, doctor,” a nurse whispers. 

I hear footsteps and Dr. Lichtenberg stands above me, a disapproving look on her face.

“Stop- Stop it, please.” I bellow.

“Deirdre…” Her voice trails off as she waves a hand to one of the physicians who hands her a syringe. 

Screaming, thrashing despite the restraints, I shout all the memories I know, as if then I’ll still remember them. Dr. Lichtenberg flicks at the needle in her gloved hands, and a few other physicians hold me down. 

A sharp pain laces up my arm as the doctor shoves the needle in the vein, and I see red. 

“Stop! Stop!” I scream, desperate. She can’t do this! She can’t take away the memory of my boy.

“You’ll see him again, Deirdre. In time. In time.” She brushes a few strands of hair from my face and her grey eyes plead me not to struggle. I ignore them and thrash against the restraints, but it’s no use. 

She tears her eyes from my gaze, and I watch as she presses her thumb down on the plunger. The drug eases its way up my veins clawing against my blood flow straight to my heart, my lungs, my brain, and despite my struggle, my eyes leaden and close. Oblivion welcomes me with open arms, come to take my boy away from me.

I was ill for a few days, but I eventually got better. A flu, my husband told me. Nothing a good bit of rest can’t fix. He was so sweet to care for our squirming little son while I was too sick to stand upright, but today, I am glad I’m well enough to hold him myself.

He grabs a fistfull of my dark hair and pulls, but I welcome the pain. He is my little son after all, and I would give the world for him. I peer into his dark eyes, and see something familiar.

Ah, yes, dark like my own.

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