First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
BOSTON HARBOR, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
December 24, 2019, 2:09 A.M.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
~I Corinthians 13:7
“Lee, Lee,” a soft and gentle voice said.
Lee did not respond. The voice persisted and was more emphatic.
Someone was shaking his arm and saying his name for a fourth time.
Lee opened his eyes slowly. “I’m awake, honey. I was just resting my eyes.” Joann laughed. “I think you were doing more than that. If you’re that tired,” she sounded sympathetic, “why don’t you just go to bed? It’s okay.” “No, no,” Lee protested. “I love sitting here with you. Besides, it’s cooler out here than inside. It reminds me of a July night in the South.” Lee’s forehead was covered with bands of sweat.
Joann and Lee were sitting on the porch of a small cottage they had bought a year before. It had taken every spare penny they could put together to make the down payment. It was what she had wanted. What they both had wanted. It was on a small lake, just north of Portland. Near their work. It was perfect. They could, to quote the realtor, “go up and even out. Make it into a real home,” he had said. But it was fine and as much as they needed, at least for now. There were no children. Not yet.
“I love it here,” Lee said again.
“I told you you would,” said Joann. “I’m glad we brought this thing back from Tennessee.” She was referring to an old glider that they had brought back from Lee’s grandparents’ home.
“I’m sure the people that bought the place would have sold it or given it away.”
“I’m sorry I tried to talk you out of renting the trailer and hauling it back. I really do like it.”
The glider squeaked with each rotation.
“I’ll oil it this weekend,” said Lee.
“It’s okay. I think it gives it character,” Joann said with a chuckle. Whether it squeaked, or it didn’t, it didn’t really matter. They were sitting on their porch, rocking back and forth in their glider and looking at their lake. Well, it was actually the community’s lake, but it didn’t matter. They closed their eyes and continued to move back and forth. Time passed. It was getting late.
“Lee,” the voice came again.
“I know. But it is getting late, and we both have to work tomorrow.” Joann had kept her job as a school social worker, not so much because she liked the job — she did — but for the insurance. Lee was just starting his practice. They wanted a good insurance policy because they would need it soon. Joann was pregnant.
Lightning flashed to the east over the ocean. There was a roll of thunder in the distance.
Joann stood up. “I wish it would just go ahead and rain.”
Lee stood up and put his arm around her. “It will soon, and that will cool things down. We’ll need a blanket.” He shook his head. “Maine weather.”
The two got undressed and slipped beneath the sheets. Lee put his arm around Joann. She snuggled close. The sheets were cool against their skin. For a few seconds they took away the heat of the evening. And they were clean and fresh. Lee loved the way they felt, the way she felt. He buried his face in her hair. She smelled so good. They drifted off to sleep.
When Lee woke up, Joann was sitting in a chair next to the bed. The room was filled with a faint blue light. The moon,” Lee thought. The rain must have come and the sky had cleared. But something was wrong. Joann was dressed and . . . so was Lee.
“What’s wrong, honey?” asked Lee, with alarm.
Joann shook herself awake. She opened her eyes and looked at Lee.
“Well, sleeping beauty . . . you have returned.” Lee sat up.
“What are you talking about? What time is it? We don’t have to get up yet, do we?”
“I think it’s about five o’clock,” said Joann. “And you’re right. We don’t dock until six. But I would imagine we’re in the harbor.”
She stood up and walked to the cabin window.
“I saw a strange light earlier tonight, but I think it’s gone now.” “What are you talking about? My first patient isn’t until nine, and you don’t have to be at school until 7:30.”
“He said you would be confused.”
Lee raised his voice. “Who said that?”
“Dr. Sherman. He said it would take twenty-four hours, and it’s been just about that.”
And then Lee remembered where he was. Lee swung his feet over the edge of the bed and onto the floor.
“Hold on, Lee. Let me help you. You haven’t been on your feet in a day.”
“It’s okay. I’m just going to sit here for a few minutes,” said Lee, running his hand through his hair.
He was starting to remember. Joann switched on a lamp near the bed.
The light stung Lee’s eyes. He closed them again.
“How did I get here?”
“Are you ready to listen to me and believe what I’m going to tell you?
Because I find it all a bit hard to believe myself.”
“Okay, okay. I trust you. Tell me,” said Lee, becoming impatient.
“About three o’clock yesterday morning…”
Lee interrupted. “Yesterday?”
“Yes, Lee. You have slept through the last twenty-four hours. You have lost a day. Now, please, just let me finish.”
“Yes, yes, go on.”
“It was around three o’clock. I was awakened by a knock at the cabin door. I know it was about three o’clock…”
Lee interrupted again. “Yes, yes, yes. You looked at the clock.” “Sherman was right,” said Joann, under her breath, “about you being irritable when you woke up.”
“I’m sorry,” said Lee. “Please, please do go on.”
Joann continued. “I could hear voices in the hall. I went to the door and looked out. I could see four men in the hall. They were wearing black jumpsuits with,” she paused, “yes, with ‘Hollocore Security’ printed on the back. They were dragging some poor fellow down the hall. He was resisting, but he stopped when I assume they tasered him.” She stood up. “One man said something about him being a spy for TransSea. I think that’s what they said. TransSea.”
Lee nodded. “That makes sense. That’s one of their competitors. Another one of the lovely corporations that’s running the world.” “What are they doing on this ship?” asked Joann as she turned to face Lee.
“I don’t have any idea. In fact, I don’t have much of an idea about what’s going on, period.”
“Well, like I said, the fellow stopped squirming, and they carried him up the steps. And then I heard groaning and a brushing sound against the door, but I couldn’t see anyone. So I cracked the door open, and when I did, you were lying with your back against the door.”
Lee remembered. He remembered falling down the steps. He was lying on his chest, face down at the bottom of the stairs. Someone was tugging at his left arm, but his legs were tangled in the railing, and they were having difficulty turning him over. Before falling, he had locked his hook around his right arm.
He heard a voice. “Go back. Go back, Lee. It’s not time. It’s not time.” For a moment he thought he saw his mother. She was standing in front of him. She had sailed on this ship a few months before her death. His vision was blurred. He passed out again.
He heard voices behind him. There were the sounds of a scuffle. The person stopped tugging at his arm. He passed out again.
Joann continued, “So I pulled you into the cabin and called Dr. Sherman. You were talking out of your head. Dr. Sherman helped me get you into bed.”
Lee felt his breast pocket, almost instinctively. But this time it was empty. He tried to stand up, but couldn’t.
“Oh, God, where is it?”
“It’s okay, James Bond. I found it lying next to you and put it in the cabin safe.”
Lee still looked terrified. “Well, I’ve got to have it.”
“And you shall,” said Joann. “Lee, lie back down and rest. You’ll need to be ready to go through customs in a couple of hours.” She felt his forehead. “Your fever’s gone. Here, drink this.” She handed him a glass of water.
Lee looked at it carefully.
“It’s water. For God sakes, Lee, I’m not trying to finish you off. Being poisoned once was enough.”
“Poisoned?” asked Lee.
“Dr. Sherman wasn’t completely sure, but he found a small puncture wound on your lower back.”
Lee remembered the sharp pain in his back and then a numbness that spread up his back into his head, before he blacked out.
“He said the kind of wound could be made by a dart gun, the ones used to bring down a large animal, and that the drug used was . . . here.” She handed Lee a scrap of paper.
“He wrote it down.”
“Oh, yes. Ketamine or Telazol. That would certainly do it.”
“He said you were lucky it didn’t stop your heart.” She paused, “And that you would have some very vivid dreams, and that when you woke up, you would be confused and a bit agitated and have one hell of a hangover.”
“Well, I would say he’s been right on all points.”
“Well, you seemed to certainly enjoy whatever it was you were dreaming. You kept telling me to come back to bed.” She closed her eyes. “But I can assure you that nothing happened.”
“Oh, I’m sure . . . nothing did.” Lee was remembering his dream. He smiled again.
“You were dreaming . . . about us?” asked Joann, starting to blush. Lee hesitated. “Well, yes, about the past . . . old times. Very old times.”
Lee looked away. But he felt the need to turn to Joann and he said,
“The dream was about the life . . . the two of us did not choose.” There was silence. There were no more questions from Joann.
“It was just a dream,” said Lee dismissively.
“Oh, I see.” She didn’t, but the conversation was becoming uncomfortable. “I think I need to finish packing my carry-on. I put your clothing — or should I say Emanuel’s — in a bag I found in your room and left them. I suppose he will be…”
Joann continued on, but Lee wasn’t listening.
He did as she had directed earlier. He lay down again and closed his eyes. They were on their porch again. A cool wind came up. They snuggled closer. They watched the moon set over their lake. Lee thought of what might have been and smiled again.
He had spent too much of his time over the last few years thinking and fantasizing about things that might have been. He realized this was an old pattern he needed to change, but he was going to enjoy it one last time.