This story is by Sharoll Jackson and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The final half hour of sunset lit Tessa’s bedroom, casting elongated shadows resembling dark daggers. Tessa sank on her bed as she gazed at the monochrome memorial service program. The bolded Arial Black font caption, “ZACHARY JONES, Beloved Son and Brother”, seemed forced against the ethnically blended, round features in the photo. She dialed a number on her cell.
“It’s me, Tessa. It’s a new number, please don’t hang up.” She held for a few seconds of silence, then continued. “Mom, again, I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t attend when I haven’t given up…missing people are found sometimes, even after eight years and unless I see his dead body…” The call was disconnected.
She called right back. “Mom, sorry. I know how hurt you are, we all are. I understand your feelings about Zach and his…unforgivable sin, but I need to find out something from you.”
Tessa removed a tattered page from the folded program. It was signed by Valerie Jones. It had Zachary’s name on it next to a faded logo, but no business name. She confessed, “I took the box…the one from your closet, the one with Zach’s stuff in it and I found a Disclaimer committing Zach to…but this is…please just tell me what you’ve done and I’ll –“. Disconnected.
While contemplating another call back, a text came through. Her mom wrote: “Sometimes, there’s a high price to be paid. I tried everything. We’ll never see him alive again.”
“How can you be so sure”, Tessa muttered. She clutched something stiff from a dark shadow — a bottle of vodka. Threw back four shots before thinking. She slid her cell into her purse as the last sliver of sunset slid behind the mountainside. She left the room, closing the door to black.
Bright white light flooded a restricted room where Tessa woke up. No window. One door. A port-a-potty. A stationary cot. Tessa woke up laying on it, clothed in generic sweats. Her eyes zeroed in on an IV hooked up to her arm. She removed the needle from her vein without a flinch. She scurried to the door. Locked.
A voice, the Facilitator, piped through a speaker system and instructed her through a brief breathing and meditation exercise to help alleviate anxiety. But instead, this irritated her. Compelled to get out, she pounded on the door and demanded to be released.
The Facilitator announced that the meditation exercise was complete and that a brief Q and A session would follow. Tessa flips the finger toward all directions in the room.
“Do you know who I am?!”, she blurted out in anger.
The Facilitator clarified , “You will earn your release once you have responded to every question. First question: as an addict… how are you able to calm yourself under stress?”
Tessa questioned, “What’s this about?” She pounded the door with her fists, kicked it with her feet in frustration.
The Facilitator continued questioning and ignored Tessa’s attempts to interrupt. “What triggers your craving for your vice? What is painful to you? Have you inflicted pain on others? What are you willing to do to make amends? What do you most regret? If you had the chance to change one thing in your life what would it be? What is the price you will have to pay?”
Tessa notice a small business card on the floor. It had the words, “12 Steps to a New Life” on it. She ws in disbelief. “Can’t be another rehab. I didn’t sign up for this.” Perspiration filled the worry wrinkles between her brows as she licked her lips.
The Facilitator reported, “We know you are a menace to society – out of control — your addiction rules you. That makes you a monster. A family member has committed you as a dire last chance and you are in a revolutionary rehab program which uses a unique method to achieve either 100% recovery or suspended non-compliance status. You will be released from the facility after you successfully complete the process. You are guaranteed a new life – a clean slate”.
Tessa asked, “How …how is that possible?” The Facilitator ansered, “We place you in cryopreservation status. Our facility uses nanotechnology and molecular biology and cryonic suspension, although not publicized, is a viable process with assistive 3D biological printers and advanced stem cell tissue regeneration. When you are revived, your past will have literally died and your future will new. That’s the price you will pay.”
Tessa screamed, “Wait, not me!” The room began to fill up with gas. Tessa pleaded, “Aren’t you listening to me?!” She took a final full breath and exclaimed, “You judgmental maniacs! You are the monsters!”, as she passes out.