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The Mislead Track

by Kendra Marya 2 months ago in Short Story · updated 2 months ago
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By: Kendra Marya

Photo by Unsplash

June 23rd, 1981, 12:07

The walls are an off-tinge white from cigarette smoke stains. A T.V. plays the Price is Right through its static screen. A brown tweed curtain separates two beds from each other in a single room. There's a plump man with grey stubble on his neck and a ripe body odour resting incoherently in a bed. His eyes, barely open, peer forward and he is sedated like a bear who wandered too close to town.

“Albert, would you like some juice?” A homely nurse with a mole on her cheek pushes a paper cup filled with a yellow liquid towards his lips. “Today’s not a good day," she says as she shuffles closer to her patient, "We had to give him valium to calm him earlier. He’s fine now though, you can come in Mr. Henderson,” the nurse motions for the man to come inside.

He is wearing a thrift store suit and holding a hat in his hands nervously. “Hi Albert. It’s me, Larry.” He stands awkwardly near the door, unsure if he should move closer. “Larry Henderson. Do you remember me?”

Larry thinks he sees Albert’s eyelashes flicker. He sits down in the chair next to his bed.

“I’ll leave you two to catch up!” the nurse chimes, leaving the room.

22 Years Earlier, April 1959

Tammy-Lynn is stapling a flyer to the bulletin board at Landon High School. Her hair is in tight curls on her head, and she is the epitome of femininity. She knows exactly where she is going after graduation and that is with Jerry Lawrence, who has been accepted at a prestigious Ivy League university. She will get married as soon as high school is over, charm her mother-in-law with three grandchildren, and put them all in tap dance and jazz. She will host martini-laden barbeques and keep her figure with leg kicks and hard-boiled eggs. In summer they will go to Lake Burnadette and water ski with the jet boat. In winter they will put tinsel on the Christmas tree and spoil the girls with dolls and the boy with firetrucks. She knew exactly where she was going.

Tammy-Lynn turns around, catching a glimpse of Jerry’s friend, “Who ya goin’ to prom with Albert?”

Caught off guard, young Albert stalls and stammers, “Uh, I dunno. Maybe Wendy. Maybe Barbara.” She always made him nervous when she spoke to him.

“Well, you better ask them soon, I hear Robert and Ben are after them,” she winks unabashed and turns back to push another staple in the flyer.

Albert walks down the school hallway, holding a history textbook for the next class. He has no intention of asking Wendy or Barbara to prom. He knows they will say no.

The bell is to ring soon throughout the halls to signal the start of the next class. He strolls slowly towards room 271 when he sees a booth along the hallway wall. ‘Join the Army, Be a Hero’ is displayed on a banner next to the table, along with brochures and other army ephemera. Two soldiers with face paint and camouflage uniforms on stand poised at the table.

Hero. What would it be like to be a hero? Images of glory and feeling adequate titillate in Albert’s mind. He approaches the soldiers apprehensively.

“You interested in joining the most elite military institution in the world?”

Albert steps closer to the booth, picking up a brochure.

“Right now, we’re recruiting for a special program. It’s never been done before. And you don’t even need to step onto a live battlefield. That's all we can reveal to you right now, but if you sign up now you'll start as soon as you graduate.”

This sounds too good to be true. Albert always wanted to be a hero like his father was in the war. He wanted his parents to be proud of him and they were clear that he was to fly the nest after high school. It was time for Albert to be a man.

“You even get weekends off,” says the other soldier as he passes Albert a form. “You just have to do this simple health check and you will get your uniform after it is passed.”

3 Months Later, August 4th, 1959

“Hello,” a doctor in a long white medical jacket enters the room and briefly refers to his clipboard, “Albert.” His black-framed glasses hide the true identity of his eye colour. “Welcome to day one of our program here at Edgewood. You already signed the consent and non-disclosure agreement’s I presume?"

“Yes, Dr. Westerson. Top secret,” Albert mimes zipping his lips and throwing away the key and a nervous laugh escapes his lips.

The doctor peers over his dark rims with a straight face. “Good, then we can proceed. Enter the room behind this wall and sit down at chair three. There you can rest your chin and place your face into the apparatus in front of you that will administer the controlled drug via gas. You will not experience any long-lasting effects. It will last hours, at most a couple of days, but you will return to normal after that.”

Albert enters the room behind the glass wall. He is not the only one. Three other men accompany him. They nod at each other in greeting, and each puts their faces into their respective slots.

“Okay, the drug is being administered,” Dr. Westerson’s voice pipes up on an intercom from beyond the glass partition.

Gas begins clouding the tube and the men inhale it, in anticipation of some sort of effect.

//

Albert starts to feel woozy after about an hour. He feels as though he is not quite inside his body the way he was before. He starts laughing hysterically. He is crouching down in a corner of the room where he has been sequestered for observation.

Dr. Westerson writes in his notepad:

Patient number 9004 is laughing, he seems distracted by something that is not there.

The intercom clicks on, “Albert, what do you feel right now?”

Albert looks at his hands with disbelief. “I feel good. Like. Real good doctor.” Albert laughs dementedly.

The intercom clicks again, “And do you see anything?”

“I see,” Albert pauses, gathering his thoughts, “I see a train. No. I mean. I’m on a train.”

“Okay very good, and where is this train taking you?” Dr. Westerson asks.

“To...” Albert looks around the room, “I don't know. It's going so fast. ” Albert's hands lean against the white cinder block wall as though he is peering out a window.

June 23rd, 1981, 12:22

“I always wondered what happened to you, Albert. After all these years. I had to come to see for myself. I needed to see what they did to you. I need to understand what they did to us,” Larry searches Albert's eyes for life. He remains still.

“I got married after. Had a couple of kids,” Larry smiles proudly reaching for his wallet. He pulls out a photo of two children, missing teeth and grinning widely. “Here’s Jane and Steven. Sweetest two things you could ever imagine.” His face darkens, “I would kill the bastard that did to them what they did to us.”

Albert lays idle. Unmoved.

“Anyways Albert, I just wanted to ask you something, but,” Larry starts to rise from the chair, “oh what the hell, might as well get what I came here for,” he sits back down. “Do you ever still feel like you’re on the train?”

Albert’s eyes widen slightly. He reaches out a shaky, soft hand toward Larry. He grips Larry’s arm, catching him off guard. His heart monitor starts beeping like a storm warning.

Albert’s grip on his arm intensifies. Larry knows he's gone too far. He calls out, “Help! Help in here please nurse!”

The nurse with a mole, rushes back in, “What did you say to him? He’s on enough valium to sedate an elephant!” The nurse pry’s Albert’s grip off Larry’s hairy arm. Another two nurses rush in and help force Albert into bed restraints.

September 12th, 1959

United States of America Military

To Doctor Peter Westerson,

After much review, we are here to inform you that we are considering cutting funding to Project Mislead Track. Due to limited resources in military funding, we must evaluate the efficacy of such projects.

We will give you until May 3rd, 1960 to provide evidence that the train is viable and running and can support military efforts.

Sincerely,

Sgt. Gerald Burton

September 26th, 1959

“Give Albert double the dose, Matilda,” Dr. Westerson points at subject 9004 on the chart. Matilda’s eyebrows raise, “Are you sure?”

“Yes. It is imperative that we find out if this drug can scramble cognitive abilities. We need to see if they experience defeat by the enemy in their frontal and temporal lobes,” Dr. Westerson becomes agitated. “We’re running out of time.”

5 hours later

“Albert, what do you see now?” Dr. Westerson has been sitting attentively behind a glass window observing subject 9004. He hasn’t left his post, not even to use the bathroom. He is determined to discover the newest form of military weaponry. He is determined to have glory.

“The train. It won’t stop!” Albert sits on the floor, covering his head with his hands, “Where am I going? Why won’t it stop!”

Dr. Westerson sits closer to the glass partition of the observation room, intrigued.

“And are you on the train Albert?” asks Dr. Westerson, glancing over his notes.

“Yes! Oh God, they're going to torture me! And there’s no way off.” Albert cries. "I can't get off," Albert fades into his delusions.

Dr. Westerson’s lips curl into a smile. “Good.” He turns to Matilda, “Write down that dosage in the logbook. We will present these findings to the sergeant.”

June 24rd, 1981, 10:07

“Hi Albert,” Larry enters the desolate room with tinged white walls. He holds a cup of coffee from the front reception and sits down next to Albert.

“You know, we’ve all been through a lot in the last twenty years. There's quite of few of us who have come together now to talk about what we experienced,” he sighs heavily, “but it's nothing compared to you.” Larry takes a sip of the weak brew in the paper cup. “Rumour has it, you never got off that train. And that’s why you’re here,” he motions at the room behind him.

“Hell, I’d sneak you in a flask of whiskey if I wasn’t worried it would interfere with all those meds they got you on here.” He finishes his coffee and clears his throat, “I am still on the train when I try to sleep at night. The train is always heading for a cliff. Enemy soldiers are always climbing inside. There’s no way off. No weapon. No way to defend myself against the torture. No way to jump off.”

Larry closes his eyes for a moment. “Each car is a different form of torture. There is the white room: no sound, no colour, no nothin’. The isolation is deafening and the worst feeling I could ever imagine. But the water cure is the worst. God dammit, you’d be twice the size after they held that pipe in your mouth and flooded you with water.”

Larry swallows hard, “I die every night. I die every time I close my eyes and am on that train,” he says as he stares off into the corner of the room.

Larry shuffles in his seat, “You know, I don't know the point of those experiments. Why do harm to your own soldiers like that?”

Albert’s eyes shift towards Larry, beyond the glaze of the sedatives.

“I just can’t help feeling like they did us wrong. I know we signed up. We signed those papers. But…I mean. Did anyone of us know what we were getting into?” Larry slaps his leg and turns his head to the other side, hiding his emotion.

“I just can’t imagine being on that train forever like you. We put our dogs down when they are in pain, but humans? We must endure our pains until God tells us we’re done.” Larry places his hand gingerly on Albert’s shoulder, giving him a pat.

“We’re in this together,” Larry lifts himself to leave, “I hope God shows you some mercy, Albert.”

As Larry leaves the vile nursing home, a train howls from beyond the building. And Albert lays still, restrained in his bed, unmoving.

**Based on the documentary and true story of the ‘Edgewood Experiments’. Characters, names, and story are entirely fictional.

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Short Story

About the author

Kendra Marya

Campervan living Canadian with a penchant for psychological thrills and cats.

B.A. Communication & Philosophy

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