Enter The Dark
“W. H. Auden once suggested that to understand your own country you need to have lived in at least two others. One can say something similar for periods of time: to understand your own century you need to have come to terms with at least two others. The key to learning something about the past might be a ruin or an archive but the means whereby we may understand it is--and always will be--ourselves.” --Ian Mortimer
"So who did you kill?" Tom asked as he sat down at the table where the rest of us were having dinner. The others only stared.
"Who said I killed anyone?" I asked.
"That's what they usually send us to do when they take us out of here," Tom said, "and like me you're getting old enough to start remembering what they made you do."
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"Look around this table here," Tom said. "Part of the girls think they're here because their fathers didn't want them talking about how they raped them as little girls, some thought they were getting in the witness protection program, Joe there thinks he has secrets the military doesn't want anyone to know and I'd be just about willing to bet that Janice there thinks she was married to some rich bastard who found himself a younger woman and didn't want to give up half of everything he owned. Am I right?"
"What about me?" I asked, "Why am I here?"
"I figure you're thinking you're some kind of leftist, activist type who thinks he knows something about someone in government or big business."
"You say you figure but you don't know?" I asked.
"Right," Tom said, "I'm not a mind reader and I don't really know why any of you think you're in here but the people who run these places are a bunch of two bit hacks and can only come up with so many scripts for the characters."
"And you're saying we're the characters?" Joe asked.
"You got it, Jar Head," Tom laughed.
"Only there's one problem," Joe explained, "Billy thinks he killed Park Chung-hee but that happened a long time ago, not just a couple of days ago. I remember because we studied that in our special ops training."
"You remember it but that doesn't mean it happened the way they taught it," Tom said. "They pop us in and out anywhere and any time they want to."
"Are you saying we're time travelers?" Janice asked.
"That would be one way to describe it," Tom answered. "Of course, to them them we're nothing more than a bunch of machines to be kept on inventory in places like this until they need us for their next assassination, suicide bombing or deadly crash."
"That can't be," Sara said, "some of us have never been away from here."
"You might not be finished with your programming," Tom explained. "And some of the assignments will only keep you away a few hours, like when you have your private exams. Sometimes I've set in the jungle for a month waiting on some Colombian drug lord to come passing by, other times they popped me into some sleeping dignitary's hotel room and I pulled the trigger to the back of his head and was back out in seconds. In and out, same day, never knowing what happened until years later."
"So why do you know and the rest of us don't," Janice asked.
"Some of you do know," Tom answered. "Billy is starting to remember. They're really good at this time travel stuff but apparently the human brain is still giving them a fit. As we get older their ability to erase our memory starts to fail. Take me, I'm almost 60 years old and one of the oldest still around. I'm guessing Billy is almost as old as me."
"I think I'm 57," I said.
"And you're starting to remember," Tom said. "By the time you're my age it will all come back to you, every time you pulled the trigger, every bomb you set, every blood splattered wall, every face in a rifle scope, all of it will come back to haunt you just as if you'd known you were doing it all along. Just don't ever let them know you remember."
"What happens if you tell them you remember?" Sabrina asked.
"Yeah, what?" Irene asked.
"You go away for good," Tom answered.
"Like Georgia?" Irene asked.
"Who is Georgia?" Tom asked.
"She's a girl that used to live here," Sabrina answered. "She went away for a while and when she came back she told everyone she had been to New York with her boyfriend."
"Yeah," Irene added, "We all thought she was just making it all up."
"And they took her away?" Tom asked.
"Haven't seen her since," Sabrina said.
"And you never will," Tom said, "not if you live to be a thousand."