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The sun streams through that window as it always had a thousand years before, and it falls over the eggshell tiles and creeps up the linen blankets and over my eyes. I bat it away with little eyelids, shifting myself uncomfortably. Antiseptic.
The fire retardant panels above me are discolored with age. I prop myself up in slight apprehension, curious surroundings hastening my arrival. Where are my bunny slippers?
Cold feet touch the icy floor. The cracked door beyond is empty and unguarded. I unstrap myself from the bed and stand. I don’t remember this place.
A calendar sits to my left, killed by X’s. An empty bed beyond, neatly made and comfortably at rest. My unmade hospital cot is the only thing that stirs. A hotel sink sits waiting for washed hands. Rubbing alcohol.
I press my hands against my body to assure my well-being. My chest breathes and my fingers touch and my limbs move and I am well. “I am well,” I say curiously. “I am well.”
I wander up to the cracked door, peering into the open hall. A rafter of fluorescent lights illumines an endless row of doors. The blue lights flicker with half-possessed wit. I step into the linear distance.
“Hello?” I ask, turning behind me. “Is there anybody home?”
There is nobody home. I grasp at a nearby door handle, displeased by the neatly made hospital beds inside. I grasp at a nearby door handle, displeased by the neatly made hospital beds inside. “Hello?” I echo. “Is there anybody in there?”
I enter the telephone. Dial tones.
The long hallway stretches out in endless waves. I walk along the path, noting the metal panels that designate each room. 57749. 57751. All empty. I turn back to my bedroom, noting the number absently. 57750.
He lamps are on or the lamps are off. All beds except one are made neatly, and the sun shines through every window on the left. I continue South.
My meander grows restless with curiosity and the distance I tread does not seem to resolve itself in miles. I wander around corners that lead to corners that turn and the numbers rise steadily but they do not change. I open doors in growing panic, alarmed by the emptiness that covers the halls.
Hundreds of doors fly open before my hands, revealing two-hundreds of empty beds all made. “Hello?” I shout. “Is there anybody there?” In a panic, I rush into the room, grabbing at the window and flinging it open madly. I look over the edge, alarmed by the distance below me.
The world stretches out in a panoramic horizon, growing high and long beyond my eyes. The housetops beneath me sprawl over the fields below, twisting through highway mazes and foggy mornings. The denseness of the city’s fogs blocks out the ground below.
I pull back from the window, seating myself on the neatly made bed. The window remains open.
I consider the length of the hospital. The hallways are endless. Indeterminable lengths of time concern me; the very idea of an endless hallway is absurd and silly. All hallways must end.
No; but circles do not end. One can walk in circles forever. This, however, was no circle. The endless row of numbers proved it. Room 57910? How about Room 00001?
That room was quite far away. The distances seemed insurmountable. Why, to leave now might not even reach tomorrow. But there was only today.
Yesterday was gone. I have a name. I have no age. This is no year but it seems about now. The day is long, however, and morning is young. I sigh and enter into the hallway, wandering about through the labyrinthine passages with curious abandon.
The chilly floors prick my bare feet. The numbers about me decrease with impatient regularity, concerning me and assuring me. I pass door by door.
I am concerned. Rows of numbers oscillate past me like copepod feet. Elderly patients pressed their sores to this floor ages ago or yesterday. Little shadows try to grow longer through the cracks, but the doors only open so far.
I see a multitude of pasts, single file, crawling past me. It looks like an aged millipede with no faces. Footprints worn into the tiles. Hoofprints shorn into smiles. Groovements formed into aisles. A fluorescent maze of endless corners shuffles past. An endless row of odd-figured doors creak open and no eyes peer out. I rub my face.
Who built this institution? What man or god could manage such complexity? The lights flicker with disrepair. Whoever it was is long gone.
I wander vacantly, curiously progressing down a spire of numbers but growing no higher or lower. Slower. Grow long in stride, strong and lithe. What patient is this that moves. What is my name?
Names. I know names. I know many names but I don’t know any faces. Whose face is mine? I grow curious, furious with confusion. I pause in consideration and deliberation, searching the doorknob for the rest area. The third door from my hands. A mirror? No mirror.
So I turn back, rushing through the neatly made bedspreads for any names or anything to offer some sort of glimpse into this place. The lostness of the grey grows weighty and shapely, dense clouds of overhead fill the ceilings. Dangling appealings, flicker, flicker with clicking inconsistency.
I turn around, resting wearily on the tennis balls beneath my haunches as I drift forward, a shroud of hulking afghan blankets. My thick, heavy face is wrapped in white sheets of hanging hair. The fullness of my locks grows few as I traverse the Alzheimer’s hallways.
My exhausted trudging shifts through the endless walls hands have built. Hands of aeons past, endless shafts of pasty lamplight. Hasty handlights flock silently I’m sure but the hallways are bare. Not even an echo follows me as my unpadded feet shuffle beneath this scraping contraption.
My fabrics follow my feet like many long capes, all linen and pink and red-and-green. My longness is tantamount to royalty but there is no one to praise my aching gait. A cap crowns my head in senility and I don’t remember but I never remember.
I hear footsteps like mine but perhaps less naked. The coldness of the November floor really sets to my veins. At the tandem echo I perk curiously. Who is that?
“Hello?” I ask, confused perhapsly. I turn around. “Is someone there?”
The door shuts behind me as I turn, curiously I stumble forward over my walker, hurrying indeterminably toward the closed door that stands latched despite the endless rows of unclasped hasps.
“Damn thing,” I curse, mumbling beneath my breath at the slippery knob in my bony fingers. I turn the handle to the click of give. The door opens beneath my pressing palm. I scoot inside over the might of my aging crane, searching with old and tired eyes.
“Is there anybody there?” I ask the neatly folded beds. No one answers. Nothing moves. I am confounded by the interesting apparition. If I was not here then I suppose no one else must be. I give up.
Who knows? I turn on my heels and exit, bouncing into the halls with a whimsical skip. A tripping giggle looks around. “Hey!” I shout, cupping my hands to my mouth. “Hey, is there anybody out there?”
Nobody’s home. I open a nearby door and look inside, but that room’s empty too. My little hands push at the wooden frame, revealing nothing more than a cot and a rainy-day window. I’m disappointed.
I walk down the halls a way, looking around sadly as I ponder the situation. Is everyone gone? Why did they leave me alone? Who left me here? What’s at the end of this hall?
My young and lithe body lifts into a streak of footy-pajamas. My hoody-headed mop of hair runs wildly past my face as I turn each corner hurredly. My feet grab at the floors. Maybe there’s someone at the end, but the hallway is so long.
The pitter-patter of my bouncing feet slaps through the place, rushing past rows of doors with no people inside of them and brushing past scores of dizzying lamps over my head. I turn corners with minimal drag, mischievous turns fleeing from young nightmares.
The invisible dinosaurs pursue me with sterile solemnity. I want to laugh but I can’t, because this marathon is no playful thing. The pressing drive of my jogging sprint is a reminder why our mothers always told us not to eat sweets. I push until I grow tired, expending myself with windfuls of pout. I slow. I stop, raised over my knees.
I think the hallway goes on forever. I don’t think there’s a way out. I don’t think there has to be.
I drop, clutching my knees. I’m lonely. I weep.
“Why am I here?” I ask aloud but no one answers.
I am embellished with quadrilateral cracks that don’t quite peel up. Cardboard quilts for miles. Laminate ambience. A narrow panorama of door frames aligned in perpendicular entryways. Circumventular pathways. Circles and rounds. A house of mirrors.
Does anyone miss me? I miss everyone. No one is there. I am alone. Where have you gone? Where are you? My consonants bleed together. My tear ducts go dry.
It’s not good to cry. There, there. It’ll all be okay in the end.
The end is near. The end is here.