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The leather straps were the toughest. Their difficulty made up for their tan blandness. They had a weird way of snaking across the abdomen and restricting the wrists. Bulkin Leathers manufactured them in Wilmington, Delaware, not too far away from this Veterans Affairs (VA) mental institution also in the city. The company had been bought out by another bigger company which would take the small, local company international. Garvin Metal had produced over two million of the clasps that attached to the restraints in its heyday. The company boasted twenty-three hundred employees. They also made metal that applied to jackets, coats, and belts. That company, too, saw its shares being liquidated and chopped up into bitsy pieces by a corporation called GradenTech. Now, with the two businesses being taken over by other bigger businesses, the profits in both the leather and metal making industries in Delaware increased. Shareholders received significant dividends and found pleasure in their wealth.
Their collective net worth climbed to somewhere near three hundred million dollars. Royland Rew wanted to stop thinking about the income and revenue and assets and equity but the figures kept a constant reel in his mind. He peered down at his feet. “Mastodon Sneakers traded well this quarter” a shred of information flashed in front of his eyes. By observing the objects that defined his confinement, scores of financial statements about the companies enmeshed into his awareness. Aged twenty six, he stood at six feet four inches and two hundred and thirty pounds. His skin color resembled the amber resin in which fossilized mosquitoes found themselves. His haircut resembled a jar; the barber had shaved the sides and back and left about six millimeters in length on top. He wore a gray sweatshirt and blue slacks and sneakers with the laces removed. But it was his mind that drew the most attention to itself. Like a flickering film through a projector, images of sales figures and fiscal documents flashed in his thoughts. This occurred all the while he fought and wrestled to undo the restraints. His grappling with them produced bulging trapezius as his neck flexed against the gurney.
The chip in his brain provided him this considerable strength. It helped to subside the irrational thinking but instead only drove him more insane with all of the reports on pecuniary matters. The only benefit remained the increased amount of physical strength. He laid with his back on the gurney. Sweat welled up at his armpits and chest. Again, more news from the Wilmington Stock Exchange (WiSE) about how the stocks were tumbling, or rising, or confidence was tanking, or how markets rebounded. He flexed his biceps. The leather strained. Metal clasps began to warp and twist. Leather expanded and shredded. The straps for his arms had fallen to the floor. Triumph. Rew breathed. He gave out great puffs and gasped for more oxygen.
He continued to hyperventilate as he undid the straps to his legs. Those restraints fell, too. Rew stood up from the gurney. He looked around the room. The walls showed no sign of padding but looked like any other generic hospital room; pink and yellow tiles and white walls made up the tiny space known as the quiet room. Rew looked at the door. He rushed over to it, jiggling the handle. Locked. He could have just torn the door from its hinges, but he didn’t want to make a fuss. He went back to the gurney and picked up one of the Garvin Metal shards from the restraints. He returned to the door. Another news report saying that the stocks continued to soar based on producer confidence. He shook off the image in his mind. The metal piece worked up and down in the keyhole. Rew struggled to get the improvised key to click all of the links within the lock. After a few jimmies, some jerks, and a final push, the door creaked open. Rew didn’t savor his victory. He didn’t have time. He made his way past the day room. It represented a dismal scene. Here he witnessed utter dilapidation and malaise. Older men in hospital gowns and loungewear of various hues from brown, to red, to teal with a patch reading “Property of Veterans Affairs” on their right chests, paced in circles, their hands wringing, or still or toying with some puzzle piece. Some sat idle staring into forever. Others shouted out cadence, their palms slipping through the strands of their hair. One older man with dementia eliminated from his bladder in a paper bag in the corner of the room. Then he noticed younger guys. They sat at a table playing cribbage. They laughed a carefree, buoyant laugh about some encounter with a past girlfriend that went awry. Each laughed as if they were not under complete control of the psychiatric ward.
They sipped ginger ale and ate crackers. The television played a baseball game but Rew never knew the score because his brain continued to produce financial news. A CEO in Bangladesh just bought more equity in the Delaware Mint, the state’s major league professional football team. The updates subsided. He maneuvered to the space with a telephone attached to the wall adjacent to the nurse’s station. A patient completing his laundry opened the door to find Rew. The patient bent his head in a sort of odd fashion, as if to say, “don’t you belong in the quiet room?” Rew put his left index finger to his lips. The patient shrugged. He took his basket of clothes and went to his sleeping quarters. Rew looked around him. He saw a certified nurse’s assistant (CNA) making his rounds. He carried an electronic tablet and tallied off all of the patients that inhabited the ward. Rew stood by, crouched against the telephone and the door to the laundry room. He calculated something. He knew that a doctor would be on the floor in about five minutes. It was after lunch so he was not expecting anyone to come to the room from which he escaped for a meal. He waited and as the minutes went by information on securities, exchanges, policies, prospectuses, regulatory agencies, and quotes all broadcast in his head. Once the final clip had rolled about the WiSE adding new companies, he saw the huge, steel, double doors open. In walked Dr. Magnolia Metcalf with two burly CNA’s. She stood at five feet six inches with skin the color of coconut shells. She had graduated from Delaware Institute of Technology (DIT) with dual doctoral degrees in psychology and medicine. Patients shuffled past her and some said hello. A smile sneaked its way across her face. Rew anticipated the time that Dr. Metcalf would leave.
He noted the physical build of the CNA’s. He stayed cool. Rew knew that his timing needed to be precise once more. After Dr. Metcalf had counseled with the registered nurses (RN’s), she filled out a digital form and turned to head back to the massive double doors. One of the two CNA’s pulled out his card to unlock the door. Rew crept up behind the nurse’s assistants and the doctor. Once the two enormous doors swung open, Rew sprinted in between the three of them and found the stairs with speed. The CNA’s chased after Rew. With every step that they pounded, they could not catch a man with the strength of five men. Rew flew from the fifth floor up to the roof. Again, another locked door. With his palm against the steel knob, Rew twisted it until it contorted and he broke through with relative ease. The nurse’s assistants barreled through the door with their hands out indicating that they had no weapons.
“It’s okay, Mr. Rew. We’re not going to put you back in the quiet room this time. Just come with us. It’s alright. We’re not going to hurt you, now come back inside,” said CNA Teddy Philson.
Rew spun around on the gravel roof. He darted one way. He shifted his weight and spun around the two CNA’s and charged toward the door, this time jamming it shut against the frame so that the CNA’s were trapped on the roof. Rew knew that he had to act with the quickness. The CNA’s would be on their cell phones signaling for help from hospital engineers and the VA police. Instead of heading toward the exit on the first floor, Rew dashed a few stairs down to the executive suite on the eighth floor. He had never been on this level. The flags of the United States Armed Forces stood in immaculate display on the well-polished wood floors. In glass, scenes of veterans participating in sports activities enticed Rew. Other photographs of veterans singing, acting, and drawing paintings motivated him. He looked about the space. The doors boasted heavy oak and the thresholds showed brass. Rew looked about the pristine hallways. On the walls, military memorabilia of Lady Liberty called troops to fight; Marines beckoned for civilians to enlist; Army soldiers asked for bonds for the war effort; and Uncle Sam wanted anyone willing to carry a firearm to enter the ranks of the US military. Images of commodities and people in the pit raced through his mind. Rew didn’t have time to dillydally. And those images of finance continued to haunt him. He headed straight for the executive suite where the director of this Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center worked. He walked with a gait of assurance and agitation all at the same time. He found the glass double doors leading into the suite. An office assistant sat at the entrance of the executive’s office. She noticed Rew entering through the glass hatches.
“Sir, do you have an appointment? Excuse me, sir, you must have an appointment. You cannot go in there,” she said. “Sir,” she stopped once Rew had already burst through a meeting of the top brass of the hospital.
“I want it out, now,” Rew said. He stood there, sweat stains still covering his shirt.
Executive Director Lakeisha Pruitt stood up from the head of the large oak table. Everyone in the room displayed a black cross in the middle of their foreheads that looked like daggers between their eyes. It was Wednesday, March eighth and these men and women had looked run-down from the first day of fasting. It appeared as though they wanted a filet mignon and au gratin potatoes but knew that they would just get a fish sandwich in two days. Men in suits and women in pantsuits looked at the tall, young man with astonishment and disbelief. One of the men, Dannon Tester attempted to go toward the door. Rew blocked this exit.
“All of you are going to sit down and wait until I’m heard. I’ve been suffering from,” A news flash about the WiSE corporations experiencing new highs flashed across his mind. He began again. “I have been tormented by this chip ever since it was implanted into the base of my skull. I have horrific, lucid dreams of stock market crashes, and economic panics, and depressions, and recessions, and inflation, and stagflation. My waking hours are continuous streams of news about what the markets are doing. I know that this experiment was designed to treat my mental instability, but I want out. I want this thing out of my head, now.”
An executive named Barbara Barrett who rose through the ranks from being an RN to a clinical physician stood up. She attempted to reassure Rew.
“I know that this whole process has been rough for you. But you must not take it out on us. We’re here to help you,” Barbara said.
An executive reached for the phone to call security. Rew ran over to the phone, picked it up, and smashed it like a shoe stomping out a water bug.
“You will not leave this room. You will not use your cell phones or tablets to call for security. In fact, give me all of your mobile devices and communications devices.”
Rew zoomed around the room confiscating all of the electronics from the boardroom members. “I want answers. I demand that you,” a message reading, “stocks decline in early trading” flashed across his mind’s eye. “You will not leave this room until you arrange for me to have an operation to remove this thing.”
“We understand,” said Dr. Jorge Sabala, a primary care physician. “You’re upset. But we’re not the enemy. We want to help you get the best care available at the V–”
“Shut up! I just need to have this thing removed before I go completely crazy,” Rew said, his hands on his head. “Micronics coming off fourth straight week of declines” the image of a ticker tape ran across his mind. Rew took a breath. “I don’t want to hurt any of you. I just want to know what it would take for me to get this chip out of my head.”
A retired Marine colonel named James McClellan now a high level administrator at the Veterans Affairs hospital looked at Rew.
“I know you’re angry, son. We’ve met before. I know your story. But this is not the way to go about it. You’re a Marine. You’re a sergeant who needed some help and the adverse effects took a toll on your psyche. You’ve got to let us get on with our meeting, our lives, son. We will find you the aid that is necessary.”
“Respectfully, sir, I’ve not got the time to sit here and discuss whether or not I need the help that you’re talking about. There is only one way to get me the assistance that is required.”
“We can set up an appointment,” Lakeisha said. The other board members nodded in agreement. “There’s a Dr. Tarvis that can reverse the effects of the chip and put you on medica–”
“I don’t need anymore drugs. That’s how I got to this point. I was taking them and the made me feel, dizzy, nauseous, and paranoid. So, I was asked to participate in an experimental procedure where a chip would be implanted into my brain and regulate my thoughts. For the first few days I did not experience any harmful effects. Then as the weeks past, I started getting messages from financial institutions and news service agencies. Every time that I looked at an object, I would be inundated with a slew of information about the origins of the company, their profit margins, whether they were bought out or not and a whole host of other bits and pieces of figures and statistics. The nightmares, though. They just wear me out. I can never get any sleep because a stressed out banker who just lost all of his savings on a trade on the WiSE would be found hanging in his closet. That would be when I would wake up. I don’t know how these images and sounds became associated with the chip, but they must stop.”
“And we’re going to help you with that,” Lakeisha said.
“How can I trust you? How can I trust any of you? You’ve all got the mark of a torture device on the center of your foreheads. You subscribe to the unknown and the unknowable. That much I do know. How in the world are you supposed to help me with my problems?”
“Well,” a media consultant for the hospital named Cornelia Newberry said. “We’re Christians. Catholics to be exact.”
“All of you?”
“Yes,” they nodded. The seven of them seemed agitated and a bit wearisome of this intrusion.
“And in what way can you direct the health of an atheist like myself?”
“We treat all races, colors, creeds, and religions here. Even those patients who lack religion,” Lakeisha said.
“How do you mix science and religion like that? In what way is the hand of science supposed to be mishandled by the clutches of,” “Light sweet crude is trading up at this time” entered his thoughts. He closed his eyes, attempting to block out the monetary messages. “I don’t think that you can help me.”
“Yes we can,” McClellan said. “You’ve got all of these folks ready to get you the treatment that you deserve.”
“But you believe in fantasy lands called heaven and hell. You worship saints. Saints that for the most part bowed and scraped and sacrificed living good, full lives in order to feed the poor and keep them that way to encourage more suffering. I’m not buying it.”
Cornelia looked straight at Rew. “I can assure you that our faith and our willingness to help those in need, veterans like yourself never clash. We see that our belief in God is of prime importance in our lives. We provide care in order to satisfy the Lord and make life a little bit easier for vets. We however, do not mix our faith with our work. We keep the two separate.”
Rew walked around the table. He held onto the electronic devices under his right arm. He turned to Lakeisha.
“How am I supposed to know that you all will help me if you’re just mystified members of a society that upholds unselfishness and immolation. I mean when I was in the Corps, we were browbeat with the same stale platitudes that our parents and kindergarten teachers and professors instilled in us. “Put others first.” “Think of yourself last.” “Don’t be selfish.” But if I’m thinking of myself last, and the next guy is first, isn’t he being selfish for being thought of initially?”
“You’re missing the point completely. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the wicked, the downtrodden, and the morally opaque. His sacrifice provided us the chance to have our sins redeemed and the chance to meet up with him in the clouds.”
“Are those clouds on this Earth or the Moon where there are no clouds? Or Mars? Because the Lunar and Martian missions have proved that man can survive on the satellite and both planets, I’m saying that it is a sign of moral bankruptcy to place faith above reason. You sit here with your business attire in heated rooms, with electricity and robots at your command. Yet, you look to some spirit in the sky to guide your “heart” while damning your mind. It’s that deadly mixture of thought and feeling that has lead me to this– “Stocks are heating up again,” he said aloud this time. He paused. “You know, I just got a bit about the markets again and I’ve never been able to act upon these news flashes. I should be a billionaire right now but I don’t know what they mean.”
“I hear you talking, son. Another thing is, just because you know the market wouldn’t make you a billionaire, necessarily, son,” Colonel McLellan said.
Anyway, there is no such thing as the supernatural. There is only the natural. So, when I see all of you with your crosses sketched on your foreheads, I see the vicious combination of unreason and logic. Of medical know-how and mystical revelation. How do you live with yourselves?”
The air was stagnant. Each executive looked about one another. Lakeisha said, “What we believe does not bleed into our work. We worship the Lord Jesus Christ with all of our hearts and do our work based on the foundation of the science of medicine.”
“How can you say that when you take a man of perfect virtue, according to your myths, and if he were tried and found guilty and sentenced to capital punishment today, and have him sit in an electric chair or lay on a gurney waiting for a lethal injection? And those would be more humane than the horrific and dastardly death that Jesus experienced. How can you sit here and say that you accept and espouse a code of morality that is totally against what you do as physicians and administrators? You know, ‘do no harm’? Well, that just is thrown out the window once it comes to your Saviour. And how do you keep your sanity with the knowledge that a man died and came back from the dead. How is that even rational? Did he use cold fusion? Anti-matter? How did he raise from the dead and present his wounds from being on the cross? How?”
“We keep our religious lives and professional lives separate,” Lakeisha said.
“Not with those crosses between your eyes,” Rew said.
“We got these from the chaplain,” Cornelia said.
“So, that’s what makes it all better? Mixing government force with ideas in a man who wears the cloth? Are you serious? While I respect the chaplain, I cannot, as an atheist, accept his way of life or the things he says and does including marking your heads with a crucifix. It is totally improper for a man of faith to have any dealings with government. And while we’re on the topic, the VA ought to be abolished. Once warriors are done their service, they should be able to receive care from private hospitals and receive the best care on the free market. If they have been injured or experienced illness, then the government can take up the bill. Otherwise it should be up to private care. Now, back to chaplains. Chaplains all over the globe who don the uniform of the military ought to be decommissioned like a Naval ship. What purpose do they serve but to comfort, allegedly, the mystified? Why would a federal agent need to don a cassock and provide last rites to a fallen warrior? What is it with this combination of State and ideas? Bad, evil ideas like Christianity? With all these rites and confessions and any other function that the chaplain is supposed to do, allegedly, he ought to be taken out from this medical center and all the rest like him across this world. And the fact that you seek repentance instead of joy in this beautiful Earth is a travesty. You may say that I have been brainwashed because of this chip in my head or my paranoid schizophrenia, but I will tell you that I know the difference between the truth and make-believe.” “Stocks off session lows,” crept into Rew’s consciousness but he did not speak what he saw and heard in his mind. He shook his head in violent way. The anxiety in the room increased.
“Mr. Rew. I’m glad to finally sit down with you. I am Dr. Hernandez. I will be overseeing your surgery and post-op care. Your profile reads that you have a serious form of mental disorder. Your paranoid schizophrenia is a result of your time in the military. You spent how many years in the service?”
“Six and a half before they threw me out.”
“And what have you been doing since your discharge?”
“I’ve worked construction. I did some bartending. Anything to keep a roof over my head, the lights on, and the car running. That’s on top of the 100% that I get. But I’ve been fired from my last job.”
“Oh, Compensated Work Therapy. You were working here doing what exactly?”
“I was painting lines on the asphalt. I got into this argument with another vet and I had an episode where my thoughts were racing and I just lost it. They told me I couldn’t work here anymore.”
“I see. Are you married?”
“My little boy she took in the divorce.”
Dr. Hernandez changed the course of the talk. “Well, It reads here that you had been taking tablets of Zygra to ease the intrusive thoughts. It also reads that you attempted suicide and in your unsuccessful attempt, checked yourself into the VA medical center,” said Dr. Victor Hernandez. “We’re sure that this procedure will aid you on your journey and eliminate your delusions and terrors. It is a mild, painless, surgical procedure which my team will carry out. The idea is to implant a miniature chip into your brain. This chip is a way for us to see if this will wipe out your symptoms while preserving your consciousness and other brain functions. Is that clear?”
Rew nodded. “Yes.”
“Now, this experimental procedure does have its limitations. We cannot guarantee that you will not experience any side effects or not yet proven abilities. We anticipate that the operation will take about eight to twelve hours and we should allow at least three days to a week for your brain to accept the implant. Is that clear?”
Another nod. “Now, don’t you worry. Everything’s going to be alright. My team of physicians and nurses are highly trained and professional. We can assure you that you are in the best of care and will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity from pre-op to the recovery period. Do you understand that, Mr. Rew?”
“What will the side effects be?”
“In laboratory tests on mice, we’ve observed that they gained extra strength from this device. That should be a plus for a big Marine like you, no?”
Rew smirked. “Are there any other effects that might be associated with this surgery?”
Dr. Hernandez frowned. “We tested some human subjects, now don’t be alarmed, but they have reported that while the voices stopped talking about killing themselves or others, they had been replaced by unwelcome news clips and information. This should be a minor part of the experience with you. You’re a hardcharger. You won’t let a few bits of media get you down, will you?”
Rew shook his head no.
“So, we can get you prepped. We’ll just need you to fill out these forms to protect us and yourself. We will begin the operation tomorrow morning. Is that clear?”
Colonel McClellan had had enough. “Alright, now son, you’ve made your point. No one here wants to see you hurt yourself or anyone else. There’s a time to voice these ideas with professionals who will provide you with the best care. We’ve got to put an end to this subversion. You can get your chip out. That’s fine. We can talk about that happening and spur the process of that being done. But do not take your pain and misfortune out on these kind ladies and gentlemen who only seek to put you on the right path.”
“There is no right path for me. Not with these updates every few seconds. I need to know for sure that you can find the right doctor to reverse the procedure so that I can get on with my life.”
At this moment, Rew failed to remember that the CNA’s had radioed for the Veteran’s Affairs police. They had been locked out of the building for about twenty minutes before two housekeepers opened the door. He had also forgotten about the office assistant who had phoned for the police to come to the executive suite. With a team of officers employing the elevator to the location that the office assistant had described. A pounding at the door startled the women and men at the table. Rew stood still. He placed the electronic devices in a corner and asked who was at the door.
“It’s the police. I’m Lieutenant Joel Gosby. We’re going to come in and have a chat with you, Mr. Rew. We know your situation and we have medical staff here who will be able to get rid of that chip in your head.”
“How do I know that you’re not going to come in and shoot me?”
“We have a stun gun, but that’s only if you get unruly.”
Rew ruminated. He looked around the table. Cornelia was crying; her hands clung to her head, shaking. Mr. Trent Wells pounded the table, anticipating the cavalry. Sue Nettles sat erect, calm. Abby Jenkins looked around the room, anxious about what was about to transpire. Colonel McClellan sat with his arms folded, his face a slab of granite rock. Dr. Sabala just looked on with a stoic face as well. Lakeisha seemed placid, relieved that the police would neutralize this ordeal.
Rew approached the door. He undid the lock and the door burst open.
“Get on your knees.” Four policemen leapt into the room and descended on Rew.
In the early afternoon, the patients eligible for leaving the psychiatric ward and the hospital boarded a bus for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 156. Winter had brought frigid temperatures. Volunteers at the local high school provided blankets and coats for the patients of the ward and had prepared meals for them. On the bus ride over, a week after the chip had been implanted, Rew’s thoughts of hurting himself or others had subsided. He could focus on small tasks and go about the day in a normal way. But a vision of a graph with numbers on it popped up on his psyche. He looked around the bus to see if anyone else had seen what he saw. Their faces seemed so worn, so tired. He wondered if someday there would be some apparatus to identify your state of mood and mental condition; big bubble letters would hang in the air and announce your inner world, your thoughts. They arrived at the VFW and battled the gelid wind. Once all of them had found their seats and waited for the blessing of the lunch food, Rew’s heart began to thunder in his chest. “Stocks take a turn downward” beamed in his brain.
Rew looked about him with a face of fear and consternation. What is this? Why is is this happening again? I’ve checked myself into the hospital. They gave me this chip. This stuff is supposed to stop all of this madness, he thought. Why are these thoughts intruding constantly into my consciousness? That doctor was right. But I didn’t think that the side effects would be this bad. He got up from the table, never touching his spaghetti and salad. He rushed to the exit where the frigid air blasted him across the face, forcing him to cover it with his coat. He looked at the sky. It showed a greyness with a yellow dot of the sun in the slate of the firmament. “Big tech out of favor” broadcast in his mind. He put his two hands up to his head and closed his eyes shut. Whatever this chip was, it represented something displeasing. He thought why would something that was supposed to correct my condition make me feel worse? Just then, a music therapist named Gayle Grimes, responsible for arranging trips for the veteran patients, came outside.
“Boy, it’s blustery out here, Royland. Why don’t you come back inside where it’s roasty toasty?”
Rew looked at Gayle. “Something’s wrong.”
Gayle’s concern shown on her face. “What is it?”
“I don’t know how to explain it, but I keep getting messages from the news. It’s like all about money and stocks and different things like that.”
“Let’s get you inside to warm up a bit. Come on.”
Rew followed Gayle back into the banquet hall. Then, he exploded in rage. “This thing in my head is driving me crazy,” he exclaimed. He circled the tables of veterans that chomped on pasta and sipped from hot tea. He ran around the room like a surge of electricity coursing through a wire. Two CNA’s grappled with him and one held him down with a table after close to fifteen minutes of trying to pin down Rew. The rest of the veterans looked on, stunned. The volunteers began collecting the plates and wrapping the remaining food. The veterans utilized their new blankets. They all confronted the cold and returned to the bus while Gayle called an ambulance for Rew to be escorted to the hospital. The Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) went to the table in the corner where Rew had been detained. The EMT injected a sedative to relax Rew. In his unconscious state, he dreamt of mergers and acquisitions and “hostile” takeovers. Once he had regained consciousness. He found himself strapped to a brown and grey gurney. Standing over him was Dr. Maynard Biltmore.
“Good morning, Mr Rew. Are we feeling better now?”
Rew made no attempts to speak.
“We injected you with a sedative because you showed signs of mania and became disruptive at the VFW hall. We are monitoring you and will be taking your blood pressure and other vitals. We expect that you will be better in a few hours time. So, you will remain here until further notice.”
Rew looked around the room. He looked down at the straps. He had it in his mind that he could break them. He wriggled his left wrist, then his right. The straps seemed too solid to undo. Rew ceased his work on the restraints. In his mind “Lesane Laboratories had just reported its second quarter earnings at fifteen billion dollars.” On the gurney, he lay still as water in a pool untouched by any wind or animals or humans or debris. He waited for the moment to break free.
The executives at the table raised from their seats. All of them focused on the safety and well-being of Rew.
“Now, don’t hurt him,” Lakeisha said.
Rew refused to take his knees to the ground. The four policemen tried to restrain him, but his maximal strength proved to be too overpowering for them. He maneuvered around the quartet of Veteran’s Affair police and bolted for the door.
Lieutenant Gosby attempted to shock Rew with his stun gun but failed. The three other policemen chased after Rew. He descended the stairs and got from the eighth floor of the medical center to the basement in a few minutes time. He had more episodes of the financial statements with every step. “Stocks avoid third straight day of losses” shot through his thoughts. But he kept running. He ran to the morgue. Much like the previous locks, this door stood as no match for Rew. He slid into the open door as the policemen passed by. “Stocks pick up steam” flashed in his brain. His search for a place to hide came to this. This tableau of corpses and the spectre of death hung over him. He walked around the desolate space. Bodies on slabs looked like statues laid in horizontal final repose. He looked over them with a queasiness juxtaposed with a sense of wonder. One elderly woman with a sheet up to her neck caught Rew’s attention. “Did this woman fight in a war?” “Who does she have left that will bury her or cremate her or memorialize her?” By asking questions in his mind, Rew figured that the reports would stop. They didn’t. “Orange juice is trading higher,” the clip read in his thoughts.
Rew looked about from the entrance door and saw that the halls remained clear of police. He then walked over to the elevator and pressed the button for the eleventh floor. He returned to the top of the building and then went back to the exit door to the roof. This time he ripped it from the jamb. There he found police officers gaining toward him. Rew moved like an assassin, but he held no weapons.
The VA officers had reached the roof. Rew turned to the officers. "'The man in blue is a friend to you?’ Is that right? What a joke! It’s more like ‘the man in blue will shoot you.’ Am I supposed to believe all that talk about the police being the good guy? In what world do the police represent the virtues and values of the individual? How come there are so many instances where the policeman guns down an unarmed man, no matter his color or nationality? Why should I continue to support the police force that kills and maims people without regard? How can the boys and girls in blue help someone like me? Huh? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. With all of the many too many names of people who have been unarmed, deemed not a threat, but still received a bullet at the hands of cops, do you expect me to go along with that line of thinking? The police I know only trample over rights and fail to serve and protect. Even I know, that in my mental instability, it is not cool to kill cops. I would never condone that. I actually had an uncle die in the line of duty. That much I know. But it’s also not right for police to shoot down people who pose no danger, to themselves or anyone else."
"That’s your job to fight crime and keep the peace and uphold and protect individual rights. That’s your sole mission in your life as a cop. Now, you’re trying to come at me with your restraints and your sedatives. You think that I’m a menace; you find me to be flagrant because of my mental state. What is it with these,” “ThinkSink hits ten billion dollar run rate.” The report washed over his mind. He restarted. “What is it with these cops who are high on authority, have a badge and gun and little education? How is that even possible? How do you just graduate from high school and leap into the force? I know that your training isn't as rigorous as military training. I also know that a good percentage of you already served in the armed forces. And you VA cops should be held to a higher standard. I mean all you have to do is have a year in law enforcement? One of you might have a bachelor’s degree...which one?” Just then, Rew hopped upon the ledge of the building.
Lieutenant Gosby stepped toward Rew. “I actually have dual masters in forensics and criminal justice. But that is not the issue. We are not here to talk about the politics of police work, sir. We represent the highest degree in professionalism and conduct. I cannot speak for every occurrence of wrongful death or injury perpetrated against the citizens by police. Nor do I approve of everything that every cop on the force has done. But I can assure you that my team and I want to see you succeed. We want to see you live a life despite the fact that you have a mental disorder. We want you to seek the supervision of medical professionals. We are not here to discuss the failures of the past and any other incidents that you may deem to be unsavory as put out there by law enforcement. There exist far too many outlets for you to peaceably assert your frustration.”
“Once you get out of the psych ward, you can go on the Internet and put up blog posts, write to the editor of your favorite magazine, join up with others and fight for justice within the context of the law. At this moment, right here, we are willing to not use any force to take you down from that ledge. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing now: talking. This talk is to prevent you from doing something awful. We are here to bring balance to this situation. You will comply with our requests and everyone will come off of this roof unharmed and in good standing. Look, I don’t even have my stun gun. We’re not tasked with attacking you or harming you in any way. You served your country with honor. Unfortunately, you experienced a mental illness during your service. We understand that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t live a great life. Once that chip is removed and you’re placed on newer, safer drugs that will not leave you lethargic or have any other adverse effects, you have the chance to be happy and live a full life. All we ask is for you to slowly back away from the ledge,” Officer Grosby said.
Rew tip toed around the concrete. He moved in a slow, methodical way. “Advertising revenue way up.” His movements stood in stark contrast to his thoughts. He seemed controlled, almost free. Rew spoke with his hands. He was at once expressive and reserved.
“You look about you, one out of three cops who has degrees. What’s the sense in that? Your training isn’t that extensive and you have little to no experience.”
“You will get down on the ground, now, Mr. Rew,” Officer Kidd said.
“Or what? I’m completely unarmed.”
“We know what you did to that door and to the straps on the gurney. That chip gave you enough power to take us all out. I’m not willing to hurt you, but I just ask that you come back from there.”
“Or what?” Rew said, he walked along the strip of concrete that lined the gravel on top of the building. “You think I won’t just bounce right back up? I’ve got enough of this strength to do that, don’t I?”
“You’re not well. You will not survive a fall from these heights. No matter how much the chip has given you strength to break from our hold, it will not stop you from splattering onto that pavement. The plan was for you to accept the chip and be rid of the your mental disorder. That didn’t happen. You have every right to fight in court your case about how this thing has affected you. There are plenty of lawyers who will be more than happy to represent you in a court of law. But please. Let that happen. Don’t do this. Let us take you back inside and we can talk to the doctors about possibly removing it. Okay?”
Rew stopped. He looked down at the ground. The people appeared as specks moving about in a Petri dish. The wind whipped at the officers and Rew.
“If you come down from that ledge, we will have the finest doctors available to rid you of that worrisome chip. Now, we will need you to comply, Mr. Rew.”
“And if I don’t?”
“We will have to use force in order to get you down. Now, we don’t want to do that. We want to make sure you’re safe and that we’re safe. Right now, you’re refusing a command from an officer of the law. We don’t want to have to use any force. You’re too close to the edge for me to even to attempt to stun you. All of our night sticks and firearms have been placed on the deck. Now, just come back from the ledge, buddy. We’ve got you. You’re safe.”
Rew spread his arms. His wingspan made it appear as though he could fly. He tiptoed around the ledge, his arms stretched wide. The ledge had come to a joining part with the other ledge. He paused. Rew looked at the officers, flashed a V sign to the side of his waist and leapt into the air.
“No!” the officers screamed collectively. On the descent to the ground, the financial reports rattled off non-stop. “More jobs are being created in the private sector,” one report broadcasted in his brain. “Oil markets surge on strong earnings reports.” His body twisted and contorted in the wind. He fell like some balled up mass of emotion and regret. “Stocks close at new highs.” His plunge meant an end to a man who thought that he could find assistance or at least understand the thoughts in his head. He knew that he could not tolerate the constant updates about financial matters over which he had no control. His body just continued to sink all the while news reports blasted in his ears at high decibels. “At closing bell, stocks are way up.” “No laggards to report, all sectors are witnessing massive growth.”