What Happened to Tom, by Christopher Taffen
An allegorical horror story.
A psychological/philosophical thriller.
A must-read for every man.
One day he was living his life. He was a bright, young thing, one of many, with a loft in the city.
And the next day, he woke up—in a bed that wasn’t his own. Feeling…heavy. As if gravity had not just doubled, but tripled. And groggy. Not hung over exactly. It was more like a drugged fog. But that didn’t make sense….
When he came to the second time, he was conscious just long enough to realize his mouth was dry and the room was white. Very white…
The third time, consciousness wavered, flickered precariously, just out of reach. He struggled to hold onto it, and tried, despite his mental fuzziness, to review his past, thinking he could figure out where he was from where he had been. Which assumed, of course, logic and linearity, reasonable cause and effect.
He and the guys had gone to Mister’s, a popular after-work place for the upscale young professionals crowd. He’d finally paid off the last of his student loans. It had taken him five years, on a junior architect’s salary, but from now on, he was free and clear. Still had the car to pay off, but the snappy Corvette was worth it. Even if it was used. So they’d gone to the bar to celebrate.
“Hey, did you guys hear about Cheryl?” Kevin had asked Tom and Steve. They’d gotten their drinks and were lingering at the polished bar, ostensibly waiting for a free table. They place was, as always, busy.
“No, what about Cheryl?” Tom dutifully replied, loosening his tie. Kevin was okay, but, truthfully, he was a little boring. Unimaginative.
Tom continued to scan the room. Not that he was a hound dog, but it wasn’t really news, was it. Women got pregnant. Big deal.
“Did you see the game last night?” Steve asked, also scanning the room. Now, he was a hound dog.
“You call that a game?” Tom laughed.
“Hey, that’s my team you’re disrespecting,” Steve protested, but laughed as well. It had been a dismal game. “Check out the blonde,” he added, nodding to the corner then making his way over.
But no, this wasn’t someone’s bedroom, Tom realized as things started coming into focus. It was too…stark. Almost institutional. It looked like a hospital room, actually.
It was an accident, he thought then, his being in this situation. An accident…
But no, it wasn’t quite a hospital room either, he realized the next time he awoke. There was a beige wrap-around curtain on his left. And a tv mounted on the wall near the ceiling. But the room didn’t have that over-the-top chrome and sterile ambience. And yet, the bed was definitely a hospital bed. The sheets were stiff and white, and the blanket, thin and pale blue.
He continued to claw his way to lucidity. He was cold. Very cold. He felt like he’d just come out of surgery. He remembered feeling this way when he’d had his appendix taken out.
“Hello—” he said feebly. Thickly. And yet he couldn’t remember drinking that much. Sure one or two beer, there was a woman—had she put something in his drink? No, that wouldn’t’ve been necessary, he thought. She was sort of hot. Hot enough, anyway. Besides, Misters’ wasn’t that kind of place.
He began to get alarmed then, because he couldn’t remember past that. He moved his head slowly toward the door to call out again, and saw the bank of medical equipment just behind his right shoulder. He jerked slightly as if to sit up and take a better look, but the reflex travelled no further than his chest.
“Hello—” He tried to make it louder this time. “Nurse—”
A stocky woman in her mid-forties entered the room. “Good morning, Tom,” she said cheerfully.
“What—” his mouth was so dry.
“I’m Carla,” she said, pouring a glass of ice chips from the pitcher on the bedside table. She held it to his lips. “One of the day nurses.”
“What happened?” he managed to say, after he’d swallowed a thin sliver of ice.
“You’re doing just fine. No need for concern,” she put the glass back onto the table, then patted at the bedcovers a bit. “The call button’s right here by your hand,” she said, heading for the door. “The doctor will be in to see you soon,” she called back.
“Wait…” Tom slid into sleep again.
The morning after had found Steve in bed with a woman. A cellphone rang. He groaned, reached over to the night table, and answered it. “Hello?”
“Steve?” The young woman on the other end was surprised to hear his voice.
“Beth?” Steve was equally surprised to hear her voice.
“What are you doing with Tom’s phone?” she asked.
Steve groaned. He hadn’t realized it was Tom’s phone he’d answered. He hadn’t realized he’d had Tom’s phone. Must’ve picked it up by mistake at some point.
“Oh my god, is he okay? What hospital is he in?”
“Slow down. Wait a minute.” Steve sat up and tried to think. The woman beside him roused and looked at him with mild concern. “He’s okay. He just—” he thought quickly. “He forgot his phone at the bar last night, that’s all.”
“He was at the bar last night? But he said he’d— Then where—”
Steve backpedalled, trying to correct his mistake. “He’s okay. I’m sure he’ll be in touch soon.”
Beth figured it out. “So there’s no need for me to start calling hospitals,” she said coldly.
“No.” What more could he say? Tom, you little devil, was what he thought.
Beth hung up. Steve shrugged, set the phone back on the table, then turned his attention to the woman in bed with him.
When Tom next woke, he tried to reach for the glass of ice chips, but it was, apparently, an impossible task. When he tried to lift his arm, it felt like dead weight. He couldn’t believe how weak, how lethargic, he was…
A few minutes later, or maybe it was hours, Dr. Anders entered briskly. She wore a clean and freshly pressed white lab coat. Her movements were efficient. She was cool, competent, and dispassionate. In other words, words the common man might use, she was a bitch.
She glanced at Tom’s sleeping body, checked the bag of clear fluid hanging on an IV stand, then began to read the various monitors, making notes on the clipboard she was carrying. Tom woke.
“Where am I?” he asked then, his voice scratchy. “Who are you?”
“You’re in a—health clinic. I’m Dr. Anders. You—”
“What happ—” he broke off when he managed to focus on her. He recognized her. “I remember you! Last night…”
He had watched her approach from across the room. She was trim, pretty, confident.
“Hi,” she had said to him. “Mind if I join you?”
“No, not at all,” he replied, charmed. And charming.
She sat on the empty stool beside him at the bar.
“What’ll you have?” Tom signaled to Ty, the bartender. He was a neat man, a clean towel always over his shoulder.
“A cosmopolitan, please.”
Ty nodded, and a moment later put the rubied concoction in front of her.
“So,” Tom started the old dance, “you work around here?”
“Wait a minute,” he said, continuing to struggle as his memory returned in bits and pieces. “You said you were a nurse—”
“No,” she spoke carefully, “I said I worked at a clinic. You assumed I was a nurse. Do you know why?” she added, an edge in her voice.
But he didn’t really hear the question.
“Did we—?” He frowned. No, that wouldn’t explain why he was there.
“We had a drink,” he tried again, grappling with his inability to remember, and then with the implications of his inability to remember. To remember even a thought he’d had a few hours, or was it days, ago.
“Did you put—” He tried, again, to wrap his head around the possibility of having been slipped the so-called date rape drug and—
“No,” she said. Then added, “Not exactly.”
Her amendment didn’t register.
“How did I get here?” he asked. Then corrected, “How did you get me here?”
“Oh, don’t sound so surprised,” she said, with a little disdain. “Do you think it’s so impossible?”
He had a confused flash then, of leaning heavily on her and being helped into a car.
“You drugged me!”
Again, such surprise. She didn’t respond.
His realized then that his side hurt. “What did you—”
But he couldn’t even raise his hand to lift the covers and look. Had they taken a kidney? Was she part of some illegal organ transplant operation? He looked in vain at his body, completely covered by the bedding, then tried to take an internal inventory.
“What did you take from me?” he asked, his anxiety turning to panic.
“Calm down,” she said. “We didn’t take anything. On the contrary, we gave you—”
He struggled to raise himself from the bed, and only then realized that his wrists were cuffed to the bedrails. He freaked. As anyone would upon discovering they’re a prisoner, held hostage.
He had no idea.
“What the hell—why am I— What the hell are you doing to me?” he screamed.
“Just relax, Tom,” Dr. Anders calmly injected a sedative into his IV line. He slumped into unconsciousness once again. “It’ll be okay,” she added, the barest suggestion of sarcasm in her voice.
When Tom woke again, he was more quickly aware of his situation.
“Nurse! Someone!!” He struggled against the cuffs. “Help!!” He could see they were just Velcro straps, but he wrestled with them in vain. He leaned forward then, thinking maybe he could grab one of the ends with his teeth. Oh, shit, big mistake. Hurt like hell. He fell back against the pillows. What in god’s name had they done to him?
What Happened to Tom, by Christopher Taffen