Sometimes, I just feel like giving up. I mean, is there really anything so wrong about saying, "I've done all I can do" and just letting go? Is there really anything so bad about looking at everything and saying, "Okay, That's plenty," and just moving on? Why do I feel obligated to continue moving forward, continue trying so hard, even though I've already made it so much farther than I ever thought-ever think is possible? Today, I quit. Present tense.I'm quitting, currently. I quit on caring. I quit on trying. I quit on everything. I don't want to die, per se, but I just don't feel like living anymore. I give up. It's too difficult to wake up, look at the day in front of me, look at the years behind me, and say "here is the purpose, this is the goal."
Sylvan had his assistant, Denise, meet me in a small ghost town, and I followed her through a maze of forests and foads till we finally got back to this wall in the middle of a forest. Denise got out of her truck and walked up to the wall. She pressed her had flat against it, and after a moment she took a step back as the wall divided and lifted in the middle, revealing the rest of the road we were on. She got back in the truck and we followed her inside. There were cement barriers along the road for about 200 feet, and then you were fed into this underground parking garage. When we got in, we parked and we followed Denise to an elevator and she pushed the "L" button. I tried to make small talk, asked if she had a family, how she liked working for Sylvan, but all I got were cold, flat answers everyt time, so I figured she probably didn't feel like talking with me. Nora was being very quiet, too. I think I would have felt anxious if I wasn't so wrapped up in my own head.
When the elevator stopped, she stepped out so Nora and I followed her. We walked through a large white room with blue trim, lots of uncomfortable-looking chairs, and over to a window with a circle cut out. There was a man sitting on the other side of the glass and he looked at us with a bored expression.
"Linz," Denise barked at the man, whose name tag read "Mike," and Mike typed something into a terminal. I heard a "shhhhhhhTHNK" Noise, like an automatic air lock going off, and Denise walked me toward a heavy metal door. We pushed through and into a hallway lined with glass doors and metal coat racks. The airlock noise went again, and Denise started to strip.
"Down to your underclothes, ladies. Gotta disinfect." So we took off our clothes down to our underpants and stepped into the disinfectant chambers. We got hosed down, sprayed with some kind of chemical-smelling stuff, which made my skin tingle a little bit, then we got hosed off again. Then a long warm shot of air to dry off and the doors unlatched. I went to put my clothes on, but they'd been replaced with a white shirt, white pants, and a blue smock-lab coat type thing. I got new shoes, too. Blue sneakers with velcro instead of laces.
"The Jeep keys were in my pants pocket, by the way, Denise," I explained, "All my samples and data are locked inside. You'll need them for research, so I just want to make sure you know."
"Okay," was all she replied. We followed her through another airlock and out into this crazy awesome place. There were healthy, green trees everywhere. Green lush grass that sprawled over shallow hills, cut by crisp white sidewalks and dotted with small, stout buildings. There were even flowers. It was bright and a little chilly, I looked upward and noticed that we were still underground--there was a ceiling above our heads, covered in light bulbs glowing warm light down. a group of them were lit and all the surrounding ones were dim. I looked back down and noticed that while Nora and I had been taking in the view, Denise had been walking away quickly toward one building down the way from us. I nudged Nora and we tried to hurry to catch Denise without making Nora too winded. By the time we reached the building Denise was headed for, she was standing there, holding the door open for us.
"Sorry, I forgot you can't go too fast right now," she said quietly.
"It's fine," Nora said, winded, "We're here now, so I can sit, right?"
We stepped inside the building, and found it decorated very similarly to the original room we started in. White walls, blue trim. This time, though, there were black plaques on the walls at each corner, with white words and numbers and little arrows. One of them read "Watts, Sylvan, 209". We walked toward that corner and followed the little arrows down two more hallways, past several doors numbered 201-208, even numbers on the left, odd numbers on the right. Finally, we got to the room numbered 209. Denise opened the door and ushered us inside the small office. There wasn't much of anything in there. The only things on the walls were a few framed certificates. I didn't really care enough to look at them to see what they were for. There were two office chairs in front of a modest pine desk. On the desk were a few manila envelopes, some red folders, pens and paper, a laptop, and a pair of man hands. Attached to those hands was Sylvan Watts. He was smiling a small smile of relief, I assumed he was happy to see that Nora had made it back alive. He looked a little confused, though.
"Dahlia," he said and unfolded his hands to offer me a seat, "I'm so glad you're finally here. I've been worrying."
"Sorry," I answered, "But we're here now. Safe and sound. I brought samples of the water Nora drank from, all my data on her blood. So you and your people can start working on finding out what happened to make her able to live so long with PTA."
"My people? You mean you won't help us?" He looked more confused than happy now.
"I'm done. I'm so tired, Sylvan. I'll answer any questions I can, but really I think I'm done working right now. I'm sorry. Maybe in a couple days I'll feel differently, but for right now, I just can't."
"Have you been feeling depressed? More than usual, I mean? I know it's a depressing world we live in. But have you been thinking of harming yourself?"
"Not in so many words, no. I mean, I just feel like giving up. I feel like that's an okay option at this point. I mean, I've worked hard, I got Nora here. I got both of us here. I feel like it's been a long time since I got a good night's rest, since I had some downtime. Some me-time. I know that's selfish, but I really want to be selfish right now. Even if I just sleep outside on the grass. It's so beautiful here. I think this is a good place as any to take a break from life."
"Okay, well, you don't have to sleep on the grass. I've got an apartment for you downstream. It's about a twenty minute walk from here. I have a lab set up for you, if you change your mind. Denise is, as you know, my assistant, and she'll be at your service as well as mine. I know she's a little...intimidating at first, but she's not difficult to get along with. And she is very trustworthy. I trust her with my life. As you can tell, this place is very safe. Only approved people can get in the front gates. And I am alerted and I monitor every coming and going. Everyone here is handpicked and interviewed by myself. So, in other words, you're safe here. And I understand your exhaustion, so you'll be free to do as you please for the next day or two. I'll have food delivered to your apartment at meal times. All I ask is that you do come and see me at least once a day so we can talk. I don't want you going off the deep end without my prior knowledge. Understood?"
"I think that sounds fair. Where will Nora stay?"
Sylvan looked at me weird. I don't know what it meant. It was kind of this mix of pity and confusion and hesitance. After a little awkward silence, he said, "I've got a room for her in the clinic. She'll be looked after. Unfortunately, we're not going to allow visitors unless they're working, so until you're back in the practice, you'll have to stay away from her. There are only two classes of people here, civilians and personnel. Civilians do work like cooking, cleaning, gardening, and hospitality. Personnel does the work like medical care, research, and other dangerous jobs. Personnel aren't allowed in some areas for contamination reasons, and civilians aren't allowed in the clinic and research facilities for the same reasons. I can't code you as both, so if you're going to live as a civilian, you're going to be separated from her. But I think that may be for the best anyways."
"Because I'm too attached, I know, I wouldn't be able to be objective in my research anyways."
Another strange pause, and he answered quietly, "Yes."
So I got permission to just stop everything. Stop feeling. Stop caring. Stop working. Stop worrying about being found and being in trouble. Of course, I couldn't stop right away, so when I got settled into my new digs, I sat down and I cried myself to sleep over Belle, my mom, my brother, my aunt, and my gramma. And then I dreamed about mom again, but I can't remember anything except she stood there in front of me repeating the words, "you look just like me when I was your age," Over and over and over again.