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The Theta Patient

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The Theta Patient

A Theta Timeline Short

Chris Dietzel

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidence.

THE THETA PATIENT, Copyright 2015 by Chris Dietzel. All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Watch The World End Publishing.

Cover Design: Levente Szabo

Cover Text: Matt Butterweck

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Also by Chris Dietzel

 

 

Dystopian

The Theta Timeline

The Theta Prophecy

 

A Quiet End of the World

The Man Who Watched The World End

A Different Alchemy

The Hauntings Of Playing God

The Last Teacher

 

Table of Contents

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

About the Author

“You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide.”

Joseph Goebbels – During Nazi Germany

 

 

 

“No one should be against our mass surveillance unless they have something to hide.”

Various leaders – During the rise of the Tyranny

 

1

 

There was never enough time in the day. Dr. Bradburn knew this better than anyone.

Being in charge of the largest mental hospital in the state, there was simply too much work for one person to do. Each morning, he had the daily staff meetings. These were supposed to be routine. No longer than thirty minutes. But after discussing issues from the previous night, patients who were having problems, and any missing staff members—assumed to have done something the Tyranny didn’t agree with and likely never to be seen or heard from again—they lasted at least an hour or two every day.

Just three days prior, his head nurse hadn’t shown up for work. Calls to the man’s home went unanswered. Most likely, he was in a secret prison or else dead in a ditch, a single blast in the back of his head. Bradburn didn’t agree with the harshness of the penalties brought down by the Tyranny, but he went along with it for two reasons. The first was that the Tyranny’s leaders were adamant that everything they did was to keep the public safe. Each time they took someone away, it turned out that individual had been some kind of a threat. The second reason Bradburn accepted missing friends and coworkers was because he knew that if you didn’t give the Tyranny a reason to take issue with you, you could live your life in peace and quiet. The people who were being tortured or were already dead, no matter how nice they had seemed, were partially to blame for what happened to them because if they hadn’t said or done something the Tyranny didn’t like, they would have been left alone.

Of course, none of this was discussed during the daily staff meetings that took so long because neither he nor anyone on his staff wanted to make it sound like they were complaining about another disappearance—that could be construed as disagreeing with the Tyranny.

If the morning meetings and the vanishing staff members were the only inconvenience each day, he would have at least had a chance of getting his work done. But there were also the rounds and all the peculiarities that came with them. Many of his patients became unsettled when the Tyranny’s AeroCams came hovering over the facility grounds. These were men and women who needed to be sedated just to get through ordinary days. When they saw little flying cameras inspecting what they were doing, some patients began scratching at their arms or faces. Others began to yell.

The Tyranny’s cameras saw everything, but they understood nothing. Each time the tiny remote controlled robots captured one of his patients panicking at the sight of an AeroCam, Bradburn’s hospital was promptly visited by men in suits who, even after having it explained to them that the patient was mentally ill, demanded to question the individual themselves before accepting Bradburn’s story.

As if the visits from the Tyranny and the intrusion of their AeroCams wasn’t enough, Bradburn also had to deal with the family members of each patient who wanted to see their relative. Each person’s name had to be entered into two databases. One for his facility’s records. Another maintained by the Tyranny as part of their database to track everywhere people went and everything they did.

Nothing was simple. Everything took much more time than he remembered it taking when he first became a doctor.

“Dr. Bradburn,” his secretary said, moving alongside him, matching his brisk pace down the hallway.

The bottom of her shoes clacked against the linoleum floor, each clack echoing amongst the otherwise empty and sterile hallway.

He waved his hand toward her as if deflecting her words. “No time right now, Cindy. Sorry.”

Then there was the paperwork. Paperwork for every imaginable and unimaginable aspect of running a psychiatric hospital. His running joke—a joke he only told to his wife out of respect for the establishment he ran—was that the load of papers he had to sign each day was as crazy as some of the people in his care. Dietary reports. Physical fitness reports. Sanitation reports. Complaints. Certification renewals. That didn’t include all of the papers he had to submit to the Tyranny. Employees who hadn’t shown up for work (even though they most likely hadn’t shown up because they were already in one of the Tyranny’s secret prisons). Logs of anything his patients had said or done that could be construed as being anti-Tyranny.

It was never-ending. Most of the paperwork was completed by his staff. All he had to do was initial each page and provide his signature at the very end. It sounded simple enough, but he had to sign hundreds of documents each week. And, not wanting to sign something without reading at least part of it first, he found the task burdensome and a drain on his time.

“Dr. Bradburn,” his secretary said again, following him on his way back to his office.

“Sorry, Cindy. I’m busy.”

It didn’t help things that three new patients had been brought in the previous night. His facility usually had no more than three new patients each month. He didn’t have the time or the staff necessary to get them in-processed in a timely manner. He barely had enough time to sit with each man, read through their charts, get a sense of how lucid each one was, and begin thinking about how best to help them.

There was no use hoping he would be home in time to eat dinner with his family. It was already a lost cause. That was the thought that made him shake his head in frustration as he rushed into his office to drop one stack of patient folders and pick up another.

“Dr. Bradburn?” a man’s voice said.

The doctor only noticed the individual in the black suit once he looked up from the documents in his hand. The man was already sitting in a chair opposite of where Dr. Bradburn usually sat. He offered a rehearsed smile but didn’t bother to stand or extend his hand.

“Who”—the doctor started, but was immediately interrupted.

“I’m from the Tyranny, doctor. We need to have a talk.”

Moving toward his seat, Bradburn looked back at his secretary. She was standing in the doorway, her eyes squinting, an expression he recognized as her I-tried-to-tell-you face. The man’s presence, the fact that he didn’t bother giving his name, made Bradburn’s secretary all the more uneasy. An effect that rubbed off on the doctor.

The man in the black suit turned, saw the secretary still standing there, and said, “That’ll be all. Please close the door.”

She backed away and did as she was told.

With his office door closed and a man from the Tyranny sitting across from him, the air in Bradburn’s chest sank down to his gut. Suddenly, having enough time in the day was the least of his worries.

2

 

“Doctor?”

“Yes?”

The Tyranny’s agent leaned forward slightly, propping his elbows on the end of Bradburn’s desk, giving the doctor a better view of his expensive watch and of the blaster that was holstered to his hip.

The two men were almost complete opposites. Whereas Bradburn’s hair was grey and thinning, the man from the Tyranny had black hair that was slicked to the side. Bradburn looked as though the only exercise he got came from walking from one appointment to another. The agent looked as though a significant portion of each day was spent in a gym. And while Bradburn’s natural disposition was to smile and shrug his shoulders, the agent’s unflinching eye and solid jaw made him look as if he never found humor in anything.

“Something very serious and disturbing has come to the Tyranny’s attention,” the man said.

Outside, an AeroCam hovered by Bradburn’s window before moving to a different part of the facility grounds. Bradburn hoped it was just one of the usual cameras that were always recording what went on in and around the hospital. If the Tyranny had sent more of the flying robots to accompany the man in the dark suit, something very serious must have happened indeed.

The agent looked at Bradburn’s eyes, squinting slightly as he tried to get a sense of the man whose office he was in.

All around the office were diplomas and awards from various academic and professional organizations. Mixed in with these were photographs of Dr. Bradburn with his wife and two children. One, a photo of them all bundled in thick clothes, smiling at a ski resort. Another, a picture of them in swimsuits, perfectly clear blue water behind them.

“Does that concern you, doctor? That something extremely serious has happened? Maybe even a threat to our national safety.”

Bradburn nodded his head but he didn’t dare speak. After all, anything he said could be used against him, even if he wasn’t guilty of anything.

The agent continued, “As you know, there are Thinkers hiding in every corner. Men and women who second guess our laws and our leaders and who would love nothing better than to see a world without the Tyranny.” And then, giving a snide chuckle, “If you can imagine something that preposterous.”

When Bradburn took a deep breath, forcing his lips to remain shut so he couldn’t ask any of the questions that were racing through his head, the agent said, “I know. It’s very disturbing. We must do everything we can to catch these Thinkers as soon as possible.”

Bradburn let out the air in his lungs. The Tyranny wasn’t there for him. None of his staff nor any of the patients’ families had given the Tyranny an anonymous tip against him just so he’d be taken away. It happened all the time, but he was sure that as long as he kept his chin down and went about his business, things would work out for the best.

Relieved, he was finally able to say, “Of course, of course.”

“I’m glad to see you’re on our side,” the agent said, leaning back in his chair. “Then you’ll be as disturbed as I was at the report I was sent today.”

Another AeroCam flew past Bradburn’s window.

“What news? What’s happening?”

The agent stared directly at Dr. Bradburn, not blinking. “One of your new patients is a Thinker. A threat to our very way of life.”

 

3

 

Bradburn stared at the man for a moment, unable to think of what he should say or do next. A month earlier, one of his nurses hadn’t shown up for work. Only a week later had the doctor learned that men from the Tyranny had taken her away. It turned out that her husband had spoken out against the Tyranny passing laws that the public wasn’t allowed to know about. Her offense had been being married to someone who would dare question the Tyranny.

“It wasn’t as if he thought he could do anything about it,” his nurse had said, crying. This was after they had taken her husband away but before they decided to take her as well for being married to him. “He was just saying that if the Tyranny is going to pass whatever laws it wants anyway, why keep them secret until the last minute?”

In the Tyranny’s eyes, she would have been defending a Thinker. Personally, Bradburn had no sympathy for the woman. After all, the Tyranny said it was in the public’s best interest to pass laws this way. They didn’t have to explain why. His former nurse should have known better than to complain about it —rules were rules.

“Don’t you have anything you wanna say?” the Tyranny’s agent said.

“What makes you think one of my new patients is a threat?”

It was the first thing that had popped into his mind—some kind of proof that a seemingly mentally unstable man, under his care no less, might be a risk to the Tyranny. He could tell, though, from the way the agent sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, that it hadn’t been the correct response.

The agent’s eyebrows raised. “Are you doubting the Tyranny’s ability to identify threats and keep everyone safe?”

“Of course not,” Bradburn said, his palms out to show he meant nothing by the comment. “I only thought it might help me identify which patient you’re talking about.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I can’t tell you much, I’m afraid,” the agent said, a smirk to indicate he quite liked knowing things that average people weren’t allowed to know.

“Well, maybe if you could tell me why you think someone would want to pretend to be insane?”

“Doctor, doctor, doctor,” the man in the black suit said.

Bradburn knew he had somehow messed up again. “It’s just that”—

The man from the Tyranny raised a hand for silence, then said, “You want to know an awful lot, doctor. It makes me wonder why.”

“No,” Bradburn said, leaning forward, accidently knocking over a jar of pens, then scrambling to pick them up. “I just thought—”

“You’ll know what the Tyranny wants you to know.”

“I realize that. I just—”

“Where are the three men right now?”

“What?”

“The three new patients. Where are they?”

“They’re—I’m sorry—what’s your name?”

The agent leaned forward, staring hard at the doctor. “My name?” He sighed again. “My name?”

Bradburn grimaced. He had only wanted to get on a first name basis with the man across from him. To become his ally in this search. He knew, though, of the reputation that men from the Tyranny had, and he knew immediately that he had made another mistake. The Tyranny’s agents liked their anonymity. It had made it harder, back in the early days of the Tyranny, to make a formal complaint against an agent who beat your head in, touched you inappropriately, stole your belongings after searching you, or any of the other things they got away with. Almost no one was foolish enough to make a complaint anymore, not after the way people tended to disappear or end up in secret prisons. But asking for an agent’s name was a reminder that someone might want to report them. For the Tyranny’s men this was enough to take offense.

“I only meant so I knew what to call you,” Bradburn said, taking quick breaths, wiping sweat from his brow.

Seeing the reaction he had earned, the Tyranny’s agent smiled. “Agent Cooper.”

“Great! It’s a pleasure to formally meet you, Agent Cooper. Please be assured I’ll help however I can. When I ask questions, I’m just trying to get a better idea of what to look for. I’ve always been a supporter of the Tyranny. Just last year I reported a staff member who I thought might be engaging in suspicious activities. Never saw him again, so I suppose he had been. And I always cooperate when—”

Cooper held up a hand. “You don’t have to look for anything,” the agent said. He reached into the briefcase that was on the chair beside him, withdrew a folder, and slid it across the desk toward Bradburn.

“What’s this?” the doctor said.

“These are the questions you’ll ask each patient.”

“Questions?”

“Precisely.”

“I don’t understand.”

Cooper was already closing his briefcase. Standing. Getting ready to leave.

“Lucky for you, you don’t need to understand. You’ll ask each of your three new patients these questions. I’ll be back tomorrow to hear their answers. There are instructions in the folder for how to record the sessions.”

“And?”

Agent Cooper smiled. After putting on a pair of sunglasses, Cooper’s eyes were no longer visible. Instead, silver discs reflected Doctor Bradburn’s confusion back at himself.

“And that will tell me which of the three men is the Thinker.”

Then Cooper was gone, leaving Bradburn to consider everything he had just been told. As if to ensure the doctor did what he was supposed to, or, at least, didn’t do something he wasn’t supposed to, an AeroCam hovered outside his window, its camera pointed right at Bradburn.

Rather than acknowledge the flying robot he knew was still outside his window, he forced himself to look down at the folder Agent Cooper had given him. Opening the folder, he began to read.

That was when things that had already made little sense began to seem utterly insane.

4

 

As much as Bradburn had wanted to get home at a normal hour, the moment Agent Cooper left, the doctor had immediately opened the folder and begun looking through the questions. He knew, after a long day of work, that he must be exhausted. But instead, as he scanned the things he was supposed to ask his three new patients, he felt jittery as if he had gulped a gallon of coffee. The agent’s visit had unsettled him, but the questions were what really made him twitch and fidget in his seat.

Do you believe in time travel?

Is the world a better place today than it was a hundred years ago?

If you could go back in time and change any event, what would you change?

There were twenty questions in total. Needless to say, they were not the types of things he normally asked his new patients. Frowning, Bradburn looked back at his doorway to make sure someone wasn’t waiting there to jump out and tell him this was all a prank. Instead, a blur caught his attention by the corner of his eye. Another AeroCam was flying past his window.

Agent Cooper. The threat of a Thinker in his own hospital. Questions about time travel. All of it must be a practical joke put together by his staff.

There was no one outside his office, though. No one snickering around the corner, ready to jump out and tell him he had been working too many long days recently. Except for the hum of the AeroCams outside, there was only silence.

Letting out a long sigh, he read through the questions again. As little sense as they made to him, they had been handed to him by an agent of the Tyranny. For that reason alone, they had to be legitimate. However, he had no idea how they were supposed to identify a Thinker from a normal person—a man pretending to be crazy from two other men who actually were. And anyway, it wasn’t as if one of the men would be dumb enough to say something that would identify himself as a Thinker. Not if he were willing to go to the trouble of having himself admitted to a mental institution.

Reading through the questions again made Bradburn think once more about the three new patients. They had all been processed within the last twenty-four hours. He hadn’t said anything meaningful to any of them yet, only niceties in passing. The real diagnoses—the formal therapy sessions—would begin later in the week.

Reaching over to a cart beside his desk, he found the patient folders for each of the three men who had been admitted the previous day.

One of them, Anthony Station, had been given over to the hospital at the request of his family. They knew he needed serious help, knew they couldn’t provide it, and so had done the only thing they could think of.

The second man, Logan Ford, had been sent to the hospital more than a dozen times in the past year. He complained of hearing voices no one else could hear. He said he could see people no one else could see.

The third patient, Dewey Leonard, was sent to the hospital after being found naked and covered in his own waste. One of the Tyranny’s Security Service officers had thought about arresting him for indecency but hadn’t wanted to get his patrol car dirty. Instead, he had called the hospital and requested they send an ambulance.

Three men. Each of them a newly arrived patient at his facility. One of them a suspected Thinker.

Trying to conceive of something in their files that might save him the time and embarrassment of asking ridiculous questions, he scanned their intake information. One of the men had been admitted in the morning, another in the afternoon, and yet another in the evening. All three had been delivered to the facility by a non-emergency medical unit (an ambulance without its lights or sirens on). None of this was out of the ordinary.

What did seem odd was that all three men had either been picked up at or within two blocks of Burnley Park. The city spanned nearly one hundred square miles. It had thousands of acres and just as many streets and side streets. The chances of three men all being picked up near the exact same area couldn’t be a coincidence.

Seeing this fact, seeing the list of the Tyranny’s questions, a curiosity came over him. Without knowing what he expected to find, he spun in his chair to face his computer. After typing the name of the park and clicking search, millions of results came back. Burnley Park was a popular place. He narrowed the results by sorting out anything that hadn’t been posted the same day the three men became his patients.

A new set of results appeared. One of the parking garages near Burnley Park was temporarily closed for renovations. There was an outdoor yoga session at lunch. A bake sale was being held to support a local church. Two men, both homeless, had been arrested by the Tyranny for annoying the Security Services. The first two pages of results were all talking about these same things.

Then, on the third page, he saw a preview that caught his eye. A blog, maintained by a local teenager, said that numerous people around Burnley Park had reported a bright light appearing above the trees just after noon, when most people had already eaten their lunch and gone back to their offices. Not only had a bright light been seen, a man had fallen out of it, into a tree. After climbing down, the man, who had been wearing plain brown pants and a matching shirt, had looked around briefly, then immediately darted into an alley and disappeared.

Bradburn frowned. He knew better than to believe the foolishness that was posted online. There hadn’t been a bright light. He certainly didn’t believe that a man had fallen out of it even if there had been some kind of firework or camera flash. Whoever maintained the site was either goofing around or needed to consider the services of a facility like the one Bradburn managed. But then again there were people who believed in Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster, so maybe a practical joke about a flash of light wasn’t so serious in the grand scheme of things.

He went back to the search results and found another blog that mentioned the same flash of light and the same man falling out of it, into a tree. This site was run by a librarian who worked across the street from Burnley Park. The exact same accounts were provided. Onlookers stated that the man, after climbing down from the tree, had run away and hadn’t been seen again.

A third website, this one on a site that mainly talked about UFOs and spacemen and other nonsense, also mentioned the bright light at the park. But seeing the rest of the subject matter on the site, Bradburn automatically discounted this source and went back to the other two.

“Huh?” the doctor said.

The two other pages that had mentioned the light and the man were gone from the results.

His finger clicked refresh. Then again. Then again. Now, even the third site, with lizard men and conspiracy theories, was gone. Biting the corner of his lip, Bradburn put in a new search, this one specifically for the flash of light and the falling man.

There were no results. Not a single one. Not even misinterpreted results. Not even a result for a man falling over drunk during a festival at Burnley Park. Not even something about fireworks being set off there during a holiday. Absolutely nothing.

Outside his window, an AeroCam hovered by.

Pain began throbbing behind Bradburn’s temples. He checked the history of his internet browser, then clicked on the line that would take him back to the kid’s blog. The site didn’t appear. Instead, a gateway error popped up on his screen, telling him that the webpage he was trying to access was unavailable. He tried the librarian’s page. The same error message appeared. The third page, belonging to the guy who went on and on about The Da Vinci Code, was also gone.

Do you believe in time travel?

Is the world a better place today than it was a hundred years ago?

If you could go back in time and change any event, what would you change?

Closing his eyes and leaning back in his chair, he knew all of this could only mean one thing: the tyranny had seen something it hadn’t liked. And now, because of that, all evidence of whatever had happened was gone. The only remaining proof, as the Tyranny would think of it, was one of his three new patients.

5

 

The next morning, no amount of coffee could keep Bradburn from yawning. After reading the questions Agent Cooper had given him, after seeing websites disappear in front of his eyes, he hadn’t been able to sleep. It didn’t help that his wife was snoring by the time he got home. Without her, he didn’t have anyone he could talk to about what had happened. Instead, he had remained awake, thinking about Agent Cooper, the Tyranny, and the three new patients.

Those were the things he tried to keep his focus on. However, he couldn’t help but let other thoughts creep in: the questions he was supposed to ask each man, accounts of people seeing a flash of light above Burnley Park and of a man falling out of the sky, websites being there one moment and then not being there the next moment.

None of it made sense. Why would the Tyranny go to the trouble of erasing something so unrealistic as a man falling out of the sky? Weren’t there more important things for them to focus on?

One idea kept sneaking into his thoughts. It seemed absurd, but it was the only answer he could come up with. Based on the Tyranny’s own questions, based on the attention they were giving these three new patients, only one explanation made sense: time travel was possible. Not only that, but the Tyranny didn’t want anyone to know about it. Instead, they wanted to capture the individual who had fallen out of the sky. And that meant the Tyranny wasn’t behind the event. If it wasn’t them, there was only one other group who could have been responsible. The Thinkers.

Do you believe in time travel?

Is the world a better place today than it was a hundred years ago?

If you could go back in time and change any event, what would you change?

The Thinkers had figured out time travel. And they were doing it, Bradburn guessed, so they could go back in time and make the world a better place. It all led to one conclusion: one of his three new patients wasn’t from this time but was from some point in the future.

It seemed crazy. Every bit of his analytical, scientific mind told him it wasn’t possible. People didn’t just fall out of the sky. Time travel certainly wasn’t real.

And yet the Tyranny thought it was, and the Tyranny controlled what people knew. He began to have the sneaking suspicion that maybe he knew less about what was happening around him than he realized.

These were the things he had thought about all night, and also when he finally got out of bed in the morning without having slept a minute. They were the things he thought about when he set up the camera according to Cooper’s directions. And they were the things he thought about as he met with each new patient for the first time, asking each man the questions he had been given. When the interviews were over, he went back to his office, closed the door, and thought about it some more.

Almost immediately, though, his door opened. Agent Cooper was there. Bradburn blinked over and over, unsure if he had fallen asleep or if Cooper had coincidently been near the hospital at that exact moment. Or, knowing the Tyranny, maybe it hadn’t been a coincidence at all. Maybe one of the Tyranny’s AeroCams had alerted the agent that Bradburn had finished his interviews and was returning to his office. Or maybe someone on his staff was paid by the Tyranny to report everything that happened at the hospital. With the Tyranny, there was no telling how much they knew or the measures they would go to get the parts they didn’t know.

“Doctor,” Agent Cooper said, sitting down without waiting for an invitation.

“Agent Cooper, nice to see you again.”

Cooper snorted, knowing no one looked forward to seeing him appear in their doorway while he was wearing the black suit of the Tyranny.

“How’d it go?” Cooper said.

“Fine. It went fine. I did everything the way your instructions asked.”

Cooper waved away the remark, seemingly more interested in Bradburn than in watching the taped interviews.

“Anything you want to say?” the agent asked.

“Uh,” Bradburn said, not sure what Cooper was looking for. “They all seemed normal enough. For mental patients, that is.” And then he gave a soft laugh but quickly stopped when he saw the agent wasn’t entertained in the least.

“Anything else you want to mention?”

Cooper asked the question from behind sunglasses he still hadn’t taken off and that covered any sense of emotion the man might otherwise have had.

“Uh, well, none of them seemed dangerous.”

“Dangerous?”

“Yes,” Bradburn said, thinking he had stumbled upon something the agent might approve of. “Not a danger to themselves, nor to others.”

“To others?”

“Well, yes,” Bradburn said, no longer feeling the urge to yawn, feeling as if he couldn’t possibly be more alert and awake. “I mean, I wouldn’t feel uneasy about one of my nurses being in the same room with them, unattended.” He didn’t want to say anything else, but when Agent Cooper only stared at him, he added, “It’s hard to imagine one of them may be a Thinker.”

The Tyranny’s man leaned forward. With the thumb and index finger of one hand, he took off his sunglasses.

“Is it hard to imagine?” Cooper asked.

“Yes?” Bradburn said, but it came out as more of a question that an answer.

“Thinkers would destroy this country if they could. They would do away with the Tyranny. Change our entire way of life.”

“Yes.”

“They hide in the shadows because they’re radicals.”

“Yes,” Bradburn said again, even though everyone had heard the horror stories of what the Tyranny did with people it didn’t like, knew it was more sensible to hide than be tortured.

“But then again,” Cooper said, “I’m speaking to someone who also likes to hide things. Am I right?”

At that exact moment, another AeroCam hovered past the window of Dr. Bradburn’s office.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Bradburn tried to smile—a way of showing the agent that this must all be some sort of mistake. His face betrayed him, though, and instead of looking happy, he could hear the fear in his voice. The fear that must also be displayed in his eyes and on his mouth.

“You don’t like to hide things? I guess you just didn’t feel like telling me you did some extra curricular research into your new patients, right?” The agent shook his head in disappointment. “I gave you a chance. I asked if you had anything you wanted to tell me.”

“I don’t… I—”

Cooper shook his head again and Bradburn understood that he was supposed to stop talking.

“Did you read anything interesting last night?”

“Last night?”

“Don’t make me ask you again,” Agent Cooper said.

“I… read about a flash of light… in Burnley Park.”

“Is that all?”

“And a man falling out of the light.”

“And?”

“And he climbed down from a tree and disappeared.”

For a few seconds, Agent Cooper did nothing but stare at the doctor. Just when Bradburn thought the man from the Tyranny was going to reach across the desk, grab him by the neck, and strangle him to death, he was surprised by a completely different reaction. Cooper burst out laughing. He didn’t just smile or give a polite grin. He laughed as if he were listening to a comedian’s best material.

“Do you hear yourself?” the agent said. “You sound absolutely crazy. A flash of light? A man falling out of the sky? That’s hilarious!” Then, just as quickly, Cooper stopped laughing, rested his chin on a closed fist, and in a completely emotionless voice, said, “It is crazy, right?”

“Of course,” Bradburn said. “Of course it is.”

“Good. And the next time someone from the Tyranny asks you a question, don’t try to hide anything.”

“Of course not. Rules are rules.”

“Exactly. Now then, let’s start watching the interviews.”

6

 

Bradburn plugged a cord into the side of his laptop, then reached over and turned on the television in his office. Everything he could see on his computer was also visible on the television screen for Agent Cooper to view.

“How do you want to do this?”

“One question at a time,” the Tyranny’s man said. “Play a question and answer from the first patient, then the same question and answer for the second patient, and so on.”

Bradburn clicked on all three interview files so he could alternate between them. Before starting the footage of the first interview, he looked to Cooper to make sure he should proceed.

The agent said, “One more thing.”

“Yes?”

“Before we start, do you think you know which patient is the Thinker?”

Bradburn frowned. “It never even crossed my mind.”

“I told you one of the three men is a danger to the Tyranny, a radical, and you weren’t concerned which one it might be?”

“I’m just so used to trying to treat my patients as they come in. I guess I accept their behavior for what it is.” When Cooper groaned in disbelief, Bradburn added, “Which one do you think it is?”

“Oh, I don’t think,” Cooper said. “I already know which one.”

The doctor was about to ask why they were going to waste time watching the three videos if the Tyranny already knew which man was the Thinker. Bradburn had already had to cancel three appointments that morning because of the supposed Thinker. The last thing he wanted was to miss a fourth and fifth. But he was also intrigued. As good as he thought he was at treating mental ailments, he hadn’t picked up on whatever the agent had figured out. If the Tyranny had ways to differentiate between a man pretending to be crazy and a man who really was, he wanted to see it for himself.

More importantly, though, was that this was what Agent Cooper wanted. That was all that really mattered. It was the old adage of being told to jump and responding, “How high?” If the Tyranny said they needed to know what everyone was saying and doing, you asked how you could help them monitor your calls and emails. If they said they needed to take your valuables during routine searches, you asked if they would also like to take your watch. Bradburn never complained with any of these things. After all, rules were rules.

On the television, an unshaven, dark-haired man appeared. This was Anthony Station, the first of the three patients. Following Agent Cooper’s direction, only Station was on camera, sitting at a table that showed him from the waist up. On the table was a small black box with wires protruding from it. The wires ran to a set of five pads that each patient had been told to slide onto their fingertips. The interview had been conducted in a small room without any photographs on the walls. Nothing but the table, two chairs, and the camera.

Doctor Bradburn’s voice could be heard off camera as he read the very first question: “Have you ever been to Burnley Park before?”

Station squinted in confusion. “Burnley Park?”

“Yes.”

“Burnley Park?”

“Yes.”

Station muttered, “Yeah, doc. I was abducted there one time. By aliens. Mean things. Vicious. They did experiments on me for ten years before they returned me.”

“This was at Burnley Park?”

“The abduction was. The experiments were in outer space.” Station said this last part as if Bradburn were a complete idiot for thinking the experiments might also have taken place at the park.

“Next,” Agent Cooper said.

Bradburn paused the interview, then brought up the footage of the next one.

Logan Ford appeared on the screen, behind the same chair Anthony Station had been sitting at. The man had no hair on top of his head and only faint eyebrows to show the hair he had once had was blond. Ford rubbed at his eyes as if a part of them itched that he couldn’t quite reach.

“Have you ever been to Burnley Park before?” Bradburn’s voice could be heard to ask.

Ford stopped rubbing his eyes just long enough to look up and make sure he had been asked a question.

“A million times,” the patient said. “More than that. An infinite number of times. I was there before Burnley Park was a park. I was there before these buildings and these people. And I’ll be here after all of it’s gone.”

“Next,” Agent Cooper said, rolling his eyes.

The screen changed to a middle-aged man with stubble on his head and also for a beard. This was Dewey Leonard, the man who had been found with his waste smeared all over himself.

From off camera: “Have you ever been to Burnley Park before?”

No part of Leonard’s body or face moved except for his eyes, which swiveled slowly from left to right before repeating the motion.

“I don’t know,” the third patient said.

“You don’t know?”

“No.”

Agent Cooper nodded. Bradburn clicked back to the first patient so the next question could be asked and the next three answers given.

“Do you believe in time travel?” the doctor said from off-camera.

“Do you, doc?” Anthony Station said, his eyes narrowing, his attention, previously all over the place, focused entirely on Bradburn.

It was a response Bradburn was familiar with. Paranoia, thinking everyone was out to get you.

“I don’t,” Bradburn said. “Do you?”

“Have they gotten to you,” Station said. “Did they already get to you?”

This line of questioning, accusing his interviewer, went on for three minutes before Station finally settled down.

When the screen changed and Logan Ford’s face reappeared, the patient didn’t bother to stop rubbing at his eyes when he heard the question and then answered it.

“Of course I do.”

“You do?”

“Of course. I just travelled from the past to the present. There! I just did it again. And again! I’m always travelling through time, doctor.”

The screen switched again. Dewey Leonard’s face reappeared. When he heard the question, his jaw twitched—the only movement he had offered since the session began other than the roaming back and forth of his eyes.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“You don’t know?”

“No, I don’t know.”

The next three questions were all fairly innocuous. Did the patient know where they were? Did they know what year it was? Did they know who the current Ruler was? Each man answered correctly, and Bradburn knew it was the Tyranny’s way of offering mundane questions before getting back to what they really cared about.

From behind the camera, Bradburn asked each patient, “Is the world a better place today than it was a hundred years ago?”

Station said the world would never be a better place until the aliens, who were posing as humans, were caught so they would stop conducting experiments on people. Ford said the question was illogical because time didn’t exist, then told Bradburn that surely a man who was trained in medicine also knew time was an illusion. Leonard, his eyes looking at the camera briefly, then at Bradburn, then at the door, said he didn’t know.

“If you could go back in time and change any event,” Bradburn said, moving onto the next question, “what would you change?”

Station ran his fingers through his dark hair. When his nails got to the scraggliness of his beard, he seemed to forget where he was, causing Bradburn to ask the question again.

“That’s a good question, doc,” the patient said. “I don’t know. My first response would be ‘Keep the aliens away’ but they’ve been here as long as I can think of. I guess I don’t know.”

Upon being asked the same question, Logan Ford finally stopped rubbing his eyes. Without his hands obstructing them, the camera picked up just how blue and shiny they were.

“I would murder whoever created the printing press,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

The third patient’s eyes darted down to the floor when he was asked the question. Just as quickly, they rose to meet Bradburn, then looked to see if the questions on Bradburn’s paper were large enough to read himself.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know of any event you would change if you could go back in time?”

“No,” Leonard said.

Back to the first patient: “What do you think of the Tyranny?”

The first patient said the Rulers were all lizards pretending to be humans and were responsible for all the suffering on the planet. The second said he was his own Ruler and his own Tyranny. He didn’t recognize anyone else as having power over him. The third said he didn’t know.

There were three more questions, but none of them were important because Agent Cooper motioned for the videos to stop.

“Well?” Cooper said.

“Well, what?” Bradburn said.

“Now that you’ve had time to consider it, which one is the Thinker?”

“I really have no idea.”

“Come on now, doctor,” the Tyranny’s man said. “You surprise me. And not in a good way. How is the Tyranny supposed to have confidence in its institutions when our doctors can’t tell which of the three men is a Thinker?”

Bradburn opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it. There was no right way to answer a question like this, not in the Tyranny’s eyes, and so he said nothing.

Outside, another AeroCam hovered past. A moment later, another. When the doctor looked back over at Agent Cooper, the Tyranny’s man was still expecting an answer.

“It’s easy for you. The truth detector tells you when someone is lying,” Bradburn said, referring to the pads each man had put over his fingertips.

Agent Cooper leaned back in the chair and laughed. “That doesn’t do anything. It’s just for show, just to get the people we’re questioning as nervous as possible.”

“It doesn’t work?” Bradburn said, his jaw hanging open slightly.

“Of course not. The Tyranny may listen to everything you say and watch everything you do but we aren’t mind readers!” He chuckled briefly. Then, when his amusement wore off, he added, “It certainly would help if we were, though.”

“And that helped you figure out which of the three men was the Thinker?”

“Not in this case,” the agent said. “I already knew which man was pretending. The answers only confirmed my suspicion.”

7

 

“I don’t understand,” Bradburn said.

The Tyranny’s agent shrugged. “You don’t need to understand.”

“Which patient is it?”

Part of Bradburn was irritated at himself for being a trained psychiatrist and not knowing which man was pretending to be insane. The other part of him was irritated at Cooper for not telling him.

The first patient had the craziest answers. Perhaps, the doctor reasoned, Cooper thought he was over-acting. The second patient had a history of being turned over to hospitals. Maybe it was a case of the Thinker’s family trying to save him from himself. The third didn’t say anything to make Bradburn think he was crazy—hadn’t really said anything at all—and yet he had been stark raving mad when they had found him. Did Cooper view him as a suspect just because he had been found near Burnley Park, where the light had or hadn’t appeared and where a man had or hadn’t fallen out of it?

The doctor could only stare at the agent and hope this would all be over soon enough. He had the suspicion that the Tyranny was testing him to see if he would indeed report having a Thinker at his hospital. The scary thing was that he had no way of knowing, based on how all of this was going, if he was passing or failing their test—if that’s what it was.

He reminded himself that as long as he kept his head down and did what the Tyranny wanted, he would be fine. Sure, some of his staff had been dragged away and were never seen or heard from again. And yes, others had their money taken during checkpoint searches when they couldn’t prove it wasn’t going to be used for some nefarious purpose. These things had never happened to Dr. Bradburn, though, because the Tyranny only singled out people it had a reason to single out. And as long as he didn’t give them that reason, he knew he would be fine.

When Agent Cooper ignored the previous question, Bradburn said, “Help me understand.” His shoulders slumped as he spoke.

Agent Cooper took in a long breath, carefully eyeing the doctor the entire time. Seeing a man who wanted reassurance and not someone who was questioning him or his authority, he exhaled and patted the doctor on the shoulder.

“Let’s conduct an experiment,” the agent said.

“What kind of experiment?”

Cooper leaned to the side, opened his briefcase, then withdrew a black leather pouch. Unzipping it, he handed the doctor three small vials.

“What is this?” Bradburn said.

“A truth serum,” Cooper said, smiling. “Of sorts.”

It sounded more exotic than Bradburn knew it actually was. The doctor sometimes used psychoactive drugs to elicit feedback from patients. “Sodium thiopental? Amobarbital?”

Cooper winked and said, “A specialty blend, made by the Tyranny’s scientists.”

“What do we do with it?”

“Give each patient a shot. Then go through the questions with them again. You’ll see who the Thinker is.”

8

 

Each patient reacted differently to being given the shot. Anthony Station clenched both hands into fists and held onto the curls of his bushy hair.

“What’s this for, doc?” he asked, not yet giving Bradburn permission to administer the shot.

What the first patient didn’t realize but that Bradburn knew was that Cooper was observing this round of questioning from the other side of a reverse window. The agent could see Bradburn and the patients, but they would only see what looked like a mirror. What the patient also didn’t realize was that he didn’t have a choice in whether or not he received a shot. If he or either of the other two patients refused, Cooper would either order Bradburn’s staff to restrain them so it could be administered, or else he would claim a possible Thinker had become belligerent, pull out his blaster, and end it all right there.

“It’ll help you relax during the next round of questions,” Bradburn said.

“Sure, doc, whatever you say.”

While Station’s fists didn’t unclench, the man seemed resigned to his fate, as if he had been drugged and questioned many times before. If Bradburn had to guess, the patient would say similar needles had injected various drugs aboard alien spaceships right before they started probing him.

Logan Ford, the second patient, fidgeted so much after being told he would be given a shot that the doctor thought there might be violence. With some manics it was difficult to tell if they were just annoyed by something that was going on or if they meant to do harm. With the knuckles of each hand, Ford scraped at his eyes and moaned.

“Are we going to be okay, Logan?” Bradburn said in his calmest, most soothing voice.

“What do you mean?”

“Are you going to try and hurt me?”

“I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

But even as he said it, he began to scream and growl. A pair of muscular male nurses appeared on either side of Bradburn before Ford could do anything else. Bradburn glanced at the mirror, knowing Agent Cooper was probably enjoying the show. A minute after the shot was given, Ford was quiet.

With the exception of his jaw twitching one time, Dewey Leonard, the third patient, had previously only moved his eyes. When Bradburn told him he would need to give the patient an injection, Leonard gripped the arms of the chair he was sitting in.

Bradburn watched how perfectly still the patient was. “You can move, you know that, right?” he said.

“Yes.”

“You just choose to remain motionless?”

Leonard’s eyes moved toward the doctor, focusing on Bradburn’s nametag, then on his face, then to the wall-sized mirror.

“Yes.”

“You’ll be still when I give you this shot?”

“What does the shot do?”

“It helps you remain calm.”

“I’m already calm.”

Bradburn frowned. He wished he could have formed relationships with all three men prior to having to do something like this.

“It’ll help you…” he tried to think of another reason.

Leonard saw the way Bradburn glanced quickly at the mirror, then said, “What’s it really do?”

“Helps you be more forthcoming,” the doctor said.

“Do I have a choice if I get it?”

Bradburn’s first instinct was to turn back toward the mirror and the invisible Agent Cooper standing on the other side of it.

“I’m sorry, you don’t,” he said. “Rules are rules.”

Leonard’s mouth closed, and Bradburn could tell from the way the patient didn’t move anymore, not even his eyes, that he would remain perfectly still until the drugs took over.

9

 

One after another, Bradburn watched as the drugs took hold of each man. The facial muscles in Anthony Station’s cheeks became relaxed. His brow, which had been furrowed and tight, relented. Half an hour later, when it was Logan Ford’s turn, the patient who had been screaming and trying to thrash his arms, bobbed forward slightly. If he hadn’t been restrained, he might have fallen over completely. Instead of yelling, Ford gave little grunts that were barely audible. Dewey Leonard, who had been perfectly still before the injection, remained that way. His eyelids were the indicator that he was under the influence. They fluttered and closed, leaving Bradburn guessing if the man was almost asleep or trying not to cry.

The black box, the idea that it could scare someone into believing the Tyranny knew their thoughts, was no where to be found during the second interview.

Bradburn sat across from each patient. Even without the sheet of paper, he knew which questions to ask.

“Have you ever been to Burnley Park before?” he said.

Anthony Station’s eyes were downward, putting his unkempt hair on display.

“Burnley Park?”

“Yes.”

“Burnley Park?”

“Yes.”

The patient seemed more confused than anything else, his lips moving and fingers tapping in incredibly slow motion, but no words at first.

Then he said, “My parents took me there when I was a kid.”

It was a completely different answer—much more sane than being abducted by aliens—but it didn’t mean anything, and Bradburn hoped Agent Cooper realized that as well. Patients often went into and out of paranoid or delusional states that could affect their line of thinking. A different answer now could simply mean that Station had been in the middle of an episode during the first interview whereas now he wasn’t.

“How about as an adult?” Bradburn said.

“Once, doc?” the patient mumbled, but from the way he asked, Bradburn could tell he really didn’t know.

Half an hour later, during Logan Ford’s session, Bradburn re-asked the same question. Ford took a deep breath. His blond eyebrows seemed to disappear in the ill-lit room.

“Have you ever been to Burnley Park before?” Bradburn asked.

Ford’s hands were restrained by his sides. The doctor could see, however, that Ford’s impulse to rub his eyes was still taking control of some part of his mind. From where they rested, the hands made slight circular movements as if the patient didn’t realize that he wasn’t actually rubbing his eyes the way he had been during the first interview.

“More times than I can count,” Ford mumbled, his words slurred. “Almost every day for the past two decades.” After a pause he added, “I liked it more before the new coffee shop was built. Too foo-foo.”

Another thirty minutes later, he was asking the question of Dewey Leonard. After a day and a half of being in the hospital, Leonard’s stubble had gone from looking neatly trimmed and intentional to taking over too much of his face. The result made him look gaunt and sickly. His eyes no longer scanned the room. He didn’t look at anything except his hands, which were resting on the edge of the table.

“Yes,” the third patient said upon being asked the same question.

“When was the last time?”

Leonard gave a slight groan. “Two days ago.”

“What were you doing?”

“I don’t know.”

“You still don’t know?” Bradburn said, frowning.

A pause. Then, “No.”

Bradburn had followed up that question by asking each patient if they believed in time travel.

“Sure, doc,” Anthony Station said. And then, a moment later, “But I also don’t.”

When Logan Ford was asked, it took him an entire minute to answer. Bradburn thought the man might have fallen asleep.

“Of course,” Ford finally said.

“You do?”

“I think so.” And then, barely audible, almost unintelligible: “It’s all physics. They just need to figure it out.”

“Who is they?” Bradburn said, expecting the response to be ‘Thinkers.’

Ford looked up and squinted at the doctor. Even behind the stupor of drugs, a small part of the man wanted to reach out and slap Bradburn for asking such a stupid question.

Ford muttered, “Scientists, you moron.”

Later, when he asked Dewey Leonard the question, the third patient groaned again, but finally said yes.

“You do?”

“Yes,” Leonard said again.

Bradburn looked behind him at the mirrored glass to see if Cooper wanted him to continue asking about this topic. But instead of seeing an agent from the Tyranny, all he saw was himself looking as confused as ever and in over his head.

Bradburn asked each of the patients if the world was a better place today than it was a hundred years ago.

Station sighed and shook his head slightly.

“It’s always getting worse, doc.” He looked as if he were going to go to sleep, then blinked and said, “Every day, the aliens find better ways to torture us. Every single freakin’ day.”

Ford said there was no way of knowing if the world was a better place or not. Not only that, but that it was pointless to ask the question. When he mumbled the words, he sneered at Bradburn through the haze of chemicals in his brain.

Dewey Leonard, his eyes shut, paused for a while before saying the world was worse.

“Why?”

“Come on,” Leonard said, almost whining, and Bradburn couldn’t be sure if he thought the answer was obvious or if he didn’t want to have to field any more questions. Then Leonard grumbled more words and the doctor knew. “War. Suffering. It’s all too much.”

Bradburn had then asked each of them what event they would change if they could go back in time.

Station’s hair bobbed slightly when the man’s head fell forward and then, the patient waking up again, snapped back.

“That’s a good question, doc,” he answered, the same as he had said before, except it took him three times as long to pronounce the words that were whispered. “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

After being asked the same question, Logan Ford’s hands moved in wider circles, still wanting to rub his eyes, his wrists still tied to the arms of the chair he was sitting in.

“I would’ve killed the bastard who made the printing press,” he said. A minute went by with Ford’s lips moving but no sounds being offered, then the man began to sob and he said, “All the hate that has been preserved on paper. All the hate.”

Bradburn looked behind him at the mirror, hoping Cooper was there, hoping he was as unamused as Bradburn was by this spectacle.

When he asked the same question to the third patient, he got a response he never expected. Dewey Leonard groaned but remained silent. Bradburn repeated the question. Half a minute went by before Leonard whispered something that couldn’t be understood. The doctor repeated the question a third time. Leonard groaned again. His eyes fluttered the entire time.

Bradburn had seen the reaction before. The patient had enough wherewithal to know his mind was under the control of drugs but didn’t have the ability to do much about it.

“Dewey,” Bradburn said, “If you could go back in time and change one event, what would it be?”

He could see the little bit of the real Leonard that was left, the part of him that was hidden away deep behind the sway of the truth serum, fighting with all of his might to resist the question. His version of fighting, though, was merely staying quiet as long as he could, trying to keep his mind focused.

Bradburn repeated the question again.

Leonard gave a slight objection, his hands shooing the question away. A single sob shook him.

“If you could go back in time and change one event, what—”

“Do you want to know what I’d do?” the third patient mumbled. “I’d go all the way back to Adam and Eve.” Even though his words were still slurred, his voice was growing louder. “Before they ate the forbidden fruit.”

Bradburn breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the man in front of him wanted to save the entire human race.

But then Leonard said, “I’d take an axe and chop down the entire damn tree.” He was almost yelling now, even through the effects of the drugs. “I’d dare God to do the worst thing he could possibly do because no matter what he did he couldn’t do anything worse than what the Tyranny is doing.”

And then the single sob turned into crying.

The doctor slumped down in his chair. The interview was over. There was no point asking the final questions. Agent Cooper was probably already on his way into the room to arrest the man.

10

 

As Dr. Bradburn watched, Dewey Leonard was dragged away by two men from the Tyranny. He was unsure if the men had just shown up or had always been waiting, lurking in the shadows. Because of the drugs he had been given, Leonard’s legs barely worked, and it took a man under either of his armpits to pull him down the hallway.

Even though the patient’s body wasn’t cooperating, he had his wits about him enough to know he was being taken away by the Tyranny’s men. His worst nightmare was coming true: he had risked his life to go back in time and change history, and instead he had been captured by the Tyranny. Bradburn heard the man offer groans and whimpers as he was carried down the hallway.

“That man,” the doctor whispered to Cooper, “is from the future?”

“It doesn’t matter if he’s from our time or a different time. What matters is that we caught another Thinker.”

“I don’t understand,” Bradburn said, unable to stop his next question. “Why would the Thinkers go back in time to… now? Why not go back in time fifty years or a hundred years if they actually wanted to make a difference?”

Agent Cooper looked at the doctor without speaking. As he did, the agent sucked on his bottom lip to show his impatience.

Finally, he shrugged, leaned in close so no one else nearby could hear, and whispered, “If you must know, we suspect their experiment didn’t work the way they intended. They must still be figuring out how the mechanics of time travel actually work. They probably meant to send him back further into the past, but what most likely happened was that he only went back in time a few days or weeks by mistake.” And then, smiling and rolling his eyes, he added, “I guess they aren’t so smart after all.”

“How did you know he was the Thinker?”

“It was easy,” Cooper said, regaining the machismo that had been plastered all over his face for the majority of the time he had been in Bradburn’s facility. “He was at Burnley Park. He went out of his way to seem the craziest when he was initially found. Smearing feces all over himself? He had to know when the AeroCams caught up to him that he would immediately be thought of as insane rather than a threat. And his plan almost worked. But then, when you asked the first round of questions, he gave himself away. The other two men really did seem crazy. Our third patient”—he motioned down the hallway in the direction Leonard had been taken—“suddenly didn’t want to say much of anything. I already had my suspicions, but that sealed it for me.”

Bradburn heard a noise behind him. Turning, he saw two more sets of men in black suits. Two were escorting Anthony Station out of the hospital. The other pair had Logan Ford by the arms and were taking him the same direction.

“They have the wrong men,” Bradburn said, grabbing Cooper by the arm. Then, seeing disdain appear on the agent’s face, immediately let go. “You have to stop them. You already found the Thinker.”

Agent Cooper brushed at the fabric of his suit where Bradburn had touched him, then said, “We found our Thinker, but laws are laws. Or, as you like to say, rules are rules. Right, doctor?”

“I don’t understand,” Bradburn said, getting ready to tell his staff not to let the men in suits take away two of his patients. “They’re”—lowering his voice—“crazy.”

“That may be the case,” Cooper said. “But they broke the law. After all, they did disparage the Tyranny.”

“But they need psychiatric help!”

Ignoring the comment, Cooper let out a sigh and shook his head. “Which brings me to my next issue.”

Bradburn felt the agent’s hand encircle his own hand, then press against the inside of his wrist so his palm moved toward his arm, which in turn moved behind his back.

“What are you doing?” Bradburn said.

Cooper held one of Bradburn’s arms behind his back. Then pulled the other to meet it. The doctor felt cold metal around both wrists, along with a clicking as the cuffs got tighter.

“What are you doing?” he said again.

“You tried to help a Thinker,” the agent said.

“He was a patient! I thought I was helping someone who needed the hospital’s care.”

Bradburn felt himself being ushered down the same hallway as the three patients who were already gone and would never be seen again. Over and over, he called to someone from his staff to help him. Each time, they looked away.

“It’s all a big misunderstanding!”

The few people on his staff who were still watching the scene all simultaneously seemed to remember they had a job to do and moved off to do it.

“I always did what the Tyranny wanted,” Bradburn shouted.

“Until you didn’t.”

“I didn’t know,” he said. “I swear, I didn’t know.”

But even as he said it, Bradburn was approaching the double doors and the black cars of the Tyranny that would take him away.

“Sorry, doctor. You tried to help a Thinker.” And then, laughing, “Rules are rules.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Chris graduated from Western Maryland College (McDaniel College). He currently lives outside Washington D.C. His dream is to write the same kind of stories that have inspired him over the years. His others novels have become Amazon Best Sellers and been featured on the Authors on the Air radio network.

 

 

 

Want to receive updates on his future books and get some great freebies? Sign up for his newsletter at:

http://www.ChrisDietzel.com/mailing_list/

 

 

Did you love this short story? Be sure to check out Dietzel’s other stories too!

 

 

 


The Theta Patient

After receiving three new patients at the mental institution he runs, Dr. Bradburn is immediately visited by an agent of the Tyranny who insists one of the men is a radical. Only by asking each patient a series of questions will the supposed threat be identified. But the questions Dr. Bradburn is told to ask will make him rethink everything he knows about the world around him: - Do you believe in time travel? - Is the world a better place today than it was a hundred years ago? - If you could go back in time and change any event, what would you change? A Theta Timeline short story.

  • ISBN: 9781311699381
  • Author: Chris Dietzel
  • Published: 2015-12-21 15:40:11
  • Words: 11036
The Theta Patient The Theta Patient