Recording: October 8, 1995
Jarod sat in his white armchair, reading something when his door flew open and a woman was tossed right in front of him. It was so bizarre; he didn’t even know how to react and just watched his door shut close again. He put down the book and moved to assist her. “Wait.” He let go. “Miss Parker?”
“Mary please,” she insisted as she stood up. She looked around the room and then took a seat on his couch.
Jarod just gave her a funny look. “What’d you do? Make Daddy too mad he locked you up for a weekend?” he teased her. She didn’t really respond to the tease. “Hello?”
“What’s wrong with your eyes?” He moved in closer. He looked back at the door. “Sydney’s gone for three weeks. What are they doing now?” He moved back toward her. Observing her. Not speaking.
She didn’t speak.
“Okay, what are you doing here in my apartment?” Jarod asked seriously.
“I am here for three weeks,” she said. “Afterwards, I will return back to Gil.”
“Who’s Gil?” Jarod asked.
“Doctor Gil. He takes care of me.”
“Are you sick?” He touched her forehead. Her arms. Checked her reflexes. “Where’s Mister Parker?”
“You’re Daddy,” he said mockingly. “Where’s your Daddy?” His door opened again and Mister Lyle walked in along with Raines.
“No, no, no. That falls under list of words you can’t say,” Lyle said. “Real short list.”
“You say it. You pay for it,” Raines said. “You know how you pay for things, don’t you, Jarod?”
Jarod tightened up. He saw the words. “Yes, Sir.” He glanced at Mary. “Why is she here then?”
“Social experiment. We are hoping this one turns out better,” Lyle said. “Just get along for three weeks. It won’t be hard. She is the tamest dame around. Bye.”
“Social experiment?” Jarod glanced back at her again. “Well, I’ve had worse.” He moved in front of her and studied her some more. “Who did your hair? It’s different.”
“Doctor Gil,” she said.
“Who’s Doctor Gil?”
“He takes care of me.”
“Can you add more than that to your previous statement?”
“Doctor Gil is the assigned Doctor that takes care of me due to the inability to take care of myself.”
Jarod actually chuckled. “You can take care of yourself.” He looked down at her hand and intended on banging it. She would easily stop him.
But she didn’t stop him and yelled slightly as she waved her hand from the pain. “Could I trouble you not to do that, please?”
Now Jarod was really staring at her. He stared at her a good five minutes before getting up and walking around. He was inspecting her heavily. “Do you know who this Miss is of the Parker’s?”
She remained seated. “I am Mary.”
“You are the Miss of the Parker.” He kept darting around her, watching her.
“Is your Doctor out too?” she asked. “Doctor Gil is gone three weeks in Europe.”
Jarod just tapped his foot. “Open your mouth.” She took a second and then opened her mouth. “I recognize the inconsistencies in your dentals you always assume are perfect. You are Miss of the Parker family. Admit it already.”
“I can only admit to being Mary,” she said. “I have no permissions for the rest.”
“My conclusions are final,” he said. “Do you deny them?”
“I can’t deny or accept,” she said. “Without authority present.”
“Go ahead and tell him,” Lyle shouted from outside the door.
“I am Miss Mary Parker,” she said.
“What is this simulation?” Jarod stood up. He went back to the window of his apartment door. “Hey? You know, I do better when I know what’s going on.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Lyle opened up the door to see him face to face. “She needs a place to chill for three weeks while Doctor Gil is out.”
“Parker isn’t taken care of by any Doctor Gil,” Jarod said clearly. “What is going on?”
“Split personality, if you want to call it that,” Lyle said. “Or, uh, forced split personality? I don’t know which term you’d use. Anyhow, she’s Mary. Now be a good boy and accept a roommate for three weeks.”
Jarod looked between Lyle and Mary. “She doesn’t have any place else to go? I have work to do, I can’t babysit her.”
“Sure I get it. You’re a busy man,” Lyle said coming in. He had a sinister look on his face and approached Mary. He bent down. “Jarod likes his space. He’s a busy guy, no time for you. So? We’re going to go have you hang out with Alex again.”
The calm demeanor on her suddenly got taken over with fright. “No, please! Not Alex! There was a contract! Signed, Gil!” She grabbed his hand. “Not Alex, not Alex, not Alex! Eddie!”
“Now, now. Straighten?” He pulled her arm back. “Up!”
Jarod was stopped by several sweepers that invaded the room as Lyle hit her and punched her in the gut. He yelled while all she did was call for ‘Gil’ over and over.
“Now be a good girl and get up.” Lyle dragged her to her feet. “Go over to Jarod’s feet and beg him to let you stay. Maybe he’ll change his mind.”
“She can stay!” Jarod yelled. “She can stay as long as she needs to.”
The sweepers left the room, with Lyle standing.
“Three weeks. She’ll be fine,” Lyle said like he didn’t just beat someone up in front of him. “Like I said? Mary is tame. Just, don’t awaken the Miss.”
Jarod went to the ground and helped her back up. “Are you okay, Mary? Here, up.” He helped to carry her back to his couch.
She touched her nose and wiped some blood away. “Sorry, Jarod. I won’t be a bother, I promise.”
“Be a bother. You’ll be okay. I? I have to finish a sim up.” He stood up but looked back at her again.
He ran his sim through the evening until it was light’s out. He went to his bed but looked back at her. He went over toward her again. “You want the bed?”
“The couch is fine, Jarod,” she said.
His eyes lingered on her longer again. Then, he quickly acted like he was going to hit her, but this time, didn’t, stopping at precisely the right moment. She flinched and curled, she didn’t block like Miss Parker would. “Sorry, I just needed to see something. You have no fighting skills.”
“No,” she admitted. “I’ll take the couch.”
“I don’t even have an extra pillow,” he apologized. “I have an extra blanket.”
“Thank you, I appreciate this.” She took the blanket.
“Your welcome.” Still. “Do you know what any of this is about? Why you’re in here three weeks?”
“Interaction,” she said. “The Centre wants to see how I interact with different pretenders in their controlled setting over a period of time.”
“Alex reacted bad?” Jarod asked. “Your whole body convulses when I say his name. Why?”
“May I please just get some rest upon your couch?” she asked.
“Yeah. Rest.” He stood back up. “Miss Mary Parker.”
Outside Hollywood, California
Jarod lowered his shades briefly to look across the street before crossing a lonely road. He marched across it and saw Sydney. He had something he wanted to give him, but not over the computer. A part of him didn’t want to come. He was still getting over the betrayal of Parker, but Sydney knew that. So, it was probably pertaining to someone else. At least he hoped so because he was getting closer to writing out The Centre forever. As Jarod came closer though, he noticed Sydney didn’t look quite like himself. He was staring out toward the sunset, waiting for Jarod, but not watching for him. Almost dazed. Like he was about to tell him someone died.
Oh no. No, no, no. His heart started to race. He hardly had his family, and he could hardly hold onto being able to see them. Had he found out one of them died? Please. His dad? No. Emily? I just met her, no! Ethan. A baby brother I barely managed to save from Raines! No, no. Mom? I never even met her. As he got closer, his heart was turning circles. What placed such a look on Sydney’s face? It was going to be bad news. “Sydney?”
Oof, he reaked of whiskey. Sydney didn’t partake in it that often. “How are you?” Gentle. He couldn’t let his imagination get away from him. He would tell him in due time.
“Not, um. Not very good I’m afraid. I have some disturbing news to share with you,” Sydney admitted. “You won’t like it.”
“Just.” Jarod closed his eyes briefly. “Just tell me? Is someone . . . is someone that I care about dead?”
“No,” Sydney said.
Relief one, but there was more. “Is someone dying that I love?”
“No,” Sydney answered again.
Thank goodness. His heart started to slow down, and his nerves started to get better. Someone close to Sydney must be hurt or gone, but it didn’t pertain to him. Still, it wasn’t like Sydney to do this. He knew Jarod had his own Pretends going, not something he could just stop, up and leave at anytime for. “Then what is it?”
“Miss Parker.” Sydney pulled out a DSA.
Jarod slumped. Really? He just put him through all that anguish, just made him catch a plane and fly all the way down there for her of all people? For what, A DSA? He could have mailed it to him, later, if he thought it was that important. He wasn’t in the mood to play family secrets with Parker right now. He wasn’t in the mood for anything right now. Sydney didn’t say anything, just holding out the DSA. “No.” Sydney didn’t change his stance. “No.”
“The missing three weeks of your life in October 1995. You only knew one day.” He held out the DSA again. “Here is another.”
Okay, he was interested in that. He snagged it.
“Broots won’t tell or give me anything else, until I promised to get that to you,” Sydney said. “I’ve seen enough to know that whatever happened, this isn’t good.”
Back door knocking. Jarod didn’t want to play twenty questions between Broots and Sydney, he wanted answers right away after seeing the DSA. When Broots answered, Jarod came straight in. “Sydney said you know more,” Jarod insisted. “What else do you know?” He held up the DSA. “Do you have more days?”
“Well. Yes. I didn’t want to risk you being too mad and trashing them. Plus, Gil wants them back.” He was noticeably nervous. Jarod had met him personally before, twice. Once as a mole, and once that he had to deal with him in the middle of a pretend. Either way? He was super nervous for meeting him again. What are you hiding?
“Doctor Gil had more,” Broots answered. “His office is behind. Uh. Mary. So you saw it?”
“Yeah,” he answered as Broots fetched the three DSA’s for him.
“These are what Gil could find. So? W-what’d ya think?” Broots asked.
“She’s got split personality.” Jarod said as he took the DSA’s. “Some kind of forced split. She can leave The Centre as Miss Parker, but she’s tethered as Mary. What happened with Alex?”
“Oh. I don’t know.” That one was honest. “Nothing good. He must have hurt her.”
Really? Could he feel nothing from that look on her? The yells? The begging?
“He must have really hurt her,” Broots said, indicating he wasn’t taking it lightly.
“So he took you to his office,” Jarod asked. “What else? Did you see her?”
“Yeah. She had a haircut. You knew that. Just, she looked fine. Except, um.”
Yeah, there was that nervousness again. He was hiding something. “What?”
“Well, it could be a Centre trick,” he babbled. “I don’t want you to get mad at me. Sydney regretted involving you too early. So, um? Maybe you should just try and get in there yourself. Then. Uh. You’ll find out yourself? Gil doesn’t really understand what he’s got in there. Honestly, Sydney could probably get you in,” Broots admitted. “He comes at night and he’s there ‘til 9:00. Be careful. Oh, and he has a disorder. Not good with many people.”
“Makes him the perfect person to spend all day with one person,” Jarod said. “Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle. Thanks.”
There was something else again.
“Just. No. You should see for yourself.”
Jarod’s Current Apartment
Jarod pushed away his glass of chocolate milk he just finished as he started his DSA player. He grabbed his new three DSA’s. Every little bit he could know about that missing time was worth it. He placed them in his DSA player.
Recording 2: October 9, 1995
“I never eat breakfast with anyone,” Jarod said, looking toward Mary that morning. “This is nice.”
“Certain company is nice,” she admitted. “This does feel strange. Your environment is different than mine.”
“How so?” He asked as he started to drink his tomato juice. “Is it as white?”
“Yes, but, you have more room. It’s spacious,” she noted. “Feels . . . big.”
“Big. Interesting word from you. So, Mary?” He sat his drink down. “Do you hear Miss of the Parker?”
“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “Especially to someone of your calibre.”
“Did you just pay me a compliment?” He smiled. “Not used to that from you at all. Thanks.”
“It’s not really a compliment, It’s just a well worn fact.” She smiled. Radiant smile. “I have restrictions on my memories and my emotions. The Centre makes sure I can’t pull certain things from my head,” she said, “unless I feel an emotion.”
“Do you know why they would purposefully do that?” Jarod asked.
“I’m a lesser. I have nothing to provide for The Centre. They felt I should contribute.” She looked at her tomato juice.
“A lesser? I don’t know what a lesser is,” Jarod admitted. “I’ve never heard of that.”
“I don’t have the skills of a pretender, or the intelligence at all. I have the mind of a normal person, but I can’t be broadcasted to too much stimulation. I still live the same way. The Centre still feeds, shelters, and provides care for me.” She sipped on her tomato juice again. “Therefore, they found a purpose for me. Gil doesn’t like it though, he can usually stop them.”
“Well, what is the purpose?” Jarod asked curiously.
“You are very curious,” she noticed. “That never runs well at The Centre, Jarod.”
“Yeah, I know,” he admitted. Still, he asked again. “What is the purpose?”
“I . . . Mary . . . I’m obedient. I follow directions. I am a calm, secure individual.”
Jarod swirled his hand in the air. “Just keep going. The more you talk, the more I pull things together.”
She nodded. “All of my outburst and rage and unseemingly bad qualities I would normally develop are pulled away.” She scooted away her tomato juice. “When I become the Miss of the Parker, I am everything that was pushed away. Gil said, they are trying to create a perfect person. One that can be obedient and calm, and the other that can be a die hard enraged soldier at will for The Centre. Depending on the action they-.”
“Stop, I got it.” Jarod bit his lip. “You weren’t born that way, they are creating you to be that way. I wish I could look at your brain.” Then, his eyes went wide. “Sorry, that didn’t sound as polite as I figured in my head. My social skills are limited,” he admitted.
“I think you are very good,” she said. “I imagine it would be an interesting thing to see.”
“Does Gil like you talking like this? About yourself as two people?” She shook her head. “I didn’t think so. I think it can be reversed. A middle ground inside of you could bond back together. You’re only separated by emotion and The Centre’s tactics on memories.”
“I don’t know. I am good. She is evil,” Mary said. “Even you treated me that way when I first came.”
“I was wrong to do that. I didn’t understand it.” Jarod pushed his tomato juice and wheatgrass away. “Gil is right, you should never think that way. The Miss isn’t evil, she is your freedom. When something happens to you that doesn’t fit what The Centre wants, they put you under a mind wipe, but another part of you remembers. That’s Miss Parker. Nothing ever fully disappears.”
“Everything hidden inside of me, is Miss Parker?” Mary asked. “She isn’t just rage?”
“No, she’s you, with full knowledge of everything that happens to you.” Jarod stared at the table. “At least subconsciously. I don’t blame her now. I think I would be mad too if The Centre kept trying to perfect my memories.”
“She doesn’t remember though, Gil said that,” Mary said. “He’s asked her. Tried to ask her several times about what she remembers. She’s just hot blooded rage with hardly any memories. She remembers her childhood. She remembers college, which is quite impossible. She could never leave The Centre.”
“What did Gil say to that?” Jarod asked. “College? I know you went.”
“Gil experienced some problems himself and he lost contact with me during the college time,” Mary said. “We are both clueless as to what happened. Do you really think she left The Centre?”
“Do I really think you left The Centre.” Jarod gestured toward her. “Try and follow Gil’s teachings, not those that have you right now.”
She nodded. “Jarod. I don’t remember Alex. I remember ten minutes,” she confessed. “Meaning either the Miss came out or they erased my mind again. So. Don’t ask about that, okay? Only Gil remembers.”
“I understand,” Jarod said. “The Centre can do all they want, they can’t hide it from this side of you either. I don’t need to ask about him.” He touched her hand on the table. “But if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here.”
“All I remember was feeling like a rag doll. Gil knows.” She noticed his odd look.
“Miss Parker. Angel. Little Miss Parker. Miss P. See? Nothing. That list of words is nothing, that man was just trying to convince me too.” He held her hand affectionately. “Just stay strong, and listen to your Gil, just like I listen to my Sydney. They see things and know things that we aren’t allowed to know or see. I agree with your Gil about what they are doing. I don’t agree, that they can ever make it happen.”
“You don’t think so?” Mary asked. “They seem to have.”
“No because the self with all those hard emotions is no different than you now. You can feel. You can be tender. I’ve seen it. I know it. You can never be a soulless soldier, as hard as they try. Just believe in yourself. Always.”
“True. She could be.” He had seen that break within her, and almost fully cracked her on the island to leave for good. “Everything she wasn’t. Like trusting The Centre.” Their biggest hold on Miss Parker was that she would never leave The Centre. Ever. He looked at the next DSA.
Recording 3: October 14, 1995
“Rise and shine weird little lovebirds,” Lyle said as he came in with breakfast. He looked over to Jarod and Mary sharing the same bed. Mary got up first along with Jarod. “Really? Sleeping together in a bed with the clothes on? Come on, she isn’t going to be here forever. Make some effort.”
Mary ignored him as she sat down to eat.
Jarod should have ignored him, but he didn’t. “We are locked away from society and rarely touched. She had a hard day yesterday, remembering things.”
“Ooh, don’t play doctor,” Lyle warned him. “Mary is a good girl, you start playing fuse together, you’re in for some trouble.”
“You shouldn’t have left them together and you know it,” Jarod almost growled at him.
“Interactive simulations. We get all kinds of results from you little social awkward monkeys. Like? Alex was braver than you. And you? Turned her into a teddy bear, how sweet. Wonder what Eddie will do later? Anyhow. Breakfast.”
“You should have stepped in! She’s Mister Parker’s daughter, how could you just leave her?!”
“Whoah, we don’t interfere in simulations. Anyhow, she’s more of The Centre’s right now in general than just to one man.” Lyle moved away, adjusting his tie. “Just enjoy your breakfast.” He left.
Jarod sat down for breakfast but he was still angry. He held Mary’s hand over the table, a lot more firm than in the last recording. “I am going to let Sydney know.”
Mary nodded but looked at her breakfast. “I . . . don’t . . .”
“Come on,” Jarod urged her. “Come on, Miss Mary Parker.”
“I don’t like him, or Raines. I don’t like being handled.” she said. “I don’t want to be here.”
“Right.” Jarod smiled at her and patted her hand. “Progress. One day, I’ll get out and I’ll get you too.”
“What if I’m already out? What if the Miss does get to leave? Without me.”
“Then, I’ll help you find yourself when I’m free. I won’t leave any part of you here.”
“It’s a pretty dream,” she said. “It’s a pretty dream.” She touched her wheatgrass lightly. “I’ve tasted better. I know I have. I just wish I could recall.”
“Yeah,” Jarod said. “You have, I know you have. One day, you’ll get yourself together again.” He finally let her hand go. “Thank you for coming to my bed. It made me feel better. To know you had trust in me.”
“You’re like no other person, Jarod,” she admitted. “I could never do it for anyone else.” She smiled. Radiant again. “Thank you. You’re a real friend.”
“So are you,” he said bringing his breakfast back over. “Miss Mary Parker.”
Jarod watched it carefully. He was already close friends with Mary in a week. “It couldn’t have been easy to let her go.” He looked at the date on the last segment he had. “The day I died.” He twisted the DSA in his hand. He was messing around with Miss Parker’s mind with information he shouldn’t have. “At least I know why she’s in my nightmares now.” Maybe that’s why he was sent in for a death simulation that plagued his nightmares for so many years?
Recording 4: October 31, 1995
Lyle went in to see him again, but Jarod was guarding his bed. “Whoah, big fella. I need the pretty girl behind you now.”
“Forty a day,” Jarod insisted. “I’ll do up to my limit, every day, just don’t take her.”
“Bargaining? I didn’t see that result coming, interesting.” Lyle approached closer. “Move, Pretender.”
“200 a month then, just leave her alone!” Jarod wasn’t giving up. “You can’t have her. I’d rather die than let you have her back.”
“Now that is some irony.” Lyle snapped his fingers and sweepers with a cleaner came in. “Come on, say goodbye. We have to get her back to Gil today. He arrived back early and he’s not real happy she wasn’t in her room.”
“Just, promise then. Promise me you won’t put her with another one of us,” Jarod said. “No one but me. I trust none of them.”
“Ooh, do you hear yourself? The other brainiacs, they aren’t good enough to spend time with her?”
“Right!” Jarod agreed with him loudly.
“Lyle.” Raines came into the room. “Just collect her.”
Lyle took a step forward. “This can be hard or easy.”
Then, Doctor Gil came in. “Oh, Mary. I’m so sorry. We need to go back to your room. You can’t stay with a pretender.”
“Jarod.” Mary moved from the bed. “I have to go back with Gil. He is my Sydney. If I lose him?” She hugged him tenderly. He tightened the grip and the embrace before kissing her.
Jarod barely managed to let her go as she tried to quietly go. He still tried to stop her from leaving anyhow, but was quickly grabbed by The Centre team.
“Jarod!” Mary yelled, but she was grabbed by Lyle.
"No, no, don't!" Gil went over to Mary. "Let go, I can take care of her!"
Lyle let go while the Doctor took over.
“Obedient and calm, obedient and calm or you know what will happen,” Doctor Gil tried to warn her. “Obedient and calm. He will be okay if you come with me.” Mary sank her head into Gil’s arms as he took her out of sight.
“Mary!” Jarod yelled.
“Now come with me, Lover Boy,” Lyle said gesturing with his finger. “We’ve got one more thing to do before all this goes away forever. If it makes you feel better? At the end of this next simulation, bad or good, this won’t be an issue anymore.”
Jarod just stared at the video. He ran it through again and again. So many days missing between. So many moments he didn’t know, but one thing was clear. He was close enough to offer anything to spend his life with her. “This is why.” It was why he kept having feelings for Parker no matter how much she tried to chase him and take him away. No matter what she did or tried or said. It was why on the island they connected so quickly once it was just them. Just like in his nightmares, it was still in there somewhere. In his mind. “I have to see for myself.”
He had to trust Broots instinct. He had to get in that room.