By: C.Seamus Hermoso
(first published 2004, all rights reserved)
I found myself struggling to move into a sitting position, and my jaw drops as I realize I am wrapped in a straightjacket. Amazing to think how I have gone from seeing straightjackets on TV, directly to wearing one. Although in due time, I learned that there were endless surprises for me to encounter in this windowless, barren area.
“I really, really have to leave. I’ll give you my part tomorrow.” James declared, closing his bound notebook, revealing a logo with a face on the cover.
Carlos glared at the notebook’s cover. “Eww. Whose’ face is that? How could you carry that around?”
Lifting his bag off the floor and stuffing his notebook in it, James grunted. “It’s my Elus-Cohens binder. We believe that the face is a symbol of identity. Something we value in this oppressive, materialistic world. Your own choice, your own rules.”
“Okay, I know you don’t like the Church, but don’t get all preach-y on me. Come on dude. We have to do more research. Why do you have to leave so soon anyway?” Carlos asked as he turned to James, who was on the table with him. “You have a date or something?”
“Or something. My rank in the Elus-Cohens will be promoted tonight. I’m going to be a Magus,” James proudly announced. He stood up right after he gathered his things and nodded.
Carlos raised an eyebrow. “What’s with that anyway? It’s not like you will get known worldwide for that.”
It was a remark that made James stop dead on his tracks. “Huh. That’s what you think. With that, I can have access to the ancient archives, conduct meetings and select my disciples, and personally have an appointment with the Grand Master.”
“Okay. Stop now. It’s something I’d rather not know.” Carlos muttered, raising a hand to his face. “You go now be with your cult people, my lord.”
James smiled. “First and foremost, we aren’t just a cult. Secondly, you better not let anyone from Elus-Cohens hear you, Carlos my boy. They could make you cease to exist anytime they want to.” With that, he waved and started walking away.
Is that it? Have I ceased to exist? I made a face, which seemed pointless since no one was there with me. I only see two people everyday, the one who brings me my meals, and the one looking more on the doctor side, checking up on me every so often. Although, everyday is too harsh a word since my time and date orientations are completely confused.
They were always both in white; and we hardly say anything to each other. The first time the doctor-ish person talked to me, I kept on nagging him on the specifics of my situation and I all I got was a, “By next week you will be allowed to join the others for an hour a day.” Ever since, being the arrogant person that I am, I didn’t say much anymore.
Years seemed to have passed when a new person entered my room. He had a huge built and looked every bit a Colombian drug lord. I was about to hide under the bed as he was leaning over to me, until I realized he was trying to take off my straightjacket.
“I don’t need that straightjacket you know. I am perfectly fine.” I stretched my arms until they hurt, and that felt very rejuvenating.
Drug lord man here held me by the arm and assisted me out of the door like I couldn’t do it myself. “I’ll bring you back here when your time is up. You have an hour.”
Like I didn’t know that.
The room he brought me in was very much bigger than mine; and there were people, all men, about twenty of them. Oh yes, how I have missed people.
I immediately picked someone I could talk to the minute he left me. However, as I was making my way to him, a man with curly hair reached me first. “You’re the latest one here right? What did you do?”
Shaking my head no, I went on with my way to this more credible looking fellow, whom for some reason could perhaps enlighten me.
“Don’t bother!” the curly-haired man insisted. “He doesn’t speak. Not after he was tortured. He was the editor of the Daily Times, that’s why he might seem familiar to you.”
I turned to face him. “What did he do?”
“No one knows what people went through around here. You, what did you do?”
“I have no idea. I just woke up here.” It was such a pity this was the only answer I have come up with, having been asking myself the question since I got here.
He snorted, “We all woke up here. No one even knows where here is. I was a homeless man. I chanced upon this warehouse one night, where a lot of people were gathered, chanting incantations. Next thing I know… here. So I —”
My ears turned deaf when I saw a woman from the corner of my eye. As I turned to look, I was highly shocked to see it was not just any other woman. She was my long-time crush, Leann Fugazi, our history professor. “Ma’am Fugazi! Ma’am Fugazi!” I called out.
She turned to face me, only to continue walking and not give me any light of day whatsoever. While she walked down the hallway, I ran after her, or tried to until two big wardens held me back as I got dangerously close. How strange it was to see a familiar face amidst all these, and how awful it was to be ignored by her.
The two guards pinned me down on this couch and they both sat, sandwiching me in between them. That was how I spent the rest of my free hour.
“Ma’am Fugazi!” Carlos dashed out of the classroom the minute Leann Fugazi walked out and tried to catch up with her. “Maybe you need help with your things.”
Leann raised the only book, a thick one, she was holding in her right hand. “This? You want to carry this? I think I can carry it myself. Thank you.”
Carlos turned a few shades redder and just smiled as Leann walked away. He was about to turn around when he saw someone approach Leann near the door of the faculty lounge. The two quickly scurried over to a corner and seemed to converse intimately. As he began to make out the features of the man Leann was with, Carlos’ eyes widened.
“So James, you making moves on my Fugazi?” Carlos accused James gleefully as they bumped into each other later that day.
James’s face wrinkled up. “Huh? You saw that? It’s not what you think.”
Carlos looked at James straight in the eye. “You know I like her, don’t you?”
“I told you. It wasn’t like that. You wouldn’t know,” James started to go on his way and stopped. “Before I forget, we got an A on our Anthro paper.”
“Just because you’re a Magnum, or a Magoose, or well, whatever you are in that cult of yours doesn’t mean you could just change the topic.” Carlos shot back, with a smile.
James’s face fell. It seemed as if he just froze. “Don’t you mention that. Please, Carlos. Please forget about that.”
With that, James hurried away into the throng of students and all Carlos could do was look on, puzzled.
(To be continued…)