Ezekiel tugged at the chain around his neck, his finger hooked through the gold ring at his throat. His mind raced despite his attempts to keep it quiet. “C’mon ‘Zekiel,” he mumbled, his brows knit together in frustration. “Get your shit together.”
Ezekiel was still mumbling to himself when he heard a light knock on his door. He looked up to see a young woman, not much younger than him, leaning into the room. A wisp of curly brown hair floated into her eyes. She pushed it behind her ear as she spoke. “Ezekiel Dixon? I’m student psychiatrist Hadley Willis; can I come in?” She spoke softly, Ezekiel had to strain his ears to hear her, but she didn’t sound scared or shy. There was a confident lilt to the tone of her voice, like she knew exactly where she was supposed to be. With a reluctant nod, Ezekiel gestured for her to enter, pressing his lips together into a thin white line.
“Hi, Ezekiel,” she continued as she walked to the foot of his bed. “Like I said, I’m a student psychiatrist here at the hospital; you can call me Hadley. I’m here for your consultation for the Archiving procedure. Now, I know you probably already know what Archiving is and how it works, but, for legal reason, I have to explain all that stuff.” A smile shone on Hadley’s face as she began to explain the procedure. “Archiving is a completely voluntary procedure that surgically manipulates the memories associated with trauma and the conditions that often come hand in hand with these traumas and memories, like PTSD. Archiving is meant to treat self destructive behaviors that people affected by traumatic memories often use to cope with said memories.” Hadley paused for a moment. Ezekiel looped his index finger through the ring at his throat absentmindedly, waiting for her to continue. “Before we begin our consultation, as well as after, I need verbal confirmation that you understand what the Archiving procedure is and that you have come to the decision to request this procedure at your own discretion.”
Ezekiel cleared his throat and nodded, ignoring the flicker of doubt that darted through his mind. “ Yes, I’ll do it.” The syllables grated together; Ezekiel’s voice was raspy from lack of use. “I want the procedure.”
“And you understand that the Archiving of traumatic memories comes with certain risks? Archived memories could return to the conscious part of the brain, resulting in a sudden return of current symptoms and behaviors, though it is extremely rare for this to happen. There is also a chance that, despite being approved by medical professionals for Archiving that the procedure may not work.”
“Yeah, risks. I still want it.” Ezekiel paused, curiosity getting the best of him. “What do you mean, the Archive ‘may not work?’”
Hadley’s smile faltered. To just about anyone, it would have been imperceptible, but Ezekiel’s gaze was drawn straight to it. However, she recovered quickly, rearranging her expression in the blink of an eye. “You don’t need to worry about that. The chances of that happening are next to nothing. All you need to focus on is your recovery.”
Ezekiel raised an eyebrow skeptically. Some of his doubt in the procedure began to rise to the surface of his thoughts. He could feel them splintering like shards of glass through what he had thought was conviction towards the procedure.
Hadley, on the other hand, seemed to have moved on. She was now pulling a rolling stool up to his bedside. One of the wheels squealed loudly, making Ezekiel wince. Hadley sat down on the stool and crossed her legs, a clipboard and pen in her lap rather than the typical laptop. “I prefer to handwrite my notes,” Hadley said suddenly. She must have noticed Ezekiel eyeing the unusual note taking apparatuses. “It helps me remember what I wrote.” She met his gaze with a knowing smile. “I also think it’s more personal than just typing things into a database and immediately forgetting about them.”
Ezekiel allowed a small grin to cross his face. Becca would say something like that.
Hadley’s head listed to the side, the golden flecks in her hazel eyes glistening. “Who’s Becca?”
Dammit. He hadn’t realized he’d said that out loud. “No one,” he stated gruffly. “She’s no one.”
Hadley let out a soft sigh quickly jotted something down in her notes. “Ezekiel, you can talk about anything and everything here. Unless something you say can be interpreted as a threat towards yourself or others, every word you say stays confidential. But in order for us to help, you need to give us something to work with. Whoever Becca is, I’m certain that we can guide you through what happened with her.”
Ezekiel’s top teeth bit so hard into the soft flesh of his bottom lip that it split, droplets of red dripping onto his shirt. He didn’t feel it. “Rebecca. You don’t get to call her Becca.”
Hadley’s placid expression didn’t waver. “What happened with Rebecca?” The volume of her voice still held the same soft tones, but Ezekiel couldn’t hear anything over the pounding of his pulse, like drums in his ears. His breathing quickened; his chest began to rise and fall sporadically. The room began spinning like a top around him. Ezekiel shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut. He could practically hear Becca’s voice, feel the leather steering wheel beneath his palms.
“Becca, you need to stop sneaking out like this! You’re going to get yourself killed!” Ezekiel glanced at the girl in the passenger seat. His sister. She had snuck out to a party with her friends and called Ezekiel because she was tipsy and wanted to go home.
“Zekey, it’s fine! Mom and Dad aren’t going to find out; that’s why I called you, silly,” Becca giggled and poked her brother’s arm.
“Quit it; I’m driving.”
“I wouldn’t be in such a shitty mood if you would’ve just stayed home for once!”
“Well, I’m sorry I have friends who actually want to hang out with me!”
Ezekiel recoiled slightly at that last comment. He knew Becca was kind of drunk, she didn’t know what she was saying to begin with, but the insult still stung. “Just shut up. We’re almost home,” he mumbled.
Becca ignored him. “I’m serious! You’re a loner, Zeke. You have no friends. No one talks to you. No one but me. Don’t you think it’s kind of sad that the person you talk to the most is your little sister?”
“Becca, you don’t know what you’re saying.” Ezekiel tightened his grip on the steering wheel, his knuckles blanched. Becca always spit out things she didn’t mean when she drank to much, and this was no exception. "You're drunk. Just lean back and let me drive.”
“You’re ridiculous. Ri-dic-u-lous!” She enunciated each syllable with a surprising amount of clarity. “I’m just telling you what everyone else is already thinking.”
Ezekiel snapped. “ENOUGH! Becca, I am so sick of your shit! If anyone’s being ridiculous, it’s you. You’re sneaking out to parties drinking and God only knows what else!” He turned sharply to look at Becca, who had tears streaming down her face. His expression, which had been contorted with anger, softened. “Becca I-”
The deafening bellow of a semi truck's horn filled the air. The colossal vehicle barreled towards Ezekiel’s Honda, which felt like a mere ant in comparison. He leaned on the horn and jerked the steering wheel to the right, trying to force the car into the correct lane. But he wasn’t fast enough. Ezekiel rammed on the brakes, bracing for impact. He jumped over the center console and threw himself over his sister. Then, all he could hear was the sound of metal scraping against metal. All he could feel was the shower of glass as the windshield broke and rained down in razor-sharp shards. All he could smell was the burnt rubber as the tires skidded against the pavement. All he could see was the eyes of his sister, his Becca, as wide as dinner plates rimmed in crystalline tears.
The crash that killed Rebecca Marie Dixon took place in a matter of seconds.
“Ezekiel?” A voice cut through Ezekiel’s agitated state. “Ezekiel, what’s happening? What do you see?” The voice was calm, but authoritative. Hadley. Ezekiel was in the hospital, but not because of the crash. Not for the reason he thought.
Ezekiel forced himself to take a breath, hyper aware of how it felt for the oxygen to enter his lungs. To exit a moment later. He looked at Hadley. She was standing again, her hand on his shoulder. Normally, he would have shrugged it off, but something about it was comforting. He left it there. “Becca,” he started, talking around the lump in his throat. “She is -was- my sister.”
Hadley dipped her head encouragingly. “Can you tell me about her?”
A chuckle escaped Ezekiel’s lips in spite of himself. “Becca… Becca was always getting in trouble. She talked too much and said the wrong things at the wrong times, skipped class and snuck out…” Ezekiel trailed off, clearing his throat. Tears brimmed at the surface, threatening to spill over, but he didn’t bother to wipe them away. Instead, he hooked his finger through the gold ring around his neck. “But she was kind. She lifted so many people up when they thought they had hit rock bottom. Becca thought everyone deserved a chance at life. But I took that from her…” Ezekiel’s words dissolved into tears, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs.
Hadley was quiet. The only noise in the room was Ezekiel’s ragged breaths. She waited for him to continue.
“It was dark, raining. We were fighting; it was stupid. I didn’t see the semi.” Ezekiel’s words began to run together. “Becca, Bec, I’m so sorry. Dammit, I’m sorry!”
Hadley’s gaze passed over Ezekiel’s forlorn features: his tear stained cheeks, shoulders hunched over as if the sheer weight of his sorrows were pulling them down. “We’re here to help you through this,” she interjected softly, her eyes shining. “I’m here to help you through this. We can Archive those bad memories, so you can heal.”
Ezekiel could hardly hear her over the sound of his sadness. So, he simply nodded. “Okay,” he murmured, wiping the tears from his face. “Okay.”