Andrea At The Center
Andrea At The Center
She struggled out of a blackness deeper than any night. The last thing she remembered were the two men by the van next to the jogging path.
"Excuse me," called the tall man. He and his companion were looking at a paper map. She was surprised anyone still used them.
The man had awkwardly spread the map out against the van, trying to hold it open with one elbow and point at the same time. "Maybe you could get that corner for me."
She reached up.
An arm reached under her own upraised arm. Both her arms were grasped at the wrist. A cloth with a thick, sweet aroma covered her mouth and nose. She tried to scream. She tried to kick. She tried to keep her eyes open. She tried to stay awake. There was nothing.
" You're awake," came a woman's voice.
" Please don't hurt me. I won't look at you. I'll keep my eyes closed. Whatever ransom--my my father..."
"No one's going to hurt you," a man said.
She opened her eyes. "Where am I?"
"You're going to stay here with us for a while," the man said. "You're in a special community."
"What special community?"
The woman spoke. "You're going to be here for a few months and then you'll be returned to where you come from."
" What kind of special community? A cult? A religious thing?"
"No, not a cult," the man said. "Not religious."
"Who are you?" She sat up. She noticed she was wearing unfamiliar clothing. The man and the woman wore garments resembling jumpsuits like hers.
"This is Margaret. She's a doctor. I'm Carl. I'm the director of the Center."
"Don't you have last names?"
"We don't use last names here. What shall we call you?"
She was silent.
"Oh, come now. Certainly you can invent a first name."
"Please. You kidnapped me! You know exactly who I am! Why are you toying with me like this?"
"We don't know your name," the woman said. "When they delivered you to us you were without identification. You're completely anonymous here."
"You'll never get away with this. People'll miss me. They'll track me down."
Carl spoke. "The men who took you prepared a thorough cover story to explain your absence. A secret mission for the UN, or the government, or a sudden desire to visit Tibet. With letters in your handwriting, with your signature and your fingerprints. No one will look for you."
"Are you going to kill me? I don't want to die. I'll do whatever you say."
"Why do you think we're going to kill you?" he asked.
"I know what you look like. I could identify you."
"But when you return to the world," the woman said, "you're not going to say anything about us. You'll realize there's no point."
"Suppose I believe you. Now what?"
"Tell us your name," she said. "Or pick a name you'd like to use."
"Andrea. That's my real name. Why I am here?"
"Here you're free of your past," she said. "You're free to become what you are."
"Let me make something clear. I'll go along. But if I can, I'll try to escape."
"Let me make something clear, Andrea," the man said. "If you try to escape, you'll fail. And you'll be disciplined."
The woman spoke. "We know, Andrea. Believe me; it's not going to be like what you're imagining now. A lot of people have been bro