As Good As New
Margaret Elizabeth Clark and her young son Sam were hopelessly late in their trip to her mother's home deep in the country. Thanks to a long-standing family feud that had began when Margaret had announced her engagement to Steven, they had moved several hours away. Now, with her 30th birthday approaching and Sam's first year of school started, she had decided to try and salvage some of the relationship for the sake of her son. Steven, on the other hand, was steadfastly against any reunion. He felt if he wasn't good enough for the family 10 years ago he wasn't good enough now. Margaret, strong willed and independant, decided to ignore Steven and do what she felt was best.
Now, with only a few more miles to go, Sam's excitement to finally get to see his grandmother was growing and he couldn't stop asking questions about her. Margaret was tired from the long journey and had picked up the pace despite a pouring night rain. A flat tire and a missed exit had combined to put them woefully behind schedule. The two-lane road twisted and turned through the countryside with only cattle and corn as inhabitants. She did her best to answer his questions as she leaned closer to the windshield for a better view of the darkened road.
As Margaret topped a hill a strange lighted object seemed to be floating only slightly above the road. She slammed on the brakes and the car immediately veered out of control! The object in the road suddenly glowed brightly and quickly rose higher leaving room for the car to pass but it was too late. The car was already skidding uncontrollably on the rain slickened road. At the last minute, with no chance of avoiding a large tree, she let go of the wheel and grabbed her son to protect him as best she could.
Margaret awoke in a strange almost empty room. The room only contained an odd looking table and two chairs along with some type of 'bed' that she herself was in. There was some fruit on the table. She could hear a distant rumbling sound that seemed to come from within the structure. As soon as her head cleared she screamed out for Sam. 'SAM?... SAM?'
'It's OK mommy. I'm right here' Sam answered as he wiped the sleep from his eyes.
She turned and saw him lying on another bed. She could also see some type of control panel and screen attached to his bed. Upon further inspection, she saw the same attached to her's.
'Are you alright, honey?'
'Uhhhh I think so' he replied as he inspected himself. 'Where are we?'
Margaret swung around and hopped down from the bed. 'I don't know....I think we wrecked...' She looked around the room for clues to their location but could see nothing. Everything looked strange and included a few curious items high up in the corners of the room. They vaguely looked like some type of cameras but were much sleeker than any security cameras that she had ever seen.
Sam sat up in his bed and Margaret could see he looked fine. She then inspected herself. She saw what looked like a bloodstain on her blouse but could see no signs of injury. The metallic look of the walls served as a mirror and she looked and felt as good as her 29 year old self ever had.... in fact she felt very good considering she was just in an auto accident.
'Hello? Hello? Are we in a hospital? Is anyboy here?' she yelled and waited for an answer. She also noticed that there didn't seem to be any way to open the door! In fact it wasn't a -door- like she knew at all! It looked like it would retract into the wall somehow and yet had no handles or doorknob.
'Mommy, what's going on?'
'I don't know, Sam, but I'll find out. We must be in some type of hospital.... although I don't remember anything like this when I used to live around here! But don't you worry. We're OK and as soon as a doctor gets here we'll call your gramma and get out of here.'
'What if they want us to stay? Maybe we're in trouble!' Sam asked not really understanding what was happening.
'Trouble?' She asked rhetorically as she tried to remember the accident. The last thing she could remember was the sound of a large tree smashing into the front of the car. Then she remembered how fast they were travelling at the time. 'Ummmm No kind of trouble for you, hon. I might be in a bit of trouble if they think I was going too fast, but I can just pay the ticket and we can be on our way.'
'Are they gonna put us in jail? I'm scared' he cried.
'Noooooo! For heaven's sake. Nothing like that. As soon as we see the doctor we can figure this all out and be out of here. I won't let anything happen to you!' She wondered if this might be some type of holding facility and maybe she ~was~ in trouble.
She looked around the bed for some type of 'call' button but could see nothing! 'Hello! Hello? Anybody? We're awake and would like to ~leave~. Helloooooooo?' She yelled out.
Suddenly, the 'door' opened and two very tall people entered the room. Margaret was relieved to finally see someone but curious as to why they were wearing suits and had their face covered like they were afraid of a contagious disease. 'Thank God! We're not alone! Now, would someone please tell me what is going on?'
The two individuals said nothing and walked straight toward Sam.
'Hey! What are you doing?' She said as they grabbed the boy.
She ran to his aid and one of the individuals spoke. 'We merely need to examine him. He will not be harmed'
Margaret backed away, suddenly worried that maybe Sam WAS injured in someway that she couldn't see! 'I'm sorry... Is something wrong with him?'
Sam looked back at his mother with a worried expression. She realized that she was scaring him! 'Don't worry... Just let them check you out' she told him as they took him away. The door closed before she could follow.
Sam was gone for a long period of time. Margaret paced back and forth and occassionally banged on the door hoping someone would answer. After what seemed like more than two hours the door opened and Sam walked in. Before Margaret could ask any questions the door shut.
'HEY! I wanted to talk to....' her voice trailed off as she realized the futility and turned her attention to Sam. 'How do you feel? Is everything OK?'
'I, I, dunno. It's really spooky here.' his voice quivered as he spoke.
'Did they hurt you?'
'Well, don't worry. Everything will be OK. They just want to check us out..... I guess... What did they say?'
'They didn't talk much, they just started testin' me and stuff. '
'And? The tests were OK weren't they?'
'I guess.... They said mine looked better than yours or somethin'....'
Before Margaret could get ask any more questions the doors once again opened.
'Is something wrong with ME?' she asked the two people as they entered the room. Again, they gave no answer as they reached for her. 'Take your hands off of me! I want some answers!'
The two individuals each grabbed her arm as she struggled to free herself. 'I'm not going with you until you tell me what is wrong!'
One of them spoke to her 'You will not be harmed'
'Not until I get some answers, damnit!' she told them as she tried to kick one of them.
They immediately lifted her with ease as she struggled. Margaret had always kept herself in good shape but a petite 29 year old female was no match for these two. They took her against her will out of the room as her son watched in terror.
Once in the hall she settled down and looked at the unusual surroundings. 'Where the hell are we?'
'Damnit...Put me down! Tell me what is going on!'
Still no reply!
Her eyes darted back and forth as she caught glimpses of various rooms and machinery along the way. 'What kind of a strange hospital is this?' she asked as they put her in a small room and then into a seat that resembled a dentist's chair. She was about to jump up when large arched bars came out and effectively trapped her in the apparatus. 'I bet my insurance company throws a fit and I'm not going to pay for this!'
The two individuals left the room and she could see others now outside the room. 'HEY! ....Hey!....C'mon! Waht are you doing?'
None answered her and she watched the door shut. The room was now only lit by the glow from indicator lights scattered about the small room. She could see their outlines thru a darkened glass. They appeared to be pointing at a screen but she couldn't make out what was on it. Just as she was about to yell at them once more a loud buzzing sound enveloped her head. She tried to move her head but couldn't. She could see a glow around her head and then the glow became bright. Her eyes opened wide and then her mind seemed to wander off. She began to dream very happy dreams. Suddenly the dreams faded and she could once again see the bright light and then hear the buzzing. She smiled at the memory of the dream as the light faded.
She was startled out of her thoughts as one of the two individuals had entered and released her from the apparatus. The others were gone now leaving just these two. Their size frightened her as they reached out to help her from the chair. She recoiled as one of them touched her hand.
'You will not be harmed' one of them said and she slowly allowed him to help her out of the seat. She still had questions for them but had trouble finding the courage to speak. She felt very frightened and had trouble even looking at them as they led her back to the room with her son. The whole situation was beginning to overwhelm her.
The door opened and Sam saw his mother standing between the two escorts. She was no longer fighting them as she had when Sam last saw her. Rather than enter the room she stared at the ground as if nervously waiting for permission. One of them nudged her and she meekly entered the room.
'Mommy? Are we going to be leaving soon? Did you call Gramma?'
Margaret looked at him without speaking and walked toward a corner in the room. She slid down in the corner and hugged her knees. 'Sam... I'm scared...' she said fighting back tears.
'I thought you said we'd be OK?'
Margaret didn't answer as she lost the battle with her tears.
Sam ran to his mother to try and comfort her. 'It'll be OK, mommy'
'But what if they're bad people here?' she sobbed.
'They're not bad! They brought me a coloring book while you were gone. They asked me about my favorite and then found me one just like I remembered!' he said as he pointed to the book on the table.
Margaret slowly quit crying. 'You think they'll let us leave soon?'
Sam was surprised that she was asking HIM 'Uhhhhhh yeah... Don't you?'
'Maybe...' she sniffed.
The night went by uneventful. Sam was surprised that his mother was still sleeping. Normally she gets up before him, but on this morning she was still asleep. The doors opened and there were again two escorts. This time they were there for Sam and he quietly went with them so as not to wake his mother.
They quickly scanned Sam and took him back to the room. When he got there his mother was again in the corner and fright showed in her eyes as she watched them at the doors. Sam entered and she ran to him and hugged him.
'What, What...What did they.... do?' she stuttered.
'Just more dumb 'ol tests. Maybe they'll get 'em done today and we can go.'
Margaret smiled at that thought and sat down at the table. She wasn't nearly as talkative as normal but Sam didn't mind because he had his coloring book.
After a while the two escorts returned for Margaret. She reluctantly went with them without a fight. As she got closer to the room she meekly spoke up 'Are you going to do what you did yesterday? The light?'
They motioned her in the room and toward the seat. She took that as a 'yes' and smiled as she got in the chair. This time she was happy to be there and awaited more of the dreams. No arms locked her in. The two people left the room and were again joined by others outside. Margaret smiled as she heard the buzzing sound around her head again. Soon, she saw the bright white light engulf her and a smile crept across her face. Dreams filled her head and she felt as secure as she had ever felt. All too soon she felt, she was drifting back toward reality. She again heard the buzzing and the white light began fading. She wanted to remember the warm feelings of the dream. The sound of the door opening brought her fully back to reality as she realized she had curled up in the seat without the restraints to hold her down. She stretched out and then immediately sat up. This time she didn't recoil as one the individuals offered to help her out of the apparatus.
Sam looked away from his coloring book as he heard the doors to the room opening. He saw his mother with the two escorts. She no longer looked sad or scared and she hurried in to tell Sam about her dreams.
'I had the neatest dreams while I was bein' tested.... I was flying and not worryin' or nothin'... There was birds.....and animals all friendly and I could pet 'em.... Do you have dreams there too?....'
Sam listened but had to admit he hadn't had any dreams. He was surprised to hear his mother so excited about the 'tests'. He really just wanted to go! 'Nah... They just take a couple of minutes and then they're done. I don't dream or 'nothin'. I just want to get outta here!'
'Ya, me too... I guess. But it ain't errrr I mean ~is not~ so bad here. It'll prob'ly be over way too soon' Margaret answered as she watched Sam color in a cartoon character. 'How come you colored his coat ~green~?'
'I dunno... Why? Whatsit matter?' he replied.
She smirked and said 'I guess it's up to you...if you like ~green~'
Sam was curious why she would worry about THAT while they were stuck here in this room but he had no time to ask because two more escorts appeared at the door. Margaret hopped up and ran toward them hoping for another 'test' but one of them held out his hand to stop her and motioned for Sam. Sam sighed and reluctantly followed. Once more the routine stayed basically the same as they watched screens and seemed to be satisfied with what they were seeing. Sam just wanted to get it all over with!
While Sam's tests continued his mother felt restless back in the room. She decided to let down her hair and pull it back into a Pony-tail. After a few minutes of trying, the band snapped and smacked her finger. 'Dumb ol' hair thing!' she yelled as she shook her injured finger. She checked around the room for something else to do. Her eyes ended up fixed on Sam's coloring book. She smiled and sat down at the table. She kicked of her shoes and sat 'Indian style' in the chair. In only a few moments she was happily coloring on another picture of the cartoon character Sam had been coloring.... only she wasn't using green! 'Ooooooh yucky ~green~ No green for you now that Mary Beth has you!' she said aloud and then wondered why she had called herself Mary Beth.... no one had called her that in years! She shrugged off the thought as she continued happily coloring.
She continued until the doors opened and she saw Sam walking in.
'Mom! What are you doin'?'
Margaret looked sheepish and then said 'Nothin''
'You messed up my book! You colored his coat PURPLE! I was colorin' it green!'
'Sooo? Purple's better anyway!' she said and crossed her arms 'It looks better ~now~'.
'What's wrong with you? You're acting like a bratty sister more than my mommy!'
'Ya? Well, I am your mommy and I can color in this dumb ol' book any way I want!... And you can't stop me!'
Sam didn't want to argue with his mother but he had worked for hours on that book and now she had ruined it he thought. He started wondering if they were doing something to her.
The doors suddenly slid open again and Margaret ran toward them figuring it was her turn for more 'tests'. It was and she was gladly ready for more dreams. Before the door closed she stuck out her tongue at Sam and held up the green crayon.
'Hey!' he yelled as the door closed and he pounded his fists on the table.
Margaret ran ahead of the two people now. She knew exactly where to go and was very anxious to get started. By the time the two escorts got to the door Margaret was already seated in the apparatus. They didn't even bother to enter and check on her but rather waited on the others to join. One of them made a couple of adjustments and then she heard the buzzing sound. She smiled as soon as she heard it start. Soon, she saw the white light and she drifted off into a blissful dream. More blissful than before. She hated when it stopped this time more than ever! She once again noticed she had curled up, but felt too comfortable to stretch back out just yet. She heard some chatter from outside the room and then suddenly the buzzing started again! Margaret giggled this time, happy for this 'bonus time'. The white light came and she again felt her worries fading and sweet dreams filling her mind. When it ended this time she felt too satisfied and happy to even move! She only wanted to stay here and try and recapture the feeling. Reailty came as one of the escorts tugged on her arm. She looked at him innocently and realized she was still curled up AND sucking her thumb. After slowly straightening out and removing the thumb from her mouth the escort helped her back to her feet.
'I've been.... instructed.... to see if there is anything you.... require..... before returning to..... your room?' the escort asked.
Margaret's eyes rolled upwards and her finger touched her chin as if to emphasize she was thinking 'Uh huh... I wanna colorin' book and crayons....' As she turned her head some of her long hair got in her mouth. 'Pfttt' she said as she spit it out 'And can I get a ribbon for my hair? I wanna fix my Pony-tail and my dumb 'ol band broke! ...And some candy too? 'k?'
Within a few seconds the other escort appeared with her items.
'Wow...cool' she exclaimed 'just like I was thinkin' of! Thanks!'
The escorts reacted with no emotion and led her back to the room. Sam was patiently waiting. He had gotten over being mad and was now worried about how strange his mother had been acting. When the door opened Sam was shocked to see his mother standing barefoot, her hair in a Pony-tail with a large ribbon, licking on a Lollipop with one hand, and struggling to hold HER coloring book AND crayons in the other!
She made a bee-line for the table and sprawled her crayons out and began to color while her lollipop stick bounced out of the side of her mouth.
'Mommy? What's goin' on?!!!' Sam yelled.
She looked up at him with a funny look and then said 'I don't wanna play daddy and mommy now... I wanna color.. 'k?'
'Stop foolin'! You're scarin' me! Put your crayons down.' Sam told her.
'NO! MINE! ' she shot back.....her speech pattern more like a child's than the the 29year old voice Sam was used to.
'I don't want 'em! I just want you to act like my mom again!'
Her face screwed up and tears started to fall. 'I wanna....p..p..p.play...w..w..with my crayons! I...I...I....don't wanna play mommy.......you're ....mean! We can p...pway...later 'K? huh?.....' and with that her speech disintegrated into unintelligible bawling!
Sam gave in 'I'm sorry. Play with you crayons. It's OK.'
Margaret sniffed a couple of last times and then her mood turned 180 degrees 'Goody!'
Sam watched her as she giggled and colored in her book. Occassionally she would show her 'art' to him for approval. He could see no signs of his mother's personality... Only the personality of a child. Even more worrisome was how they were going to get out...If his mother was no longer able to be in charge, who would be?
This time when the escorts returned Sam was ready to 'question' them! He followed them to the room and then waited for the others to arrive. The machine whirled and he saw them all looking at the screen. When the machine stopped, he bolted from the machine and ran out to face them.
'What did you do to my mommy!?' he demanded to know. 'We wanna go home!'
One of the escorts spoke 'You will not be harmed' as he grabbed Sam.
Sam promptly kicked him in the shin 'You will if you don't fix things!'
Another one of the people stepped forward. 'I..hope... you will..... excuse...my English....We are just... learning of your....language. You were in an ....accident.. We feel....felt...responsible. We did not... come to.. this planet to harm.... anyone. Your injuries...were.... mild.... Your companion's injuries were ....more....severe. While some of the injuries were easy to..repair....others required...study..... The accident had...caused your...companion's....cells... to accellerate and deteriorate far past...your more.... ~healthier~ cells. We were able to study...your cells The baseline... And....find a way to ~repair~ the damage we..... must have..caused...in your companion.'
Sam had no idea what he had just heard 'Ya mean, you're doing this to her to help her?'
'We mean no harm' he replied.
'But she acts like a ~little kid~' Sam countered.
'The mental...state... should ... match ...the baseline's cell... after the final ....treatment....All should match baseline...generally... I should say. We have checked our work.....Even able to ..improve.... the cells....by....decoding .... but we...are approaching our...departure deadline so that...work....will.. not be...complete. We mean no harm. We must finish now...Sam... so all can be ~normal~ with some..improvements... Peace, Sam.'
They led Sam back to the room. He kept trying to figure out how they were gonna make his mom better. His young mind couldn't really understand what he had just been told.
Once inside the room, he saw his mother was acting even more like a little kid as she played with the food on th table.
'Ya wanna play house, now?' she asked.
'Uhhh no...I don't think so.' He answered. ' I think we are gonna get to go home soon'
'Really? Oh boy!' she answered.
'They are gonna fix you back and then we can go on to gramma's'
'Gramma's? I wanna go to mommy's!' she stated as she stomped her foot.
Just then the doors once again opened and Margaret jumped up and ran toward the two escorts, her pony-tail bouncing as she ran 'Goody...Once more in the room!' she gleefully yelled.
She skipped down the hallway toward the room while Sam stayed in the room and waited. He hoped they could now go home after this last treatment and that it would return everything to normal.
Margaret laid back in the chair and waited on the familiar buzzing to start. It wasn't long before she heard it. 'Yayyyyyy Goody!' she exclaimed. Then the white light seemed to surround her. This was the best feeling yet! She giggled as something seemed to tickle this time. Her dreams were even more vivid this time. The tickling feeling contniued and she dreamed she was curling into a ball. The chair seemed to grow underneath as the light grew even warmer and brighter. She brought her thumb up to her mouth. Finally, the light faded and the buzzing stopped. The overhead scanner scanned her body and the people outside seemed happy as the information rolled in. After some time one of the individuals from outside the room entered and lifted the small 5 year old out of the chair. Her thumb remained in her mouth. Her oversized pants easily slid off but her blouse was now more then adequate to cover her.
The doors opened to the room and Sam couldn't believe what he saw.... A tiny 5 year old wearing his mother's blouse! The barefoot little girl excitedly ran to the table with her coloring book and crayons as the alien spoke to her...
'You are lucky... The ..improvements... worked.... we were able to repair.... even more than the baseline's...celluar structure... You are ....how do you Earthlings say it? Almost as good as NEW!'
LATER THAT DAY
NEWSREPORT: 'Two children, one approximately 5 and female, the other male and approximately 6, were found lost and wandering aimlessly by a search team looking for the occupants of a car found wrecked a few miles from here. We have no official identification of the children. Mysteriously, government officials have been called in and we've been told to expect no statements. Perhaps even more mysteriously, the search for the occupants of the car have been called off. Christy Consista reporting. Back to you in the studio.
'Thanks Christy... Well, on a lighter note. Those UFO reports just keep coming in. This station alone has had over 30 calls reporting strange lights in the sky. We haven't checked the local bars for any increases in licquor sales to see if there is a parallel! Let's check in with Stu for tonight's weather. How's the weather for UFO's Stu?'