Simon and Angelique spent most of the trip to St. Ives silently admiring the beautiful scenery visible from the interstate. Along the drive, tall and majestic trees in varying shades of green adorned the edge of the road, and when the sun had begun to set, they were able to marvel at the kaleidoscope of colors that decorated the sky around the mountains in the distance.
At some point, Angelique had turned on the radio in the car, and they had been listening to Reggae music for a while before Simon turned the volume down.
Staring straight ahead at the road, he interrupted the silence, "Do you think he will ever forgive me?"
Angelique reached over to take her husband's free hand in hers. "Honey, I don't know that." She rubbed his arm. "But, we can be sure that this way, he will be alive long enough to have a chance to forgive you. That's all that matters."
Simon nodded. Looking in the rear-view mirror, he watched Jacob's chest rise and fall slowly and rhythmically.
"This way, he will live." Simon repeated, nodding his head again and turning the volume of the car radio back up before returning to his thoughts.
When they were getting closer to the hospital, the topography of the landscape changed. They were further into the section of Washington that was a desert. There wasn't much of a population in this part of the state, and this was evidenced by the tumbleweeds littering the expanse of light-brown dirt that stretched beyond the edge of the highway and into the distance.
Moments after Angelique had nodded off for quick nap, Simon moved his eyes up to the rear-view mirror. Throughout the drive, he had noticed that when Jacob was sleeping he seemed younger and less affected by his traumas. The therapist always knew that Jacob was gifted with incredible potential and exceptional talent, but the baggage of his past was always hindering him from developing new skills and honing his talents.
He thought about how perfectly the program at St. Ives resolved the major obstacle in his client's progression.
You get to have a second chance at life, Jacob. This time, it will be better.
It was almost midnight when the trio took the exit that would lead them to the St. Ives Psychiatric Hospital. When they pulled up to the drop off area near the lobby, Angelique went inside to inform a nurse at the counter of their arrival. A few moments later, she returned to the car with an orderly who was pushing along a wheelchair for Jacob.
The young man was still asleep as the sedative had not yet fully run its course through his system. When the orderly lifted him from the seat of the car into the wheelchair, his head lolled to the side. Simon and Angelique watched as he was strapped into the wheelchair and pushed into the inpatient wing of the hospital.
The couple spent some time in the quiet waiting area filling out the intake forms for Jacob. They chose to list themselves as his emergency contacts knowing their client had no friends or family. When they were finished with the forms, they handed them to the secretary who politely informed them that Dr. Kelly was on her way to meet them.
It wasn't long before they saw a tall blonde woman in her 40s briskly walk over to them. Dr. Kelly was dressed in her white doctor's coat, and she exuded the demeanor of someone who commanded authority well.
"Simon! Angelique! It's nice to meet you both in person." Dr. Kelly reached out to shake hands with each of the therapists.
"Before we get into the nitty gritty of the procedure, I wanted to thank you two for doing the right thing, bringing Jacob here where he can get the proper treatment that will ease his suffering," the doctor said.
Simon smiled sheepishly. "Thank you. It's appreciated."
The doctor smiled. "I know we've talked a bit about the outcomes, but I realized I never described how the drug works. I can give you an explanation if you're interested."
Angelique nodded her head. "Yes, please. The concept of drug-induced age-regression is very intriguing."
"Lovely!" Dr. Kelly enthused. "So, the drug that we developed for this procedure is called Restalsis, and it works in three stages. We call it the CAP process actually, and it stands for cessation, active and passive. In the cessation stage, the drug targets the hippocampus in the brain inducing developmental inertia which immediately halts any ongoing biological growth or maturation, and in the following active stage, the drug binds to receptors in the brain and manipulates neurons to rapidly rewind physical development."
When the doctor paused to take a breath, Simon asked, "Would this be the secret to ending aging?"
Dr. Kelly rubbed her palms together. "We are almost there. We just need to find a way to stop the drug from entering the passive stage which reduces the patient's cognitive functioning. In the final stage, the cerebellum is targeted by the drug and this causes emotional regression and memory loss similar to dementia. The passive stage takes about a month to end, but the procedure itself is completed once the transition from the active to passive stage happens."
The psychiatrist smiled at the therapists who seemed a little overwhelmed with all the scientific jargon. "I'm sure you both still have some other questions," she said.
Looking over at her husband, Angelique could see that Simon seemed hesitant to ask his question, but she knew him so well that she was sure of what it already was. She held his hand and asked for him, "Will he be in pain?"
"I can assure you that he will not be in any physical pain throughout the procedure," Dr. Kelly answered. "We heavily sedate all patients before the Restalsis is introduced into their system. As for what the experience will be like for him, I think it's fair to expect that he will be in a sleep-wake state similar to what is experienced during episodes of sleep paralysis. It is common for patients to experience vivid hallucinations of childhood memories during the active phase. I believe 'taking a trip down memory lane' is what it is usually described anecdotally as."
Angelique squeezed her husband's hand. "How long will the procedure last?" she asked.
"Because it is an outpatient procedure, we are usually done the same day," Dr. Kelly answered. The psychiatrist raised a finger to her chin. "How old did you say he was again?"
This time, Simon was the one who answered, "He's twenty-two."
"Okay, that's good then. The procedure should only last about five hours since he is still relatively young."
The concerned therapist looked over at the door he had seen his client wheeled past. "What happens to him after the procedure is over?"
"I'm glad you asked that. That was something I wanted to talk with the two of you about. From the file you shared with me, I noticed that Jacob doesn't have any living family members." She paused slightly, before continuing. "Typically, we assign patients with no eligible relatives to families that have passed our extensive screenings. However, seeing that you two personally brought him in, I thought I would ask to see if you two wanted to become Jacob's caretakers once he is regressed."
Simon and Angelique exchanged looks with each other, both at a loss for words.
Seeing the couple's apprehension, Dr. Kelly asked, "Would you two like some time to think about it? I can come back after I order some tests to be done on Jacob."
Angelique spoke up for the two of them, "Yes, we would like that! Thank you."
"Okay, I'll be back in a few moments."
The psychiatrist turned and walked further into the back of the hospital leaving the couple to discuss the opportunity to become Jacob's caretakers.
When Jacob woke up again, he was groggy and disoriented. Once the young man became a little more lucid, he was immediately aware that all of the muscles in his body were stiff as if he had the worst sleep of his life and that he had no memory of lying down for bed the night before.
Fluttering his eyes open and adjusting to the bright fluorescent lights, Jacob recognized that he was in a hospital room. Lowering his eyes, he saw that his arms and legs were bound to the sides of his bed with leather straps and attached to a myriad of hospital equipment with the wires running along the sides of the bed. Frantically looking around the room, he noticed he was dressed in a hospital gown and his clothes had been neatly folded in a pile on a table over on the other side of the room.
With the memory of his abduction surfacing, he pulled violently at his restraints, and he only halted his movements when the machine that was monitoring his heart rate suddenly made a high-pitched whine as though it was signaling someone to check on him.
A few moments later, a nurse came to his room. She opened the door with a friendly smile on her face and walked over to silence the machine.
"Good to see you are awake, Jacob."
Jacob turned as much he could to make eye contact with the nurse. "Please help me! I'm not supposed to be here. This is a mistake."
The nurse looked back at him with a solemn expression. "There's no mistake, Hun. The doctor came in earlier to check your file and order some tests."
Jacob frantically shook his head. "No, I'm begging you. Listen to me. That isn't right. I didn't consent to any treatment. I was kidnapped."
As though she was unaffected by his words, the nurse simply continued to write some notes on his chart. She walked towards him, pulled back his eyelids and shined a small flashlight in each of his eyes before writing more notes on his chart.
"There's no need to work yourself up, Hun. Once the procedure is completed tomorrow your new family will take you home."
The young man wildly pulled at his restrains. "New family? What the hell are you talking about? My family died a few years ago. I'm the only one left."
"The doctor will explain everything tomorrow before the procedure. Try to get some rest and don't work yourself up. If your heart rate gets too high, we will give you some medication that will help you relax, but we don't want to do that before your procedure tomorrow unless we have no choice."
Jacob wasn't even able to get a word in before the nurse flipped the light switch and closed the door behind her.
Afraid of being sedated again, Jacob lay quietly bound to the bed. The young man was absolutely confused. He didn't understand why the nurse wouldn't take his accusation seriously. Thinking about the procedure she kept referring to, he could feel his skin crawl. He spent the night silently trying to come up with an escape plan and anxiously awaiting whatever the doctor had in store for him the next morning.
Simon and Angelique had just finished talking between themselves when they saw Dr. Kelly was on her way back to speak with them.
When she approached she finished writing something on a clipboard before looking up to make eye contact with Simon and Angelique. "Have you two decided?"
The couple held hands, and Angelique spoke for the two of them, "Yes, we've decided that we would like to become Jacob's caretakers."
"Excellent." Dr. Kelly smiled. "Tomorrow, I will have the social worker for our unit speak with you two about the options for care throughout the passive stage. Jacob's procedure is scheduled for 10 am. So, if you would like to see him before, please try to be here by 9 am."
Simon responded, "We will be here, then. Thank you so much, Dr. Kelly."
"There's a nice hotel not too far from here. Be sure to get some sleep. I'll see you two in the morning."
Dr. Kelly turned and stepped over to the secretary at the desk to hand her some forms.
The soon-to-be caretakers left the hospital and drove to the only hotel in the small town, hoping to get a room for the night.