Taylor squinted at the list. She was supposed to memorize all the numbers on it. It wasn’t going well. She tucked her hair behind her ear and began reading. 8394950, 9487373, 2837495, 383493, . . .

She rubbed her eyes, sure that they were about to burst into flame. She looked up at the white wall in front of her and blinked a few times. She could almost see the tiny black numbers from her sheet floating faintly over the wall . . . 16374847, 73536464, 35364738, 44637887, 1209485, 86959544, 0192847. Taylor set the paper down on the gray tabletop and shook out her hands. They had gone icy cold from clenching the paper so tightly, like that would help her somehow. She closed her eyes and rubbed her neck. Numbers floated inside the dark of her mind. Taylor stood up and grabbed the paper to hold it in front of her face. She opened her eyes pulling her focus from the random lists of numbers and looked at it as a whole, the shape of the black letters against the crisp purity of the white page. She noticed darker streams of numbers that flowed from the bottom of the page to the bottom. She took a deep breath and began circling the table and reciting individual numbers.

“993453, 874584, 224565849.” Taylor’s dry throat did not surrender the sounds willingly.

She blinked the tears away, as her eyes began to water and sting again. Honestly. People were going to think she was an emotional ninny. Taylor was not a crier and yet her eyes had begun streaming almost at the same moment that she picked up the paper. She closed her eyes and tried to remember the numbers she had just read.

“993-“ Her throat closed on her and she opened her eyes to that blank white wall. She could see 993435 floating over the surface of it but she couldn’t say it out loud. Taylor tucked her hair behind her ear and circled the table reaching out to touch the 9, but then it faded. She dropped her hand against her thigh and 993435 reappeared. Just to the right of it appeared 874584, 224565849. She looked at the row of numbers next to her thumb. It was a match. She gazed back up at the wall and 8394950, 9487373, 2837495, 383493 appeared, matching the numbers at the top of the page. Her head ached as more numbers appeared on the white wall as if someone were typing them. 16374847, 73536464, 35364738, 44637887, 1209485, 86959544, 0192847 then they appeared so fast she couldn’t even think what they were called, but she recognized them all. A buzzing filled her ears and the room dimmed but the numbers kept listing themselves down the wall. Tears poured from her eyes but did nothing to cool the irritation and she felt her brain blistering. The pain blurred her vision and the room went black but then the numbers switched from black against white to green against black. The numbers were repeating over and over. Taylor felt warmth prick through her skin as if the numbers were pushing themselves out of her body so that she could see them.

“So how did it go?” The lights snapped on and a thin man with dark parted hair and glasses stood next to the gray table. “You look a little pale. Memorization is an exhausting process, but I’m sure you got through it fine.”

“I’ll take that.” He held out a rubber-gloved hand for the paper.

Taylor handed over the crisp white paper. The man handed her a packet of tissue.

“Nosebleeds are common side-effects. You’ll want to lay down and drink a lot of fluids.” He opened a door. A woman in purple scrubs waited with a wheelchair. “The wheelchair is only a precaution. Lola will take you to a quiet room to rest and we’ll see you in the morning.”

The man smiled patiently and pushed his glasses up.

Taylor nodded and stumbled toward the wheelchair. Lola hurried forward and helped her into the chair. Taylor’s movements were clumsy and dark streaks ran across her vision, her stomach churned. The man caught her and just kept her from slamming against the floor.

He deposited her into the chair and Taylor felt her body go limp. She couldn’t move her arms or legs. She was so limp. Lola had to roll her into the hospital bed.

Writing Prompt: Memorize

Photo Credit: Gianni Dominici

About the author

Carley Hibbert

I just finished writing my first novel The Villain's Assistant. I'm preparing to submit it to an interested publisher.

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