Brian Burt - Speculative Fiction

Dr. Tammy Bryant — Tam to her friends, Dr. B to her coworkers — carded through the security door and slipped into the Memory Center of Doster University Hospital. As always, the place assaulted her senses with its earnest but forced cheerfulness. Paintings of gardens, wood-lined lakes, and sunlit meadows spilled splashes of color across the walls. Quilts by local artisans hung here and there, hand-stitched with floral flourishes and homey words of comfort.  Potted ficus and philodendron plants flanked the entrances on each side of the common area at the center of the wing. An uneasy blend of air freshener, antiseptic, and incontinence filled Tammy's nostrils. Soft jazz played over the sound system, ostensibly to soothe the residents. That was Chief Nurse Flores' excuse. In truth, she just adored jazz, repeating her personal playlists over and over, driving her staff mildly crazy in the process.

A glass display case hung beside each door along the hallway. Relatives had filled them with each room occupant's favorite curios, family photos, treasured mementos. Tammy's eyes flitted past these with a twinge of guilt, as if she were trespassing on sacred ground. The contents of those shelves struck her as intensely private, shrines to beloved elders who had wandered into the fog and been lost beyond any hope of rescue. Despite the heat, she shivered. In the secret recesses of her heart, she dreaded these visits. Shameful. She was a physician, a neuroscientist. She had been trained to handle all of this — the insubstantial phantoms who haunted the halls of the Memory Care Unit — with clinical detachment. And yet, every trip through the security doors jabbed a spike into her gut.

Coming here felt like staring into a crystal ball and seeing her own fate reflected in its depths, one that terrified her beyond belief....

This short story is included in the Tales from the Dream Zone anthology to be published in Spring 2020 by Flying Ketchup Press.

Mist at Twilight