Author: Ann Zimmerman

“The treatments aren’t working,” I tell my assistant, Marcy. From the observation window, we watch our prisoner writhe on the sterile bed. Marcy increases the output and the patient screams. His tortured body begins to convulse.

“Shut it down,” I order as I rush into the room.

His eyes are wide open. “The same nightmare?” I ask.

He licks his lips and mutters, “I murdered them.”

Marcy escorts the delirious convict back to his cell.

I need to review my Serenity program. It’s been 100% effective in rehabilitating criminals, until now. We’ve never seen such a horrific response. Instead of erasing the nightmares, it seems to be magnifying them.

I place the electrode band on my own head and punch start. I see purple columbines, hear the rushing creek, feel the cool breeze. I am surrounded by aspens and mountains. How can this beauty cause such distress?

Then the calming scene fades. Now, I observe a couple in bed. I feel myself raise my arms. Suddenly, I am slamming an ax into one sleeper’s head. As his blood soaks the sheets, his wife awakens, screaming in terror.

I yank the headband off. My hair is wet with sweat. I’m hyperventilating. My heart races. I hear Marcy enter behind me. I turn. “Someone’s hacked Serenity,” I shout.

Marcy’s fists tighten and her body stiffens. “I know,” she says. “Some criminals don’t deserve to forget.”


“That monster,” she replies, “took an ax and slaughtered my parents.”