Friday, February 4, 2011

Day One Hundred and Eighty-Seven

Day 187: 04 Feb 2011

I woke up today in a long, low white room. I was in a bed, covers up to my chest, neatly folded and white. Somewhere nearby, I heard the hiss of a respirator, but it wasn't breathing for me -- no tubes in my throat, no IV in my arm.

"Welcome back."

The voice belonged to Captain Jason Black. He was sitting in an office chair at the foot of the bed, smiling. It was the first time I'd seen him in uniform -- Air Force blues -- but he didn't have a nametape or rank insignia anywhere.

"Um. . ." was all I could say.

"Where are you? Can't tell you that, exactly. But I should inform you that you're being recorded. Or monitored. Or both. And even though the law is merely theory here, I do like to keep in the spirit," he said.

"Uh, thanks?"

"No problem, Travis. Your brother's going to make it, or so the doctors tell me," Black said, nodding to his right, my left.

I followed his gaze and found Jared in a bed about twenty feet away from mine. The respirator was his, and he was unconscious. He looked awful -- his gray skin was cracking, flaking away.

"Looks worse than he is, I assure you," Black told me, standing up. "Turns out y'all's normal human skin is under the armor-plated stuff. His top layer started falling off once they got the slug out."

"Is he --"

"Doctors say paralyzed from the sternum down, probably. The slug really tore him up. But his brainwaves are good."

"So what's next?" I asked.

"Well, we wait for your hand to grow back," he said, pulling aside my covers to reveal my arm. My hand was indeed gone, but new fingers, stubby and underformed, were sprouting from the stub. It was. . . well, disgusting, really.

"Then," Black continued, "we talk about your future."

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