Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The End Is Here 2: Yes

EOD Specialist Roger Shepard opened his eyes for the first time in three months and saw green. The pale, sterile, septic, fluorescent green that had it an odor would be caustic and foul enough to dissolve the capacity for one to smell. It immediately made him regret his capacity to experience sight, and his first reflexive movements were to flail about for some kind of object that was pointy enough to jab through his irises.

It was not a conscious urge, just a silent propulsive idea that forced him to examine his surroundings. While his vision was too busy trying to murder itself, the senses of touch told him that he was comfortable enough to be extremely perturbed by his own motions. Sense memory kicked in and told him that he was wrapped in sheets as some manner of bleating interrupted his quiet. It was only a few seconds afterward that he remembered that language was even a thing and heard a man say, “he's waking up, notify his doctor.”

A pair of strong hands attached to a blur grabbed Roger's wrists, and he heard “hold still, man, I got you. Relax. You're in a hospital. The fact your even moving is kind of a fucking miracle.” Roger was no where near as eloquent as he mumbled incoherently.

“Hey, do you understand me? Do you remember who you are? What's your name?” The blur asked just before it started resembling a person. “Shepard. Roger.”

More blurs emerged from the blur behind the blur, all of them little more than blurs despite their gradual salience. The first blur turned to the other and said lowly, “He remembers who he is. Motor control, at least in the arms. I'm pretty sure the legs too, guy can squirm.”

The new blur moved closer, shifted, and shined a pale yellow light in his eyes. “Ok. What year is it?” Roger blinked rapidly, trying to reset his eyes and focus. “I can't fucking see right.”

“The year, Shepard. Stop blinking.”

“2011, the last time I checked,” he said, obeying both requests. His eyes followed the worn yellow light. “What is the last thing you remember?”

“I was deployed on mission. Baghdad. IED was smuggled into a government building. I, uh,” he broke, swallowing nothing in his dry flesh. “I was sent in.”

“And then, Shepard?”

And then he failed. The rigged explosive was made by a particularly cunning insurgent mechanic with a penchant for mind games and transsexual prostitutes. He constructed the bomb so that the obvious way to disarm it would in fact just detonate it. It turned an amateur's chop job into the last bomb EOD technicians would ever think they defused.

Shepard had time to realize this when it exploded in his face. He had time to think about it as everything but his own thoughts just froze. Pieces of shrapnel and incandescent gas just seized in place, just barely short enough to tear through his armor and pulp him.

He stopped thinking about it as a shadow rounded a corner and walked between him and the setting sun. A humanoid silhouette eclipsed that unforgiving star as it moved towards and knelled beside him.

It forced him to feel its words, on the skin between his mind and his brain. They were not carried by a voice. Their meaning was evident and unheard.

“Roger Shepard. I am not an angel. I am not a demon. I am not god. I am separate and outside.”

The shadow stretched to caress the frozen explosion, light and mass warping at its touch. “This is what can end your conscious existence in this world. Kinetic overload of your body.” It pinched a sliver of steel directly in front of his face, its glimmer retreating into nonexistence. “Steel. Aluminum. Oxygen. Nitrogen. Carbon dioxide. Pressure. Alloy and gas and mechanism,” it continued, turning the shard.

“I will let you choose your termination. You can choose here and now with this, or you can choose to extend your integrity into a future.”

“Shepard? What happened next?” the second blur in front of him asked as the first eased him back into the fabric.

“A future that you can not escape. A possibility made a certainty. A death delayed so that it will be in service to I.”

“Come on, buddy, are you still with us?”

“Will you choose to end your existence in a way that suits me?”

Roger Shepard whispered, “yes.”

The void's hand closed around the shard and tightened as arcs of burning silver light coalesced around it. Its triangular surface scarred and warped as the energy burned straight through Roger's retina. His nerves screamed, even though he could not.

Time and motion resumed. He didn't feel the piece of metal flying through his skull.

"I guess I screwed up, and wound up here," he said, relaxing. He figured that it would be easier to attribute the dialogue in front of the exploding bomb to near-death experience hallucination, than to divulge the absurd to his caretakers.

"You must have done something right. I remember the other guys in your unit saying that nobody should have survived that. I know you shouldn't have survived shrapnel in your frontal lobe, but hey, it's good to have you up."

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