Fantasticoe -- 2012
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Circles

Courtney Stamm

I woke up.

Tinny beeps hovered near my head, all out of sync. Something was slowly, slowly dripping. My wrists and ankles felt like they had hundred pound weights strapped to them, and when I tried to move, I found that I was cuffed. I spotted an IV drip and followed the tubing down, down, down to my hand. I hurt, I realized. I hurt a lot. How had I gotten here? It’s was struggle to remember much of anything, but there was some dim thing about jumping from a plane… That’s right; I’d done another night jump. Had one of the rookies landed on me? Or had I been captured? That was a terrifying thought, and not one I wanted to dwell on.

 Watering eyes made the room blur and shift. There was a harsh light directly above my face, and it reminded me uncomfortably of sitting in a dentist’s chair. Instinctively, I moved away from it, knowing it was what was causing my eyes so much pain, and found that my head was not tied down. That was strange indeed. If I had been in an accident, shouldn’t they be worried about my neck and spine? I was missing something, but my head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton.

I studied the room around me, hoping it would provide some sort of answer to what mess I was in this time. It didn’t help. Something was very, very wrong here. The room looked more like a prison cell than a hospital room with its dingy, stained grey walls and filthy concrete floor. The light itself, from what I could see from the corner of my eye, was rusty and taped together in several places. There wasn’t any space for medical equipment either, and my mind was wandering back down the road I did not want it to go.

There were posters on the walls. It was a strain to try and see them, and once I could make them out, I wished I had not made the effort. They weren’t posters at all. They were pictures. Pictures of the insides of human beings, organs shining sickeningly under the flash of a camera. I struggled not to heave and turned away. The light was better than seeing those.

A sudden dimness told me the light was gone. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I didn’t want to see who had me, who decorated with such gruesome pictures. I did anyways. He looked like such an average person. Except his eyes. He had the devil’s eyes. Black as pitch and just as cruel. His white lab coat was pristine in contrast of the squalid room, and his hair was neatly tied back from his face. Light glinted off gold glasses. The twist of facial muscles told me he was wearing a smile behind his crisp, blue, surgical mask, but it was not a friendly smile. It did not reach those terrifying eyes.

            “Welcome back to the world of the living Corporal,” he murmured, that thin lipped smile seeping into the sound of his voice. I was suddenly very, very, scared. I knew without a doubt that I’d rather be in enemy hands than with this mad man.

            He was fiddling with something just beneath the table, but it was at too awkward of an angle for me to see. He shifted his weight and it suddenly caught the light. It felt like my heart had stopped. It was the biggest, and strangest, needle I had ever laid eyes on. The metal pieces looked like they had been made of copper instead of steel, and the tube was wide and squat. The electric blue liquid inside glowed eerily. That was anything but medicine, I’d bet my rank on it.

 “Doc, what’s going on?” I managed, hoping that maybe I was wrong, that this wasn’t what I thought it was. God, I wanted it to just be my paranoia talking. I could barely recognize my own voice. My throat felt like I had been screaming for hours. The doctor just smiled that terrifying smile and worked air bubbles out of the needle. Cold hands grabbed mine, shifting the IV tubing. I struggled. I didn’t know what was in that needle, but I knew I didn’t want it in me.

            “Hush now Corporal. This will go much easier for you if you cooperate.” He wasn’t smiling now. His forehead was creased, just a little. Those hands, as thin and old as they were, held my arm down easily. And then the pain started. My heart and breathing kicked into overdrive. The pain just kept growing. I was crying, yelling, struggling, anything to get the pain to stop. Through it all the doctor watched me with impassive eyes, scribbling notes on his clipboard all the while. At one point, I was sure I heard him say, “Hmmm, it seems that the steroids reacted badly with the neural enhancers. No matter.” The beeping I had noticed earlier broke in, as wild as my heart beating inside my chest. I thought I was going to be sick from the noise and the pain. Finally, finally, I passed out.

            When I woke again, I was alone. I groaned as everything else woke up and told me just how much it hurt. It felt like every bone in my body was broken. I had to get out of here before the doctor came back with some other twisted idea to try on me. My luck hadn’t run out just yet, and I managed to wrest myself free of the cuffs, though each movement was agony.

            My training finally kicked in and the cuffs finally dropped away and I staggered to my feet. I had to cling to the table while the room spun around me. I thought for sure I was going to puke, but I guess I didn’t have anything in my stomach to bring back up. My legs didn’t seem to be working quite right. They felt like they had been put on backwards, or like the muscles were too short. I managed to get to the door despite it all. It was unlocked and easily opened, and the hallway beyond was completely empty. If there hadn’t been so much static inside my head, I probably would’ve realized that this was bad, not luck, but I didn’t realize. I stumbled drunkenly down the hall instead, leaning heavily on the walls to support my failing body.

The building was a maze. Each wrong turn brought me back to the open door and the table with its cuffs. I struggled to remember which turns I had already taken. My vision kept shifting, and sometimes things looked totally different from what I had seen only a few moments ago. Even the doors seemed against me. There was no logical order to their numbers, or maybe that was my jumbled brain talking. I couldn’t tell anymore.

I ended up face down on the floor again and again as I tripped over my own feet. At one point, I stumbled into a medical cart, sending it and myself crashing to the floor. I was sure I was caught then, for the noise had been enough to wake the dead. But no one came. Eventually I ran into a door I hadn’t seen and was forced to stop. I was confused and sick, and this door not opening for me nearly had me in tears. It should’ve opened. It was one of those glass sliding doors, like the ones at grocery stores and movie theaters, which open for you automatically.

My frustration made me angry. If the door wouldn’t open, I decided, than I would open it myself. I slammed my fist into the door and glass shattered, raining down to leave dozens of little cuts on my hands and bare feet. I didn’t notice this new pain, as small as it was compared to the ache from the drug I had been left to deal with. I also didn’t notice the little red dot that steadied itself right over my heart, marking me as a sniper’s target. My vision had cleared, I could see sunlight ahead and that was all I could see. I did notice the soft spit of a silenced bullet leaving its rifle, and the blossom of pain across my chest. It funny really, how much blood can come from such little hole if the thing that made it hits something vital. I stood there, dumbfounded, as my life pumped from my chest. Everything went black.

I woke up.

            Where was I? Had I been in some sort of accident? I remembered something about a plane…

            A face with an evil smile loomed over me and whispered, “Welcome back to the world of the living Corporal.”