Outdated as of April 26, 2016. Rewritten and posted [ here ].
Immobile in nothing, again. In breathes the white carving shapes and dimensions that bleed among a grey river, casting the cave, stairs, and doors into re-existence. Quick awkward steps break into the red puddles and closer to the beating heart. The drops still trickle down, cover my face, neck, and chest – it’s not mine, it’s not mine. Warm liquid bubbles over my lips and I swallow it down, not choking or spitting it, the creases of my mouth trap the liquid and its licked away. No drowning, just drinking, pleasured drinking that fills my chest and stomach. After trying to open my eyes, they fall open slowly.
White soldiers stand all around, their machines drawn but silent, and the flames gone. Quiet. They are backing off with their feet in no motion, sliding backwards in their idle poses. They are staring at me but higher. I look up to where they seem to stare at the raised hand.
I’m another and hands are wrapped around my throat. Choking, struggling to breathe. No sight in open eyes, just the black with no backdrop of rebounding light. Something else is breathing, hot air brushing against my face and liquid dripping down from the hidden maw. The hands around my neck grip, pull up, and slam me against the floor. They’re wet; my hands are wet. It’s sticky, and warm.
“Andrew,” a hand on my shoulder, A slow shake. “Wake up.”
Another shake and I peer through slight lids; it’s Dr. Matthews. With a groan two arms cross over my face. For only a moment I forget there is six arms, the lower four tugging at the sheets. After a quick look down, the previous day comes back to me and I hoist myself up. Bottom group crossing, middle lying on bottom and holding the sheets, top rubbing eyes and holding my head to one side. “I’m up, what is it?”
As usual, he’s sitting on the chair with a clipboard. He’s quiet, writing something down. I turn over to lay back down. “How far along do you think you are, Andrew?”
“A few months and nowhere near ready?” I speak through the pillow, still tired after how many hours of sleep. I don’t yawn.
“Actually,” he sets the clipboard face down on the side table. “My most accounts, you are ready for discharge, except for physical therapy of course. There is an outpatient program that can be situated, it’s not as contained, but you’ll be able to move around as you wish.” I keep my head buried in the pillow. “Unless you aren’t feeling comfortable enough to leave.” Keeping quiet I look over at him. “Are you?”
“I suppose … what about housing, if I’m not in here?”
“Your superiors have already worked something out, not too far from here.”
“How soon would it be ready?” Speaking through the pillow, “Is there windows?”
“Why wouldn’t there be?” It was a stupid question, burying my face back into the pillow. “Right now it’s just cleaning that needs to be done. The apartment has the same view as here.” Quiet. “Well, I’ll be back later to check in, maybe we can talk more then?”
“Yeah, maybe.” The door closes and I fall back to sleep.
Someone is running. There is laughter from somewhere in this someplace, almost completely dark except for a running figure outlined in red. Behind the figure in red is a figure of grey, running as well and in the same gait as the first but its arms are reaching out and stands a little taller – if it ever stayed still. Sparks came from the tall and grey, nothing brighter than its outline or as equal to the glow of the first. The gap is closing, the second takes larger steps, almost leaping after the bright red figure until they are touching. Red turns to grey and the figure breaks into lines breathed in by the grey. The laughter is gone and a groan replaces it. A long drawn out groan that gets weaker and weaker.
Again I’m shaken awake. It’s Trent.
“Andrew, you should not be sleeping this much.” He sounds worried, doubt he is worried. I don’t move from the pillow-clutching fetal-curling left-side sleeping. He shakes me again with two hands and pinches flesh along the right side. “Andrew, get off your ass.” They aren’t soft pinches.
“Ow, stop that.” I swat at him with top right, he pinches again and keep pinching until I sit up. “Fine, you win, what is it.” Lower arms rest on bed, middle right rubbing the pinched areas, holding head with top right and top left laying across stomach.
“It’s about time for your physical.” He might be smiling at that remark and, no, he isn’t and there is the bag I threw beneath the bed yesterday. “If you don’t mind – explain what this was doing under the bed.” It’s still zipped, messy zipped, and an edge of the jacket is hanging out of it. No arm moves.
“That’s a bag of some stuff,” Thinking back, what were the items in the bag? “Jacket, Laptop, a radio I think, and some cigarettes – maybe.” Trent pulls out the jacket, rummages for the cigarettes and the radio and sets them on the side table; everything else in the bag is removed, and only when everything was out, he stuffed them back in again, except for the cigarettes and the radio.
“Who gave you this stuff?” Two of his arms hold the radio and cigarettes, shaking them in my direction, while three other arms put stuff back in the bag, including what could be a wallet and a plastic bag of small colorful things – neither were present before.
“Remember who came in after you yesterday? He did,” oh, now I remember his name, “Jacob.”
“Astregael?” Trent is already up and walking to the door, knocking on the metal. He hands the items to someone on the other side.
“Yea.” A kink in one of the shoulder joints force me to reconfigure myself. Trent settles himself onto a rolling stool and pulls a bag up to his lap. “So, what physical therapy am I to do today?”
“Well, since there wasn’t ai whole lot of time the other day, a lot. Don’t worry, just motor skill tests. Now,” he turns to his bag and drops mine to the floor. I only look over the side of the bed for an instant, where I am sure nothing was broken. “I’ve got ha few items to test with. First, we need to see how well you can hold objects.”
Some hours pass through test after test, each had a result of lower four doing poorly and uppers doing fairly normally. After the first couple he make more of an effort to help me out. Motion range, dexterity, all sorts of things. Pain takes most of my attention, I don’t notice how late it is until Trent starts packing his things. “That’s it for today, Our next appointment is tomorrow.” Nothing else is said, and he leaves the room.
I look down to the arms and they’re resting, exhausted and only hold onto the sheet. The ticking of the clock fills the air, and I lean over the side of the bed. The bag is still sat on the floor. After a quick look at the door, I grab the bag with the top right to hoist it up. Two lower left arms lay on the bed, lower rights weakly pushes against the bed, and I pull it up onto my lap.
A bit of plastic broke off the laptop at the hinge and the jacket was balled up at the bottom, on a closer look the phone and note were still inside the pockets. I wonder what would’ve happened if Trent found it – shrug it off. Past the pulled blinds, light shines through at a low angle and hits the ceiling, past midday and going towards nightfall. It’s odd; sleeping for more than half a day, and sunlight as my only indication as to time.
The bit of plastic goes onto the side table and the bag sits off on my right, laptop in front of me. There may be something in there that Astregael or whomever left for me, I still don’t remember who they are really, or the amount of people in our group, or even Astregael himself. Any who, the laptop snaps open and a lower hand hits the power button while three others hold the laptop steady on one knee. The start page takes its time, logins on its own, and sits on a blue and white image backgrounding against four folders labeled; work, home, Shortcuts, and some images. The clock in the corner reads 5:54. I sit there in silence, not stunned, thinking, wondering, anticipating whatever could be within the four folders – maybe poof I had wanted of my life? A clear lettering of the phone number smudged on the paper in the jacket? In the silence hands play with the keys and move along the side of the laptop; they are slow movements. I just sit on the main screen, four fingers tapping at the sides. Scrolling over the folder labeled Shortcuts and clicking it opened a new page with Shortcuts labeling the top and three files, two ending in txt and the last one called Video-Chat – hesitation, what could be on the other end?
The first txt file was labeled ‘For Andrew.txt’ and I work the arrow over and click it.
Andrew, I’m sorry it happened.
I am not allowed to speak to you privately about what happened, or an intelligence from our commanding officers about the attack that killed your wife and almost killed you and the girls. I am not allowed to tell you, but I hope to god you remember Code BrainScan*, you remember it don’t you?
The FBI, they knew the attack was going to happen, to you and your family and everyone caught in the hotel. They tried to reach you on your cell, but you lost it on the beach, beneath a pile of rocks, that your daughters set up. How do I know? Well, you’d want to ask the guy following your family that day. They kept an eye on you the whole time – they kept an eye on the whole former team. I was on the Investigation Team at that time, the guy led us straight to the rock pile.
And you know what, how they knew an attack was going to happen there, of all places? Because there was threats on your life, you didn’t even know about, Zachary and Paskal also had several threats on their life, neither knew about them – didn’t even tell them until after you got put into the hospital. Zachary had his arms removed, Paskal was about to start his implantation the following week.
*PS: This means replace all text with a diary of sorts, please Shade, if this is found we are both in deep shit.
I read it once, read it twice, and finally a third time and only close and delete it. It’s not something that should be kept, as it had said, but did Astregael write it, or someone else that wants to see what I know? Whatever, it’s gone now, no need to think about it more than it needs to be. I don’t think this FBI group could be trusted, if they are different from the terrorists that, from what I remember, strapped a bomb beneath my car and it exploded and everything went to shit. The arrow stumbles over to the next txt file titled ‘Who to trust.txt’ and opened it.
The file only had a little black dot.
It goes straight to the recycling bin and I back up into the main folder, the arrow scrolls over to the work folder, opens it, there is nothing in it. Back to the main folder and into the home file, there is a number of files and folders; Projects folder, To do List folder, a folder titled MISC, and various files titled with a spasm of numbers and letters except for two with a similar symbol at the front of each of them, placing them above the files named asfa, awf3, and such. The first was labeled ‘ Vacation Plan’ and the second ‘Budget’ – The former one gets open and its back to the main folder before I read the file ‘Vacation Plan.txt’.
Day 1 –
Arrive in Orlando, pick up rental car, get something to eat for lunch.
Get to hotel, unpack, let girls play in pool
Must’ve been a scatterbrain before the hotel exploded. I force the arrow towards the red x in the corner but a sentence near the end stops me.
Note: Speak with GBG throughout the day. Signal before entering bathroom.
GBG? A scroll up and a full read-through of the file led to an answer, Ghost BodyGuard, and there was to be at least two or three contacts per day – but what about that other file, it mentioned something like that. For another hour, I dig through, restore the file, and compare the two files side by side, then went through the budget.txt folder – it was a list of receipts. The other folders had useless information, so they all got deleted, and the other folders were empty, so they were removed too. No idea why when I could just let it all go – but I wasn’t tired and no one had come in to check on me for the rest of the night. I deleted the two files, completely, go through the partyparty.img folder filled with the family Dr. Matthews told me was mine,
They stayed. All but the Video Chat shortcut were gone, the bin in the corner empty. I close the laptop and put it back inside the bag, and under the bed. There is the silence again, someone in the distant walking along the hallway, keys cry against metal and the door unlocks. Dr. Matthews is in the doorway, a smile on his face. “Good evening, Andrew, How are you feeling today?”
“Fine, I guess.” No movement, just watching him approach with only a key on a thin thread, and then it’s in his pocket. “Trent was in here earlier and -”
“He took some of the stuff Astregael gave you, he told me.” He slid a chair over and it groaned on the tile. “Astregael gave you some things you didn’t need, like the cigarettes, he fussed up to me yesterday so I told Trent to get them.” Open hands, then close, a clap. Silence, still, then he sits back up. “So, Astregael gave you your laptop back already?”
“Yea, yea he did.” I don’t go for the bag.
“Well, your father has your daughters, he wanted to talk to you.”
How would a computer help?
“He’s still at home, keeping the girls safe, but he still has your number on the webcam program you two got.” He doesn’t outright say get it, nor motions to it, so I pull the bag up from beneath the bed and pull out the computer, not opening. “Your father wanted me to tell you that, Andrew, in case you forgotten about it – which I guess you have.” He gets off the chair and leaves the room, locking it behind him. The clock on the wall still ticks. Giving in with a sigh, laying back down on the bed with laptop forgotten in two hands, I lay the tops over my eyes and rub, tired again, why?
The air conditioning kicks in, the ribbons above the bed dancing. Groaning, smacking my face with middle hands, I sit back up and open the laptop with the bottoms, drumming on the sides as middles operate it, dragging the mouse over the webcam and a top covers the pin hole above the screen. The program, a chat box opens in the corner and sinks back before I can read it. Dragging the arrow around the bottom of the screen I find it again and open it.
Dad: Hey Andy
Dad: How are you?
Dad: Haven’t heard from you in a while.
Dad: The girls want to speak with you.
They aren’t recent, four hours old at least, too late to respond – an arrow closes the chat and middle hands go to close it, put it back in the bag, get some more sleep. But something… chimes inside. The chat window is open again, and there is a new message; all that there is another line of text.
Dad: Hey son.
Another window pops in the corner, a request to video chat and one thumb covers the pin hole above the screen. One finger drags the arrow above the bubble marked ‘accept’ and the window with the chat box expands, taking up the entire screen. A man on the other side looks down at me through the screen while his mouth moves and he turns away.
Fingers trace the edges of the laptop for a volume control, but there is nothing. Holding the laptop up with three hands, again I search with no result, and I look to the keyboard where three sideways bells are plastered onto three keys. The man on the other side moves his side around while I mess with getting the volume started, and when I figure the damn thing out Dad’s voice came across.
“Terra, turn that thing off.” Came across the speakers at the bottom of the laptop. In some distance there was a grumpy whine. The tubes in my throat rubbed against the knot forming inside it, while on the screen the view was put onto a stand, probably on a table. “They’ll be here in a moment Andy.” The older man was smiling and looked behind him, while a girl with a ribbon in her hair climbed into one of the chairs. The ribboned hair girl, why can’t I remember her name, Ann, Annie, Andrea, she had a tiny bean bag grey cat in her hand and turns back to the door when the other girl walked in – I think it’s Terra – came in and sat down. “Terra, want something to drink?”
“No grandpa, I just want to see dad.” Her left hand grabbed the pendant necklace hanging from her neck. I couldn’t help but smile.
“I’m right here sweet heart,” I swallow back air. Both girls look towards me, well, whatever the camera was, a laptop, I think. The old man, my dad apparently, sits down in the middle chair.
“Daddy?” The oldest, Terra, pulls on her necklace. “H- how are you? Why are you covering the camera?” My thumb moves down but I push it back up with another, a bottom hand plays with the sheets.
“Well, I took… I’m not in the greatest shape.” My laugh is short and shallow, the pipes rubbing against the walls of flesh and I almost choke and cough. Swallowing just irritates the itch and there is a quick cough. “Hey, just so you know, I’m fine. Mostly. I just need more time to recover.”
“Come on daddy,” Andrea says, standing on her chair. “It’s not like you are that scary.” She’s laughing, popping a candy into her mouth.
“Well, not like this Annie. I got hurt bad.”
“Dad, I just need to know if you are alright,” it’s Terra again.
“I just want to know if you are alright too, T. Which I see. You still got the necklace.”
“Yeah, but… Dad please.”
“Come on Andy, it can’t be worse than anything we’ve seen before.” Dad got up from his chair and walked around the table and the camera flips around “Girls, can you give me a minute with your father.” No chairs squeak, they are probably still there. “Look, Andy, I told them for the past week they can see you, I can’t get them all the way across the country right now. If it bothers you so much, how about you just show me now so you can show them.”
The clock ticks on the wall and I look to it. Another knot gets swallowed, and I think, what could happen if I show them? I don’t know, and the thumb moves away from the pinhole above the screen; it was then that I had noticed the once black box, and now I was in it. I could actually see myself – with the holes in my head, the mask over my face, the tubes rounding across my skin that still held a slight patch of color.
“Okay, is that what you are worried about?” Dad laughs and places the laptop back down onto the table, where I place a thumb back over the pin hole. “Oh come on Andrew, let them see their dad.” The thumb slips down and the top hand sets back on the bed, two low hands grab the sheets. The girls don’t say anything, Andrea drops a candy from her mouth, another thumb goes over the pinhole and the laptop rests on the lower arms.
“Sorry T, Annie, I said it was bad.” I lay back down, four hands holding the laptop above my head.
“Its… it’s okay dad, I just didn’t recognize you without hair,” it was Andrea who stayed, “and wearing a mask.” Dad went after Terra, Andrea moved to the middle seat. “Did they get them? The people that hurt you and mommy.”
“Sorry sweetie, they are too busy keeping me up. But don’t worry, I’ll find who hurt mommy.”
“Grandpa said mommy was with you, is she?”
A hand covers my face. “Yeah, she’s just not with me right now. She had to go… somewhere important.”
“You believe Grandpa too? But daddy, I remember that night, you said she didn’t make it.”
The explosion, the burning rooms and fire, the stairway, and the darkness. “You remember it?”
“Yeah, it hurt, hurt a lot, but… you said mommy didn’t make it.”
“No no, I was wrong, she’s alive but working on finding the bad men.”
“Then why isn’t she here? With me and T?”
“Because Annie, she’s busy, but I am sure she’ll come home soon, come home and we’ll all be together again.” Hands only hold the sides of the laptop. “Hey, wanna see my battle scars?”
“No no daddy, you look weird enough without any hair.”
“Andrea,” my dad calls from another room. “Can you turn the laptop off? You need to work on your homework, dad can talk later.”
“Okay gramps! See you later daddy. Love you.”
“Love you too honey.” The last thing on the video is a keyboard and the camera goes offline.
Staring at the ceiling ,watching the ribbons dance, the two lower hands close the laptop and slips it onto the floor. There is still the persistent ticking across the room and a deep sigh chimes against it. What will I do, why would I lie to the daughters I have a hard time remembering. No answers, of course, so to one side I turn and arms go sprawling against the bed. Maybe sleep will help but it doesn’t come while Terra and Andrea’s faces still stare at me. How much different has my face become, was there something new that the camera could see?
Pushing up and staring at the ceiling, two hands feel around the mask and past the holes and over scars and a stitch in the left side. Those could be the issue, then again, now that I look towards the door, its dark in the room with only a dim ceiling light barely lighting the room. Outside the window the dark pillars are lit but without shape. The clock across from the bed is unreadable to me, of course, its dark and night time, but I can make out the ticking lines. Rolling over three arms and resting on two, a left hand reaches for the laptop laying sideways on the bag and grabs the edge sticking up.
Then there’s a sharp pain in the back of the palm, the laptop clanks back into the bag, and another hand presses down on the stitching. It hurts.
I wake with two arms hung over the side of the bed, the sun peering through the window. An aching brings hands up to my temples, rubbing, while I slowly lay on my back. I feel around with another hand for the sheets, pulling them up to my aching gut and the three arms I laid on. “Uhn, shit,” the middle one still stings. The door across the room opens.
“Mr. Pottarus,” Ryan spoke. “Dr. Matthews wanted to give this to you, he’s been busy.” Then he’s gone out the door, leaving the smoothie he came in with on the side table.
Coughing out, still rubbing out the stinging feeling in the right arms, I heave one leg over the side of the bed towards the window then swing the other one around and sit there. Top arms lean back, steady, and the other four arms hang out in the front while one foot moves around. I’m not sure if I am ready to try and walk, The lower two push off the bed, top still pointing back and I land on them hard. They held, but palms and fingers ached. Past the window I could hear the rumble of the city, the murmur of a thousand conversations.
Again I try to stand. Something is wrong with my knees.
I watch the sun rise and clouds ghost through the sky – where they move, join, divide, and disappear. If I could just get to the windowsill and the chair. Once more, the top pushes, the middles push, and the bottoms pull against covered knees and then reach out for the chair. Again, it fails, and arms are pinned again. I groan myself back to the pillow, where I lie back and hope to sleep. The smoothie is still on the side table.
A while later, Trent is back in the room and speaking, “Hugh, he’s going to keep messing himself up at this rate. Does anyone think I might need assistance. Nah, he can handle it, after all it his twelve arms going on, I think they can handle it.” He laughs, but its dry and slow. Trent is going through his bag, and after peeking through the shadow of an arm, I see him kneeling beside a wheelchair and a bag. The smoothie that was on the table is gone. “Oh, sleeping beauty awakens,” the same dry voice, he might be upset.
“Now?” I groan and roll over, my arms still hurt and the pain on the left side flares up. “Hey, I haven’t been feeling so well, mind getting Dr. Matthews.” Trent stops and goes out the door, and in the middle of the floor is a wheelchair and a bag of things. At least he has the right idea. One blur line passed completely around the blurry clock before the door opens again. “Hey.”
“Andrew, you wanted to speak with me?”
“Yeah,” two arms push away from the bed and the tops hold back steady, I breathe out a cough, “there’s a stitch on the left side of my head.” Matthews pulls up a chair and sits on it. “what’s that about, I don’t remember you saying anything about it. And my knees don’t feel right, I can’t stand.” The wheelchair is sitting behind Matthews, he looks at it then back to me.
“I apologize for not telling you, Andrew. Do you remember came in and we talked about your new place?” I nod. “That was Monday when I told you, three days ago. Trent noticed that you were unresponsive and there was swelling on the left side of your head. We, the team, had to reduce the swelling that we thought we had resolved, the fracture healing might have caused it – but no worry, we are sure you are fine now.”
“Why didn’t Trent tell me anything about it… last night.” I’m not sure since I’ve lost the time, over to the side Trent was sitting and looking at papers in a binder. “I’m sure he had his reasons. What about my knees though?”
“You’ve been bed ridden for the past couple months, Andrew, walking isn’t something that just comes back after that and having been fractured – your whole leg that is. Is there anything else troubling you?” The lower hands fiddle with each other, rather badly, I can’t feel them coming into contact.
“Yeah, last night when I touched it, I…fainted or blacked out.”
“You were tired, right?”
“You just fell asleep. Now, I got something else to tell you about.” Matthews turns back to Trent then back to me. Trent leaves the room. “The team and I have been discussing on how to resolve the issue you have with the mask and are considering an alternate solution, so you can eat solid foods and survive on your own – have more freedom.”
“It involves surgery, again, to change what we’ve already altered in your throat as well as making more alterations to fit the options we are considering. Most of the team believes a brace around your mouth would be the best alternative – with some traits of the mask included.”
“I’ll have to consider then, in the mean time I should try to get walking again. Where did Trent go off to?” Trent walked through the door, the folder was gone. “Never mind. Hey, last night I talked with… with my daughters. How much do they know?”
“Not much, it’s up to your father on what to tell them,” Trent was at Matthew’s side and tapped him on the shoulder. “What is it Trent?” They get close and then leave the room. A few minutes go by, I counted them, and then they are back, Matthews walking to the bed and Trent getting behind the wheelchair. “Hey, Andrew, how about this, tomorrow both me and Trent can show you the apartment so you can see it. How does that sound?”
“Yeah, that sounds nice.” Matthew nods and head towards the door, but not before turning to Trent.
“Take care of him.”
“I will,” exhales Trent as he came over to the bed, “because none of you will.” He makes no eye contact and pulls the wheelchair after him. “Come on, Andrew, into the wheelchair.”
“What was that about?” Trent slides the wheelchair over and it smacks the edge of the bed.
“What? That was nothing.” He refused to talk about it further, and only guides the motions for the therapy. He called it strength training. It was three hours of exercising arms, pulling therabands and such, until a call pulls Trent from the room and he locks the door. Everything hurts, I was thirsty, and couldn’t speak through the pain. I blame the pipes.
He came back into the room and went straight for his bag. “We’re done for today, Andrew.” He started collecting his things and pulled the stretchy rope from my hands. “We can continue tomorrow, if you are up for it.”
“Yeah, I can do that.”
“Good,” Trent holds the bag on his left side, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” and he was out the door.
Listening to the clock tick and the air conditioner kick in, I flick the left wheel back, alternating which arm I used. Rolling over to the bed and window carefully, I watch the sky turn purple then black, the rain patting against the glass. I breathe out a cloud. I’m tired again and melt into the chair on wheels and close my eyes.
The rain pounding on the window, thumping without a beat mixes with the rustling of leaves. I see a small building through the trees – I am still at the window – and running to it, holding tight to a jacket and a bag. In the bag, I have no idea, but it was important and was held close. It was too close and the wet went to it, soaking it. And there was crying, someone sobbing, but it couldn’t be me since I am still here, in a dark room. I am sobbing, the edges of my eyes are wet and I touch them. My fingers are dry now. Something was missing. Some person was missing. Who is missing, why are they missing. Thunder strikes my spine and I sit, watching the rain drip down the window and watch the grey swirl with shadows dancing on the sides.
Rubbing eyes, backing up the wheelchair and stopping at the bed, I crawl into bed, pulling up the sides of the bed with long striped arms, landing head on pillow, and pulling it up and release. Sleep.
Rumbles crawl through the room. I can’t turn over. Sleep.
I can’t keep myself aware. I see trees in the distance. Sleep.