Mature | Horror/Mystery
” When Andrew Pottarus first wakes he has amnesia. Then he’s told who he is; a survivor, a father, an agent. They help him back to his feet and keep his family safe – a promise he’d be with them again. But little by little the pieces start to fall away.
Until all he can taste is blood. ”
Psychological Horror, Body Horror, Graphic to Intense Violence, Graphic Gore,
All I do is lie and listen.
Listen to their movements and sometimes what they say – their conversations always take place on the other side of the room. As thought I wasn’t there. The one doctor that let me hear doesn’t show up again, or maybe he did and I just don’t remember. Too many doctors come in and out to keep track of – always doing something that didn’t involve me except when they changed the bed.
Sometimes, one would just linger in the room – of course couldn’t see them – but felt their presence, and their eyes on me. Sometimes it’d just be one taking notes. Often, there’d be at least one in the room while I was awake – there’s a lot of them when it comes to a bed change – when they remove the leather belts.
They take them off, move me, and then latch them tight again. I manage to work up the courage to ask one of them about the leather – the doctor said it was for their safety. Why? I’m always drugged stupid with painkillers or sleeping, what could I do to harm them? Even without them I can’t get up.
A short time later they stop using them.
In their place the doctors suggest that I not touch anything; keep them away from my face, away from the harness, not to fiddle with the needles, generally not to touch anything beside the bed.
There is other questions I want to ask; who am I, for one. Where am I, what happened to me, and the like.
None of them answer … dismissing them.
“In time, Andrew”, one would say.
“Not now,” said another.
“Just wait a bit longer,” states another before they leave the room, closing what sounds to be a heavy door. Left to the ceiling again; I always fall asleep just afterwards.
It could be from the exhaustion, because of the uncounted wounds and what I assume are broken bones. But, what if they are sneaking something in with the nutrition junk they give me?
Of the tubes clogging my throat is a small one, which I’m guessing goes through my nose to my stomach. It’s the farthest down I can feel on my face, something’s wrong with my jaw – I can feel the grind from the suction around my face. Eventually I ask about how long they’re needed, but the same thing comes back. “You’ll learn in time”
I’m sick of it.
A time later I ask a general question about the multiple tubes, the ones constantly itching my throat with every breath. This doctor answers.
Looking away from the piece of paper in his hand, he says without hesitation, “without them, you couldn’t eat or breathe.”
Then he’d turn away again, out of my laying line of sight. He’s still standing close enough I could try and snag the paper away from him – force some answers out of him. But I won’t, because I know I can’t. I can barely manage to sit up in bed without assistance, how could I even manage stealing a piece of paper from another person?
I close my eyes. Wrapped fingers dig into hardened palm, touching the rough scars and stretching skin grafts on the back of the hands. It’d hurt more if it wasn’t for the painkillers, just like everything else. The dull aches, the pinches, the itches, the numbness.
I hope I didn’t put myself here.
The heavy slam of a door and silence. He’s gone. He could just be gone for a moment and could come back soon.
But he doesn’t.
Forcing the right against the bed I push myself to the side, slowly through the biting pain. The doctor left the sheet of paper behind, good. And I fall back. Aches and burning comes back through the painkillers and I just let them get their rush done – it won’t do me any good if I fall off the bed trying to get one piece of paper.
With a general idea of where it is I just reach out with the left, barely missing the edge before pain surges through again. The second attempt is successful, but just as bad as the first attempt – with the piece of paper laid on my chest I let the pain flow through again; eventually it’ll subside.
And it does.
I hold the sheet up with the right, letting my left rest off on the side
Letting the left rest off on the side, I hold the sheet up between my face and the light with my right. Its double-sided and written in spastic handwriting, small print hidden between looping circles and scrawled lines. What an absolute mess. At this point I may have well wait for them to say something to me. There was only a bit that was legible after some struggled focus; it was all written near the top.
Medical examination of: Andrew Pottarus (Avon POCOCK)
My name and an alias? I assume the numbers are the date. Beside those there was only scribbles.
The door lock clicks
I throw the paper off to the side before the metal door opens and fall to my default position – right on chest, left at side, staring up at the AC. “Andrew, how are you?” It was the young doctor, the one that let me hear. He talks to assistant, telling him to help me sit up. The assistant does just that, lowering the side rail on the left and pulling the sheets down to my waist. Slowly I prop myself up, looking over to where the doctor sits and read his tag – Dr. Matthews. He has a thick binder, one he drops down on the side table and it slams.
The assistant helps, supporting my weight as I struggle to sit up. An attempt to turn my head leads to a cringe, feeling bolts twist flesh and bone, fluid oozing from the lingering holes. The assistant keep my hands from them and I turn to Dr. Matthews with my torso and a flinch. “Sore,” I croak.
“How is the medication working for you?” Dr. Matthews pulls over a chair and sits down on the chair he pulled over and beside the thick binder. I close my eyes and rub them, the assistant stands just to my left. For a moment, I feel like running, and then my stomach lurches.
“Wish I could tell,” my stomach lurches again, “wish I could taste,” my throat clenches and the tubes bounce.
“Maybe it would be better to wait for a later time, when you feel better.”
“No, I … I just need some water,” I cough and the assistant walks off.
In this position he has the chance to look at the skin grafts that run from the back of his hands and along his arms. Until now he never got the chance to look at them, as it was always too dark to see if there was any sort of difference; but now it was obvious. Tan flesh is edged by darker tones and milk whites. The underside of each finger runs white, the tops lightly banded by the whites at the joints. The skin grafts are a single color, lighter than his own. It breaks up the color differences; he can feel himself shaking. “Doctor,” he swallows. “Why is my skin like this?” He holds his entire arms out before him. The bands of dark tones blocking off milky whites from the base tan. “Why do I have multiple arms?” Dr. Matthews says nothing. He reaches for the sheets and throws them away – the banding is also on his legs apart from the scarring and skin grafts that run along the front and sides. He says nothing, feeling his body covered in shakes and a churning stomach. The heart monitor he failed to notice before beeps faster.
“Calm down, Andrew. I’ll answer your questions soon.”
“How long has it been?! A month? An entire month I’ve been waiting.” Andrew swallows hard. “I just want answers now!”
“Andrew, settle down,” the doctor reaches for the binder, pulling it into his lap and opens it to the first tab – to Andrew it’s an upside down packet of photos. “One answer at a time, after these I’ll answer your questions.” He pulls the photos out and drags the side table closer to the bed, it screeches on the floor.
The assistant comes back with a small cup of water. Andrew can’t drink it on his own with the bulk over the lower part of his face – so the assistant opens an access hatch with a sloped entrance connected to a one of the many tubes touching his tongue. The assistant guides a hand over to the outer lip of the hatch, letting Andrew feel around before dumping the water in.
Dr. Matthews pulls out a photo and holds it out in front of Andrew. “Do you know these people?” It was a family of four; two parents and two little girls, one of them sits on the father’s shoulders. The father’s skin is not as clear as his wife or daughters, more hidden in the shadows.
“No,” Andrew coughs, wheezing out a few more cough right after.
Dr. Matthews points to the father, “that’s you, Andrew” I have a family? A wife and child? He lets me sit there in silence for a short time. “You alright?” I can’t nod my head.
“Yeah, just … I don’t remember them at all. Are you certain?”
“Identifications, your history, medical records,” I’m quiet; he points to the wife. “You married her eleven years ago. Does she at least look familiar?”
“No, I …”
Matthews pulls out another photo. It’s a picture of the wife smiling – her face is familiar, but there is no name. “Her name is Elise.” Elise. Elise. It rings something and sounds familiar, but where? The children become familiar, but their names. They look like the girls in the dream. “Your daughters, 9-year-old Terra and 5-years-old Andrea. Do you remember them?
“Now, yea,” I don’t mention from where. Dr. Matthews pulls out another picture, it was the older girl. She had a clip in her hair and sat on her father’s shoulders, apparently mine. “Do you remember how troublesome Terra was? Getting into frequent fights while Andrea spent time in your office. Do you remember?”
“No but…” There was another photo, the younger girl this time and she was sitting in an office making a face at someone off to the side. She was mocking a man sitting across from her in a half-spun office chair, making a fish face with her hands pressing her cheeks down. The person in the chair had two left arms. I’m quiet, staring at the image, and flip it. “I’m not going to believe this until – until I see my own face.”
“Ryan,” the name of the assistant, “can you find him a mirror?” The assistant leaves and the heavy door slams. Dr. Matthews turns back to me, arranging the photographs. “Your wife, Elise, was two years younger than you and wanted to be a lawyer. Your occupation was in a covert-“
“No. I don’t want to hear about my supposed family bull crap right now. Why do I have six arms, why are they like this!” I hold out my free arms, yanking the needles in the left arm taut. Again Dr. Matthews is quiet but he works to push the needles back in. For a moment, he leaves me alone and enters the bathroom with the small cup the assistant brought in earlier. He fills it and hands it back to me.
“Are they flesh?”
“No, robotic. As I was about to say, you were part of a high-ranking covert squadron. They were a necessity for your squad to complete the mission. You excelled before then, however, like everyone else, additional working limbs were required. You agreed to the augmentation service – a lengthy three month process for one set at a time. Each arm was government manufactured.”
“A side effect of a melanin project, ACTM. Your grandparents participated and it was passed down to your mother, then you. It’s not as severe as theirs. Neither of your girls showed any lasting signs of the genetic skin discoloration.” That was easy to tell from the photographs, but then there was memories that come up and last only a second.
“What happened to me, to them – my family I mean.”
“Right now, you are in the Aelus-Enap BioTech Recovery Center. If I were to tell you all the details, it’ll take a while to explain.”
“I got time.”
He sighs and starts the flip through the binder, passing several forms and past three tabs then form, flipping through the last two before finding what he’s looking for. “On the third of July, you took your family to a resort in Florida for a week. The first few days were spent at the beach, amusement parts, and various tourist destinations. The fourth day rolls around,” he flips past a page and gets to a lengthy forum. “I’ll summarize for now, you need more sleep. On the fourth day,” he flips to another paper, “ On the fourth day your hotel was struck by a botched terrorist attack – anti-tech – at the time your family was on the seventh floor, east wing, when the explosion happened. The first four floors were blown and the rest of the building started to collapse. A fire rose up on the west side and engulfed the building – 57 people died in the blast and several more were injured, even more by the fire and eventual collapse.”
Andrew feels numb, imagining the fire all over again, the collapsing hall. “What happened after that?”
“The fire department arrived on scene in five minutes, in ten the bulk of ambulances and helicopters showed up. You survived, of course, but in severe condition. You, Elise, and the two girls were in the east stairwell when the building collapsed. Elise wasn’t as fortunate; she died a week after being put on life support.” He pauses and looks up at me, fingering the paper. The assistant comes in and stands off to the side, hands behind his back. “However, your daughters were luckier. Right now they are undergoing recovery.”
“A botched terrorist attack… Where was it? Who was the intended target?
“In the underground parking lot, the bomb was attached to your rental car.”
The assistant hands Andrew the palm-sized mirror.
With the mirror Andrew can see the metal harness dug into his skull, identifying the welded pieces and the screws keeping it all together. The harness extends to the neck brace, as well as the mask that cover the lower part of his face. Two bolts on his shaved head bleed red on either side from their points near his temple. It’s too dark to make out the colors of his eyes, but all he can tell is that they’re dark, but he can make out the bands of white that cross from somewhere beneath the head harness and around his eyes – ending before his nose. Above the white patches and near each eye were a pair of dots. He raises his empty hand and put two fingers over a pair of them, some vision fades in and out.
“What are these?” I motion to them.
“Ah,” starts Dr. Matthews, turning the pages back to the first tab, where the rest of the photographs are waiting. “Those are sight enhancement implants; they were issued with the robotic arms.” I guess he means seeing in the dark?
Andrew’s attention returns to the mirror and the reflection of the bulky off-white mask covering half of his face. It goes from cheekbones to chin, even further when he stretches his jaws. One on side was a blinking light. Dr. Matthews pulls out several more photos, laying them on top of the previous ones on the small table, most of them are headshots of a man similar to me and his family, Andrew’s family if what the doctor says is true. Each one has the ridge of white, some have the tiny dots above his eyebrows; the hair changes length and style with each image. He has no hair to compare to them. The only thing he can compare them with is the color. There is a lower half of the face that he can’t compare either, they had a nose and a mouth while all he can see now is a mask. “The mask, what does it do?”
Dr. Matthew sighs, “It’s one of the few things that might be permanent.” He picks up the photographs and starts sorting them into the binder again. They’re both silent; Andrew downs the cup of water; Dr. Matthews flips to the last tab in the massive binder. “Andrew, I would rather save this for another time, but you said you want answers. When you first came in,” he pauses for a breath, “between the collapsing building and stabilizing, you died three separate times.” He takes out three brown envelopes from the back of the binder, “once on the road, twice on the operating table. Here, the first one,” he slides it over to Andrew. It’s sealed
On the front of the envelope was ‘J.Riachixs’ and ‘freelance photographer’, the seal on the envelope is fresh and reads ‘forensics only’. Andrew looks at Dr. Matthews, who motions to the envelope. Andrew rips off the red tape and pulls out the contents.
The first few draw close to a building spitting fire, held above a crowd as it moves around from the front to the partly chewed lobby, panning to a pool filled with red, black, grey, and browns. People running, people jumping from the building, and then the collapse caught in three shots. A dust cloud clots the sky with grey smoke, and then there are firefighters. The rubble is high, two stores compared to the ten story building it used to be. It follows the firefighters into the still burning waste, capturing shots of dead hands rising above the rubble, corpses stuck concrete slabs, few beside the firefighters are alive in the photos. A group of three pull at a mound of roofing material.
Through the commotion of red, yellowing, and padding pink is a body stuck between concrete and broken ceiling tiles. Firefighters work the debris from the man and two children seen through the pink padding and white dust, the children are two girls; they could be his daughters; one has a hair clip. The girls are taken away and the father is left to the firefighters. Broken bones are visible in noodle-limp limbs. Raw muscles and char mix with scrapes of skin, blood is plenty and a piece of rebar sticks through one shoulder. “This can’t be me,” Andrew whispers, looking over the photos again, half in disbelief and half for confirmation. He picks through the collection with feverous shuffles, looking for one with the man’s face in clear view.
He finds one.
The markings of stark white and pale against the blood and bile bubbling over his lips, eyes closed and a firefighter tapping two fingers on a darkened neck. It’s only pictures, but he can hear their movements, their words, their actions as one calls for a stretcher, not seen for several frames as the photos flash from angle to angle. Clear markings, six arms, dots along the eyebrows, dark hair – from upper jaw down there was nothing but red and deeper read, torn flesh and broken teeth from a phantom buckshot. They’re loading him into a stretcher; pressing, pulling, hands around arms and head, stabilizing, rushing, loading, needles, pressing. There is blood, blood everywhere. He’s choking on blood. He can’t see. Throat tight, wheezing, pounding veins weak of blood –
“Andrew, put the photos down,” Dr. Matthews’ hand is on Andrew’s wrist. In the next moment the photos are face down and askew. Andrew stares at the opposite wall.
“It is me…”
“Yes,” a pause, Dr. Matthews picks up the photos. “I’m sorry I had you look at them,” he’s calm, sorting the photos back into order before gently tucking them back into the light brown envelope. “If it’s too much to take in for the moment, I can leave for another day.”
With a tight chest Andrew croaks, “No,” silence, “please, continue.”
“As you wish,” Dr. Matthews pulls out the other two envelopes; one is labeled ‘X-rays’ and the other labeled ‘Lacerations, Burns, and Fractures.’ Both are set on the bed, still close and their labels up and staring. Dr. Matthews lets Andrew choose – and he goes for the latter. Inside was images of layers of blood, flesh, and bone frozen in time. Full frontal, both sides, full back shots, there was dozens upon dozens of shots of gore within. Burns stretch five feet across his body, gashes across his face and arms, the bloody mass that would’ve been where he once had a nose or a mouth. There was still hands in the frames bloodied by fabric laying around. Andrew swallows back a choking inside his throat – he can take the reality, browsing over the measured wounds and burns. Then there was images of three arms, white peering out beneath the red and black inside a sleeve of skin. His stomach lurches again and his throat burns in the back of his throat.
He still continues.
Slowly Andrew puts them all back into the envelope, leaving a few sticking out of the top before handing it back to Dr. Matthews. Andrew reaches for the other one, the ‘X-ray’ set of files. Of course it is sparse, holding a few sheets that need to be held to the light. Thankfully for Andrew the room is more lit than earlier, as the ceiling lights begin to hurt his eyes. There are images of a cracked skull, shattered ribs, bones splintering and prodding against masses of black. Nothing looks survivable, but so says him, as he stares at the mass of negatives.
“What…” Andrew takes a moment to swallow, “was the damage?”
He pulls another set of papers from the accursed binder and he begins; “Trauma to the back of the head, punctured ear drums, severe damage to upper and lower jaws, broken collarbone, broken ribs, ruptured lung, and internal bleeding; two third degree burns, 35 second and first degree burns, several lacerations, fractures to all limbs, and broken tailbone…” he goes through a long list of specific injuries Andrew don’t understand. Still in disbelief, at the impossibility, that anyone could survive such injuries – even me. Turning away from Dr. Matthews he lay back on the bed, arms cross across his face, eyes closed.