He opened his eyes and saw all he knew in the world; cracks in a plaster ceiling. He had no memories to consider at all. He felt like a blank slate, waiting to be carved and painted in. The ceiling had recessed lights along with the cracks, but they were dark. He had good enough vision to see the cracks in the plaster despite the dim light.
He lay still, not sure if he even could move, or if he had limbs to command.
Do dead men have limbs?
Fuzzy images took shape in his mind. But still, the only solid thing he understood were cracks and shut off lights. And a certain confidence in his death. He began to remember a little, as the fuzzy images took on shapes, texture, and substance. Faces materialized in his mind but with no context about who they belonged to. Sounds also floated around as memories: shuffling, talking, weeping. He hated the weak who wept. But that wasn’t as bad as the fire. So much fire. A small chilly prick, then the boiling and raging fire spread through his veins.
He wanted more. His eyes squeezed closed in concentration. Memories trickled in now like a dripping pipe. The faces belonged to his family.
A girl. He could almost see her face, she had pretty if not sturdy features, clean lines, well proportioned. He loved her, in his own way. Not quite the way a brother normally loves his sister, but enough so that her betrayal had a harsh sting.
They had work to do, a future to share, a world to shape. Destiny had carved a special place for the two of them. But the girl stole everything when she killed him.
Memories built themselves into his story. Lines, forms, colors taking shape in his mind. The girl had been smart, strong, stable. Not as strong as him, but faster, which pissed him off. Frustration grabbed him as he struggled to hold onto the memories. He couldn’t remember why she made him so angry.
The face of an older man swim through his conscious, not his father but a father figure. He helped her. Always on her side, like everyone else.
His mission. She told him he forgot his mission. She said she loved him. Then she killed him.
So why was he laying here staring at a cracked ceiling? He remembered dying.
He remembered the restraints holding him tight. The table was hard and cold. Tears ran down her pretty face, but a determined look in her dark brown eyes shot reality into him faster than the poison. She looked exhausted. A large cut above her right eye dripped blood down her face. Her broken right arm hung limply at her side. He smiled at the memory of the cracking sound it made when he twisted it. The girl wore the pain as another girl might wear a pretty dress. It helped define her. She was lovely, he thought. What a shame.
He remembered struggling against the straps; they dug into his wrists, upper arms, chest, and down his legs. Straps cut into his forehead as he tried to look around. He screamed. A lot. Quiet, easy deaths were for lesser men.
How dare his family pass judgment. She was the same as him – made from the same twisted minds! But the little teacher’s pet never did anything wrong. The girl moved closer and stuck a cold needle in his arm. She looked as if she wanted to say something, but decided to keep silent.
He screamed and fought, twisting in his bindings. He pictured breaking free and slamming her head into his knee.
The burn spread up his arm. Fire burning, blood boiling, bones melting. He tried to scream again, but the fire took his voice. His vision grew dark, his eyes heavy.
“I’m sorry, Adam.”
And then he died.
Adam! His name was Adam before he died on that cold table. He raised his hand to rub his forehead, struggling to remember more details, and realized he had hands. Turns out he wasn’t just a random consciousness after all. He was alive, body and mind intact.
Fuck them all.
But the chill of the needle, the spread of the poison. Dead is dead, there should be no body at all, much less a consciousness looking at cracks in the ceiling. He ran his hands around his face and down his chest, unable to deny what he knew. Somehow, he survived.
He pulled at wires taped across his chest as he sat up.
The wires connected to machines that slept in the corner. There was nothing else in the room, no furniture, no decorations on the wall. It looked like a hospital room or maybe a cell, small, white, no windows. He turned toward the door. Not a cell. The door had a normal handle and a little window that let in some ambient light.
He swiveled on the bed and dropped his feet to the floor, wondering how long he had been in that bed; he didn’t feel weak or atrophied in any way. His body was strong and muscular as ever. Although he might not deteriorate the way a normal would. Still though, he opted to move slowly. He was after all dead the last time he checked in.
Nakedness never concerned him, so he didn’t bother looking for clothes. The door was locked, but he easily broke the handle and stepped out of his little world and into a dark, deserted hall. The building was silent, not at all like a normal hospital. No calls for doctors on the speakers. No patients talking. No machines whirling. He hated the noise of humans and welcomed this new silence.
He walked to the nearby nurse’s station. A row of half a dozen monitors sat dark and idle. Dust on the counter indicated no one had sat there in several weeks. He tapped at the holo-key board, but it lacked power like everything else.
Sunlight streamed in from a window at the end of the hall. He walked over and looked out. He was at least ten stories up. Below him a large parking lot, over full with haphazardly parked cars. The street beyond was deserted. No signs of life. In the distance a plume of dark smoke rose into the blue sky.
The building across the street had broken windows and a bright red graffiti message: Welcome to the end of the world! A bloated body lay in a red puddle below the words.
A smile spread across Adam’s face.
“It’s about fucking time.”