Drifting in and out of sleep…people melting seamlessly into one another, tall and short, slender, dark, well built, females, males – it was hard to keep track of all the faces. They were a blur. Days moved into weeks, weeks seemed to pass like hours. My arm was numb, then it would shriek with pain, no comfortable position fit my excruciating body. I ate, drank, passed out and awoke all in the same room and on the same bed. I had no idea what the sun looked like anymore, no concept of time. Then one day I lifted up, dangled my legs off the edge of the bunk and heaved my enormous arm into my lap and sat there for a long while hunched and uncomfortable.
I cradled the cold metal in my arm and sobbed uncontrollably. Then, I slung the damn thing against the steel bed frame with all my might – putting a sizable dent in it.
It was time.
Time I awoke from my coma and took assessment of the situation.
“Well, I’ll never play the violin again.” I murmured, “Doctor, will I be able to play the piano? That’s good, because I never could before.” I whispered, then laughed wickedly like an asylum patient. If nothing else I still have a sense of humor.
In walked my attendant, a lithe flaxen-haired gentleman. His eyes met mine and I felt him examine my soul. As he glided smoothly across the room and straightened up to my side, I felt a sense of compassion from this fellow. He gently lifted my arm and took my pulse.
“Your blood pressure has regained normal balance and your body temperature reduced significantly. How do you feel?” He quizzed me.
“Groggy.” I replied breathlessly.
“That is to be expected, you have been on a regimen of intense pain relievers for several weeks, your body will adjust as you pass them.”
“The people that have been visiting me, are they all that remain of Earth?” I asked.
“Sarah, the world you remember is gone. The memories you have are reconstructions of the original Sarah Greene. That person no longer exists. You are, in a sense, a copy of her.” He looked at me quietly, as if waiting for me to internalize the information, then said, “If you are ready, there is some physical therapy I have prepared for you.”
I nodded and slipped down to the floor, hauling the enormous device with me as if carrying a large piece of unnecessary luggage. He held open the door for me and I made my way out of the room and down a short hallway. We entered a smaller room where I was greeted by Jake and the others who had been caring for me. Jake smiled bashfully.
“I…we’ve been waiting for you.” he said and stood up quickly.
I moved to the center of the room and everyone crowded in around me. They stood and we peered at each for a moment. I was still very weak and the thought of carrying this cumbersome device around for any length of time was better than the reality of having to do so. My arm was sore and my body sagged to one side. I was noticeably nervous and we all just met each others eyes and they showed their pity and moved on. ROGER’s voice awakened me from my dream state.
“Sarah, I have some exercises I want you to perform each day, just a little physical therapy to ensure mobility of your limbs.” He motioned for me to follow him into a training room. “These exercises will help to restore muscular strength, joint motion and flexibility.” He positioned me in front of a mirror and began by having me shrug my shoulders.
I continued in that manner for a few minutes, until I became tired. Having not moved my muscles for so long, and having never used them before, until just recently, made for a potent combination that was both monotonous and oppressive. He switched to having me lay down while raising and lowering my arm parallel to my side. Not as easy for me as it would be for most normal people. Having a heavy metal weapon beneath me made most movement a bit uncomfortable and not just a little difficult. This enormous device would have to be covered up somehow, so as not to startle the others, at least until I got the hang of it’s use. Because of this need, I would find an oversized coat that covered both my body and this thing, and beneath this cloak of deception I would come and go in peace.
The days progressed and slowly my body became stronger. I had moved beyond my therapy and into a routine; working with free weights and jogging several miles a day, most of which was done indoors. Rarely did we venture outside and never alone. The moments to myself were few, but when I had them they were a dream. Finally, I decided I was ready to try out my new weapon. I would get Jake to help me. He seemed very eager, almost excited. For a while ROGER had been helping me take notice of my thoughts and recognize the muscle groups involved with controlling the device. He said it would be like making a fist; to imagine that my hand was still attached and pretend to ball my fingers together and clench them tightly. We maneuvered our way through the catacombs of the shelter and emerged topside. I couldn’t wait; I ran my hand across the cold steel appendage, softly caressing the new machinery. My arm tingled slightly as I did this – it felt like power. I could feel the energy welling up inside the device as I tightened my hand, what used to be my hand, sending the signals from my brain to the nerve endings that were now attached to the wires in the instrument. I thought about it for a moment. Then found myself on the ground.
The power of the cannon had knocked me backwards. I knew it was going to take some getting used to, of course, but this was phenomenal. I picked myself up from the ground and wiped a drop of blood from my lip with my good arm. My real arm, I should say, because in this new world my left arm, it was becoming apparent, was my good arm now. Jake stifled a laugh and I shot him a cold glance. He was insufferable.
This time I squared my shoulders and angled slightly toward the target. Knowing the weapon had a great deal of recoil I extended my left arm out and balanced myself with my right arm behind me. I looked down the barrel and lined up my shot as best I could. I took a deep breath, exhaled and held it as I pretended to make a small fist with what should have been my hand. The electricity rocketed through my teeth. I cradled my left arm in my hand and felt the warmth emanating from the device. I should stop thinking of it as that, it’s my arm now, it’s a part of me just as I am a part of it. It will define who I am from this point on. I don’t want this burden, I never wanted it.
The Protogaea experiment was presented to us as a method by which mankind could survive and life would return to normal; This is far from normal.
I can remember sitting in wrought iron chairs, rusty and uncomfortable, sipping organic black tea with orange peel and watching the clouds hide from the sun on lazy days; hearing the music drift down from the upstairs apartment, smooth drum and bass beats. Cold soft pillows stuffed with goose feathers pressing against my warm skin; and dreaming, I remember dreaming, not what it was about, but the fact that I did. I don’t dream anymore. I can’t remember the last time I did. The first thing I remember was waking up in the chamber and being thrust into existence, like a baby from the womb – only, a fully functioning baby. I hate this new world. I don’t want to do this anymore.
As the anger welled up inside me I felt the charged particles in the air coalescing in the barrel of the device. I tightened my muscles launching a jolt of electrical current into the atmosphere. The burst of lightening lit up the darkened sky, crackling its way heavenward.
I missed my life, but it really never was my life in the first place. They are just memories; the memories of her life. But, I missed it nonetheless. I missed dressing up and going out on Friday nights, dancing and singing. Shopping in department stores, buying nice things. And these clothes, a mish mash of over coats and sweaters, heavy cottons, leather and tweed. Patchwork trousers sewn together with fishing line and cord. Scarves and fingerless gloves, hoods and goggles, there’s no style or fashion to any of it, it’s so…utilitarian. I’ll never get used to it.
I turned around, lost in my own thoughts and found Jake, mouth open, just staring. I think I scared him.
I turned back around quickly and pointed the weapon at one of the dummies. The firing of the weapon was unbelievable, I feel like Zeus, hurling lightening from my fingertips. And yet, this is not who I used to be. Hell, if you had asked me then if I thought that in 200 years I’d be blasting away wooden targets with a side-mounted laser gun, I’d have checked you into a mental hospital!
Who am I supposed to be now?
It’s almost as if I have two sides to my personality. My experiencing self and my remembering self. In the now, I am experiencing what is happening. I’m out, in the open air, firing my brand new alien technology laser canon – which is attached to my forearm, thinking about a life I never lived with a guy I barely know. Oh, I’m just dandy. As for him, he’s nice enough, but hardly my type. Then, there’s the life I am remembering. Being a child, growing up, creating music, first crush, everything that makes me…me. But, that memory isn’t real. Yet, it holds me together, it’s an invisible safety net, a place where I can hide. And in my memories, I have two arms and the world is beautiful. But, that is not the world of today. And so, I fired my weapon. I fired it over and over and over again. I fired it sideways, and from the hip; I spun around and landed on my knees; I began to have fun with it. My experiencing self was overriding my memories, it began to take control. But for a moment and it stopped, or rather…I stopped it. I couldn’t give in to those feelings. I found myself slumped in the sand, my heart beating to explode and my eyeballs ticking with electrical discharge. I couldn’t give in to that. And then I just knelt there, folded over…weeping.
Jake came running up to me and cradled my head in his arms. I waited there for a moment, head in his lap as he knelt beside me. We stayed like that as the sun set behind the mountains. After a long slow pause, I broke the silence,
“Do you ever question your purpose?”
He thought deeply and then explained to me everything that had happened in his life that led up to this point. He described a world of pain and misery, of difficulty that I could only imagine and nothing I’d want to endure. My mind wandered to my own childhood and how very different life was before they came. I ran my fingers through my filthy hair and grinned sheepishly. Slowly, my experiencing self began to take hold. I am not my memories; I am me. I am a part of everything going on around me right now. I should suffer no loss of my old life and join with this new life, only then will I truly be free. My lips curled into a sly grin and my eyes darted back and forth as I considered the options. Seconds turned into eons before I calculated the ins and outs, and for a moment I was afraid there would be a dead heat, but, ultimately I gave in to my experiencing self. The sun began to fall behind the mountains and we walked toward the shelter.
“I’m really glad you came out here with me, Jake. It’s good to have someone to talk to. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life.” I spurted out before I even realized what I was saying. This new life concept is either really bold or extremely rude and insensitive. I don’t feel like I’ve known him my whole life, I was merely being impulsive, saying the first thing that came to mind. But I can’t do that. I have to filter my impulses so as not to harm others emotionally or embarrass myself. Jake taught me my first lesson with my new life, for that he deserved a hug. I turned to him and wrapped my arm around his neck. He smiled bashfully. We made our way down the shelter halls and into the common area, something we would end up doing many times before I would be ready.