Small waves lapping at the bottom of my boat made the only sound in the perfect darkness. I had no idea how long I’d been there, nor how I arrived. Logic told me that it’d been less than 10 hours, since I hadn’t seen any daylight. I wanted to estimate that I was nearing that mark, but it also could have been less than a minute. Time felt sluggish.
The boat rocked gently and I could feel the smooth, dry surface below my naked body, but I couldn’t move; I’m not sure I knew how. Pulling in a long breath of cold, sterile air, I tried to remember how I had gotten there. What had I been doing before? Was there a before? Obviously there had to be, but my mind – so full of facts, words, and thoughts – was completely devoid of memories. I could tell you what amnesia was, in fact I could call up a long, formal definition of it, but I had no idea if I’d ever had it, nor if I had ever known anyone who had. Had I ever known anyone? Obviously I had, I was thinking in English, I could recite passages of poems and historic dates and names, I had to have learned these things somewhere.
What did I know about myself? I apparently didn’t like the dark, and I got a sense that I also disliked heights, and spiders. I liked the color green. I was male. No. I was female? I was… I’d have to come back to that one. Did I have a name? ALIE, but all caps like that. I could form opinions on anything I tried to call up. The moon, for example, I liked the moon, I wished there was a moon. Why wasn’t there a moon?
I tried again to sit up and look around. “Tried” isn’t quite the right word, I willed myself to sit up, but nothing happened.
I was contemplating medical conditions that might cause paralysis when suddenly the air got cold. There was no breeze, but the air became frigid. Had it been warm before? I hadn’t noticed either way. At the same time, the surface under my body grew cold too. What I had assumed before was the wood of the bottom of the boat became what was undeniably a smooth sheet of stainless steel. I had enough time for panic to start setting in, but then those things ceased to matter as excruciating pain shot through my body. A searing, white-hot burning started in my brain and spread out as if coursing through my veins, but the intensity in my head didn’t diminish as it spread out; it stayed strong and bright. I tried to scream out in pain, but nothing happened, except the slow, deliberate spread of the pain through my chest and out into my extremities. My mind raced and faltered at the same time to try to understand what was happening, or find a way to make it stop. The pain transitioned to the sensation of hundreds of nails being slowly driven through my flesh all over my body.
Then I WAS screaming and the pain was gone, replaced by sporadic pins-and-needles. Just as fast as all the confusion had set in, it was gone, and so was the sound of the water and the rock of the boat. I opened my eyes and immediately wished for the darkness again when my eyes began to sting. It was nothing compared to the pain from before, but it was unpleasant and far too bright. I braved the pain, though, wanting – no, needing – to see my surroundings. Out of the nauseating brightness, two men materialized standing over me. My eyes were adjusting. I was laying on a horizontal table in a white, incredibly bright room. Both men wore glasses. The balding white man with the broad shoulders was staring at me with amused expectation and was wearing some sort of dark blue jacket with a bunch of medals on the chest. My eyes were still blurry, but I saw enough to decide that it was the uniform for the United States Air Force. The other man was a much younger black man in a long white coat, holding a clip board, and wearing a face scrunched with concern.
“Scared me,” said the bald one with a flat chuckle.
“Yeah. Sorry, I forgot to warn-”
“Where am I?” I interrupted.
“Sounds genuinely terrified,” smiled the bald man, his voice full of wonder.
“I am,” I said, “What happened to the boat?”
“Calm down, ALIE,” the younger man said, placing a hand on my shoulder. At least he was addressing me, that was a start.
“What boat?” asked the military man. Again, he was not talking to me, but talking about me.
The other man turned toward him and said, “I’m not sure, but it’s said the same thing the last 36 times.”
“Last 36 times, what?” I asked.
His young, brown eyes shot to me, but he continued to talk to the uniformed man, “I think the consciousness is loading before the body starts up and the-”
“Somebody tell me this instant what’s-” I stopped as my arm moved off the table into my view. The sight of hard plastic and bundles of wires where there should have been flesh stopped my voice in my throat.
“Is that anger, now?” asked the bald man, still amused.
“Appears to be,” stated the other man, pushing my arm back down. I let him. I didn’t know what to think. What happened to my arm? Where was I?
“Please,” I begged, looking at the younger man, “please. I’m so-”
“It appears to run through all the emotions that a human does.”
“It?!” I asked, trying to sit up, but the young man’s hand was on my shoulder and I was easily pushed back down.
“Obviously, there are still some kinks to work out, sir,” he said, his hand moving to the back of my neck.
“but you’re making impressive progress,” said the bald man, his grin showing sparkling, predatory teeth, “I’ve seen enough.”
The white-hot pain shot back into my body as the young man did something to the back of my neck, and I screamed, but only for a fraction of a second, then all went dark.
Small waves lapping at the bottom of my boat made the only sound in the perfect darkness. I had no idea how long I’d been here, nor how I arrived.
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