Waking up was the hardest part, as usual with these things. He had a vague recollection of talking to a semi-transparent, glowing child that was telling him to do something... But what was he saying? And what did he finally do? He remembered a sensation of burning, the putrid stench of burning hair, cooking flesh - his own flesh - but precious little beyond that before there was a blinding flash of light that sent his mind reeling, spiraling back into darkness, like it did once before already. That particular memory was equally jarring - the sensation of falling, falling indefinitely, feeling cold, suffocating, and then burning up, burning until it felt that his entire body was formed of flames...
This time was different. He didn't feel burning from the outside, but from the inside - at least until he lost consciousness. And, just as before, waking up from death was unpleasant and confusing, full of blinding colours and deafening sounds that in actuality were probably very mundane - his body simply forgot where the point separating "quiet" from "loud" lay.
"--awake. He's actually awake!" he finally made out someone say, or at least thought he did. His entire body felt like a rock that had lain in one place so long, it could barely be seen under all the moss covering it, and right now that moss was pinning him down. Except that it felt oddly... fabric-like?
He was suddenly aware that someone was leaning over him, looking into his eyes, probably checking whether he was really awake. The sensation was not very pleasant, and the light they shone into his eyes left a blazing trail of pain and blindness among the blurry white background of what he assumed to be the ceiling.
"Commander? Can you hear me?" he thought the vague shape said. Mouthed. Whatever. He wasn't exactly sure he was interpreting his sensations correctly. Perhaps whoever rebuilt his brain this time out got some wires crossed, and he was seeing smells and hearing colours? But through the painful dryness of his nostrils, he could discern... something, and he was certain he smelled smells, because while he couldn't really tell WHAT it was he was smelling, the feeling intensified when he inhaled and that meant--
The pounding of blood in his temples and the dark spots in his field of view screamed "asphyxia" in the loudest voice that sensations could probably scream. He got too focused on his thoughts and forgot to breathe? Was the damage really that bad? Wait, more thoughts, more blood to the brain, more oxygen draw--
"His BP is all messed up, breathing ragged, it's like he's trying to hyperventilate, but can't!"
"Get the machine back on, he obviously cannot breathe on his own just yet."
"But you said--"
"And now I'm saying to turn it back on, please. Sometime this year, before the patient suffocates on his own panic?"
"Done, doctor, but his stats are still..."
The voice faded out as if someone turned the volume down all the way on a holo, and with it, went the vision as well.
He was more aware of things now that the oxygen came rushing back through his bloodstream - though he wasn't quite sure how it got there. His mouth felt like it was lined with felt - literally - except for the suspiciously smooth tube... ah, that was apparently what was doing his breathing for him. Interesting discovery.
Something in the view of the room felt off - a quick realization suggested "position of light" - he somehow apparently missed the passing of an hour or two. Probably because he blacked out halfway through the scramble to get him to breathe on his own. His vision was sliding in and out of focus as he first panicked at the thought of how he was supposed to breathe with the tube in his throat, but the panic subsided at the realization that the tube was not so much feeding him air as pumping it in him. The sensation, while not particularly pleasant, allowed him to relax again and, mostly against his will, he slid off into sleep.
He tried moving his arms, but all he could get from them was a vague sensation of pulling that didn't actually feel like moving anywhere. Legs produced the same result. His eyeballs moved with a painful creaky sensation of well-rusted hinges being flexed for the first time in years. At least his vision was starting to come into focus, and with that, he started to take in his surroundings for the first time since... he wasn't even sure how long ago his first awakening was, or whether it even was in the same place as this one. Still, it paid to pay attention.
Dull white ceiling, tiled, some of the tiles actually off-colour to the others, as if they were either very old or very dirty. Possibly both. Migraine-inducing light green (or possibly beige) walls - of that particular colour that some manual somewhere probably said helped soothe the nerves, but since the colour itself as printed in the manual was a little off, and nobody picked the exact precisely identical colour when picking paints, the walls were exactly that. Migraine-inducing. He cringed at the thought and the sensation it produced, including the same mossy stone feeling in his face as the one that his arms were subjected to.
Wide windows letting in a lazy sunlight the colour of a downing sun, a snippet of partly cloudy sky visible through it, some ancient-looking metal furniture, what looked like a wardrobe or closet - also metal, painted the same insane colour as the walls, but the paint on it was older, chipped in many places, like it belonged elsewhere originally and was moved here for lack of an alternative. The last object in the room to attract his attention was the door - or rather, wall containing the door - frosted glass that didn't really conceal much of anything, the door being little more than a plastic (or suspiciously plastic-looking metal) frame around a pane of the same frosted glass as the wall, the only other addition besides the doorknob being a number plate he couldn't see from the inside.
"Either I'm stuck in a Krogan hospital, or there's something very wrong going on here," was the first thought of the day that he formulated in words rather than emotions, and it was underscored by the ward door opening to admit a person in a white doctor's coat that felt right in its place in the context of the room - but not in his mind. Too... primitive?
"Good morning, Commander," the newcomer said. A woman, late twenties, blue eyes, freckles, jet-black hair slicked back in a manner more pertinent for a young man - his eyes took note of the details in an almost automatic fashion, noting them away for... what, exactly?
"W-w-where am I?" he finally squeezed out of himself. His throat felt dry -- he was suddenly aware that the tube was gone and he was breathing for himself once more, but he caught the panic before it managed to set in and disrupt his breath again. The dryness made him cough, and that felt like sandpaper being dragged across the whole of his windpipe. The doctor nodded off to the side of him, and, with considerable effort, he turned his head to see a nightstand with a glass of water on top of it. Another attempt to raise an arm failed, however, and he turned to the doctor once more. "A little help?" he wheezed at her.
"Of course," she replied, getting the glass and helping him get a few small sips of water which he forced into himself, languishing in the soothing coldness of it and hoping it would help him speak without hurting himself.
"To answer your earlier question, Commander," the doctor said, settling herself down on one of the chairs and crossing her legs to rest the datapad she was carrying on her knee, apparently to take notes, or maybe look up notes, he wasn't really certain, "You are in a military hospital best suited for your current condition."
"And that is?" he asked cautiously, still wondering why his hands wouldn't obey him as his head, at least, seemed to finally succumb to his will.
"Neural damage of unknown extent that caused you to enter an unconventional coma that has lasted--" she paused to check the datapad, "--four years and eight months. Do you remember your name, Commander?"
"Shepard." The reply came almost instantaneously.
He paused, racking his brain. It felt oddly... empty. Devoid of knowledge. Not that he couldn't remember - there was nothing TO remember. The thought scared him.
"I... I don't remember," he finally admitted, almost shamefully.
"Great. Your birthdate?"
"April 11th," he replied without thinking. That, too came back far too easily.
"What year is it now?"
"I don't know. What year is it now, doctor?" he asked, his voice on the verge of neurosis now.
"It's 2012, Commander."
"And what is my first name?"
"I don't know," she replied with a wry smile, "So you'll have to remember. It's part of the process to overcoming your apparent amnesia."
"Great. I have memory loss and you won't help me with my name. Can I at least learn yours? Please? Tell me who you are," his voice, almost pleading, was shaking ever-so-slightly.
"Of course. I am your attending doctor, and my name is Lara Tasoni," she replied with another smile. "You are in good hands, Commander Shepard."
Dark Space (Chapter One)
Blog entry posted by Noelemahc, Jun 11, 2012.
About the Author
A Russian Econ major with a minor in graphomania. Used to write for a Russian gaming magazine a while back, apparently wasn't very good or they wouldn't've cancelled his column to replace it with one devoted to listing erotic fanservice moments in videogames and anime series. Has a penchant for long-winded distracted rants and a bizarre affection for very old videogames.