Light. Blinding light all around me. For the briefest of moments I thought I was having a religious experience, moving toward the proverbial light but then the agony in my midsection ruptured that hope and brought me back to my senses, telling me I was still alive, at least momentarily.
Breathing was excruciating and, as strange as it sounds, I could literally feel the shifting and pulsing of my internal organs. I had never before been conscious of my kidneys but now I could tell that they were both damaged and badly weakened and my spleen (who can feel their spleen?), I knew that something was wrong with mine. At another time, it might have been a fascinating experience to be so aware of my insides but as I heard my heart beating feebly in my chest, I also became aware of another sensation that threatened to make me vomit again. I could feel the bullet that had torn into my organs, leaving them shredded and sloshing into each other. The bullet was stuck in my lower back, three vertebras up from my tailbone.
This bizarre knowledge of my internal anatomy was such a weird experience that I thought I might pass out from the shock of it but then I noticed that I wasn’t alone. There were people in the room, at least three of them.
“I think the drugs are working.”
Someone shifted the bright, interrogation lights out of my eyes and I began to make out the shapes of three men standing behind a table across from me. Their expressions were difficult to read, not cruel or harsh, just impassive. Waiting.
My heart rate slowed and I was distantly aware of how sluggishly my blood was moving through my veins. I was dying.
One of them spoke, “I think it’s too much. It’s going to kill him.”
Another man responded without shifting his eyes away from mine, “A little longer, we’re almost there.” Then to me, “Do you know who you are?”
I nodded. Then shook my head, realizing that I didn’t actually know. I’m sure on most days that revelation would have been terrifying but at the moment I was more frightened by what I did know. I knew that my heart rate was fluttering like a heart does before it stops beating forever and I knew that I was losing circulation in my extremities.
A voice spoke again. “Do you remember anything about yourself, or why we’ve brought you here?” I shook my head again, although as I looked at each of the faces of my captors, I had the distinct feeling that I should know, especially the man who was addressing me. I knew that I should know him, that I did know him but couldn’t recall how.
“Are you aware of your brain?” What a strange question. It came from the third man, sitting a little farther back from the others. Yes, I realized suddenly, I was, but I wasn’t aware of it in a personal way, I was aware of it in the same way I was aware of the formaldehyde-soaked brain that my high school biology teacher kept in a jar on a shelf in the back of his classroom. There, at least I could remember that. We used to pass it around and marvel at the mysteries and intricacies of the human brain encased in such a small package of flesh. Yes, I was aware of my own brain but it didn’t seem like my brain. I was an observer watching my brain from arm’s length. My thoughts didn’t seem to be originating from me but from an outside source. I was just a bystander who happened to be hearing them.
I could read the data in my brain almost like one would read the ticker tape on the bottom of a news screen. The facts were all there but they were impersonal, like I was remembering someone else’s life.
“I think he’s ready.”
“Then let’s do it quickly before we lose him.”
“I want you to think. Do you remember your name?”
I did. Well, I didn’t actually remember it per se but I knew what it was. In a distant, unattached sort of way I saw it written on the wall of my mind’s eye and that’s when the bullet shifted. It rotated slightly downward until it pressed up firmly against my sacral nerves, causing more pain than I knew could exist. My legs instantly lost all feeling and the blinding agony in my lower back rushed upward in a consuming wave, and I was gone, either passed out, or dead but gone nonetheless. I hung around for a few seconds longer, registering the reactions of the other people in the room. The men lunged over to catch me as I was crashing on to the hard, stone floor. One of them had a syringe in his hand and the other held some oxygen tubing and began looping it over my ears and connecting it to my nostrils. Very precise, like they had done this before.
Then there was nothing but darkness.
End of Chapter Four. To purchase this book and continue reading in printed or electronic form click here.