Slide to Unlock: Part 2


Slide to Unlock: Part 2

See John Try


Recap: John is shot in the head in Afghanistan. He wakes up in a drug-induced delirium only seeing snatches of lights and men with glasses.

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It took three rounds of nurse wrestling and porcupine reincarnation for me to realize trying to run away would not get me away.

Backtracking some…

After finding out I was no longer strictly human, I sat there stunned. The beeping on the heart monitor was soothing in the sense that I knew I had a heart. However, the new light dancing under my sun-browned skin was not at all soothing. The brightness in my extremities I had witnessed before was receding. The fire that had consumed me was beginning to fall to ashes.

But I could feel it burning and I knew I could stoke it, somehow. It felt like I could wield this very real, very new, power to light myself on fire.

Not that lighting myself on fire would do me any good, but the Human Torch has been a love of mine since childhood. He was rich, good looking, and did extreme sports. I still can hardly believe in a life better than his, which brings me back to:

What life am I living now?

The room I’m in doesn’t look like your standard hospital and it is most definitely not a field hospital. The room is very spacious, with a high, iron-ribbed ceiling. There’s an observation window that runs parallel to my bed a few feet away. I can see myself in it, facing it, with some distortion from the fact that I think I’m bloody glowing. I can also see the heart monitor and a hulking blood transfusion machine. Some of the lights are softly whirring on the blood transfusion machine, but I’m not connected.

It worries me that they keep that sort of thing on standby.

Quickly, I begin to assess my body. In the normal human fashion, I first ignore where I know I was injured. Rather I check my legs. Then I check my torso–embarrassed to lift up the paper gown and realize these crazy doctors stole my shorts. Unless there’s a hot nurse involved, I would like my shorts back, thank you very much. And clothes (but I’m totally rocking this paper gown thing, it makes me look all muscular and tan; if you ignore the fact I’m a human lightbulb). Then I check my arms, which, aside from numerous pinpricks near the crease of both my elbows and the back of my hands, look normal. I press on some of the veins of light that, upon closer look, seem to be very, very thin and threaded along my main muscle groups. The reason my hands had glowed so much earlier had been that whatever these things are, they are concentrated in those extremities.

Then I close my eyes because I know I had been shot in the head and I’m worried to find out how much head I have left. If my mother were here, she’d say it wouldn’t matter how much head I had left; I never used it anyway.

Thankfully she’s not here and, thankfully, I still have a head.

Whoever the doctors are, I certainly admire their handiwork. I run a hand over my head, feeling the thick bandages wrapped around it. There’s no soreness on my skull unless I press hard right at the crown. Despite being relatively pain free, it’s disappointing to realize they shaved my head. It may have been standard-issue short before, but at least my hair was there. Now I’m going to look like Dr. Evil.

The reason for my escape attempts, mentioned at the start of this chapter, in the next few minutes has to do with what I see right after I realize I have lost my luscious locks.

The observation window in front of me is two-way. So when they drag some man kicking and screaming past it, I see it. There are two attendants all in white and decked out in seriously overcompensating amounts of muscle. They are also armed to the teeth.

I can spot at least three knives on the closest one and two guns holstered on his hip. The other has an AK-47 slung over his shoulder like it’s a bloody accessory. The man they’re dragging is screaming, or so I assume since his mouth is moving but I hear nothing. He’s covered in these horrendous growths, all the size of the quarter, but bulging from under his skin like red bugs. His eyes are wild as he fights the chains they have him up in; I can see barbs piercing and shredding his skin.

The struggling man gains an inch from the orderlies before one presses a button and an electric collar goes off around the man’s neck. The almost-escapee falls to his knees—the look on his face one of pure, tortured agony. The movement of his hospital gown reveals bandages around his chest with heavy bleeding. His arm is raw from IV’s being shoved in. Without thinking, I rub at my arm with all its little holes and welts.

The struggling man and I mke brief eye contact as he’s being hauled backwards towards whatever fate.

And he smiles.

The smile is the sort of smile one hopes to never see. I have double vision with the mirror, so the malicious upturn of lips layers over itself and the mocking increases double fold. The lips that surround the smile are red–bright red–and as the man turns to spit, the saliva hitting the window with an inaudible smack, I realize his lips are red with blood. The smile continues and then the struggling man goes slack in the restraints, spasming with laughter.

It makes all my blood run cold and the heart monitor starts beeping out a furious allegro.

The nurses come running in a minute later, both equally as huge but not as well armed as the ones I had just seen. Despite all my combat training, I’m still seated on the edge of the bed, staring at the large window, with my mouth gaping. The first orderly to walk in, the shorter of the two by an inch and with a more expressive mug than any of the guys I’ve seen so far (except for that crazy man’s fucking smile), notices the direction of my stare. Then he notices of the object of my stare and quickly throws a curtain in front of it before giving a legitimately horrified look to the other orderly. “I thought we closed that.”

I can hear a wordless murmur pass between them. I can almost believe I hear the whir of a camera in the corner. Paranoia is beginning to set in. deep.

Given their brief separation—by the one orderly walking to close the curtain and the other to check the monitor—I unsnap the finger-reader for the heart monitor and run for the door. I’m a lot more unsteady on my feet than I had predicted and, rather than opening the door, I just lean against it. It feels as if my muscles just aren’t there. They refuse to cooperate, like they had when I had been shot, and my arms are lame at my side.

But I can see the muscles, just under my skin and straining. A vein is bright blue across my bicep. I fight for control, hoping I win before the vein bursts.

The orderly who had corrected the curtain situation steps closer to me, hands open and placating. “Now Mr. Forrester, I’m going to ask you to lay back down. Please.”

“No,” I mutter, shaking my head. I try to get my fingers around the knob but they only pulse before going all the wrong directions. I begin to feel whoozy as I realize I have no control over anything. Probably walking over here was a matter of luck. I can hear the man’s laughter drifting down the hall.

“Now Mr. Forrester,” the same orderly repeats. His tone is motherly and, with his hands on his hips and one hip cocked, he could very well pass as my mother. It’s a comforting thought; if she were here, she’d probably bash these ‘naughty boys’ in with her purse. That line of thought is derailed, however, when he indicates behind him and I see the gun pointed at me. No mommy rescue today.

“We can blow your brains out again Mr. Forrester. Would you like that?” The orderly continues, his voice sickly sweet.

“No,” I murmur and try to step away from the door. My foot lands awkwardly and I pitch forward. The sting of the needle is felt before the sensation of arms wrapping around me.

“Now why don’t you lay down, Mr. Forrester,” says the orderly guiding me. The gun never wavers, slowly tracking my movements with its steel barrel. Every thought is ricocheting through my head to quickly for me to grab a hold of. It’s all white noise. “And we’ll explain all this when you wake up.”

I give a brief jerk of protest before being arranged in the bed like a rag doll. The image of that tortured man’s smile imprinted on every inch of my grey matter. I don’t want to close my eyes. I don’t want to be here, with these men, in this place. I need to get out. “Go to sleep Mr. Forrester,” the orderly directs.

And I go out like a light.


The second time I wake up is even more disorienting than the first.

The heart monitor is still beeping like a metronome. It ricochets around the room with an intensity that sets my head on fire. There’s a migraine in the works. I can feel it pushing at the back of my eyes. My hands are spasming in their restraints, searching for a human to return the gesture, for a medic or nurse to grab hold and ground me. I wish Odie was here.

But it’s only the padded binds and me. They attach with thick chains to the side of the bed; the bed in turn bolted to the floor. Everything else in the room swims through a grey haze; a combination of whatever is in the new IV drip and the additional obscurity garnered by the shut curtains. I clench and unclench my hands. Everything in me is vibrating.

It feels like the high after a mission. Unused adrenaline sings through my veins—playing the strings of my tendons and ligaments until I’m just a jigging, jittering mess. There’s a tiredness, too, that incapacitates any grander movements—like starting a new fight or making another run. The ceiling vacillates above me, slowly disappearing into the smoky haze of drugged exhaustion.  I pull futilely at the restraints.

Then a new light is added to the mix of the room, sending the haze back to the corners. The glow from earlier is beginning to revive. I feel it thread through my muscles and joints. The bed begins creaking as I steadily apply more and more pressure.

Fear is somewhere within me as well, running a hand down my spine and pinching between each vertebrae. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what these people want. I don’t even know how I’m alive, right now, or what’s keeping me alive.

I only hear my breathing pick up before I realize I am hyperventilating.

My throat muscles overwork. I begin coughing and sputtering; my chest three sizes too small and my lungs pounding at the sides. I need to sit up, but the restraints have given me all they can. I feel the phlegm filling my lungs like water in a barrel. When I go to shout for help, all I manage is a wordless, water-logged scream.

There’s a flash of light, a prick of a needle, and then darkness.

The third time is different.

Next: Part 3 >>


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