It's been a long time coming, and now it is out. Teaser is below.
by James L. Steele
The man on the operating table slowly opened his eyes. His pupils squeezed shut, trying to cut out the intense whiteness. White ceiling, white walls, white tiles on the ceiling. The room was so white he couldn’t distinguish where the ceiling ended and the walls began. His eyes wandered around the room for a while. Eventually he could make out the faint shadows that were the lines separating the walls from the floor and ceiling.
The man became aware of his arms. His legs. The slight chill that started at his armpits and spread across his chest, down each leg and arm. He tried to move his head, but it was held in place.
He moved his eyes back and forth, tried to look down his body. He only saw himself in his peripheral vision, but what he saw he recognized. He was naked on a padded, hospital bed. His wrists, ankles and abdomen were strapped down. He tried to move his head, but again something was holding it still. The more he felt the resisting force, the more it felt like a metal clamp. He balled his fists and tried to raise them. He tried to lift his legs. The restraints were so tight he couldn’t even lift them off the mattress.
The man opened his mouth and tried to speak, but his mind was moving in slow motion, and his voice was a bubble of slime trying to squeeze out of his lungs. He moved his mouth, tried to moan, but nothing was coming out. For some reason this made the man panic, though he wasn’t sure why.
He writhed under his restraints, trying to move anything, trying to reach the clamps that held his wrists with his fingers, but they were so taut he couldn’t even rotate his wrist. His chest was held down so tight he couldn’t arch his back. His breathing was partially blocked.
He could not look around the room. His only view was what was right in front of his eyes. The man writhed harder, trying to move, straining to speak, trying to reach out and feel something. He turned his head a millimeter in all directions and strained his eyeballs to look around the room. He could accept the restraints holding him down, he could accept his nudity, but he could not accept that he was blind to most of the room.
As he struggled and writhed and tried to look around, his mouth was working and his voice started to come to him.
“Wrrrrhhhh!” ... “Wwwwwwhhhhh” ... “WWWAAAAAAHHHHHHH!”
The sounds weren’t much, but they were sounds, and he could still speak if he tried.
“WWAAAAAARRR!” ... “RRRUAAAAA”
He continued exercising his mouth and vocal cords, teaching them how to work together, teaching his brain how to form words again. His struggle against his restraints matched his inward struggle to force his voice to work.
“WWWhhhhheeeerr aaahhhh aaaaayyyeeee.” He panted a few times.
“Wwwhhheere... ah... aaayye.” His body settled down now that his voice was coming back.
“Hellllloo... Heeellll... Heeeeelll”
He realized he couldn’t stop slurring his words. His brain was moving at regular speed but the rest of his body was still in slow motion, and this sent him into another frenzy of writhing and struggling under his restraints.
“HEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOO! HEEEEEEEEWWWWWWW! WHE-MMM-AYYYYE!!!!”
He relaxed again, completely exhausted. He wanted to scream out and demand to know where he was, who was there, what they were doing to him. As he pondered the words he wanted his mouth to make, he slowly realized that he really didn’t remember. He didn’t remember any circumstances that could have landed him here. He didn’t remember his name. The peripheral glance down his naked body was all he saw of himself, and now that he thought of it, he wasn’t sure if he remembered what he looked like.
What was his name? What did he look like? Where had he come from? He sensed he should know these things, but he couldn’t force the memories. They were there. Answers to these questions were on the tip of his tongue, but they wouldn’t rise out of his subconscious.
He settled down on the bed again. He didn’t want to. Doing so implied he was lying down and accepting where he was. But he was tired. His body was moving slower than his mind sensed it should. He wanted to fight it, but as resilient as his mind was, his body was so tired. His mouth made weak noises, which his brain sensed should be loud enough to shake the room.
“Hhhheeeelll... sssmmmmnnn heellllll mmmm. Nnnnnnmmmm” and on and on. Over and over. He abandoned force and settled for persistence. Maybe if he kept it up long enough his body would catch up to his mind.
After a long time, he heard a soft clang from somewhere. He stopped talking and listened. Footsteps and crinkling plastic echoed around the room. The sounds came closer and closer. Then a plastic figure slid into his vision. The man recognized it instantly as a clean suit. Behind the person in the suit would be an accordion-like appendage connecting him to the world outside the room.
The figure in the plastic suit reached down his arm and did something. It held a needle up. The needle had a little blood on it.
“The I.V. slipped out,” came a faint, male voice inside the plastic suit. “Reinserting.”
The man struggled under his restraints again, trying to project his voice, but all that came out was more mumbles and slurred syllables. The plastic suit’s hand dipped below his vision, the man felt something slip in his arm, and a moment later he went black.
The man’s eyes flew open as he sensed something was in the room with him. He was lying on his back in the hospital bed, but this time there was nothing holding him down. He looked left--
His head wasn’t clamped in place! He took full advantage of his mobility and looked all around. A dozen plastic suits were walking around. Most were yellow, and these suits were accordion-attached to the far wall. Two suits were blue, and two others were red. These weren’t attached to the wall, but they were attached to tubes coming out of the ceiling. Surgical equipment lay on various tables, and he was under a very intense light. There was also a robotic surgical arm poised over his skull.
Weapon now available in the Altered States anthology.