I backed away quickly. My back slammed into the wall, my knees buckled and I landed on the floor, my hands pressed to my mouth. This wasn’t purgatory. This was hell. “Deep breaths Demi,” The boy’s voice was far away and distant. Dead, I was dead. My mouth was slack, slightly open, still clean shaven. Eyes were half open, green irises peeking out beneath white lids. I stood slowly, knees shaking. I was a fragile doe that had wandered into unknown territory. The buck watched on, nostrils flared, ears twitching. I was safe. Safe. Creeping forward, I reached out my long slender fingers and brushed the crew cut on my head. It was strange, seeing myself like this. I wasn’t afraid anymore. Curious, yes. Afraid? Not anymore. I was a soldier, tough to the bone and ready for whatever life threw at me. I had to be that way. I would have died long ago if I wasn’t.
The face was stiff, but the ears were pliable. Margaret always liked to play with them, pinching them, pulling my face down to her. My little girl, how could I have forgotten? Oh God…Sally. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. I glanced down at the lumps of flesh that adhered to my chest. I was some sort of monster now. I didn’t belong like this.
Football games, pompoms, school fights, lunch, biology, senior year, stupid teachers, stupid, stupid…
I reeled away from the body, my head throbbing. That hidden side of me was rebelling, fighting against the tidal wave of teenage girl memories. I was a soldier. Fight the new war, fight.
Hands guided me to the ground. Arms cradled my head. Whispers in my ear, kisses on my forehead. My heart throbbed, my mind throbbed, my everything throbbed. The dead body on the slab told tales of battle and a love so powerful it transcended death. The boy, Sally, little Margaret.
Come home soon, Daddy. I love you Daddy.
Love was a lie.
I awoke to discover that the boy had dragged me from the room. It was my third awakening since my damned rebirth. He told me about the tank of water he found and how he’d seen the round circles on my spinal cord from the wires they’d inserted there. I was only half listening to his ramblings. I was trying to think. Who was this boy? He had no memories of any life beyond this place. I decided to test him.
Interrupting his recounting of the events that happened during my slumber, I queried, “Who is the United States at war with?”
He stared at me for a half a second, then looked away murmuring, “New North Africa,”
I nodded, “Okay, what city was destroyed two years ago in a terrorist attack?”
He fumbled over the name, but managed to get it out, “New York City,”
“Who is the president?”
“How old are you?”
“I don’t know,”
Sighing, I turned away from him to stare into the glassy eyes of an old woman with a smile plastered on her frozen face. “No way,” He whispered behind me. I ignored him. My mind drifted to a song that I couldn’t remember the name of. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…
“Demi, you have to see this,” Leave me alone. But I said nothing. I refused to answer him. I knew I was being childish and stubborn, but I didn’t care. He could be the last human being on earth and at that moment I wouldn’t have anything to do with him.
“It’s a way out for God’s sake!”
That got my attention. I twirled around and followed his gaze upwards. A perfect circle was on the ceiling, a rusty handle dangling freely beneath it. Beyond, wonderland.