Brain Case Part 5

November 18, 2009

Johann Johnson was a writer. He published his first book in 2112. It was about a guy, an olympic class runner. The character’s name was Tim Travis. In the book, he’s in this horrific accident…gets cut nearly in half and has to be put in a critical care pod. And I thought, jesus, that’s a pain that’d be hard to get over.

Not to get on a tangent, but sometimes I really wonder about who the asshole was that started putting the name “pod” in every goddamned phrase you can think of…critical care pod, ejection pod, etc. Seriously, in the world I was living in, I couldn’t get away from that damned word. When they took my brain out of my skull, it was put in a suspension pod. What’s wrong with the word “chamber”? Or “unit”? It’s like it was a federal law or something, everything having to do with containing a person had to have the word “pod” in it.

Anyway, they tried reattaching his lower body to this guy’s body, but they couldn’t do it. Too many mangled bits below the torso. So they give him a lower body transplant. The problem is, they can’t find a set of legs that match his old ones. They give him the parts of a guy that’s maybe 5 feet 6 inches, and it effectively ends Travis’ running career…though, honestly, getting cut in half had already effectively done that. But Travis freaks out. And, when he gets out of the hospital, the first thing he does is he goes and buys a gun, and walks into a random building and shoots everybody on the first floor. Then he walks into the building next door and does it again. And again, and again, working his way through five blocks of buildings before the police catch up to him. And he’s screaming at the police and he’s waving the gun around, and he shoots at the building across the street from where he’s standing. And that’s when the cops gun him down.

They rush up to him, and he’s bleeding to death, and he’s coughing and holding on to the gun, and he pulls the trigger but it’s empty. And his last words are “I’m done runnin’.”

Crazy shit.

I didn’t think Dr Stevens meant to give me an audio book to listen to that ended quite that way. Took her quite a bit of doing to get permission to let me listen to it in the first place. I dont know why that is. Strikes me as odd, though, that it would even be an issue. I couldn’t understand at the time why the hospital administrators even gave a shit about whether or not I got to listen to an audio book, but apparently to them it was a big deal. Honestly, when it comes down to it, I think Stevens sweet-talked the nurses into going along with it. Whatever. I’m just grateful that I finally got something that broke the monotony. The point is, I didn’t think she’d meant to give me a book to listen to that would give me the idea to go killing people, whenever I finally got a body transplant.

A few days after I finished listening it, Dr Stevens came in and had a sit down with me. She had her cup of coffee and her clipboard. “So, yeah. You’re probably wondering why I gave you a book about a guy in a similar position that ends in him committing mass murder.” she said. “Yeah,” I replied, “You might say that.” She just stretched her legs and kind of slumped down in her chair, took another sip of coffee and rubbed her eyes.

“You could take it in one of two ways. Escapist fantasy that you can use to precariously satisfy the daydreams youve been having, God, I’m not going to say this right. I’m alot better at getting in people’s heads, so to speak…sorry.”

“It’s okay”, I said, “Go on.” “You need to realize that you’re not crazy, first of all. Second, you need to be reminded that these fantasies you’re having….It’s a fine line between a fantasy and actually plotting to do something.” she finally said. Then she looked at me, right at me. She said “It’s fine to have a daydream about committing acts of violence. I think everybody does it. That doesn’t make it a good idea. I know you already understand that. I just want to make sure that you really get it.” That was the only lecture she ever gave me about my murder fantasies, and it was actually quite a bit longer and eloquent, but that’s what I remember, and even that isn’t word for word, but it catches the jist of it, at least…I think…I’m not sure. I’d like to tell you it word for word, but I’ve got a bad memory when it comes to remembering things people say. Be that as it may, certain things that happened are etched in my mind, obviously. It’s just important to me that I make it clear that I don’t remember word for word everything that happened. You’d think the exact opposite would true, what with me having to rely on my mind to get by. She did make a point of bringing up my fantasies, trying to find out if my attitude had become more nihlistic. After the 7th or 8th time going over them, I finally said, “Look, I’m rational enough that I know the difference between self-pity and plotting to kill people.” Because that’s what my fantasies were, really. They stemmed from me feeling sorry for myself. They came from resentment and irrational jealousy. I was smart enough to know that, which is why I always said they were fantasies.

She started bringing in audio books for me once a week. I’d never really been much for books. I never had the time when I was older, and I was never really into reading when I was younger. I was one of those kids that liked to go hiking, swimming…that’s the kind of kid I was. When she started bringing having me listen to stuff like Tom Sayer and Catch 22 it was weird at first. It was like I’d been living my life with a bunch of different worlds floating around me, and I never noticed them. And then when I did, I felt like an idiot, or felt like I’d been blind or something, and that I was just now noticing this stuff made me realize what I’d been missing. I know that the fact that the audio books broke the monotony of my life, and gave me something to focus on, that made me really become attached to them. At any rate, they grew on me very very quickly.

Listening to the audio books, ultimately, was a way of living precariously through them…Helped me picture a life beyond the walls I was forced to stare at. Some days, I’d be listening to them and could almost see what was happening in full detail, instead of my little room. In a weird way, fiction reminded me of what it meant to have a real life. There’s a nice bit of irony for you.

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november 18, 2009BrainCase – Part 1 through Part 11

Filed under: The Collected Braincase Chapters — Tags: blogbookbraincasefictionmacfadzeannovelscience fictionserialserial fictionserialized — ghoatboy @ 8:53 amEdit This

Having started this as a very very short piece of fiction, I must confess my surprise that i felt the urge to keep going with it, and I’m rather enjoying the experience so far. I’m kind of surprised that I kept adding more to it. But after writing the original piece, as a five minute fiction, I thought, “hey…I kind of like this idea.” Anyway, here’s the first few parts, collected together to read.

I was dreaming. I was positive I was. She was curled up into a ball next to me. Her blonde hair fell over her face, and she was running her hand up my chest. “I miss you.” She said. “I miss you too.” I replied. She straddled me, and I grabbed her hips. “Won’t be long.” I said.
I woke up.
The nurse had come into the room. My sense of hearing and sight were connected to a small camera / microphone at the front of the case my brain sat in. I’d been here for a year now, a brain in a case, floating in liquid. My body had been horribly horribly damaged in a plane crash, beyond anything the doctors could do for me. They did the only thing they could do: Remove my brain and let my body die. My brain was suspended in liquid with life support attached to it.
The nurse was looking at his pad. It apparently provided him with data fed to him from my life support systems. The tap tap tap from him poking at the pad was probably what woke me up. I was always sensitive to that kind of noise; I could never sleep if water was dripping. Even if it was across the house, I had to get up and fix it, or put a cloth under it to stop the drip drip drip sound.
He sat down in the chair next to me after he’d taken a look at the case my brain was in. I used the camera to follow his every move. I was glad they didn’t have to change my fluid today; this was just a routine stop for the nurse as he went from room to room.
Brain cases were situated in small, narrow rooms. They were longer than they were wide, giving them the look of a wide hallway. Most brain cases were given virtual environments to connect to, to minimize the trauma of being disconnected from their bodies. Doctors would “connect” with the patients when talking to them…again, to minimize the trauma of their situations.
After looking over a few things on his pad, the nurse said “Dreaming?” “Yes.” I replied. He never even looked up as he spoke. He was looking at a real time scan of my brain. It seems so strange to say that. But I just can’t bring myself to say that he was looking at a scan of me. My body was long gone. My brain WAS me. I just can’t say it.
I watched him do his nurse thing. We made small talk. “Any good news? ” I asked. “Do I have a brain tumor?” “Hahahah, no, Mr. Lawson.”
I don’t think that nurse ever realized just how much I hated him for being able to move around, to see with his own eyes. I hated that he could go somewhere and eat, or pick up a hooker after work, take her somewhere, and fuck her. I hated him for all the things that I couldn’t have, and couldn’t do. I hated him for having a body.
I wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted to dream of Holly again. She left me a little while before the plane crash. She called me at the hospital, after I’d been stabilized in the case. She wanted to come visit. I told her no. I said, “Look after the kids.” She’d started crying. We had gotten divorced for stupid reasons. Fighting over money, that kind of shit. Basically taking our stress out on each other. We never meant it. We just didn’t know how to deal with it.
“Seriously.” I said to the nurse. “Kill me.” “Can’t do that,” he said. “I was kidding.” I said, ”Seriously, I was kidding.” Awkward silence followed. He got up from the chair a few minutes later and turned to leave.
“You gotta hang in there Mr. Lawson. Won’t be long before the airliner comes through on the medical bills, and then you’ll be able to get a new body.” He walked towards the door of the room, gripping his pad, and walked out.

********************************************************************

The lights in my room were low, making it difficult to see a great deal with my cam. There wasn’t really anything to see. There wasn’t even a television, or a web connection. They didn’t want me getting upset about looking at real people…I’d stopped thinking of myself as a real person months and months ago…I could barely stand the idea of being disembodied. I didn’t need it rubbed in my face, they figured, by having a TV on.
I think they were wrong about the webs though. I could have connected virtually with people, and that would have made me feel a little better…but the inevitable “i really want to meet you” scenario would have come up. What would I have said, that I had to go on a trip to Jamaica to help refugees evacuate from rising sea levels? Christ.
But, the lights were low, and I found it was actually painful…well, not painful exactly. I didn’t feel the usual pain associated with low lighting…I didn’t have eyes. So, the actual pain created from eyes trying to adjust wasn’t there. In fact, there were a lot of things I didn’t suffer. It really helped sharpen my mind, in that respect, because I didn’t feel the physical aspect of being sleepy, or crying. I didn’t feel any of those things. That was what took the most getting used to…other than not having a body…it was the things that you associated having a body with that was the strangest part of it. It’s almost impossible to explain. That’s why most brain cases got simulated environments, so they didn’t have to really deal with that kind of shit. But, I can try to explain what it was like in reverse…Imagine that you are nothing but eyes and ears, and you can only look in one general direction. Now, remember that when you want to cry, you’ll feel nothing. No heaving, no sobbing sounds, no tears…Nobody can hold you and comfort you. Your pulse won’t quicken, your eyes won’t become sore…and nobody would be able to tell you’re crying because your voice box comes directly from your brain, and there’s no flesh to make your voice crack. Imagine what it would be like to exist purely as a mind with no body. When you see someone attractive, you don’t feel the blood rush to your sex. You feel a vague…something…but there’s no blood rush to anywhere, so you feel…nothing but recognition that they’re attractive. Imagine that.

************
After I said “seriously, kill me” to the nurse, I was expecting a visit from a psychiatrist or something. They had them on staff at the hospital. They practically lived for talking to brain cases, besides. Don’t ask me why.
I could tell the nurse had been really annoyed by my asking him to kill me. I couldn’t blame him, really. I mean, who asks a nurse something like that? But I couldn’t help it. I HAD been going insane. You show me anyone other than a goddamned Buddhist monk, maybe, and I’ll show you someone who’d lose their shit if they were just a goddamned brain in a jar. It had been, christ, a year at that point, that I was in there. I think maybe longer.
So, when the shrink came in to see me, I wasn’t really surprised. She came in and sat down in the chair by me. I registered that she was attractive, of course. Slim body, slight cleavage, hair back in a bun and glasses. The parts of my brain that were expecting to register an erection spun their wheels uselessly as I looked at her.
“How’re you feeling?” she asked. I didn’t respond at first. Finally I said “that’s about the stupidest question anyone’s asked me, under the circumstances.” She looked dead at the camera for a few moments. Then she said, ” I know you’re going crazy in there. It’s a horrible thing that’s happened to you. I’m not going to mince words, but I’m not going to humor your self-pitying my life is over crap. See, when I ask how you’re feeling, I expect an actual answer. As in, I expect you to tell me just how bad your crazies are.” That kind of shocked me. Not that she’d said it to me, but that she’d said it at all.
“I’m losing my mind. I know it. I have murder fantasies about killing people out of revenge for their having bodies. I asked the nurse to kill me the other day. I told him I was kidding.”
“Were you kidding?”
“I don’t know.” I said. “Maybe it was a little of both.” She nodded. “You’re new here.” I said.
“Yes.”
“So,” I said, “are you new to brain cases, or you been talking to them for awhile?” She leaned back in the chair, stretching out her legs a little, and kind of relaxing. She said, “I’ve been doing it for about ten years. I just got to St. Gerome’s a few days ago.” She took a sip of coffee and said, “I’m here to talk about you. Your case is extreme in that you’ve been in a case longer than anyone else. Most people are put into a body about three months at the most after being put in a case. The effect it’s having on you…I can’t believe you’re even talking at this point.”
I thought about it. Thought about why I was still thinking, talking, able to interact. “I’m holding on because I want to beat the living crap out of those corporate fuckers that have me stuck in here. I can’t even get net access. They won’t pay for it. I want to watch them hurt.” I said.
She nodded and said “My name’s Doctor Stevens.” She took a sip of her drink and then said, “That’s a good motivation for staying in the real world.”
“Yes.” I said. “It is.”

*******************************************************

Sitting in a case, day in and day out, no arms or legs…It’s like a parody of Johnny Got His Gun…with the exception that you can talk and hear people. I’d been in the case for about a year at this point, if I’m not mistaken.
I apologize if I get caught up in describing what it’s like to be in that state, but I get hung up on it quite easily. I feel the need to convey what it’s like, to get it out of my system. Everything about being disembodied is nightmarish, and I still feel a certain futility in describing it.
You have no sense of balance, for one thing; no ears. I would often feel like I was suffocating, because I had no lungs. Your brain is hard wired to receive these sensations. People often ask me if there’s a sense of having a “ghost body”, something akin to a phantom limb. No, there is no such sensation. Phantom limb sensation, as I understand it, is caused by the nerves of what’s left of the limb. It tells the brain that the hand or leg is there, so the brain says “Oh, ok.” This even though the brain can plainly see that there’s nothing there.
So, I’d spend my days dizzy and suffocating at first, till I learned to filter out those sensations. After a few months, I was fine, as far as coping with my brain trying to process sensations that weren’t there. After awhile the doctors stabilized those centers of my brain that were causing such sensations, and I didn’t have to filter it out. They only did this after it became apparent that the airline wasn’t going to come through anytime soon, in terms of finding me a body. The process of deadening those centers can cause permanent damage to a varying percentage of people, making it impossible to ever put a brain into a new body.
At times, I think it would have been better if I couldn’t see or hear anything, or speak. That way I wouldn’t have had anything to react to, and it would have been like I was in a very peaceful and dark place. It would have been a nice illusion, but honestly, I think that would have driven me insane. By the time they found a body for me, I’d have suffered terribly. Not that I didn’t suffer in other ways, but the isolation would have caused an emotional schism that I wouldn’t have recovered from.
I would occasionally protest my condition when I’d get a visit from a doctor. I’d say things like “this is inhumane, you should find a body for me now, what kind of doctor are you to let me suffer”. That kind of crap. The doctors sympathized. They were good people but they were actually legally restricted from doing the body transplant pro bono. In fact they had signed papers stating that they would not do this, in my specific case, as long as the airline was investigating its legal recourse in the matter.
I still don’t get all the intricacies of the legal bullshit. What it did was create a lock on any kind of procedure that would allow me to actually get placed with a new body. When you’re waiting, every day, for somebody to walk through the door and tell you that they’ve got good news, and day after day it doesn’t happen…and you’re stuck staring at a tiny room, with only your thoughts to keep you company…I’m just trying to make it as clear as possible what it was like for me, and I don’t mean to get all dramatic. I’m just trying to get it out of my system.

****************************

They say that any landing you can walk away from is a good one. I don’t know if my situation, such as it is, applies. After all, I didn’t walk away from the plane crash. I was dragged out of burning wreckage. It’s not the same thing, you know?
In the old days, if a plane went down, you went down with it. These days, they have mass ejection systems for passengers. Your seat slides down into a pod. Once you’re in, the pod closes and is ejected. Ideally the passenger’s seat is slid into the pod and it’s sealed within a period of about eight seconds. Your chair doesn’t fall into position as much as it is lowered into place very quickly. Eight seconds is about right, I think. This happens simultaneously, with all passengers dropped into their pods at the same time. The pods aren’t sealed until just before the passengers are dropped. There’s a two second gap between each pod. Usually what happens is, the pods are ejected one at a time. They can override that and launch two at a time. It’s done randomly, so you can’t pick a spot on the plane based on when you’d get ejected from it.
I did some research after the crash, about how those things work. Apparently they rely on electromagnetic technology to make the pods float down to earth at a slower level of speed. It’s the emergency ejection that’s the real bitch. They only use those pods if a plane is going down like a bat out of hell. And, you know, even then it’s not a guarantee. Obviously if a plane cartwheels on the runway, you’re nothing short of fucked no matter what, right?
There’s a lot of stuff they don’t tell you voluntarily about the ejection pods. There’s a short period of acceleration to make sure the pods are slammed out and away from the plane. The tubes open on the plane’s belly, shooting the pod out, like a giant metal bird shitting out an egg in mid-flight. That’s what they look like.
Once the egg is safely away from the plane, the mag field kicks in, slowing its speed to something like an elevator. The closer it gets to the ground, the slower it descends.
Once the passengers are safely ejected, the crew of the plane moves to a group pod, usually below the cockpit. I’ve seen pictures of that thing. It essentially looks like an elevator on the inside, with a few modifications. The plane is set to autopilot, and ordered to find as clear an open space as possible from civilization. That means that if the plane is over a city like say New York, it ditches into the ocean. If it’s in New Mexico, then it’s going to ditch in the desert, of course. And what happens if the plane is too damaged to do anything like steering? Then the pilots stay aboard and ride it out, to try to keep the plane from becoming a giant missile. There’s usually one or two coffin-style emergency pods, just in case of something like that happening, like say the pilots manage to get temporary control of the plane, and they manage to point it towards a nice patch of terrain. The stewardesses have already gone byebye in the crew pod. The pilots hustle to the coffins and gtfo.
It’s funny, how they put so much stock in these safety pods, when most times there’s no time to eject. A lot of times, a plane is going to crash on takeoff, or during landing, right? When that happens, the passenger pods are supposed to create “an extra level of safety”. They’re supposed to be fire proof, impact proof…that kind of thing.
I want to tell you, real quick, before I go any further…the crew did every goddamned thing they could to stop that plane from crashing. They really did try to be heroes, dammit. And then there was the stewardess.
You may have an idea in your head, of what happened, even before I say it. My escape pod jammed in the tube. The accelerator shorted out. The plane had an electrical fire. It’s a rare goddamned thing, but that sort of shit still happens with planes, even with all the safety features. So, the engines started shutting down. With only one engine left, and no control of the plane at all. That’s when they started ejecting us.
I could feel the plane jolt as each pod was pushed out, one after another. The pod closed, then tilted and rotated into a launch position, so that I’d be facing the angle of descent instead of away from it. I could hear barely hear the wind beneath me as the launch tube opened. I thought “shit…this is it.” I tensed up, trying to prepare for it. Then there was a loud popping sound and a grinding, whirring sound and a thump thump thump sound against the sides of the capsule.
At first I didn’t know what had happened. The flight attendants had been very clear in describing the escape pod launch procedure. A “please wait for assistance” light flashed on the wall in front of me. The thump thump thump started slowing down. The grinding sounds stopped. I remember shouting “HELLO?” And then I just started shouting, period. I don’t remember what all I was screaming. I looked above my head, and saw an emergency release lever. I popped it open, but it wouldn’t open all the way. It was blocked by the hatch that had closed right after my seat had been lowered. I began frantically slamming the pod door against the hatch. I heard voices….I heard someone say “That’s it, they’re all clear.” Then I heard another voice say “What’s that banging?”
It hadn’t really dawned on me that I might be in a really really bad situation. As the voices got closer, and one of them said “Oh my God, that one’s jammed” I began to get that sickening feeling. Fear is kind of like a fever, you know? You feel it, and think, oh I’m ok. I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong.” Then, when things get worse, it begins to dawn on you that you may have something serious. Then you really start to get scared when you realize that you SHOULD be scared. So I started screaming even louder, but I wasn’t actually afraid yet, I figured, hey, they’ll get me out of here and I’ll just get in another pod. That’s the kind of stupid thinking you do when you’re starting to get scared, and you’re trying to think rationally, and you’re trying to keep calm.
I felt the plane dip a little, felt my stomach trying to keep up with the rest of my body, and it was like a roller coaster. I heard someone shout, “HIT THE OVERRIDE! JUST DROP HIM!” I shouted up at them, “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” I banged the pod door against the hatch again, frantically as I felt the plane dip again. I’m pretty sure I heard people falling down above me, or getting knocked into walls or something. When I heard a voice say “you’re going to be ok” I calmed down. I heard muffled sounds above me. I relaxed a little.
That’s when I realized, I could smell smoke. You know, the kind of smell that comes from electrical fires.
The smell was really strong. I closed the lid of my pod to keep out the smell and the heat, which was getting worse.

…Back in the day, I worked as an electrician before I became an EMT. I’d have to say that being an electrician was a better job, if only because I got a lot of time to myself. Ironic that I ended up having so much time to myself later. Anyway, I was brought in on a contracting gig to inspect bad wiring at a hotel. Apparently some of the wiring had caught fire. The smell on the plane was exactly like that. That’s how I knew, something Bad had happened.
Voices above me were yelling “It’s not the sequence circuit, it’s the launch mechanism.” then “We need to get him out, we’ll put him on the lifeboat!” then “pry it open then!” Then I heard another voice say “We’ve got two minutes to get off the plane.” Silence. Then I heard a woman say “Go. I’m going to try to get him out of here.” About sixty seconds later, I felt another jolt, heard something underneath me go screaming by. Then I heard the woman above me yell down to me, “Listen, your pod is stuck, I’m going to try to get you of it.”
“THERE’S A FIRE down here!” I screamed back at her. “WE KNOW!” She shouted back. The plane was picking up speed, it seemed like. The plane began pitching forward, into a sharper angle of descent. I felt like I was in some kind of horrible recliner. My equilibrium told me I was tilting backwards, which meant that the plane was beginning to go into a dive.
“We’re not going to get him out of there in time!” came a man’s voice. “GODDAMMIT! HE CAN HEAR YOU!” the stewardess screamed at somebody I assume was part of the flight crew. “Oh God.” I thought. None of it was real; my brain wouldn’t let me think of it as real.
I had a moment then; a real peaceful moment that I didn’t think was possible. I stopped clenching my arm rests, stopped thinking about anything. I became calm. They talk about how you hear another voice say something, but it’s coming from your mouth. I hate that phrase. But, that’s what it was. I didn’t make a conscious decision to do it. I yelled “GET OFF THE PLANE! IT’S OKAY!”
I didn’t know it at the time, but there were only three emergency pods left on the plane. There were four people.
I heard somebody say “She’s going.” Heard the stewardess shout profanities in protest. At this point, there was maybe a minute left to “abandon ship”. I don’t know what happened next. I felt another jolt and felt the plane shudder, then I heard what I assume was the stewardess’ pod go whistling by.
The plane was beginning to dip more sharply now. I became aware of tilting back even further, my back facing the direction of the ground. The crew members were arguing. In case you’re wondering, my seat had been near the front of the plane, which is why I was able to hear so much of their arguing. Just an fyi for clarification. “You’re fucking going, Tom.” “Fuck YOU!” “What about HIM?” a third man said, referring to me.
“FORGET ABOUT ME!” I shouted up at them. Forty seconds to go.
“GET INTO THE DAMNED POD!” shouted the voice that I later found out belonged to Paul Howard. He was the flight engineer. It turns out he was the only one of the three that didn’t have kids. In fact, his wife and two kids had been in a car accident. His wife lived. His kids didn’t. Unfortunately, his wife was brain dead and in a hospital when somebody “accidentally” pulled the plug on her life support.
There was silence followed by two thumps and more windy, whistling sounds. Then a voice said to me, much closer this time, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
That’s when my brain let my mind know, it was really real.

******

Johann Johnson was a writer. He published his first book in 2112. It was about a guy, an Olympic class runner. The character’s name was Tim Travis. In the book, he’s in this horrific accident…gets cut nearly in half and has to be put in a critical care pod. And I thought, jesus, that’s a pain that’d be hard to get over.

Not to get on a tangent, but sometimes I really wonder about who the asshole was that started putting the name “pod” in every goddamned phrase you can think of…critical care pod, ejection pod, etc. Seriously, in the world I was living in, I couldn’t get away from that damned word. When they took my brain out of my skull, it was put in a suspension pod. What’s wrong with the word “chamber”? Or “unit”? It’s like it was a federal law or something, everything having to do with containing a person had to have the word “pod” in it.

Anyway, they tried reattaching his lower body to this guy’s body, but they couldn’t do it. Too many mangled bits below the torso. So they give him a lower body transplant. The problem is, they can’t find a set of legs that match his old ones. They give him the parts of a guy that’s maybe 5 feet 6 inches, and it effectively ends Travis’ running career…though, honestly, getting cut in half had already effectively done that. But Travis freaks out. And, when he gets out of the hospital, the first thing he does is he goes and buys a gun, and walks into a random building and shoots everybody on the first floor. Then he walks into the building next door and does it again. And again, and again, working his way through five blocks of buildings before the police catch up to him. And he’s screaming at the police and he’s waving the gun around, and he shoots at the building across the street from where he’s standing. And that’s when the cops gun him down.

They rush up to him, and he’s bleeding to death, and he’s coughing and holding on to the gun, and he pulls the trigger but it’s empty. And his last words are “I’m done runnin’.”

Crazy shit.

I didn’t think Dr Stevens meant to give me an audio book to listen to that ended quite that way. Took her quite a bit of doing to get permission to let me listen to it in the first place. I don’t know why that is. Strikes me as odd, though, that it would even be an issue. I couldn’t understand at the time why the hospital administrators even gave a shit about whether or not I got to listen to an audio book, but apparently to them it was a big deal. Honestly, when it comes down to it, I think Stevens sweet-talked the nurses into going along with it. Whatever. I’m just grateful that I finally got something that broke the monotony. The point is, I didn’t think she’d meant to give me a book to listen to that would give me the idea to go killing people, whenever I finally got a body transplant.

A few days after I finished listening it, Dr Stevens came in and had a sit down with me. She had her cup of coffee and her clipboard. “So, yeah. You’re probably wondering why I gave you a book about a guy in a similar position that ends in him committing mass murder.” she said. “Yeah,” I replied, “You might say that.” She just stretched her legs and kind of slumped down in her chair, took another sip of coffee and rubbed her eyes.

“You could take it in one of two ways. Escapist fantasy that you can use to precariously satisfy the daydreams you’ve been having, God, I’m not going to say this right. I’m a lot better at getting in people’s heads, so to speak…sorry.”

“It’s okay”, I said, “Go on.” “You need to realize that you’re not crazy, first of all. Second, you need to be reminded that these fantasies you’re having….It’s a fine line between a fantasy and actually plotting to do something.” she finally said. Then she looked at me, right at me. She said “It’s fine to have a daydream about committing acts of violence. I think everybody does it. That doesn’t make it a good idea. I know you already understand that. I just want to make sure that you really get it.” That was the only lecture she ever gave me about my murder fantasies, and it was actually quite a bit longer and eloquent, but that’s what I remember, and even that isn’t word for word, but it catches the gist of it, at least…I think…I’m not sure. I’d like to tell you it word for word, but I’ve got a bad memory when it comes to remembering things people say. Be that as it may, certain things that happened are etched in my mind, obviously. It’s just important to me that I make it clear that I don’t remember word for word everything that happened. You’d think the exact opposite would be true, what with me having to rely on my mind to get by. She did make a point of bringing up my fantasies, trying to find out if my attitude had become more nihilistic. After the 7th or 8th time going over them, I finally said, “Look, I’m rational enough that I know the difference between self-pity and plotting to kill people.” Because that’s what my fantasies were, really. They stemmed from me feeling sorry for myself. They came from resentment and irrational jealousy. I was smart enough to know that, which is why I always said they were fantasies.

She started bringing in audio books for me once a week. I’d never really been much for books. I never had the time when I was older, and I was never really into reading when I was younger. I was one of those kids that liked to go hiking, swimming…that’s the kind of kid I was. When she started having me listen to stuff like Tom Sawyer and Catch 22 it was weird at first. It was like I’d been living my life with a bunch of different worlds floating around me, and I never noticed them. And then when I did, I felt like an idiot, or felt like I’d been blind or something, and that I was just now noticing this stuff made me realize what I’d been missing. I know that the fact that the audio books broke the monotony of my life, and gave me something to focus on, that made me really become attached to them. At any rate, they grew on me very very quickly.

Listening to the audio books, ultimately, was a way of living precariously through them…Helped me picture a life beyond the walls I was forced to stare at. Some days, I’d be listening to them and could almost see what was happening in full detail, instead of my little room. In a weird way, fiction reminded me of what it meant to have a real life. There’s a nice bit of irony for you.

********************************************************************

I had days where hours would go by, and nothing would happen, and I was just thinking to myself. Nobody coming in to check on me at all, nothing going on outside my room, just pure quiet. Those were nice days.  There were times when I could picture my kids, and my ex wife, and my parents and sisters, all of whom I’d forbidden to see me. I think it was easier for me to deal with the idea of being a brain case than it would have been for them. Imagine seeing your loved one’s brain, floating in liquid, talking to you through speakers, and looking at you with a webcam. I don’t know, if I had to see someone like that, someone I cared about, I’d lose my shit, I think. I don’t think I’d be able to handle it, especially if it was one of my kids.

That reminds me of a story Dr Stevens told me, about this five year old that had been a brain case…It was one of her first cases. He’d been the victim of a vicious beating by his parents, severe internal injuries, the works. They took his head off his body, and connected it straight to the life support. That’s how bad his parents beat him. For some reason, they didn’t bash his head in, too. Or maybe the police just got there before they could get to it.

So this little boy survives a horrific beating, gets his head cut off and put in a suspension unit, and because they’d transferred the whole head, he couldn’t talk. So he’s suspended in solution, and after a few weeks with no body transplant, the doctors start trying to decide what to do. They’d been keeping him heavily sedated to keep him from flipping out, but you’d practically have to keep him sedated all the time, and you can’t really do that. There are ways of sedating what is essentially just a brain, but really you’re on your own. I mean, there’s no body to metabolize the sedatives or medicine or anything. They have artificial systems for that, but they only use them in the direst of circumstances.

So, Dr Stevens is brought in to see the kid; he’d been non-responsive to visual stimuli. She goes in, and starts trying to talk to him, trying to get him to blink yes or no answers to her questions. Turns out the kid’s gone catatonic. Stevens made a point of sitting there with him, every day, for at least a few hours, until she finally got him to respond to her. She basically saved his mind. She told me that she was singing to him and all kinds of stuff, reading stories to him…The kinds of things a five year old would expect from an adult caregiver. No, there’s not going to be a kick in the nuts here like “the power at the hospital went out and he died three weeks later” or some horrible shit like that. Actually the kid got a new body, specially grown for him by a children’s foundation. Apparently it’s easier to clone a body for a kid than for an adult. Something about the growth rate, or something. A children’s body can be grown at an accelerated rate without damage, an adult body can’t be grown at an accelerated rate without consequence, not even an adolescent body.

There’s this episode of Star Trek, called Spock’s Brain, where this race of hot chicks steal Spock’s brain. Anyway, they use his brain to power a machine or something. I don’t know exactly what the hell it was. But they were using his brain as part of a computer or something.

That would suck, to be surrounded by a bunch of women who only liked you for your mind.

****************************************

Dr Stevens was a wicked chick. I want to tell you a little bit more about her. I know it sounds clichéd, but the woman had balls. I don’t even want to say it, it’s so clichéd, but it fits. That’s the nature of clichés, I guess. They just fit.

I already talked about how she’d arranged for me to have audio books. Not movies, but audio books. I found out that the real reason she wanted me to have audio books is so I’d be forced to visualize what was happening, to actually exercise my mind some. I wasn’t really surprised when she told me. That’s how she did things, you know? I’d been staring at a glorified closet for so long; I was beginning to actually suffer a kind of damage from it. It’s hard to say just how extensive the damage would have been had it gone on for years. I might have turned into a vegetable. Apparently you CAN have too much peace and quiet.

Another thing she did, well…I need to give some background about that, to really make you appreciate what I’m about to say.

She was a normal woman. That’s what I liked best about her. By normal, I mean that she did her woman things and wasn’t embarrassed by them. She just accepted that there are just some things that women are inclined to do, no matter what. Things like leaving the toilet seat down, or putting on makeup. Some women make a big deal out of NOT wearing makeup. That’s fine. But they act like they’re fighting for a cause, rising up against wearing makeup. It’s not fucking physics. Nobody’s forcing you to wear makeup, dammit. It’s not like women’s suffrage. You ever read about women’s suffrage, you’ll find out that the women who fought for the right to vote went through fucking hell. Some of ‘em were locked up in institutions, given shock therapy or some shit. This coming from a government that was supposed to protect freedom, you know?

So, the doctor was pretty laid back and girly. She also didn’t take any shit off of anyone. I remember the time she told me about finding her husband in bed with a woman, in their own bed. Luckily, the temporary insanity defense worked….thank god for a jury full of women…

No, I’m kidding about that. She never did anything worse than kicking the shit out of him. Turns out the woman he was in bed with had been under the impression that he was a widower. The doc and the other woman ended up suing him for mental anguish. How about that? Getting sued by a woman because you lied to her about your wife being dead. There’s more to it….something about her religion regards adultery as a deadly sin etc and now she was going to hell and mental anguish and blah blah and blah. It really is a funny story though.

But that’s not the really good part. Dr Stevens beat the fucking shit out of the bastard.

I mean, she kicked the ever loving fuck out of him. As she explains it to anyone that listens (and she’s damned happy to talk about it, let me tell you) she took her time. But that’s NOT the best part of the story.

See, she came home, like I said already, and heard a bunch of sex noises coming from the bedroom. She walked in, and sees her husband really giving it to another woman. Stevens wasn’t nearly as pissed off about that as she was that it was in their bed. He didn’t even try to be discrete about it. I said to her that maybe he’d been hoping to have her join in…a sort of impromptu threesome. She just said, “No. He just was a stupid sonuvabitch.”

So she sees him there, apparently he was trussed up, tied to the bed…blindfolded. Oh, yeah. I bet you already know what’s coming next, and you’d be right. She walks into the room…chick he’s screwing has her back to the bedroom door. She taps her on the shoulder, and the girl looks around and her eyes go all wide and Stevens made this “shhhhh” gesture. The girl slides off him. Stevens drags the girl into the living room. See, apparently this wasn’t the first girl he’d given the “my wife is dead” story to.

Her husband had a complete library of pity stories. One of my favorites she told me is that he’s dying of an incurable brain disease. Yeah, he actually said that. So she said to the girl, still whispering of course, “What story was it? Dead wife? Brain illness? Ripped off by a con artist skank and nearly broke?”

“Dead wife…” is all the girl says back to her. Stevens just nodded, like she wasn’t surprised, and said to the girl, “Yeah. That’s his favorite. He used that line to nail a cheerleader.”

Now, here’s the good part. The girl, her name was Andrea, is just fucking furious. Like I said, she was tricked into committing adultery. Never mind that she thought he was a widower. It’s still a sin. Not like premarital sex isn’t, but…that’s one thing. Adultery is another. I guess if you’re going to fool around, you’ve got to have principles, right?

Now, she asks Stevens what she’s going to do. It was pretty obvious that the bastard was screwed. Tied to the bedposts, blindfolded, two pissed off women in the other room trying to decide what to do next…It’s like something out of a movie, I know. What happens next….It’s nothing short of choreography…Sadistic, brilliant choreography.

Alright. I have to explain this, blow by blow. Stevens told Andrea that she was going to go into the bedroom and fuck him, then tear the blindfold off his face after he came and pound his face in. Andrea said to her, “Why let him finish?”

Now, I want you to imagine this. You’re tied to a bed, blindfolded, and a chick is fucking your brains out. She suddenly stops, and disappears for a few minutes, and then comes back in and starts licking your dick. It feels great, and you suddenly realize that it’s even better, because it’s like she’s going at it from two different directions. She says something like “you enjoying this, baby?” And that’s when you realize, fuck me…there’s two tongues down there. And you say “What the fuck is going on?”, but you already know, you dumb bastard. That’s your FUCKING WIFE down there with her, and you’re fucking fucked now. And your eyes don’t even have time to adjust to the light after someone rips your blindfold off before somebody is beating your face in.

And that’s exactly how it went down.

Dr Stevens didn’t play piano again until her knuckles healed.

*****

Brain Case Part 8

I don’t know how to really put into words what it was like for me. I’ve tried, but I think, you know, it’s one of those things you have to experience. There’s some things that can’t be put into words, and it’s pretty much useless to try. Maybe I just needed to get it out of my system, and maybe now I can get on with telling you the real story, the story I really want to tell.

But before I do, I want to tell you, graphically, about the plane crash. I already told you about what happened before, just before the crash.

All I heard, after the guy said “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry” was sobbing. He didn’t even try to go back to the cockpit to try to keep the plane level or anything. Wasn’t any good anyway. Most of the controls were so damaged that the auto systems built into the control surfaces to keep the plane level were kicked in. They do that, if the plane is off autopilot and there’s no indication that a pilot is in control. Some kind of logarithm they use that says nothing is flying the plane. So that’s what was really keeping us up, but the control surfaces on the wings were starting to really burn.

Being in the belly of the plane, I heard everything as the plane was going in…I heard crashing sounds, and I assumed the plane was hitting trees. I felt the plane shudder, and heard a monstrous ripping sound. Then the plane flipped around, cartwheeled, and then it went crashing through the forest it had been pointed at by the pilots. Ripped the crap out of the plane and everything in it. You know, that guy who stayed on the plane, they found pieces of him, really small pieces. Me, well, they found ME. Here’s how they found me.

Upon impact, my restraints ripped into my abdomen and my shoulders. By the time the plane itself was ripped to shreds from the multiple impacts, the ignited fuel had done a number on the outside of my pod, roasting me. The walls around me were beaten from a combination of the plane itself being ripped apart and crushing the pod, and then once the plane was torn to pieces by the impact, my pod was slammed up against the trees. The burning fuel, some of it got inside the pod and started burning me. Imagine a pinball inside a lit rocket, with a guy inside the pinball, and you fire that rocket at a forest. My pod was still going at full velocity when it hit the trees…Slammed into one, then into another…And it was traveling along with all the shit that used to be a plane, after being shaken loose like a badly laid egg. My body was pretty much destroyed by the impact. For some reason, though, my brain and my skull were untouched.

I could feel my life going out of me. I shit myself, as my guts gave up trying to work. I couldn’t move my head. I couldn’t move anything. My bones were smashed, my insides were squeezed till they burst, and I was on fire…it was like a giant burning hand had squeezed me. I didn’t have to move my eyes to see how badly I was hurt. My body was crumpled and in flames. I couldn’t help but see it. Blood was pouring out my mouth. I saw sunlight coming in through one of the cracks in the wall, through the smoke. Then blood flowed into my eyes. That was, in and of itself, kind of a relief. I couldn’t stare at my body, crushed into impossible angles and now smoldering, the fuel having burned away. I lived just long enough (Technically I was dead when the rescuers found me) to hear a rescue vehicle overhead.

*****

The rescue vehicle had a trauma team on it, trained for providing emergency medical assistance for extreme injuries. By that, I mean someone who looked like I did when they pulled me out. They fired a portable ct-scan at my head and found that it was undamaged and sustainable. They dragged me out, being real careful not to damage my skull…The rest of my body, they didn’t give a shit about really, though they did make a point of pumping as much blood out as they could, to feed to my brain later. They also needed a large amount of it to sample for blood replication. It only takes a little bit, but sometimes it’s trickier for some folks…sometimes their blood doesn’t generate a facsimile of it like it should.

The process for emergency brain stasis involves a five point device that puts these tubes into the brain. These tubes take the place of the body’s life support, essentially taking over. A sixth tube is inserted into the base of the skull and tells the brain to wake up. Once the brain is awake again, they use a field to slow down the brain activity. I’ll tell you this. I remember waking up briefly when they did that. It was like I was being smothered. All the things that I should have felt, I couldn’t feel. I didn’t even feel pain. I felt…nothing. Imagine trying to take a breath only to have no sensation of breathing. That’s the thing you notice first, that you have no breath. And then you realize, you have no throat. My body was dead, at that point, and my brain was disconnected from all of my other parts, eyes included. That lasted for about ten seconds, and then the field kicked in, and things got hazy and then, I think, I passed out.

*****

I woke up, so to speak, about 15 hours later. Before then, I was still classified as dead. They don’t tell anyone that a de-bodied individual has survived until then. They have to wait to see how the brain is going to react to its new state. Really, usually they don’t have to say anything, they just say “your son has been in an accident, and we had to place him in a new body. He won’t be able to play football, but he’s alive.” And here’s where the airline showed just how much of a bunch of fuckers they were.

Because of the fact that a good deal of my injuries were caused by my restraints…and there’s no doubting that….they really cut the shit out of me, pretty much pushing through to my spine at the waist…the airline wanted to claim that the manufacturer of the restraints were to blame, because the restraints were supposed to be viable even in high-velocity impacts.

So there I was. They’d connected auditory receptors to me, and a speaker, so I could vocalize. They weren’t going to attach any kind of optical device, because it would have been a waste of time…no need to attach it because I wouldn’t be there long enough to need one.

“Shouldn’t be more than a day or so, and we’ll get you into either a cloned or donated body…”

“Temporary, I know it’s hard but just hang in there and…”

That’s what the doctors told me. They figured they could do the surgery in a few days, put me in a new body, and then bill the airlines afterwards. That’s usually how it worked, they put you in a body and then sent the bill to whoever would pay the bill. Dr Coker was in the middle of telling me about rehabilitation and adjustment to a new body when a lawyer for the airlines came walking in, escorted by a federal marshal.

The lawyer handed him a cease and desist order, and the federal marshal confirms the document. Then the lawyer leaves, leaving Dr Coker standing there reading it to me. He got about a third of the way through the first page and got to the part where it said “Shall cease and desist any and all medical processes that will lead to Brandenhoff Airlines being named as the responsible party for any and all billing for procedures hereforthwith.”

I had another Oh Fuck moment, like the one just before the plane crashed, when he said “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

PART TWO****

So, after that bit of fun, I was asking Dr. Coker every day what was going on. He’d tell me that he wasn’t getting any answers from either the airline, or the company that made the restraints. Neither company wanted to open themselves to the possibility of a lawsuit by conceding that they were the responsible party. A jury, these days, awards a lot of money for something like this happening. To me it was a no brainer that Brandenhoff was responsible, since it was their plane that had failed, their safety checks that had missed the faulty pod ejection system in the plane. They’d screwed the pooch. Their stance, however, was that my body would have survived, albeit with severe burns, if not for the mortal injuries I’d experienced. Had I not been a brain case because of the damage done to my body when the straps “malfunctioned” as they put it, and instead just had severe burns over the entirety of my body, they’d have been happy to pay my hospital bills.

Now, the company that made the restraints…I’m not saying that they were any better than the airline, but they tried to at least share responsibility with the airline, to compromise with them. They said that the extent of my injuries, just from the burns, would have pushed the emergency team into at least having to consider doing a brain suspension, even if they didn’t go through with it; they’d have to consider it as an option if my condition worsened on the way to the nearest trauma unit.

Of course, the airline countered that that was purely speculation, since I’d experienced burns and injuries from the restraints.

Me, I just wanted to get out of the fucking jar, as I had begun to call it. Dr. Coker, reluctantly, had to arrange the procedure to have an optical input connected to my brain. When he told me, I heard the anger and bitterness in his voice. He knew it meant that whatever happened, I was going to be like this for a long time, or at least until the airline and the restraints manufacturer settled things with regards to responsibility for my condition.

To his credit, Coker did it for free. Actually, he paid for it. He told me it was the least he could do for me. He felt like he’d failed me. If he’d just gotten to me faster, worked harder and found me an available body sooner, he could have gotten me up and walking before the legal bullshit hit the fan.

I liked Dr Coker, I liked him well enough that when he told me he was retiring, I asked if I could retain him as my personal physician. He said no. But he came in, once in a while, to visit with me for a few months. That man was the only visitor I allowed, actually.

We’d become friends, you know? I think he didn’t mean to, but he did. He confided in me about how guilty he felt, and I confided in him how miserable I really was. It was an unspoken agreement between the two of us, you know, that we could both just say whatever we liked about how fucking pissed or miserable we were.

He would come in and see me, even after he retired. He’d ask how I was, but it was polite talk. The raw anger he’d shown when he was still my doctor was gone. It’s like he’d turned it off when he retired. I think the guilt was still there, but the anger at what had happened with me, with my situation…it’s like he’d accepted it. I think I resented him for that, a little bit, like he’d in a way abandoned me. Like we’d been on an island together, and a rescue ship had come and picked him up, and he’d left me there, all by myself.

His visits got more and more infrequent. One day, I said to him, “It’s okay, man. It’s alright. I know you feel like shit, and I know you can’t stop feeling like shit about it, but it’s alright. It’s not like you left a loaded gun around, and my kids shot themselves with it. Ain’t no friggin’ way you could have known they were going to pull that shit. You did what you were supposed to.” He just started crying. Funny that, between the two of us, I was the stronger one. I wish I could have done something to comfort him, put an arm around him, done something to make him understand that it was really okay, that I didn’t blame him for this shit. Intentions count for fuck-all though.

Coincidentally, he stopped visiting around the same time that they took away my TV. I had started freaking out when I was watching it. It was the beginning of my crazies, as Dr Stevens put it. They took away my net, they took away my TV…They took away anything that reminded me of the outside world, anything outside of my little room.

My crazies started getting worse, gradually. Sometimes I could handle watching TV, or the nets, or whatever. Other times..It got bad pretty fast after awhile. Now, I know I said that they wouldn’t let me have them, and I guess I kind of gave the idea that they hadn’t let me have them at all. The virtual space was the only thing I never had at all, even a little. So, yeah, my first bout of the crazies, I was watching the news and they showed a plane crash story. Of course it was a plane crash story that set me off. I started screaming at the TV. The orderlies came running in, horrified looks on their faces, thinking I’d died. See, when a brain case dies, it makes the same kind of sound it would make if it’s screaming. And, a brain case doesn’t scream like a normal person. It’s a simulated scream, like static from a radio, all squelching and distorted, but at a much louder volume. The volume of a brain case is controlled, unconsciously, by the brain. So, yeah, they were freaking the fuck out. They cut my voice off, just flipped a switch, and started trying to tell me to calm down after they’d made sure I was still alive. But I wasn’t listening. I was too busy trying to scream with vocal cords I didn’t have.

After that happened a few more times, they cut out my TV completely. No TV, no net. The only thing I got was letters, handwritten by my kids and Holly, or from my family. Once every few days, someone would come in and put them on a stand in front of my camera, and let me read them.

After awhile, even that stopped. I’d start screaming at whoever was bringing them in, told them to get the fuck out if they weren’t coming in to tell me that they had the good news I was waiting for. They’d classified me as belligerent, uncooperative. This was what my last regular psyche doctor told me before I told him to go screw. “WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE YOU FUCKING FUCK? YOU WANT COOPERATIVE? GO COOPERATE WITH YOUR ASS AND FUCK YOURSELF!” Eloquent, right?

The only person I was speaking to with a civil tongue at that point was the orderly I had asked to kill me. I hated him, but he’d been the one regular person I’d seen the entire time I’d been in that damned jar. I was used to him, I guess. I didn’t have any illusions about where he stood, and he didn’t try to patronize me either. Even when he said “you gotta hang in there” to me that one day, the tone of his voice told me that he didn’t give one shit or another when it came down to it. It’s not that he didn’t care, he just didn’t give a shit about whether or not he cared about it. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but there’s a difference between caring about something, and giving a shit. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there if you don’t think too hard about it and just accept it.

One day, I asked him, “How would you feel if you were in my position?” He said, “I think I’d be grateful to be alive, but fuck it. I don’t have to worry about it till it happens to me.” I always got the sense that he had a “yeah, you’re fucked, but better you than me” attitude about things. He helped where he could, and he kept his mouth shut and didn’t bitch about how bad his life might be. He knew, first hand from working in the brain case ward, that whatever twists and turns might happen in life, there was always something worse that could happen. But really, when it came to bad shit that happened to people, he kept his emotions at arm’s length. He didn’t let it push in on him. Otherwise, shit, he wouldn’t have been able to do his job. He’d have bailed on it, like Dr Coker did. Coker never said that’s why he was retiring, but I knew. He felt like he’d failed in his oath as a doctor. I did make him promise that, when the time came to put me in a body, he’d be the one to do it.

Everything kind of blurs together at that point. Me feeling suicidal and the crazy murder fantasies were just icing on it all. That was the end of the first year, that’s how I was. I was starting to have dreams about shit, really bad dreams. I was dreaming about Holly, about playing with my kids, and I’d wake up screaming with that awful sound that the hospital staff had gotten used to hearing from me by then. I was getting quite a reputation as being “special”. That’s what Dr Stevens walked into, when she started coming to see me.

I may make it sound like me and her hit it off, but that’s not the case. I was still hostile towards her, sometimes I told her to get the fuck out of my face and all that shit. That was the self-pity coming through. Goddamn, I can’t say what I want to say the way I want to fucking say it.

It was a few weeks before Dr Stevens and I really started to be able to talk without me going off on her. It was another few weeks before I apologized to her officially for being an asshole. Her response was typical of her. She says, “You’ve been in a jar for a year. You’re allowed to be an asshole sometimes.”

Until she told me that, I hadn’t thought about how long it was. I kept a vague count of how many days I’d been in there. But to hear her say that I’d been a brain case for a year, that fucked with me a good bit. When she said it, I kind of winced inside.

You know, I’m just going to quit trying to explain what it felt like, sending signals to a face and body I didn’t have any more. It’s not anything you can explain, only experienced. So when I say I winced, I’m saying that it was all in my mind. When I say I smiled, I mean that it was all in my head. When I say I cried, you know that it was all on the inside. And you already know what I mean, when I say that I was screaming.

**********

Buck Stevens…that was his real name, I swear to fucking God…Buck Stevens…go look it up…was Dr Stevens’ stupid sonuvabitch husband. He was still walking with a cane the first day he walked into my room. He comes in, sits down on a stool, looks at me grimly. He frowns, and starts looking through some papers…

I knew he’d be dropping in. His wife had told me about it, and was also somewhat responsible for his being there. Now, adulterous nature aside, the man was a pretty stand up guy. He’d heard about my situation from the news. Oh, yeah, I’ll get around to talking about the news people, don’t worry. Now, he heard about my story, and he was pissed. He was a classic champion of the people kind of lawyer, the kind that had gotten into law because he wanted to fight the boogie men and the monsters that are in this world. One night he’s talking about it at their apartment after doing some research, and he says to Stevens that he would love to sink his teeth into Brandenhoff Airlines for what they pulled. I can only imagine the smile that she must have had on her face when she told him she could introduce him to me.

So he appears in my room one afternoon, like I said. And he’s still going through papers and documents. And I’m just looking at him, so goddamned tempted to say something smart, like, “Wow. She’s stronger than she looks. How’s the jaw?” He looks up at me and says, “The buzzing from your voice system…That means you’re thinking about something, right?” I say, “Are you asking me what I’m thinking, or just pointing out that I’m capable of thought?” He just smiled at me. “So…a little hostile there. Is it personal, or just on general principle?” I laughed and said “It’s all purpose hostility. How’s the cheerleader?”

Wow, did that piss him off. He tried to get pissed off, anyways, and then I said, “What have you got to be self-righteous about? Your wife beat the hell out of you after catching you cheating on her. YOU have NO claim on getting pissed about it. If it was my ex-wife Holly, and she’d caught you like that, your balls would be gone. Be grateful your wife only gave you broken bones.”

He looks at me kind of funny and says “Yeah. That’s what my dad said to me after I told him about what she did.”

So, Mr. Buck Stevens and I had a good laugh at that. He’d spent about a week studying brain cases, including going over Stevens’ case notes about me, and the notes from the other doctors that I’d had. He looked through some of the medical studies done on brain cases and the effects of long term disembodiment. You’d think there’d be a shorter word meaning “bodiless and sustained in a jar of fluid”. But there isn’t. Anyways.

What he read was disturbing. He flipped through his pages, studying them as I watched the look on his face. Buck would look up at me occasionally and give me a look that I would come to call his “fuck” look. I know I keep dropping F-bombs but…it’s just the way I talk. So he gets done looking, He says, “You’ve got a problem.” And I say to him, “No shit. You going to tell me what it is?” He looks at me, and says “You mean nobody’s told you?”

Buck showed up in my room one afternoon, like I said. I watched him go through his papers and pad. And I’m just looking at him, so goddamned tempted to say something smart, like, “Wow. She’s stronger than she looks. How’s the jaw?” He looks up at me and says, “The buzzing from your voice system…That means you’re thinking about something, right?” I say, “Are you asking me what I’m thinking, or just pointing out that I’m capable of thought?” He just smiled at me. “So…a little hostile there. Is it personal, or just on general principle?” I laughed and said “It’s all purpose hostility. How’s the cheerleader?”

Wow, did that piss him off. He tried to get pissed off, anyways, and then I said, “What have you got to be self-righteous about? Your wife beat the hell out of you after catching you cheating on her. YOU have NO claim on getting pissed about it. If it was my ex-wife Holly, and she’d caught you like that, your balls would be gone. Be grateful your wife only gave you broken bones.”

He looks at me kind of funny and says “Yeah. That’s what my dad said to me after I told him about what she did.”

So, Mr. Buck Stevens and I had a good laugh at that. He’d spent about a week studying brain cases, including going over Stevens’ case notes about me, and the notes from the other doctors that I’d had. He looked through some of the medical studies done on brain cases and the effects of long term disembodiment. You’d think there’d be a shorter word meaning “bodiless and sustained in a jar of fluid”. But there isn’t. Anyways.

What he read was disturbing. He flipped through his pages, studying them as I watched the look on his face. Buck would look up at me occasionally and give me a look that I would come to call his “fuck” look. I know I keep dropping F-bombs but…it’s just the way I talk. So he gets done looking, He says, “You’ve got a problem.” And I say to him, “No shit. You going to tell me what it is?” He looks at me, and says “You mean nobody’s told you?”

I didn’t say anything. He looks all serious and all, then finally says “HAH. I’m just messing with you, man.” That sonuvabitch had a mean sense of humor.

We got down to it, at that point, after I got done unloading a stream of expletives too inspired to repeat here. Hey, even I have to have standards. He laughed his ass off. Then I laughed. But, yeah, we got down to it at that point.

He said that the only way he could see a work around for my situation, short of going to court, was to pull a lot of wrangling, calling in favors from every single contact he knew in the system. He even started talking about going to a group of senators in politics…They were in the NADA Party. Got to love a political party whose name is an acronym for “not a dumb ass”. Not officially, of course. But that’s how it started, and you know how those things tend to stick. God, I’ve got a bad habit of going off track. What he wanted to do was make a lot of noise. Sure, I’d been on TV…Had a lot of reporters come in and do interviews with me, and it raised a lot of noise. It’s just that the court order had a lot of teeth. Fucking amazes me, no matter how much time goes by, how shitty Brandenhoff was. But you don’t win a fight like this, no matter how good your press is.

See, the court order was a liability protection paper. What it’s for is to prevent companies from being party to any action that suggests that they have any responsibility for any event that results in harm to an individual.

You may have thought that this whole story was going to be me bitching about being stuck in my head, in a jar of water, but it’s really about getting back at those fuckers that left me hanging in there.

Buck and Dr Stevens were in my room one day with me and we were talking about my options. You know, it was shit like, “SO, could we conceivably put him in a body and replace his brain with the brain of a chimp and sneak him out? Maybe take him to France on a private plane and do the procedure there?”

Sure, we could have found people to help us replace my brain with one from a chimp, but it would have been hell for everyone if we’d gotten caught. We only seriously discussed the chimp brain for a few minutes. Then the doctor and Buck looked at each other, and started laughing.

The conversation went something like this.

“You know, we could just replace his brain with one from someone that’s brain dead. We could stick Sam’s brain in someone’s body without anyone knowing.”

“That’s crazy.”

“No, it’s not crazy. It’s illegal, but it’s not crazy.”

“No, it’s crazy. Someone would notice a missing brain.”

“I think they’d understand if they knew.”

“Right, but they wouldn’t know.”

“We could tell them, and then kill them.”

That’s when I said, “Well, what about a chimp brain? They’re about the same size, right?”

Dr Stevens said, “That might work…but I don’t know how we’d switch you out with it.”

“What about doing it on that orderly’s shift?” I asked. “I think he’d go along with it.”

“You really think so?” Buck asked.

“Yeah, I really do,” I answered, thinking about the orderly’s apathy. “I think if we approached him, he’d go along with it.”

“Hmm,” said Stevens, “What if we did it during one of my visits, at a time when he’s working? I could pretend you’d flatlined, get him to confirm it, and then take you out of here.”

“Yeah, but that’d require us faking Sam’s death, and that’s fucking messy,” said Buck.

Dr Stevens looked over at her husband and frowned.

“Jesus Christ, Buck, why do you have to be such a fucking downer?”

That kind of ended the chimp brain idea, but I still think it would have been fucking funny.

*****************************************

The first person we talked to in our pow-wow was a senator that I’d never heard of, but that’s just because he was elected after they’d turned off my tv. Senator Robertson was a crusader, kind of like Buck. They’d actually been friends back in college, or at least knew each other. Either way, they knew each other well enough to have a couple of beers together sometimes, and they’d kept in touch since they’d graduated.

“So, I read up on this case,” Robertson said. “Mr. Lawson, it’s disgusting, and horrific, but the fact is that they have a case for the injunction.  However…I’m fairly certain that I can work up some support for an addition to the current law they used in court to get the injunction. I can’t be any more specific than that right now, but it would add some kind of clause about duration. Obviously, there’s extenuating circumstances here. What you’ve been through…I can’t even imagine how hellish this has all been.”

“Want me to tell you?” I said, dryly.

“Some other time. I can’t talk for long, but I can tell you that I promise to do everything in my power to help.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Hey, I’m not gonna forget. This is a B.F.D., Mr. Lawson. Don’t get cynical on me.”

“He does that a lot, senator,” Stevens said, smiling pointedly at me.

I made a mental note to give her the finger for that when I finally had a hand to do it with. The senator continued, ignoring what she said.

“Well, he’s kind of entitled to be. I mean, hell, I’d start wondering about the basic nature of people if I were in his position. You see all these people living their lives, and they see other people suffering, and they don’t do a goddamned thing to help. They’re too focused on going about their daily lives, and they don’t stop to raise holy hell when somebody stops them and tells them how things are. It disgusts me, just thinking about how indifferent people are. All they do is tuck their heads under their wings and pretend it isn’t raining shit on them. And what does that get them? It gets them covered in shit.”

I decided, right then, that I liked this guy. Sure, he was a politician, and not to be trusted, but even so, a lot of politicians are not to be trusted. That doesn’t mean they aren’t trustworthy. Okay, yeah, that doesn’t sound right, but fuck it. The point is, he was all right.

Dr Stevens wasn’t quite convinced. She laid into him just a little. “So,” she asked, “Why haven’t you done anything about this before, if you’re so familiar with his story? You act all self righteous, but I feel like you’re putting on a show here, to make yourself look good or something.” The senator didn’t answer right away. I think he was caught off guard. The look on Buck’s face when she said that…I can only imagine he must have had that look on his face when he realized his wife was about to beat the shit out of him. Senator Robertson said to her, “You know, you’re right. I’m being kind of a hypocrite here, going on about injustice, but the fact is that you can’t do everything at once; sometimes you have to be reminded about things, and sometimes you need to be reminded with a brick to the head, and sometimes you have to be reminded with a slap to the face. And sometimes you need to be reminded by having somebody beat the shit out of you when you’re tied up.”

Buck’s face turned red. He looked over at Stevens, and said, “How many people did you tell?”

I laughed my ass off at that. The senator said “What the hell is that noise?” Dr Stevens said, “That’s what it sounds like when Mr. Lawson laughs.” “Jesus,” said Robertson.

I cut in. “Listen, I appreciate the platitudes, Senator. But, I don’t want you saying shit about what you’re going to do for me unless you think you can make it happen.”

The senator didn’t answer. Dr Stevens said to him, “The point is, we need to know what we have to work with, in terms of getting him out of that jar.” Buck still looked like God had just shit in his mouth. Even so, he tried to keep his composure. He was a lawyer, after all…though I imagine being in a court room and being next to your wife with people that knew she kicked your ass after catching you with another woman are two entirely different kinds of stress. I wouldn’t know. I never cheated on my wife, and if she’d found out about it, she would have put my head up on a stick in the front yard. Proudly.

Buck finally snapped out of it. “Senator,” he said, “What are the chances we can get Brandenhoff to agree to a concession here? Without it needing to go to court?” Senator Robertson said, “Not much. They’re playing for time. The longer they wait, the bigger a hole they dig for them, so they’re trying to pretend this will go away. They don’t want to make any kind of agreement, because it’ll essentially be admitting guilt. Especially since they were the ones who got the court order, they’ll be doing everything possible to not agree to anything.”

“So, we’re going to have to be prepared for a fight then.”

“Yep.”

Dr Stevens and her husband looked at each other. Then they glanced over at me. “The good news is,” said Robertson, “Mr. Lawson has one hell of a pain and suffering claim on his hands. He’ll never have to work again, for starters–” I smiled inwardly. I was really starting to like this guy now. “—And,” he said, “If it turns out that they ARE responsible, and they hid that information…well, hell, the law says that the money from the fines they’d get hit with for withholding information, be it knowingly or unknowingly, regarding their liability, goes straight to Mr. Lawson as well.”

“Call me Sam,” I said.

“Sam,” the senator said to me, “Brandenhoff actually isn’t trying to screw you. They’re a company. They’re protecting themselves. Granted, what they’ve done is morally reprehensible and unethical, but it’s not against the law. That’s what makes it hard to fight. For all we know, it was just a flaw in the electrical wiring that caused the crash. They might not have any liability at all, and therefore owe you nothing. That’s the thing you have to be careful of if you go to court with this thing.” “Yeah,” I said, “and why is the investigation into the crash still ongoing?”

“That’s an issue I plan to take up with the FAA as soon as possible. I’ll tell you this; a lot of people in Congress listen to what I have to say. It’s one of the advantages of being an independent moderate. I listen to both sides, and give everyone as much respect as they earn. If someone acts like they’re full of shit, I say it to them, publically. It’s one of the reasons I’m so well known. And, generally, the majority agrees with me when I say it.”

Buck said, “It’s true, Sam. He’s got a tattoo on his ass that says ‘cut the shit’.”

I thought to myself that a tattoo on his ass that said cut the shit could be taken in a couple of ways, and most of them couldn’t be talked about in front of children. Robertson ignored Buck, and went on. He said, “If I come to the leaders of the parties that have the biggest numbers about either amending the law, they’ll listen. One alternative would be to have a hearing about it to put pressure on Brandenhoff. Might also bring in the manufacturers of the plane and the pod. Personally, I’m in favor of the latter option. Makes for bigger press, and a bigger embarrassment for all parties involved, though as I understand it, Martin-Raytheon did try to provide some kind of relief to you.”

“Yeah they did,” I said. “They have even offered to pay for the procedure and all medical expenses. Apparently the CEO, Tom Edwards, his mom was a brain case for about a month because of a shooting incident.” Robertson said, “I heard about that. They were actually able to clone her body successfully without any growth faults.” “Yeah,” I said, “Luckily. Imagine having a new mom but she’s the same mom, right?”

“Well, this is all very nice,” said Buck, “But this is all just hypothetical. When do I get to sue somebody?”

Stevens said, “Down, boy.”

Buck smiled for the first time in nearly an hour.

They say that any landing you can walk away from is a good one. I don’t know if my situation, such as it is, applies. After all, I didn’t walk away from the plane crash. I was dragged out of burning wreckage. It’s not the same thing, you know?

In the old days, if a plane went down, you went down with it. These days, they have mass ejection systems for passengers. Your seat slides down into a pod. Once you’re in, the pod closes and is ejected. Ideally the passenger’s seat is slid into the pod and it’s sealed within a period of about eight seconds. Your chair doesn’t fall into position as much as it is lowered into place very quickly. Eight seconds is about right, I think. This happens simultaneously, with all passengers dropped into their pods at the same time. The pods aren’t sealed until just before the passengers are dropped. There’s a two second gap between each pod. Usually what happens is, the pods are ejected one at a time. They can override that and launch two at a time. It’s done randomly, so you can’t pick a spot on the plane based on when you’d get ejected from it.

I did some research after the crash, about how those things work. Apparently they rely on electromagnetic technology to make the pods float down to earth at a slower level of speed. It’s the emergency ejection that’s the real bitch. They only use those pods if a plane is going down like a bat out of hell. And, you know, even then it’s not a guarantee. Obviously if a plane cartwheels on the runway, you’re nothing short of fucked no matter what, right?

There’s a lot of stuff they don’t tell you voluntarily about the ejection pods. There’s a short period of acceleration to make sure the pods are slammed out and away from the plane. The tubes open on the plane’s belly, shooting the pod out, like a giant metal bird shitting out an egg in mid-flight. That’s what they look like.

Once the egg is safely away from the plane, the mag field kicks in, slowing its speed to something like an elevator. The closer it gets to the ground, the slower it descends.

Once the passengers are safely ejected, the crew of the plane moves to a group pod, usually below the cockpit. I’ve seen pictures of that thing. It essentially looks like an elevator on the inside, with a few modifications. The plane is set to autopilot, and ordered to find as clear an open space as possible from civilization. That means that if the plane is over a city like say New York, it ditches into the ocean. If it’s in New Mexico, then it’s going to ditch in the desert, of course. And what happens if the plane is too damaged to do anything like steering? Then the pilots stay aboard and ride it out, to try to keep the plane from becoming a giant missile. There’s usually one or two coffin-style emergency pods, just in case of something like that happening, like say the pilots manage to get temporary control of the plane, and they manage to point it towards a nice patch of terrain. The stewardesses have already gone byebye in the crew pod. The pilots hustle to the coffins and gtfo.

It’s funny, how they put so much stock in these safety pods, when most times there’s no time to eject. Alot of times, a plane is going to crash on take off, or during landing, right? When that happens, the passenger pods are supposed to create “an extra level of safety”. They’re supposed to be fire proof, impact proof…that kind of thing.

I want to tell you, real quick, before I go any further…the crew did every goddamned thing they could to stop that plane from crashing. They really did try to be heroes, dammit. And then there was the stewardess.

You may have an idea in your head, of what happened, even before I say it. My escape pod jammed in the tube. The accelerator shorted out. The plane had an electrical fire. It’s a rare goddamned thing, but that sort of shit still happens with planes, even with all the safety features. So, the engines started shutting down. With only one engine left, and no control of the plane at all. That’s when they started ejecting us.

I could feel the plane jolt as each pod was pushed out, one after another. The pod closed, then tilted and rotated into a launch position, so that I’d be facing the angle of descent instead of away from it. I could hear barely hear the wind beneath me as the launch tube opened. I thought “shit…this is it.” I tensed up, trying to prepare for it. Then there was a loud popping sound and a grinding, whirring sound and a thump thump thump sound against the sides of the capsule.

At first I didn’t know what had happened. The flight attendants had been very clear in describing the escape pod launch procedure. A “please wait for assistance” light flashed on the wall in front of me. The thump thump thump started slowing down. The grinding sounds stopped. I remember shouting “HELLO?”. And then I just started shouting, period. I don’t remember what all I was screaming. I looked above my head, and saw an emergency release lever. I popped it open, but it wouldn’t open all the way. It was blocked by the hatch that had closed right after my seat had been lowered. I began frantically slamming the pod door against the
hatch. I heard voices….I heard someone say “That’s it, they’re all clear.” Then I heard another voice say “What’s that banging?”

It hadn’t really dawned on me that I might be in a really really bad situation. As the voices got closer, and one of them said “Oh my God, that one’s jammed” I began to get that sickening feeling. Fear is kind of like a fever, you know? You feel it, and think, oh I’m ok. I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong.” Then, when things get worse, it begins to dawn on you that you may have something serious. Then you really start to get scared when you realize that you SHOULD be scared. So I started screaming even louder, but I wasn’t actually afraid yet, I figured, hey, they’ll get me out of here and I’ll just get in another pod. That’s the kind of stupid thinking you do when you’re starting to get scared, and you’re trying to think rationally, and you’re trying to keep calm.

I felt the plane dip a little, felt my stomach trying to keep up with the rest of my body, and it was like a roller coaster. I heard someone shout, “HIT THE OVERRIDE! JUST DROP HIM!” I shouted up at them, “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” I banged the pod door against the hatch again, frantically as I felt the plane dip again. I’m pretty sure I heard people falling down above me, or getting knocked into walls or something. When I heard a voice say “you’re going to be ok” I calmed down. I heard muffled sounds above me. I relaxed a little.
That’s when I realized, I could smell smoke. You know, the kind of smell that comes from electrical fires.
The smell was really strong. I closed the lid of my pod to keep out the smell and the heat, which was getting worse.

…Back in the day, I worked as an electrician before I became an EMT. I’d have to say that being an electrician was a better job, if only because I got a lot of time to myself. Ironic that I ended up having so much time to myself later. Anyway, I was brought in on a contracting gig to inspect bad wiring at a hotel. Apparently some of the wiring had caught fire. The smell on the plane was exactly like that. That’s how I knew, something Bad had happened.

Voices above me were yelling “It’s not the sequence circuit, it’s the launch mechanism.” then “We need to get him out, we’ll put him on the lifeboat!” then “pry it open then!” Then I heard another voice say “We’ve got five minutes to get off the plane.” Silence. Then I heard a woman say “Go. I’m going to try to get him out of here.” About sixty seconds later, I felt another jolt, heard something underneath me go screaming by. Then I heard the woman above me yell down to me, “Listen, your pod is stuck, I’m going to try to get you of it.”

“THERE’S A FIRE down here!” I screamed back at her. “WE KNOW!” She shouted back. The plane was picking up speed, it seemed like. The plane began pitching forward, into a sharp angle of descent. I felt like I was in some kind of horrible recliner. My equilibrium told me I was tilting backwards, which meant that the plane was beginning to go into a dive.

“We’re not going to get him out of there in time!” came a man’s voice. “GODDAMMIT! HE CAN HEAR YOU!” the stewardess screamed at somebody I assume was part of the flight crew. “Oh God.” I thought. None of it was real, my brain wouldn’t let me think of it as real.

I had a moment then, a real peaceful moment that I didn’t think was possible. I stopped clenching my arm rests, stopped thinking about anything. I became calm. They talk about how you hear another voice say something, but it’s coming from your mouth. I hate that phrase. But, that’s what it was. I didn’t make a conscious decision to do it. I yelled “GET OFF THE PLANE! IT’S OKAY!”

I didn’t know it at the time, but there were only three emergency pods on the plane. There were four people.
I heard somebody say “She’s going.” Heard the stewardess shout profanities in protest. At this point, there was maybe two minutes left to “abandon ship”. I don’t know what happened next. I felt another jolt and felt the plane shudder, then I heard what I assume was the stewardess’ pod go whistling by.

The plane was beginning to dip more sharply now. I became aware of tilting back even further, my back facing the direction of the ground. The crew members were arguing. In case you’re wondering, my seat had been near the front of the plane, which is why I was able to hear so much of their arguing. Just an fyi for clarification. “You’re fucking going, Tom.” “Fuck YOU!” “What about HIM?” a third man said, referring to me.

“FORGET ABOUT ME!” I shouted up at them. Sixty seconds to go.

“GET INTO THE DAMNED POD!” shouted the voice that I later found out belonged to Paul Howard. He was the flight engineer. It turns out, he was the only one of the three that didn’t have kids. In fact, his wife and two kids had been in a car accident. His wife lived. His kids didn’t. Unfortunately, his wife was brain dead and in a hospital when somebody “accidentally” pulled the plug on her life support.

There was silence followed by two thumps and more windy, whistling sounds. Then a voice said to me, much closer this time, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

That’s when my brain let my mind know, it was really real.
******

There #1

November 16, 2009

This is an idea I got while doodling during work…An entire society living in my Id.

I give you the two primary participants in their first appearance.

Redneck Vampires!

Brain Case Part 3

November 10, 2009

Sitting in a case, day in and day out, no arms or legs…It’s like a parody of Johnny Got His Gun…with the exception that you can talk and hear people. I’d been in the case for about a year at this point, if I’m not mistaken.

I apologize if I get caught up in describing what it’s like to be in that state, but I get hung up on it quite easily. I feel the need to convey what it’s like, to get it out of my system. Everything about being disembodied is nightmarish, and I still feel a certain futility in describing it.

You have no sense of balance, for one thing; no ears. I would often feel like I was suffocating, because I had no lungs. Your brain is hard wired to receive these sensations. People often ask me if there’s a sense of having a “ghost body”, something akin to a phantom limb. No, there is no such sensation. Phantom limb sensation, as I understand it, is caused by the nerves of what’s left of the limb. It tells the brain that the hand or leg is there, so the brain says “Oh, ok.” This even though the brain can plainly see that there’s nothing there.

So, I’d spend my days dizzy and suffocating at first, till I learned to filter out those sensations. After a few months, I was fine, as far as coping with my brain trying to process sensations that weren’t there. After awhile the doctors stabilized those centers of my brain that were causing such sensations, and I didn’t have to filter it out. They only did this after it became apparent that the airline wasn’t going to come through anytime soon, in terms of finding me a body. The process of deadening those centers can cause permanent damage to a varying percentage of people, making it impossible to ever put a brain into a new body.

At times, I think it would have been better if I couldn’t see or hear anything, or speak. That way I wouldn’t have had anything to react to, and it would have been like I was in a very peaceful and dark place. It would have been a nice illusion, but honestly, I think that would have driven me insane. By the time they found a body for me, I’d have suffered terribly. Not that I didn’t suffer in other ways, but the isolation would have caused an emotional schism that I wouldn’t have recovered from.

I would occasionally protest my condition when I’d get a visit from a doctor. I’d say things like “this is inhumane, you should find a body for me now, what kind of doctor are you to let me suffer”. That kind of crap. The doctors sympathized. They were good people but they were actually legally restricted from doing the body transplant pro bono. In fact they had signed papers stating that they would not do this, in my specific case, as long as the airline was investigating its legal recourse in the matter.

I still don’t get all the intricacies of the legal bullshit. What it did was create a lock on any kind of procedure that would allow me to actually get placed with a new body. When you’re waiting, every day, for somebody to walk through the door and tell you that they’ve got good news, and day after day it doesn’t happen…and you’re stuck staring at a tiny room, with only your thoughts to keep you company…I’m just trying to make it as clear as possible what it was like for me, and I don’t mean to get all dramatic. I’m just trying to get it out of my system.

Death of Men

November 5, 2009

He had a picture of his mother and father in a pocket in his uniform. When the shell hit, bits of shrapnel sliced into him, one bit cutting through the photo.

He lay on the ground, staring up at the darkened sky, gasping for breath as fluid filled his lungs. In all his time he’d been at war, he had imagined what dying would
be like; He’d expected to die instantly…well, not necessarily expected, but he had hoped to die instantly. At any rate, whether dying slowly or dying
fast, the result was the same.

He could hear explosions and gunfire, and screaming from other men that had fallen. He wanted to cry out but couldn’t. He wanted to crawl to find shelter,
as he knew he was in danger here, but after months of fighting without so much as a scratch, he figured that somehow the odds were against him getting hit
to begin with, and that being mortally wounded was something that hadn’t been meant to happen. He felt the rush of death, could almost sense it as he
grew cold.

A German came down next to him, crashing into the mud at the bottom of the trench, landing on his feet, but collapsing. Blood poured down this man’s leg.
He would die slowly as well.

The enemy soldier collapsed and ripped his belt off, desperate to stop his life’s blood from draining from him. He wrapped the belt about his leg, above the
wound. Tommy (is my name tommy? he thought) watched this German deftly tie off the wound. A medic, Tommy thought, or maybe just very determined………..
Tommy coughed. The enemy spun about, now noticing him lying upon the ground, filthy with mud all over him. The German looked him over, probably wondering if he
was worth the time it would take to kill him. Tommy coughed some more, blood coming out of his mouth. His eyes didn’t even get wide as the German raised his
rifle and approached him. The American didn’t even bother to reach for a weapon. He was done with any fighting he’d been destined for, and this was the end.
He thought briefly about how cold he was, and then raised his hand to the German soldier as if in a “I give. Do as you like.” The man wouldn’t have understood
anything Tommy said anyway, even if he’d been able to talk. The German came closer to him, cautiously still, and bent down beside Tommy. The man
looked around behind him. Smoke, screaming, he seemed to take it all in. He opened Tommy’s shirt and looked at his wound and a grim look came over his face
as he realized what Tommy already knew, there would be no saving him.

The German soldier took hold of Tommy’s hand, gripping it tightly as if to comfort the boy, just barely 19. Tommy managed a smile, to let him know
that he understood the gesture. There was suddenly shooting nearby, and the sound of men running. The German looked around him, looked back at Tommy, who
was nearly gone now. Men dove into the trench next to the accidental friends and began pulling on their gas masks. Americans, these, like Tommy. They for
the moment took no notice of the kraut. The German, realizing what was happening, looked frantically for his gas mask. It was in the mud, with a hole in it.
He looked over at Tommy, who was looking back and forth between the newcomers and the he. Tommy used his last bit of strength to pull his gas mask out of
it’s bag, and handed it him. The kraut nodded and took it from him, placing it over his face.

Tommy gasped repeatedly as his lungs quit working, and to the German looked like a ridiculous parody of a fish in its death throes. He had been trying to
get behind enemy lines in the hope of surrendering, and quitting this madness, and now he was surrounded by Americans who would more than likely kill him
once they saw their dead comrade laying there in the mud, a Kraut bastard wearing his gas mask. He prayed to himself. He gingerly caressed Tommy’s face
as the life went completely out of the boy.

The mustard gas came.

Knowing the effects of mustard gas first hand, and knowing of its tendency to cling to the ground, the German forgot completely about his rifle
and shouted at the three american soldiers huddled at the bottom of the trench. He could only imagine the looks on their faces as he grabbed two of them by the
arm and began dragging them to one of the walls of the trench. The trench was no place to be, was no longer safe. He cried out in German at them. Then
the American boys remembered their training. They began scrambling out of the trench. The German soldier boosted one up, then another, with the first
soldier helping. They must have been horribly close to where the canister had found its mark, as the cloud seemed especially thick. The third US
soldier was finally up. The three doughboys paused and stared at the enemy soldier, unsure of what to do with him. He had helped them, but he was a kraut.
One of them finally screamed “Help him up!” and the other two moved frantically to assist.

Tommy watched all of this with a degree of fascination and awe. He looked over at his body, which now seemed more like…an empty box…to him. He took no
notice of the mustard gas, but watched his countrymen and the German. The four men seemed to be in a state of detente, Americans and German trying to decide
what to do next. Tommy walked over (could he still call it walking?) and stood with them. He felt like he was guarding them from something, but wasn’t sure
from what he was guarding them.

A whistling sound came singing through the air.

In an instant, Tommy found himself standing in a shell hole, blood and bone and gore scattered about on the ground. None of the four men were left.
The crater looked like God had punched the Earth in anger, not paying attention to who he struck down.

The ghost stood looking about him, but strangely, was not agrieved at the deaths of those men that had been standing here not a few moments ago. He
wondered if they too were ghosts, and if they would find their way back to the spot where they died. And then, as an afterthought, he wondered
if their deaths had been a better way to go than his, and then decided that to die slowly was better. he would have to ask them if he saw them again.

5 minute fiction-Z

November 1, 2009

The older boy put his back into the lifting of the groceries, trying to keep pace with his mother. She looked once or twice as she moved hurriedly, almost dragging the younger child along as he, too, tried to keep pace. “Hurry the fuck UP.” She said to the boy. His brother looked up at the woman as she squeezed his tiny hand. He knew better than to complain about how tightly she was holding it.

She said things like that to her kids a lot. The boy sniffed as he hefted the bags once more. He strained to carry the bags. He was thin, and just about 8 years old. The other boy was maybe three. She dragged him with her left hand.  She ran the fingers of her right hand through her natty, dirty blonde hair.

The oldest one caught up with her at the apartment door. He was too young to be thankful for the fact that they lived on the first floor, meaning he didn’t have to carry the bags up a flight of stairs. He continued to hold them as she turned the key. She looked straight ahead and said nothing more to him, and opened the door.

“Hello.” The thing said to her. She stared, focusing on it. It looked solidly at her, fixing her with its stare.

“I’d like to talk to you.”

Yes, I know the walls look funky. I was rushing it. Now hush.

It hung in the air, looking right back at her as she stared at it, wide eyed with terror.

It floated in mid-air. It had a round head, practically a perfect sphere, but also not, like it had been worn down in places. It had large black spots for eyes, and…yes, she thought…a flower sticking out of the top of the head. And a sheet for a body, she thought, though she was not cognitive of the fact that she couldn’t move. She stood there stiff, staring at it. Her face was caught in the expression she had when she first laid eyes on it. This was not due to anything done by the creature. She was terrified.

“Your children won’t hear us. I’ve removed us from time.”

Her bottom lip shook just slightly, her eyes wide.

“You hurt your children. You have no idea how how much you hurt them. Why?”

It paused a few moments and said, “Try not to scream.”

“I-I…” She paused. She looked into the dark eyes of the creature. She heaved, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed brokenly. “I don’t know.” She finally answered. It seemed to nod and then, it said, in its almost feminine voice, “Let me show you something.”

She saw herself sitting on the sofa. Her youngest son was curled up by her on the sofa. She was holding some kind of book. Her older son was sitting up on the floor. He was holding up a big piece of paper. He said “Mom! I drew a picture from the story you’re reading us.” And she was smiling.

“He asked you to buy him paper at the store, and you said ‘no, it’s too expensive.’ But I know you just can’t wait to try on the earrings you bought, or to put that dye in your hair.” It suddenly had an edge in its voice.

The thing seemed to be glaring at her now. “Change. Don’t make me make you change. You wouldn’t like it.”

The door shut behind her. “Mom? Mom?” her oldest son said. Her younger son was going “Mommy? Mommy?”.

“Mom? Are you okay?”

She stood there in the apartment, her children staring up at her. Her face was wet from the tears she hadn’t even realized she’d been crying.

“Babies, help mommy put the groceries away. Then we’ll sit down and I’ll read a book to you or something, okay?” The boys looked up at their mother, smiling at the idea of being read a story. The younger child hugged his mom’s leg as he watched his brother carry the groceries into the kitchen.

“Now, what do you want me to read?” She said lightly, looking down at the four year old.