Recovery (Second Person) Scene

Author’s Note: “Recovery” was first published in IN SITU (Dagan Books, August 2012).  Note that this is only the alternate first scene in “Recovery” posted here for the purpose of Exercise #5: Threading the Narrative.


by Jason Andrew

Her voice smells of sweet oranges on a hot summer day. How long has it been since you’ve heard an American woman? “Doctor, one of the patients is showing early signs on consciousness.”

His voice tastes of cold tar so bitter and oily that you want to vomit. Something about him terrifies you. “Which one?”

“Patient six.”

Cold, bright light penetrates your eyes. You squint hard to avoid the sheering pain. Gentle fingers wrapped in plastic gloves force them back open. Soothing swabs of green water scrubs away the crud from your eyes. He speaks again and you choke from the sensation. “Try to follow the light, Corporal. That’s an order.”

It takes effort, but you manage to obey. Eyes down and then up to follow the frigid glittering light. You never imagined looking into the world would take so much effort. Eyes right and then left. “Do you know your name?”

You wince at the taste of his voice and pucker your lips. She rests her hands on your shoulders. The wash of oranges almost cleanses the palate. “You are safe here, Corporal. I know it’s hard to concentrate, but we just need to know if you remember things like your name to treat you.”

It seems reasonable and you’ve always been a sucker for a pretty voice. “Ed. Corporal Edward Febish.”

“Good. Very good, Ed.” She squeezes you for a bit of encouragement and leans close. Brilliant fireworks light off from her every movement. “Do you know what day it is?”

The colors of the days jumble together. “Thursday. Maybe Friday. April. Forgot the day.”

“Good. Very good. Do you know where you are?”

You wish you could forget the dust and bullet ridden land that smelled of eternal ashes. “Afghanistan.”

“Do you remember your unit’s last mission?”

There’s a tiny prick of red pain in your back. Your heart beats rapidly but you aren’t entirely sure why. The horizon spins and you aren’t sure why until the light fades and you realize you are face down on a stretcher.

“Don’t try to move. We had to operate on your back to get the bullets out. You’ll get full motion in a couple of hours and then we’ll adjust the bedding.”

Flashes of memory through a thin film of muck return to you. “Friendly fire in the caves.”

“Good. Very good. What were you doing in the caves, Corporal?”

You remember hours of green tinged darkness fumbling in the stale air that passed through the gas masks. Your skin itched all over. “We were on patrol. Heard a tip about a secret cave entrance in the mountains near the Salang Pass. Insurgents found a hidden side tunnel. There was lots of excitement from the locals about some taboo being broken. Radioed headquarters and they asked us to investigate.”

Once again, she cleans your eyes with the soothing swab and your vision clears a little and so does your memory. “After a while, it felt weird being down there. Some of us got the shakes and it felt like I was licking a battery.”

The oily voice coughs. “Rapture syndrome. It happens to inexperienced cave spelunkers. An extreme reaction to darkness and depth that’s akin to an anxiety attack while on methamphetamines.”

You remember that ancient primordial instinct of wanting the open sky above you and air that smells of crisp dandelions. The lights in your hands shook and you remember how hard it was to keep them still. “We found the base camp, but it was empty. Of the living that is.”

“The caves were too dark for images to be captured clearly, Corporal.” His voice returned, bringing the scent of disease and rot. “What did you see?”

You shiver unconsciously. You don’t want to remember the cold darkness, but his voice forces you back like a tidal wave. You start to speak with memories exploding with each syllable. “Bodies. About a dozen locals. Killed each other as far as we can tell. They used knifes, guns, even rocks. One bastard died with his teeth caught in another poor guy’s throat.”

“Was there anything strange about these men?”

Your eyes jolt as though electricity squirted through them. “Pus and scabs. Looked like bark on a swamp tree. Horrible! We started collecting samples and evidence and then we were blinded by a cold white light. I don’t remember much after that, except the shooting.”

“Did you see anything else unusual?”

“There as a small pod. Looking like a turle covered with green and purple fuzz. Two of them were fighting over it when they died. You should have found it in my pack, sir.”

Blissful silence. She speaks again and the summer breeze of calm wafts over you. “You can sleep now, Ed. I’ll be here watching over you.”


One thought on “Recovery (Second Person) Scene

  1. Pingback: Exercise #5: Threading the Narrative | The Universes of Jason Andrew

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