Who — Are — You?
He came back to consciousness, racked with pain, weak, disoriented and unable to move; he tried to grasp his environment. Everything was dark, either he was trapped underground or he had lost his sight; he couldn’t be sure. He heard the muffled clink of metal upon metal, the shuffling of feet, and a murmur of voices, but for the life of him he could not understand what they said. He tried to move, but found that his limbs and even his head were restrained with — something. Then the pain was relieved, the world stopped spinning, but this only allowed him a panicked epiphany that he was being cut open and probed — my god he thought, “I’m being vivisected” — and there was nothing he could do about it. Then a clear but eldritch voice, asked him a question, but his paralyzed vocal cords failed any reply; he was asked, “Who – are – you!”
A long ear piercing whine and then — explosion, the displacement bomb brought him back to awareness. Running for cover, while more screams tore the sky, he headed toward and under the remnants of an overpass and behind a SUV, studded with years of blast holes and carbon scoring. In the distance he could hear the cacophonies of worples and automatic fire. He grasped to get his bearings, what just happened, where was he just then, is this some kind of new attack or was he just suffering some new form of PTSD?
Up ahead in the scorched clearing, emerged an enemy scout from behind a battered, rusted, and pit marked green sign that read — “L– S Ang –ls —— Next Exit”, but this time things were different. He thought, “What the? — They’re never outside of their creepy mechs! — If I can bring him in alive I am sure to get promoted!” and then he proceeded to sneak towards the being, to get within melee range, for he did not want to waste ammo, let alone accidently killing the S– O –B. He thought with horror, “My god is that them, the Abalieno!? He is makes my skin crawl!” He closed the distance, just ten yards more to go, then like a dropping anvil, a large mechanical foot from a Abalieno mech slammed home just inches in front of him as he barely rolled backwards, thus avoiding injury. The enemy scout whirled about, shouted some strange alert that grated the ear, then fired repeatedly with his rifle, causing the air to ripple with that peculiar sound that one could only describe as a worple. The turrets on the Abalieno mech whirred and started to home in on him, but he scrambled to his feet and kept running with all his might, — he wondered if — no he prayed — to still have the luck that has kept him alive thus far. Another displacement bomb knocked him off his feet and created a long dial tone ring in his ears — and then — with dimming vision — he saw them running towards him, comrades-in-arms, with automatic fire blazing — maybe — just maybe, he has some luck left after all.
He came back to consciousness, the room lit dimly red, and found his vision terribly blurred which is always distressing, but gave hope for his vision to return fully. Although he felt sore, he did not feel the pain as before, but instead felt a new pain, one of sutures that ran the length of his abdomen and forked out toward his shoulders. Soft approaching footsteps alerted him to a blurry figure emerging from the dimmest section of the room. Cursing his vision he could only tell that the figure was gray violet in color, had a slight sheen, was roughly humanoid in shape, gainly to almost gaunt, and long multi-jointed limbs that walked with an odd gait. The figure said with it’s eldritch voice, “ You should now have a chance to live. — Who are you?”, like a knee reflex test and with a torn voice he replied quickly, “Corporal Victor Rebus, serial number 4 6 2 1 9 7 6 1 9 8 1!”
“That is not what I asked! Who – are – you?”
This confused Vic for a moment and then replied again, “Corporal Victor Rebus, serial number 4 6 2 1 9 7 6 . . .”
Sharply interrupting, “Stop it! — Again, Who — Are — You!?”
“I – I — don’t understand what you want!”
A murmur of hushed voices behind a wall, like a bunch of people saying, “walla walla walla” overlapping over and over again, echoed throughout the room. The figure leaned very close, it’s head long and wedged shaped, it’s spittle hitting Vic’s face as it yelled, “Who — Are — You!” Clamps pressed down hard on his temples and forehead and he felt a tingle, a current, a euphoria and then . . . blackness.
He pulled his face out of the mud, which might have explained the blackness, but then Victor thought, “Did I just have another fugue?” After restoring some of the dignity to his uniform and himself, what little there was, Vic continued to go an enjoy his time off. The area of course was secured, so everyone was relieved to finally drop their guard for a while. However, even though he enjoyed the break he also always became aware of his constant hunger pains during these times. He couldn’t remember the last time he ate, the infrequent rations they did receive, never seem to fill one up and most of the time they tasted like cardboard, well — you were lucky if they tasted like cardboard.
He walked around the blasted wasteland searching the ruins for anything useful, when he spotted Jessica, that is to say Lance Corporal Hendrix, bereft of her uniform and her weapon, which was leaning against the wall three feet from her. She was bathing herself in the kitchen of a half collapsed restaurant, where the sinks had all filled up from the recent rain. Although the others didn’t see it, Vic knew that Jess was actually quite attractive, damn she was down right hot, but because of how tough and constantly filthy she was from the drudges of war, noone ever noticed, well all except Vic. She hadn’t noticed his act of peeping tom yet, so he wanted to get a better view for the — “show”.
Near by was an old building with rubble on all sides and decided to climb on top for a better view of Jess, but as he crossed the roof the rotten structure gave way and of course he fell straight through. Sputtering, coughing and hacking up the plaster dust, he felt a growing bruise on his left buttocks, thankfully this was to be the extent of his injury. He got up and started to dust the plaster off his uniform, but slowly he abandoned this task as he saw it; his jaw fell open. Before him was a closet of canned goods; somehow this treasure had been missed. Frantically, while spilling others in the process, he snatched a can off the shelf, he lifted and pulled on the ring tab and was rewarded — he couldn’t believe it — peaches in syrup!
He wolfed down half the can, slowed down, took a breath and began again to leisurely eat the peaches by using his combat knife as a fork; . . . he savored every bite. He wandered around eating and found, frosted with age, a window of which he gazed out of. He saw to his right a still intact motel building, then to his left the restaurant where Jess was still bathing, and then back at his new treasure trove of canned delight. Taking another bite, he remembered, with a fond smile, at how Jess thanked him that time when he shared his neuro-stimulants with her, she had been grateful — very — grateful. Quickly he did a double take at all three sites once again, scrambling toward the closet and filled his pack as much as it would allow. Kicking at a weak wall he created a door, then with a spring and a skip in his step he walked out and toward Jess’s building; he hefted the pack and with a wicked smile quoted an old song, “I could eat a peach for an hour!”
His needs and pleasures satisfied, Vic came back to consciousness wearing an indecent grin on his face, but this quickly vanished as he realized where he was! His sight had improved and could see with detail again, well — he could have, if it were not for all the glaring high powered lights. Of what he could make out, at least what he thought he could make out, were rows of diagnostic machines, monitors, and adjustable operating tables; many of which . . . seemed stained with blood. Past the tables he could see shadowy figures moving about, these figures had the unusual form and gait, but no more detail would present it’s self.
Once in a while, they would pass by the table he was strapped down to, but leave just as quickly as they arrived, so Vic couldn’t get a good look. Swiftly, one of them injected him with — something — and this caused his muscles to relax and his vision to blur into and out of focus. When he could see clearly in between his bouts of blurriness, he saw one of his captors standing over him with it’s odd body proportions and wedge shaped head; he couldn’t decide if it was reptilian, mammalian, or even insectoid. Each time his vision blurred, his captor’s form seem to change to a more human visage, the head however, seem to retain it’s wedged shape. Victor’s captor, again with it’s eery voice , said, “Now Victor, — that is what you like to be designated, correct? — Let us begin where we left off, — Who — Are — You?” and groggily and almost slurring his reply, “ Really, I — I don’t know what you want me — to say — when you ask me this.”
“Well zen, letz us — try a different approach, — zhall we?” This was said as it whipped out what appeared to be a note book while sitting down into a leather padded chair. Was it Vic’s imagination, was his captor now speaking with a really bad German accent? His captor continued, “Where you were just now, this other place, did it so to zpeak, provide you with zome of your needz?”
“What? — how could you know tha — “ . . .
“Pleaze, — just answer zee question! Did this make you feel zafe, zecure perhaps — even fulfilled ?”
“ I guess, well, at least — for a time.”
“Why for only a time?”
“I have often wonder that my self”, he sighed with regret.
“ I zee, and now, again I ask you, — who are you?”
“I told you, I don’t know what you want to know!”
His captor raised his voice, “ Who - Are - You!” and Vic yelled back, “ I don’t — know — what — you — want!” With each bellow, the captor’s voice became louder, “Don’t you have respect for yourself — for others?”
“What? — yes — no — I don’t know — what the hell are you talking about now?”
His face once again dangerously close to Vic’s own, eyes bulged, veins popped, and spittle flying, “Victor! — Who — Are — You!” and this seemed to echo out through the room; victor just gawked in fear and confusion. The captor recovered his composure, smoothed out what appeared to be a white lab coat, turned his head and said with some regret and resignment, “Apply it again.” Victor felt the pressure, the tingle, the surge, euphoria and then. . . blackness!
Shaking his head to restore consciousness, Vic unsteadily got up and swore, “Man — that asshole hits hard!”. He scanned about to see where Johnson went and spotted him heading over to Vic’s pack with his back turned; the very pack that contained the last of the food cans he scored. With a wild charge, Vic rammed Johnson haphazardly into the small of the back, sprawling both into the mud. They traded blow after blow, however, because of the mud, half of these missed each other. They leapt at each other’s throats, both squeezing with murderous intent, and totally unaware that half the camp had formed a ring around their debacle, all of them hooting and hollering with savage delight. Vic broke free of Johnson’s grasp by sharply yanking back his head and snapping it back down smashing the hardest part of his head into Johnson’s nose, resulting in a resounding crack. Two soldiers on Johnson and three on Vic, pulled them struggling and kicking apart, Johnson slipped free and sucker punched Vic squarely in the jaw, which resulted in Johnson getting dog piled by seven other soldiers, this finally ended the fight and the crowd slowly dispersed.
After everyone went their separate ways, Vic’s shoulders were slammed hard into the wall of an old building, he started to raise a protest, but this was cut down by the irritated gaze of his Sargent who stood in front of him, arms akimbo. “Mind telling me what the hell that was all about Vic?” Sargent Anderson demanded, but then he softened his demeanor to elicit a better response, but tempestuously Vic replied, “ It’s just that — well it’s that son of a bitch Johnson! He — well — you know how it has been — between us ever since — .”
Anderson nodded, “Ya,— I know how it’s been, — but shit man you can’t be doing that out here! — You hear me?”
“Ya, I hear you Sarge.”
“Good because I am not done with you yet! Damn Vic — you are a good fighter and I have always been proud to have you at my side, but you can’t be pulling this shit, even when we are not in combat.” Vic was massaging his jaw, damn it felt like a tooth was loose, when he heard the flare of a match. He looked up to see that Anderson now had a lit cigarette and was offering it to Vic. Vic accepted the proffered cancer stick, but only a after a little pause of resistance, and after taking a long drag, he gave his thanks; Anderson then lit up one of his own, leaned up against the wall next to Vic and said with compassion, “Look man . . . we have been friends for a long time. I want you to be straight with me. Can you do that?”
“Ya Paul, I can do that.”
“Good, because — shit man — you got to start learning to respect others more.”
“I do! Well not everyone, I of course respect you and — Jess, — but . . .”
“Well — how in the hell — can I respect people when I have so little respect for myself?”
“Is that really how you feel?”
Vic slowly nodded, Paul took a long drag and thought for a moment; when he exhaled he said, “ You know I have known you ever since before the war.” Vic gave Paul the look “Oh ya! When the hell was that?” and Paul continued, “ Ya, — you’re right, it does seem like this blasted war has always been going on, but lets not get into that right now. Ever since I have known you have always put these really unreasonable expectations upon yourself — not to mention on others. You just can’t maintain that crap.”
“Man I don’t do . . .“
“Don’t deny it, you have always done this!”
Vic relented and gave him the “so what’s your point” look.
“My point is this, if you can’t fulfill your own expectations, let alone the ones you set for others, you are never going to have any respect — for anyone!”
Vic thought a long moment with one hand in his pocket and the other one flicking off the growing snake of ash. Giving Paul a helpless look of frustration he pleaded, “ Paul, — it’s just that — I — you — everything”, but Vic was cut off when the sky was torn screaming in half and the resulting explosion heralded a new act for the chaos of war.
Victor screamed awake, he cried, “ No Paul — No!”, but instead of the battlefield he realized he was now curled up in the corner of a single, dingy, white, tiled room; — not where he just saw his best friend had died. Above him was a single hanging lamp, the kind of lamp that could be adjusted in how it hung. The lamp swung back and forth, intermittently flickering on and off while only dimly lighting the room. Below the lamp were two chairs; the one closest to Victor was knocked over in his direction. Victor got slowly up, filled with horror and sadness, and proceeded to walk staggeredly around the room. As he passed the middle of the room he detected the movement of a figure to his left, this startled him, but he realized he was staring at his own reflection in a wall mirror. Over what sounded like announcement speakers he heard the eldritch voice ask, “Hello Victor Rebus, would you now please mind telling me, who you are?” Confused and scared shitless, Victor replied, “I, don — don’t — know!”
A little louder, “ Who – Are – You?”
“ I told you I don’t know!”
Louder still, “ Who — Are — You?”
The light flickered on and off while a light from behind the mirror did the same. Victor realized, it was one of those two way mirrors, he approached it. “ Who — Are — You?” Victor could see a man in a white lab coat, he was holding a clip board. “ Who — Are — You?” Victor screamed over and over again “I don’t know, I don’t know!” Once again, but with echo reverberations
“ Who — Are — You?” The lights went all off and then back again and the man in the lab coat was replaced by the wedge headed thing, resplendent in it’s horrible visage. Victor screamed and kept screaming and he felt he would never stop.
In a hallway, two men in white lab coats, holding medical clip boards, stood staring through a little window into a padded room. Inside the room, curled up on the floor, and bound with a straight jacket laid Victor; who whimpered and drooled in despair. The first doctor reported from his clip board, “Corporal Victor Rebus, serial number 4 6 2 1 9 7 6 1 9 8 1, from Athens Ohio, birth date unknown, but approximately twenty four years of age. He has so far been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Syndrom, Post Traumatic Syndrom, and possibly Selective Amnesia.” The second doctor asked, “Why do we have him in this room?”
“Why Sir, — that is so that he doesn’t disturb the other patients.”
“What do you mean? I mean, yes, he is a sad sight and a poor soul, but that is no reason for the restraints and the isolation.”
“Well you see he is only in between one of his episodes. In a little while he might start up again. He really gets quite wild you see.”
“I see, well that explains that. However, what is this I see here about him being on highest priority for rehabilitation?”
“Well that is the interesting bit Sir, it seems he is currently not only an escaped P-O-W of the Abalieno, but is also the only one to ever seen one actually in the flesh. The higher ups are hoping that he could provide some kind of insight to Abalieno physiology and psychology.”
Both doctors, nearly jumped out of their skins, as Victor’s face slammed against the small window in the door screaming. With face pressed against the glass, then slowly sliding down the door, over and over again he screamed, laughed, and cried,“ I don’t know who I am, — don’t know who I am, — know who I am . . . . . . who — am — I!”