Gabriel found himself drifting amidst an endless abyss. In every direction there was nothing but this sea of shadow with him at its center. How did he get here he wondered? And just exactly where was here even? Everything felt so fuzzy and out of place. The last clear memory he had was of swinging his hammer – he had been working on something. He was building something.
And then he could hear something. At first it was so very faint, only ticking at the edge of his hearing to tease him. What is that infernal sound? Gabriel couldn’t stand not being able to make it out. If he couldn’t see anything in this maddening mess of midnight he would be thrice thumb-thwacked if he wasn’t going to at least hear something. If nothing else he needed to be doing something.
There. There is was again, just ahead of him and to the right he was sure this time. His feet padded into a sprint and he followed as fiercely as he could to uncover what was making that strange noise. As he felt he was getting closer he slowly began to feel like the sound was familiar somehow. It was something he had heard before, but where? It was like the word on the tip of your tongue. He had always found that infuriating to him, to have something right there on the edge of your mind – to know that you know it but unable to connect the two.
“What are you,” Gabriel screamed as he could feel his heart beginning to race. The building rush of running was thrilling. He could feel his muscles flexing and powering through the steps. It was an exciting surge; this chase seemed to feel so satisfying. But what in all the colonized worlds was that blasted sound? The maddening mystery was beginning to grate on Gabriel’s nerves and as it did he found his teeth clenching. A savage snarl slipped free from him and that’s when he started to understand.
He had heard that sound before. It had been on the walk home. Something terrible had happened to him, something so very painful. But he had a job to do, a task that he had to complete. And just like that he found the sound – a distant primal howl that he could feel whispering through his insides as much as he could hear it. But replacing the endless darkness there was an ocean of delicate white light. He was in a room of some kind, and things were beeping all around him.
“Where – where am I,” Gabriel tried to make sense of his surroundings as his head began to swim with confusion. How did he get to wherever this was anyway? Was he dead? As he tried to look down he found his neck and limbs had been restrained. “What is going on,” he growled before having to groan as pain reminded him he was still far too wounded for any such antics.
“Ah, you’re awake early; I hadn’t expected you to regain consciousness for awhile longer,” Dr. Foxfire remarked as she entered the room. “It looks like introductions are in order, let’s see – Marcus Gabriel Vincent if our records are correct. My name is Dr. Samantha Foxfire, and you are under my care after suffering a quite vicious accident of some kind.”
“Nobody calls me Marcus,” Gabriel objected with a surge of anger. “Not if they want to keep their teeth intact for very long.” Dr. Foxfire allowed herself a brief smile at the comment that she was sure was both meant as a threat and more than likely true. “Well, be that as it may how about I just call you Gabriel then, alright? And you can call me Dr. Foxfire, or Doctor Sam if you prefer.”
“Sure Doc,” Gabriel admitted with a grunt, whatever had happened to him was still painful enough that he wasn’t in any shape to argue or fight. “Now, let’s give you a look then shall we?” Dr. Foxfire began to remove various restraints and with each one Gabriel found fresh sources of discomfort. “I think I should inform you, it’s only fair, and that you have sustained extensive damage to your body. By all accounts you are incredibly fortunate to even be alive right now. I need to prepare you for the shock of what toll the trauma has taken on your body. You lost a lot of blood and we did have to fit you with some artificial implants. I am afraid it will take some time for you to adjust and the road to recovery will not be an easy one. But you have done your job admirably and I hope you will come to find that I have done my very best to hold up my end as well.”
“What do you mean, Doc?” Gabriel prompted, bewildered by the news. “How much, I mean, what have you done to me?” The shock began to take hold as he struggled to replay events in his head. Some thing had attacked him, it was unnatural and he could still picture its cruel claws dripping with crimson. But where the memories began pain and torment followed to cloud everything. He simply couldn’t recall what it had done to him.
“Let’s take this slow then, shall we?” Dr. Foxfire advised with a gentle tone liken to that of a loving mother tending to her child. “We shall take this one step at a time. You have suffered a lot already, and I know this cannot be easy for you. But you must keep reminding yourself that you are still alive. Now, we are going to carefully review your condition. Are you ready?”
Gabriel swallowed hard as he tried to process everything that was happening but in his mind he kept reliving the horror that seemed so much like a terrible dream. He wanted so badly for this Dr. Foxfire to tell him he had fallen and hit his head and this was all just some sick joke. But he knew it wasn’t, he knew this was reality and he had to deal with it. “Go ahead Doc, I can take it.” He confirmed and closed his eyes to focus on her words.
“Your right arm was unfortunately absent when we found you, and had to be completely replaced. You have suffered considerable damage along your right side as well, resulting in cracked, broken and shattered ribs. There is severe muscle and tissue injury along with punctures to your lung. We had to perform emergency surgery to repair or replace what we could. You have also lost much of your left leg below the knee. There is also some scarring to the side of your face and head. I am afraid we reconstructed what we could but your right eye was beyond repair and we had to remove it.”
As Gabriel considered all the details the good doctor was informing him of he found himself distracted by the implications. What was he going to do now? Did this mean he couldn’t work any more; was he going to be some kind of robotic freak of nature? Dr. Foxfire kept talking to him but Gabriel was finding his attention unable to focus on her summary of his condition.
“This is going to take time, as I said, for you to adjust and recover,” Dr. Foxfire reaffirmed. “We are going to monitor your progress and there will need to be some further testing but I believe you can make a full recovery.” As she spoke the words she hoped would help console her patient, Dr. Foxfire covertly began to order some specialized analysis tests. Someone in the condition Gabriel had been in never should have awakened for several days from his comma at the earliest. She would have estimated about a week if things had gone well. He had only been out of surgery a handful of hours.
“We’ll speak more after you get some rest,” Dr. Foxfire admitted and politely exited the room. Perhaps soon enough she could find out if Gabriel could recall anything about what had happened to him that might shed some light on everything. If he couldn’t recall something that might help answer what was going on then Dr. Foxfire was going to have to investigate for the answers one way or another. Something about the whole matter made her curious, and in her experience if something managed to make her curious there was good reason for her to figure it out.