Silence. Pure, stark silence.
Sit in a quiet room and what do you hear? The walls might creak, the wind may howl, but even in complete silence you can hear your heartbeat.
Does that mean I’m dead or that I’ve just lost my hearing?
I try to open my eyes. Nothing changes.
I try again. Nothing.
I can’t feel my eyelids. Or my arms. Or my legs. Where my body was, there’s no sensation.
Oh God, I’m in a coma or something. I must be lying on some sterile hospital bed, hooked up to dozens of machines. They breathe for me, beat my heart, keep me alive. Meanwhile, I’m locked in my head; just me and this emptiness.
No, I’m getting ahead of myself. I can’t tell how long it’s been. Maybe this is just a blip. Maybe I fell and hit my head. Maybe it feels like time is passing but it’s really just that moment between the flash of stars and waking up on the ground. Like how you can dream that you have lived for years, yet wake up the next morning. So will I remember this?
What if this happens every time we lose consciousness? You spend an eternity in the darkness and wake up with no memory of it. Your brain suppresses it to keep you from going mad.
And maybe deluding myself into thinking this is normal is the first sign of madness.
Okay, trace back what you last remember. What happened before the silence?
I, uhh, I don’t know. I don’t remember yesterday, or the day before, or last year. How old am I? What’s my name?
Okay, add amnesia to the list.
What the fuck am I? A mind floating in emptiness with no past. Does that even count as living?
It’s a coma, it has to be. Severe head trauma causing loss of memory and consciousness. Which means I’m here until either I miraculously wake up or they unplug me.
Hey! Brain, wake the fuck up!
I’m yelling at myself in my own head. I think that’s worse than talking to myself.
I have no sense of time and this could last for years. I will lose my mind. How can I not?
It’s so dark. And so quiet.
No, focus. Think about something, anything, just not what’s out there. I must have memories, something from my past. Start simple.
What’s your name? Focus.
My name is Ann. I have a name. I have an identity.
I was young. A teenager.
The road was shiny and slick under the streetlights. The car—it was going fast. Too fast.
I’d sob if I could still feel my chest.
I can’t do this. I can’t be in this silence for ever. What if it’s years? Oh God.
I should have told someone that I’d rather be unplugged. Who the fuck thinks about that as a teenager? I had more important things on my mind. Well not anymore, I don’t.
What was that? I felt something. Like cold water pouring over my brain. Something’s different. It’s still silent. Nothing looks different, but I know things. Things I didn’t know before, things I can’t know. Not about me, but about everything.
It’s too much. I need to retch, but I don’t know where my stomach is.
Dizziness. How can I have vertigo when I don’t have a body? That feeling is back, the cold. It doesn’t stop. I can feel it flow and trickle. It’s changing me—my mind, the only me that is left.
Blinding white light.
I can see. Thank God, oh thank God, oh thank God.
I want to cry and vomit and laugh, all at the same time.
This isn’t right. I’m standing? This isn’t a hospital. I’m…tall, too tall.
The light is blinding but my eyes adjust. I’m on a stage. A man stands to my right, gesturing as if he’s making a grand speech to the darkness. He wears a lab coat, the machinery next to him humming and blinking.
I still can’t hear anything. Or move. My head is locked in place, staring forward.
The man stops, turns to the machines and flips a single switch..
Sounds! I can hear again. He’s speaking.
“—slow process. You see, we must give time for the mind to adapt. The subject suffered acute trauma to the neck and was pronounced dead on the scene…”
No, no, no, no!
This is not happening. I’ve lost it. I’m still in the coma and I’m hallucinating.
“The Mark II won’t require a hardwired connection, this is simply a demonstration model. Ah, good, my readings show it’s ready for the final step.”
He turns back to the machine and continues to work.
My body. Huh… It’s different. I look down at myself…
Steel and wires.
Not an ounce of flesh.
Cables run down my back and into the machines. I bend down and hold them in my right hand. They slide along my massive metallic fingers.
The man in the lab coat turns to me. “Hello, ANN. How do you feel?”
I stare at him. Slowly I stand upright, still holding the cables. I walk toward the machinery, using the cables as leads.
The man is staring at me, waiting for a response. He places his hand on mine. I can feel his warmth. It’s shocking how warm he is. It’s shocking how cold I am.
I take his hand with my left. My right gingerly touches the machinery. It’s not warm, not like the man.
I pull my hand away, shaking…
and slam it back into the machine.
—Tearing out wires like tendons and veins—
I destroy it…
Silence. Pure, stark silence.