So, I suppose I owe you an explanation. My name is James Michael Garrett. I’d been a lot of things in my life. An EMT. A bouncer at a strip joint. A zoo employee. I’d settled down to a job as a dispatcher for a national furniture company and was making good money. Life wasn’t great, but it was good. But the economy collapsed in 2009, and my employer went bankrupt. There were no jobs. I became homeless. Lost all my friends and family because of that. Lost my fiancé too. I was destitute, and wanted to die.
I was standing on the bridge over the Fox River in St. Charles, thinking about throwing myself in. It was raining pretty hard. Trucks marked with hazardous material placards and government plates had been moving east on Route 64 all week, and that day was no exception. One of the trucks went into a skid. I don’t know why, I hadn’t really been paying attention. The truck went sideways, turning it’s rear to me. The back doors came open, and chemical containers flew out, breaking open and spraying me with their contents. It burned. It was agony. I stumbled back, fell over the rail and into the river. Did I tell you I can’t swim? I don’t remember anything after that.
I started have flashes of recollection after that. I don’t know how much time was passing. Doctors, oxygen masks, tubes in my mouth and nose. Hurried actions, agitated words. I definitely remember a Foley catheter being installed. Pain. I can’t begin to describe the pain. But these recollections are mercifully fleeting.
I became aware of darkness. No light. I don’t know if I was awake or asleep. I started dreaming again. Or were they delusional thoughts? I don’t know. I dreamt of my ex fiancé Lizzy. I reached for her but I couldn’t touch her. Her mouth moved but I couldn’t hear her. I saw my nieces and nephews, but like they were when they were little. There was my mom and dad, alive again, smiling at me. Was my life flashing before me? Was I dying?
More darkness. After maybe an hour, maybe an eternity, I started to hear again. Equipment being moved around. Background conversations.
“What’s the Nannites’ progress?”
“Intermeshing already complete. It took faster than we expected.”
“Voluntary and involuntary nervous systems on-line and fully functional. Respiratory good, BP good.”
What the hell?
Blackness. Quiet. But restful this time. I was pretty sure time was passing, but I didn’t know how much. Eventually, I could feel my hands. I willed them to move, and slowly I could feel my fingers start to move. That was good. I wanted more than that though. I didn’t want to be crippled or paralyzed. I wiggled my toes. They tingled at first, but they moved OK. So did my ankles. I willed motion to my arms and legs. They responded, but there was a tightness around my thighs and forearms. I could feel a restraint across my chest. I used to work with these on the ambulance. Padded leather restraints. Why would they… I didn’t know, maybe they thought I would hurt myself by moving.
I opened my eyes. I was staring at a ceiling. White. From the lights, I could tell it was a medical facility. Sure, I was in a hospital! I looked around. White tile walls, no windows, a lot of medical equipment I didn’t recognize.
My sense of touch suddenly became, oh, I don’t know, more focused, let’s say. I could feel every IV hooked to me. Not just the IV sight and the tape covering it. I was aware of the individual tubed inside my veins. It didn’t hurt, it was just weird. I could feel each individual lead connected to my chest and my head, probably going to monitors recording my heart’s function and my brain. Wow, I must have really gotten hurt.
I tried sitting up a bit so I could see more than left or right or straight ahead. I caught sight of my left hand sticking out from under the sheet. Time stopped. Why was my hand so big, and so gray? I laid there staring at it, making my fingers move to prove to me it was my hand. It was. Holy shit. I sat up quickly, pulling my arms in as I did. The restraint on my chest burst at the strap. The restraints on my wrists didn’t come off, but the rails on the bed that they were attached to broke off, dangling from my wrists. I could see my arms now, huge. Way bigger than Hulk Hogan huge. And grey, that same shade of light grey. I unstrapped the restraints on me and stood up. Aside from the long grey legs and big grey feet sticking out from below the hospital gown, I noticed that the up in stood up was a lot higher than I remember. Close to two feet higher.
Oh shit oh shit oh shit!
I yanked out all the IV’s and monitor leads. Looked down and stopped dead. They’d applied a Foley catheter and I could see the hose leading out from under my hospital gown and connecting to the urine bag hanging from the end of the bed. All panic all urgency left me. You don’t want to go yanking one of these out. I started rummaging thru the equipment on the cabinet top right of the bed. Some stuff I recognized, some I didn’t. But, luckily, I found the hypodermic used to deflate the balloon that holds the catheter in place. The sterile water emptied out, the balloon deflated, and I gingerly removed it from my Johnson. I didn’t have the stomach to look and see if it was gray too.
I stood there thinking. OK, I’m a giant with gray skin and big guns. How did this happen? Did that burning stuff mutate me like in a comic book? I knew I sure as hell wasn’t in a hospital. Anyplace that would deal in gray skinned giants had to be government black budget or deep corporate secrets. I might not even be in the USA anymore. In any event, I needed answers. So, with my bare gray ass sticking out the back of the gown, I opened the door and walked out into the hall.
A nurse carrying a tray filled with someone else’s lunch remains looked up, saw me, and screamed. Of course, why not? She dropped the tray, screamed again, turned and fled thru self-locking security doors. Marvelous, I thought, we’re batting a thousand today. I looked down at the spilt tray. Apple sauce, cream of ick soup, well, at least the food was hospital food. And the food had to come from somebody on this ward. I wasn’t the only person, or whatever I was, in here.
So, I started scouting around. There were other windowless rooms, none of which had beds or gurneys in them. But then I found one with a bed in it. I walked in. The lights were off, and suddenly my vision took on a reddish tint, and I could see everything in the room. Well THAT’S new, I thought. Sitting in the bed sat an odd little being, looking like it was part human, part ape. It struck me as being a child. It’s big eyes looked up at me, unafraid but unintelligent. I turned and walked out. My vision returned to normal.
Back in the hall, I could hear people massing up behind the security doors. Everything I’d seen so far led me to believe they would be private security, probably gun toting mooks from Wackenhutt or Blackwater. All decked out in black tactical with balaclavas to hide their faces. Black helmets. Probably carrying 9mm Heckler Koch’s. Guys like that never vary from the script. Well, hopefully, I thought, there’d be some wacked out German scientist type running the show so I could get some answers. I stood there, hands on my hips, waiting.
Finally, the door buzzed, opened, and the mooks entered in that bent over staring thru their gun scope walk they use. “Section One in, we have contact”. “Subject sighted’” I folded my arms. “Subject seems to be lucid.” Red One flank left, Red two flank right.” Jesus, we were standing in a hallway, and I was right in front of them. “Control, do we engage? Repeat. Do we engage?”
“OK,” I said, “I give, which one of you guys is the real Darth Vader?” Wait! That wasn’t my voice.
“Omigawd!” one of the mooks exclaimed, “It can talk!”
Great! Now I was an it.
“Look boys, is there some in charge I can talk to? Lab coat, wild hair, probably has some ridiculous accent?”
The doors opened again, and the guy in charge came in. Groomed salt and pepper hair, moustache and beard, shirt and tie, sweater, slacks, loafers. Looked like a shrink, not a mad scientist.