In the world between being awake and dreaming, there’s that
moment where you’re not all too sure which side of the divide you’re on.
Everything’s fuzzy, warm, and content. You could easily fall back into the
world of sleep, but there’s that nagging sense of awareness that creeps up on
you. It’s just enough to make your mind aware that there’s something real out
there waiting. It’s that awareness that pulls the dreamer from sleep and ends
the feeling of being in between the two states. It’s only after you wake up
that you realise how good you had it while you were asleep.
At least you were always warm in your dreams.
It was cold. Not just cold, but frigid. That was the first thing he was aware of when his dream of a warm beach faded away. Every part of his body was stiff with it, muscles beyond the shivers that were meant to be warming him up. A small part of his brain knew that wasn’t a good thing; that his body had given up trying to make him warm again, and he was most likely dying if he couldn’t get his muscles to twitch in self-preservation.
Dying. As in no longer living.
It was a sobering thought, one that was just terrifying enough to form in the forefront of his mind. Self-preservation was a strong instinct and knowing death was a possibility often helped people to accomplish amazing feats. In this case, the amazing feat was the ability to open his eyes.
It was difficult to push past the fog in his brain to get that one little command across. It took a lot of concentration before he did manage to get his eyes opened enough so he was squinting at his surroundings, but he managed it after a few aborted tries. Even then he wasn’t too sure that he was conscious. It took a few minutes of squinting and looking at the dingy tile, the beat up looking cabinet, the cracked mirror hanging on the wall, and the flickering florescent lighting overhead to figure out he was in a bathroom. it was dismal and bleak, and if this was his bathroom and not his dream, his life was in a sorry state of affairs. Even the ceiling was stained, a clear sign that this wasn’t the top floor of whatever building he was in and that it wasn’t cared for well. He probably had neighbors who had flooded their own dingy bathroom at some point. Were they as cold as he was? Maybe if he got up he could find a blanket or douse himself in hot coffee. Either way, he needed to get warm before he did die from the cold.
The first step was to get out of the bathtub he was apparently sleeping in. It was a strange place to sleep, and if he woke up this cold, he wasn’t about to try it again. He could feel the frown between his eyebrows as he struggled to pull himself into a sitting position. For whatever reason, his eyebrows were something that he could distinctly feel. The movement drove a sharp pain through his shoulder, causing him to gasp and fall back against the cold porcelain of his makeshift bed. He was happy with the eyebrows being the only source of sensation. It took a few deep breaths before the pain faded enough that he was actually interested in what caused it, rather than the fact that really, really hurt. He turned his head towards where the pain had come from, catching sight of a wound on his right shoulder. It was sluggishly oozing blood, staining the ice cubes around him.
Forcing himself to look down, he confirmed that yes, his tub was full of ice. That would explain why he was so cold. The ice was right up to the rim of the tub and he was sure that he had been completely covered before he’d tried to move. In fact, his lower half was still completely submerged in the ice. He wiggled his toes experimentally, catching sight of the ice shifting a bit, but nothing all that impressive, especially since it took a lot of energy to do that much. He couldn’t fathom how he’d ended up in a tub full of ice, let alone how he’d managed to sleep. But then, maybe he hadn’t been sleeping. His mind brought forth the urban legend of people waking up in tubs full of ice, their kidneys having been stolen while they were unconscious. It was pure myth, or at least he thought it was. But myth or not, his left hand flopped down along his chest and abdomen, searching for an incision or a gaping hole where something had been removed. Not that he would have felt it anyway. His hand was so cold that he couldn’t even move his fingers. That he even had some motor control over the arm was impressive enough as it was. The fact his fingers didn’t appear to be bloody was the only reassurance that there was nothing amiss. Well, nothing more amiss than the rest of the situation seemed to be.
Closing his eyes for a moment, the man tried to think. He was tired and his thoughts were sluggish, fuzzy and slow in his head. The same helpful part of himself that had supplied the fun fact about organ harvesting knew that decreased mental awareness because of exposure to the cold was a symptom of hypothermia. He needed to stay as alert as possible so he could save himself, seeing as how he seemed to be completely alone. He couldn’t afford to give back into sleep or he might never wake up again. No, he needed to get out of the tub and then he could start trying to figure out the big things, like how he’d ended up there, where there was, and then if he was lucky, maybe his head would clear of the fuzzy feeling he had behind his eyes and he could put the pieces together. After all, there had to be a connection between one and the other.
Steeling himself for another attempt at getting up, the man took a deep breath and tried to shift up again. He managed to make it to a seated position, but it was like his back was made out of limp spaghetti and he found himself nearly face planting into the pile of ice that had shifted over his lap. Barely keeping his head up, he blinked at his new icy vantage point and rested for a moment. It was a small victory, one he couldn’t revel in. His right arm felt useless and his left was barely cooperating. There was no way he was going to be able to pull himself out of the tub, not at this rate. He couldn’t keep sitting there, though. Sooner or later, his body was going to just shut down. It was already getting there. His legs and arms were numb and he could feel his pulse slowly throbbing at his temples.
That’s when the buzzing started. He wasn’t sure if that was another symptom of exposure to extreme cold, but it was out of the ordinary. Blinking, he glanced to the left, catching sight of where a cell phone was vibrating on the ledge of the tub. It took a long moment to focus, but the large letters of A-L-A-R-M became clear as he squinted at it. The phone was supposed to be buzzing apparently. Maybe this was his wake up call.
If he hadn’t been so damn cold and so damn tired, he might have found that punny. As it was right then, he was trying to figure out why an alarm was going off and how he could get the buzzing to stop.
Flopping that useless left arm over, he reached for the phone, knocking it onto the ice. He scooped at it, forcing it closer to himself, even thought he was getting it wet. The ice was glistening. It had been exposed to the room temperature air and his body heat long enough so that it was starting to melt. Finally managing to get a finger on the phone, he tapped at the alarm clumsily, sighing a bit when it stopped. That was good, but what was even better was that he had a phone. He had a way to call for help so someone could come and haul him out of this ice bath. Painstakingly, he managed to pull up the phone’s call feature, fingers hitting random buttons several times along the way, before he finally managed to dial 911. The sound of the call connecting was the biggest victory yet and the man let his forehead rest against the ice as he listened to the person on the other end.
“911, what is your emergency? Hello? Are you there?”
He tried to respond, but it felt like his lips were frozen together. The most he managed was a strangled sound out of the depths of his throat, but it seemed to be enough.
“Can you respond?...I’m sending both ambulance and police personnel to your location. Hold on the line and try to remain calm.”
He felt a hysterical noise burst out of his chest. Relax? Well, at least the guy hadn’t said chill. He couldn’t have gotten excited about this if he wanted to. It felt like everything was calm and hazy, but still so terribly cold. He felt like he’d never be warm again as he sat there listening to the emergency worker try and engage him. From the noises he was making, he wasn’t so sure that they weren’t prepared for the possibility that there was a strangled dog on the other end of the line. Regardless, the man said that there was help coming. Help was good.
Taking another breath, he managed to lift his head again, his spine still not cooperating; it caused him to fall backwards far too quickly. He felt the impact of hitting the ice, but there was no pain, just the ripple of force through him that made him glad his tongue hadn’t been between his teeth when it happened. He had one too may wounds as it was. He glanced at his shoulder out of the corner of his eye, for the first time noticing the stitches that were still oozing blood. They were thick and sloppy, like whoever did them had been in one heck of a hurry to finish the job. It would leave a scar, but at this point, he was pretty sure that was the least of his worries. If he lived long enough to get a scar, it’d be worth it. Now, if only he could remember why he had a shoulder wound, life would be just peachy.
Life would be just peachy if he could help himself and get out of the tub. At the very least if he could communicate with the person who was on the other end of the phone that would make his night a bit better. If it was night. He couldn’t tell what time of the day it was, seeing as how the bathroom had no windows and the door was somewhere behind his head. He supposed it didn’t really matter. It was as cold as the middle of winter and the entire situation made the time of day the very last thing he should be worried about. It was funny what little things your mind chose to focus on when you were disoriented and in real trouble.
It seemed to take a while, but eventually he heard noises in another room. There was the rustling of clothing, the sound of someone calling out, bags hitting floors, things scraping the walls...if this was his rescue, they weren’t very covert. He supposed that was the point, though. They wanted to be heard. They didn’t want to surprise anyone who may or may not have a gun on them. It was smart, even if he wasn’t all that impressed with it. That was mostly the very cold part of him speaking.
Finally, the door creaked open and out of the corner of his eye he caught some freckle faced kid in a uniform looking around. The way his eyes widened and he backed out of the room was a combination of troubling and amusing. The man in the tub wasn’t in a position to appreciate the comical aspect of it. He was frankly a bit...well, miffed was a fair word. What the hell was going on here?
A moment later, the kid was back with an older looking paramedic.
“I...I’ve never seen anything like it,” the kid managed to mutter out. “Have you?”
“Once,” the older guy replied. “The guy was missing his organs, though.”
The man in the tub’s eyes widened. So it wasn’t just an urban legend.
“Sir, can you hear me? Can you tell me what happened?” the older paramedic asked, warm hand reaching to check his pulse.
The man in the tub blinked at the guy, his mind fading after that last burst of adrenaline. Or maybe it had something to do with the warm hand offering him a bit of human contact and the security in that he was going to be helped now.
“We’re going to help you, sir. Can you tell me your name?”
The man in the tub would have, if he could. But being asked like that brought up yet another problem. The man in the tub had absolutely no idea what his name was. On top of everything else, he didn’t even know this simple thing about himself.
And as the bathroom got fuzzier, his mind fading into unconsciousness, all he could help thinking was that yeah, this day was just peachy. And if there was a god, it couldn’t possibly get any worse.