The Quandary 902

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Chapter 4

I wake in the same hospital bed as before. Many of the large instruments are gone except for the small wireless EKG transmitter stuck to my chest. The consistent beeping from the monitor to my left leaves me with the small assurance that other than the dull ache down my spine and the cloudy feeling in my head, at least my heart continues to function normally. I try not to think about the fact that if everything the doctor says is true, it might be the only thing about me that functions normally.

I rip the transmitter off and the heart monitor next to me flat-lines.

It isn’t even human.

Is that true? I try to reorder my thoughts in a way that makes sense. The disconnect between the person I am and the body in the mirror seems impossibly large. Those scars…it’s hard not to acknowledge the possibility that every scar was another human raging against an impossibly strong beast.

I was the beast.

I am the beast.

Even now my thoughts seem clinical. I know I’m supposed to react with feeling, but the concept that I was a mindless militant soldier brings me nothing. I think for most people in this situation the next logical step would be to cry. To form their hands into fists and rage against an inanimate object, screeching and weeping, letting all the fury fall in hot tears, every bit of crazed anger dissipating until there’s nothing else left and the only option is to collapse and fall into the blissful unconsciousness of slumber.

On second thought, perhaps that isn’t such a logical step after all.

I comprehend that this is the human response though. Not logical in anything outside of human nature, but the complete absence of emotional pain should feel…significant somehow.

I study my hands. They are worn, tired, covered in scars from burnings, obvious slices. From a large angry scar on my left hand it appears that at one point someone might have attempted to remove a finger.

My nails are bitten down too short.

Something in me recognizes that the nails are too short and that is why the tips of my fingers have that slight ache where I must have peeled away too much of the nail with my teeth. It’s only noticeable if I pay attention to it. It’s bizarre that I know for a fact that in a few days my nails will regrow and that small, almost imperceptible pain will be gone.

Why do I know that?

It’s knowledge you acquire over time. You know the nail will grow back and the tips of your fingers stop hurting when you apply pressure, but that’s the kind of knowledge you can only acquire from having bitten the nail away before, so why do I know that?

How can it be that for all intents and purposes I am starting out at day one, devoid of any memory, and yet somehow with all the blank spaces in my head that is one piece of knowledge I have somehow retained? I pick at a hangnail until it bleeds while my thoughts turn in useless circles.

Someone at some point tried to cut that same finger off at the base.

The exposed skin where the tip of my nail was peeled away will regrow and stop hurting.

You can’t remember someone trying to remove a finger?

The finger will ache until the nail grows over it.

You could have had only four fingers on your left hand.

The nail will grow back.

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