Living Dead Man
The first memory that I have is of the wind. With my eyes closed, I laid there and listened to its gentle song. I remember the serene bliss that it filled me with as it whistled just beside my ears, carrying with it some grand secret that was simply beyond my grasp. I remember closing my eyes ever more tightly as I tried but failed over and over again to catch onto its ever-shifting tune, if only for a split second. I remember stretching my fingers wide, as wide as I could, just for the sake of feeling the wind breezing jovially between them. I remember that very same glorious, beautiful, delicate wind vigorously dancing past me, around me…through me. In its fluttering embrace, I remember feeling entirely at peace with the world. That is the first, and the last peaceful memory that I have.
As I opened my eyes, any sense of peace that had existed within me vanished immediately. I was looking up at the sky, as I had been expecting, but it was much closer than it should have been. It wasn’t just above me, it was all around me as far as the eye could see. In my initial shock, I attempted to push myself to my feet so that I could gauge my surroundings, but my efforts were in vain. No matter where I searched, I couldn’t find a single bit of ground to push against. As I struggled to work my way into a standing position, my efforts gradually devolved from confusion into desperation. Before I knew it, I was flailing madly, grasping around me for any handhold that I could find. There were none, though. So I flailed, and I flailed until finally my body moved. Only, it didn’t move upward as I had intended. Instead it rotated, as though on an axis. Instead of looking up at the sky, I was now looking down at the ground that I could not seem to find. As I did so, it instantly became apparent why. Beneath my body, where the earth should have been, instead I saw only a sparse sea of cottony whites, superimposed against each other, blocking out whatever loomed past them. I was staring down at the clouds.
In that moment, I felt everything in me drop to the pit of my stomach. I was floating, thousands of feet above the ground. It wasn’t possible but there I was, somehow defying the laws of physics. My heart should have been beating a thousand miles per hour. My breath should have been coming in ragged spurts. I should have been falling to my death…but none of those things were happening. Not only was I not falling, but I wasn’t breathing. My heart wasn’t beating. My mind began to race. I wondered if I was dead, if this was heaven. If those things were true, then how had I gotten to this point? I couldn’t remember anything before the feeling of the wind. Try as I might, my past was a blank. I thought, and thought, and thought. It seemed that no matter which questions I asked though, I did not possess the answers. Still, I kept thinking, and thinking, until there was only one thought left in my head. I just want this all to stop! And then, as if on command, it all did. My lungs started breathing, my heart started beating…I started falling.
An earsplitting scream escaped my body as I plummeted through the clouds. My heart, which had been entirely inert moments before, had now kicked into overdrive. I could feel it beating so hard that it threatened to burst out through my chest at any moment. With each second that passed, I fell faster and faster. It wasn’t very long before the wall of cottony white that had once been beneath me was far behind me. Once I had passed through it, the only thing left in front of me was the one thing that I had wished so frantically for only moments before. Now, I just wanted it to disappear. With gravity now working the way that it was supposed to work though, that wasn’t happening. Instead, the ground only got closer and closer. If I hadn’t already been dead before, then I was about to be.
My body had become a ball of futile motion. My mind had become a scramble of incoherencies. In those last moments, I wanted nothing more than to think about those who my death would affect. I wanted to remember those who would miss me. I couldn’t, though. I was about to breathe my last breath, and I couldn’t remember a single thing about myself. I didn’t know whether it was the adrenaline playing roughshod with my brain, or I was actually suffering from some form as amnesia. All I knew was that, as the tarmacked pavement came closer and closer, as I inched ever nearer to my ultimate fate, some strange part of me accepted it. I was going to die.
Now mere feet from the ground, I closed my eyes and waited for the inevitable. Moments later, my heart and lungs once more ceased all activity. It had happened, I was gone. But…why had it been so painless? How was I even able to think about how painless it had been? I opened my eyes, not knowing for the second time that day where I would find myself. This time, I was somewhere pitch black. I could barely see even a few inches in front of my face. I couldn’t feel anything around me. The only details that I could pick out were the ambient sounds of some thick liquid sloshing around below me, and the warm, rancid fumes of rot all around me. With no clue where I was, I wished for even the tiniest hint. I wished for a sign, or a landmark, anything that would give me some sense of location. Then, I realized that for any of those things to even matter, I’d need to be able to see.
Oddly enough, as that thought occurred to me, a faint, luminescent glow began to work its way into existence. Confused, I searched around for its source. At first, it seemed as though this would be just one more answer that was too far beyond my reach. Then, I looked down. I was dumbfounded to discover that the strange glow was coming from me. It was emanating from deep within my chest cavity. That wasn’t the weirdest part, though. Not only was my body somehow generating light, but it was entirely translucent. I could see almost straight through myself.
My need for resolution was now greater than ever. For some reason, my body seemed to translate this need for answers into a desire for even more light. What had started as a dull glow pulsated and wavered one, two, three times before exploding into a burst of pure white luminescence which enveloped the entirety of my surrounding. Initially, the powerful radiance was too much for my eyes to handle. They had already quickly become accustomed to the inky dark by this point. For a short period, I was blinded. As my vision returned to me though, I was finally able to figure out where I was.
The space around me was narrow, and cavernous, stretching for a few yards in either direction before splintering off into diverging paths. Looking down, I noticed that I was once again floating. However, this time I was grateful for it. As I examined the liquid that I had heard underneath me before, I saw that it was a muted, murky shade of brown. The horrendous smell started to make sense. I had fallen straight through the ground, and into the sewer system below. By now, so many impossible things had happened that this new one barely caused me to flinch. Without the beat of my heart or the measure of my breath alerting me to how terrified I should have been, I found that it was surprisingly easy to calm myself.
There had to have been an explanation for all of this. The impossible didn’t just happen. There was always a reason. Behind any madness, there was always logic. That was what I told myself, but somewhere deep inside, a part of me seemed to know that this wasn’t true. Before I had time to figure out why that was though, a new sound emerged from somewhere to my left, echoing through the cavernous tunnels. It was a man’s voice.
“The light’s coming from over here!” It yelled.
There was someone else down here. No, more than one person. He had to have been talking to someone. All at once, the tunnels were overtaken by the sounds of shifting sewage, and shouting voices. He had actually been talking to a lot of people. He had been talking about me. For a moment, I considered trying to figure out how to shut off that light inside me and turn tail. Then, another thought occurred to me. Whoever these people were, maybe they could help me. With all the panic finally gone from my system I decided to wait there for them. As I floated in midair, I hoped that the sight of me wouldn’t send them running off in the opposite direction. To my surprise, their response was the exact opposite.
As the sounds drew nearer and nearer to where I was floating, they gradually slowed. Then, they came to a stop altogether. Looking off in the direction which the noises had come from, I noticed a shape peeking out from just around one of the corners. It was a helmeted head, looking straight at me. Even though I couldn’t see the features or expression beneath the veil of the helmet, something about its line of sight felt menacing. It was then that I decided that maybe staying still might not have been the best idea. But it was too late for that. As I grasped around in my head for a way to make the light glowing from within me shut off, the space around me once more erupted with the sound of fluctuating sewage. A swarm of humanity had launched itself into motion. There were a lot more of them than I had been expecting. They each wore suits of black body armor and carried strange weapons whose names I could not identify, but which seemed in some way familiar to me.
Now knowing that I had made a mistake, I started to flail again, the same as I had done when I was thousands of feet above the ground. Just as before, rather than moving linearly, my body rotated on its axis, turning around so slowly that I was sure those strange people would already be on me before I was even able to make it a full ninety degrees. Then, I saw why they had stopped for so long. They had sent another group to cut me off from behind. They’d been waiting for them to fall into position. These people hadn’t come upon me by happenstance, I was being hunted. Not only that, but I was surrounded on all sides and could not figure out how to move. They had me dead to rights.
“Wait!” I screamed. I paused for a moment, surprised by the sound of my own voice. It was hollow, and breathy, and nowhere near as loud as I had intended for it to be. I had no time to think about it though. I needed to plead my case. “Wait! I don’t know what’s happening to me! I need help!”
The men in black did not seem to care one way or another. Rather than reply, they advanced slowly towards me from both sides. Each one of them slowly lifted their strange weapon to their shoulder, positioning me within their sights. Then, finally, someone else spoke. It was the same voice I had heard before. He shouted the last thing that I’d wanted to hear.
In unison, I saw each of them exhale as they pulled their fingers back on their respective triggers. There was no sound of gunfire though. Instead, a strange and eerily pulsing whooshing noise wrapped itself around me. I was being surrounded by a cloud of floating metallic spheres, each about the size of a tennis ball. They all left behind them a trail of incandescent blue light. Rather than fade as the spheres traveled further away from them, however, the beams of light seemed to solidify. As the lights obscured more and more of the world around my from view, they slowly started to constrict in on themselves. They grew tighter and tighter, until I was forced to huddle up into the fetal position just so that they wouldn’t crush me.
“Wait!” I yelled once more in my hollow, airy voice. “I don’t know what’s going on! Why is this happening?” Then, there was an electric flash. Blue faded to white, white faded to black, I faded from consciousness.
I awoke to find myself trapped in an inexplicable cage. The bars that surrounded me were composed of the same blue light that the men had used to capture me in the sewer tunnels. But I wasn’t in the sewers anymore. I was in the center of a room filled to the brim with monitors and consoles, showing things potentially even further beyond explanation than myself. It was almost like each of them was playing its own unique horror movie. Then, I noticed that on each of the screens, there was at least one man in black, wearing the same body armor as the ones who had surrounded me in the sewer. These weren’t movies, they were real footage. Judging by the large number of people sitting at those consoles, speaking urgently into their headsets, they were live streams. This was some sort of command center.
“He’s awake, sir!” somebody yelled from a corner of the room.
“Excellent,” said another voice. This one was quieter, deeper. It did not possess the same youth as the first, but it carried with it the sound of cold, hard experience. This was the voice of a man who had seen more in his life than most. This was the voice of a man who had seen, perhaps, far too much.
The sound of footsteps made itself present amongst torrent of busy voices. The steps were not rushed, as the ones in the sewer had been. These steps were slow, methodical, sure. The man walking towards me was certain that he had me right here he wanted me. As he stepped in front of my prison, I took in his appearance. He was a tall, aging man with graying hair, sagging skin, and wire-framed glasses. Like all of his compatriots, he wore only black. Instead of armor though, he was clad in a long trench coat which swept against the ground at even his smallest motion. By all rights he was an average looking man, except for one detail: his eyes. His eyes were the same electric, unnatural shade of blue as my cell. It was almost as though they did not blink. Instead, they just stared at me, through me. He was waiting for me to say something.
“Who are you?” I finally asked. “What is this place? Why did you bring me here?”
“How very interesting…” the man in the trench coat mused. “You really don’t remember any of it, do you?”
“What are you talking about?” I asked him. He seemed to know something about me that I didn’t. Out of fairness, that was pretty much everything. Whatever he was holding back though, it seemed important. “Do you know me?” I demanded.” Do you know who I am?”
For another long moment, the man said nothing. He seemed all too content to just stand there and examine me, like I was some hard-won trophy. When he spoke again, for the first time his eyes shifted away from me. He cast them off to the side.
“Your name,” he said, “is Agent Murphy Calder. You were an operative for a secret government organization called the Shadow Branch. It was your job to hunt down and contain things beyond science, beyond explanation; to keep them from running amok and unraveling society as anyone knows it. You were one of my men. You were one of the best.”
“I was one of you?” I asked, looking around at all the men in black. The man in the trench coat looked back up at me and nodded. “Then why are you holding me prisoner? What happened to me?”
“There…was an accident,” the man explained. “You were standing guard at one of our labs when something went wrong. The technology that our scientists were working on malfunctioned, and exploded. The device in question, when it was done, was meant to be able to turn ghosts solid. It would have made it much easier for us to catch them. Hard light is great, but it doesn’t always do the―”
“Get to the point!” I shouted. I noticed that my heart was beating. My quickening pulse was making it more difficult for me to control my emotions.
The man’s unnatural eyes went wide for an instant, but then he caught himself. After taking a moment to regain his composure, he straightened out his coat and continued. “The tech did…the opposite of what it was supposed to do. Instead of making the test subject more human, it made you more like a ghost. It seems as though you lost consciousness, and floated off into the sky. We were able to use our scanners to track you down, but the boys down in the lab are saying that there’s nothing they can do to reverse this. “
“What does that mean?” I asked. My still-beating heart began pounding even quicker than before. I didn’t like the tone in his voice. “What does that mean?” I screamed as the man in the trench coat turned and began to walk away.
“I’m sorry son,” he said without the slightest fluctuation in his tone. “You used to be one of us, but you’re the enemy now. That means that we have to keep you away from the world.”
As he said this, I felt my cell shift towards its side. Two of the men in black were wheeling me off in the opposite direction of the man in the trench coat. “Where are you taking me?” I asked them. They said nothing though. They just remained silent behind their helmets, not even bothering to look towards me as I spoke. “Where are you taking me?”
A door opened in our path, and the men took me through it. “Somebody help me!” I shouted, but nobody paid me any mind. In their eyes, a living dead man was still more dead than alive. They had decided that I didn’t belong in the outside world, and their decision was final. So they carted me off to the place that would soon become my tomb, never to see the light of day again. As far as the world needed to know, Murphy Calder was gone. As far as I knew, maybe the world was right. I couldn’t remember anything about the man who I had once been. Maybe now I was just a ghost in the wind, making one last attempt to escape from my final resting place, destined only to fail, fated to fall into obscurity where I belonged.
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