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Pieces of a Former Life MAG
The red numbers on the digital clock read 9:00. She tossed and turned in the small bed in the almost claustrophobic room of her apartment. She was deep in sleep but wide awake at the same time. It was a waking dream that came and went with the months. Her eyes were wide open and the stitches, which were normally covered by makeup, glistened in the moonlight that leaked through an opening in the curtains.
She cried out and a tear trickled down her right cheek as she remembered her past. She opened her eyes for the first time since the accident and was surprised to find the ugly face of an old man hovering over her. She had expected to see remnants of the explosion, the supposedly pearly gates of heaven, or at least the fiery pits of hell, but all she saw was a wrinkled face covered with scars and some type of warts or boils. He smiled, showing crooked teeth, and laughed in a high-pitched voice that grated her nerves.
“Just one more thing,” he cackled and raised a large needle. She gasped as she felt it break the skin of her chest where her heart was supposed to be. She watched as he finished sewing, tied a knot, and then cut the string. She was utterly confused, and it must have showed on her face.
“Don't worry, girlie. It doesn't hurt for long. The shock wears off.” He moved out of her field of vision. “You're going to have a brand-new life here. With your new strength you can help me around the lab.”
Her vision went dark as he kept talking, and she lost all grasp on consciousness. As she floated in black, she felt her mind let go of something. She watched shards of glass, her memories, as they floated away in a black river as she tried to catch them. She sifted through them as they floated by but she couldn't grasp any. They seemed to cut her hands when she tried to pick them up and in the end she caught just two.
She studied these pieces of memory and puzzled over their meaning. The first showed a woman – herself, she realized – in a hospital bed holding a baby. A man stood by her, hugging her shoulders as they looked at the newborn. They were both smiling.
The second was so different that it caught her off-guard. There was fire and she was lying, bloody, in the street with a shadow above her. She was looking at the stranger's boot, which was crushing her bloody fingers beneath its sole.
She resurfaced to see the old man's face and was so disgusted that she leaned over the edge of the big metal table and threw up whatever had been in her stomach. It hurt.
“Cheating death can be a bit overwhelming, I guess, but you'll get over it,” came that nasally voice. Something soft landed next to her. “Put that on. After you're done, we'll start preparations for your new life.”
She got up, put on the white smock, and studied the room. It was constructed of gray concrete, the walls lined with strange machinery, and the whole place was lit by blinding fluorescent lights.
The old man stepped into her line of vision. He was the stereotypical mad scientist, complete with white jacket, gloves, and large goggles balanced atop his frizzy white hair. She only hoped she wasn't Frankenstein's monster.
“Now, my petal, first things first. Can you talk?” He was obviously delighted that he'd brought her back from the brink of death.
Talk? she thought. Maybe I can but I don't know how. She opened her mouth but nothing came out, so she tried to move her lips as she'd seen the man do. Nothing. She became frustrated and decided to force air out of her lungs while she moved her lips.
“What should I say?” came out in a sudden burst.
“Delightful!” He clapped his hands and jumped up and down in a comical fashion. “Do you remember how to make sentences? Use proper grammar?”
“Do what?” she furrowed her brow. “I don't know. Am I doing it now?”
“You'll be fine,” he assured her. He pointed to a machine on the other side of the room. “Walk over there, please.”
She obeyed, forcing her feet to move. Though she was a bit shaky at first, she was soon walking like a normal person. A smile spread across her face as she turned and walked back.
“Good, good!” he cackled. “Let's see … what else?”
“Can I see myself?” she asked.
He looked at her with a blank expression and then realized what she was asking. He brought her a hand mirror.
“Manners, too, very good, very nice!” he murmured and began fiddling with some dials.
She looked into the mirror with shock that soon turned to confusion. That wasn't her face. Hers was the face from her memory, and this face was unfamiliar to her, not just the stitches that ran from the corners of her mouth to her jaw or those that went in a half circle around her left eye, but the features were different. One eye and the lips were all that seemed similar to her. Her eyes had been green, but now there was one black one.
She looked down at her arm to find thick black stitches connected her hand to her wrist and most of her fingers to her hand. Her body was dominated by stitches! She looked in shocked confusion at the delighted old man. His happiness faded.
“This isn't my face. What happened to my face?” she whispered, struggling to find her voice.
“All the pieces couldn't be recovered so we had to use parts of different bodies. It's not so bad. You're starting a new life with a clean slate so why not start with a different face too?” He patted her shoulder and she felt something tear. “Oops, I'll fix that.”
The scientist pulled out the large needle and quickly sewed her shoulder.
“You'll have to learn how to do this yourself. I won't always be here to piece you back together,” he grumbled. She wondered where his happiness had suddenly gone.
“It's time to start the real work now.” She noticed a cruel glint in his eye that she knew hadn't been there before. “Sit.”
He motioned to a big wooden chair with sturdy leather straps on the back and arm rests. She did as she was told but with a fearful cautiousness that caused the man to grow angry and push her.
“Go!” he barked.
She was terrified but couldn't think of anything else to do, so she obeyed. It was a decision she would regret.
The light was brighter in her room now and she was thankful that she didn't have to remember any more. The ghost of the dream still clung to her but it was more bearable than the vivid images that plagued her at night.