My eyes fluttered, just as nausea rose up through my belly to the top of my tongue. Confusion devoured the little bit of awareness that was lurking in the shadows. As I attempted to flutter past the blurry darkness of unconsciousness, and come into some semblance of wakefulness, pressure built deep within my throat, pushing behind my teeth. Instinct forced my head to slightly turn to the left just as bile shoved passed my lips, spraying like a water hose that had just been turned on for the first time after being dormant during the cold and freezing months.
Consciousness gradually heightened as my eyes rapidly flickered. I could feel my extremities stretched out in the shape of a star. My body bound by unyielding restraints on my ankles and wrists, and a loose yet inflexible restraint hovering above my throat. While a flat, unforgiving, cold piece of steel lay beneath my backside.
Access to my short-term memory was blocked by strange flashes of a blurry-faced black man who was part human and part machine, dressed only in a pair of black underwear.
This doesn’t make sense.
As the flashes unveiled and became a more solid picture in my mind, I could see the muscle definition in the man’s body. The tattoo on his left arm grabbed the attention of my long-term memory.
Focus. Focus on the tattoo.
My thoughts willing this part of my brain to shove the blurred layer aside. Piece by piece, the layer lifted, and suddenly I recognized the tattoo and the body.
It was mine!
My heart briefly stopped, and then sped up like I was running a five-minute mile.
This doesn’t make sense.
Perplexing thoughts whirled around in my head like a teeny tornado.
Focus. Focus on the face.
The pixels upon the blurred face multiplied at a leisurely pace. My insides trembled as each feature became more and more visible. First, a coarse thin line of short, black hair above the lip. Next, the fleshy, pink, kissable lips, and the prominent, confident nose. As each feature revealed itself, I felt my heart sink into my back, sinking me further into the steel. It was like I was looking at a digitally enhanced mirror. I was mostly man, but also part machine.
How could this be? What does this mean?
I started to panic. My breathing wavering. I didn’t know if the image that I was seeing in my mind was real. Everywhere my eyes darted, all I could see was black, black, black. I wanted to move, to touch the parts where the image revealed machinery, but I couldn’t. I was bound and trapped underneath thick straps of leather, most straps taut against my skin. The steel table contacting every inch of my backside, keeping me in place. Memories of this event did not exist, I couldn’t locate them within my memory bank. My lip began to quiver as my eyes filled with liquid. On my right side, a tiny teardrop slid down the side of my face. Instead of focusing on the unknown fear that swarmed into my soul like a floating evil spirit, I coerced my mind to calm itself. To regain control.
I’ll never get out of here if I surrender my mind to this devilry. I need light. How do I will light to emerge?
Uncertainty pierced the very center of my core. I didn’t know how light could help me escape, but it was the only option I had. All I could do was focus all of my energy on commanding the light to appear.
Focus. Focus on the light.
Unexpectedly, my brain felt like it was suspended inside my skull, which inadvertently caused me to feel giddy and weak. Swirls of grays and blacks swiftly orbited above me. Intensity grew after I realized a lighter pigment of black had surfaced. My mind was like a missile, homing in on the grays and blacks to make them even lighter.
My heart fluttered as my body felt weightless. I could no longer feel the cold steel beneath me. Even though I still could not move my body, I no longer could feel the straps taut around my wrists and ankles.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a special power. Now I know, and now I will use it to my advantage. I will escape from wherever I am. Nothing can keep my bound in this darkness.
Glimmers of yellow flickered like a child playing with a flashlight. On off on off on off, until finally, enough is enough, and you feel the need to raise your voice just to stop the annoying madness. I squeezed my eyes as tightly as I could, the glimmers of yellow persisted. I open my eyes as wide as a startled baby, the yellow steadily glimmered. Waking from a restful slumber, my insides began to stir. Saliva quickly collected and filled the back of my throat, causing a gag reflex. A storm was brewing, and I wasn’t sure I could stop it.
Focus. Focus on the light.
The yellows instantly quit dancing and steadily burned, divulging a background of flowing electricity and gears of varying sizes.
Wait. I’ve seen this before. Where have I seen this?
Suddenly, a jolt of electricity shot through me. And another. And another. And another. When I thought my heart was going to stop pumping, a light brighter than the sun penetrated my pupil’s. Another jolt of electricity surged through my stomach causing convulsions within. My upper body shot upwards into a seated position, I turned my head to the left, and hurled until I dry-heaved, saliva and puke dripping from my lips.
What? How did that happen? I thought I couldn’t move?
Drenched in sweat, I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. I could see beams of light opposite me. The light looked as though it were peeking through some sort of curtain. Softness pressed against my lower body. My hands drifted towards it. Touching it’s surface.
“It’s a mattress!” I hollered in excitement. The excitement was too much to handle, I turned my head to the left again, and hurled.
“I remember now.” A smile stretched across my face in relief. “I caught the influenza virus from my nephew. High fever. Continuous vomiting. The ER doctor admitted me. The nurse put an IV in my arm to give me fluids and nausea medication. The medication obviously knocked me out. I must have hallucinated in my dream due to the fever.” I said reassuringly as if I was speaking to someone other than myself.
I recalled the memory of the image I saw in my dream. I remembered a few weeks ago I was in a photo shoot. Being an underwear model, I rarely do photo shoots wearing clothing other than just underwear, and I never accept a modeling job where I would be photographed in the nude. I remember seeing the poster of my recent photo shoot on a billboard near the hospital. I remember examining it before walking into the ER. I remember thinking how incredible the digital enhancement of the machinery looked. I recalled how long the photo shoot took to get the perfect pose. Then the last thing that I remember was violently vomiting in the street.
Right at that moment, the nurse tapped her middle finger knuckle lightly on the door and peeked inside.
She said, “You’re awake.” She stepped towards me to take my vitals. “You’ve been asleep for nearly 19 hours. You didn’t wake when I checked your eye responses with the tiny flashlight. Nor did you wake to vomit. You just turned your head slightly to the left. For quite some time, you lay on your back with your body stretched out, acting as though you couldn’t move, like you were tied down or something. I heard mumbling, but couldn’t make out what you were saying exactly. You must have been dreaming, and apparently, that dream felt real to you.”
“You have no idea,” I said, slowly closing my eyes like they were a curtain in a theater at the end of a performance.
– Anneberly Andrews –
This story was written for Myths of the Mirror May Speculative Fiction Photo Prompt, hosted by D. Wallace Peach. Check out the other participants writing.