by Jonny Capps
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2099567
500 years after nuclear war, the remaining humans attempt to restore Earth's beauty.
|Savage: The Lies of Destiny|
The light is comfortable. In fact, everything is comfortable right now. The only sensation that he can remember feeling at the moment was this: bathing in this soothing, warm, light, sensation slowly creeping back into his limbs. When enough feeling had returned, he could feel that his body was lying, supine, in a body pillow. He could move if he wanted to, but he could not imagine that any position he rolled into could be more comfortable. His eyes were closed right now, and he didn't want to open them. Once his eyes were opened, the sensation would be ruined. He knew that he would need to move eventually. The time would come for him to open his eyes. He just wanted to stay in this moment for a few seconds longer. Once he opened his eyes, he knew that he would never be this comfortable again.
The lid of the compartment unsealed with a click, proceeded by a mechanical whirr as it began to open. Derrin gasped in surprise and relief, as his lungs were filled with oxygen for what felt like the first time. He knew that, logically, it was not the first, nor even the millionth, breath that he had taken. He had been breathing regularly for his entire life, and he ought to be used to it. Still, the intoxicating refreshment of the clean air brought him a euphoric glee. Ironically, it reminded him of the first time that he had smoked a real cigar. He had smoked cigarettes in college, but when Suzette had complained, he transitioned to gas station cigars. There were a few months of that, training himself on how to avoid the secondary inhale, thus keeping the toxins out of his lungs. Finally, during his second year in grad school, his roommate had introduced him to Brickhouse, a light Nicaraguan cigar with a Connecticut jacket. After that experience, Derrin had looked at cigars differently. He had not bought a gas station cigar since that awakening. Breathing the oxygen in the air right now felt similar to that; he never wanted to stop breathing it. Even the pause between breaths was too long an absence.
Derrin opened his eyes and sat up to examine his environment. He was in a circular black granite room with no distinctive features. Florescent lights, embedded in the wall of the chamber, soaked the room with their glow. At the opposite end of the room, there was a dark, door-sized opening, but Derrin could not see where it led. Next to the opening, there was a plaque, which displayed something that appeared to be a map. That was the only adornment in the entire room. No clock on the wall told him the time, no window showed him what the weather was like outside, no stereo to play Pink Floyd on. Something in his brain told him that there was nothing to be worried about, but that small “something” was being shushed by the massive flood of panic which was preoccupying the rest.
A small commotion to his left caught his attention. With a start, he realized that there were other cells, like the one that he had woken up in, around the room! The one on his right had opened, and the occupant had tripped getting out of it. Derrin frowned. The thought of getting out of his comfortable cell had not yet occurred to him, but he would probably need to do so eventually. Looking at the thin, bespectacled, young man who was currently picking himself up off the floor, Derrin considered that this was probably as a good a time as any.
Derrin stepped out of his cell carefully. It was on a slightly raised platform; if he hadn't been paying attention, he likely would have tripped as well. Stepping to his fellow occupant, now standing and smoothing down the white, terrycloth robe he was clothed in, Derrin extended his hand.
“Hey,” he greeted him casually. “I'm Dr. Flattery. Do you--?”
“I know who you are, Derrin,” the man said as he continued to adjust his robe. “You're the engineer.”
Removing his glasses, the man proceeded to clean them on the lapel of his robe. “It's strange that you and I were the first two to wake up, isn't it?” he muttered. “I kind of expected us all to come out of the freeze at the same time. I guess that would have been a bit of a clusterfuck, though.”
Derrin examined the man standing before him. He was shorted than Derrin was, with a chaotic mass of dark, brown hair on his head. Beneath the sleeves of his robe, Derrin could see the complex network of tattoos that covered his arms. With the longer that Derrin examined him, the stronger the feeling of confusion became. He knew this guy… he was sure that they had met. Still, he had no idea who this person was. A terrifying thought played with his mind for a fleeting moment: this must be what it's like to go insane.
Taking in a deep breath, Derrin frowned deeply. “Who--” he began, haltingly. “What's going on? Who are you?”
The man replaced his glasses, and looked at Derrin with a compassion. “I'm Joshua Stein,” he replied, finally accepting Derrin's still-extended hand. “I'm the information guy, remember?”
The name was familiar, but Derrin still could not place it exactly. “No,” he grumbled. “Now are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?”
Joshua dropped his gaze and hung his head, sighing heavily. “You know, they did tell us that memory might be more difficult on some of us than others,” he said, speaking as though Derrin should automatically know exactly what he was talking about. “I wasn't expecting complete amnesia, but maybe it'll just take some time for your mental processes to catch up.”
The things that Joshua was saying were sounding like madness. What caused Derrin a bit more discomfort was the fact that they were starting to sound familiar. His head was beginning to feel like it was going to explode, and he was starting to regret leaving the comfort of his cell. Joshua seemed to know exactly what was going on, which juxtaposed harshly with Derrin's complete blank slate. Turning his back on Josh, Derrin began to examine the cell from which he had just emerged, searching desperately for some clue as to what was actually happening.
Joshua lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I'm going to check out that map on the wall by the staircase,” he said. “Why don't you stay here and see what you can remember, huh? If you still can't recall anything in a couple minutes, I'll explain it all.”
The hand slid from his shoulder, and Derrin heard Josh's footsteps, shuffling away, across the room. Derrin's eyes never left the cell as he frowned and bit his lower lip, trying desperately to remember. The cell was a state-of-the-art mechanism; well insulated with very little wear, as if it were brand new. On the inside of the lid, there was an air filtration system, connected to a timer, which was blinking 00:00:0000, insinuating that the timer had run out. Along the rim of the cell were monitors, calculating pulse and blood pressure, connected to processors, built into the base of the cell. Derrin gasped as he realized that this was a medical stasis cell. His mouth fell open and his eyebrows shot upward in shock, as he began to remember what was going on.