Damaged: Enemy Me
Hands on him, handling him. Lifting him. Pain. Pain coming from everywhere. And the brightness. It was nearly unbearable.
Kendall struggled to catch his breath, trying to make sense of what was happening. He saw shapes in the blinding whiteness that had enveloped him. At first, fuzzy shadows. Then color. Movement. Then he heard voices. But, not with his ears. In fact, he didn’t hear anything at all with his ears.
One voice seemed to dominate. A soft voice. Repeating his name. He reached out to it, trying to identify who was calling for him. A woman. But he didn’t actually hear her. It was like he was imagining her, except the imagination had taken on a life of its own.
Thrashing. His body was in combat mode and fought anyone who tried to restrain him. Powerful hands overcame him and pinned him down. Suddenly his anxiety seemed to drain away. Vertigo set in.
Moisture. Something was immersing him. But not water. Thick. Like honey. He could feel the weight of it. Kendall tried to call out, but something was caught in his throat. He still could not move.
A shadow. Suddenly the brightness abated enormously. A face seemed to come into focus.
Her features were sharp and perfect. Her pale skin was brilliant, seemingly glowing. Her long, white hair tickled his face, and when she turned her head a little, he could see long pointed ears. Kendall tried to scoot back but was powerless under her surprisingly strong embrace.
“My dear child, I am so sorry.”
Did she speak? Or was this all in his head?
“I am here, and will always be here.” She tenderly touched his forehead.
He looked around with his eyes. All he saw was blinding whiteness. Except for her. “Am I dead?”
“No one really dies, my child.” She looked around then returned her attention to Kendall, grinning mischievously. “Perhaps you would be more comfortable here.”
Almost explosively, the white was pushed back like a shockwave, exposing a lush clearing in a tropical setting. The strange woman helped Kendall sit up, and he looked around, curious. A dragon nimbly flew through the treetops, and flying lizards flitted among the flowers. He returned his attention to her. “You’re a Gatekeeper.”
“Not quite, my dear.” She pointed up.
Kendall looked up, then gaped. The endless, blue sky was full of planets, all seeming to be impossibly close to the one on which they stood. More planets were behind the nearest, and they seemed to go on until the haze hid them. Vines appeared to reach into the sky, joining the planets in a vast web. One such vine had a massive trunk beside the clearing. Kendall had originally thought it was a large cliff.
“This goes on forever in this universe. There is no death, no storms, no hate.” She spun around, holding her hands up and giggling when a heavy mist passed by their clearing, drenching them in moisture. The clouds moved on into the haze as if traveling between the worlds. “You can come here anytime you want. Go wherever you want. Any of those worlds. I’ll take you. You can actually be a child.” She looked at him. “I am so sad they took your childhood away. Here, you can always be a child. And we will always be together.”
“Is this, am I dead?” Kendall looked at her.
“Oh, my dear, you will never die.” The woman caressed his cheek, gazing at him lovingly.
“This isn’t heaven?”
“It is to me.” The woman looked at him coyly. “It can be for you too.”
Kendall looked up at the planets. He noticed that there were no actual shadows. He couldn’t even detect any sign of a sun. An ambiance of light seemed to fill the very air. Even the canopy of the tropical forests around them was pleasingly light, with hints of a blue-green cast, as if from a bright cloudy day. It looked magical.
“I don’t…” He looked at her, not able to conceptualize a question. Curious, he knelt and put his hand on the soil. It was abundantly rich with life. “Amazing.”
“Close your eyes and feel it,” she whispered in his ear.
Kendall complied and was stunned that his senses seemed to stretch out across the cosmos, detecting the wealth of life on all the worlds. “This is… this cannot be real.”
“Why? It is as real as you.”
He looked at her as they stood up. “How can this be real?”
“This is my home.” The woman touched his chest. “One day it will be your home too, my child.” She leaned in and kissed him gently, then opened her eyes wide. “Oh, Steven has arrived. He is my favorite.”
Kendall looked around, trying to see him.
“No, silly. You have to wake up first.” The woman giggled, then kissed him again. Kendall tried to respond but felt something in his throat. He blinked and suddenly everything was black.
A hand. He felt it on his chest. He thought it was hers, but it felt different. Then suddenly sparks spread out over his body and he convulsed. A glow of golden light started to fill the blackness around him. The hand seemed to burn him, but it wasn’t pain that he experienced.
Voices in his head. But, not the strange woman. He was disappointed. He wanted to see more of that universe. There were so many questions he wanted answered.
“Kendall, are you conscious?” Finally, a solitary voice in his mind. Was he dreaming it? He wasn’t sure if he actually was awake, but he felt alert.
“Yes?” Kendall said hesitantly. Did he actually say it? Or think it?.
“You have suffered some damage. Your sight and hearing should return soon.”
“Then how am I…” he wasn’t sure what to ask. He was hearing, sensing, even seeing something. The glow.
“We are sharing thoughts and senses.”
“Are you…? No, you’re not. Not Steven.”
“You sensed his touch? And knew it was him?”
He detected a level of surprise. “Yeah, I guess so.” He found his reticence to mention the peculiar woman disturbing. He would have told Shawn without hesitating. But now, would he? Something has changed within him. He couldn’t put his finger on it. “What happened?”
“Is Shawn…” Kendall stopped, remembering something. “The police officer. He was there. In the door.”
“Shawn is with us and recovering. But there was no one else there save for Lohet.”
“No, no. I saw him. I shot him. In the head. Killed him. But then he stood back up. And he was there, by the door.”
“Hello? I need to wake up. I need to report this. There is something not right with that man. Something dangerous.”
“Be at peace. I have passed your report on to our commander.”
“I need it passed to my commander. Our people need to know.” Kendall tried to move but was utterly immobile. “Why can’t I move? Why can’t I see?”
“Certain reconstructions must complete, Kendall.”
“You were near the heart of a nuclear blast. Steven extracted you and redirected most of the energy, but enough got through to cause… Just be patient. You are in good hands. You will not know the difference when the reconstruction is finished.”
“Ah. You mean…”
“We are experienced with this. Just have patience, please.”
“Shouldn’t I be in some sort of coma?” Kendall was having trouble sorting out the idea he survived a nuclear blast.
“This part of the reconstruction requires your awareness. I am sorry, but there is no other way.”
“The blast, what caused it? That facility did not have a reactor.” He knew the answer but had to hear it.
“A golem detonated.”
“The police officer.”
“I am sorry. Fortunately, the damage was minimal.”
“Of course. It was just a nuclear blast, that’s all.”
“Steven was able to divert the energy. You caught the initial few instants of the detonation.”
“Great. What am I going to lose?”
“I don’t understand that question.”
Kendall mentally sighed. “I was blown up. You’re putting me back together. There’s always something that cannot be fixed.”
“Your wounds were superficial. Eyes, ears, skin, some organ trauma, some brain trauma. You will not notice any difference when you wake up.”
“Oh, that’s all. What was I thinking?”
“You were thinking you were depending on Terran medicine.”
“Terran? You guys actually use that word? That’s like, cheap novels and b-rated movies.” Kendall would have snorted derisively if he could.
“We have a long history of describing the Forbidden World as Terra. It is a transliteration of Terrasyati, which describes the miracle of dry land on what was once an ocean world.” Brief silence. “The Forbidden World was an ocean world at one time, much like many in the Cooperative.”
“You looked that up on the internet, didn’t you?”
“Those of us who are expected to interact with… Terrans…. have been tasked to educate ourselves on your languages and cultures.”
“That would be a yes. Thanks for the language lesson, Professor. Can I wake up now?”
“Repairs to your brain are nearly complete.”
“My brain. Someone is tinkering with my brain right now?” Kendall felt a surge of emotion. Fear? He wasn’t sure. He had never felt it before. He had been immobilized under the care of physicians before. Such was the life of an Order agent. But now, it was different. Aliens were tooling around in his nugget.
“Be at peace, Kendall. All will be well soon. Patience. You have been trained for patience, no?”
Kendall grimaced. Mentally. He was being schooled by an alien. “I don’t need your instruction.”
“I am here to be your companion for this duration of healing. Otherwise, you would be in complete isolation with no point of reference.”
That would not be desirable. Kendall calmed himself down with some effort.
The voice was right. The sensory deprivation was disturbing.
Flash of light. Brilliant flashes. All the brighter with the fact that Kendall could not blink or shade his eyes. A smell seemed to come from nowhere. Acrid. Burned flesh. It quickly became overpowering. Then sounds. Muted. But clearly sounds of combat. Kendall closed his eyes tightly, then realized that he felt them. He actually felt his eyes close. It was like he was coming back into his body. Laying still, he opened his eyes slightly. Everything was blurry. He could feel some kind of gel still on his eyes.
More flashes, and now explosions. Wherever he was was getting hammered hard. And he was unable to participate. Kendall tried to move his arms. But they may as well have been dead weight. Utterly unresponsive. He grit his teeth, trying to assess his situation and the combat around him. He knew better than to yell out. That just made him a target. But he still felt exposed and helpless.
A concussive explosion near him physically jostled him. He struggled with all his might, feeling more and more frustrated at his inability to contribute to the battle when something seemed to click. He felt flush with rage and with that came strength. His whole body seemed to tingle, and everything that was happening around him appeared to slow down to a crawl. Whatever was restraining him broke away and he jumped up, ripping off the remains of his restraints.
His vision was still clouded by whatever gel was clinging to his eyes, but he could still sense shapes around him, and he associated those shapes with the assault on his being. Without hesitation, he grabbed the nearest person and threw him to the ground. Before his first victim bounced he was rushing the next two, pulling them into each other as he passed between them. They collided with sickening thuds and fell to the floor, motionless.
Another figure positioned itself in his reach and he attacked it with the same extreme vitriol he had addressed his previous targets. Only, this figure was utterly unyielding. He clambered up the person’s torso and wrapped his legs around an exposed neck, then twisted hard, expecting the figure to crash to the ground with him.
It may as well have been a bronze statue. Strong hands grabbed him and suddenly Kendall found himself being slammed on the floor hard enough to see stars. Even then, that did not stop the rage. It didn’t quench the thirst for destruction. Kendall bounced back at his opponent without a moment’s respite, continuing his attack unabated. And once again, he was thrown to the floor.
At this point, he was literally seeing red. Someone was going to die, and it was going to happen soon.