I am awake.
I am awake with a great sense of sadness sitting on my chest. Tears are leaving shimmering trails down my cheeks, escaping from tired eyes. Something very precious has been lost. It is irretrievable, and fading fast like a fresh dream between the sheets.
Home is gone. Home is dead.
I am awake, but I want to be asleep. I want to be in my mother’s kitchen, my breakfast sticking to my face. I want to hold my brother in my arms and keep him safe. I want to attend school and eat knowledge from books. I want to travel to beaches unknown, tread on running sand.
“Passenger 037 is awake,” a sexless voice says.
There is cool, smooth plastic under me. I am completely wet, as if I’d sat in a bath for years. The shell I am is wrinkled and numb. My fingers and toes twitch rustily, the muscles struggling to remember their function. I’m acutely aware of my rib cage holding my lungs as they expand and contract, at first timorously, as if afraid they would rip. There is an elastic band running over my head, securing me to the table.
So this is where I ended up.
The exhausting sorrow is pulling at my mouth, tugging my chest. I want to dip back into the dream, back when my mind was not here, or there. It was in my control, yet slippery in my grasp. The familiar hushed along my skin and played with my hair. My family was there if I needed them. I have no such control over this world.
I pick up a faint beeping by my left ear. It matches my heartbeat, and I rest there listening until the thud and beep are pounding inside my skull. Beep. Thud. Thud. Beep. Thud. Thud. A waltz of blood.
“Passenger 037, can you open your eyes?”
I can. My eyes take a minute to adjust to the darkness, until I can distinguish a ceiling made of metal plates above. It is alien. I am alien to myself. Are these spiderweb veins mine to claim? The carbon dioxide that leaves my lungs, is it mine to give?
“Where am I?”
“The Holding Chamber,” the voice replies.
I reach up to my head and feel around with stone fingers until I can slip the elastic band away from my forehead. Slowly, I sit up, my arms shaking to support my weight.
“You may experience muscle fatigue, light-headedness, and slight headaches,” the voice says. It’s right. The room is spinning at a sickening pace and I feel burning bile in my throat. I take several deep breaths through my nose to steady myself. My body hasn’t lived for a long time.
I’m in a large, unlit hall, sitting on a raised white platform. The sterile nightgown I’m wearing is soaked through and my hair is dripping down my back, curling like thin, black snakes.
“Why am I wet?” I ask the darkness.
“You were in the holding fluids.” The voice seems to come from everywhere. It is echoless in this huge, empty chamber.