“Hey there, kid.”
The voice floated bodiless in the misty haze of unconsciousness, slowing being pulled back like a heavy blanket. A dull pain crept up in its place as feeling slowly returned to his broken body, contrasted by the odd numbness that dominated much his right side.
“Looks like you’re starting to come around.”
He tried opening his eyes. His right eye pulsed with the numbness, refusing to obey. A smiling face blurrily resolved out of the nothingness, familiar yet foreign. He blinked, confusion reigning in his shattered mind. He knew he should know the face, know it nearly as well as his own, but recognition floated just outside his grasp. A uniform bearing a gold stripe punctuated by two silver bars covered the man’s torso as he sat lightly at the edge of the bed.
He tried to sit up, finding himself lightly restrained under the tightly fitted white linen of a hospital bed. He struggled to remember something, anything, beyond the strange yet familiar face still smiling at him with its soothing voice, tinged with an almost imperceptible edge of worry and doubt.
“Hey, hey there buddy. Slow down a bit.” The face glanced worriedly to the side briefly before turning back to him. “Take it easy, kid. You’re alright now.” He smiled more sincerely this time, excitement glittering briefly in his eyes, “You’re back.”
Back? From where? He thought, pushing against the embrace of the oblivion still trying to reclaim his mind. He closed his eye, his first attempts at vision sending jolts of stabbing pain through his left eye as it struggled to adapt to light so long denied to it.
He freed his right hand from the gleaming white linen, reaching up to comfort his throbbing brow. A dull clank that followed made his eye snap back open. A quiet scraping was replaced by the feel of cold metal against flesh as his hand slid down the side of his face.
“Hold on there, kid,” the voice reassured, standing. “I can explain all this. Hey, it’s not nearly as bad as you think,” he quipped with a crocked smile.
Panic bloomed, twisting and growing off the confusion of the dark cloud still lingering over his mind. Adrenaline surged through torn and bruised muscles, burning away the pain and fatigue. He ripped away the confining sheets in a single motion and stared horrified at what he saw beneath.
He lay nearly naked, only his undergarments protecting what little of his dignity remained. Cold metal hugged and molded against his twisted body. Scars and barely healed burns covered much of what remained above the waist. He stared transfixed, horrified.
“Alright there, kid. Listen, let’s just take this slow,” he said, maintaining eye contact as he furiously gestured to the side.
Shock gave way to panic as he jumped off the bed. His hands, flesh and metal alike, clenched in front of his face. A forlorn scream of born of rage, suffering, and loss boiled out through dry cracked lips. He collapsed to his knees as the scream trailed off and died, spirit crushed and muscles spent. His body shook as he began sobbing uncontrollably. Tears refused to come to dry eyes, as hospital security poured in around him.
The nameless face, a friend he knew but couldn’t remember, knelt down beside him. “It’s alright, Kell. You’re home.” He wrapped himself around the stricken body as it convulsed. “I'm here with you. I’m not going anywhere.”
Kell. Hearing his name, he remembered. Dan. That was the name that screamed out at him when he saw the face. His muscles stilled and his body calmed with the small victory of a name. He surrendered to the darkness closing back in around him. He only struggled to hold on to those two hard fought names, everything else falling away as he collapsed back into the creeping nothingness. They too eventually fell away, leaving nothing but cold emptiness.