Author : Lee S. Hawke
Cxx61 stares down at the knife embedded hilt-deep in his chest. It’s so cold. Without thinking, he takes a breath, then stutter-shrieks in pain as his muscles shift and contract around the blade, shredding himself from within. He has no measure for how much this hurts. His body shakes and spits and coughs, trying to live.
The man in front of him, his murderer, watches him dying with a polite smile. “I’m going to cut you open,” he says quietly. He reaches towards the hilt of the blade. Cxx61 feels it before he hears the horrible ripping sound. Flesh and meat part and he screams and screams.
Bizarrely, his last thought is that the blood staining his clothes and pooling around his dead body doesn’t feel quite right.
Cxx61 startles awake. He looks down. He’s in military gear, and he knows through force of habit that if he touches his cheeks they will come away flaked with camouflage paint. He looks up, expecting to see his team around him, but he is alone in an empty clearing that shouts target.
The déjà vu hits him like a train. It’s so quiet. There’s nothing but the sound of his harsh breathing and the peaceful wind. He hears a whisper of leaves and before he can think he’s bolted. Dirt and decayed matter scud underneath his feet, his breath comes in short gasps that stings through his side. He knows in the marrow of his bones that he is being followed, and that knowledge consumes his brain until he doesn’t even remember his name, he just remembers the feeling of dying, over and over and over again.
He trips and staggers. The sharp whine of a bullet passes his ear and he throws himself flat on the ground. The impact is like a crowbar to the ribs, and he has a horrible feeling he’s died like that before as well, beaten to death in a back alley.ˇ
The almost-but-not-quite memory has him up and sprinting again. Moments later, he hears another high-pitched scream and then his legs collapse from underneath him. He feels the horrifying, nerve-burning pain that tells him his spine has been severed.
Soft footsteps on the grass. A boot kicks into his side and rolls him onto his back. He looks up through the dirt and blood and agony and his murderer is there, the same as ever, face so plain as to be anonymous, smiling that polite, self-satisfied smile.
The man kneels down by his side like a minister. “I’m going to slit your throat from ear to ear, you pathetic bitch.”
And he does.
A body lies comatose on a government table. A squat, branded computer watches over him, occasionally flickering with pre-programmed code. Thin wires connect to his brain, and his eyes are covered in strands of sheathed electricity. Occasionally, the fingers twitch and there is a faint hitch in the breathing, almost a moan, but then it slides back into the regular rhythm of sleep.
One of his onlookers crunches into an apple. Juice flecks off onto her police badge, and she wipes it off absentmindedly. “How much longer, do you think?” she asks conversationally.
Beside her, a man shakes his shaved head. Patches of smooth, charged fabric flex and sigh and mould themselves tighter to his skull. He looks at the screen and its light flickers against his face. “His log has 676 recorded instances of death threats, 1239 rape threats,” he says. He smiles politely. “I’d say this is going to take all day.”