Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Carter Blake woke screaming into sweat soaked sheets again. It had been over a year, but the memories were still crystal clear and relentless; from the calm serenity of an afternoon patrol to the searing heat, the sudden impact and as his vision cleared, the view past the freshly cauterized stump where his right arm had been to the dusty blue sky.

He sat up in bed and swung his legs over the side, feeling the polished hardwood beneath his artificial feet. He scratched idly at the point where the real flesh of his thigh faded into the artificial and then stood, not missing the arthritic pain that had plagued his knees before the event.

Clasping his hands behind his back, one real, one a poor facsimile he pulled his arms back and up behind him, feeling the strain ease in his shoulders, then twisted hard left and right once to feel the satisfying pop as the pressure released in his spine.

He was parched.

The lights followed him from the bedroom into the eat-in kitchen, glowing dimly to guide him while respecting that it was still the middle of the night.

Carter fished through the glasses on the counter by the sink and found one with only water in it, which he dumped and refilled from the tap before downing it in several continuous gulps. He’d started drinking right handed again, now that he’d relearned how to hold things without breaking them.

From the kitchen he had a view across the empty living room to the full length window overlooking the city. The fog outside and the dim light inside turned the glass into a soft focused mirror, and he looked at himself. Turning sideways he flexed and posed like he’d done back in the day trying to impress the girls on the beach, but he didn’t recognize the man flexing back at him. He jumped, reflexively putting his arms up to cushion the blow as he reached the ceiling without even trying.

His legs below mid-thigh were artificial, some kind of bio-mechanical hybrid grafted onto what was left of his own body. His arm too was different, and although he’d stood here, in the early hours of countless sleepless nights watching the freak he was reflected in the glass, he still couldn’t rationalize his defect. Still couldn’t fully accept the man he saw in front of him. They had warned him there may be some rejection, but assured him he would adjust in time. How much time, he wondered.

Carter turned back to the kitchen and, fishing a bottle of bourbon from the counter and his Desert Eagle from the back of the cutlery drawer, sat himself down at the kitchen table beside the wirephone.

He opened the bourbon and took a generous drink straight from the bottle before lifting the phone off the cradle and dialing the Veterans hospital.

The phone rang twice before a young woman answered. “Worcestershire Memorial, good evening Sergeant Blake, trouble sleeping?”

Carter cradled the phone gingerly against his left ear and took a few deep breaths before replying.

“Please send someone quickly, there’s been an accident.”

Without waiting for a reply, he replaced the handset on the cradle, and with his artificial arm picked up the massive handgun, pushed the barrel into the fleshy crook of his elbow and pulled the trigger, shearing the limb off none to cleanly at the joint.

He considered that he should have perhaps tied off the arm first, but he expected the VA emergency response unit would be there quickly enough before the blood loss was too severe.

Then they would make him whole again, and this time rejection wouldn’t be a problem.

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