Part 9

My head hurt. More than you could imagine, it hurt.


Oh my God! What the... something was choking me. Seriously. This wasn't a good state of affairs. Okay, so the college principal probably wanted me dead - I didn't plan to die by being choked, that is just to made-for-TV-movie-ish. Besides, it hurts.

With some difficulty I open my left eye. A dimly lit white ceiling. There's some sort of white box beside my bed. I don't remember putting the LaserJet there, but I guess I must have. Possibly some stupid experiment to get decent 300dpi printouts from a BBC micro. Never mind, I'll pop the lid, yank out the drum, and hit it over the head of the person strangling me. Then, hop up, and give that bastard a few blows with the toner cartridge. That black gunk is lethal, and ought to incapacitate anybody.

I reach out and wince in pain as my hand hits something unseen. I try again, and I crunch my fingers, again. Feeling around, it's like a cold metal tube. Yup. It's a cold metal tube. Firmly attached. Now I'm sure as hell that I didn't put that there, and I'm pretty sure my erstwhile attacker didn't either. If I was going to kill me with a lump of metal, I'd use that solid-looking golf club that they keep advertising on TV.

Sod it. The strangler is doing a pitifully bad job of it. I'll just sit up and push 'em over. They won't be expecting that.


I sat up, and it was me who ended up being knocked over. There was no attacker. It was a weird white tube that was sort-of taped to my face. A bed. A polished floor. In the almost misty distance I could see other beds.
Everything else was pitch black.

Just what I need. Really. Can't those stupid aliens abduct somebody else?

I pull all of the tubes and wires off of me. A box behind me began a frenzied meeping noise, so I reached around the back and pulled the IEC lead out.

"Funny", I thought, "The greys use IEC leads? This is as bad as that 'Independence Day' movie!"

Well, now I know what it feels like to dress as a girl. I'm wearing a light blue gown that ends millimetres below my privates. That's it. Oh well, the last time I saw the X-Files, I didn't recall the aliens wearing anything, so at least there's that.

I walk down the room. There are people, humans, both genders. All are hooked to machines. I wonder what that's for? I pat myself down and... nothing feels wrong. Maybe they were keeping me doped until my investigation?

In a split second she appeared. Knee-length blue dress. Shoulder-length brown hair. Mouth open. Screaming. One hand flew to her crotch, and her other hand let go of a styrofoam cup. The cup bounced across the floor sending hot dark liquid in all directions. The hand that was holding the cup? It just stayed there, hovering in mid-air. This woman, she looked late twenties, faded away, like a lost ghost.
"I looked down. There she was, sprawled across the floor.
I stepped over her and reached a door. The upper half was glazed and it said 'UCI' in big letters. Freaky, aliens run by a chemical company? Or maybe the aliens run the chemical company?

Oh, wait. It's supposed to be read from the other side.

Okay, so what's ICU?

Oh, damn! It was a weird feeling. On the one hand, I was more relieved than I could describe to not have been abducted...by aliens. How American would that have been?
On the other hand... Damn! It'd have been interesting to meet aliens, and couldn't I just go and wind up those poor saps with their faulty religions? Well, maybe there is a God and he/she/it can't be bothered with me? Hehe...

I walk back to the woman, obviously a nurse of some sort. She doesn't look very comfortable, so I grab her in various places and shift her into something that approximates the recovery position. I pick up her cup and sniff it. Coffee. Instant. Sugared. I down the last little bits left in the cup, then walk to the small desk.


The filing cabinet was locked, so I nudged it to a forty-five degree angle against a wall. Then it's a simple matter of reaching under and pushing (or pulling, depending on the model) the metal rod that locks the drawers. In a minute, I was looking at my file.

It was December 2003. Details were sketchy, but it appeared that during a student uprising in May '99, I was accidentally knocked off of the roof of the college. Three others were knocked off. Two died instantly, one lasted forty hours. I was in a comatic state when the paramedics found me, and I have remained in a coma ever since. At least, until just now.

Somebody had been writing pertinent notes on a blank piece of paper.

June 1999 Joined to official Cerys Matthews fan club. Thanks for the CD, get well soon buddy.
July 1999 F. Sopowitz pleads guilty to forty seven counts of gross indecency towards minors, denies six underage rape charges brought forth after his arrest. Imprisoned five years.
June 2000 Bank investigation finds unexplained anomaly in current account. All accounts frozen pending investigation.
October 2001 Parents, living abroad, killed in car accident. Suspect (other driver) was asleep at wheel.
January 2002 Bank changes hands, investigation dropped. Accounts remain frozen due to medical situation.
July 2002 F. Sopowitz released early for good behaviour and apparent successful rehabilitation.
July 2002 College destroyed. Arson suspected.
July 2002 Property suffered a minor fire, computer monitoring raised alarm prior to significant damage.
Sixteen canisters of unleaded petrol discovered on roof of adjoining property.
July 2002 I was wounded in the line of duty. Positive ID on F. Sopowitz committing arson attempt on judicial buildings.
July 2002 APB - F. Sopowitz.
At the bottom was a yellow Post-It that read "APB outstanding, still. I'm gonna get that bastard".


I came over cold. I was... I was what, exactly? Unwalking dead? For almost five years? My God, I'm in my mid-twenties and it's like yesterday I was having fun raising hell in college. Now?
Oh my God! Oh my God!


There were newspaper clippings in my folder. Not only had a Concorde crashed outside of Paris, but they'd all flown their last, practically only a month ago. That was sad. An advertisement for Windows2000, WindowsME, and WindowsXP. Good grief! Windows95 turned up two years late, Windows98 added little, and now it's like they're churning them out! Anthrax scares in America. A bunch of clippings about Al Qaeda, whoever the hell they are... I had to take pause for a moment following the twenty-odd cover stories of the World Trade Center in New York, or maybe I should say the lack of it... It was almost unreal, to fly a commercial aircraft into each tower. In response, a war in Afghanistan and a war in Iraq. Thankfully, the president (who it seemed was only elected because Florida cocked up) took his time to find a believable enemy; though it looks like only America is believing in the story.

The year 2000 came and went. Much of Europe became the EuroZone in more ways than one. Nothing blew up. No planes dropped from the skies. The millennium bug was pretty well dealt with.

And that was that.

Nearly five years. Missing. Gone. Not even a memory to remember.


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Copyright © 2004 Richard Murray