September Flash Fiction Draw: The Thaw

Whoa, I haven’t done the monthly Flash Fiction Draw that Cait Gordon presents since June. I would say I slacked off over the summer, but nah: I finished revising a novel and put all the pieces in place for my sci fi novella The Final Decree, which is coming out at the end of the month. (Yes, really, go check it out over here.)

So, yes, I’ve been a bit busy. But this month’s prompt involves young adult genre, set in a warehouse, incorporating a boot or a shoe. I mean, come on, how could I resist. It’s like Cait knows what my next work in progress is about.

So, this is a little bit of something from the YA novel I’m in the very early stages of drafting, tentatively called The Ghost in You (with much gratitude to the Psychedelic Furs). So, without further ado:

The Thaw

At first, Dale thinks something has gone wrong. He waits for the cryo drugs to take effect and pull him under, but all he feels is cold. Drowsy, but not asleep. Fragments of voices—the doctor, the nurse—make themselves heard through the clamshell of the Lazarus chamber. He can’t see them, his eyes sealed by the drops the nurse put in them a few moments ago. But he shouldn’t be able to hear them either, should he?

He should be asleep, unconscious. Almost dead. Why can he hear them?

There’s a moment of blankness, then the whoosh of the chamber’s hood opening. Dale tries to blink—nope, eyes still sealed shut. Rattling. A tug on his right arm, the clack of the cables. A hand against his cheek, gentle fingers prying open one eye, an insane burning, then the other eye. It feels like both his eyes are on fire now. He tries to say something—stop, please, it hurts—but there’s something in his mouth and he can’t speak.

And then he can see. Time feels slippery, as if more than a few seconds have passed since the whoosh of the hood and the burning of his eyes but he can’t account for them.

“Don’t struggle,” a voice says. A man, he thinks. So, not the doctor or the nurse. Where did he come from? “You’re okay. Try to blink your eyes.”

Dale does what he says. At first all he sees is a filthy smear, before a few other drops are put in his eyes—at least they don’t burn now—and he gets a watery glimpse of a face hovering above his, and a high, dark ceiling beyond that.

The man, young, not much older than Dale, smiles. “Hey, buddy, welcome back.”

Dale tries to ask what happened? but all that comes out is a garbled mess because of whatever’s in his mouth. The man makes a shushing noise.

“Hang on. Let me take out the tube. Hold tight. This may hurt a little.”

There’s a tug, and suddenly it feels as if Dale’s windpipe is being pulled out. He flails, and the man grabs one of his hands—warm—and makes more soothing noises. Dale’s pretty sure he’s crying by now, but it’s not just because of the pain.

If they’re waking him up, it means Sarah’s gone. Really gone.

There’s a pop and a sigh, and the end of the tube comes out of his mouth. Dale coughs—retches, really—and the man puts a hand behind Dale’s back and helps him sit up. From this vantage point, Dale sees a stack of his clothing perched at the foot of the chamber, his jeans and shirt sealed in a plastic pouch along with… one shoe. Where did his other shoe go?

“Hey,” the man says. “Are you okay?”

Dale thought it would be easier now, knowing she was gone and he didn’t have to live through it; didn’t have to live through her sickness and death while not being with her, while not being her boyfriend anymore, but it’s still like someone’s taken an ice cream scoop and hollowed out the place in his chest where his heart should be.

The man rocks him gently. “Hey,” he says. “Hey. You’re okay. It’s going to be okay. Trust me.”

Dale knows that’s a lie, but for the time being, he’s grateful to be lied to.