[Snippet] Madness

“And you’ll feel a little pinch…”

Nerio barely felt the needle entering his skin. Only a couple of years ago, the sight of a needle would have made him light-headed and sick to his stomach. Now he didn’t so much as blink as Dr. Mercury injected him with… He didn’t know what. He used to ask each time with anxiety shaking his voice. Now he didn’t care. Vitamins, steroids, immunizations. A pilot needed to take a lot of shit in order to stay in fighting shape.

“There you go. You’re all set.”

Dr. Mercury smiled at him, her lipstick too red, her smile almost clownish. Nerio’s smile back was empty, brief, and insecure as he slid off the exam table and let his sleeve fall back down over the bandage the doctor placed on his arm. It did burn a little but these days, he was becoming numb to the after effects.

“Remember to report any side effects to your supervisor.”

“…right.” Nerio nodded and bumbled through the door and out of the sterile room, with its beige walls and posters of how to stay healthy and know the signals of illness. Lately, he was in such a fog that he wasn’t sure he knew which way was up and which was down.

Somehow, he made it back to the barracks, where he dropped into a heavy sleep. But when he woke up, he felt like he never slept and his whole body was shaking. The windows were dark and other soldiers and mecha pilots were now occupying their beds. Some snored loudly, others breathed in, out–soft and peaceful. Nerio raised a shaking hand to the side of his head, which pounded incessantly. Slowly, he crawled out of bed and swung his legs over the bunk. His feet touched the ground but when he tried to stand, everything felt like jelly.

He had to crawl to the bathroom, where he heaved out his guts. First he felt hot, searing from the inside and then he felt cold. He shivered and shook, holding onto the toilet bowl. Normally, he’d never rest his cheek tiredly against a toilet bowl but he felt like he was dying. His face on a toilet bowl was hardly the pressing issue here. Flashes of red clotted his vision and then the most horrific thoughts. Blood on his hands, blood on his face. His mother, his father. And who was that? Rien?

The next thing he knew, somebody was laughing and poking him on the shoulder, jabbing him where the shot had been given. Pain ran all the way down his arm. He lifted his head and looked up at one of the soldiers. A couple of the other guys were laughing and jostling one another. Amongst the words spoken, he heard hangover and something about partying too much. Ha ha. That was so Nerio. Such a partier. Not.

Forcing himself to stand up, Nerio dragged himself to a sink so he could wash his face. No, what he needed was a full on shower. Stripping down, he stepped into one of the showers and let the cool water cascade over him, waking him up and mostly dispelling the sickly feeling that clung to the edges of consciousness. Once he was washed up and awake, he made his way back over to his bunk. Honestly, now that he was clean and moving, he almost forgot just how crappy he felt the day before.

He smiled slightly to himself as he sat on the edge of the bunk.

Rachel Aseltine

R.A. Aseltine is an author and roleplayer living in California with her husband, guinea pig, and five cats.

Leave a Reply