Hot. Flames singed at his flesh.
Pain. His arm ached when he tried to cover his eyes, and his side throbbed with constant, stinging pain.
Alfred whimpered and remained lying down. “Oh God,” he asked, “My God, why did you forget me?”
“Forget who?” asked a voice.
The light in the room changed as an old woman with wild, grey curls sticking from her messy bun pulled a curtain open. She placed a hand on Alfred’s head, taking the chance to examine him. She grabbed a pen light and tested his pupils’ dilation. “Hmph. That bootup was supposed to be a test.”
Alfred’s rapid heartbeat and breathing slowed. “Where am I?” he asked. “I take it I’m not in Hell?”
“Depends on how much and what kind of Hell you believe in.” She flipped a switch, and the gears behind Alfred slowed. The hot fire dimmed. “This is The Bone Forge.”
Alfred swallowed. “No.” He lifted his painful arm, mechanical gears whirring. His right side, down to the lung and diaphragm, had been replaced with computerized versions. His body stung where his nerves and blood intersected with the machine’s circuitry and pipes. “This can’t be happening – I said no resuscitation, no experiments!”
“Oh, get over that. I haven’t paid attention to paperwork in months.” The old lady tsked, then unhooked a few electrical cords from Alfred’s body.
“I fought for our freedom,” Alfred said. “I was supposed to die for it, too, not become a… a mechanical zombie!”
She kicked the brakes on the gurney and moved the IV bag such that it hung at his head. “I can still cut the power to your brain, if you want. You’re not able to survive on your own, not for long.”
“Will they let you do it?”
“‘They’ don’t have any say in it.” She pushed the gurney through a door into a cool, dark hallway. Some of the lights flickered, some remained dark. “General Applequist surrendered his army three days ago, and our glorious Revolution’s about to be downgraded to just another civil war. The only people who would care if I pull the plug on you are our enemies, and them only because they’re jealous of my tech.” She shrugged. “I don’t care. I expect they’ll find me guilty of war crimes at my trial, and I’ll let them take my life. Better than them taking my secrets.”
Alfred winced as she pushed his gurney over a threshhold. The room he entered had barred windows, and the morning light shined through a light dust that swirled in the room. He could still smell the smoke from the bombings, from when the front had raged just at the edge of Diamond City.
His lip quivered. Pain echoed through his cheek, so he lifted his left hand – still human, not machine – and felt the smooth mechanics. “Can I look at my face?”
The old woman sighed, but she turned the gurney to face the cracked mirror on the wall.
Alfred turned his head away from the mirror. “God didn’t forget me. He purposefully turned away.”
“Believe about God what you want, but don’t forget this.” The old lady put a hand to the bed, just next to Alfred’s mechanical arm. “Your country never gave up on you. Not when you were a fresh recruit, not when you fired your gun, not when half your body’d been blown apart on the field, and certainly not now. Now, do you want this new life your blessed, dying country gave you, or should I leave you on the gurney’s battery power for a few hours and let you make your final prayers?”
He swallowed some saliva. “Plug me in. I… I want my mom.”
She grabbed the man’s cords and transferred the power to the wall outlet. “We’ll try to reach her, sweetie. Let me get you a book to read in the meantime.”
This was written for D. Wallace Peach’s monthly Speculative Fiction Prompt. It’s looking to be a *hot* prompt, so join in before the deadline!
If you enjoyed my sci-fi tale of cyborgism, consider reading my novella, If I Only Had No Heart. It’s a horror tale about a robot cult that encourages cyborgism, and it has a lot of feelings and themes in common with this flash fiction.
Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner