“I can’t feel my limbs,” groaned Kerns.
“Don’t worry,” the man’s voice responded. “Only a few more minutes and everything should feel normal again.”
Kerns began to flail on the cold metal slab. His arms and legs were engulfed in the pins and needles sensation as though they lacked proper circulation.
“Please relax,” said the man calmly. “You’re going to throw off my readings.”
Kerns’s rolled his eyes to the left and right as far as he could, but the leather restraint across his forehead wouldn’t allow him to move his head or see the source of the voice. The strap matted his dirty blond hair to his forehead. Nervous beads of sweat formed across his brow.
“What readings?” asked Kerns, exasperation slowly to filling his voice. “Come where I can see you!”
“Do you feel any pain?” quizzed the hidden voice from the depths of the room.
Though he couldn’t see the man, Kerns assumed he was located somewhere to his left. He focused his blue eyes, staring hard into the fluorescent light affixed to the ceiling directly above him. The annoying buzz of the light matched the buzzing in his extremities.
“I don’t feel… anything.”
The hidden man ignored Kerns’s pleas and continued on.
“Try to move your right arm, Mister Kerns?”
“I can’t feel my right arm,” answered Kerns, flatly.
“You must try.”
“You’ll let me go if I try?”
“Of course,” answered the man in a patronizing tone.
Kerns continued staring into the bulb above him. It was all he had to focus on. He concentrated for a moment, but felt nothing.
“I can’t,” gasped the man on the metal slab, exhaling deeply.
“Once more?” bargained the voice.
Kerns realized that the voice was moving. The man was several feet behind him now, near his head. Kerns looked deeper into the fluorescent bulb above him. His cheeks began to quiver as he focused all his energy on the simple motion of wiggling the fingers on his right hand. Once again, he felt the familiar sting of failure.
“I can’t!” wailed Kerns.
“Oh, but you did, Mister Kerns. This is truly remarkable.”
“I’m uncomfortable. Make this feeling go away.”
“And now the left arm?”
“No!” snapped Kerns. “Not until you tell me where I am!”
“Do you remember where you were before this, Mister Kerns?” questioned the voice.
“Of course I do.”
“Would you share with me?”
Kerns blinked again, the buzz of the light filled his mind. He reached into the depths of his brain for a recent memory. He fished for any memory to share. He needed to show this man to show that he was in control. His search was met by only the buzzing of the light.
“I… I can’t remember,” whispered Kerns.
“That’s wonderful news!” encouraged the voice.
Kerns was tired of the light. Tired of the buzzing. Tired of this man’s games.
“How is that good news!?” demanded Kerns.
“It means that you do not remember the accident.”
“Accident?” asked Kerns quietly.
“Yes,” answered the voice. “Very traumatic.”
Kerns’s voice was rapidly descending into a whimper. It was the sound of a man losing hope.
“The fact that you cannot remember means that the upload link is working.”
“What are you—“
“Good!” interrupted the voice, suddenly filled with enthusiasm. “You moved the left one! Now your right leg.”
Kerns retraced the voice to somewhere near his feet. It was clear that he couldn’t bargain with this man. Cooperation was his only option. He refocused on the light.
“Fantastic work!” complimented the man. “Motor skills online.”
“Please let me go now,” begged Kerns, his face glistening with sweat.
“Absolutely, Mister Kerns. It is, in fact, time to let you go.”
Male arms appeared over Kerns’s face, lowering a pair of metal goggles over his eyes.
“Please count backwards from five,” requested the man.
“And you’ll let me go?”
Kerns closed his eyes. He had no choice but to trust the voice.
Kerns could still hear the buzzing. He could still feel it in his arms and legs. It had invaded his head and replaced his memories. It was everything.
The buzzing grew more intense. His arms and legs began to burn.
Kerns’s head began to throb.
The buzzing engulfed Kerns, pulsating through every vein in his body. The sound pounded in his ears as though his insides had been replaced with a swarm of bees.
The buzzing stopped. All sound had ceased and feeling returned to Kerns’s body. His memories began to trickle back in. He opened his eyes to find himself staring a man in a white lab coat. Gray streaked his predominately black hair and he smiled at Kerns as he pushed his glasses up on his nose.
“Welcome back,” said the man in the familiar voice. “This body should feel much better.”
“What do you—“ started Kerns.
He paused as his eyes focused on the metal slab between them, more specifically, on the male body atop it. It was covered to the shoulders with a pale blue sheet and metal goggles hid the majority of the face. Wires traced off the faceplate to various machines in what appeared to be some sort of hospital room. Kerns wasn’t sure where he was, but he was positive that this was his body. Struck with panic and curiosity, he pulled back the sheet.
Beneath the sheet, bloodstained stumps, which had been cauterized and crudely sewn up, replaced the area where his arms and legs had once been. The abomination in front of Kerns was merely a torso. His torso. Memories of the accident came flooding back into his brain.
“What have you done?” breathed Kerns.
From behind, the man brought his hand to rest on Kerns’s shoulder causing him to jump in surprise.
“I’ve given you a second chance.”