She was there when he woke, just like he knew she’d be.
Leaning over him, like she’d done a million times before in half-remembered dreams. She was so beautiful, easing the needles out of his veins, checking his vitals, making sure he was okay. A frown on her features, just a flicker across the brow; here, then gone. It was different this time, tense in her shoulders; she was on edge. Something had happened, and it wasn’t good, but there was no chance to ask her. She clicked off the whirring machines with a practiced flick and was gone. Leaving him lying here, alone in the bright white room. “Alone.” A tiny sound whispering in the back of his head. One voice. Ten voices, a million voices; he couldn’t tell. They were indistinct, heard through a heavy fog, hanging in the air. To understand them, he must bridge the chasm, such a great distance and no way of crossing; no coin, no ferryman. He couldn’t make the journey. He looked down at his arms. Weren’t there supposed to be tattoos there? Entwined vines? Flowers? “Yes.” He used to have tattoos before, somewhere, but there was nothing on his arms; or anywhere else for that matter. His body was unmarred, a blank canvas; smooth and free of scars and blemishes. Where were the scars? He sits up, still a bit dizzy after waking. Why should there be scars? He remembers where he is now, he's seen this place many times before. “Alone.” The whispers get louder. “She took your flowers.” Telling him things. This place, a converted mining facility, medical lab; set up just for him. “How special for you! You’re still going to die alone.” This is not the first time he's been here. Telling him to do things. “Get up.” Whispers, urging him to take action. “You must not let them know, that you know.” She would suspect if he responded differently this time. Head swimming with conflicting voices and confusion, he lays back down. “Yes.” He feels this is the expected action, they cannot know he knows. The voices whisper again: “But what if they already know? What then?” He looks down at his arms again. Searching for scars he knows should be there, nothing, blank. “Wait.” Footsteps in the hallway outside the room. He closes his eyes, tries to clear his mind. The footsteps move away. Leaving him alone in the bright white light. Leaving him alone. Except for the voices. Always voices.
He tries to sleep.