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By @aaron_stiefel

Who Am I?

At first, there is nothing.

I stand in the place between life and the beyond, waiting, to be set free. I see everything, I see nothing, I see the thousand paths I could have walked, the thousand steps that brought me to this ending.

Except it isn’t an ending.

I gasp awake, lungs screaming as my body moves. Everything is cold, from my skin to my soul. If I had the energy to move, I’d be shivering violently. As things are, it’s all I can do to stay awake.

A woman bends over me, and places her hand on my shoulder. A moment passes, and warmth floods through my body, as if she has simply pressed a few buttons and changed my internal temperature.

I smile as the cold dissipates, and she brightens as if the world was broken and has now been righted. Her face is like the sunrise, I am blinded, burned, and healed all at the same time.

“Nadia? Do you know who I am?”

Her voice feels like coming home, but I can’t say that. I don’t know her name. I don’t know her. I don’t know anything. But most importantly…

“Who the hell is Nadia?”

Fear and worry creep into the woman’s features. Her eyes dart around for a moment, as if making sure she is alone, and as the cold fades away, my mind begins to catch up with me.

I find myself lying in a strange bed, almost like it were made of water, set into the floor, surrounded by wires and cords. This woman is in trouble, or perhaps I am, because blue lights are flashing in the enormous room around me, and a faint mechanical voice recites, Warning! Breach of security! over and over again.

I notice that there are other bodies like mine, surrounding me, asleep and connected to thousands of wires like the ones strewn around me.

I’m not connected. I think, and for some reason, I feel relieved. The woman tugs on my arm, and snaps me out of my confusion with her panicked voice. “Come on, Nadia. I’ll explain later. But right now, we need to get out of here!”

Some quality in her voice leads me not to question her, but rather to weakly sit up, then, with her hand firm on my shoulder, rise to my feet.

I almost fall over again, dizzy, but she catches me, and holds me steady.

“It’s alright, Nadia. You’ve been in the dream for a long time, and you aren’t used to your new body, this is going to take some getting used to.” She says softly.

She doesn’t specify what ‘this’ is, and I don’t have the strength to ask what she means. New body? The dream? Nadia?

She begins to help me in the direction of a door and as I stumble along beside her I struggle to figure out what is going on. Nothing makes sense about this place, and I don’t understand why it all feels so familiar, these bodies, the blue lights, that droning mechanical voice, and this woman’s arm, wrapped around me and holding me up.

I try to think of the things I know. My name is Amanda Hospice, I am twenty-one year old struggling artist, and I am moving to San Francisco from Missouri. I was. Then my car got hit by a truck, I felt a flash of pain, and everything disappeared. I died. But I woke up.

My mind starts to whirl and I feel like I’m going to be sick. I stop hobbling, and stare at the nearest sleeping form, waiting for the panic to settle. Yet, then I see the hand of the person lying down.

It’s completely metal.

My heart starts to race.

“Come on, Nadia.” The woman says desperately, grabbing a hold of my hand. “We need to go!”

I shake my head, drawing my eyes from the metal hand to her face. “No. Not until… Not until you tell me what’s going on.”

The woman looks around urgently, then back at me. “I can’t explain it all here. They’ll find us. Please. Just trust me, and I’ll fill you in when we’re safe. Okay?”

She looks me in the eyes for the first time, and suddenly, seeing her anguished blue eyes, something stirs within me, and I slowly nod.

With that, we are running, dodging the sleeping forms, and scrambling to the door.

The alarm grows louder.

We keep running, desperately. I am tired; the fatigue is really taking its toll. Everything hurts.

This woman keeps running, dragging me along like a rag doll. I have so many questions, and yet none of them can get answered; yet.

I hear people yelling. Everything feels and sounds surreal. I hear gunshots, but we simply keep running; no looking back. So many hallways that all look the same; bodies litter the floors. This woman seems to know where she is going; this escape was clearly planned.

My head is reeling from everything.

My name is Amanda, but she calls me Nadia.

I was dead, and yet I am here, running like there is no tomorrow.

What is this about a dream?

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