Jamie’s vision spun. Fragmented. Blurred, focused, then shattered again. He was vaguely aware of movement all around him — a sea of faces, flashing blue and red lights, a revolving glass door.
“Mr. Fraser, can you hear me?”
“… Aye…” He heard the rasp of his own voice as though he were somehow disconnected from it.
“Mr. Fraser, you’ve been in an accident. You’re in the emergency room at Mass General. There’s gonna be a lot going on here, okay, buddy? A lot of people, a lot of activity. Just know that we’re doing everything we can to get you stabilized.”
“62/37, Dr. Goldstein.”
“Run that LR wide open. Did we type him?”
“Yeah, I got it.”
“Alright, let’s get 2 units of O neg on standby. We need that second access, people! Someone get me at least a 16 gauge in this guy—”
A fresh surge of blood trickled over the side of the stretcher, splattering the hospital floor with red.
Cold. Christ, he was so cold.
There was a muttered curse above him, and then the heel of large, strong hands pressed to his chest, poised to begin CPR.
“Come on, buddy, stay with me…”
The world closed in, a monitor screamed, and then there was nothing.
Oblivion had its distinct advantages.
There was no comprehension of time or space, no sense that the world had continued to turn while Jamie lay motionless, hovering indecisively on the line between life and death. There was no pain, no horror, no anguish. He didn’t dream. He didn’t remember. He merely was — and even then, he managed only a tremulous, flickering hold on existence.
All in all, though, the void wasn’t so bad.
When he did, at last, begin the sluggish process of coming back to himself, Jamie’s first awareness was one of noise. All around him, enveloping him, was a mingled, whirring drone: a low, steady, mechanical thrum, the dull roar of a heating vent, a peaceful bubbling sound, like water boiling on a stove.
Slowly, he managed to crack crusted lashes apart. At once, his vision swam dizzyingly, and he let the heavy lids fall shut again before they’d fully opened. Still, it was long enough to spark the realization that there was something there … something beyond the darkness.
Green, he thought dimly, struggling for the word. There was a green light, just ahead of him. If he focused hard enough, he could still make it out, glowing beyond his closed eyelids.
The overwhelming majority of his brain begged him to let it go; to surrender, to slide back down into nothingness. Still, his interest was piqued. Curiosity got the better of his instinct for self-preservation, and Jamie stubbornly pried his eyes open a second time.
There it was again: that bright chartreuse light. Ignoring the near-violent wave of vertigo, he stared at it hard this time, willing his pupils to constrict, to focus. Gradually, painstakingly, the blurred luminance began to sharpen and take shape.
A rectangle… several of them. Five of them. Glowing, neon green rectangles.
Jamie stared at them until the churning, pitching dizziness began to abate. Only then did he dare to drag his gaze down slightly, to the flicker of movement just below the steady green glow. Bleary eyes watched the letters that scrolled repeatedly in front of him, reading over and over without any sort of comprehension.
Fentanyl… Midazolam… TPN… Lipids… Cefazolin
His eyes began to blur again, wet and strained from the effort of remaining open so long. He let them drift shut, feeling himself tip back toward unconsciousness. Right on the cusp, he drew in a deep breath on the pretense of a sigh.
That slight stretch of skin over ribs, and it was over. He was back in his own body, then. Immediately, desperately, he wished he wasn’t.
Nothing could have prepared him for it.
Nape to waist, he was flayed open. Shredded flesh, muscle, sinew; raw red tissue, splintered bone, nerve endings exposed and pulsing, burning… scalding…
Igniting with white hot agony, he seized up; he couldn’t move; he couldn’t stop moving — shuddering, convulsing. He tried to twist away from his own skin, and vaguely heard himself screaming.
Somewhere overhead, a high-pitched alarm screeched. Then another. Far away, he heard the pound of several sets of footsteps, running.
“Jamie!” A frantic cry rose over the whirlwind of overlapping voices that suddenly pressed all around him.
“Hold him!” commanded another, unfamiliar voice.
A fizzy, chemical burn in his veins, and his head swam, rippling as though a stone had been skipped across the surface of his mind.
The void opened up gaping black arms and welcomed him home.
Jamie fell back into it with more relief than he’d ever felt in his life.