I groan as my head throbs in pain, a dull beat of a bass drum in against my skull, and my eyes slowly peel open, then immediately slam shut at the brightness of the room. I groan again and lift my hand to rub my forehead, but stop with a twinge of pain. I grunt and lower my arm back down. The beeping sound coming into focus reveals that I’m in a hospital. I begin my second try at opening my eyes against the blaring light to see the room at last.
I can see the room clearly, without my glasses. That does not bode well.
My head begins to clear, the white walls and curtain resembling all two of the hospitals I’ve visited. Best guess, I’m at least in the same century; everything seems in place, machines are beeping and whirring. I look at my wrist and find that a strap wrapped around it, and turning my head, I find the other in the same situation. I hope I didn’t do anything stupid in that memory gap.
“Hel-” Trying to say something, but I end up coughing, finding my throat dry. My minor racket earns me the attention of a nurse in blue scrubs. I wave at her with my bound wrists. She nods as she scribbles down on her clipboard, most likely noting that I’m awake, and picks up a water bottle with a straw, proffering it for me to drink, which I do so.
“Good morning. How are you today, Isaac?” The nurse seems to relax while I drink the provided water, probably after a long time of being worried about other patients under her watch or me. I sigh as I finish drinking my fill of water, feeling very naked under the hospital gown. How am I? Honestly, Slightly terrified with a hint of dizzy, but panicking while in a hospital is not going to help the situation.
“I feel like I’ve been unconscious for an extended period after doing something painful, so somewhat tired and mildly hungry, and also in dire need for coffee.” I smile at her and flex my wrists. “So, what happened? My memories are a bit hazy, so I’m kinda lost on how I got here.”
“Understandable; you had a seizure at school, that’s why we had to make sure you wouldn’t hurt yourself.” School? I graduated already, though… Memories flash for a moment, but they aren’t memories that I immediately recognize. Oh, I’ve reincarnated as a teenager, wonderful. “I’ll get your cuffs off after I inform the doctor and confirm that you’re not in any further danger.” I nod and watch her as she leaves, laying my head on the pillow.
“Well, this has been an interesting day.” I close my eyes and try to fall asleep, and desperately try to avoid the anxiety attack that I could feel building.
“You had a seizure that could have killed you, and you call it interesting ?” a voice from the bed next to me — A girl, a teenager. From the sound of her, she’d probably had a worse day than me.
“Well, I definitely could agree with the more common statement that it was a terrifying experience if I could remember it,” I remember my past. Still, I also remember my past, if that makes sense. “So, since you’re feeling talkative, mind if I ask how you got here?” I look towards the curtain that blocks my view of her and vice versa. All I get in return is silence. “Fair enough, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, maybe some other time” As I’m talking, memories start to clear up, and it’s getting mildly worrying.
- This world has superheroes and villains.
- My mother is single.
- My father is unknown.
- I haven’t asked.
- Mom may know.
- I’m originally from Chicago.
- My mother, Nicole, has moved with me so I can meet my dad.
- She seems to be more excited than apprehensive, which is good.
- She’s 38 years old.
- So she was 23 when I was born.
- I’m 15 again.
- I hate puberty.
- My Highschool years were crap.
- My new school is lovely, as are the students, but I may have slipped past the stereotypes.
“Mr. Ward, your mother is here to see you.” Oh, dear, this is going to be interesting. I turned my head towards the nurse and the woman standing behind her: shoulder length dirty blonde hair tied in a ponytail, sun-kissed fair skin, tired lapis-blue eyes, and she is built like a miniaturized amazon at 5’ 8” and very well-muscled, which she gained from training, which she has gifted to me to a lesser extent. She looks like she hasn’t slept much; I guess I may have been out for more than a day.
“Hey, mom,” I rasp as the nurse releases me. I start to rub my wrists; they don’t hurt or anything, but it just feels right. You always see it happen in fictional media. “So, I have a feeling that I may have been out for more than a day.” I cough a little after finishing the sentence, and the nurse gives me a glass of water to soothe my dry throat. “The cough makes it obvious.”
“You’ve been catatonic for a week, Isaac.” I see my mother’s worried face, faint streaks of tears marking her cheeks, and I can hear the worry in her voice. “I was worried when the school said you had some kind of seizure”—that word is sounding weird now—“I was worried that you wouldn’t wake up; I’m so happy my baby’s okay!” She hugs me, and I can feel her sobbing and the memories as to why come forth.
She works long hours and tends to be at home rarely, but whenever she had a day off for a holiday, she would spend as much time as possible with me. When I was little, I loved it, but when puberty began, I entered my rebellious teenage phase, aka being an unpleasant person to my parent for no other reason than to spite them. I hug my mother back, smiling. I shake my head.
“Mom, I’m fine,” I say weakly, feeling twinges of pain, “I’m alive, and I’ve got a friend, though that may just be the pain meds talking” I look at the nurse and point to where I think the voice was coming from, “if I wasn’t hallucinating, it came from there.”
“Ah yes, a Ms. Herbert,” the nurse says as she looks down at her clipboard, “she came in at the same time you did.”
“It’s Hebert.” I felt a small chill at that name, “not Herbert; people make that mistake a lot.” Hebert, where have I heard that name before. I lay my head back down on the pillow after Nicole—Mom—let me go, my memory buzzing but unable to load the memory. I close my eyes and try to focus on something else, and an itchy brain is not a nice feeling to have in any condition, especially not mine. After a while, Nic—Mom leaves me to head to work and says that she'll visit me when she can
"See ya later, Mom; I’m sure they'll take good of me.” She pecks my forehead and walks out of the room, looking like she’s had a weight lifted off her shoulders. The nurse scribbles something down on her — thing, what is it called again, it’s not a sketch or notepad, noteboard? Clipboard! — clipboard, probably something about my blood pressure, my state of consciousness, and probably stuff they don’t show on the medical tv shows.
My stay at the hospital was a pleasant week; I occasionally talked to Taylor, avoiding any conversation about how she got here and anything too personal. She’s friendly but reserved. Her dad visited her, and it sounded like he was trying to be a good father. Never got his name, didn’t want to intrude. There was a TV, thankfully, and I could get cartoons, but there were none of the ones I could recognize, alternate world weirdness, I guess. Mom—still kind of odd due to the second set of memories of having a different mom— visited me whenever she could; I haven’t asked about her job even as it has come to mind. The materials are trivial. Having graduated but oddly calming, my anxiety over my apparent isekai being pushed aside for the moment. At the end of the week, I’m finally let loose upon the world; sadly, Taylor got picked up before I could say goodbye.
I’m waiting for my mother to arrive, wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, winter boots, and jacket, the everpresent chill of winter marked by the pillow white drifts of snow. A calendar I got a good glance at told me the date, January 14th, 2011 . I head to the door to get some fresh air and continue to forestall my oncoming anxiety attack when I bump into another brunette—wearing what looks like a mix between classic fantasy priestess robes and an ambulance. She staggers back at my touch, blinking blearily.
“Sorry I didn’t see you.” I get ready to catch her as she seems less steady on her feet than myself. “And you look like you pulled an all-nighter. Do you want some coffee?” My mild headache, a fixture in my head since I have not had a cup of the black potion of energy all week. She looks at me confused and suspicious, eyes narrowing, translation: ‘Don’t you know who I am?’
“Don’t you know who I am?” Wow.
“You look like the dead that walks.” I walk over to the cafeteria, indicating it with a bob of my head. “Come on, all that medical cramming that med students do for college has a wonderful byproduct of creating the best kind of morning coffee.” I snicker at the expression on her face and smile as she follows me. We enter, and I make a beeline to the coffee. Grabbing two of the disposable coffee cups, I fill mine with the ebony lifeblood of the business person and then look towards my undead friend, who stares at me with her glassy eyes. “Would you like some cream and sugar or take it black to perfectly contrast those clean robes of yours?”.
“Black.” She yawns and rubs her eyes. I yawn sympathetically and fill her cup. Picking up my own and taking a sip of the scalding liquid. A beautiful symphony of earthy flavors encompassing my tongue. Returning to the land of the living.
“Ahhh, that’s the stuff,” I whisper as I sip my coffee, and my new friend sharing my sentiments. “So, now that I got you some coffee, may I be so bold to ask for your name? I’m Isaac.” I give her my hand to shake, but she just stares at it like it’s some kind of alien greeting. After a moment of my stubborn refusal to accept the awkwardness of the stillness, she takes my hand and light shake.
“Amy,” she states, and my grin grows a little.
“Nice to meet you, Amy. Hopefully, we won’t bump into each other again without saying hi first.” I raise my coffee at her as I head to the exit of the canteen, “Adiós,” I say as I leave and head back to the front, where my mother is scanning for me. I wave at her as she sees me. She wraps me in a hug and pecks the top of my head. Man, it feels weird being shorter than someone. “I’m ready to go.”
“That’s great, sweetie.” She smiles sweetly and leads me to the car, a Ford Fusion, a hybrid too. The drive through the city was quiet and rather lovely, but everything we pass is generic storefront after generic storefront that told me nothing about where I am, barring the ocean on the east side of the city. Besides the obvious fact, I’m in America, I now know I’m on the East Coast, somewhere between New York and Maine, judging by familiar accents.
It’s probably strange that I’m enjoying this investigation, whatever.
After a quiet drive, we arrive at the house. It’s a compact burgundy bungalow. I follow my mom to the front door and enter the house behind her. Like the outside, the inside is also comfortable but sparse of the typical trappings, like family pictures. My eyes snag on an adorable/embarrassing picture of me in a superhero Halloween costume when I… When I was...
I shove my hands into my pockets and take a deep breath to center myself.
“You ok, Isaac?” I turn to my mother, worry evident on her face. I chuckle and smile at her, rubbing the back of my neck.
“Yeah, just some nostalgic embarrassment is all.” I return to the photo of me in a superhero costume, I don’t recognize it, but that may be due to an alternate history or just a made-up hero. “I’m going to put my stuff down and unpack some more.” I get ready to head down the hallway.
“I want to give you something.” I stop and turn to where my mother is searching through a bag, eventually retrieving a…
Oh… oh god….
That is an iPhone 4… and she is handing it to me.
Mental screaming at the outdated hunk of crappy junk aside.
“Wow,” I say, with some genuine surprise, “you’re trusting me with this?” Honestly, I could probably make a better phone in my sleep with a couple of homemade superconductors and probably hack up an actual CPU with some crap I could find in my room. I mentally pause and blink for a moment as I process my Tony Stark moment and focus on my mother.
“Well, I was planning on giving it to you before you went to school, but I got called into work, then you had the seizure, so it got lost in the jumble.” She pinches the bridge of her nose, and I now notice the tired circles around her eyes and wince a little. She sees my reaction and waves it off. “It’s not your fault, and now I can call you in case of an emergency and vice versa!” I could hear the forced cheer in her voice and felt a surge of sympathy. So I hug her, and she returns it.
It feels nice.
“Thanks, Mom. If you want, we can go out for dinner, or I could try my hand at it?” She smiles at me, mussing my hair as she pecks my forehead; being short again still feels weird. I head to my room as my mother heads into the kitchen. I rub my eyes as I open the door, the fact that I don’t need glasses, making my face feel naked and awkward. I open the door of my room. Having just moved in last week and being unconscious for the most part doesn’t help this process. I look around the sparsely furnished bedroom. The bedsheets are bland, and the bed itself also standard, but being used to sleeping on the top bunk, so this will be a nice change of pace. I look at the desk and find a laptop — not an Apple one, thank goodness —but I could still give it some useful upgrades, making a quantum dual-core processor and a 50 terabyte solid-state hard drive. Seriously where do these ideas come from? I did go to college but didn’t graduate, and quantum computers were still in the testing stages. I spin around in frustration to focus my thoughts when my eyes catch a poster that I put up when I arrived.
A poster with a woman wearing military fatigues whose face is hidden behind an American flag bandanna. I search it to see if it was for a movie, or TV show, or something that told me that it was still a form of fiction. Not that Earth, not that capepunk story of a teenager that I met who will save the world at the cost of her humanity, and the other who is screwed up by her adoptive sister without realizing it. That I’m not in Brockton Bay, the testbed of Parahuman Feudalism and crime-riddled city extraordinaire. That I'm not in the home of Coil, host to Leviathan and the Slaughterhouse Nine, and the end of the World.
And I’m in the middle of it, and a tinker.
I am so screwed.