He woke up to complete darkness. There were a few moments of panic before he remembered where he was and why the darkness was what awaited his waking eyes. Even though he went in voluntarily, he was scared of the possibility of waking up to complete darkness every day. Three knocks, two knocks, three knocks, he remembered. He took a deep breath and started knocking.
He heard footsteps and mumbling coming from the other side. Suddenly a burst of light forced him to shut his eyes. He was hoping it was his friends who were in the brightness and not anyone else.
“Wow, you actually made it... can’t believe it really worked!” exclaimed a familiar voice with excitement. “Come on out buddy.”
He opened his eyes a bit, squinting just enough to make out the silhouette of a man offering his hand. He grabbed the offered hand and took a step out. His weak legs were unable to carry his weight and when he was sure that he would fall, he was grabbed by the person next to him.
“It’s alright buddy. You haven’t moved in weeks and your body is kind of messed up, it will take some getting used to.”
Weeks?? It couldn’t have been that long. He assumed he would have felt rested if he had been unconscious for that amount of time. He wondered how many weeks it had been, but couldn’t find the strength to speak. Even breathing was taking effort. And how messed up was his body? He knew they would take out pieces, but how much did they actually remove?
His eyes were getting used to the light and he could see his long, very long, time friend carrying him to the vehicle they put together decades ago.
As they made their way through the open field, both his senses and strength started making their way back. “How long?” he asked, clearing his throat. “How long have I been...?”
“A little more than 3 weeks, we thought you would come out of it in a few days. We were starting to think you were gone for good. The scientists apparently messed some of stuff up. After a week had passed they re-checked each calculation and datum, and realized the damn excel sheet converted one of the genes into a date. They’ll be happy to see you’re alright. Better than dead.”
A wheelchair was brought out for him when they arrived. Pride told him to reject the wheelchair and try to walk in looking strong, but logic and reality made him thankful it was brought out and he got into the wheelchair with the help of his friend.
“...All of our members have faced these questions, yet only a few have reached a decision.
You have come here and opened your minds. These questions are burdens to carry as long as you live. For this I would like to apologize to you. And now, I would like to officially welcome you all.
Welcome to Ohm.”
His eyes caught Arsinoe’s as she finished her speech. She turned back to the crowd and calmly addressed them;
“Well, you are a lucky bunch. Today is a special day. One of our volunteers has undergone many transformations and horrors to make our hopes a reality some day. He is now unique on this Earth. He is no longer registered. No trackers, no serial numbers, no identifiers. He is considered by everyone and every system in place to be deceased. I wish we could shout out his name, but for reasons of security he will from now on go by the name he chose for himself. Please join me in welcoming back ‘Uncle’.”
The newbies looked confused and disturbed at the state of him, but applauded anyway. He remembered his confusion when he was given the speech on his first day. Even though he didn’t get to see anyone whose body probably looked like an overused cadaver, he had never thought he would be one of the martyrs or volunteers. He had thought he would just be working in the background. Funny how things play out. He smiled.
His wheelchair started moving again, towards, he realized, the health centre.
He saw some scientists along the way catching glimpses of him and sighing with relief and crying and smiling all at the same time. They must have been going mad with guilt.
“Look at you, still barely breathing” said the only doctor they had, jokingly. He never understood why she joined Ohm. The Doctor was intelligent and a part of the STEM crowd. The Doctor would be able to live pure forever. Isn’t that what everyone wanted?
“Luckily you didn’t have many tech parts. But still, it will take some time to fix your body, even with the formula. During that time we will start on your physiotherapy to make up for the muscle loss.”
He nodded in agreement as if he had a choice while the doctor drew some blood.
“I will get you into surgery in a little while, after that you need to rest to make sure your body heals properly.”
The Doctor’s calm voice was interrupted by Arsinoe’s distressed one. “Welcome back. I am afraid I need to give you some bad news. Your niece has gone through with the complete conversion. She is a complete tech now. We were following her every move as you had asked us to and she requested a hand function update. In the middle of it all, she opted for the complete conversion. There was nothing we could do.”
That was it then. His entire family was gone now. He loved his niece as if she was his own daughter. He’d always tried his best to make sure she would never become complete tech. He felt guilty for being, in a sense, dead for so long that he couldn’t keep an eye on her. He felt like it was his fault. But melancholy would not help him now. He made an effort to divert his sadness into anger towards the pure ones. It was so easy to do.
“I ...” he coughed “I don’t..” he started coughing again.
The Doctor interfered “Don’t try to talk now, there is oedema around your vocal chords. Talking will only cause pain. You will have more than enough time to talk when you are healed.” Then she turned to Arsinoe “I don’t think this is the time or place to discuss these things. Don’t you have some orientation to do somewhere?”
He always found it funny that the two pure women of Ohm couldn’t stand each other’s existence. They probably both wanted to be the only pure woman around. They were also polar opposites. Whereas the Doctor was caring and warm towards everybody, Arsinoe was usually referred to as the Iron Lady. Seeing Arsinoe give a sincere smile was a rare sight.
“Fine” said Arsinoe, “I will see you in a couple of days Uncle” and walked out.
The machines started beeping moments after she left. The Doctor looked at the blood results and exclaimed “Brilliant! We can start the surgery now. I know you have been awake for a very little time but I need to put you back to sleep again. I will see you soon.”
As he inhaled the gas from the mask, he thought of his family. All of them were slaves now. All of them lost forever. While his eyes were closing, his last thought was “Wish I never woke up.”