How do I explain? Where do you start when the world is crashing down around you? When the world is crashing down around you it's difficult to remember what you had for breakfast. The order of events begins to fade.
Moments shift and slide in time. A Rubik's cube of recollection. Six sides: each one broken up into 9 pieces. 43 quintillion permutations from 54 little coloured squares.
You sit and you spin the sides. Turning, twisting. You get a line. A side. Two sides. And suddenly, you can't remember where you are or how you got there.
Suddenly, you realize that what should be 6 sides broken into 54 pieces is actually a lifetime of moments, an infinite number of sides cut into an infinite number of pieces.
One day you wake up and a triangle has three right-angles... and a square has none.
One day... you wake up with blood on your hands.
You search your skin, your entire body, to find the cut, to patch it up so you don't bleed to death. Breathing heavy and frantic you writhe and wriggle to find the hole in your lower back where a kidney has been removed, strain your arms to reach the knife that's dug into your spine. But it isn't there. There is nothing but smooth, pale skin. And, for a brief moment in that unimaginable expanse of infinite possibility, all the billion billion squares line up.
And for a fleeting frozen instant, a single question. The burning white light of a dwarf star gone nova.
Whose blood is this?
And for a week, a day, a year, an hour, an instant, you sit on the edge of your bed and stare at your hands.
You flex your fingers and flakes of dried black blood drift to the floor. And as they peel away you see the skin underneath, the soft red stain on soft pink skin.
And then you get scared. Then you become afraid. You run, frantic, to the sink. Because only then do you realize that this blood, that is not yours, is not on you, it's in you.
It's infiltrating, integrating, insinuating itself into your body, becoming a part of, and getting lost in, the swirling chaos that is you. And you know that as hard as you scrub, as clean as you get, it's never coming out again. And, eventually, with shaking hands and aching arms, you give up.
Standing in the middle of the room, trying so hard to move the pieces round, to get them to fit together, you see a thin line leading toward the door. Soft red specks in the light-blue carpet. And though you don't want to, as hard as your muscles strain to hold you, you follow it.
And you walk slowly into the hall, feel the cold metal under your bare feet, watching the dark little splashes get bigger and bigger, knowing that there's no gingerbread house at the end of this trail. If ever there was such a thing as a happy ending, you know you're not going to find it here.
Standing there. Lights up to full bright. On the edge of a five and a half liter ocean. The surface covered in little ripples as it congeals. All you can think of is cold tomato soup. And all you can see is image of it gushing from her throat.
Streams and gouts and torrents splashing her jumpsuit and spreading out around her as she falls to the floor. Patricia. Her name was Patricia.
It feels cool as it seeps between your toes, falling slowly back to fill the hole that each step leaves. And the sound is just terrible, like nothing you've ever heard. And as you lean over her, as she lies there, eyes open, you have a terrible vision.
Her head turning, ever so slowly, creaking rigor mortis vertebrae, and she looks at you, dead in the eye. Her hand comes up and grabs the collar of your shirt, pulling herself up towards you, not speaking, not blinking, just staring. Staring.
The vision fades, and you can't look at her anymore, so you stand and walk to the line of sleeping cabinets.
And there, the fifth of six. It has her name written on it in soft white letters. But you don't want to open it. You don't want it to be true. You just want to get in, to lie down and sleep for 300 years, when all that will be left of her is dry bones. But you can't leave her there. There's too much in those bones to just leave behind like that.
Lying there, lifeless, pale, she looks deceptively light. But as you try to lift her, as you drag her to her cabinet, you can feel her true weight. You take her body in your arms, and she's heavier than you can remember anyone ever being.
And as the door opens, a wash of cold air spreads itself over you, through you. And as you lay her down to her frozen bed you look again into her face, and you notice for the first time little flecks of brown in the pale blue of her left iris. And then she is flat on her back, and her head falls away.
The casket hums quietly as you close the lid and turn around. Two thick, dark lines frame a thinning trail of deep red footprints. And you want to turn, and you want to run. You want to find a corner to hide in, to turn off the lights and huddle up, safe and warm. But instead you slowly walk the row of caskets.
If you were 29 when you lay down in one of these beds and slept a thousand years, you'd be barely 30 when you opened your eyes again. But as the soft-white block lettered names pass, and you see the expressionless face of the person inside each one, you suddenly know that you could wait ten thousand generations and they'd never wake up. The little square display panels, they aren't flashing, just a slow procession, casket after glass faced casket, -1 degree centigrade, condition: deceased.
And the weight comes down hard. Because you can't remember anything, all you can feel is that you know these faces. Somehow you know every single one. The dimples and blemishes, the eyebrow with a bald patch where a scar runs across, the slightly bent nose, the ears like bat's wings. Each one familiar, but each one strange.
And suddenly your own eyes get heavy, the lids begin to fall, and all you want to do is sleep.
So you pad slowly back, past the bloody paw marks on the bulkhead door, the thick red drops waning with every step, and for the second time you leave an awful trail behind you.
And the door opens, the carpet is soft and warm beneath your feet. The pillow comes up beneath your head and the lights dim, your eyes close, and you forget about the blood on your clothes, on your face, in your hair, and you fall deep into dreams that can't possibly be worse than what you've just seen.
My god, what have I done?