Dead Again

by Frederick Foote

A work of science fiction that imagines a vicious loop of life and death for a soldier, with no end in sight…

September 21, 2078

I close my eyes and take a deep breath as Hays zips me into my High-Pressure Hazardous Duty Level III suit. If things go as projected, in less than twenty-five minutes I’ll be dead — again. It’s not the dying that’s so bad, it’s the coming back. They say you come back one-hundred percent as good as new, but they’re full of shit. They haven’t died and Returned themselves. Maybe the first time you come back close to what you were, but even then…

First Death and Return – August 13, 2077

“Douglas Pierce Gardner, you’re back. Your first and, I hope only, Return was picture-book perfect. The mind/consciousness transfer went off without a hitch and your new cloned body is in excellent working order. You should feel ten years younger by the end of your seven-day adjustment period.”

“Fuck, man I feel awful. The lights. Turn down the fucking lights. I’m going to throw the fuck up.”

“Gardner, there’s a receptacle by your bed. Let me help you. Let me—”

“Stay the fuck away from me.”

I vomit and dry heave. The tech hovers around like a fly waiting to land on shit.

I have fever, the shakes, and my nose’s running. I feel, disoriented, lost, scared. “How did I die? Was there an explosion? What happened to the rescue? Did we get them out?”

“Ah, I don’t have the details. Your supervisor Susan Brown is in route—”

“My wife? Celia, where’s Celia?”

“She’s here. She’s outside. I must run a few tests, and then you can see her. Your discomfort is normal and should pass in the next twenty-four hours. So, let’s get these tests done so you can see your wife, okay?”

“Doug, oh, Doug, I’m so sorry. You, Oh God, you died. I’ can’t stop crying. I can’t—”

“Hey, hey don’t cry. Don’t cry. It’s me. This is me. They recorded my memory, sensory inputs, everything right up until, until it happened. They had this clone body ready. I just can’t remember the last, last minutes just before, before it happened. Traumatic amnesia, I guess.”

“Doug, I know this is weird, and not the time, but your body, your dead body, what happens to it? Will it be buried? Will there be a funeral? I just — I’m confused.”

“Me too. Me too. I don’t know. I don’t know shit. I feel weird, off center. The kids? What did you tell them?”

“Josh saw the crash at school. It was a major news story. He, he, he’s having a hard time with it. Jill just wants to see you. I’ll get her in a minute. You look sick. Should I get a doctor?”

“There was a crash? Tell me, no don’t. Susan will have the details. No doctor. They say this is normal. Fuck, what’s normal? I don’t know anymore. Can I see the kids just to hold them for a minute?”

“Honey, Josh doesn’t want to see you. He’s adjusting to, to it all.”

“Well, just have him come in here and look and see—”

“He’s not here. He’s with my mother. But they say that’s a normal reaction—”

“Babe, they, they are a bunch of fucking liars. Oh, my head. Jill. Can Jill come in?”

September 21, 2078

“Okay, Control, as you can see my visibility’s less than a half a meter. Guide me to the valve. And, give me an Environmental Gas Stability update. My gage isn’t working.”

“Doug this is Susan in Control. I’ll guide you to the valve. Pick up your pace. Your gage is offline to keep your mind on the task.”

“Control, Susan, fuck that shit. Turn the gage back on.”

“Doug, we don’t have time for this. You’re ten meters from—”

“Turn on the fucking gage! I know I’m expendable, but I need to see what’s happening. I need to know.”

“Doug, move to your right. One more step. Okay, you’re next to the wall. Pick up your speed and keep next to the wall—”

“Goddamn, you. Turn on the fucking gage!”

“The gage’s online, but—”

“No fucking buts! I’m not a fucking robot. What the fuck? I’m in the danger zone already! Do I even have time to get to the valve?”

“Five meters to go Doug.”

“Fuck you all to hell Susan Brown.”

“Three meters Doug.”

“I’m here. It’s not the valve. The line ruptured. Shit! look at this—”

Second Death and Return – September 23, 2078

Celia, babe, I’m sorry for losing it. I get these flashes of something and I don’t know what it is. It scares the shit out of me.”

“Doug, Doug, two deaths are too much for me and for the kids, for all of us. I can’t handle it. I can’t. I’m sorry. I truly am. I love you, the first you I married, that you. I could barely be around the second you. You aren’t you to me anymore. You’re not a ghost. I would welcome a damn ghost. Doug, or whatever you are, you give me the fucking creeps.”

“Celia, listen, please listen I, I, need to tell you something, something important about death — I can’t remember. But it’s important.”

“I have a restraining order. I had to. You scare the kids. You scare me. Please stay away from them. If you love them, you will. Goodbye Douglas.”

September 28, 2078

“Douglas, this is Susan. I know you’re having it rough. I know you’re angry about the last assignment. We had to know what the problem was. You saved countless lives. You’re going to receive the National Service Medal.”

“Susan, do you know how Celia and the kids—”

“They’re doing as well as can be expected. Your latest death really shook them.”

“Can you get a message to them?”

“I think that would violate your restraining order.”

“It’s important. It’s about dying.”

“Which is what I’m calling about. The Company therapist says you have suicidal ideation, clinical depression, and—”

“Susan, I need to, to see them. At least let me see them. You owe me that fucking much.”

“You know I can’t do that. But you need to review your contract. If you commit suicide, we’ll bring you back. You need to carefully consider your options—”

“Fuck you! Fuck all of you crazy, manipulative motherfuckers!

Third Death and Return – September 30, 2078

“Douglas, open your eyes. This is Susan. Shooting yourself was pointless. We have a new assignment for you. This will be the last one. I promise. I swear on your graves.”

One reply on “Dead Again”
  1. says: Arthur Rosch

    It’s compact. I like that. It’s disturbing. I like that too. When death isn’t death any more, life seems to fall apart. And they lie to us, all the time. Even about life and death. Then they take away our ultimate solace, suicide. Their cruelty is boundless.

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