Revived by Ernesto Pavan by Ernesto Pavan - Read Online

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Revived - Ernesto Pavan

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coincidental.

Dedication

To my father Armando (1950-2012)

It started like a bad influenza – one that gave me constant, terrible headaches, made my muscles feel like wet rags, and prevented me from holding anything in my stomach. I didn’t want to call Rose, but when my temperature reached 104°, I phoned her. My voice probably sounded like something coming from the grave while I begged her to go to my doctor and pick up a prescription. The cheating bitch replied that she was so sorry, but she was at her new girlfriend’s parent’s house and couldn’t free herself. Didn’t I have anyone else to call? Had I tried lying down? I thought I had called her every name when I found out her concept of working overtime included eating out some other girl, but I insulted her more before hanging up, just to be sure.

Of course I had no one else to call: I had cut off most of my old friends because she didn’t like them. And my parents would come only if I assured them I was in agony, and even then, just to watch the show. So I took some antivirals I still had in the house and went to bed, hoping that, should I never wake up, I’d turn into the most annoying ghost to ever phase through a wall.

I woke up twelve hours later, feeling like my soul was trying to wrestle her way out of my body. Being self-employed, I couldn’t call in sick, so I stumbled to my desk and tried to get some work done; but after waking up with my face on the keyboard for the third time, I called 911. I told the guy my symptoms and, when the ambulance arrived at my place, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone was wearing gloves and masks, as if I had God-knew-what contagious disease. I don’t have the Plague, I tried to tell them, but I don’t know if the words actually left my mouth. Talking, thinking, and even breathing were getting harder every minute.

The whole trip to the hospital and the first day I spent there are still blurry in my memory. But I remember a bearded doctor’s sad face when he looked at me and shook his head, and the less compassionate, more curious expressions of the interns who looked at me as if I was their occasion to study something that came up only rarely. I remember being unable to separate my troubled sleep from reality: at times I was sure to be awake, but then my mother’s voice would start screaming from the corridor to let the dike bite the dust, or Rose would walk through the door and start making out with a cute girl who looked a bit like Scarlett Johansson, at which point I resigned myself to the delirium and let it take its course. The first thing I remember with clarity is waking up with the bearded doctor at the side of my bed.

Are you awake, Miss Sharpe?

I told him that yes, I was awake, and yes, I remembered that my name was Violet and I lived in my house at my address; I was about to ask him if he knew anybody that would be interested in sharing a small but comfortable apartment, since my shitty ex-girlfriend left me with a mortgage I couldn’t pay by myself, but I thought that maybe he wasn’t in the house-sharing business, so I just answered his questions.

"Miss Sharpe, I’m sorry to tell you that you have been diagnosed with thanatos perpatematos," he told me with suitable, professional sadness.

Damn, I thought this was real, but no, apparently I’m still sleeping, I told myself, ignoring the fact that I could feel the needle in the back of my hand, smell the garlic in the good doctor’s breath, and taste the bitterness of my dried-out mouth.

If you want to contact someone, you can give us their number and we’ll do it for you. If you like, we can also give you psychiatric assistance to help deal with your condition and make the choice between euthanasia and Reanimation.

I blinked. Thank you, but… I’m not sure you got it right. I don’t have the zombie disease.

The bearded doctor (I squinted to read his name tag; apparently, his last name was Stewart) let out a small sigh. "I’m truly sorry, Miss Sharpe, but you have thanatos perpatematos, we are sure of that. You can access your medical data and have it interpreted by any physician of your choice, but the diagnosis will be the same."

That’s not possible, I told myself. The zombie disease isn’t real, and if it is, other people catch it, not me. I wasn’t bitten.

That’s not necessary, even if it’s the most common way. You might have eaten infected food, or had sexual intercourse with a carrier; someone from the Center for Disease Control will probably want to ask you some questions about that. Still, the fact is that-

I’m dying, I cut him off. The thought sent shivers all over my body, but at least, when he nodded, I knew that I wouldn’t have to hear another cold description of what was happening to me. I licked my lips. How much time do I have?

At this stage, you have about one week before you’ll have to choose.

I was so tired I barely felt my heart sink. Only that?

The doctor nodded. I know. I’m sorry, Miss Sharpe.

What happens if I choose… the first thing?

You will be given pain medications to make your remaining days as comfortable as possible. Then, when the time comes, we’ll sedate you and cut the blood flow to your brain without stopping your heart, to make sure that you won’t reanimate.

And what if I choose the other thing?

We’ll still medicate you and sedate you, but we’ll let you reanimate. I must warn you, though… He turned his eyes away from me; then, as if he remembered that a doctor was supposed to be brave, he looked back. Reanimation is a very unsettling experience, Miss Sharpe. You will… survive it, of course, but it could be very shocking. And above that, there would be the other consequences of your new state.

Meaning that I’d be a zombie.

Yes, ma’am.

Something started to stir inside me, like a red sun raising and blasting everything away with its light. I was losing it. Do you need anything else from me? I asked quickly.

No, but-

Then please, leave me alone, I almost begged. Doctor Stewart seemed about to reply, then he looked into my eyes and changed his mind.

Goodbye, Miss Sharpe, he said, before turning and leaving.

I held myself together until he got out of the room. I broke when I heard the door close. I railed against the world, against Rose, against myself for not having a God to curse; I cried until my eyes dried out; I punched the bed and tried to tear the sheets, but I was too weak to do more than crumple them. Mine must have been a common reaction, because nobody came to check on me. When tiredness silenced my screams, I felt like I was about to die; and indeed, I thought, that was what they had just told me.

But dying was supposed to come at the end of a life well fulfilled, and where was mine? All I ever got were a family that rejected me, a cheating girlfriend, and a hopeless freelance job; was that all I was supposed to achieve? Lights off, system shutdown, see you in the next life? Wasn’t there anything else in store for me? I couldn’t believe it, but reality disagreed with me. I would die. I would die soon. And I would die as I lived, with no one caring.

My throat was so sore I couldn’t scream anymore, so I sobbed until I was too tired to do anything but sleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night, when my body – or whatever was infesting it – decided that it was time for a new bout between Death and yours truly. I was burning. I tried to kick the sheets away, but I was so weak I had to resort to pushing them away slowly. I looked around and, by the light of the moon filtering through the window, I saw the bathroom’s door on the opposite side of the room, right in front of my bed. I needed water, possibly as cold as a money collector’s heart. I pushed myself up and tried to swing my legs out of the bed, but I hit something hard. Metal bars, probably put there to prevent me from falling down should I thrash around in my delirium.

My heard started pulsating, and I became aware of the pain in my throat. It felt like it was painted with glue. I grabbed the bars (although weakly wrapped my fingers around them would probably be a better description) and tried to unlock them, but they wouldn’t budge.

Water. Cold. Need. But I couldn’t get it. I tried again with the bars, before remembering that there had to be a button somewhere to call the nurse. I found it hanging over my head, and after a couple of attempts at grabbing the cursed red thing, I finally managed to push it. Then I let myself fall down on the mattress again and waited for my savior.

After an eternity or two, a woman wearing a nurse’s coat walked into my room. You called me, Miss Sharpe?

I wanted to form a complete sentence, but all I could do was say Water.

She cocked a dark eyebrow. Despite the low light, I could see the heaviness of her makeup. Too bad it couldn’t hide her weak chin, or the fact that her left eye was bigger than the right. It’s on your nightstand, Miss Sharpe.

Wait, they know I can barely move, and still they put the damn water where I can’t reach it? What’s wrong with them? I would have protested, but my need to drink trumped everything. Can’t, I said.

She nodded and went to my nightstand. I heard the sound of a plastic bottle unscrewed, then of liquid freshness poured into a cup. The nurse helped me lift my head and brought the paper cup to my lips. Warm piss. I grimaced, but I gulped it down anyway, hoping that it’d quench my thirst. It didn’t.

More.

You are not actually thirsty, you know, Miss Sharpe. It’s just the sickness.

I growled under my breath. I wouldn’t let you make me wait even if you were pretty, and damn, you’re ugly. Water, I repeated.

The nurse sighed – she probably thought I couldn’t hear that, but I did. Luckily, she gave me another cup before I punished her for her misbehavior. Do you need anything else? Her tone said I hope you don’t, so I can go back to doing my things.

Meds.

You’re already under medications, Miss Sharpe. I can’t give you anything else. She started to tuck me in, and only after I shook my head as vigorously as I could and groaned with all the power of my mighty, partially zombified lungs, did she understand I didn’t want that. Try to rest a bit, Miss Sharpe. Doctor Stewart will come to see you early in the morning tomorrow.

How about you try not being an ugly bitch? Unfortunately, there were too many words in that sentence for me to pronounce it in my current state. The nurse left my room still ignorant about her true nature.

I spent a good chunk of time staring at the ceiling before exhaustion caught up with me and I lost consciousness.

How are we feeling today, Miss Sharpe?

Like shit, I replied, thankful for my newly recovered voice. Now I could say two short words in a row. Yay.

Doctor Steward asked me a few more questions while a nurse – not the one from the night before, luckily – took my temperature and changed my I.V.. As I anticipated you, we scheduled you an appointment with a counselor. She will help you in-

No.

The doctor frowned the way old grandpas do – showing a mixture of displeasure and concern. No? May I ask you why?

I shook my head. No shrinks. I can make up my own mind. My memories went back to another time and another clinic, one where I had been taken in order to cure me of what I was. I wouldn’t let anyone try to mess with my mind again.

Miss Sharpe, whatever reasons you have, I’m sure they are more than valid. But I must stress the importance of-

I want to see them.

The doctor’s frown deepened. Who do you want to see, Miss Sharpe?

And I thought I was speaking in English. The Revived, I rasped, hating the sound of my own voice. It sounded like the voice of a dying person, not that of a young woman with her whole life in front of her. Sometimes I’m not for realism.

Doctor Steward arched an eyebrow. Did he know how transparent he was? Miss Sharpe, you are in no condition to move. And even if you could, privacy reasons-

Ask them, I hissed.

Miss Sharpe, he started, with the tone of a responsible adult scolding a whimsical child, I’m sure you-

Do it, or I’ll sneak up by night and try to see them anyway, I threatened in a rasp. Maybe I won’t make it past the door, but I swear I’ll try. I’ll force you to keep me under surveillance. I knew I wasn’t doing much to dispel the whimsical child impression, but whatever. I’ll force you to restrain me and watch me die, knowing that you denied me my last wish.

I saw him turn pale. He might have even faltered slightly – or perhaps it was the room spinning. Hard to tell. In any case, he stood in silence for several heartbeats, and I gave him my best intimidating stare. Or, to be more accurate, I forced myself to keep my eyes open and my gaze fixed on a given point in space. I couldn’t do more.

Right when I felt I was starting to slip back into unconsciousness, I heard him say, I’ll ask some patients in our Post-Reanimation Ward if you can visit them, Miss Sharpe. Please understand that it’s up to them to allow you into their presence, and…

I lost the rest of the sentence and everything that followed, if something indeed followed. While the world faded to black and the fever wrapped around me like a blanket that was both hot and chilly at the same time, I allowed myself one last conscious thought: And Violet Sharpe brilliantly scores a point. Life is still at 999, but it’s losing ground.

We had to wait for a calm moment between one feverish hellstorm and the next. They were getting rarer and shorter, but still, sometimes I was merely aggressive, ridiculously weak, and prone to see imaginary things. I felt almost like my old self.

Two orderlies helped me walk, one for each side. Doctor Steward couldn’t come - he was on duty elsewhere - but he gave stern orders: You will be brought back to your room the moment you start feeling lightheaded or confused. Also, I would appreciate it if you refrained from making comments about the people you will see, out of the respect for their condition. He had also recommended that I skip dinner, which told me that whatever I was going to see wouldn’t be very pleasant.

The orderlies brought me to the Post-Reanimation ward with the help of a walker. They had offered me a wheelchair, but I had refused, releasing them and the hospital from any responsibility while I was at it. I didn’t want to be carried around like a package, and - although any one of those big men could have picked me up and brought me back to my bed - I wanted at least to feel the illusion that I could go wherever I wanted and that nobody could stop me.

Even before we got close to the doors, I felt a chilly breeze seep through them. Why is it so cold? I asked. I could feel it despite the fever.

One of the orderlies, a guy who looked like he could do professional wrestling, with a square face and a five-o-clock shadow, wrapped a wool blanket over