The feeling returned to Johnny's partially numb body over the next few days he spent in the hospital on the mysterious island he'd been dumped on, maybe because he allowed his mind access to it. In his last days in the compound he'd forced that separation in himself. He'd been in so much pain that when he finally managed to disassociate it hadn't even been difficult to do. It just…happened.
He hadn't realized how significant that voluntary disconnection between his mind and body was until he could feel again. He realized then how torn up he must have been when he and Gary were dropped off on the island by the rebels. He couldn't stand and so he couldn't walk. It must have been some kind of miracle that had made him capable of doing so the first night he was brought there.
He could barely sit for longer than a few minutes without feeling like something was pulling apart inside him. Though the deeper of the wounds in his body had been stitched closed he still felt the stitches pulling at his bruised and reddened skin every time he moved. The only, semi-comfortable position was on his side, though the bruising on his hips and torso, and the few small suspected fractures in some of his ribs made even that seem impossible to handle.
Everything felt on fire. He was told it was partly because of the infection he had and that it would subside with treatment but it seemed to take its time. His hands were nearly inoperable, his fingers stiff and barely moving when he tried to grasp onto something. Again, he was told it was likely to do with the infection that had been present in the wounds in his wrists, but the doctor told him it may also be the result of nerve damage caused by his injuries and lack of proper circulation of blood during his confinement. He didn't give it much thought. Permanent damage wasn't something he would let himself think about. His body would recover from everything with time. It always had in the past. That's what he'd told himself and that's what he believed for the time being.
The doctor told him he probably had some damage to his internal organs though it was difficult to tell the severity without the proper equipment to test it. He didn't doubt the damage was there though, given the beatings his body had taken. At the very least, he knew is kidneys had suffered if the blood in his piss was any indication, but infection could have been to blame for that as well.
He was only given liquids to consume, for multiple reasons. He was also treated for some sexually transmitted infections and told he was fortunate to not have contracted anything that would be with him forever. It really made no difference to him. He lay silently, half-listening when the doctor explained all the things that had been found to be wrong with him physically and all the things that had been fixed, and the things that may or may not fix themselves in the future. He didn't care about any of it. Recovery was all he cared about. Moving forward. Forgetting. He didn't want to think about any of it. Ever.
Although he hadn't seen him since their first night on the island, he was told Gary was also being treated in the hospital with him. They seemed to be the only continuous patients outside of a few older people who seemed to be close to death. He couldn't speak for Gary, but things were radically different for him than they'd been just days earlier and he found it confusing.
He was still a prisoner, he knew that, but besides there being a guard standing outside his room and no objects or anything he could use as a weapon within his reach, he wasn't chained, handcuffed, or otherwise restrained. No one shouted at him. No one hit him or kicked him. No one burned or cut him. No one electrocuted him. No one spit or pissed on him. And no one tried to attack him in his bed. He was given more water than he could actually drink, and the ones who brought it to him never wanted him to do anything for it.
They asked him questions though, which was something common to both places. Most times he gave no response. Only twice had he said anything and his answer had been the same, said flatly. PFC Johnny Six, 448662. The rebels had never really gotten anything more out of him, so the island doctor and his aides or nurses certainly weren't going to.
He wasn't blindfolded either. There was that. And that was something huge for him and likely for Gary too. He'd been deprived of that sight almost continuously in the last few weeks. Now that he could see past his own eyelids, he found it difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time. Even if he wanted to, his vision was blurry. The blur seemed to disappear after a few days but his eyes were still far too sensitive to handle the smallest amount of sunlight coming in through the window.
Outside of that, he had a hard time making himself look at the people who came in the room. It was simply immediate instinct now to close his eyes, or at least avert his eyes when there was a chance he may see someone's face enough that he could identify the person. Preena's advice, the words he'd spoken about shutting his eyes whenever possible, always seemed right at the forefront of his mind. He couldn't stop hearing them. He believed that the man's advice is what had saved him. Had any of the rebels he'd had contact with in the previous month been standing in front of him now, he'd have no idea who they were. If they spoke he might recognize them by the images he'd given them in his mind. The way he'd imagined them to look. But he wouldn't know otherwise. After a near week of being in the island hospital, he still hadn't actually looked at anyone's face.
It wasn't until the one day that the doctor actually wanted to examine his eyes that he found himself running into a problem. The doctor and the few nurses had noticed his strong aversion to the sunlight after a few days and the doctor wanted to be sure he hadn't suffered damage to his eyes during one of the beatings it was thought he'd received. That was the first time he refused to be examined.
"It is a simple procedure," the doctor told him. "It will not hurt," he was assured. Johnny just shook his head, keeping his eyes shut and not moving himself from where he lay on his side.
"Nothing will happen to you," the doctor said.
"No," Johnny said back simply. There was silence from the doctor a moment.
"Are you afraid to look at me?" he asked surprisingly, obviously catching on to what the problem must be. Johnny didn't say anything. "What if I put a mask on?" the doctor suggested. He rustled around in one of the locked cabinets nearby for a moment before coming back to Johnny's bed side. "There," the doctor spoke again, this time his voice a little muffled. "Just my eyes are showing." Johnny didn't move. "Come on then," the doctor said. "It will only take a moment."
Johnny gave in after another few seconds, forcing himself slowly onto his back. He felt the head of the bed being raised upward, helping him to sit up. He held onto the ribs of his left side with his right hand weakly, his fingers still immobile, and pushed against the mattress with the palm of his left hand, pushing himself up a little at the same time. He knew the pain was evident on his face but he breathed through it with only a few audible sounds of discomfort.
"I need you to open your eyes," the doctor said when he had been sitting a minute with his eyes still shut.
Johnny lowered his head a little. Slowly, he opened his one eye first, looking for his own lap before opening the second one. Already, the lighting in the room seemed to assault him, finding him closing them again a moment and tentatively forcing them back open. He could only keep them open by squinting.
"Look up at me, please," The doctor instructed him. He did so slowly, wanting to make sure the man's face was in fact covered, all the while he had to fight the pain in his eyes that had him wanting to shut them fast. By the time he'd reached the masked part of the doctor's face his eyes were watering profusely, tears spilling over his lower lids and running down his cheeks.
The doctor was perhaps a little older than he was expecting. He had mostly grey hair, trimmed neatly. Wrinkles around his eyes and deep lines across his forehead. He seemed average in height and size. His brown eyes seemed…kind, like his voice. It was then that he actually let himself acknowledge the man as a person with a name that he did know, not just some physical force that exerted itself on him. Lee. Doctor Lee Han. The man had introduced himself at one point but it had been a pretty one-sided introduction.
The man used a light to inspect his eyes, asking him to look in different directions so he was never staring directly into the light. As the doctor lowered the light and looked directly at him, Johnny dropped his gaze before shutting his eyes again.
"They look okay," the man told him then. "We have the equipment in the hospital to be sure. We'll have a more thorough look at them when we're able to get you sitting in a chair comfortably," he explained. He sighed a little then. "I wish you'd give me some more specific details of some of what happened," he almost seemed to lament. "Anything at all. Answering my questions would help me to treat you better."
"PFC Johnny Six, 448662," he uttered quietly in reply.
Sometimes, when he had repeated it enough, it had sounded like a song. Like a chant…
January 8th, 8:00 a.m.
After a few hours alone with his dead sergeants, the door to the room finally opened again. Over those few hours, his thirst had finally hit, but not his hunger. The smell of death had kept him from feeling anything other than nausea. It had kept him from sleeping. He'd been awake for over twenty-four hours.
He shut his eyes before anyone could enter the room, lowering his head as he heard approaching footsteps. Whoever approached him didn't speak before he felt a hand taking hold of his left upper arm and pulling on it, urging him to stand. He did so, wincing at the feeling of his own weight pressing down onto his bruised feet. He was led from the room back to where he'd been delivered the harsh beating on his soles hours earlier.
He found himself seated again in a chair in front of the wooden table. A voice told him to open his eyes. It sounded like the same rebel from hours earlier but he couldn't be positive until he saw what he was wearing. A quick glance told him it was. He noticed then the paper he'd written his name on earlier was sitting on the table in front of him.
"You sign now," the man ordered him.
"I need water," he said in return, his eyes fixed on the piece of paper.
The man said something to someone behind him, possibly one of the same rebels from earlier. He didn't know. He heard what sounded like a cap being unscrewed from a bottle. Like a plastic jug. The sound of liquid being poured. A moment later a hand reached past him and placed a paper cup on the table.
"You drink then sign," the man ahead of him instructed.
He reached to take the cup awkwardly in his cuffed hands so he could drink it. He drained the cup fast. The small amount of water only made him want more.
"You sign," the insistent voice across the table said.
The emptied cut tipped onto its side when he tried to set it back down. It rolled from the table to the floor as he shook his head.
"I'm not signing shit," he said, his tone was firm but not as loud as he wanted it to be.
There was a brief silence before the man ahead of him spoke. "I not think you bad soldier," he remarked. "I think you stupid soldier," he claimed. "You want to go home?" he asked, his own tone sharp.
"PFC Johnny Six, 448662," Johnny found himself saying with his eyes downcast. He stared at his hands in his lap as he spoke. His name, rank, and number were technically all he was expected to say, according to what he'd been told during training. The only information he was really permitted to give. Basic identification details that could be relayed during possible negotiations for his release, if any such negotiations were to occur.
The man across from him slammed his one hand down on the table. The sound was loud and sudden and almost made Johnny jump a little. He probably would have but he was also exhausted. His body seemed to be reacting more slowly to everything in general.
"You want to die, stupid soldier?" the rebel fired at him.
"PFC Johnny Six, 448662," he repeated a little louder than the first time.
With an angry command given in the rebel language then the man behind him placed a hood or a pillowcase over his head, blinding him to what was about to happen. The material felt like terrycloth or like a thin towel. He was forced out of the chair and onto the floor. Unlike earlier, he struggled. He twisted and bucked his body trying to fight back but there had to be more than two people in the room at that point, more than three actually. Someone was holding his legs down against the floor. Someone had hold of his arms, pressing them down hard into his own torso and someone was holding his head.
There was no guessing at what was about to happen. He knew what was about to happen then. He'd seen a video in training. He was already panicking inside, even before water was being poured onto his face, onto the cloth-like material covering it. The material quickly clung to his mouth and nose as it was saturated and finally began seeping through and down his nasal passages.
He held his breath at first but quickly found himself attempting to expel the air still held in his lungs. He couldn't and as he took a breath in it was pure suffocation, and then panic. He struggled hard, tried to sit up, tried to pull out of the tight confinement of the hands and weight bearing down on him. He was choking. He was drowning. And then…he was being sat up.
The material of the hood over his head was pulled up slightly, uncovering his mouth and nose and he coughed violently. Trapped water was leaving his airways and allowing him to finally inhale air for barely twenty seconds before he was being forced back down again on his back and another stream of water was being poured down on him.
It's not happening, it's not happening. He didn't know why that kept repeating in his head over and over again. He knew it was happening. And yet his own voice in his head wouldn't stop saying it. It's not happening, it's not happening…