Chapter 1 Isekai Wanderer 1 .2 "Life's a bitch, then you die"

I forget when I first heard that saying, but nobody ever gave me a good idea of what happened afterwards.

My life was a string of good beginnings and less than wonderful outcomes. I mean, I'd lived an exciting life, in many ways. I'd been involved in many great things, but somehow things always went sideways and I had to reinvent myself.

A calm, boring retirement in the suburbs with my wife, successful kids and grandkids, that was all I had really wanted as the endgame.

I was a grumpy old man instead, living alone in an old trailer in a decrepit trailer park, waiting to die.

I spent my days watching tv, reading books,cruising the internet and playing video games. I rarely went out, driving only to the grocery store and my VA appointments. My body was broken down and much more than that was excruciatingly painful. I wasn't suicidal- more like that old song, "too tired of living, but too scared of dying."

One day, I was driving home, and I saw an accident.

It was snowing, visibility was low, and the roads were icy. Damned fools in their SUVs were driving like it was dry pavement,. They had forgotten that Four wheel Drive does not imply Four wheel STOP... so of course, there was a five car accordion pileup at the Burger joint. Not that unusual, but I pulled over, called 911 and put out road flares.

I heard screaming and I looked up to see a disaster in progress. A compact car was in the middle of the pile up, mashed front and rear. A woman was beating on her window, and trying to get her jammed door open. I duck walked as fast as I could in the slush- falling would slow me down more than being careful. There were tendrils of smoke rising from the hood, and then flames licked out under the hood.

I had a flashback to Baghdad, and Smitty screaming in the smashed , flaming wreckage of our HMMV.

"Ficke das!" I swore, and grabbed my rescue knife. I held the glass breaker point sideways and screamed "back up from the window!" She pulled back , and the safety glass exploded in a shower of particles.

I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her out the window as she screamed. She immediately started trying to open the back door. "Timmy!" She screamed.

Gas was pooling under the car, and the flames were following.

I broke the window and extended the blade to cut the straps holding the little boy in place. I pulled him out and tucked him in my coat.

There was a muffled- "thump!" As the pooled gasoline ignited. I pulled my coat tighter around the boy. It was an old Nomex winter flight jacket, so I hoped he would be safe. The heat was intense.I was wearing uniform pants I had picked up at a surplus store, so they were fire resistant...but polyaramid doesn't burn. It also doesn't insulate. I could feel the skin on my legs blistering. shuffled across the pavement with my eyes closed until my feet hit the gravel of the far shoulder. I slipped then, but I fell backwards, so the child was still shielded by my body.

I tried to blink, but I still couldn't see.

I figured the smoke was really thick. I didn't realize I was blinded.

"I got him, old man" I heard someone say, as I felt somebody pulling my jacket open and pulling the boy away.

My arms had been holding the child tightly, but now they fell away, limp. I heard the clatter of a gurney. Strong hands grabbed me and I was lifted onto the gurney. I wanted to protest -you never lift a patient without assessment for neck injury...but I couldn't get my mouth to work. All I could do was croak.

"We got you, buddy. Hang in there." I heard a voice say.

My hearing was fine. "Jesus, how is he still alive?" I heard.

I wanted to protest that I was fine, but all I could do was cough weakly.

My whole body was numb, and my left arm hurt. "Sheesh, was I having a heart attack?" I thought.

They rolled me to- I assume- an ambulance. I knew the feeling- I'd been a simulated patient enough times- but suddenly a wave of fatigue washed over me, and I passed out

/

I woke up again to darkness. I could still hear. There was the beeping of a heart monitor, and a rhythmic "click-hiss" of a ventilator. I could feel something in my chest. "Urgh, did they do a tracheotomy?" I thought.

Then I smelled something horribly familiar.

Something I'd avoided for forty years- the taste of grape kool-aid. Back when I was younger, I'd done a hitch as a Navy Corpsman. I'd worked on a burn icu. One of the real killers for burn patients was a bacteria called Pseudomanas. It was a nasty bug, and the only antibiotics that could kill it, often killed the patient if you weren't careful.

Patients with pseudomonas smelled like grape kool aid.

Most burn patients with pseudomonas died.

I had the bad feeling, what I was smelling was my own burns, and they were infected.

I drifted in and out of consciousness