Reborn Into the Army, Part 1
It’s often said that life flashes before our eyes in the moments preceding our death, and I guess that was true enough. For as I lay there on my deathbed — the beeping monitors heralding the finale of my tired existence — I saw them there superimposed over the paneled white ceiling common in most hospitals. It was like viewing a photo album with each page-turning to a cringe-worthy moment in a life that had been plagued by indecision and mediocrity.
I started out well enough. A bouncing baby boy filled with the vigor and zest most kids possessed. Mine was a fairly normal childhood too, with a brief flash of inquisitiveness and daring that made me stand out in those early years. Sports, studies, even social interactions, I had these locked.
Then came the first stirrings of fear — that desire to blend in with the crowd most of us slide into once we were old enough to understand what peer pressure and cliques were. After all, the nail that stands out gets hammered, and kids could get very cruel with those who weren’t part of their pack.
I wished someone had told me it was okay to be unique, to stand out and just be you. Perhaps then I would have tried my best to rise to my potential instead of dulling the sharpness that had been childhood’s blade so that I wouldn’t cut myself unnecessarily.
Life after school wasn’t so bad, either. A perfectly regular college earned me a lackluster diploma which then got me into an acceptable career that ensured a perfectly normal future. It was all tediously dull and static. And I was pretty sure this mediocre path had snuffed the life out of me long before I received my diagnosis.
It was a Friday. I’d scheduled a visit with my doctor because I was feeling more fatigued than usual. I’d lost a bit of weight, too. Then, after a single test to confirm one’s worst fears, my world shattered around me.
There was this moment in the seconds after I heard the doctor say the words, “I’m sorry,” when my mind just went blank and my surroundings tilted sideways. Suddenly, I was lost, confused, angry, frustrated — all these emotions raging inside of me — which was when I realized I’d wasted my life because I chose to be normal rather than attempt to be extraordinary.
Here I was months later, dying on a hospital bed alone and contemplating a life deprived of its potential. No, I didn’t get many visitors. For most, that pack we join as kids had an expiration date. And as the monitor’s beeping slowed down at the conclusion of my twenty-seven years, the last words to escape my lips were, “I wish I could do it all over again... I’d do my best... to live a life worth living.”
I died. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time. No afterlife, just that inky void where the stars wheeled overhead and every day felt like reliving a lifetime on the Earth. But I didn’t end up with eternal rest. I felt breath in me again.
It was the crying. They’re what I heard first — the sounds of babies crying all around me. It was the worst wake-up call in the world.
Alright, alright... I’m up, so shut up already. Only, I didn’t actually say that. Instead, the words that escaped my lips were, “Waah, waah, waah~~h!”
Oh. My. God...
My eyes blinked open, and after adjusting quickly to the brightness, I found myself staring up at a paneled white ceiling. This suggested that I was back in my hospital room, and that thought calmed me down. But I could still hear the babies crying all around me, and when I tried to call for a nurse, all I got was, “Goo, goo, goo...”
In a panic, I turned my head left and then right — noticing how difficult this was to do, as if I wasn’t as attuned to my body as I should be — and discovered that I was surrounded by a metal barricade on all sides.
What the fuck...
Two pale-faced and blonde-haired giants in black military uniforms appeared above me. Nope, they were just men, although they looked enormous for some odd reason. The lankier of these men poked and prodded me with one of his fingers.
Hey, asshole, it’s rude to pinch a grown man you don’t know in the stomach, is what I would have said, but my actual words were, “Goo, goo, waah!”
Great, my vocabulary was limited to these two words... what the fuck was wrong with me? And why does my voice sound so damn tiny?
Strangely enough, the answer to both these questions would be something far beyond anything I could ever imagine.