Author's Notes: Arrrgh! Shaman King has sucked me in yet again. Oh well, my brain could go worse places, ne? Anyways...this fiction is anime-based only--that's just about all I have access to right now. Sorry, but them's the brakes, kiddos. I hope you all enjoy otherwise. ^_^ Thanks! Song credits go to Evanescence for their work, "Bring Me To Life."
(This story is post-anime, which means it takes place at a time after the last episode.)
Bring Me To Life
by Becky Tailweaver
(Wake me up.)
Wake me up inside,
(I can't wake up.)
Wake me up inside,
Call my name and save me from the dark.
Part 1: Wake Me Up
Awareness of being awake brought with it a world of pain.
Everything centered in his head, radiating in white-hot throbs through the rest of his body. There were voices he could not make out, loud and muddled at the same time, and he could not tell if they were real or imagined. They were all around him, insistent. Shouts, whispers, screams, thunder...
He felt things on his skin, and he couldn't tell if they were true touches or merely phantoms of his own pain. There were hands--gentle fingers, and hard fists. A wave, a calm touch, then painful blows, sharp cuts, burning fire...
There were faces in his vision, and he wasn't sure if he was dreaming. So many faces, twisted in hatred or fear--maybe they were the source of all the voices. They were all so angry, or frightened, or despairing...
He saw eyes--dark eyes full of black flames and rage and sorrow. There was a great churning light...then a figure of red that soon shone gold...then a shaft of silvery blue that cut through everything and sent it all into blackness...
Awareness brought pain, and he didn't know why he hurt. Everything flickering around him made it hurt even worse, and he welcomed the blackness. He welcomed the cessation of the noise, the sensations, the faces, the chaos. The pain that pounded through his mind lessened as he let everything wash over him and pass from him, dropping away like a heavy burden that he willingly released.
Trying to hold on, trying to grasp it all--it made agony shoot like knives, and the effort was too much, so he just let it all go...
It was quieter in his mind, in the warm empty darkness, with no voices, no faces, nothing at all...
Quieter...but somehow there was still a touch, still a voice. Hadn't he pushed it all away? Why was he being tormented? The darkness was more comfortable, falling away from the pain...but there was a touch, insistent hands, a voice that became distinct. Was there a face?
He wasn't sure, but it occurred to him that perhaps the best way to find out was to open his eyes...
Once he recalled how to do that, precisely, fluttering open his eyelids made the throbbing jolts center behind his eyes. It was too bright--light hurt, and brought with it a flash of a roiling pillar of luminescence, as well as shooting pains through his skull--so he shut his eyes tight with an indrawn breath.
The voice was still there. Why couldn't he make out what it said? Or maybe he could, he wasn't sure. There were words, but he couldn't understand them. They were gibberish, making no sense at all...couldn't they talk like a normal person...?
He tried his eyes again, getting no flashes this time but still overwhelmed by the brightness. It was daylight--the sun overhead. Something blurred into view above, a shadow he could not make out against the brilliance--a head-shape, a moving mouth to accompany that nonsensical voice. He could not make his eyes focus, but that man had to be saying something. It had to be important, if that man kept talking at him, nudging at him...
He closed his eyes again.
Wait. There were words. Those words had meaning.
Something clicked, almost painfully, as it came to him that the man was speaking in another language.
But...somehow he knew that language, didn't he?
"...you still with me, kid? Hang in there--stay awake, okay?"
The voice was suddenly clear. The words made sense. He barely opened his eyes yet again, bleary, unable to focus. The man was still kneeling over him, hands working on something....cloths? Bandages? Trying to help him, then...trying to make this pain go away...
"...hey now," the man kept talking, "don't you go and pass out again. You better stay with me, kid, don't you die on me now..."
He managed a faint moan in reply. His breath hitched when the man moved one of his arms, apparently to wrap it in another piece of whatever that cloth was. It hurt abominably, especially near his shoulder--a deep ache that infomed him something was probably broken. He didn't know how he knew.
With all the pain he was swimming in, it was impossible to tell exactly what hurt and what didn't until one or another of his aches yelped when the man did something. It was so hot...was it the sun, or was it just his own pain?
"...guess that's the worst of the open wounds," the man went on, obviously talking just to keep his attention. "I'm no good at this sort of thing, but I know a hurt man when I see one. You still with me, kid? Good, good...I know I shouldn't move you, but neither of us is gonna last long out here in the desert under the sun. As long as you don't bleed to death on me, you'll make it..."
All he could manage was another soft moan, trying to stay focussed on the blurry face of the man.
"Now just wait here, I'm gonna go get a blanket and set things up. Don't you drift off, kid, you stay awake!"
The man's shadow vanished from overhead, and the sun was too bright so he shut his eyes again. Footsteps crunched rapidly away, and he was left alone.
At least now there was blessed quiet and stillness. It helped the throbbing lessen. There were no voices, no faces, no sensations--nothing.
Nothing at all.
He did not know why that was strange, but something in him knew it was. This nothingness...should have been filled with something. Anything. There was a void here, where those faces and voices had once been--faces and voices that even now he could not bring back; they slipped through his fingers like water, and he could not recall them. He only knew that once, they had been there--something had been there--but now, they were not.
They were gone into the darkness where he had pushed them, lost them, to escape the agony. Now they were beyond his reach, and he hurt too much, and he could not even remember where he'd thrown them away or how to go back and find them. It was all slipping through his fingers, so hazy; he was losing pieces even as he tried to grasp them--he could not even remember if there had been voices, or if there had been faces...
...blackness was encroaching again, filling everything with nothing...
"Hey--hey! Don't quit on me now, kid! Hang on, I've got the blanket."
The voice jerked him back from the edge like a rope, making him gasp. Eyes open once more, he could see the shadow above him--something fuzzy and soft was laid over him, taking away some of the heat of the sun.
"Okay now...take it easy, I've gotta pick you up. It's not the best idea, I know, but I can't do anything else out here--gotta get you to a hospital..."
Thick arms tucked the blanket further around him as they carefully moved him--moving beneath him, jostling him. It tore a rasping cry from his throat as the motion brought a hideous throb to his temples and a twisting agony through his shoulder.
"...shit, I'm sorry kid, hang in there..."
The man's voice was concerned, full of consternation and determination. Ever so carefully, the strong arms maneuvered, then lifted him, every motion sending a fresh wave across his body and a new hammer-blow to his skull. Every step the man took was like an electric shock, wrenching gasps of pain from his lips and squeezing tears from his eyes.
He didn't understand why, but somewhere in the darkness, that apalled him.
The man's steps ceased, and the movement changed--bringing with it a whole new set of pains and jolts and white-hot bursts. He cried out again as he was shifted, laid down on something soft--the seat of a car, padded up with more blankets so that he was half sitting up, diagonal across the seat. A bench seat...a truck...?
The tears blurred his eyes even more, and he couldn't tell. It hurt too much to try, now--it hurt too much for even the blackness to find him. Now, everything seemed red with pain, and it wouldn't let him fall away.
The car door slammed, reverberating between his temples. Then he heard the man climb in the other side, fumbling to start the engine. When it did start, the throaty rumble chuckled through his skull like a snake's rattle, making him grit his teeth.
"Hang on, kid, here we go."
The car began to move. Bumps and jostles decreased as it moved back onto the road and picked up speed, but they didn't go away entirely. His shoulder was a center of fire, joining the constant throbbing of his skull in a way that made his very bones burn. Now that he was not lying down, a sharp ache in his side made it so hard to breathe, helping to drive sharp focus to the raw stings all over his body.
"Just hold on for me, kid...just hold on, we'll be there soon..."
The man kept talking, kept speaking reassuringly to him, kept him awake. He focussed on the voice, held on to it like a lifeline. It was an anchor against the pain, saving him from the red-laced dark that lurked below. He did not want to die like this.
So he obeyed the man. He held on.
He held on, but it was with the grip of one wearied and weakened by pain and injury. He had lost the battle with the blackness before the vehicle reached the hospital, his last hold fading away even as his rescuer left him to run inside and yell for help.
He would never remember the emergency room workers rushing out to the parked truck, carefully peeling away blankets and shifting him onto the guerney. He would never remember the hustling hospital halls, the quick, efficient nurses, the masked faces of the doctors that soothed his raw wounds. He would never remember the week of drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to respond to the efforts of nurses and orderlies trying to keep him from falling into a coma.
Even his rescuer and the agonized moments of his awakening would fade into fragments, the seriousness of his injuries washing those memories away in blood like all the rest. Until his brain could begin to heal itself, memories once lost would never be found--and even then, some would never be seen again.
The second time he became aware of being awake, he did not hurt so much.
His hazy memories of waking up in agony made his present dull headache seem quite tolerable by comparison. Even so, it was very unpleasant, and he felt muggy and slurred as if he'd been given drugs. He probably had, and they were what kept that half-remembered pain at bay.
There was a steady beeping beside where he lay, soft but incessant. The rate of it increased even as he listened; something suggested it was a heart monitor, and he must be in a hospital.
That's right--didn't...someone...say he was being taken to a hospital...?
He could recall a man's face, a concerned voice, pain, being carried into a car that drove and drove forever into blackness...
He was tired of the dark. So he opened his eyes.
A bland white ceiling greeted him overhead, lit by a soft lamp near the narrow bed he was lying on. Daylight filtered in through curtains he could see fluttering in a breeze from the window. He was propped up comfortably in the bed, at a good angle to look around as his eyes slowly traced his surroundings.
There was a woman sitting in the chair beside the bed, watching him. He blinked, startled, when he met her eyes.
She was not slim, but pleasantly built, with dark blond hair pulled into a tired-looking bun and a face that was lined with the worries of middle-age. She regarded him for several moments as he stared at her, a smile beginning on her lips. "Ah...good to see you're finally awake, young man."
With a gulp, he opened his mouth, but a rusty squeak was his only reply. For an instant, although he could understand her words, he wasn't certain how to speak any of them.
Suddenly she was leaning forward, offering him a white paper cup. "Poor thing--are you thirsty? I should think so--that gentleman found you out in the middle of the desert, and we've had a time of it getting your fluids back into you. Here you go, wet your whistle a bit."
His left arm, he discovered, would not willingly move. Dull ache turned to lancing pain as he twitched it without thinking, his shoulder protesting loudly at any sort of activity. He took the cup in his right hand, wincing as muscles complained on that side too, though not so vociferously. The water was cool and sweet as he swallowed it, soothing the parched feeling in his throat and the stickiness on his tongue.
"A-arigato," he said, a bit raspy, feeling much better once the whole cup was drained. "Uh...thank you."
The woman--a nurse?--took the cup back, looking pleased. "Why, you're very welcome. Just say the word if you need any more. Now that you're awake, I need to go let Doctor Pryor know."
She stood up then, showing him where to find the Nurse Call button near his bed, thankfully on the right side with his functional hand. Then, smiling and patting him lightly on the good arm, she bustled out the door into the hallway.
He had perhaps a minute to look about some more, to look down at himself and the extent of the damage. His left arm was in a sling, his shoulder stiff and too painful to move. He could feel something wrapped about his ribs, tight but not too uncomfortable. There was the sticky-tape feeling of numerous other bandages in various places over his skin, marking where the open wounds had been.
He'd been hurt pretty bad, obviously.
The door opened again, admitting the plump nurse and a taller, gray-haired man with spectacles and a serious, pleasant face. The nurse paused by the door to turn up the lights a bit, making him squint.
"So our young John Doe is awake," said the doctor, coming to the bedside with clipboard in hand. "That's good to see. How do you feel?"
He stared at the tall man for a moment, swallowing, trying to remember the right words. He didn't know why, but he felt somehow afraid--not quite shy, but uncertain. He glanced at the nurse, who seemed safer, more familiar.
"It's all right, dear," she said, smiling. "You can tell Doctor Pryor how you're feeling."
He swallowed. "I'm...sore, but...I think...I'm okay."
"Good, good..." Doctor Pryor pulled up one of the chairs by the bed, the nurse beside him. "How's your shoulder doing?"
He glanced down at his left arm. "It...hurts a lot. If I move it."
"That's to be expected," the doctor replied. "When you came in, it was completely dislocated." He looked over his clipboard. "You also have several cracked ribs, numerous lacerations and bruises, and a severe concussion. It was the head injury that had us worried the most, son--thought we'd lose you to coma any moment."
Frowning, he reached up, hesitant fingers finding the bandages wrapped about his head. "Concussion?"
"A very severe one, youngster," Pryor responded. "You took a bad blow there, enough that we thought there might be brain damage and you might never wake up. It's certainly a relief you have. Though I must ask--do you know what happened to you?"
He opened his mouth to reply--
--a flash--there was that bright, roiling light--something golden--a huge shard of blue-white brilliance--
--and as his temples throbbed he discovered that he did not know what happened to him. There was nothing but a few scattered impressions that flickered and died like candles even as he tried to reach for them.
"I...I don't...remember..." he confessed softly, dropping his gaze bleakly to the sheets covering his knees. His eyes were suddenly large, almost startled that he couldn't recall.
"I see," the doctor said. "That's understandable as well. Concussion will do that to you--short-term memory is usually one of the first things to go with a bad head injury. If I were to hazard a guess, though..." Pryor peered at him over his spectacles. "...I'd have to say that you looked like you'd been thrown from a moving vehicle. Impact on your left side--the shoulder and ribs there--and other injuries from rolling on rocky ground."
He took in the doctor's words, considering each one carefully--trying to see if any one of them would elicit a response. A memory, a flicker, anything.
It was unsettling how nothing came at all.
"Doctor," the nurse put in, looking a bit solemn, "I don't see how he could have fallen out of a car and nobody noticed. The man who brought him in said he found him...how could someone dump him out of their vehicle and just leave him like that?"
"That's where foul play comes to my mind," Pryor responded seriously, turning back to the patient. "Do you remember who you were with before you got hurt?"
He stared at the older man, swallowing hard. Nothing came to mind--not even a flash this time. "I can't...there's no..."
The doctor's face began to sharpen, becoming even more solemn. "I see..." He glanced down at his clipboard, then back at his patient. "Then we'll start with something simple, instead. When you were brought in, there was no identification on your person. Can you tell me your name?"
He blinked at the doctor again, startled. "Of course. My name is..." It was right there, on the tip of his tongue. "My...my name is..."
It had been right there, he was sure of it. But now...more candleflames, like ghosts in the corners of his eyes, gone forever if he turned to look at them--gone, like his memory of what happened, like his name...
"My name..." he whispered, staring downward again. "...I don't know..."
It was more than unsettling--it was frightening. Everything he reached for--everywhere he turned, he found nothing. Like doors closing, like lights going out--everywhere he looked, frantic, searching, he found empty places, voids.
"Can you remember anything important?" Pryor asked carefully. "Other names, or places?"
There was nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing that made any sense, just impressions of things that he didn't even understand. Pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, far too small to see any kind of real image.
He realized he was trembling, the fingers of his right hand clutching the sheets so tight his knuckles ached.
"I can't...I can't...remember..." he choked, gulping, pressing his stiff right hand to his forehead, wide-eyed.
The emptiness was terrifying. He knew there had to be something there--there should have been something there. But there was nothing. Empty, aching nothing.
"Oh, you poor dear..." The nurse was leaning forward now, her kindly face touched with worry and concern. "There, there, don't fret. You've had a bad bump on the head. It'll be all right--you just need a bit more time, that's all. Cheer up, now--it'll all work out."
--flash--a voice with words he couldn't hear--an angry face, dark eyes--horrible, horrible rage--a scream that left his throat raw--"Asakura Yoh!"--the same dark eyes, a sweet, gentle smile--
His breath came out in a rush, even as the flickers he'd been given were pulled away again. But a few he clung to--a few made sense. A smile, and a name. Was it his name?
"Beg pardon?" The doctor glanced up at him. "What was that?"
He glanced up at the doctor. "Asakura Yoh...?"
The man's brow quirked. "Is that a name?"
"Ah." Pryor appeared to write it down on his clipboard. "It doesn't seem to be an American name. If you don't mind my saying so, you look rather Asian to me."
"You know, Doctor," the nurse piped up softly, thoughtfully, "I think he may be here on a student visa or some such. When he first spoke to me, I think he said...um, well, it wasn't English. And he does have a sort of an accent."
"What did he say?" Pryor asked of the nurse.
"I said, 'Thank you.'" Once more, he glanced up at the doctor. "I said...'Arigato.'"
"Good!" Pryor actually looked pleased. "That's definitely Japanese. We have a name, and a nationality. Even if you're not remembering your own name, chances are the person attached to that name will know you. That's our first step to getting some answers, my boy--and getting you home."
He blinked, staring at the older man. "H-home...?"
"Of course!" the nurse put in, leaning over to pat his good arm gently again. "I'm sure your parents would be terribly worried if they knew something had happened to you. I'm sure they'll be frightened if they find out you've gone missing--it's our job to fix you up and get you back home to your family as soon as possible so you can finish healing."
"Indeed," Pryor added, standing up. "You won't be moving for a while, young man, until I'm positively certain your concussion is healed. But in the meantime, I'm going to get in touch with the authorities and have them start tracking down your family and guardians. We'll have you home as soon as possible."
He relaxed a bit, there on the bed, his shoulders loosening--releasing some of the ache that had been building in his left one. "Home..."
"You rest up, and try not to worry," Pryor informed him. "Concentrate on getting better. I'll be checking on your progress regularly. Nurse Sally here will be helping you."
The nurse--Sally--smiled as she stood up beside the doctor. "That's right. So you just relax, young man, and let me take care of everything."
With a final, approving nod, Doctor Pryor took his leave, heading out the door. Nurse Sally stayed long enough to serve another glass of cool water and encourage him to rest and heal, with another of her comforting little pats of reassurance. He managed a very, very faint nod at her, in thanks, as she turned down the lights again and tiptoed out of the room as though he were a sleeping baby. He lay still on his pillows, warm in the quiet, staring at the two little puzzle pieces in his mind.
Asakura Yoh. Was that even his name? Or if it really was...was he supposed to be in Japan? What had happened to him? What horrible accident--thrown from a car or otherwise--had robbed him of everything he'd ever known?
As he closed his eyes, his fingers' near-habitual death-grip on the sheets loosened, relaxing. At least...soon he'd be safe. They were contacting his family...or at least the people who knew him...or someone who could take him home, who could fill the void in his mind--who could take away the empty pain and tell him who he was...
To be continued...