Written for the 2010 DarkFest challenge on Livejournal.
It didn't completely hit him until he was back in his quarters and began to strip off his uniform. The smell rolled up from the clothes in an almost visible miasma, sticking in his throat and making him choke.
Nothing else really smelled like burnt human flesh.
He made it to the head with a second to spare, vomiting helplessly into a plastic bag. His sides hurt and his throat burned, and tears streamed down his face.
God, he wanted a drink.
He didn't know why he'd thought that bringing Gamma on board would help. Had he perhaps thought that a companion would distract Beta from sending the visions? A doomed hope, if it had been one. If anything, Beta and Gamma were a united force in driving the team harder, as if the hallucinations were the lash of a whip to impell them faster towards their next fellow.
It was a vision that caused the first accident. He had checked Zoe's IV lines and replaced her moist dressings, and had just drawn up the syringe of morphine when he was dropped into a scene out of horror.
He was in one of the field hospitals that had defined his personal vision of 'Hell', trying desperately to control a kid who'd been the victim of a bus bombing. The kid was maybe eighteen and had been facing the blast. His face and chest were red ruins, his naked eyes rolling wildly in a destroyed wasteland where his eyebrows and lids used to be. Blood poured freely off the gurney to the floor, and the kid's arms and legs flailed wildly as he tried to struggle free of the nurses and orderly trying to pin him to the bed without hurting him more. Evram drew up the syringe of morphine with hands shaking from both adrenaline and horror. He took a deep breath, turned, and jabbed the syringe into the kid's shoulder. Or, he meant to.
The kid's left hand broke free of the orderly trying to hold him still, blood-slick skin impossible to hold on to, and slammed into Evram's arm.
He almost swooned from the incredible sensation easing through his veins. Sweet, blessed numbness with a euphoria chaser. Such an incredible thing, the cessation of a pain that was so pervasive that he hadn't even realised it was there until it was gone. He looked down to find the syringe of morphine intended for Zoe embedded in the muscle of his thigh, where the power of the hallucination had led him to bury it.
"Oh," he said out loud. "Oh."
While he refilled the syringe, he told himself it was an accident.
When he took inventory of the medical cabinet, and pocketed a syrette of Fentanyl while marking it still in place, he told himself it didn't count. He wasn't drinking, after all.
When he started splitting Zoe's morphine dose between her IV and his arm (with her IV first, of course... the IV port needed to remain sterile and he would never compromise patient care) he told himself that it was ok, because she needed to be weaned off and the rest would be wasted anyway.
When he looked at the cabinet and realised his stocks were low, he told himself it was time to start manufacturing from scratch.
When the hallucination stopped and Nadia's screaming didn't, and he realised that the liquid filling his syringe was the last morphine on the ship, he took the shot himself.
And then he didn't have to hear the screaming any more.