Man! challenge in a can Man!





Drinking, Dying
Christine Carver

He died once.

Not many people knew it. It wasn't the sort of thing you could laugh about with your friends over a beer, or bring up in casual conversation. Not that he had many friends, or casual conversations for that matter. And he didn't drink.

When he died the first time, it was from a gunshot wound. He thinks. That's what he was told, anyway, when he was coherent enough the understand what the doctors were saying. But he knows for a fact that it wasn't his fault. They told him that too, but he could figure it out by himself. They said it was nobody's fault except the thing (demon, he knows that, too) that shot him. He could figure out more. It was his commanding officer's fault.

Nobody wanted to say it, but he read between the lines of their carefully scripted words and drew his own conclusions. And he knows that those were right. He remembers very clearly that his commander ordered his squad to go into the jungle after a group of creatures (demons once again, but no one was left alive to know that but him). He remembers the jungle path, looking like something out of Apocalypse Now, all tall, dark trees and vines, wet puddles in the path, steady drip-drip of water from leaves.

And he remembers the demons.

What he really remembers most is the guns. One would think a demon wouldn't need guns, but they did. One would think that someone who died couldn't still be fighting, but there you go. Things aren't what you expect them to be. He isn't sure if he should be delighted or horrified by this. He doesn't really want to think about it. So he won't.

Getting shot (once in the stomach, once in the side, he learned later) isn't at all glamorous. More along the lines of "horribly excruciatingly painful." One more thing he really doesn't want to think about.

Not that there's much of anything to think about. After the pain he remembers very little. He doesn't think he was unconscious, because he was still himself, still chugging away, mentally at least. Maybe that was the time in which he was dead, because after that he woke up. The doctors told him later that he had no pulse for three minutes. At that point he was so doped up on drugs that this didn't really sink in.

When it did, though, he tried to remember what had happened between the pain and the waking (a different kind of pain). All he remembers was happiness, and a kind of peace so thick and warm you could wrap it around yourself like a blanket. The only sensations that ever came close were the drugs they gave him at the hospital. He wanted so badly to have that peace again. So he didn't use drugs. He didn't drink. He buried that memory of happiness in the back of his memory, because he knew that he would never feel that peace again. He was stuck in the real world with it's pain and betrayal, with it's fake allies and fake friends. He wished things turned out like he expected them to.

The day Riley left the Initiative, he glanced at the calendar. One year after he died the first time, his own anniversary of betrayal. He wonders if he'll die again. He wonders if it will be permanent.

He hopes it will be.

But he still doesn't drink.

Graham. Delight. Calender.

Man! challenge in a can Man!