Chapter 09: The Dark

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Greg gasped awake.

Sensations, half-formed memories, and emotions flooded his mind in a sensory overload.

Terror. Wet. Dark. Decayed flesh. Black blood. Steel. Gunfire.

Falling.

He coughed raggedly. Nothing. He could see nothing. Could smell nothing. For a long moment, Greg was struck by the powerful conviction that he was dead, and that this was purgatory. Or was it hell?

Then another thought wormed its way into his head. He had no memories, how did he remember hell, or purgatory for that matter? It was strange, the things he remembered. Scenes from movies, common cultural themes. Sounds, smells, sensations. Yet, he couldn't recall whether or not his parents were still alive. What they looked like. Where he'd grown up. Even something as simple and fundamental as his own name would have escaped him if he hadn't had his nametag still barely attached in that ruined troop transport.

Another sensation worked its way in, and this one seemed to root him a little more firmly to reality.

He was cold.

"Am I dead?"

His voice echoed, sad, lonely, and isolated. Greg had the notion that he was in a cave of some sort. He didn't know how long he laid there in the absolute pitch-black darkness, cold and wet. It might have been a minute, it might have been four hours.

Slowly, his thoughts reassembled themselves.

His memories were swept up off his mental floors and sorted back into their proper places. What was once a confusing jumble of sensations, messily telegraphed from a pained body to a dazed mind, slowly became something more organized.

Greg lay in the dark, half-submerged in a pool of icy water. He wore a suit of some kind, a mining pressure suit, he remembered, but it had obviously broken in some places, because the water was leaking in.

The darkness, he slowly noticed, was not as absolute as he had once feared. A dim, dull gray light called his attention as his eyes adjusted. He coughed and listened to the noise as it echoed. He was in some kind of large cave.

The last thing he remembered was Kyra...seeing something strange...and then falling.

Then nothing.

It seemed to take another age, but Greg tried to move his limbs. His leg hurt a great deal, and so did his chest and head. Everything else had taken on a dull kind of throbbing. Water sloshed gently as he gathered himself up.

"Hello?" he asked the darkness, if only because the silence was getting to him.

All he had for company was the lonely call of his own voice. Greg sighed and sat up. The water sloshed and a bolt of white-hot agony shot through his leg, crackled around in his chest and finally terminated in his skull.

Greg groaned and simply sat there for another long, dark interval of time. He wasn't dead, he decided. He was in too much pain to be dead. Death would be a kind release from this misery. Finally, the nagging notion that he had to get his ass moving forced Greg to pull his legs up under him and, groping blindly in the darkness, rise to his feet.

It took him two tries. He fell back into the fetid water that, he realized, stank faintly of disuse and time. His head swam and he swayed on his feet, but Greg finally stood. He remained where he was, waiting until the world stopped swaying and pulsing. He looked around, studied the area he was in. The only light seemed to be coming from far away.

A cave. He was definitely in some kind of cave. As his eyes fully adjusted, he caught hints of uneven ground and rock walls. He glanced down. A pool of water lay at his feet, slowly losing the gentle waves he'd created while rising.

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