Pain was the first thing
he was aware of after he died. He had thought that this would stop
after his death. His ears were filled with crackling noises and
something was flitting around in front of his eyes. What was going on
around him was completely incomprehensible. The pain stabbing through
him when his lungs expanded to take a gasp of air nearly made him pass
out again, made him realize that he was not dead. Heat was surrounding
him and slowly, slowly his brain managed to make sense out of the
strange vista in front of him. Flames were licking around the nose of
the c-wing, the forward window was nearly gone. But somehow this seemed
to be unreal, not there, it was all bathed in a strange, unreal light,
completely at odds with the flames. The world seemed to have lost its
depth. The stars behind a bizarrly shaped wall seemed to be no more
distant than the lights from the city below. His brain told him that
they were further away, that something was wrong with his sight.
Perhaps it was just a sign that he was dying.
A strange dizziness came over him, making the pain filling his body seem to move away. So he was dying. He noticed that he had stopped breathing. Somehow this thought made his muscles remember that they were supposed to move air in and out of his lungs. He could hear a wheezing sound as he inhaled, the pain made him want to scream but he couldn’t.
He couldn’t do anything. He was immobile, stuck, between the pilot’s seat and the control panel. And something was moving outside.
It was, had to be Obi Wan wanting to find out whether he had, in fact, killed Anakin. Panic surged up in Anakin, the urge to flee, run away. But he knew he could not. There was nothing he could do. His body did not react to any of his brain’s orders. His nerves seemed only to work in one direction, sending signals of pain from everywhere. He should be dead. Fuck, he wanted to be dead. Pain washed over him and it was filling up his entire world, there was nothing there except the pain. His body was defined by the pain screaming through his nerves, from the outside more pain pressed against him. The pain was pulsating through him. He had to die, he would dissolve in so much pain. It was like a pool of acid he was slowly dissolving in. But he was still aware, he did not really lose himself completely in the torment. If anything he was re-emerging from the pain. It became less omnipresent, though no less excruciating. Every breath he took filled his lungs with fire. There was still fire around him. Flickering madly, blinding him sometimes completely.
Then something cold washed over him, over the flames licking around his ship. With hissing and spluttering the flames died and Anakin lost himself in darkness.
It was the smell of his own burning flesh and the stench of smoldering hair, clothes and plastic he became aware of again. His nerves sent frantic signals to his brain, and no part of his body reacted to his wishes. He felt dizzy, dizzy because of the pain and because his lungs were definitively not working properly. The only thing he could get them to do was take very small, very slow breaths, and even that hurt so much that he even tried to stop, but something, some sort of survival instinct kicked in and made him inhale deeply. The pain sent him deeper into himself. Struggling with the pain all he was aware of was the different kinds of agony that seemed to be all his body now consisted of, dull, throbbing aches and sharp, stabbing pain.
Somewhere, some part of him was disentangling himself from the pain, becoming capable of thought again. It felt like somebody trapped in a burning building, hammering against the door, screaming to be let out. Was it his spirit trying to escape, leave this wrecked body behind? Was there somebody, something there that could hear his mind’s pleas to let it end now? Stop the pain.
Something splashed on his head, something like a huge wet slug made of acid. It was now crawling over his face, over his eye, burning a fresh trail of pain on his skin. Another slug dropped on him and another. One was trying to slip into his mouth. He had to be dead or he was buried alive, and the slugs were the worms who would now eat him bit by bit. But the smell was wrong. The slugs smelled like a hospital. Was he in the morgue and people had forgotten about him? No. No, he was not lying in a morgue, he was sitting. And there were people around. He did not even care if it was Obi Wan who had come to kill him, then at least it would be over.
One of the slugs or whatever it was dropped off his chin. The antiseptic stench was not as strong anymore and he could again smell the fire and burnt things and blood. The sickly-sweet odour of blood was so strong that he could taste it, the coppery tang of it in his mouth. There was blood in his mouth, seeping down his throat.
Something moved in front of him, a person in orange. Rescue? So he was trapped in a burning building after all. He could hear somebody mention a building and a body. Whose body. He could not remember anybody else being there. But then he could not remember getting into the burning building. It was like a nightmare.
There was something he had to remember. Somebody was after him? Had somebody set the house on fire or had he fled into the house to get away from the person following him?
But this was wrong. He had been in a c-wing, he remembered. But then nightmares never made sense. All he had to do now was to wake up and everything would be alright, then he would tell Shura about it. He had to wake up to stop the pain.
There were more people around him than he had thought, but they were in the distance, talking. He could hardly make out what they were saying. All he could make out was: “Somebody will be very worried.”
It came all back with painful clarity. Obi Wan! He would be worried if he found out that Anakin was still alive. And Shura had left. Anakin knew he had to get away, get out of this wreck and get to safety, but he could not. His body did not work any more. Searing pain shot up his arm. Somebody was trying to wrench it out its socket.
Several voices mingled around him. Some other person was seizing his other arm. Were they trying to rip him apart? Somehow above the pain he could hear somebody remark: “Dead Pilot loses his hand.”
They thought he was dead! But then … perhaps he was dead. Perhaps that was what happened to those Jedi who died serving the dark side of the force, those who did not reach the higher plane of existence. It might be that their minds was stuck forever in their bodies, feeling and knowing that they were dead and rotting away.
He had never thought this was possible. Perhaps Jedi’s minds were more closely connected to their bodies than other people’s so they could only reach this higher plane by taking their bodies with them and those who did not reach this stage were doomed to have their minds disintegrate with their bodies.
Then another person, after trying to rip off his arm again said directly into his ear: “I hope you like your meat well done.” This must be a dream. He could not believe that somebody would eat him. He hoped that this was not real. If he was dead and stuck here…
Pain shot through his lungs as he inhaled deeper than before. He could see somebody put his hand on his chest, touching something strange there, for a moment Anakin thought it was one of the slugs that had crawled over his head earlier, then somehow he knew that it was his own rib, he was even faintly amused to see it. The person snatched his hand away and started swearing loudly. Another voice joined the first, swearing as well, both bleating into his ears.
Suddenly Anakin felt as if he was the victim of a rather strange practical joke, or the audience to a bizarre performance; something had switched nearly all the pain off. He still could not move but his brain was more capable of making sense out of the things his eyes and ears noticed.
“He is still alive. I felt him breathe.”
At least he had not been the only person who had thought he was dead.
Another man joined the other two or replaced one of them, his voice had a distinct accent. He mumbled about the impossibility of Anakin still being alive.
Anakin tried to focus his eyes on the man who was now standing close to him, searching for signs of life. His hand on Anakin’s chest squeezed the air out of his lungs. He could see the hand and his breast sagging down, he felt things moving, but while earlier he had not been able to think straight because of the pain racking through his nerves, the pain was so distant now it did not matter. It was almost as if this was happening to somebody else. The confusion of the rescue team was almost amusing.
“How many ribs can you possibly break at once?”
The man who had said that leaned closer to Anakin, close enough for him to see the skin under his thinning hair. His expression on his face was one of utter bewilderment and Anakin could not help but add to his anxiousness. Without even thinking about it he said: “Twenty-four.”
His next breath stabbed through him again, the outside world disappeared behind a cloud of pain. Perhaps he had broken all of his ribs. It certainly felt like it. People around him were running and shouting. He lost count of the number of people who were there.
Slimy liquid was pooling in his throat and a cough that had been building up for some time finally escaped, and even through the general stabbing of pain he was aware that he coughed up clumps of lung. A wave of nausea came over him, as he tasted the blood and felt the soggy lumps in his mouth. He swallowed convulsively, realizing horrified that he had swallowed bits of his lung. Panic seized him and for a few moments he was just aware that he was digesting his own body, his thoughts were flitting about like frightened birds. This could not really be happening, or could it, and there was nothing, nothing he could do about it.
Somebody talked to him, a woman. Her voice was calm and very close, she must be standing right next to him.
“… need you to stay conscious now. If you drift off I don’t think your body will continue working.”
There was something so assured in her words that Anakin nodded automatically. A tinge of sharpness entered the woman’s voice when she admonished him not to move, just breathe.
Another slimy thing splashed on his face, and Anakin half-expected the woman to lift the slug off his face, though he was not quite sure anymore that it was a slug. He tried to look at the woman but she was so far to his left, he could only see her left arm, clad in a white coat. So she was a medic.
She said something but he was sure she had not talked to him. Then she leaned down to him, and started to wipe the smelly stuff off his face. Foam, it was some kind of fire extinguishing foam. She looked at him with a faint smile on her face, she was quite young, perhaps a few years older than Shura, perhaps a few years younger. Somehow he could not quite make out her features, a roundish, pleasant face, blue eyes.
She talked to somebody else, swearing at him, then turning back to Anakin, she held a syringe in her hand. Something about this, perhaps the tone of her voice, perhaps the somber aura of her, made him tense.
“This is going to hurt. This is going to hurt a lot.”
What was she doing? Anakin wanted to push her away, stop her from doing whatever she wanted to do, but his body refused to follow his orders, and he could only watch as the medic drove the syringe in his heart. He was going to die. Something kicked his breast, like a bilty’s hoof, heat filled his veins and darkness fell.
A sharper pain in his neck and on his chin forced him to focus again. He could hear the woman talking to him: “don’t you slip away.” Her voice was now shaking and strained. “Look at me. Don’t you dare die on me now.”
Something made him try to follow her orders, somehow he managed to focus on her, and breathe.
He could see her nod at him, then she continued to clean his face. She wiped something gooey off his face, cleaning his left eye. He could feel the rough texture of the cloth she used, but he did not see a thing, not with his left eye, and he realized that the mess she was washing off was his eye. Something had cut his eye. He could feel the disinfectant the medic was spraying into his eye, burning in the wound, smelling sharply. Should this bother him? Perhaps it should but then he would probably not live long enough to be affected by the lack of one eye. Every breath he took took an effort, he had to force his muscles to work, despite the stabbing pain which was probably caused by his broken ribs.
The medic cleaned his other eye, talking while she did but he could not bother to listen anymore. The crash, he had not thought about this, but as he had broken his ribs, lost an eye, he started wondering what else was wrong with him. They had all thought he was dead, he could still feel the horror and disgust of the rescue workers around him. He could not feel his legs, or his arms. A sharp sting in his neck brought him back to reality.
The medic was examining his right arm, staring with wrinkled brows at the stump, wondering what had happened. He could nearly feel her thinking that the bones were cut and not ripped as they should be had he lost the hand in the accident.
Memories swept over Anakin, Shura shouting at him, afraid and angry, Obi Wan standing over him, cutting off his hand, the lifeless hand tumbling to the floor, Obi Wan trying to kill him, furious.
The medic screamed and pushed him out of her thoughts. “Never, ever do that again.” She was angry and offended. “It is not nice to meddle with other people’s heads, and I am sorry, you don’t make a lot of sense in your condition.”
He could feel her recoil from his thoughts. But she did not mind the way he looked. He had seen himself through her eyes for a second, he knew that the burnt monster she had been looking at was him, but it just could not be true. It could not be that he was so mutilated.
And all because Shura had talked with Obi Wan, had believed his lies and left him. The memory of her standing in the shuttle train, telling him why she left was all he could think of. ‘I left you because I could not bear it any longer.’ What was it she could not bear any more? And to talk to Obi Wan of all people. His wife, the one thing in his life he had been so sure he would never lose, she had betrayed him, left him.
His thoughts turned in smaller and smaller circles, she had left him and he was dying. Dizziness rose like fog over a cold river. He wanted to be dead, now.
“Anakin.” A voice pierced the darkness, a woman, but Shura had left him. “Anakin. Would you please look at me?” She was gone and … He felt somebody touch his cheek, gently, talking to him. He could not make out the words, he could feel the worry of the person talking to him, her determination to save him, as if she was pushing away his thoughts about the past. He had to concentrate on the present and breathe slowly.
Without taking the decision Anakin followed her order. He could feel people tugging at him, sounds were hitting his ears. Then the pain came back, he could feel his feet again, his arms and the dull pain in his stomach as if his entrails were twisting like a snake. He could hear his own breath wheezing in his ears. He had to breathe. But something heavy was settling on his chest, the encouraging voice disappeared. Then, something filled his lungs, closed them completely. Silence filled the world, absolute quiet and darkness. This was it. He was floating and apart from the tightness in his chest the other emotions drifted away.
“Breathe! Goddammit. I know you can. Breathe!” He could not. There was no way he could move the weight on his chest. The voice of the woman talking became harsh with desperation and anger.
Something shifted and he managed to move some air into his lungs. The burning sensation made him lose the voice. A cough seemed to split his lungs in half. Hands were pulling and pushing at him, something covered his nose, fingers pushed into his mouth. It was as if hundreds of small animals were crawling over his face. What were they doing? Once more he felt as if he was drifting, in a strangely hot air, he knew he was losing it, flowing away from his body.
“You hear me?” He tried, concentrated on the voice, its undercurrents of anger and grim determination. “No use trying to sneak away. I will take you through this and then we’re going to take a holiday on Dellalt.”
A picture of grey waves splashing against oddly coloured cliffs filled his mind, salty mist filled the air. It looked nice, and there was no sand there. He had to tell her, say that Dallalt sounded fine to him, but he only managed to cough up more lung and blood. As long as they did not go to Tatooine.
“No, we’re not going to Tatooine. Even though the dry air of the desert would do your lungs some good.” Her voice shook with strain. “Well, we have been here before.” Something stabbed him, pain spread through his body, as if every single nerve came to life again. But it cleared his head, he could see, see the face of the medic hovering over him. She smiled, so things were better.
“I think we can risk it now.”
The world around him moved, he was moved, away from her. He could sense her slipping away. Out of his sight, her presence was obscured by others. A smaller room enclosed him and the feeling of tension and disgust surrounded him. People were fumbling at him again, then the woman was there again, touching his face, muttering assurances at him, while others were attaching machines to his body. Drowsiness spread over him, he tried to push it away, stay awake.
“It’s okay, you can sleep now. We will take care of you.”
And darkness embraced him.
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