Rin gasped as she woke from the nightmare, Akio’s bloody face seeming to still float in front of her eyes. Confused and agitated, she looked around in terror at the unfamiliar surroundings. Spotting a familiar face did little to help with the disorientation, but did help calm her nerves.
“Eri?”, she asked, surprised at how weak and rough her voice sounded. Her friend looked back from the window, the worry lines creasing her young face.
“Rin!”, she gasped, rushing over to the side of the bed. “You’re awake, thank the ancestors!”
Eri crouched beside the bed railing, bringing herself down to eye level. The obvious relief on her face reminded Rin why she liked Yoshiki’s wife so much. She was the most genuine person Rin had ever met, her feelings clear for all to see.
The older woman glanced around again, taking in the sterile medical facility surroundings. Some of the confusion was passing.
“Eri, what’s going on? Where are we?”, she croaked.
Her friend grabbed a container with a straw and held it for her to sip. The cool liquid soothed some of the burning in her throat as Eri answered.
“You’re in the hospital, Rin. You were in an accident. Don’t you remember?”
Little flashes of revelation started coming back to her. “I was going to meet someone in Tacoma”, she nodded. “There was a flash of lightning, and the car went the wrong way. There was a truck…”, her voice trailed off as she couldn’t recall more, and Eri’s face filled with concern.
“Oh, poor Rin. It must have been horrible. They said that when the ambulance brought you to the DocWagon clinic, you were almost dead. The EMT’s even had to bring you back from the brink before they got you to the operating room. But you’re ok now. The doctors said they patched things up and you’re as good as new. Even better than new.”
Eri was trying to put on a brave face, but failing miserably. Rin could tell that something was wrong.
Rin sighed and reached out to comfort her friend, “What’s wrong, Eri? Why are you looking at me like…”
Her voice trailed off as the metallic hand reached for the young woman’s head. She almost called out a warning before she realized that she was making the same gesture as the device coming out from under the sheets. Eri shifted back a little, trying to cover up her look of horror as Rin lifted to arm in front of her eyes and flexed the myomer and steel replacement in fascination.
Eri’s voice was so soft that the older woman barely registered the sound. Rin whipped the bedsheets off, exposing her body. Eri gasped again, partly at the shock of seeing her friend naked, and partly at the glistening cybernetic leg that ran from Rin’s right hip to the foot of the bed.
The widowed mother looked down, amazed at the contrast between what her eyes told her and the normal sensations she was feeling from the mechanical device. She flexed the limb experimentally, struggling to tell the difference from the unmodified left leg. A bit less sensitive, not feeling the cold air as much, moves very smoothly, feels strong.
The sharpness of the young woman’s voice cut through her reverie as Eri struggled to replace the sheets. “I’m so sorry, Rin”, she babbled. “They tried to fix it, but the doctor says they were too mangled by the accident to be saved.” Her friend put her head down and began to sob.
Rin absently stroked Eri’s hair, marveling at how she could feel the individual black strands between the device’s fingertips. Wondering if it was as strong as it was subtle, she reached out, grabbed the tubing of the bedrail and squeezed. The metal pipe crumpled easily in the hand, touch receptors cutting out as she began to feel the sting of the sharp metal edges digging into its…no, her palm.
The arrival of the nurse interrupted Rin’s experimentation and Eri’s tears. “Glad to see you are awake, Ms. Yoshido. You should drink fluids and get more rest. The therapists will be here soon to start your rehabilitation training.”
The matronly woman gathered up Rin’s sobbing friend and guided her out the room, making gentle, reassuring noises. Eri glanced back with a sympathetic expression, mouthing the words I’m so sorry as the door closed behind her.
Rin stared at the door after it swung shut.
Eri doesn’t understand. This is a blessing, not a horror. Just imagine what I can do .