Take Away Everything


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Scene Title Take Away Everything
Synopsis "A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory."
Date January 31, 2009

Undisclosed Location

The sound of groaning steel and cracking stone rises up from the bridge like the horrible roar of some unimaginable monster. A whistling and whipping sound of the suspension cables snapping one by one cracks along with the yawning creak of strained metal and crumbling concrete. Amidst the billowing plumes of smoke rising up from the chasm in the middle of the bridge, screams fill the air.

As the dust cloud begins to settle, the bridge shudders and tilts, pitching towards the north and sending the tractor-trailer's burning remains sliding across concrete until it smashes into the guard rail and flips over the edge of the bridge. The vehicle crashes between the strained suspension cables, swings around like a jacknife and hangs by the front cab. The axels scream with the strain of metal, followed by the rythmic popping of linkages and cabling.

He's falling.

A sound in the distance draws closer, a constant thumping in the air, at first hard to pinpoint the location of. Through the swirling snow, spinning rotors of whirling helicopter blades descend from the skies, though the steady thrum is soon drowned out by the crashing of waves…


"Take away everything… and you're a man."

When he opens his eyes again, it isn't to the cold gray skies of New York City or even the sting of saltwater invading his vision — it's to an unremarkable concrete ceiling with a fluorescent light fixture hanging from its very center, bathing his body in a harsh white glow. He wears no shirt and no shoes, only a pair of pants and a wool blanket cast across his bare chest, the material coarse and slightly itchy on his skin. Although the corners of his vision are still dark, he makes out a pair of shadows lingering in his peripheral, their low voices like whispers trickling through one ear and out the other, but as consciousness returns to him, they become clearer and clearer, louder and louder until the one who is currently speaking comes into focus.

"… Logan's man on the boat said he was lucky to be alive," it says. "What do you make of that?"

"I make of it exactly what it sounds like," comes the apparent reply, notably closer than the first voice, "He's lucky to be alive, considering you found him in the ocean after… what happened, would you suppose? I've thought about it, and the only cause I've been able to think of was losing a fist-fight with Paul Bunyan. I only hope he'll wake up soon. Maybe he'll be able to tell us what did happen, assuming I still want to know when that time comes."

The man laid out and being evaluated takes a breath in, the most essential thing a body can do for itself. Slightly deeper than the shallow breathing of unconsciousness. He can still feel the salt water in his lungs, but perhaps just a ghost of a sensation from who knows how long ago. Either way, it abruptly makes him cough, eyes squinting shut against the harsh lights and turning his head away, his body involuntarily answering both men in the room that yes, he will wake up soon. A low groan rolls from deep in his chest as he wakes up to more than just oxygen and light - he wakes up to the myriad of bruises of a battered body. His hand clutches the blanket draped over him, before turning his head against to see those shadowy figures that had danced in his periphery. He says nothing, not at first, opening his mouth as if to speak. Finally, a rather rasping sound of, "Wh…?" makes its way out.

"I can only speculate." The owner of the first voice is a tall, broad-shouldered man somewhere in his mid-forties, his blond beard peppered with flecks of silver and gray, dressed in an immaculate black business suit, white dress shirt and tie — the only thing that doesn't look polished about him is the lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, smoke rising from the bright orange tip in thin, sinuous plumes. One hand goes to the injured man's shoulder, clasping it gently. "Careful," he cautions him, "from what we can tell, you took a bit of spill. Best not to be moving about until Dr. Filatov gives you the all-clear."

The second man, ostensibly the doctor the first mentioned, looks about the same age, although his hair is just the slightest bit longer and notably darker, and his own beard would be better described as heavy stubble. Unlike the first, however, he is not dressed in a business suit, but much more casually in a winter shirt and (hopefully) trousers of one sort or another, although they are quite out of sight due to his close proximity. He looks down at his patient through round-lensed spectacles as he prepares a stethoscope for use. "Indeed," he says, "Listen closely, and try not to move. I need you to take as deep a breath as you can. I need to confirm something." It may well be obvious what he means to confirm when he presses the cold metal listening device against the half-clothed man's chest. "Breathe in until it hurts, and then exhale as slowly as you can manage. Do you understand?" They can't be in a hospital. Hospitals are bright and sterile, not spot-lit and… grey.

The advice to not move is taken on board. It suddenly seems like a really good idea. Swallowing, his eyes shift from side to side to take in his surroundings because there is something disturbingly familiar about all the concrete, the lights up above, but he can't for the life of him pinpoint why. Certainly not because it resembles a hospital, which it doesn't. A headache is hammering away, making him shut his eyes again after studying the unfamiliar face of, presumably, Doctor Filatov. Breathe. He can do that. He gives a slight nod to show he understood, then when indicated to do so, he does as he's told, filling his lungs. Upon the exhale, coughing racks his body once more, violent but over quickly. "My head," he says, voice as rough as gravel as he attempts to open his eyes again. "I can't think— can't think straight…"

"No surprise." Apparently satisfied, Dr. Filatov removes the stethoscope form the equation and sets it aside. "Given the kind of trauma, it's a wonder you can think at all. Don't ask why. Just know that I had to stitch your forehead shut, and that you should get a CAT scan and chest X-rays as soon as you can, never mind this, burn on your face. And, really, you shouldn't get up for any reason for a few days. No punctured lungs, as far as I can tell, but you almost certainly have bruised ribs, if they aren't cracked. Dislocated shoulder, bruised vertebrae, a leg that probably isn't broken but is splinted just in case, and an abundance of skin abrasions, and those, if I'm not mistaken, are just the appetizers." Overall, not a very bright-seeming diagnosis.

"What on Earth did you do to yourself?"

Dr. Filatov's companion has questions too, but he keeps them to himself, silent but for the tap-tap of his finger against the tip of his cigarette as he discards some ash into a nearby tray he keeps close at hand. He listens to the doctor's assessment, expression stoic for the most part, the light in his blue eyes brightening only when Filatov arrives at the end of his spiel.

He isn't interested in hearing what their patient did to himself — he already knows that, though this is a fact he'd never share with either of the men in the room. He's more curious as to whether or not he remembers.

The shriek of metal, the world tipping over, the sudden weightlessness and then a bruises crash against water, and then the world turned to white water hell, and— he shudders, which does nothing for his injuries and elicits another groan from him. As the diagnosis goes on, he shuts his eyes in denial. More drugs would be awesome, and he's not even sure how much is numbed, how much is left to stew. At each bullet point, it's like that injury twinges, like a roll being called. Shoulder? Present. Back? Present. Leg? Also present.

At the prompt of the question, he opens his eyes again and looks at the doctor, as if searching for the answer to the doctor's own question. Trying to see fast the frenetic images playing in his mind. "It— I fell. The building fell." Hesitation. "Bridge." Bewilderment, angry confusion, frustration. And slow dawning panic. "I don't remember," he says. "I don't remember anything."

"Retrograde post-traumatic amnesia," the doctor says almost immediately, "Not entirely uncommon following a massive head injury. But think." As if he were conspiring, Dr. Filatov leans closer to his patient, possibly to make sure he's heard. "You really can't remember anything? Phone number, home address? Your name? Think. If you can remember your name, then you can remember everything else." Given enough time. Maybe. Traumatic brain injuries have a spotty record when it comes to recovery. "Think."

He blinks rapidly, but seems to understand, trying to swallow back the rising fear and realisation. The doctor is using smart sounding words, and if he thinks he can recall something— anything— then— It's like grasping at smoke as intangible as the tendrils coming from the second stranger's cigarette, and just as frustration. And that final urge to think, he snaps— without much venom, voice coming quietly, sore-sounding, in the same conspiring tones as Filatov— "I can't." He swallows again, eyes shutting and head resting back against the pillow, and a little thicker, says, "I don't know what my name is. Can you— can you tell me where I am?"

"You're on Staten Island," the bearded man says, "in a privately-owned facility on the outskirts of the Rookery. My business partner and I found you floating off the coast on our way back from Manhattan, and the man captaining our boat pulled you out of the water. That was two days ago." He takes a short drag from his cigarette, blows the smoke out through his nostrils. "You didn't have any identification on you, so we've been keeping you here in the hope you might wake up and enlighten us." There's no disappointment in his voice. Quite the contrary, the beginnings of a smile appear at the corners of his mouth, more sympathetic than it is malicious. "Truth be told, we weren't expecting you to live, but I have to say I've been pleasantly surprised."

"If you wish to keep the surprise pleasant, friend," the doctor says half-interrupting, "You'll get him a brain scan and chest X-rays. You should ask him what he remembers tomorrow. At least we can confirm or deny damage to the hippocampus." All at once, the doctor looks as though he's beginning to pack up in preparation to leave. "If you have the money, and I don't doubt that you do, I'll come back and test the rest of his cognitive function, but I've done everything I can right now." Before he moves far from his patient's side, he produces a small, orange plastic bottle from one of his pockets. "Hydrocodone. One tablet when the pain bothers you. Take more than that, and you'll never wake up. Is that clear, Mister Nobody?"

There are way, way too many questions, but he— whoever he is— is catching on quick to the fact that both other men in the room have as few answers as he does. The hand attached to an arm that wasn't dislocated curls fingers around the plastic bottle, just nodding once at the instruction, trying to keep himself together. Barely.

Mister Nobody? Oh god.

A sheen of sweat sparkles brightly in the lights, making his hair slick and skin shine, soaking patches in the woolen blanket. It's almost too much to be natural, drips making tracks down his face, to collect on the fabric beneath him. That would be because it's pure water, drained from the air rather than from his body. Upon closer observation, the tendrils of water shift oddly, subtly, against his skin.

"I want to go to a hospital," he says, quietly, almost too quiet, so he says it again, this time with his voice echoing off the cement walls. "I want to go to a hospital." The doctors will take better care of him, surely, proper care of him, and then there are authorities that will find out who he is if he still can't remember. He tries to sit up, perhaps in preparation for such a field trip, when his body reminds him why he was recommended not to. A pained, shuddering growl is aborted when he clamps his teeth together, more angry than anything— and then, like a poltergeist movie, the little bedside table Filatov had set the pills down onto goes rocking across the room only to smash into a wall. Which, at least, distracts him from his own panic for a moment, falling into stunned silence.

It's the bearded man who breaks the silence.

"You don't want to go to a hospital," he says after a brief pause, seemingly unruffled by their patient's sudden and violent outburst, "because if you go to a hospital, the government will descend upon you faster than a swarm of flies at a carcass. Correct me if I'm wrong," he adds, straightening his tie, "but I don't think that's something either of us want."

He glances over at the remains of the table, splinters of broken wood scattered across the floor of the room, and that smile widens into a tiger-like grin, all tooth and no lip. "I'll send someone in to clean that up. We'll talk more tomorrow, and if you still want us to take you somewhere like St. Luke's, then that will be arranged — you have my word."

The doctor keeps his attention on the remains of the table perhaps longer than is really necessary. He takes the time to consider that Nobody has probably gotten himself into worse trouble than he otherwise would have been.

Oh well. What's one when there are billions to consider? "You might find control more immediately useful than a hospital," he says, "You'll be more likely to hurt yourself than others without it. But, that's my opinion. Take it for what you will." And, much as he was beginning to before, Filatov once again prepares himself to leave. "If you will excuse me, I have another patient to see to. Apparently, falling off bridges is what all the kids are doing these days."

Both men's words flow over them, and he can really only bring himself to distantly listen, staring at where he had flung the table without even touching it, before looking towards the bearded man at the word 'government', subdued, mouth parted a little but no words are forthcoming. Then to Filatov. 'Control'. He swallows again, and then mutely nods. Okay. Whatever you guys say.

He has the distant impression that this should be amazing, miraculous, awe-inspiring. Perhaps, in any other moment, he'd feel giddy that even if he doesn't know his name, anything about himself, all those details, the knowledge that he could do that would be enough. But right this second? He wants things to make sense, but more importantly, he wants to wake up from whatever this dream is.

Fuck it.

A pill is rattled out of the bottle, into the palm of his hand, and swallowed with only a little awkwardness. Pray for relief, and some sleep, and the bottle of painkiller is tucked under his pillow. "Okay," he finally says, the word coming out heavy. Mystified and resigned. "Thank you."

Whereas Nobody has only resignation to offer Tycoon, Filatov has a question, and an important one: "Should I expect to be here again tomorrow?"

"You're very welcome," the bearded man replies with a low chuckle, moving to follow the doctor out of the room after extinguishing his cigarette against the back of his hand. The ashtray, previously on the nightstand, lies in ruin as fragments of shattered glass amidst the broken piece of furniture. "And yes, Constantine — you should."

Before he departs, he stops, lingering on the threshold where the shadows meet the light, and reaches up to brush his fingers against a plastic switch.


"Sleep well."

January 31st: Cheese At Tiffany's

Previously in this storyline…
The Bad Touch

Next in this storyline…
A Waste of Time

January 31st: A Place To Hide
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