Born Again (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: March 3, 2016 in Fiction
Tags: , , ,

Another week, another challenge. This time taking the first sentence from someone else and creating a story out of it. I ended up with Fred Yost’s “The first breath shattered her world, the second shattered her heart.” Thanks Fred, and if you do, by chance read this, I hope you enjoy it.

As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.

It hurt. It hurt so goddamn much. Lying there, the too bright lights of the operating theater which illuminated too much. Standing around her, the medical professionals.

She blinked her eyes, felt sensation rushing back. The electronic beep of medical equipment. The conversation of people standing around her. All professional. All clinical. As if she wasn’t anything more than a bit of meat on the table.

“Welcome back.” She recognized the voice. Dan. She blinks back tears. “We weren’t sure you were going to make it, Sara.”

Sara. Her name. She recognized it from her dreams. The ones she thought were real. Her children… a great racking sob tears through her body. All of it a lie, she knew, even as it was happening. A comforting fable to keep her mind occupied while they rebuilt her body.

“How long?” Her voice sounded strange and alien, even to her own ears. Like she’d spent the past week gargling razor blades.

“Two months,” Dan replied. The surgical mask hid any expression she might be able to read. “There wasn’t a lot to work with.”

She blinked, forcing the dream of domestic tranquility back down. She remembered the reality. The explosion as the team entered the building.  She remembered Tina falling down, collapsing like a puppet with cut strings. Hwang pin wheeling through the air to crash into the reinforced wall and not getting back up again. She remembered her body on fire, trying to crawl away while Dan in her earpiece demanding an update.

“Anyone else make it?”

Dan shook his head. “You were it. Like I said, there wasn’t a lot to work with.”

Sara nodded her head. Two months was a long time to be gone. “What’s next?”

“You need to rest. Get your strength back. Then we’ll talk.”


Two orderlies wheeled her down off-white corridors. She stared at the ceiling, counting lights and doors as they moved her. Memories flooded her, replacing the artificial ones they had used to keep her mind occupied while they rebuilt her. A memory of baking an apple pie replaced with knife fighting techniques. Working in a garden that never existed replaced with placing a shaped charge.

The orderlies pushed her into a room. Four walls. No windows. Not even a television.

“Your nurse will be in to see you shortly.”

Sara found the button on the side of her bed, used it to incline the bed up. She ran her hands down her body. Everything felt in place. Nervous, she lifted the thin sheet, stared down at her body. She’d been dressed in a hospital gown, but the skin she could see looked like hers. A brief tactile exploration indicated everything was where it was supposed to be. She closed her eyes. Again, images of children, a son and daughter, sprang up in her vision. Memories of someone else, a husband perhaps, came to mind. She let that thought roll around in her head. For some reason she thought of Dan. Dan, the voice on the other end of the comm, the one that called the missions. Control.

She opened her eyes when she heard the door open. Her body tensed like an overwound clock spring. A nurse wheeled in a medical tray. Of course, the nurse. Nothing more normal. Evidently this nurse took his physical fitness serious, as his neck looked to be about the size of one of Sara’s thighs and his chest bulged against his scrubs.

“Oh, you’re awake.” The nurse pushed the cart closer. The angle prevented Sara from seeing what was on the cart. “Are you hungry?”

Sara shook her head. “Should I be?”

The nurse shrugged his shoulders. “Not sure. We don’t see… ahh too many cases like yours. We’ve been feeding you through a tube, keeping you hydrated, that sort of thing. Gotta say, I’m impressed.” Thick fingers fumbled a syringe. He opened a drawer and pawed through it.

“First day on the job?” Sara asked.

“Huh? No, just end of a long shift. You know how it can be.”

Something clicked in Sara’s head. “I do at that, Jacob.”


He lunged away from her, towards a panel on the wall. She moved faster, kicking out from the sheets and sending the wheeled cart spinning into his legs, knocking him to the floor. She spun out of bed, placed her feet on the floor, and promptly fell down when her legs refused to support her.

Jacob scrambled to his feet, but Sara managed to wrap her arms around his ankles, knocked him to the ground. The cart tipped over with him, sending its contents scattering across the ground. She grabbed a syringe, clawed her way on top of Jacob. He kicked and punched, but he wasn’t able to get his weight behind it. She plunged the syringe in again, and again, aiming for neck, ears, and eyes. Finally, he was still.

She paused, breathing heavily, closed her eyes again. The images of her children sprang to mind again. She recalled their names. Simone. Charlie. Named after grandparents. Her grandparents. She remembered her husband. Trevor. Remembered how she was hired to put together a team. Hired to go after a black site buried deep in Eastern Europe. She remembered putting the team together. All people she’d worked with before. All of them dead… except Dan. She felt bile rise in her throat.

She patted down Jacob’s cooling corpse. Came away with the knife she knew Jacob liked to carry strapped to his leg. She’d worked with him in the past too, out of necessity, not preference. Found his radio too. She took his cell phone, removed the sim card and smashed it.

With great effort, she leveraged the cart upright. Opening one of the drawers, she found a handgun, a couple of clips of ammunition. She placed the gun on top, pushed it forward out of the room. Her legs were still too weak to fully support her, but the cart helped. She wasn’t happy about walking around an unknown location with her ass hanging out, but there was no way she was putting Jacob’s scrubs on now.

She entered the hallway and paused. Looking back and forth, she decided to go left. At this point, it made just as much sense as right.

“Jacob, are you finished?” The radio squawked.

“Jacob’s finished all right.”


“Hello, Dan.”

“Shit, Sara, what have you done? The meds must be messing with your head. Look, I don’t know what you did with Jacob, but you need to understand. What you think is real isn’t real. We worked together. We… we were close, Sara. Have you forgotten?”

Images flash in her head. Hotel rooms. Showers. Loneliness. Stress. The release found in sex. The guilt after.

“No,” she growled.

“Sara, you need to stop this.”


“Sara… we know where your family is.”

She stopped short. Blinked. The lies fell like scales from her eyes. “You son of a bitch.”

“Come back Sara. We can talk through this. Reach an arrangement.”

She looked down at the gun. “Yeah.”

“Let me tell you where to go.”

She followed the directions, pushed open the door. She saw Dan standing there, with others. He opened his mouth to say something. Blood blossomed on the wall behind him. The others stand, stunned. She pulled the trigger, again and again.

Sara dropped the gun. Turned and left. Time to find her family.

  1. srtelford says:

    Hey, Matt,
    The story arc is wonderful, building to a clean, lively ending. All in all – I really enjoyed this piece.
    I felt there were a few spots that read a little choppy (Sarah dropped the gun [,] turned and left), where commas, rather than petiods, may have better served continuity. In other places the short, abrupt sentences are delightfully expressive.
    A wonderful, impromptu short story, Matt. Very creative, my friend.

  2. moteridgerider says:

    Very tight writing. It produced a great excerpt. You could start a novel with this.

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