For the second time in, what, hours?, I wake up exhausted and in pain. Brian is touching and prodding me.

“Listen, I’m really sorry about that. But I needed you to be angry, to see what would happen. You can…you can kill other people here, the people I call sleepers because they don’t seem to know where they are or that anything is wrong. But I didn’t know about real people, like you and me. I didn’t know what would happen, and I had to know, before I continued with my work.”

I groaned what I wanted to be a stream of invectives and tried to sit up.

“No no no, you’re too weak now. Listen, I think you’re going to be fine. I mean, all is obviously not well, you’ve lost a lot of blood, and I’m no doctor, at least not of medicine, but I think you should be dead. You definitely shouldn’t have been able to beat the shit out of me with a hole in your chest.” He gave a nervous laugh. “Where did you learn that, by the way? When I first figured out things were weird here, the first thing I did is I learned some kung-fu. You know, like Keaneau Reeves in the Matrix? Anyway, it’s embarrassing to talk about, but hey, it was the first thing that came up. But you totally took me by surprise. Maybe because I wasn’t angry, even when you were punching me. Frustrated, yes, but not angry. I totally understood, and was surprised that you took it so well.”

He turned aside to pick something up. “Ok, I’m sorry in advance, but I’m going to have to remove the bullet. Then I can patch you up. The instructions on this first-aid kid are very thorough. You should be fine.”

That part is pretty fucking awful, but it’s over quick. For all of his lack of bedside manner, he’s deft and sure when he makes up his mind. At some point I pass out, right after I hear him say “Oh! Wow, that’s a lot of blood.”

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