Cold. My right arm, it's... cold. Freezing. The frigidity has crept its way through everything, and my torpid frame begins to shiver as I slowly regain awareness of it. Layers of crust split as my eyelids creak open, and while the resulting flood of fluorescence is overwhelming in my still-awaking vision, I squint to find the culprit suspended above me: a bag of saline, crystal clear, dripping into a winding tube below. Waking up from anesthesia is not like that from sleep. There exists no single moment of awareness that breaks your slumber, nor is there the recollection of dreams, of afterimages still fresh in your mind. Instead it is an agonizing transition, one that is as disorienting as it is slow. It's an awful thing, really, to feel dissociative or otherwise disconnected from reality. When your mind screams that something isn't right, it lays a heavy burden of doubt on your burgeoning consciousness. Even worse is lacking this sense of grounding while under the belief that you're still of sound judgment. Total erasure of doubt. The drugs they give you tend to have this effect. This is all to be expected, but there lies a glaring issue in this particular instance: this procedure, at least the last I remember sitting down for, mandates that no anesthetic shall be present. So why am I waking up? "W-what... happened...?" I motion toward the blurred forms clustered around the bed. Confused blinks steadily crank the figures into focus, little by little, until the worry in their faces sharpens in unnatural clarity. They shoot glances at one another, eyes darting expectantly without answer. The room remains unbearably silent until the tallest of the group steps forward to break it. "Something... went wrong. During the procedure." A hand covers her lips as she clears her throat, a nervous tic she rarely allows herself to display. "Your vitals went haywire-- heart rate skyrocketed, respiration grew into hyperventilation, blood oxygen saturation tanked-- so the decision was made to end the examination prematurely." Shame drags my gaze back down to the blankets encircling me. The damn procedure. Without thinking my arm lifts, weakly pressing the frigid tubes against my chest, so that my fingers may come to rest atop my head. Skin, bisected by a ring of hard staples, bone underneath. A fingertip lowers and rakes underneath my eye... it's coated in crust. My nose is stuffed and the back of my throat feels hoarse. I must have been sobbing. The others can undergo the same without issue, why must it be so difficult for only me? Now I'm feeling the upwelling of unbearable emotion, that which emerged midway through the procedure, threatening to breach the surface again. Yet this time I do not know why. There's nothing to tug the threads within me and still they thicken with adrenaline. A taste, vile and unmistakable, trickles across my tongue. Of salt and decay. It's in the bag above me, it's in my mouth, it's beginning to well up in my eyes. In my blossoming panic I catch the tray in the corner of my vision. A syringe. A needle. A vial. Liquid, clear, nondescript. If I truly am the emotional core, if the simple act of passive existence is enough to rend the lot of us dysfunctional, the only responsible course of action is to not exist. There is no alternative option. I cannot compromise the entire system. Being drugged, numbed, asleep, dead, is better than dragging the rest down with me. They don't deserve that. I loathe the drug, and even more intensely, I loathe my over-reliance on it. But really, what choice do I have here? One of them cries out, lunges at me as I throw my weight toward the tray, but another restrains her. My weakened hands fumble as they affix the needle to the syringe, throat constricts in pain as the needle pierces the vial, what little lies in my stomach steadily rises as I draw the plunger back. I should've stopped ages ago but I keep pulling. Pulling and pulling and pulling. What does it matter anymore? The rest are forced to watch my trembling fingers struggle to find the stray tube against my inner arm, jab the needle's end into it, and force the plunger down with what little strength remains. Perhaps, the next time I wake up, if I ever do, we will all be in a place where the time and energy can be afforded to properly diagnose and treat whatever it is that is wrong with me. I'm not counting on it.