Hyper Shorts: Man on Fire

Man on Fire. Story by Jack Stewart. Copyright 2017.

I woke up on fire. I don’t mean that it felt like I was on fire, I mean that my skin was burning and hanging off of my body in great flaming sheets. I smelled good, like Korean BBQ. I wonder if I tasted like chicken.

My stomach would have growled if I had any stomach left. I looked down and saw that the majority of my organs in my abdominal cavity, not normally visible under most circumstances, had been reduced to burnt sausage-like forms.
Mmm. Sausage.

I also noticed that I was tied to a chair and burning vigorously along with the rest of my small apartment. I’d be losing my security deposit for sure.

How did I end up in this chair, on fire, and having the me-induced munchies? I tried to think but some nearby ass bag was screaming. The sound of it drilled into my head breaking up what little rational thought I could muster. Either that dude was having the most catastrophic sex of his life, passing the mother of all kidney stones, or was on fire.
Ha, ha. Maybe he was on fire like me. Then I realized the man screaming was me and decided it might be a good idea to join in as the pain of being burned alive finally asserted itself.

Feel the burn. Story by Jack Stewart. Copyright 2017.

I screamed. I must have still had my vocal cords because my scream was a good long loud, dying horse-in-an-industrial-shredder-like scream that continued on until the fire hit something vital and I passed out.

When the firemen finally put me out, the paramedics didn’t even bother to check me for a pulse. I was dead and they knew it. I heard one of the medics say I smelled like Korean BBQ and if his cute partner wanted to get some after their shift. Yeah, I know, even burned to death I was still scoping out the only female in the room.

The firemen and paramedics left and the police, fire marshal, and detectives came in followed by the forensics folks. They photographed things, used fancy words like “burned beyond recognition” and “fire accelerant” and “had his genitals burned off” and “must have been painful” as they walked around the blackened shell of my apartment, and drank what I assumed was coffee. It wasn’t until a forensic team technician, the second cute female to be in my room that day, came over and began cutting and pulling samples of burnt tissue off of me that I decided now might be a good time to let everyone know I was alive by screaming.

Also, the pain helped motivate me.

Ever have a piece of your third or fourth degree burned intestine snipped off of your body? No? Try it and see how loud you scream

Apparently, I was pretty loud since the technician fell back on her ass and scrabbled away so fast you think I was a zombie trying to grab her. Of course, that’s exactly what I must have looked like with most of my body burned away and little more than a tasty smelling skeleton jiggling away in my chair. It also caused everyone holding a cup of what I assumed was coffee to jump and spill their coffee everywhere confirming to me that they were, in fact drinking coffee.

The paramedics rushed back in (including the cute one), pumped sweet, sweet morphine into what was left of my arm, slapped an oxygen mask on my face, and cut me free. The six cops, two detectives, and two forensic technicians all stood back with various looks of horror (ten different ones to be exact) and shook their heads as the medics wheeled me out of the apartment building and into the ambulance. I could tell that each and every one of them hoped that I would die before I made it to the hospital.

I did not die before I made it to the hospital.

They brought me into the emergency room where the doctor, who was chatting up a cute nurse with his back to me said, “Mmm. I smell BBQ. Did someone order BBQ? Damn it, now I’m hungry. Want to catch a bite after our shift?” then turned and saw where that delicious fragrance was coming from, promptly puked, and swore off meat forever right then and there.

He managed to get himself together just long enough to point to the burn ward. The medics wheeled me in as a burn team followed closely behind. Now, in any other day and age, I would have died in that fire. Even in this day and age, I should have died in that fire. And everyone who I encountered after that day would agree that it would have been a better for me to have died in that fire.

But I lived and here’s why: Like every person of my generation, I had a whole army of nanobots injected into me on my twenty-first birthday. These little buggers were intended to keep my arteries clear of the massive amounts of fat and cholesterol I ate, process out all the alcohol I imbibed so as not to petrify my liver, and collect all those nasty, nasty carcinogens I inhaled in various smoky forms as I went about my young life. In extreme cases (car wrecks, hunting accidents, bizarre sexual acts) they were intended to keep their host alive long enough for the medical folks to stich them back together again. But they were never intended to keep a burn victim like me alive. No sir, no sir.

For some reason, my particular brand of nanites (Johnston and Johnston Long-Life® Nanites) were particularly effective at resisting damage from heat and busily stitched up what they could of me as the fire burned off the rest.

So, I lived. I’m all right Jack, keep your hands off of my stack.

Into the burn ward I go, where a giant vat of what looked and tasted exactly like liquid mercury awaited me. How do I know what the metallic looking liquid tasted like? Because the burn staff hoisted me up without ceremony and plopped me right into it: IVs, oxygen mask, tattered bits of clothes and all.

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz… you know the rest.

This vat was full of trillions of nanites just waiting for a poor slob like me to be turned into a human shaped kielbasa so they could start their work.

Mmm, kielbasa.

Now nanites can do a lot of nifty things but they cannot create matter out of thin air. They need something to work with. In non-burned-to-nothing human hosts, they take some of the nutrients in the bloodstream to do their repair work. In me, well there was very little left for them to work with so they used themselves as building blocks to try and rebuild what the fire had burned away

The end result of this was, three weeks later, I emerged from the vat and induced coma fully restored and looking exactly like the Silver Surfer except that I had junk (fully restored, silver junk) and an anus where the Silver Surfer was as smooth and orifice-free as some creepy child’s baby-man-doll.

The doctor, who wore the worst toupee ever created by mankind and worn by mankind told me that in a year or two, my natural tissues would be restored and I’d look like a naked mole-rat version of myself. He also recommended several wig stores that catered to burn and cancer patients that he himself used frequently. I declined to patronize his hair store and I was discharged from the hospital a month after that. Yes, I still looked like a poorly rendered computer drawing, but I could see, eat, poop, pee, and…uh…whack my mole (wink, wink) like any other normal man. And yes, everything came out silver, too.
Now you’d think I’d get a lot of stares from folks, have kids point at me and then run behind their mother’s skirts (if they were wearing one), and suffer the many indignities of looking like a man made of silver and lead. But no, people suffering extreme burn injuries were pretty common and folks got used to seeing people like me all the time so I was able to go about my life without feeling like the Elephant Man. There were even some of the ladies who were turned on by my appearance. Over the next few months, I must had slung more hash than a short order cook at the Waffle House. These women must have thought that if I looked like I was made of metal, then my…well you get the picture (#MemberOfSteel).

They weren’t far from wrong (#LoveYouLongTime).

And the very large settlement I received from the city police, firefighters, and paramedics unions (you know, for leaving me for dead and all) kept me from having to work for a while. I was interviewed by the police who asked me if I had any enemies (I had many), if there was anyone who wanted to kill me (there were many), and if I had any idea who might want to do this to me (I had many). They thanked me for my time, gave me their condolences, and said they would get back to me if they had any leads but since everything in my apartment had been reduced to its molecular state from the heat of the flames, it was unlikely that they would find out who did this to me. The next day I bought a trench coat and a nice fedora, got my detective’s license online, and hit the streets.
If the cops weren’t going to find out who did this to me, I guess I’d do it myself