Marcus figured he was in the clutches of the greatest hangover of all time. No one had experienced such pain, they couldn’t have. His thoughts were sluggish, his skull ached, and he couldn’t control his muscles. A cacophony of squealing guitars was playing right in the centre of his brain.
His whole body was made of play-doh, play-doh squeezed by an angry toddler. He could swear that his skull had been sat on by a cow, crushed between a stripper’s thighs, slammed in a car door.
He felt wet all over, warm. Shit, he thought, I’ve pissed myself.
Marcus felt the room was rocking. Am… am I on a fucking boat? The squealing guitars had mutated to squealing sirens, making his stomach lurch. Fucking fuck tequila.
Or… was it bourbon? He was struggling to remember the details… who he was with, what he had been celebrating… And what the hell was that fucking noise?
The sirens now sounded like squealing cries. Like babies. He needed to get up.
Marcus tried to open eyes that felt like they had never been used. The light hit his brand new retina and he saw nothing but pain and blurs. Something splashed his face.
Shit. I’m actually in the fucking water. What is this happy horseshit?
Marcus’s vision cleared. Holy fu…
A dozen baby heads bobbed up and down in front of him, all resting on circular white pillows, in a hospital room full of water. Each head was crying, screaming. It was singularly terrifying. Off the top of his head, Marcus could think of nothing more unnerving than decapitated screaming baby heads.
Under normal circumstances, his first reaction would be to strike out, to punch, but this time… he simply started to cry. His own tears were unusual, completely ruining a macho image he had spent decades refining, but more less disturbing was his voice. He cried a high pitched, hitching, sobbing cry of utter helplessness. A baby’s cry.
It took a few minutes for Marcus to gather his wits. His emotions were raw, unruly; the shock of the floating baby heads had been too much. Eventually he reopened his eyes, and took a proper look around.
The babies heads were not decapitated, rather the babies bobbed up and down in the water, heads supported by white inflatable rings. On reflection this was obvious, but his relief was so strong, he could not help letting out a cooing giggle.
Equally obvious he was also a baby, also in the water, also supported by a white inflatable neck ring in the water. This was slightly less reassuring, but it explained how his body felt, and so far as he could figure out, he couldn’t do anything about it
What was really weird, really fucking weird, was that this was a hospital room, flooded at door handle height. The whole hospital appeared flooded. Out the window he could see a pretty nurse sploshing down the ward in fishing waders. A groaning, pregnant lady being loaded up into stirrups in a small metal dinghy. A doctor, apparently on break, was doing the backstroke.
What sort of fucking hospital was this? Am I in Mexico?
Then – Hang on, why would Mexico be flooded anyway?
He looked around in desperation. This was no second- or third-world chop shop – this was an expensive hospital. Waterproof touchscreens hung from the ceiling, heating elements running through the water to keep it body temperature, high-quality security cameras scanned back and forth monitoring the infant charges.
This is super-fucking weird.
Marcus caught the eye of another baby, staring at him intently.
“Gah… Gahhhh… Aaare y-y-ouuu… A-a-aware?” Speaking was difficult with an infant’s muscle control, but Marcus felt he got his meaning across.
“Yes. May I be so bold as to presume this is your first time?” English accent. Clipped. Perfectly enunciated.
“I should have thought that was obvious my good man. Reincarnation. You passed on. You took a turn on the wheel, and now you’re back. Congratulations, I suppose.”
Marcus floated, silent, thinking. Brooding if he was honest with himself. He couldn’t remember much about his old life, but he had a distinct sense of guilt… he really should have called his mother more. Told her… told her he loved her. Just.. just a little more often. And he should have been nicer to the funny looking kids in his class. Oh god, and the way he dumped all of his exes by text message…
I was a fucking asshole.
The English baby looked, one incredibly ancient eye raised. “Ah, my friend, you either just had ‘the revelation’ or you shat yourself. Given we currently share this body of water, I sincerely hope it is the former.”
“Regret, my friend, or perhaps more likely, regrets. Plural. Regrets are what bring you back to this heartache to which flesh is heir. Death, that now-discovered country, is but a sleep, and indeed a chance to dream. Whilst regrets are unresolved, your dreams are unsettled, and you cannot remain asleep. And so you must wake, you must return, to deal with these regrets, to assuage your conscience as best you can. I recommend you look deeply unto these regrets, brand their image into your infant brain such that those that you can resolve are subjected to your earliest action. For some of us, unfortunately, our regrets cannot achieve a conclusion, and for we poor souls tis the constant cycle of exit and return.”
Marcus thought the other baby looked wistful, but then bubbles popped on the surface of the water making it clear he had farted.
The English baby’s language had seemed to get more flowery and difficult to follow as he warmed to his topic. But Marcus’s eyelids were now heavy, and his head had started to sag. He was sleepy.
It was almost nap time.
“What… (yawn)… What do you regret?”
“Me? Well my new friend, I wish… I wish…” The baby looked sadly into the water, and swirled his hand through it gently. “I wish I had done more about global warming.”
This one was great fun to write.
Let me know what you thought in the comments!