I do not have a name to call my own.
According to them, I lost entitlement to my parent’s name on the day I found myself in this mess. Since then, I’ve been given so many names and numbers that I can no longer recall the shape of my original title. It’s not easy to convey this fact without words, a simple grunt won’t show understanding but warped vocal chords and a disfigured tongue allows only those sounds.
And that is exactly what these people want from me.
I shake my head from side-to-side until I feel the unusual fluid inside my head. A thick squelching. I half-expect a pool of curdling blood to drip out from my ears in thick, slug-like tendrils. I make no haste in finding out the cause of my discomfort, the old man is smiling. There’s almost a platonic kindness in his fading auburn eyes, the kid has a similar look but even in the mist I can see a modicum of menace in his stare.
Flicking the mop of ginger hair from his eyes, stroking the front of his obtuse forehead, pointing his index finger towards me.
“This,” he says, pointing towards the disrespectful patch of stomach that refuses to remain stitched. “We need to fix this, Father. Preferably as soon as possible.”
“First, the name,” his Father says, “it’s rotten luck to sail a boat without a name. I’m sure the same theory applies to the un-living.” Gestures are paired with each word like I won't understand them without interpretation. His voice — much like his face — has wrinkles like tree rings where every word sounds hurt, handcrafted from a broken alphabet. “For one like yourself to receive a name in this household, they must first earn it.”
The old man tells it straight; no hedging, no insulting cryptic message.
“Fight, and become their successor: Albion.”
“If I were you, I would get straight to it as they’re both acclimatising rather fast.”
The obvious choice is to plan for the smart one first; his twiglet body is a true testament to the detrimental aspects of his disease. For some, the lack of strength could just mean a weakened punch but to others, like the defroster ahead of me, it results in the energy of a famished infant forever on the edge of a second death.
In a moment, she’ll hardly be able to form a fist and, for that reason, I leave her for later. The two ringleaders probably want to see I’m unaffected by the cryogenic process; cunning and malevolent. Fine, I step unto the big one: his eyes flicking left and right, he’s trying to break from his preservation prison face-first.
I offer a sympathetic victory sign and both members of my audience chuckle. Then, a few steps towards them steals their confidence. I’ve been told I own a weaponised stare so I keep it pointed away, not wanting to frighten them. It’s the switch-system that I want; switching the energy back on and watching as the damaged guillotine raises back up to the ceiling.
It must be a pressure plate, do other infected people not respond to the danger tape? Weird. The shiver-inducing fog pours back into the room as the air conditioning returns to working order, concealing the reflective weapon. The big guy worms his way out of the chill; as his torso rides the wave of his stuttered breathing, his leg refuses to warm to the pump of his blood. Despite his greatest attempts to tackle me, he topples to the ground and the guillotine cleaves.
The Algernon’s can deal with destroying the brain later; immortal or not, the disease certainly cannot fuse a separated spinal column. At any rate, I’m alerted to the twiglet’s release as her jaw falls to the floor, breaking on impact. It takes up her entire attention, you can see the worry on her face. Panic, even.
With her mind preoccupied, erasure is thoughtless. I retrieve the soiled head of the previous challenger and toss it into her face. The skin shatters, the impact of a bullet.
My job is done.