by Andre Infante
He was found in the snow. He was buried naked to his chest in half-melted drifts, his eyes were caked shut with frost. There were lines and craters in the snow around him, evoking a terrific downward force, imbedding him into the drift. He looked so still and lifeless that the carolers called the morgue before they called the hospital.
I was working on Christmas Eve, making up for too many vacation days taken earlier in the year. I had promised my wife I'd be home in time to smuggle the gifts out of the upstairs closet while the children were pretending to sleep. I had been sitting in a hospital chair, switching back and forth between a television special and a press conference with a team who had found a way to prevent telomere degeneration.
Honestly, I was bored senseless. When he came into the ER, my first thought was that he was going to die, and I was going to get home in plenty of time. It sounds cold, but there it is.
It wasn't an unreasonable assessment to make, from a strictly medical perspective. The man had a hundred and ten degree fever, was barely breathing, and had no detectable pulse. The crew looked kind of spooked. They'd tried to defibrilate, to no obvious effect. He shouldn't have made it to the hospital, but he did.
Then there were his deformities, too. He had two great, raw scars running down his back, from the top of his shoulder blades to the small of his back. His fingers lacked nails, and his head was completely bald. And then again, there was that damn fingerprint. On his stomach, below his solar plexus, his abdomen was marred by the impression of a thumbprint, the size of a dinner plate. It wasn't a scar, exactly. It was almost exactly the impression of thumbprint left in clay.
We ignored all of this, for the time being, in favor of addressing the fever above all else. We concluded that he must have a pulse, it was simply weak. Since the fever seemed likely to kill him quickest, we settled on an ice bath to get his core temperature down. The irony in this was not lost on me, given the conditions in which he had been found. I also instructed the attending nurse to push a large dose of wide-spectrum antibiotics, to fight whatever was killing him. She spent several minutes struggling fruitlessly to find a vein. In frustration, I took the syringe from her and tried myself, with no better success. I was, at this point, rather annoyed with the patient. this annoyance reached a fever pitch when his fever flatly refused to drop, after nearly an hour in the bath. His breathing, however, had strengthened.
By this time, it was well past when I had planned to leave. Despairing of doing any further good, I finally ordered the attending nurse to monitor him carefully, and went home, to my annoyed wife and sleeping children.
I didn't get back to the hospital until late the next morning, after the kids had unwrapped their presents, given us theirs (which consisted of quite a lot of macaroni and glue), and been delivered to their grandparents for further doting. When I arrived, I discovered that not only was he still alive, but he was causing quite a stir among the staff. Another doctor, in despair at his fever (which had not declined), had ordered an MRI on him. I earnestly believe that he did it out of sheer, animal curiousity, and half of the ER staff were clustered around the monitor. I walked up behind them, cleared them away, took a look at the screen, and turned white as a sheet.
It wasn't so much that there was anything specific wrong, as it was that his organs, while presumably functional, did not conform to any schema that I had ever seen or heard of.
I should probably describe him, at this point. I'm not gay, but his body was beautiful, even in an artistic sense. He looked like a Greek god, baldness quite aside. Every angle was cut to mathematical perfection, every muscle toned. Beneath that, though, his body was like nothing I'd ever seen. There was a heart alright, but it was a spiky thing, suspended in the middle of the chest cavity, and it looked like a giant black goat head on the MRI. It didn't appear to beat at all. His lungs looked like bellows, almost perfectly angular. His digestive tract was absent entirely, though there was an organ in his belly nearly reminiscent of a kind of russian doll, with something on the inside that glowed on the MRI and seemed to feed everything. His spine was what struck me, though. It was a climbing column of interlocking cuboids that I cannot draw properly to this day. His skull appeared to be solid right through.
It occurred to me all of a sudden that our patient was not human. It was simple, it was undeniable, and it raised the alarming question of what on Earth he was. If, indeed, he was from Earth. I had a sudden premonition that he might be an alien, or at least built by them. Because, he had this 'constructed,' quality about him. It might simply have been his immobility or his appearance, or even the thumbprint, but I found myself thinking of him less as a person, and more as a work of art. Perhaps he was a machine, I thought, and not truly a living thing at all.
I shook myself. There was an easy way to settle this and (miracle of miracles), perhaps even treat my patient. I performed a surface tissue biopsy, using a broad needle to take a sample of tissue out of his bicep, and ejected it onto a slide. What welled up from the point of injury was not blood, but more like molten cobalt. The ichor, I suppose, welled up in the wound, and set, hard, within seconds, leaving nothing more than a dark blue mole - the only mark on his body.
When I had set the tissue onto a slide, and put it under a microscope, what I found puzzled me. At 400x magnification, I should easily have been easily see the cells, had this been any kind of animal tissue, Instead, all I noticed was a homogenous, flesh-toned mass. Puzzled, I increased the magnification, first to 800x, and then to 1000x. Then suddenly, they resolved themselves. It is almost impossible to describe the things I saw. They were minute, almost beyond belief, only a thousand atoms wide, if that. Even on the best optical microscope barely revealed them. Later, under a scanning electron microscope, their true complexity was revealed, their dozens of hairlike legs grasping for one another through the fluid. Even the blue ichor was alive, consisting of thousands of the tiny creatures. So far as I know, he had no differentiation, and only different arrangements of these cells, which served duty as bone and blood and nerve and fiber and muscle.
I sat back down and stared. And then I ordered him to be given his own room and left alone. I spoke to my boss, and got a security detail out to guard him. I had stopped worrying about his fever. So far as we knew, that was his natural state (though, depending on his original, 'normal operating conditions' might be just as appropriate). I then forgot all about him, or attempted to, and slipped back into the stream of life. The staff were informed on no uncertain terms that they would be fired if they spoke about it to anyone before the hospital was ready to release a statement.
Things continued along the edge of this uneasy equilibrium for about a week. And then, without much warning, he woke up. When I heard, I went to see him at once. He was sitting on the edge of his bed in his hospital gown, inspecting his hands, opening and closing them stiffly. I pulled up a chair and sat down across from him. The patter came out automatically when I opened my mouth.
"Hello. I'm Dr. Milton. Do you know where you are?"
He stared at me for a moment, with eyes that were intelligent, lively, and utterly inhuman. After a moments consideration, he opened his mouth. His voice was deep and musical, but jerky and slightly off, like a amateurishly tuned violin.
"What. Year. Is. This."
"It's December 30, 2011. You're in the Mother of Mercy Hospital, in Boston. Do you know your name?"
He appeared to contemplate this.
"I. Am. Sam."
"Sam. Do you have a last name?"
There was another pause.
"Germanicus. I. Am. Sammael. Germanicus."
"Okay. That's good. Do you know how you got here?"
After a moment's consideration.
I nodded. Figures.
"Do you have any family we could contact?"
He seemed confused.
"Are you hungry? Thirsty? Is there something I could get you-"
I stopped. That was absurd. He had no digestive tract.
There was a moment's consideration.
"I. Require. Nothing. Wish. To. Sleep."
I nodded, and turned to leave.
"If you need anything, there's a button on the bed stand."
I left, went to my office, and looked up 'Sammael Germanicus'. Aside from a couple of facebook pages which didn't look relevant, I didn't turn up anything useful. I put in a call to the police station to see if anyone had reported a Sam Germanicus missing. I also told the officer on the line to be on the lookout for stolen robotics equipment. I think he thought I was crazy, but, hell, so did I.
He remained asleep (I had a nurse wake him every six or seven hours to make sure he hadn't slipped back into a coma), for another three days. Two days after new years, when my hangover had subsided, he buzzed a nurse and requested me. I walked in. He was standing by the window, poking at a fly climbing up the window pane.
"Hello, Sam. Are you feeling better?"
"Much better, thank you. I think the... accident? rattled me up a bit."
"Understandable. Is your memory coming back?"
"Bits and pieces. Still not sure who exactly I am. It'll come back, though."
His voice had a kind of total confidence that surprised me. After a brief hesitation, he spoke again.
"Doctor, my memory is gone, but I know that I'm not like you. I think you know it too. What are your plans?"
I considered this.
"I have been given digression in this matter. I have no plans, at least until I know what you are. I assure you, I will take no further action without consulting you."
"Good. Thank you, Doctor."