Pain shoots through my body with disconcerting intensity and distressing rapidity.

I am submerged in a perfluorocarbon fluid (most likely ultra-purified perfluorodecalin; it’s what everybody uses in training), enabling me to breathe but not to scream. This is not to say that I don’t try. To cope with the added density of the fluid, they hooked me up to an IV line with adrenaline in it. I have no idea what they are trying to do to me. I just know that it hurts—and that, try as I might, I can’t pass out.

I actually sort of welcome the pain. At least my whole body is here. It makes me come in contact with life again. To me, pain is just a way of showing that life is real.

Real, and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to me and to everybody else.

Without warning, the scaffolding retracts to the ceiling. I retch pink fluid, blood mingling with the clear liquid medium. Blue lights show below me; I blink, wiping out the fluid from my eyes. I feel my heart racing.

“Three…two…one…,” somebody says.

I pass out.

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