Chapter 3: Comfortably Numb
I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse
Cowboys were not named John Doe.
But that was the name on his med chart. John Doe. He figured that made sense. Everyone on the scene who knew him was dead. Everyone who knew him who wasn't on the scene wasn't even sure where the scene was. And no one law abiding would know his face. There was an off chance that someone from ISSP could have recognized him. Maybe they did. Maybe they figured it was smarter to pretend they didn't. He couldn't imagine he was worth the trouble. Maybe they told Jet.
Maybe they figured Jet would be better off without him. Maybe they were right.
Maybe he should get the fuck out of this hospital. He rose to a feeble sitting position and took a moment to get his bearings. He was sore and skinnier than usual. He had to move with a forced sort of grace that he wasn't used to. And his face, for some reason, had about eight pounds of gauze on it. He got up and ambled cautiously to the bathroom. He removed the gauze with as much tension as you remove the blanket off a dead guy. But his face was all right. It had a few more scars than before, and it was pale and sunken in. But it was still him. He wondered what all the bandaging was for. He briefly peeked his head out the door. The corridors were quiet. That strange, almost static sort of quiet that only a hospital could ever truly possess. It was the quiet of people waiting for death. Spike was done waiting. In one quick yank he pulled all the various wires out of his arm, and of course, began bleeding profusely. He grabbed a pillow from the empty bed and placed it over his bleeding wrist with an almost embarrassed expression. The bleeding subsided, and Spike took to the clumsy task of lowering himself out the window. He had initially considered making a rope out of the bed sheets old school style but then figured that would be too conspicuous. So instead, he tossed his bloodied pillow out the window and began attempting to scale down the wall. This lasted about two seconds until he lost his grip on the windowsill and crashed three floors down to Earth, about two inches away from his pillow. He took a brief moment to lament the fact that he had managed to survive. Again. And then he was off and...crawling. Exactly where he intended on going, he wasn't sure. But he definitely needed some new clothes. The hospital gown just somehow wasn't him.
The trouble with mugging a pimp for clothes is that you don't exactly blend in. Spike had actually briefly considered taking the hat. It wasn't exactly his style, but you gotta love a pimpin' hat. But then he decided he should put all vanity aside and simply pilfer the orange polyester suit with white alligator skin shoes. Apparently, it wasn't even fake alligator, the pimp and pathetically explained after Spike managed to turn his own gun on him. It was from a real live albino alligator. Only two in the world. The third one was on his feet.
Spike took a second to admire, or rather gasp in horror, at his reflection in a store window. Between the orange suit and the green hair, he looked like some sort of under fed, overworked pumpkin. He decided to take the sunglasses as well. If he were lucky, no one would recognize him like this.
He was surprised to learn he was on Venus, since the last place he went was Mars. He must have been air lifted. No matter. He walked a little sadly over to a small bar with really no intentions of getting drunk. He just wanted to sit and stare and think. Sometimes as he sat there, a million images would pass through his head almost at once. Most of them were of Julia, some of them were of Vicious, and some of them were about the Bebop. It was those thoughts that surprised him most of all. But they were only there for an instant, and then they were gone. And it was back to feeling nothing.
Then suddenly something caught his attention. He didn't hear anything exactly, but he had that sort of feeling you have when you are daydreaming in class yet somehow know by magic that your teacher had just called on you. Something somewhere inside him heard his name. He turned and saw that the television was announcing something very odd. Spike Spiegel was dead. He had apparently been dead for a few weeks. The story itself was just to recap some new, but generally un-helpful information on the building explosion that supposedly killed him. It was the kind of forced news item they throw on the air on a slow day.
What the hell? First off, he wasn't even aware enough people knew who he was to make him newsworthy. Second, if he was getting a spot on the news, shouldn't they have been able to identify his body? Why was he John Doe while he was in the hospital and Dead Spike Spiegel when he wasn't? Maybe they tagged the wrong guy. That was a scary thought, for a hospital not to be able to keep track of their own dead people. He stared at the TV only really half interested. They kind of idly mentioned his death as if it was a gentle scolding to other bounty hunters. See what happens in this kind of work, kids? Why don't you all leave the crooks to the police and finish high school? And then they cut to some story of a kitten that got stuck in the ventilation system at a local church, and that was it. Spike was officially dead. After all, it was right there on the TV.
Spike was dead. He wondered in a rare moment of whimsy if he actually was dead. That this was some sort of afterlife thing where he'd be showing people the spirit of Christmas or something. But he dropped like a stone out of that window. And he shot a pimp in the leg. And he got served in the bar. These were all things he was pretty sure dead people don't do. Just to make sure, he jabbed his thigh with the bartender's lemon zester. Not the manliest of weapons but it was effective. He drew blood. He was alive.
But people thought he was dead, and that was interesting. Now those loose ends were still someone else's problems. He could do whatever he wanted. He really could leave it all behind and no one would know. He had no obligations. Nothing. Spike was dead. He tried to figure out how he felt about this, and discovered he felt vaguely better then before. Ah, fuck it. Long live John Doe, he thought as he strolled onto the streets a new man.
"Hello, Spike person."
Spike almost choked on his own spit. He turned around very slowly, only to have Ein leap happily into his arms. He let the dog lick him for a brief moment and then came to his senses and plopped him on the pavement. "Hi, Ed," he said a little cautiously. He was always a little cautious around Ed, even when he wasn't mistakenly identified as deceased.
"Lunkhead is a dead man walking," she sang as she walked circles around him like a zombie. "Are you gonna eat Ed's brains?" she giggled.
"Hell no. I don't want what you have," Spike sighed. "Anyway, what are you doing here?"
"Ed came to give you your present," she said giddily.
"Present? Ed, what are you talking about?"
"Taaa-daaa!" she flung a piece of paper at him with a little flourish.
Annoyed, he snatched the paper from her hands, half expecting it to be a poem or some shit. He was shocked to see that it was his death certificate. "This is my present?" he wrinkled up one side of his face in confusion. "Edward..."
"Ed heard you leave," she said a little sadly. "Heard what you said to Faye-Faye. On Tomato," she brightened for a moment. "Ed was spyyyyying."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Get to the point, Ed."
"Riiight! So Ed tracked you cause Ed knew you were gonna get hurt. Cause you're a lunkhead."
"Ed wasn't gonna help or nothing. Ed was just gonna watch."
Spike tried to conceal his utter frustration. "As heartwarming as your story is, could you please get to the part with the death certificate?" he rushed her. Though he honestly wasn't offended in the least by her last remark. Spike would not have accepted help from God in that moment, let alone the gang from Bebop. In fact, looking back he felt that all he could do was watch himself.
"Ed's getting to that," she snapped. "Ed saw you get hurt real bad and Ed saw all the agent persons take you to the hospital. Sooooooooo, Ed made you dead!"
"You mean, on the computer?"
"Yep, yep! On the computer, in the news, in the hospital, EVERYWHERE! All paper says Spike person is dead. What's on paper is fact. Fact is Spike person dead. Happy Birthday!" she leapt in the air as Ein barked merrily.
Spike was totally overwhelmed. "How...why...how?" he sputtered. Then he decided he actually didn't care how. "How" was probably very long and very complicated and very confusing considering Ed's limited means of articulation. Spike never gave a shit about "how." He only held a vague interest in "why" so he decided to go back to that. "Why?"
"Spike person did stupid things. Spike person would have been in a lot of trouble. But now Spike person can do what he wants. Ed is not real. Ed can do what Ed wants. And now, so can Spike," she nodded, innocent yet somehow shrewd smile on her lips.
Spike shook his head in wonder. "Ed...why would you do this for me?"
Edward shrugged. "Spike was nice to Ed. Ed was nice to Spike."
Spike smirked slightly. "So, you're just gonna go around now committing good deeds?"
The girl giggled a bit as if she was considering it. "Nah," she dismissed him. "Only when it's fun."
"And I suppose virtually killing me was a blast."
"Yep! Yep!" she agreed and then made little pinging noises with her fingers as if she was shooting him. If Ed did have a gun, it would make pinging noises.
"Well, thank you," Spike shrugged, and then added, "Hey...what was the real reason you left, anyway? Was it really to find that dead beat father of yours?" He pretended he was asking these things out of morbid curiosity, when it was really out of some distant concern for the girl.
Ed sighed, and a brief moment of great sadness passed through her huge, amber eyes. "It was just time for Ed," she said simply.
Spike nodded, completely understanding her for the first time since they met. "Well, Ed can do what Ed wants. What does Ed want?"
"Maybe Ed wants her father," she shrugged. "Maybe Ed wants to go back to Earth. Maybe Ed just wants Ed. Ed doesn't really know what Ed wants. What does Spike want?"
"Spike has no fucking clue," he admitted.
Ed grinned. "No fucking clue. Fuck, fuck, fuck!"
"That's nice, Ed. You can tell your father I taught you that one."
Ed nodded, and then suddenly flung her arms around him so fast and so suddenly, he almost fell backwards. Spike, shocked at the fact that he had a child wrapped affectionately around his body, did nothing. He just stood in the soft neon glow of the street, letting this little wild thing hang on him. "Goodbye, Lunkhead Spike Person," she whispered, and then back flipped off of him and took off down the street, only Ein glancing behind them once as they left.
"Goodbye, Edward," Spike held his hand up in a quasi sort of wave. He then sighed and turned to walk in the opposite direction, simply because he felt the opposite direction was the only place he could go. What did Spike want?
Well...he figured he had all the time in the world to figure it out. One of the perks of being dead.