“You’re not dead”
Those words had haunted Adam ever since he turned 16. In some ways he should be thankful, all his friends had just had simple greetings on their arms. A series of ‘hellos’ and ‘excuse me’ that would make every day life difficult for them. But Adams' words were distinctive. Unique. In neat handwriting on his right arm, right along his radial artery.
Adam wasn’t so sure how much he bought into the whole soulmate thing, he didn't know how he felt about the concept of just one person being able to make him feel real. To feel whole. But no matter who his soulmate was, those words had already saved his life. All throughout his final years of high school the words repeated in his head “You’re not dead. You’re not dead. You’re not dead.” Like a mantra, on repeat to remind himself that he was real on days when he wasn’t quite sure if he existed amongst the living.
After high school they became a lifeline. With Adam's job it was so easy to slip into the shadows, to simply watch other people live without daring to even try and have a life for himself. To disappear. Forgotten, or never known in the first place. Whenever he felt like a ghost, a simple voyeur, stuck in the background of life, those words would play out in his mind. “You’re not dead. You’re not dead” And somehow, somewhere, he would find the strength to eat a cheap box of ramen and continue on to the next depressing day of stalking strangers.
In some ways Adam doesn’t ever want to meet his soulmate, he may be screwed up in the head but even he knows that the first words someone says to you, being a stranger informing you that you’re still alive can’t bode well for them meeting under the best of circumstances. Still he can feel himself fading further and further into the background. If soulmates are real, then maybe the words mean that if Adam finds him, he’ll finally be able to start living.
“Help someone help me, is someone there, shit I’m probably dead”
Whilst that sentence may be off putting to some, it never really bothered Lawrence. Even when he was only sixteen he knew he wanted to be a doctor. He just assumed that whoever his soulmate was meant to be, he would meet them on the job. He probably could have done without the cursing tattooed on his arm though but he could live with it.
It had made high school more interesting having such a unique phrase embedded on his arm, though it did make him worry for whoever his soulmate was, as they would probably be severely injured during their first meeting based on the sentence on Lawrences arm. Lawrence had heard stories of soulmates who had met just before one of them died, epic Greek tragedies and small moments on battlefields that ended in heartbreak and suicide. He sometimes had nightmares that that’s how he would find his soulmate, bleeding out in some remote location without Lawrence being able to do anything to save them.
Still Lawrence had gone to college to become a doctor. It had been his dream since he was a kid and no collection of words, no matter how offputting would put him off from that dream. Whilst in college he learnt the real statistics for people managing to actually meet their soulmate and came to the conclusion that it probably wasn't going to happen for him. So when he met a nice girl, who’s first words to him were simply just ‘hello’ he decided that maybe it wouldn’t be so awful to start a family with her.
Of course they weren’t perfect and Lawrence could feel them growing apart. But it had nothing to do with their soulmates, neither of them had met theirs and they probably never would. Anyway, both of them had figured that if Lawrence ever did meet his soulmate he probably wouldn’t be alive for long enough to damage their marriage.
Adam didn’t know where he was. All he knew was that he was underwater and his lungs were aching. Panic set in as he kicked his foot up and jumped out of the strange bathtub he had woken up in. His thoughts were racing as all the worst case scenarios flew through his mind. “Help someone help me” he said in a terrified tone. He was engulfed in darkness and something was around his foot preventing him from leaving, in the shadows he thought he could make out another body. “Is someone there?” He called into the dark, before the realisation finally hit him, “shit I’m probably dead” he’d been swallowed into the shadows and this was it he was finally dead and…
“You’re not dead” came a calm voice from across the room, and just as those words had done a thousand times before they grounded him.
Hours later, when Lawrence was in more pain then he had ever been in before in his life, with only the determination to keep his promise to Adam and his guilt over shooting him keeping him crawling along those labyrinths of tunnels. He would think back on all his interactions he had had with the man he was trying so desperately to save.
When he first met Adam the man was panicking, he was aggressive and then scared and then resigned to believing he was dead. That’s when Lawrence finally realised just how familiar those first few words Adam had spoken really were. They had been with him every single day of his adult life, yet for those six hours they had completely slipped his mind. All the more reason to get help, he needed to know what was written on Adams arm. His foot was going to be a problem but he had spotted a hot pipe, maybe he could use it to stop the bleeding.
Adam sat alone in the room now, he had a headache, his ankle was on fire, his throat was dry and his shoulder was in agony, yet he couldn’t do anything. He was forced to just sit there hoping Lawrence would come back for him. Kind, calm, collected Lawrence. Who knew just what to say to calm Adam down. Oh. Wasn’t that funny. “You’re not dead.” The first words Lawrence ever spoke to him repeated in his mind. “You’re not dead.” The words that had kept him alive during his early twenties “You’re not dead.” The words that had haunted him since he was sixteen replayed in his mind. “You’re not dead. You’re not dead. You’re not…You’re…