Monday, February 17, 2014

A Murky Part of Us

2014Feb19 Author's Note: I made a slight change to the ending.

This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
---

The trial was over in minutes. Guilty was the verdict. The officer escorted me out of the courtroom and handed me over to a couple of robot guards. A short ride later and I was naked at an inspection station, bending over and coughing.

The doctor, at least I think he was a doctor, poked and prodded through every crevice and crack. He gave me three shots in my right arm and two in my left buttock, then tattooed something on my forehead before handing me back to the guards. They made me dress in dungarees the color of puke, and when I turned to face their final inspection I could see the tattoo reflected on their big silver craniums. It read, “9215473”.

I pondered being the nine-millionth prisoner as they took me to the space pad, locked me in a pod and shipped me off to the moon. The g-force turned my guts inside out and my head swam until I fainted. The trip took days and I drifted in and out of sleep, waking only to eat and relieve myself. When the pod landed on the moon’s flight deck the two robot crew escorted me to a hatch and shoved me into a tunnel. Before they closed the hatch door I snatched one last look at that beautiful blue marble hanging far away in the big black sky.

Pools of light illuminated the path down a very steep tunnel. If I was too slow a monotone voice urged me to catch up to where I was supposed to be. The pools of light shut off behind me as I made my way down. When I got to the hatch at the bottom, two big robot guards grabbed my arms and pulled me into the reception area.

The thick hatch closed behind me with a thunk and I heard the gears grinding as large titanium bolts sealed the door. There was a whooshing sound as the air was sucked out of the tunnel, and the guards made me watch a video that showed what would happen if I tried to escape. It looked real enough to me. The guy in mustard-colored dungarees took a few steps and then his lungs collapsed and his eyeballs popped out of his head. The dead body and all it’s expelled liquids floated up the gangway and out into space.

As I listened to the robots drone about the rules of moon prison, I could see the faces of prisoners all crowded behind and staring at me through the protective plexiglass windows. Most were smirking, and some were licking their lips and winking at me. Then one of the guards shoved me into a cart and drove me down another long tunnel made of thick concrete. I could hear the howls of that welcoming committee echoing behind us, as if they were wild dogs having been denied a bone.

When the cart stopped, the guard shoved me out just as a door opened up and an old man stood staring down at me. He wore the same puke-colored dungarees.

“You’ve got worms,” he said. I nodded my head and followed him into the infirmary. He led me to an unlocked cage where there were literally hundreds of vials and bottles full of various colored liquids and pills. A veritable candy store. He stood in front of it, facing me as I tried to peer over his shoulder to see what goodies were to be had.

“You work out?” I asked. He scowled. I guess he didn’t like my little joke. The man was old but he was big and burly-looking. I had all sorts of stereotypical thoughts running through my head. Like, I guess when you’re stuck in prison and you got nothing better to do then you spend all your time lifting weights and building muscle so you can scare the naughties away from your backside.

Breaking the awkward silence between us I said, “So, uh, what’s up Doc?”

“Hmmm,” he growled. He looked me up and down and I know I looked like a puny wimp beside him. I imagined that if we were standing on some beach he’d be kicking sand in my face. Instead, he just stood there with his arms crossed and looming rather ominously.

“I hear you can self-medicate,” he said.

“Hmmm,” I said. I’m sure he’d read my file and knew I was the typical med-student junkie who’d dropped out just before graduation. Sometimes, what someone else wants you to be turns you into their worst nightmare.

He stepped aside, sweeping his arm towards the drug store.

“Go ahead, pick your poison.”

It was hard enough to keep the grin from tickling the corners of my lips, and I hurriedly stepped past him. I reached in and turned various bottles this way and that, reading the labels and searching for what I needed. I found a vial containing a combination of anthelmentic and anti-seizure meds, then grabbed a needle and ripped the packaging with my teeth. I stabbed it into the vial and started to pull in the pink liquid. The big goon grabbed my hand and stopped me before I could get more than one cc into the syringe.

“That’ll only last me a day,” I said, trying to shove off his hand.

“We don’t dilute here. That’s full strength.”

I stood there for a second, letting this news sink in and counting up how many credits even this small bit could render. I gave him a curt nod and he dropped his hand. I slapped the inside of my elbow, shoved the needle deep into the vessel that popped, and plunged the juice directly into my bloodstream.

“Take that you fucking scumbugs,” I said.

His eyebrow shot up at my antics but he kept silent, watching and waiting for the reaction to kick in. I barely got the needle into the red sharps container before the shakes started. He grabbed my arm and helped me over to a nearby vending machine, placing my hand on the pad. The display flashed zero credits and he "hmmmm'd" again as he pushed me to a table and forced me to sit down.

He went back to the vending machine and laid his hand on the pad. The credits counted up far past any numbers I had registered even when I was a volunteer at the hospital. Guess it’s good to be the doc in a prison on the moon. A minute went by and then he grabbed the tray from the receptacle and sat it down before me. I took one glance at that beautiful plateful of what would pass for eggs and toast, a glass of cold orange juice, and a steaming hot cup of coffee.

I swallowed it all down in under a minute, licking the last of the drops from inside the cup and dabbing at the crumbs on the plate. Another one of his eyebrows shot up.

“Hmmfff, thangs,” I mumbled between the fingers in my mouth.

“That’s gonna hurt,” he said.

I pulled out my fingers and wiped them on my pants.

“Yeah. The penance I pay for being the gracious host and letting a Cetian have the first taste of my needle.” I burped. “He got his fix and I got his nasty little parasites.” I burped again, this time a long and smelly belch that came from deep inside my bowels.

He waved his hand and then out of the blue asked, “You play chess?” I nodded and wiped my upper lip, feeling the sweat gathering in the pits of my dungarees.

He pulled a board and a box of white and black pieces from a drawer, and laid them out on the table. We played three games and I gave him a decent run before the stomach cramps got too bad.

He lifted me up from the table and carried me into a side room, then laid me down on a cot and pointed to a toilet and sink in one corner.

“Shitters over there,” he said as he turned to leave. “Don’t soil the bed.”

He walked out and closed the door, leaving me in the dark and curled up in a ball, letting the shakes consume me until I was exhausted and fell asleep.

---

The last time anybody called me by my real name was about three weeks after my arrival. Some hulk snuck into my bunk in the middle of the night and whispered it in my ear as he began to pull my pants down. I fought back and screamed bloody murder, waking up the entire cell block who simply hooted and hollered, jealous of the action taking place. It was way too long before the guard arrived and pulled him off of me.

“8482695, 9215473,” came the monotonous tone of the robot. “Both of you to the infirmary. The rest of you back to bed and lights out.” It strode between us, a hand on each of our collars as it dragged us away. I was choking and gasping for air when the robot finally turned us over to the doc.

“Sit,” the old man said to me, and I sat in the chair he had pointed to. Then he told the robot to tie the guy on the table, which the robot dutifully completed before heading back to his rounds. The doc went over to the drug cage and then came back and shoved a bottle of horse pills at me.

“You know what to do with those,” he said. Then he went over to the table where my rapist was tied up.

“Tch tch, Johnny-boy,” the doc said, leaning down very close to the man’s face. “Don’t you know she’s got worms?”

The man on the table tested the restraints and looked erratically around the room, as if trying to figure out how to escape. The doc turned to look at me just as I was tying up my pants.

“How do you think we should treat him? Let the parasites eat away his organs, or give them something else to chew on?”

I squirmed just a little, more from the suppository than the Doc’s questions. And even more from my anger and humiliation. I walked over to the drug cage and picked up a few things, then went to the table and stabbed a needle into Johnny-boy’s arm so hard that it made the man grimace. I attached an IV and hung the drip bag on a pole. The doc peered at the label on the bag and nodded his satisfaction, then he looked at the man on the table.

“Well,” he said, “I guess you won’t be bothering my nurse again.” I cocked my head at the Doc, and he stuck out his hand.

“The work is dirty,” he said as I shook it, “but you'll do just fine. And the credits are decent.”

It was a day later when the guy was found dead in his cot, covered in shit and having choked on his own vomit. I wheeled his body to the infirmary, and the doc took it from there. I put my ear up to the locked door just once, and could hear the grunts coming from inside, and the sounds of a drill and saw.

Later that night I was introduced to Joe and Al. The Doc had them clean up the mess in that room and they carried out the body bag, which I found out later became fuel for the furnace that heated the prison.

When they came back to the infirmary to collect their credits, we all sat down and played the first of several games of seven-card stud. I didn’t use my usual tricks that first night, but instead took the time to size up my competition, listen to their tales of innocence and woes of prison work-life balance. And their laughter at the bloke who got the comeuppance he deserved.

“Teach you to sleep with your back to the corridor,” Al said, laying down a pair of queens. The doc scowled and then laid down a pair of aces, scooping up the winnings after Joe and I folded.

Nobody bothered me after that, and everybody took to calling me “Nurse”. Everybody except the robot guards who only called us by the numbers tattooed on our foreheads.

---

It was during one of those late night poker games, years later, when the Doc told us he had a plan. We laughed at him and he grew silent as we kept playing. By then I would throw the cards his way often enough, and once in awhile to Joe and Al so they didn’t grow suspicious. I don’t think any of 'em could tell how good I was at palming cards and pulling them from mid-deck. Even in short sleeves, it was a neat little trick the Cetian had taught me just after I had collected my winnings.

But this night, it was a tough one because I had been partaking of my winnings even before the game was over. I’d grown quite fond of the peppermint dental rinse that I soaked my cotton balls in, and the Doc loved the cinnamon. I don’t know when the “Earthlings” would catch on to the oddity of our supply orders. Maybe they figured it was cheaper for the prisoners to have good dental hygiene. I’m betting they didn't mind the Doc’s side business, which was just one of the many methods he used to ease the bites of the meanest prisoners.

I didn’t realize what was happening even as the doc pushed his entire pile into the pot.

“All in,” he said, looking at each of us. I folded, as did Al who didn’t have enough balls left to match. Joe pushed his pile into the center of the table. I pushed a cotton ball into my mouth, my fingers just a bit too sticky from the peppermint, and dealt their last cards down.

“Call,” said Joe. The doc turned his cards over, three Aces. He started reaching for the pot when Joe wagged his finger at him and turned over a flush. I blinked, and the doc leaned back and just scowled. Joe started laughing, then quickly swept his winnings into his shirt and ran from the room, Al following him out.

“Shit,” I said, “he didn’t stay long enough to share.” Which was the gracious thing to do when you take all of someone’s bootie. The doc didn’t say anything. He got up from the table and began cleaning the room.

“I’ll just leave these here,” I said. The few cotton balls I had were cinnamon and I figured that might appease him. But he didn’t acknowledge my offering, so I just stumbled out of the infirmary and back to my cell block, careful to tuck myself in with my back to the cold cement wall.

The next day, several of Joe’s kitchen cronies crawled into the infirmary and begged the Doc and I to help them out. Seems some of those cotton balls had been soaked in isopropyl, probably why Joe was quick to share his winnings with them since they supplied the stuff to begin with. My special dental rinse balls must have mixed with Joe’s and so they couldn’t tell the difference, and now we had a room full of cooks tossing up their guts.

Funny. For a couple of days the four of us had the the pick of the plates and the dining hall all to ourselves, knowing full well what had really happened while everybody else thought the food was poisoned. On one of those days, Joe was asking forgiveness when the Doc whispered about his plan again.

“I can do it,” he said, “I can get you out of here.”

“Geezus Doc,” I said, shoveling more eggs into my mouth even as I spoke. I thought his ideas were sadistic, but I didn’t want to say it out loud.

“It won't work,” Joe said. Al shook his head in agreement.

“They have to release the bodies to whomever claims them,” the Doc said, “it’s the law. And then you’ll wake up back on Earth and lie low until after the burial. A few months until it all blows over and you're able to walk free and clear. Just another relative mourning the loss of a family member.”

“Like anyone would mourn over me,” I said, having finally wiped my plate clean.

“How do we convince them?” Joe asked.

“I’ve got a lot of credits,” the Doc said. Joe and Al’s families would welcome the money.

“My family won’t be interested,” I said, but quickly shut my mouth when I saw the look on the Doc’s face. No one here knew I was the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the northern hemisphere. Lot of good that did for me cuz here I was in maximum prison.

“But what about you, Doc?” I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut now that my plate was empty.

“I’ve been here a very long time,” he said slowly, turning his eyes on me. I knew he had it better here than he’d ever have back on Earth.

“Besides,” he said, “I’m the only one who can manage it.”

“But holes in our heads?” Al shook his own again. “How’s that supposed to work?”

“It can’t just look real, it has to be real. I drill a small hole through the ear, cauterizing the blood vessels. I insert a plasto tube filled with some gray matter and spinal fluid, and couple of dead bugs. Then you go lay in your bed and take a few pills that slow your heart rate to practically nothing. I pronounce you dead, notify your next of kin, they claim the bodies and the ‘bots ship you back to Earth.”

Al and Joe traded looks and I got up with my tray, going for seconds. I didn’t like the plan. I know the Doc has been in that room, experimenting on the heads of dead prisoners for the last few years, and then those bodies were sent to the furnace. And that was the problem with his plan. In all my three years on the moon, there hadn’t been one body that had been shipped back to Earth.

When I came back to the table, Joe and Al were nodding their heads in agreement with the Doc’s plan.

“I ain’t got no wife anymore. But my mother…,” Al chuckled. "And if it means I won't be able to hear her squawk? I'm in."

“How do we get the message to our families?” Joe asked.

“Leave it to me,” the Doc said, “I’ve got contacts at a few mortuaries. We make sure you get shipped to the one nearest your homes. I’ll leave instructions in the body bags and they’ll take it from there.”

All three of us would wind up in the furnace, I thought. I closed my eyes, thinking about the past few years and the only reason I was still alive and kicking was because of the Doc. He fed me, lent me credits when I needed ‘em, kept me healthy physically and mentally. Gave me a job and kept me occupied, kept me safe.

“I’m better off staying here,” I said, “besides, I can help you when you drill these dumbos.”

The Doc shook his head. “No girl,” he said, “you can’t stay.” I was surprised by the tenderness in his voice. He leaned closer to the center of the table. “There’s change coming to this moon.”

“What?” I said. He shushed me with a scowl.

“They’re gonna turn this place into a health resort,” he said, and then smacked my face to keep the laughter from escaping my throat.

“How the hell do you know that,” I whispered, rubbing my cheek.

“So they are gonna nuke the place,” Joe said. “I thought one of the cooks had gone off the deep end when he said as much. But his wife smuggled him a note, just once, and he’s not heard from her since.”

I didn’t believe any of it. Not the nukes nor the resort. Nor the Doc’s plan. It all sounded too hair-brained to me. But then, if someone was going to build a health resort on the moon it would be my father. And I was damn sure he’d not bother to get me out of here before they fired the first missile.

We finished our meal, bused our trays and the Doc and I went back to the infirmary. He tugged on my arm and I followed him into the surgery room that was usually off limits. It was stark white and cleaner than any of the other rooms. There was a body on the table, it’s head shaved and a bunch of goop dripping from its ear.

He flipped a switch and a screen lit up, showing the x-ray of what I presumed was the head of the person on the table. He pointed out the hole and traced its path through the ear canal and into the brain. I could tell that it missed every nerve and every major blood vessel, and there was just the merest outline of something inside the ear.

We walked over to the table and he took a pair of tweezers and reached into the ear and pulled out a clear tube that was about two inches long. He wasn’t quick enough with the glue gun, and a trickle of meninges and gray matter seeped out onto the table.

“I drill into the ear just deep enough, bypassing the eardrum. You can expect some hearing loss but I’ll remove the tube and fill the hole with glue just before you get shipped back. By the time you arrive at the mortuary you’ll be back to normal and the hole will have sealed up tight.”

“Yeah, but will they put us in a pod with functioning health systems? You know, we still have to breathe even if you can lower our heart and lung rates enough to trick the sensors.”

He slapped me on the back, then moved away and walked out of the room, turning off the light. I dutifully followed him back into the infirmary.

“Leave all that to me,” he said. He palmed the vending machine and I watched the credit numbers climb higher than I’d ever seen before. He handed me a water but didn’t take one for himself. And that seemed normal to me.

---

We were playing chess when Al walked in.

“Ready for my appointment, Doc,” he said rather meekly. The Doc held up a hand and I moved my knight into position. He could see my win in three moves, and surrendered his king.

“Okay,” the Doc said, getting up from the table. “Put those away and I’ll be in surgery when you’re ready.” He left the infirmary and I shoved all the pieces into the box and folded up the cardboard, putting the set into the desk drawer. I grabbed a gown and threw it at Al.

“Put that on and go wash your ears with soap,” I said, turning away. Al did as he was told and then we both walked into the surgery room.

“Joe seemed a bit deaf when he got back to our cell,” Al said, looking nervously back and forth between us.

“Of course,” the Doc said, “and now we've got to do you up quick so that you can go back and take your pills. Just like Joe.” Al nodded, then laid down on the table and I bagged him.

“Count backwards from 100,” I said. He counted to 92, then his eyes glazed a bit and I strapped his head down. “Okay now, we get to have us a little chat.”

I questioned Al and we both listened to his responses as the Doc began drilling. He made a slight correction when Al mentioned an odd childhood memory, and I wiped up the blood as the Doc began to insert the tube. He had previously filled it with a yellowish-red fluid, and I could see the little earwigs inside. They looked like they were still squirming.

“I thought you said they’d be dead.” I peered at the Doc, but he kept working on the insertion.

“It’s got to be real.”

“What?” Al said. I shushed him, then asked if he could smell anything. “Baking,” he replied, “someone’s baking bread,” and he smiled.

“Uh huh, that’s right. Bread.” I turned to the Doc.

“So. A bit of distraction, is that it?” I realized that whomever discovered the bodies would see the little squirmies and cause a panic. The ‘bots would be kept busy quelling the riots, and then spend even more time fumigating the place.

“That’s what I like about you girl,” the Doc grinned, “smart and fast on the uptake.” He finished the insertion and then smeared some gel into Al’s ear as I unfastened the head strap.

“Okay Al, you’re all done. Get up and move slowly. Don’t twist or turn your head except in gentle slow moves, just like doing Tai Chi.”

“Huh?” Al said, as I helped him up and off the table. I looked away as I pulled on his pants and took off his gown, then snuggled the shirt over his head, careful not to jostle him too much. I peered at his ear and there was nary a trickle of fluid.

The Doc handed him a couple of pills and made him repeat the instructions to take them only after he got back to his bunk. I walked him slowly out of the infirmary. When I came back, the Doc handed me a gown.

“Time for you to go home,” he said.

“Yeah. Home.”

It was an odd sensation, hearing the drill and feeling just a tickle as it made its way into my temporal bone. The questions the doc asked were a bit different than those I’d asked of Al and Joe. He wanted to know how I palmed the cards.

“Oldest trick. Make everyone look somewhere else,” I said rather slowly, “jest don’t let your fingers get sticky cuz it ruins the feel.” I heard his chuckle as he smeared the goo into my ear, then stood up and grinned at me.

Without another word, he dressed me and put the pills in my hand and helped me to the infirmary door.

---

Something was wrong. I thought I opened my eyes but it was black as night. I could feel something hard and cold against my nose. I tried to move my hands but they didn’t respond. Then my legs and my head. Still no response. My body felt like it was encased in concrete, and yet I could smell and feel and faintly hear everything around me. There was a heavy pressure on my chest, and something slick was compressed against my skin.

For a flash, I registered that this must've been how my grandfather felt for most of his adult life. Then I was picked up, and whatever was covering my skin seemed to stretch and pull as if being ripped off like bandaids. In my head I was screaming but no sound came out of my mouth. Then I heard the monotone of a robot.

“To the crematorium,” it said. And I howled. Only they couldn’t hear me.

I was carried and bumped along what seemed several minutes, then I heard the pounding of someone running up. The jostling stopped.

“I tagged the bodies wrong," the Doc panted, "that one goes to Earth.” His rasp was music to my one good ear. I was turned around and several minutes later felt myself laid on a table. I heard several shuffles, a door open and close, and then silence.

The Doc sighed. I heard the zipper and felt the air as he opened up my bag. My eyelids registered a bit of light, but I couldn’t open them. I wanted to sit up and tell the Doc I was awake, that somehow the worms must've eaten up the meds too soon. But I couldn’t even bat an eyelash.

He lifted something off my chest, and I heard a pen scratching and his mumbling about the surprise Al’s family would get, then he laid it back down on my chest.

“Sorry you’re father is such a bastard,” he said as he zipped up the bag and I was left in darkness again. It was quite awhile before I felt something pick me up and move me out of the infirmary. The jostling made my head hurt and something wet slipped out of my ear.

The worst of it happened after they strapped me in. The pressure began building the moment of blast-off, and I screamed and screamed in my head until all was black.

I woke up to more jostling, and then the sounds of squeaky wheels and movement. I could tell I was on a gurney.

“Where d’you want it?” came the voice, and then I was lifted and quickly dropped back down.

“What the… It’s not stiff,” said the voice. Another chuckled.

“Oh geez, what did you do?” This voice was female.

“It’s not stiff,” the guy repeated, and my legs were lifted up and dropped back down again.

“Must’ve broke every joint during flight,” another guy said. They lifted me from the gurney to a table.

“Oh crap. What am I gonna tell the bereaved," the woman said.

“You’ll think of something Ann. Sign here," and I heard the scratching of a pen and the squeaky wheels moving away. I blinked, and realized that I could move my eyelids. I blinked again, then raised a finger. Yes! I finally had control of my body.

The woman shrieked. I can only guess what it must’ve looked like when she saw the body bag sit up, and heard my muffled, “Can I get some help here, Ann. Please?”

Her hands shaking, she unzipped the bag and I gasped fresh air as I watched a manilla folder and papers tumble off my chest and onto the floor.

“Holy shit,” she said, staring. I noticed I was naked, and zipped up the bag just enough to cover my private parts.

“Ta da,” I said.

“Oh my god.”

“Lazarus, actually. Nice to meet you Ann. Can I get some clothes please?” I watched her as she picked up the folder and papers from the floor, backing away from me to read them.

“You’re not Mr. Batosh,” she said, and turned one of the pages towards me. It had a photo of Al’s face with his stupid grin.

“Ann,” I said, trying to keep my voice low and calm. The headache was pounding, and my stomach was forewarning of an impending eruption. “Clothes? Please?”

She reached into a drawer and threw a pair of teal scrubs in my lap. Much better than the puke-colored prison dungarees. I tumbled out of the body bag and dressed quickly, leaning on the table to keep my balance.

“Anthelmentic, do you have any?” I peered around the room, guessing what was in all the cabinets. Embalming fluid most likely. She shook her head.

“Anti-seizure meds? Aspirin?”

“Aspirin, there,” she pointed to a cabinet and I went and got the bottle, popping three into my mouth and letting them dissolve on my tongue. Nasty tasting but I didn’t have enough spit to get them down whole.

“Bathroom?”

She pointed to a door and I walked tightly and as fast as I could, locking it behind me and knowing full well that leaving her alone meant she was calling the cops. I sat down on the toilet and made an overwhelming delivery. It took several minutes and left me completely exhausted, sweaty, and shaking all over.

I cleaned myself, then washed my hands and face in the sink. I leaned down and gulped as much water as I thought I could manage without tossing it back up. Then, I opened the door and prepared to make a mad dash in whatever direction looked like the most plausible way out.

She was still standing there, reading the papers in her hands. She stared up at me as I looked around the room trying to determine which door would lead outside.

“It says you worked with my grandfather.” She pointed at the papers. “On the moon. He’s the doctor at the prison there.” She paused. “Is he okay?”

I nodded as I inched my way towards the nearest door. “Yeah, he’s fine. Nice guy. Good chess player.” I had my hands behind me on the doorknob, turning it as quietly as I could.

She shook her head. “That leads to the mortuary. You’ll need to go out this door,” and she nodded at the one next to her. She moved towards a bunsen burner and switched it on. I could smell burning paper as I raced out her door and into an entryway. There was a leather jacket hanging on a knob, and a pair of boots on the floor. I grabbed all three and went out the main door.

I stopped a few moments to breathe the air, blinking upwards and astounded by the blue sky. I rammed my arms in the jacket and shoved my feet into the boots. They all fit nearly perfect. I saw the parked motorcycle and helmet, and felt in all the pockets of the jacket before I found the keys. I kissed them as I ran to the bike, shoved the helmet on my head, and started it up.

It purred like a kitten. I kicked it into gear, gave it some throttle, and was on my way. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going but I didn’t care. I was back on Earth, and I was alive.

The heads-up display in the helmet’s shield showed a map, and I heard the GPS ask for an address.

“Out of the city,” I said, and a green line lit up and I made the next turn it showed. And the next, and the next. The bike kept to the posted speed limits and I was thankful I didn't panic and override the controls, just as I rode past a police station and looked back to confirm that no one followed.

The map and the bike worked in tandem, riding me out to the city limit and beyond. The HUD told me the bike would need a charge in two kilometers, and I let it drive me to the nearest station. I plugged the hose into the bike’s battery, then walked inside the little grocery store.

I kept the helmet on as I walked down the aisles, passing up packets of donuts and grabbing several protein bars instead. I spent some time reading the labels on all the bottles in the medicinal aisle, finally picking up some hydrogen peroxide, a bottle of aspirin, and the largest bottle of dental rinse on the shelf. My hand wavered before I chose a flavor.

At the register I added a hat and scarf to my pile, then thanked the gods for the money inside the wallet. Plenty to cover the fuel and my purchases. I walked back out to the bike and unplugged the hose, then looked through the wallet and read the name on the driver’s license. Ann Rene Keene.

I recognized the surname of Doctor Stuart Rene Keene, the euthanasia doc. Sentenced to life in prison for helping a bunch of old codgers finally rest in peace. Whose book my grandfather begged me to read, and gave me the courage to grant the request he made every day since coming back from the war with cerebromedullospinal disconnection.

I opened my shopping bag and pulled out the aspirin and popped a couple in my mouth, then hitched the bottle of dental rinse up to the sky and saluted the moon before taking a large swig of the stuff.

Cinnamon, yuk. I should’ve gotten the peppermint.

<word count: 6030>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is some weird shit girl! It makes me really wonder what your dreams are like.
Thanks for the fascinating lunch read, worms, brain drilling and all.

AK