The cold from the steel table numbed my flesh. A stiffness settled in, leaching through my bones, making them ache to the marrow. I shivered and turned my head, watching while they worked. Precise, efficient, all without pause. They’d taken from me before and my body testified of their treatment, displaying scars and healing wounds like a topographical map.
The clanking of metal instruments echoed in the sterile environment, driving home how alone I really was, not that I had allusions of anything but.
The windowless room, surrounded by concrete blocks and frozen white was nothing short of a morgue, except I wasn’t dead.
They’d strapped an oxygen mask over my face. The gas burned my eyes, nose and mouth. The plastic visor fogged, but not enough that I couldn’t see what they were about to do and it didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop them.
I didn’t dare say anything. They could and would hurt me for one word. I tugged on the straps, all limbs secured except one. Tubes ran into that leg. They were filled with blood and fluid, all to keep my organs fresh. The liquid felt like ice where it entered my body and my leg turned blue in that spot.
So this was it. My life was to end, to save her child?
I balled my up my fists and took a deep breath, trying to think of anything but my fate. My eyes teared up from the concentrated oxygen, but maybe they teared up some because I didn’t want to die. I wanted to scream that I was human. I wanted to cry, but what would I cry for? They wouldn’t hear me. They wouldn’t care. So I watched and let rebellion seed.
The nurse set a bottle of liquid down on a wheeled stand near my feet. I unclenched my fists and felt the blood rush back to my fingers, then twisted my wrists in the restraints again. My heart jumped and I wiggled my wrist some more. They—my keepers, had been careless. An inch, perhaps more. It was enough.
I glanced at the bottle of liquid again. The soft murmur of voices filled the small room as the medical staff discussed my procedure. They didn’t bother to whisper as they discussed how they’d carve me up.
My heart, they’d take that first. My other organs could be frozen in a cyro-cell for use later. I turned to stare at them. A doctor caught my gaze and ceased talking. He nudged another beside him and the man yanked the curtain closed around my bed. The conversation continued.
The voices stopped, the clanking of tools ceased and they drew the curtain open again. A nurse with pasty skin and lipstick so red it could’ve been blood, checked my vitals on a monitor next to the bed. She offered no smile or apology for what they were about to do, instead she turned her back to retrieve more instruments and snatched up the bottle, sticking needle in the top. She glanced over her shoulder, drew liquid into the syringe and placed it on the tray by my feet. Her eyes lifted to one of the surgeons and she reached for a tube attached to my body.
“Should I start the anesthesia?”
“No. We’ll remove it while she’s awake. Take no chances the heart will be damaged. The child is prepped and waiting upstairs. I’ll work quickly.” He picked up a large scalpel. It gleamed at me as if it anticipated the taste of my flesh. This was the part I hated, the first sharp sting of pain. This time there wouldn’t be a dull ache to follow, keeping me awake for nights. The thought that I wouldn’t feel it frightened me more than the pain.
The nurse eyed the syringe. “That’s inhumane.”
“Inhumane is making that child wait for her heart. She could die.”
“Yes, doctor.” She grabbed a sponge soaked with iodine, scrubbed my chest and spread a clear film over my torso, wrapping me like a butcher’s meat package.
Condensation ran down the inside of my mask, clearing a path for my vision. I stared at the cart near my feet. Sadistic objects, all for killing, all for taking my life to give it to another. I shivered as the doctor studied my chest, certainly contemplating the best approach.
They’d no right. I couldn’t bear to watch, my eyes flitted to the cart again. There it sat, a simple glass container. I couldn’t read, so I didn’t know what it was. The words were foreign marks, patterns, and designs. If I should fight, now was the time. I shouldn’t go peacefully, but fight for my last breath, break the codes and disobey every law. Death would not come quietly, but with rage. For once in my life, I was determined to feel something other than fear.
My jaw clenched and I ground my teeth. I didn’t care what was in the bottle. My impending demise freed courage and strength I didn’t know I possessed. I focused all my will and thrashed out with my leg, kicking the bottle off the stand.
The nurse spun around, her eyes widened. A silent no formed on her lips. The scene ticked by in slow motion and seemed curious to watch. She dived for the bottle, missing it by inches. It shattered on the floor. Bits of glass and liquid bounced up, catching the light and glittering like fragmented jewels. Gas swirled around, reacting to the open air. A cloud rolled across the floor, spreading to blanket the tile surface. She slapped her hands over her face, dragging her fingers across her scarlet lips while she screamed, clawed, and smeared the scarlet all over her face.
Then silence. The sound of her screams and the air in her lungs had been stolen. I craned my neck to look. She’d gone motionless. Her eyes were popped wide, staring at the ceiling and broken vessels painted them as red as her lips. Dead perhaps?
I cared not.
A hissing sound filled the room as the gas rose. Bodies dropped to the floor. My would-be killers, thrashed, screamed and gasped like beached eels. One doctor turned to me, his mouth opened and closed as he tried to draw air. His arm extended and his fingers stretched. A plea for help covered his face. I shook my head as the light in his eyes faded.
His arm fell at the same time his chest stopped. A fitting end for a man who thought to harvest my organ’s while I lay awake.
A drop of condensation plopped down on my nose and tickled the surface as it raced for the tip. Giggles bubbled past my lips. I wiggled my hand out of the loose cuff with some difficulty, scraping on the strap and leaving some of my flesh behind. In a matter of moments, I unbuckled the other cuff and sat up to undo my ankle.
Looking down, I saw the tubes, attached like leeches to my leg. I grabbed the strands of loose spaghetti, closed my eyes and yanked.
Sharp stings, pain, all welcome feelings. Every sensation, every moment seemed a gift. I watched the blood trickle from the holes. From the ends of the tubes dangled silver needles, several inches long. All beautiful. My fingers opened and I watched the tubes roll out of my hand and fall to the floor with a wet plop.
The nurse appeared to be about my size, maybe a bit bigger. I stripped the clothes from her corpse and slipped into the unfamiliar garments, pulling her lab coat on after. They cloth was soft on my skin. A luxury I’d never experienced.
I looked up at a disc shaped mirror attached to the wall, and barely recognized myself. For all intents and purposes, I looked like them, a white-coated reaper.
Except for my chip.
I cocked my head to the side and saw it pulsing and cupped my hand over my cheek. Blue light blinked through my flesh, illuminating my tendons, vessels and outlining the bones. It would be hard to hide. Perhaps the coat was too obvious? I glanced around for my clothes and found them discarded in the rubbish. With deep regret, I changed. To escape I would leave wearing what I came with.
As a clone.
I made a choice that day. Giddiness spread over me as I realized I truly was free. The shock belt had been removed for surgery and with it, any control anyone had over me. I could make decisions, govern my life and I had a will of my own. So I made another choice.