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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Science fiction stories
- Subject: Science Fiction
- Published: 03/26/2018
A Short Story by Will Neill
I’ve never been a man to wallow in self pity and by no means lurch into things without first weighing up all the pit falls and consequences that could happen if wrong choices are made, but sometimes a decision is forced upon you whether you like it or not. I think you’ll understand what I mean by the time I’ve finished. On the issue of pity I just mentioned, I’m not sorry for myself and why I currently reside in cell number 103 of Folsom Prison California. Inmate number 73609112, second name Barnes, first name Jeremiah. I was in Rykers Island for a year or so until the United States Government shut it down in 2030. The main reason? It was costing too much to run and the tax payer doesn’t like his and her dollars being wasted fattening up murderers who won't admit their guilt or have any chance of ever getting out. Especially since they brought back the death penalty in all states in 2028, thanks to President John Francis Monroe, the alleged grandchild of John Fitzgerald Kennedy after he had an affair with the movie star Marilyn, who produced a boy, and a well kept secret. He’s the one shot in the back of the head during his first term in office by Lee Harvey Oswald as his motorcade traveled along Dealey Plaza, in late November 1963, downtown Dallas Texas. If you’re old enough then you’ll know who I’m talking about, if not its all in the history books. Unfortunately you’ll have to go to the library to read them since they switched off the internet in 2029. No more Google or Wikipedia, too much porn and corruption they said. So they pulled the plug, courtesy once more of Mr. Monroe and his cabinet. While he may have inherited his Grandfathers movie star looks, the same can't be said for his morality towards others.
I don’t miss it much, if I’m being honest, except for the emails and Skype, so that means the country had to revert back to the old postal service, which isn’t worth shit even if you can afford the price of a stamp. Old fashioned telephones and VCR’s are also making a come back. Hence in one foul swoop they wiped the blackboards clean so to speak, no more internet, cell phones or Wi-Fi. I think if they had their way we’d all revert to riding horses and living in wood cabins, god damn bleeding hearts. The only people using computers now are the airlines and the government.
Monroe ran on this anti-corruption ticket and won the big seat promising to reintroduce capital punishment across the country. His big speech ‘’Lets get it Back’’ in the key states of Arizona, Maine and Florida was a spin on his granddaddies inaugural address ‘’ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’’. It worked, people liked his sixties nostalgia initiative of how America was greater back then, before the invention of social media, instant news and digital billionaires. He promised them a more innocent world, like it used to be, where they would be protected by the state. Have more secure jobs, better schooling and get back to a long ago lost way of life their great grandparents grew up in and enjoyed. It all sounded ostentatious. most bought into it, as I said, but some like me had their doubts. Once in office Monroe wasted no time in pushing through the capital punishment bill in congress and got a near to unanimous vote. rumors were rife he had dirt on most in the upper house. And if they didn’t tow the line he would wipe them out by exposure with the anti corruption task force he had put together while they debated his proposals. The few senators who did oppose him publicly either mysteriously died in bizarre accidents or were put in jail on what I would guess were some trumped up charges. Easily accomplished I would surmise when you have the commissioner of the police, the heads of the C.I.A and F.B.I in your pocket, not to mention the top dog himself, Bill Wilkins the United States Chief Federal Prosecutor. By the end of 2029 he had revoked the sentencing of all lifers in every jail across America. Changing their term to death by lethal injection without any further trials, or appeals. By thanksgiving of that year ninety eight inmates were disposed of, bringing the total to twelve hundred sent to meet their maker since the bill was made official.
There were some minor protests over it, pockets of liberals mostly, voicing their opinion, pro-life cry babies who didn’t know didley squat about real murders, rapists and child killers. And who would be the first to scream for blood if it was one of their own pulled from a lake or found in a garbage dump trussed up in bin liners and duck tape. After a while their voices petered out to a silence which let the state move up a gear, un-tethered by red tape. Soon there was a conveyor belt of executions.
This is kinda where my story begins, because for the Government I’m what you might call a bit of a conundrum. Let me enlighten you as to why. I killed my wife. Not once but twice. How is that possible? It’s a long story so take a seat and I’ll try to explain.
My early years are of little importance to this account, but my Mother Emily, god rest her poor soul, had a saying, ‘’Know the boy and you’ll understand the man’’, so for her sake I’ll give you a little insight into a part of my miserable life.
In the autumn of 1980 I was born into a god fearing family on the poor side of Yanceyville North Carolina. My father Ezra was a black Baptist minister and my Mother as far as I know had no real talent except for keeping house and producing babies. My early years were as happy as I could have expected them to be, being black and underprivileged. Besides me there were two other boys and two girls, most of which have since departed this godforsaken earth. my younger brothers Tyrell and Jerome were killed in the North Korean war in the fall of 2020. America’s president at the time was the infamous Donald Trump, a shady republican billionaire of questionable integrity who was unpredictably voted into office in 2016 after losing to a woman, Hilary Clinton no less, and as he liked to brag in his rallies to his supporters afterwards ‘’On his first attempt’’. So unless you’ve been living under a rock then you’ll know all about him. You may also know that practically since his inauguration he’d been having a war of words with North Korea’s tin pot dictator Kim Jong Un after he fired a few Nuclear test missiles which splash landed into the sea off the coast of Japan. A roly poly little man with a strange haircut who apparently liked to gorge on steak, expensive cheese and bottles of crystal champagne. Then when he bragged his advancing program wasn’t up for debate with the rest of the world, Trump seen red.
An on off twitter spat of name calling followed between them for about two years resulting in more sanctions that didn’t work. It all ended with Jong dropping a nuke on the South after Trump goaded him into it during a failed attempt at peace talks following the 2018 winter Olympics. It was obvious from the onset, as the rumors suggested there wasn’t enough room for both their egos at the fateful meeting with both storming off threatening to annihilate each other, like two kids in a pissing contest. The missile wiped out about twenty five thousand people in the capital of Seoul.
By this time Trump was coming near the end of his term in office, and saw this offensive as an opportunity to bolster his popularity stakes which had sunk to an all time low, so he chose to send in the army, John Wayne gung ho style and all that shit. Ground troops where deployed at the beginning of December after the Navy pounded the peninsula for three solid weeks with heavy ordinance. Meanwhile election fever took over the country as Trump hoped to get another four years with his promise to ‘Get the son of a bitch’ - what a way he had with words. But he underestimated the tenacity of Jong’s brainwashed citizens who were willing to fight to the death, every last one of them, for their leader. It soon becomes his Vietnam, tens of hundreds of South Korean soldiers and G.I’s were slaughtered as the tried to reach Jong’s bolt hold bunker hidden deep inside Mount Baekdusan near the border with China.
Trump then brings in the draft and soon, along with other young Americans, Terell and Jerome get their call up papers. Six weeks after basic training both are sent to the front line a few miles from P’Yongyang. There was little or no information after that as to their location. Then a month or so later we got a visit from two high fluting army personnel. They never gave their rank as far as I recall, when they came to the door, but they looked important, and Ma being Ma brought them in and made coffee while they sat bolt ridged their backs straight as iron rods with those big military caps they wear tucked under their arms at the kitchen table next to Pa. Being ever so polite as they read out a presidential telegram of how brave my brothers, their sons, were, fighting for their country in the face of communism and how they courageously died combating with the enemy.
Ma went to pieces as they read, dropping her cup to the floor and shattering it into a thousand bits while Pa started praying, asking god to grant him the strength to forgive the evil who took his two sons, whilst my two younger sisters ran from the room crying. I’d been spared military service on account of my age, but at that moment in time I would have signed up gladly irrespective of my epoch, blood is blood after all, but in my fog of anger Pa reminded me that ‘'vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord’’. I guess he was right. Eighteen months after the first American boots stepped onto the Peninsula Trump took his lead from history and dropped the mother of all bombs, a 500 megaton Nuke, deliberately naming it Nagasaki 2. There was nothing left, no survivors, bodies or buildings.
Of course at first he was praised for saving the lives of American soldiers, but public opinion is fickle and soon Trump began to wear a crown of thorns. Then just like the God of retribution he thought he was, it wasn’t long before his own judgment and fate was being sealed. They tried him and his cohorts along with the top brass military brass for war crimes, the mass murders of over twenty five million innocent people was the charge. I’m sure you must have read about it, it was all over the news for weeks. Facebook bought out Twitter that year and then secured the sole video rights to the entire trials of those in the Republican Party who sanctioned the bombing. But in truth they were all forgone conclusions, a parody of justice really. Someone had to pay to make it right, to cleanse the minds of the citizens who bayed for blood when their sons were dying but whom now felt guilty. Trumps Labor Day hanging in Sing Sing Jail broke the records of YouTube’s most hits ever.
My Mother never truly got over Tyrell and Jerome’s deaths; she withdrew into herself and passed away one night in her sleep with her poor soul tormented by grief. Father wasn’t long behind her, less than a year, after all, guilt and a broken heart can be hard to heal. Another to shirk off this mortal coil though, before him, was Angel; she was the baby of the family and a truly gifted child when it came to singing. Her voice would bring tears to the eyes of the congregation at Fathers Sunday service when she sang Amazing Grace; oh how sweet was her sound. Being the youngest however meant she took Ma’s passing the hardest, they were real close. Angel developed a depression; she would stay in her room for days, refusing to go to school. Picking at her food when she did come down to eat with the rest of us, which I must say wasn’t often. Eventually Father couldn’t stand watching his baby girl just wasting away and took her to see Doctor Rassgadd over at the city clinic. It was him, who diagnosed her despair as Melancholia, a term used to describe a severe form of depression. Those suffering from it lose all pleasure in everything. He prescribed some pills and booked her in to see a shrink over the course of the next few weeks. Sadly she never made it to her first appointment. She told Father she was going to have a bath the night before she was due to go. He said later she seemed happier, less distant; her mood was different that night. Then when she hadn’t come out of the bathroom for sometime he burst down the door and found Angel lying face down in the tub. Both her wrists had been cut with his long blade razor; she’d bled out into the water. He never forgave himself for what happened.
It was during Angel’s funeral service, resided over by my Pa, I met Connie, my wife to be. To be honest I’d given up hope of ever tying the knot. I thought once I’d reached forty I was destined to be a bachelor for the rest of my days. Connie had moved into the neighborhood around 2018, from Connecticut if I recall, a couple of years before the start of the war, after she’d secured a part time teaching job over at Oakwood Elementary. Ma would have stood in occasionally when Betty Harrison, the schools cleaner, was under the weather or had to baby sit one of her grandchildren while her daughter worked an extra shift as a nurse over at the clinic. Another reason for her move to Yancey was because her brother was sick with cancer. With her being his only living relative she became his live in caregiver. It wasn’t for long though. He was only thirty nine when he died from it. Anyway, both women got friendly and after a while Ma introduced Connie to our Pastoral Church. She soon fit right in with our small congregation, but around that time I wasn’t in a spiritual frame of mind so I must admit I’d fell from grace for a while and wasn’t attending; much to the dislike of Pa I must add.
Ma had talked about her a few times over lunch when she came home from Church on a Sunday, mentioning she was only a few years younger than I and how she was ‘’Still not Taken’’, as if she was some sort of a commodity, like an apple or a can of soup. ‘’Why is such a lovely girl like that still on the shelf?’’ she would say as she stood at the sink drying the dishes or lifting her eyes from her bible reading. ‘’Maybe she’s just too fussy when it comes to men.’’
'‘Maybe she doesn’t like men'’ I said once. ‘Maybe she prefers female company Ma, Huh? Did you ever think of that?'’ Ma just sea sawed her hand at my suggestion and threw in a scornful look in my direction for coming out with what she considered nonsense. ‘’you could do worse’’ she said.
Of course she was right as I was to find out.
Connie had come to Tyrell and Jerome’s military burial, and then Ma’s, but at those times the opportunity didn’t arise for any sort of congenial conversation and it was her who made the first move after Angels. It had begun to rain as I made my way back to the waiting limo parked in the Cemetery’s car lot. Pa and the rest of the family had stayed behind at the graveside but I was keen to get away, I hated the feeling of helplessness I was having and needed a drink, something strong and lasting which would at least numb the pain for awhile. I was unaware Connie had followed me along the gravel path which led between the headstones, until she came up behind and offered to share her umbrella. That was the first time I‘d seen her so closely. She was dressed respectfully entirely in black except for a string of white pearls around her neck.
We both smiled awkwardly for a moment and, in that brief instant our eyes met, I swam in her beauty, so much was I overwhelmed by it, I felt as if I was drowning, unable to catch my breath. Her dark hair shone like the night sky lit up by a silver moon while her skin was as smooth as alabaster and the color of polished oak wood. And as I looked into those tear bruised eyes I saw the same pain I was going through. ‘Your Mother and I were good friends’ she said softly.
I told her I already knew and that she had talked about her quite a lot. I said I was also sorry to hear about her brother as we walked and how I thought he was now in a better place free from the agony of his cancer. But all the while I felt ill at ease, my word being a poor slice of comfort I knew, but what I offered was truly heart felt, and I think she knew it. After our meeting of hearts and minds we began seeing each other almost every day and within a few months I’d asked her to marry me. Fortunately she said yes. Pa was happy when I told him and he agreed to minister at the wedding, although sadly it was to be the last he ever resided over.
With Ma and Pa gone, Tyrell, Jerome and then poor Angel it almost seemed that god was punishing me for something I’d done or perhaps was about to do. So much so I began to worry that maybe any small piece of happiness I was now enjoying with Connie would be short lived. Some people in this world seem to have it all while others are scourged with bad luck. We look at the wealthy and famous and wonder why they enjoy the riches while we injure the pain of poverty or bad health. Maybe they’ve made a pact with the devil we try and convince ourselves, sold their souls for short lived pleasures we say just to make us feel better. The truth is some people just get a bad deal, and that’s just the way it is.
After the wedding I moved in with Connie while my only surviving sibling Moesha stayed on in the family home. I thought a change of location might mean a fresh start and I hoped for better times - a change in my providence so to speak. But I was wrong.
I think death likes to cling to people once it’s got a flavor for them, it likes to stay where it feels familiar and safe, slowly consuming them and their kin until someone breaks the cycle or all are gone. For a few years I thought I was the one who had finally escaped the scythe of the grim reaper, Connie and I were happy. I got a new job with the city maintenance that paid good money and steady hours; Connie started teaching full time. She eventually sold her brothers small house he’d willed to her and with what she got for it we put it as a down payment on a bigger one closer to the school.
I must confess the first time I killed my wife it wasn’t planned, not like the next, which I will gladly admit to. However the circumstances leading up to the second are probably the reason I have to this point avoided the hang mans noose, or lethal injection. For some time now one or the other is used, dependant on the city’s budget at the time. That is why I have become a conundrum for the legal institutions. The debate of my fate still continues as I speak within the corridors of the justice system and Supreme Court for there is no precedence pertaining to my actions they can apply to determine if in fact I have committed a crime at all, thus until then I must languish in jail.
You may remember at the beginning of our little talk I said that
‘’sometimes a decision is forced upon you whether you like it or not’’ – this can be true for a lot of aspects in one’s life, like having to choose to switch off a loved one’s life support machine, or ending a relationship. Choices you would rather not have to make but knowing that to do what is the most painful might be the right path to take. Such was the dilemma I was faced with after I selfishly allowed someone to talk me into agreeing to an unspeakable deed, which resulted in what I can only describe as an aberration against god.
The start of our end began to unravel on thanksgiving night 2022. Connie and I had invited over my sister Moesha and her current boyfriend, a guy by the name of Mathew Harding, for dinner. My little sister was always fickle when it came to men and this was her second guy that year. But from what I could tell by listening she seemed pretty taken with him. Mind you up until then I’d only seen a few pictures of Matt (he told me to call him that when we first met) which Moesha had taken with her cell phone; he looked a decent enough guy by them. I noticed in most he was wearing expensive suits, lots of gold on his wrist and fingers and in one he seemed to be showing off his vintage sky blue and chrome T bird car, and when I asked her what he did for a living she said he described himself as an entrepreneur. I wasn’t sure what she meant by that and remembered thinking Yancyville just didn’t seem the type of place a budding capitalist would want to set up shop in. But hey, what did I know, and I figured if he made her happy then that was OK with me.
Both arrived around seven, I could hear the purr of his engine the moment it turned into our street and then the crunch of its tires on the driveway. Connie made a joke as we heard them get out saying all the neighbors curtains would be twitching like crazy as they tried to get a good look at who was stopping at her house in such a fine car. She laughed and said she wouldn’t say anything for a while so as to add a little more mystique and intrigue to her ostentatious visitor and that it would serve them right for being so nosey.
The door bell rang and I shouted for Moesha to come on in, and not to be standing on ceremony because I was busy taking the turkey from the oven while Connie was draining the potato’s, and besides she was my little sister after all. ’Mi casa su casa’ as far as I’m concerned when it comes to family. Mathew followed her in and I shook his hand after putting the Turkey on the table. He was bigger in real life; taller and stronger looking with a firm grip, this time he was in jeans and a white tee shirt which had a yellow smiley face logo.
‘I hear you’re an entrepreneur Mathew’ I said ‘How’s that going in Yanceyville, do you sell cars or?‘
‘Pharmaceuticals’ he replied.
‘You mean drugs’ I said, so that’s where he got his money from, I thought, he was a god damn coke or worse crystal meth pusher. I figured he looked too good to be clean in those pictures.
‘Now listen here Mathew’ I began, I was angry and disappointed that Moesha was maybe going to hitch her wagon to this guy at some point and possibly end up in jail or even god forbid a junkie.
‘With all due respect Mathew, I don’t want my baby sister getting mixed up with any dealer in dr-‘
‘It’s not what you think’ he interrupted ‘Yes I buy drugs but they’re wholesale prescription medication, like Detrol or Sertraline made here in North Carolina, then I sell them to the pharmacies in the South, there’s good money to be made if you work hard enough for it.’
I felt like a fool when he had finished and something Ma always said just jumped into my head to make me feel even worse. ‘’Never judge a book by its cover son’’ and there I was just making stupid assumptions because I’d seen a flashy car and some gold bling.
I apologized and offered him a cold beer, he told me it was ok and he could see how I made the mistake, a black guy with an expensive T-Bird and showing of his gold- was an easy one to make. That’s when to my surprise he handed me his car keys ‘why don’t you and Connie take her for a spin’ he smiled. ‘just to show no hard feelings, see how it handles, Moesha and I will wait to eat until you come back’
‘Are, are you sure man?’ I said feeling butterflies rising in my stomach at the very thought of pumping the gas on such a beautiful machine. I turned to Connie who’s mouth was already open and her eyes wide in shock ‘What do you think babe, fancy a drive?’
Connie let out a short yelp of delight ‘Absolutely’ she cried as she pushed past.
On the driveway I ran my fingers across the hood of the car, it was still warm and it felt like I was caressing the skin of a young beautiful woman, smooth and blemish free. ‘Nineteen fifty five, two door convertible with an overhead valve V8 engine, four hundred and fifty horsepower’ I said ‘capable of zero to sixty in ten point two seconds, first generation I believe’
‘You know your cars’ Harding said.
I told him I’d seen some like this one in old films and a few newer models driving on the interstate when I was a young boy, but had never been this close in real life to any, let alone get a chance to drive one.
‘Tom Sellect owned a model just like this in Magnum P.I’ I said
‘An old TV actor from the eighties’ I smiled. ‘long before your time son’ I said, slipping the key into the ignition. When I turned it the engine came to life with the roar of a lion and settled into contented purr like a cat that had just got the cream.
‘How’s three mile hill sound?’ I said to Connie.
It was a good stretch of open road which we both knew well and it was normally quiet from traffic at that time of day, it also took us past the school where Connie taught. ‘We can open her up just as we get to the seven eleven on Hill View, turn at the gas station before the on ramp of the interstate then loop back on ourselves, shouldn’t take any longer than ten minutes or so’ I said. But twenty minutes later Connie was dead. I’d lost control taking the curve at the gas station going too fast. The car flipped and rolled. I was thrown free and landed in a ditch. Connie was still strapped in her seat when the Emergency services arrived.
That was the first time I killed her, you remember me telling you I did it twice at the beginning of my story, don’t you. Well a day later I woke up in Hospital with my sister lying sleeping in a chair at the foot of my bed. I suddenly realized an arc of pain was trying to override the morphine which was being administered via a clear tube into my arm by a small machine; it whirred and clicked as its timer counted down the minutes until the next dose was due. I pulled back the bed covers and immediately saw my left leg had two stainless steel rods running down the length of it secured by three other smaller what I can only call ‘anchors’ of the same type of metal. Now I knew where the source of the extreme pain I was feeling was coming from. I felt thirsty and tried to reach over to pour some water from a pitcher into a glass that was sitting beside my bed. But in my haze of drugs I misjudged the weight and it crashed to the floor, spilling its contents and waking up Moesha. thankfully it was made from plastic and bounced a few times before spinning wildly to her feet.
‘Where am I?’ I asked as my eyes began to focus better on my surroundings. I was in what looked like a private room but with no windows to the outside world. Behind my bed there was a full wall, floor to ceiling visual monitor which was displaying all my vitals in 4k super high definition. I was dressed in a one piece white ‘sock’ body suit which had wires and tubes coming from it into what looked like a large cooler box secured to the floor.
‘This ain’t the Halifax or the Danville Medical Center; my insurance wouldn’t pay for this level of care.’ I said. ‘And what is all this, I’ve never seen this type of medical equipment before, it’s like something from the space station’.
Moesha picked up the jug and began pulling a wad of paper towels from a box she found on a shelf and scattering them onto the water. ‘After the accident Matt made a few call’s’
‘Calls, what type of calls, and to whom?’ I inquired ‘And what about Connie, where’d they take her body?’
‘People he knows I guess’ Moesha said shrugging her shoulders. ‘You don’t remember then?’
‘Remember? Remember what exactly’
The door opened and Matt came in before Moesha could speak again. ‘I think I should answer that’ he said. ‘better still, before I do I have someone with me, who I think you’ll be very happy to see.’
Matt beckoned towards the open door with his hand. ‘come in’ he gestured.
‘Jesus H Christ!’ I mouthed, because I couldn’t believe what I was now seeing.
‘Hello Jeremiah’ Connie said stepping in.
‘But you’re supposed to be dead, I saw you die in the accident, they told me before I passed ou-‘
‘Technically they were right’ Matt butted in, locking the door.
‘What do you men technically?’
‘Do you remember the conversation we had before they took you down for surgery last night? -no? seems you don’t. You were quite delirious though, but you grabbed my hand and begged me to help Connie, ‘’do anything, you pleaded’’. ‘’Make her better’’ you said, ‘’don’t let my Connie die’’. I said I might be able to help. You insisted I did.’
‘Where are we?’ I asked trying to pull myself with my elbows further up the bed, a decision I quickly regretted as it brought on another arc of pain in my leg. ’and who’s paying for all this?’
Harding led Connie over to a chair by her limp hand; I could see she seemed distant, almost vacant, certainly not the vibrant Connie I knew, and there was something else about her eyes. They looked as gray as a storm cloud and there was no reflection in them of the fluorescent ceiling lights or the intermittent green flashes of the morphine dispenser.
‘Tell me what’s going on’ I demanded.
I watched as Harding paced the floor for a moment or so, clearly agitated. it was becoming evident by his nervous behavior he was reluctant to give up what ever information he was hiding. So I punched the beds metal side rail which stopped him in his tracks ‘Tell me god damn it’ I shouted.
‘Okay-Okay!’ he said throwing up his hands in defeat.
‘After the war with North Korea’ he began, ‘and during the time subsequent to when Trump was executed, you will remember there was no president of the United States. There was a power vacuum which the remaining military brass decided to fill. The country was still hurting from the deaths of all those poor American soldiers sent to fight a useless battle. Meanwhile the drug companies had made billions providing front line medical supplies during the conflict and even more money in the veteran’s hospitals providing remedial aftercare to those injured when it ended. No one was interested in how the Government was being run and people wouldn’t have had the stomach for another election after all that had happened with Trump. Besides, whom would they have voted for? Hilary Clinton again? Unlikely, she disappeared from politics following her loss to Trump. Of course there was the Benghazi terrorist attack scandal and subsequent investigation into her trying to conceal emails regarding it, and the fact she used a personal account that might have played a part in that fall from grace. Yet few know she died of a brain clot after a bout of pneumonia sometime in 2019.
Trump had got rid of most of those potential presidential candidates who didn’t agree with him in his cabinet, firing them like he did on his TV reality show, ‘’The Apprentice’’. people like acting General Attorney Sally Yates, one of the first to go. Then it was top US attorney Preet Bharara who did not comply when asked to submit his resignation along with 46 other US attorneys. Then most infamously he dismissed FBI director James B Comey. Many more followed after him, some jumping ship before they were pushed. Obama wasn’t interested in coming back either, they did ask him, that much I do know. citing privately he ‘’didn’t need the aggravation again’’ if it meant his hands would still be tied by the republicans like before, which was the case in both his previous terms of office. So no one wanted the poisoned spoon that was the Whitehouse, not for another eight years anyway. The military got nervous because there was no head of state, no leader to be seen making decisions, and that’s wasn’t good when you have Russia watching your every move. Even though Trump was an egotistical moron he could still be manipulated quietly by those seeking only the best for the people of the United States, a moralistic conscience if you will, but at least up front he was still seen as a person of power.
It was at the latter end of the conflict, roughly about nine months or so the Government knew they couldn’t sustain the cost of the war, not only by the heavy loss of lives but financially it was going to bankrupt the country if allowed to carry on. Trump just wanted a quick fix by dropping the mother of all bombs, which eventually he did, of course. But before that he held a secret meeting with the five biggest drug producers in the country and told them it was time to dig deep into their bank accounts and start paying towards the manufacture of military equipment, such as tanks, planes and bullets. Needless to say those rich fat cats weren’t at all happy with that order, so instead of money they said they were willing to give the Government access to a secret development collaboration they had been working on. They even had a name for it, ‘’The Lazarus Project’’. it was basically a drug designed to reanimate the dead. What they were suggesting was those soldiers killed on the battle field, providing there wasn’t too many bits missing, could be given the drug ‘iterum vivere’ meaning ‘’to live again’’. they discovered it by accident while testing a new coagulant to help stem the flow of blood if a soldier was shot in battle. It was only meant to last long enough to allow the field medics to get the injured quickly back to base hospital. Instead some of those it was tested on did die, but one hour later they unexpectedly came back to life. However the drug they used was in its early form and it only worked for twenty four hours, once out of the system the candidate died again and could not be revived. But they soon saw its potential, quickly developing it further until it extended the life span to a year. It meant they could send the same soldiers back into battle over and over again saving hundreds of real lives.’
‘How do you know all this?’ I asked him. he looked at me blankly. ‘and you don’t buy wholesale drugs do you.’
Harding shook his head, then I looked over at Connie who had been silently staring at the floor since she was brought in. ‘You gave it to my wife didn’t you.’
Harding nodded again.
Moesha gasped, and put her hands over her mouth.
‘Why does she seem different, and who the hell are you really’
‘My name is Mathew Harding, that much is true, but you are right, I don’t sell wholesale drugs. I was the chemist who discovered Iterum Vivere. Why did I help you and why am I with Moesha? I’ll tell you because I owe it to you both. Do you remember the day two officers came to your home with a telegram explaining your brothers were killed in battle?’
‘How could I forget’ I said. ‘losing Tyrell and Jerome tore my family apart and put my Mother in a early grave with a broken heart, but what’s that got to do with now?
‘Did you see your Father sign anything that day?’
‘Ah,,,,Yeah,,,, and I asked him what it was. He told me later it was just some papers to release their bodies’
‘Did you actually see their corpses?’
‘Well no,,,, Pa said he was told it would be better to keep the caskets closed, you know,,,,, because of their injuries an all’
‘Truth is Jeremiah, Tyrell and Jerome were my first two test subjects’
I heard Moesha gasp again when he said this.
‘So both caskets where empty when we buried them, is that what you are telling me’
Harding nodded again.
‘You son of a bitch’
‘I know and you’re right to be shocked and angry but hear me out’. Harding said. ‘They were dead when they arrived with me. Only forty five minutes. Perfect candidates, each had only been shot once in a firefight, Tyrell in the chest and Jerome in the neck. Their wounds were bad enough to stop their hearts, but other than some small tissue damage they were intact. We patched up the holes, administered the drugs intravenously and waited. For the first thirty minutes there was nothing, no movement from either of them, not even a finger twitch. Then just before the hour had passed both men shot bolt upright and drew in air. The drug had worked, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I went over to examine them I noticed their eyes, just like Connie there was no glint of life in them, I knew something was wron-‘
‘Windows’ I said.
Harding had screwed his face up and looked perplexed at my interruption.
‘Sorry?’ he said ‘what do you mean’
‘My Mother had a saying and one I never fully understood, not until now. ‘’The eyes are the windows to the soul’’ she would say, ‘that special thing that makes a person who they are leaves the body once it dies. There’s nothing left but a shell, where does it go? Heaven or hell if you believe in that sort of thing, Purgatory maybe, where it waits to be reborn again, who knows, but one thing for sure you have proven Harding, you can't try to play god’.
Harding shook his head then looked at Connie. ‘Yes’ he said, ‘you’re right, no matter how many times we tried again after the failure with Tyrell and Jerome, we were unable to reanimate that person back to who they once had been. The others which followed could understand orders; we could tell them what to do, how to fight on the battlefield. Much like I did with Connie today, before she came in I told her what to say. She doesn’t really recognize you. They can’t think for themselves, can't make decisions. Useless in the chaos of war, so the military pulled the plug on our research and shortly after that Trump dropped the nuke and the rest you know’
‘But you didn’t stop did you’
‘What happened to Tyrell and Jerome?’
Harding blew out his cheeks and took a deep breath ‘They are here in cold storage’
‘I know but, when the war was over the army and the medical companies got rid of all the others, but because your brothers were the first I thought about giving their bodies back to the family. Do the decent thing, so I secretly brought them here. They were the only ones to live longer than all the rest, so I began to wonder, could it be genetic. I already had all their personal information on file, I knew all about you, Angel, and Moesha. While I worked on perfecting the drug here at my facility I watched how death was ripping your family apart. And it was my entire fault. But if I was to be found out by the new administration before I was ready they wouldn’t understand what I tried to do. You saw what they did to Trump after he dropped the bomb and all those around him, every General and intelligence officer who knew about the Lazarus Project is dead, and I’m the only one left. I was able to refine Iterum Vivere and extend the life span of dead rats and mice; Connie was my first human subject with the new improved drug. I hoped when President Monroe saw my results he would begin to refinance my work, but of course Connie isn’t blood is she.’
‘How long will she live?’
‘Three years maybe’
‘Rats and mice huh! is that what Tyrell and Jerome were to you, to the army. Just dead rats and mice, Nobody’s? Used like animals to test your zombie drug, because that’s what it is when you get right down to it.’ I pointed to Connie. ‘Look at her, there’s nothing left, she’s gone’
‘You're right, but my next trial may prove to be more of a success’ Harding said staring at me, his eyes empty and fixed.
‘You're insane, and tell me why didn’t you let me die in the car accident, why fix my leg if you just mean to kill me’
Harding smirked ‘You don’t understand, it isn’t you I’m interested in- - not yet anyway’. He went over to the ‘cooler’ box on the floor and pushed a small red button on its lid. A short gasp of air could be heard as the top opened slowly. ‘This is Adenosine’ he said, removing a syringe full of clear liquid. ‘A regular dose will stop the heart for a short time then after a minute or so it will restart again’. Moesha had begun to cry. ‘This is four times stronger; it will stop it completely by inducing spasms over a longer period and will be extremely painful. Either quantity will disappear in the blood stream leaving no trace. This on the other hand is a Glock 19 semi auto 45mm hand gun, this will stop it instantly and with very little pain.’
‘You’re a crazy son of a bitch!’ I yelled now seeing the pistol in his other hand.
‘Maybe’ he smiled pointing the gun at Moesha’s chest. ‘why don’t you decide how she dies Jeremiah’
‘I won’t do it’ I said.
Harding dropped his shoulders and sighed ‘Either way she dies’ he said holding up the syringe ‘The shot of Adenosine will do less damage’
‘Hold on! you did say it would take longer didn’t you’ I said ‘If you use it you will have to wait until it takes effect, I’m guessing at least twenty four hours and I’m betting you’re an impatient man, a man anxious to get to work’
‘Then……give me the gun. I’ll do it’ I said. Moesha screamed. ’It has to be the heart right?’
‘It won’t work if the subject is shot in the head, there’s no coming back from that’ Harding said looking at me and I could almost see the wheels of suspicion turning in his brain.
‘No tricks’ Harding finally said, ejecting the clip and then cocking the gun ‘One round is left in the chamber, that’s all you’ll need’
‘Ok, help me up Connie’ I said.
Connie moved robotically from her chair and came over to the bed; she pulled back the covers without talking and slid her arm under mine. Helping me to my feet, Harding handed me the gun. ‘Place it on Moesha’s chest’ he instructed, ‘just here’ he indicated with his finger.
My hand began to tremble with the weight of the pistol, sweat beads ran down my forehead stinging my eyes. Moesha had closed hers. I took a deep breath and began to squeeze the trigger. ‘I’m sorry’ I whispered. I looked at Harding who was smiling, then back to Moesha. ‘Do it’ he said.
So I did.
‘Now Connie’ I shouted.
She grabbed Harding’s arms and I shot him in the head. The sound of the gun firing echoed in the room like rolling thunder.
Moesha instantly began to scream, holding her chest, thinking the bullet had gone through her. Only when she opened her eyes could she see Harding slumped against the wall with a pool of blood forming around him. only then she realized she wasn’t hurt.
‘How did Connie know what to do?’
‘Harding made a fatal mistake, he never took into account one of the subjects Connie taught at school’.
Moesha shook her head and looked confused. ‘Sign Language, simple ASL, she educated the students on how to communicate with deaf people. I decided to learn. When Harding was ranting on I gestured to her to grasp his arms when I said the words, ‘‘Now Connie’’. I guess there was just enough of her in there to understand.
‘What now?’ Moesha said.
‘Find the keys to the door in Harding’s pockets and then let’s get out of here. Locate a phone and call the cops’
‘Wont they just arrest you?’ Moesha said.
I thought about that for a moment and figured she was probably right, trying to explain the whole thing could become tricky. Would they believe me if I told them about Iterum Vivere and Hardings crazy experiments, and if they did then Connie could be turned into some kind of Frankenstein while they siphoned off her blood to replicate more abominations. God knows where it all would have ended. I couldn’t allow that. There was only one thing for me to do.
Moesha and I looked for Tyrell and Jerome’s bodies, there was no cold storage. I think Harding lied or they are somewhere else. I also think the government have some smart people working for them so I guess they'll figure it all out at some point. In the mean time I'm happy to wait here in my cell, at least in here I feel safe.
8136 words March 2018
“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be his world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”
- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein’’