Something different for you today, a short story from misanthropic author, musician, and drone-enabled filmmaker, Jesse Orr.
by Jesse Orr
by Jesse Orr
The needle was sharp, but fortunately his brother had warned him. “Tony,” he said, “when the needle comes near, you just shut your eyes and before you know it, it'll be over.” So when the nurse had leaned over him, smiling, he just smiled back and shut his eyes. There was a pinch.
“There!” the nurse said, taping the IV to his inner elbow. “That wasn't so bad now was it?”
“No,” Tony agreed, surprised. His brother had made it out to be far worse. “Is that all?”
“That's all,” she said, picking up a clipboard from the table beside his cot and glancing down at it. “You're donating just a pint of blood today so you won't feel as woozy as some of these other folks, but it'll still be a good idea to help yourself to some orange juice and cookies once you're done.” She flashed her smile at him again but it had a rote, artificial quality to it. “Let me know if you start feeling light-headed or sick and I'll be back soon to check on you.”
She whisked away down the rows of reclining cots of people donating blood, old, young, men, women and children. She stopped beside an old man who looked as though all the fluid had been drained from him, leaving him deflated. “How are we feeling today, Mr Harris?”
Tony shivered and turned back to his mother, who was reading a magazine by the cookies and juice, having already given her mandatory percentage. She looked up, and he waved with the arm from which the IV was not siphoning his blood. She folded her magazine and came over to him.
“How do you feel, honey? Does it hurt? Should I call the nurse?” She had half-turned and was inhaling to shout before he stopped her.
“No, Mom, I'm fine, it's okay.” He smiled to show her how okay he was.
She relaxed visibly and brushed a lock of hair back from his forehead with a hand which was not quite steady. “I'm sorry, I'm just worried about you. Nine years old is too young to be donating blood, I don't care what the government thinks.”
“Mom!” Tony was shocked. “Someone will hear you!”
She dropped her voice, but did not stop her diatribe. He had heard it before, many times, especially since the government had mandated every child over the age of five give at least one pint of blood every month. Before the mandate, the minimum age had been twelve, and it had been strictly voluntary. Now, things were different.
The nurse came back in their direction and his mother stopped talking about things that the government didn't like to hear, and resumed fussing over him. “Isn't that enough? That IV bag looks awfully full. I'm sure that's a pint.”
The nurse, her eyes weary, nodded and smiled with her mouth only. “You're right, ma'am, it's full, and I'm here to unhook your son because he's all done.”
That night, Tony went to bed early. He had a headache. While he slept, the blood he had donated was loaded into a dark blue van with titanium locks and driven across the city to an Air Force base by a man with three guns on him and a shotgun toting guard with instructions to destroy anybody who attempted to tamper with their cargo. At the base, it was loaded onto a black C-130 cargo plane. By the next morning, for most intents and purposes, it had vanished from the face of the earth.
A month later, Tony was walking home from school. His mother had not been in favor of this, until he and his brother had ganged up on her and convinced her that all nine year olds walked to Gregson Elementary on their own. This was not strictly true, but hurt no one. His brother usually walked with him, but he had been sucked into a pickup basketball game, and Tony set out alone after growing bored.
The walk was exciting in its newness, and his mother's admonishments to walk straight home and not to talk to strangers was forefront in his head. So when she rolled up beside him in a strange new car, he at first only lowered his head and began walking faster, ignoring her calls.
His head jerked up. “Mom?”
“Get in the car.” Her voice was, calm, flat, unaffected.
“Why? What's going on?” he asked, starting toward the car.
He looked at her as he crossed in front of it but she just stared out the windshield, not tracking him with her eyes. An icy claw of fear began to tickle his insides.
“Mom?” He got in. “Where'd you get the new car? What's happening? Is something wrong?”
She started driving, the momentum closing the door which he had not gotten to yet. “Everything's fine,” she said, staring at the road.
“Mom, you're scaring me!” Tony's voice shook as he fastened his seat belt.
She did not speak as she drove them, not as he started to cry and plead with her to tell him what was happening. Eventually, they came to a chain link fence with a guard in a booth, who did not seem at all perturbed by the crying boy in the front seat. She rolled down the window.
“MTC-A311,” his mother said, and the guard brought up what looked like a supermarket scanner, and flashed it in her eyes.
“Confirmed,” the guard said, and waved her forward.
Tony had given up on being told anything and his sobs had dwindled to hiccups, his only company his mounting dread as they drove into a compound ringed with more chain link and razor wire. A garage door trundled up, his mother drove into a garage shining with fluorescent light and killed the engine. She sat there, with her hands in her lap, unblinking, saying nothing. She did not look at him.
The terror he had felt was nothing up until now. At least, he thought so until the door burst open. Two men with machine guns entered, followed by a smaller man in a black suit, horn-rimmed glasses and an expression of blasé enjoyment.
Tony scrabbled backwards inside the car, falling into his mother's lap. He screamed, unable to scramble away from her because one of the machine gun men had opened the door and was reaching, reaching for him.
The driver's side door opened without warning and he would have been spilled onto the ground if a strong hand had not jerked him out of the car and yanked him to his feet. He fought savagely against the hands, screaming at the top of his lungs.
“That's enough, boy,” one of the machine gun men said, and dragged him to the man in the horn-rims, who incredibly, was smiling.
“You, my boy, are a prime example of why we are doing this!” cried Horn-Rims, producing a hypodermic and squirting it at the air before plunging it into Tony's arm. Instantly Tony's limbs turned to water and his mind to mush. He dropped to the ground, or would have if the guards had not supported him between the two of them. He stared stupidly at Horn-Rims as the guards bore him out, wondering why anybody would choose those glasses. He was still wondering that when they put him in the gas chambers.
Dr Alma Hockstetter, also known as Horn-Rims, smiled at his empty syringe. He had invented that formula, and it had never failed. He put two fingers to his mouth and whistled. Out of the door from which they had all entered came a small boy, no more than nine years old. He came obediently over to the doctor and stopped, looking at him with no expression.
Hockstetter opened the passenger door. “Get in, Tony.”
Tony 2 rode home with his mother, Linda 2, and were joined by Tony's brother, Thad 2. They ate dinner, and then watched TV until bedtime. Nobody said much. Nobody thought much. Clones seldom did, and that was just the way the government liked them.
It made them easier.
About the Author
About the Book
Curled around her in the morning light, stroking her decaying flesh, he whispered his secrets to her as the bugs crawled inside her and began laying their eggs, he kissed her as the eggs began to hatch, and when she finally began to fall apart, he cried.
The Corpse Flower