An ex-con with a few weeks left on his sentence is forced to consider breaking the law to save his life…
“Goddamn it’s hot.” Sweat rolled down Calvin’s back and armpits as he tapped his way across town. Despite the lightness of his cane, the oppressive heat and humidity made every tap feel like he was pressing in the yard.
It had been five months since he thought about the yard in Shaw State Penitentiary. Five months since he thought about his personal slice of hell.
As hot as it was on the street right now, hot enough to fry a goddamn egg, his cell in Shaw made this Houston Texas city block feel cool to the touch. Prisoners died like flies in there but there was never any extra space as new prisoners came in as fast as the old ones went out.
Calvin adjusted his hat and glasses to keep folks from looking too closely at his face. It was bad enough he wore the hat, but without it, the questions, despite his incredible size and stature never stopped coming.
“Is that a regen rig?” “What’s it like to be an organ donor?” “How much time do you still have on your sentence?” That last one always pissed him off. It reminded him how much he hated the current penal system of trading surgery for time served, but living in Shaw meant dying sooner rather than later.
He checked his bio-app with his fingers and noted his time had increased markedly after leaving Shaw. It had predicted less than three years at his rate of decline there before he died. Since leaving Shaw, the meter had jumped up to almost thirty years. His sentence had been for five for assault and battery. The only reason he didn’t get a longer sentence was the state could no longer afford to keep prisoners for ten years or longer.
This was the real reason Shaw didn’t provide anything beyond underground cooling and venting. Dead inmates were cheaper than live ones.
Sure, there were protests, but people had too much on their plates outside of the pen to worry about whether inmates had air condition or were having their lives cut short due to what amounted to corporal punishment.
A savage cramp wracked his body suddenly. This one was without the usual tensing of muscles before the cramp arrived. It was stronger too. He had been taking the regen serum on schedule, the only thing he did on time, but something wasn’t right and that’s how he found himself on the street at nine in the morning when he normally didn’t get up before twelve.
His ripper’s address was firmly in his head having made the trip nearly forty times in the last three years. This trip was two weeks earlier than he had been told. The promise was when he made his next trip, it would be his last. All he could think of was removing the rig. That and not having to eat every three hours like clockwork. Regen was hungry and thirsty work.
Calvin stopped for a moment, reached into his bag and grabbed a protein bar, made by the Regen Corporation, specifically for ODs like him. Tasted like ass. Would it be too much trouble to make these things taste like something you’d want to eat? Or how about steak? Calvin hadn’t had a steak in years and wouldn’t be allowed to eat anything other than dirtbars until he was out of the organ donation program.
Hunger handled, water guzzled, Calvin moved with purpose. People could feel his intent and parted around him like water around a rock. Houston was more crowded than ever as Californians flowed east after the Longest Drought in History. Thirty million people evacuated the state when it could no longer provide water to any of its major cities. Calvin used to listen to the news of people murdering each other for a glass of water.
He didn’t take things like water for granted anymore.
Neither did all of those Californians. The state fell under martial law a few years ago and now nearly no one lives there. No one can. He heard descriptions of the cities covered in dust, so dry not even weeds grow there. A few fools are said to live near the beach using personal water reclaiming units but when their machines give out, most run to the National Guard looking for relocation. Calvin had come to Texas that way and ran afoul of the law soon after.
Texas had ridiculous laws that California had banned over two decades ago. Organ donation was perfectly legal in California, particularly once Regen had been cleared by the FDA. Even before he was doing Regen 2.0, Calvin had donated part of his liver and both of his kidneys a couple of times before his family moved out of the state.
Calvin got picked up on illegal organ donation in 2092. His son had leukemia and he needed a cool hundred grand for the therapy. Eyes go for big money because they regenerative process needed for them is less effective and it may take two or three attempts before an eye will take in a new host.
But going to prison proved to be an advantage because it let Calvin participate in a new Regen program, designed to deal with nerve tissue growth in subjects and with the help of his ripper-doc he had donated his eyes three times in five years, which gave him the money he needed for his son’s therapy.
Being blind was worth every agonizing moment if it meant saving his son. Of course, the state didn’t know anything about his illegal activity. As far as they knew, he was donating liver, pancreas, kidneys, blood and muscle tissue on state programs for his time in Shaw. The ripper was promoting the growth of his eyes illegally and harvesting them to pay for his kid’s treatment on the black market.
This last trip wasn’t for his son. The cause of his leukemia had been controlled. This trip was for Calvin. The doctor was going to remove the rig and restore Calvin’s sight. Just the thought of seeing again, quickened his step. Then he heard the police radio from a nearby police car.
He could sense the crowd milling about muttering about something in front of him. He slowed down and retracted his cane. He stood still and listened.
“I think there was a shootout.”
“I heard it was a bomb.”
“Some doctor blew himself to bits talking about he wasn’t going back to prison.”
Calvin had to know. His stomach sank. “Hey buddy, is that a brown office building with the address 285 on the front of it.”
“Yeah. The whole first floor is gone. Somebody you know in there?”
Calvin turned and flicked out his cane. Another stabbing of pain, this time worse than the last. He needed an inhibitor. Something to control the growth of nerve tissue in his body. The tech isn’t found just anywhere, you had to be a doctor to own it or use it. Calvin didn’t think it was the doctor who blew himself up. It was some con, who was tracked there and didn’t want to go back to the pen.
Calvin wondered if the doctor left a paper trail that could be tracked back to him. Their relationship had been professional and Calvin had been recommended to the doctor by a third party. A third party he would have to go back to for help.
If these eyes were connected to his brain soon, they would need to be harvested or they would kill him. Not for the first time Calvin wondered whose idea it was to make selling your eyes illegal in the state of Texas.
Dripping sweat and stinking like a meat locker due to the Regen hormones, Calvin Hobbes tapped away, as quick as his memory would let him in the early morning summer heat, hoping to make a call to his son to tell him that he loved him. Just in case.
Shortsighted © Thaddeus Howze 2015, All Rights Reserved
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. You can follow him on Twitter or support his writings on Patreon.