I am hungry but I have to keep working because they are still working. It seems only they know. And me. Non-Vs do not believe me. The faster I work, the sooner they may. H-Vamps have grown bold. They are not careful about hiding the syringes in their arms. Why are non-Vs so blind?
You know those commercials on TV, for Hemo-A? Yes, correct, that “vitamin cocktail,” “God’s own panacea,” “a naturally-occurring steroid that will only make you both stronger and smarter”... They sure know how to hook people. But start taking Hemo-A and you’re on a downward spiral.
There’s not much food these days, is there. Much easier to pop a Hemo-A, which (though the commercials don’t mention this) also stills hunger. Did you know it’s the same company that makes Dopa-B? I’ve never taken that either. As an asexual fem, I feel no need to waste my time.
Sometimes, however, I fantasize about Kristi. I imagine her laugh, and her curves, and that keeps me working like no Hemo-A or retro cup of Joe ever could. You see, they are after her, the H-vamps, particularly her boyfriend Darrel. She doesn’t know, and she would not believe it if I told her. So that’s why I have to keep doing this work, all night, every night, until I can pull the wool off everyone’s eyes. That would save many people, not only Kristi.
Why, when she likes me so much, does she go home with him? Down at the Casern, we talk and laugh. We flirt. He goes off to shoot pool, because he knows I see what is up his sleeve. He even saw that I saw one time when he put his arms around her, circling her narrow waist, and was actually pumping her blood. The syringes pump the blood from the victim, then transfer via a tiny tube the Mana right into their hearts. This enables them to continue doing what they do because it gives them vitality and charisma. Everyone turns a blind eye - oh, it’s just a little game, or someone else’s sexual preference. As long as both parties agree, what could be the problem? Problem is, the other party doesn’t even know. How could they not know?
How could she?
Maybe you’ll think I’m just jealous. I want to go home with Kristi, and he gets to. I’m the one who consoles her when she cries. I’m the one who helps her work through that gunk from her childhood.
I’m the one who loves her.
Let’s see. I’ve gotten some footage (don’t ask me how) from inside the Hemo-A factory. It is security footage, so I have to watch all the dull work on the factory floor, and sometimes the bosses beating up the workers when they fall. They are tired, you see (a different tired than me, though I haven’t slept in three nights).
They do not show the corpses, but sometimes there’s a reference to them when the foreman is not there. The workers, after week-long shifts, slip up in their double-speak. But that part is perfectly legal, even if it doesn’t appear in the commercials. It is called recycling of human matter and is favored by the government. They receive a subsidy, as well as free material to use. The number of homeless dead is staggering and Hemo-A is innovative in their solution. I even wonder why they don’t put it in their commercials. If they still had the news, this would definitely be on it. You know, news? Goddess, am I that old: car accidents, murders, terrorist attacks, and then the giant rats and killer bees and erasure of countries, and immigrants dropping from the sky when there was no where to deport to. Before the Farma replaced farms.
The Farma is good; even those who don’t like it say so. They say it has done far more good than harm. I don’t know. I know to say “I don’t know” could get me in trouble. I mean, not like we live in a dictatorship or anything, but everyone would think I am crazy.
Let’s see here. If I draw my own blood, let me see what’s in it these days…
Well! It is certainly a bit funky. I’ve been clean, and it’s been hard. It is impossible, some say. Sure, it would be better if it was like before when only a minority were addicts. That’s what they called people who needed Farma to survive. But since we do need it now, we have to admit it’s doing more good, even if it’s not all good - that’s what all my progressive friends are saying. I have learned to shut my mouth. If I want to keep any friends, this is necessary. I do want to keep a few friends. Know why? I think some day she might see me. Kristi might turn around and smile at me in a new way, once she knows.
Kristi! What is she doing now. The innogulent in the syringe keeps her blissfully ignorant. There are many innogulents in everything. That’s why I don’t eat any more. Sometimes I eat the bio-pill they say is 100% natural and plant-derived. (Who can believe that? Have you ever seen a plant? I have, but not for a long time.) There is an old lady in this building who remembers when people ate big amounts of things that came up out of the ground. I don’t believe all of it. She’s a bit batty. But most people think it would be disgusting to eat something from the ground anyway.
When Kristi is off the innogulent - when he hasn’t been around - is when I like her best, though she cries and cries. Through that crying, I feel she might heal and be whole. Through that crying, we might figure something out. I stop her pale, thin wrist as she reaches into her pocket to pop one.
Many progressives thought it was a victory when the Universal Farma Act was passed, making it legal to do any of them at any time. Oh! Wait, I need to focus. Look! It is a test being performed right on the factory floor.
I knew it! There is a connection between the H-vamps and Hemo-A. Look, look, he is using the syringe on her! She is sobbing and looks like she is suffocating; I think she is just afraid. He takes her blood. A calm washes over her. Others on the factory floor pick her up and glance angrily at him as he saunters out in his suit and tie, the sleeves wide enough to conceal an evil. But what is the exact connection with Hemo-A?
I am watching another scene, shortly after, when Kristi calls. Yes, Kristi, please come quick!
She is sobbing.
I have to be careful. Too much knowledge would freeze her. Too much truth would scare her away, and too much love would melt her into a puddle.
“What’s up?” I call, still in my lab corner as she lets herself in.
“Myrt! Myrt!” she cries out my name.
“I’m here - come over here,” I yell back, eyes still glued to the screen.
I want to hug her, but human touch is painful to me. It burns my skin and blanks out my mind. Instead I send out loving thoughts. She seems to receive them and smiles briefly through her bloated face.
Usually, she prefers to forget the most blissful moments of her life. She agreed, though. Of course she did. I’m not like him.
“Myrt! He has a whole fish-tank of blood. I think it’s mine!”
“It’s OK. Calm down. You can stay here. You never have to go back.”
“Stay here? Ha! But what would I do?”
“I don’t know. Help me out with my research…”
“Your research? Haven’t you stopped? You’re crazy!”
“All new discoveries start with that accusation, don’t they? If someone had said numbers could bring a man to the moon, the mediaeval people would have scoffed and burned them.”
“What kind of evil?”
“What? Oh, mediaeval. Never mind.”
“I thought maybe he was taking my blood, but not so much of it! No wonder I am always tired.”
“Yes, what? You here in your dark little lab… This isn’t reality.”
“It may be our only chance of getting there.”
“What are you talking about, Myrt? You’re crazy. I won’t hear it!” She covers her ears.
“Well! I’m talking about opening up the sky again. Light! Light from high up, that doesn’t need to be plugged in. I’m talking about an end to exploitation, and…”
“Shut up!!!” She covers her ears, screams and sings, until she falls to the ground.
“Kristi? Why torture yourself. Come on, Kristi…” I want to help her to the bed, but recoil with every scathing touch. Ouch! Of course I long to embrace her. But it just hurts too much. It is a reflex, removing your hands from a fire.
I am late. I need to go to my shift, but I don’t want to leave Kristi. There used to be something called calling in sick. Damn Auto-Pill! If I don’t show, I’ll lose my job. I’ll be one of the homeless, and instead of exposing and shutting down Hemo-A, I’ll become it.
I know - expose it to whom? Well, I have some ideas on this. There are still people who might listen. For one thing, the entire alternative population are H-Vamps, and it was engineered this way by Hemo-A. If I can show them the link (they are what they are opposing), they may detox. There may still be time. Some still remember how it was and how it came to be. Some H-Vamps don’t want to be this way, and it’s not alternative at all. The false dichotomies or alternatives are symptomatic, and I have an idea of how humans could be free.
I have not succeeded in touching another human for more than ten seconds since I can remember. But as I watch her writhe in the throes of withdrawal, I suddenly do remember.
I remember. My mother. She was not a breeder but a bio-mom, and I was hers. She held me, rocking me back and forth, singing. They tore us apart, she went down one chute, me another. Mother! I yelled. I can hear that echoing in my brain.
If I can save Kristi, I can somehow save Mother, save us all.
I breathe. Deeply, steadily, I consolidate all of my mental and emotional and physical power. I am shaking. My arms burn as I place them under her. I breathe into the excruciating pain. My mind’s eye can see and smell the raw, charring flesh, but I focus on the perfection of my arm in my body-eye, the absence of smells in my body-nose. Someday I’ll get them! The heat of this victory washes over me, momentarily drowning the waves of seething.
But as I am placing Kristi on the narrow bed, something falls.
From Kristi’s sleeve, a syringe cracks and blood splashes. My own.
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