Intravenous

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The clack of his shoes against the slick concrete of his cell created a soothing rhythm. By focusing on each beat he kept his mind from wandering into the unpleasant consequences he knew he would have to face today. His guard, man by the name of James, opened his mouth to speak. Words may have come out, but if they did they flew right over his head. His trance now interrupted, he walked until he stood in front of the room’s only window, effectively blocking the only light source. The plaza below was hardly visible under the hordes of angry people, all family, maybe friends of his victims. Out there were fathers, brothers, mothers, and children, all here to witness the justice they craved being carried out. Soon, the news of his execution would travel across the crowd, like ripples across a pond, ending the unfortunate affair that cost him his job, reputation, and shortly his life.

Bringing his focus in, looking at the windowpane instead of through it he caught sight of his face. Bloodshot eyes stared at him from sunken cheeks, stubble on his face adding to his wild appearance. His cheekbones stood out in high relief, making him appear gaunt, his pallor otherworldly. Seeing this, the piteous creature he had become, did it for him, and he sank to the ground and felt hot tears stream down his cheeks, salt tracks gleaming in the cold, grey light. Pressing his back against the wall he felt its coldness soak through his shirt and into his body, chilling him to the bone. He hung his head and allowed the memories to come rushing back.

In his mind’s eye, he pictured the pristine white of the lab, the walls, the counters, and the floors, all of them sparkling clean. His career began and ended in that lab which for him would be forever associated with pain. He saw the glint of the hypodermic needles and syringes filled with the drug that cost so many their lives. Remembering the disastrous effects of the treatment that was intended to save millions, he felt nauseating shame. The economy had gone from bad to worse, and the success of the drug had been the only way to ensure the funds kept rolling in. It was pushed from development to the market almost immediately; he himself spoke to the most respected members of the medical community about the wondrous results of the false clinical trials. Hard times and a growing familiarity with the ruthless corporate world had set his moral compass horribly askew, self-preservation had taken over completely. He could not afford to lose his job. He delivered his lines with skill and confidence, code of ethics be damned. His lies had perpetuated the devastation caused by putting the value of currency before human life.

The room came slowly back into focus as he buried those memories once more, ringing of phones and frantic voices fading into silence. James was moving now, approaching him as he sat beneath the window. The footsteps stopped and he felt himself dragged upright by his collar. He felt the contempt in James’s gaze. A shove sideways sent him lurching away from the much larger man, struggling to regain his balance. James pushed him through the door, letting the heavy frame clip his heels. One year ago he would have held it open and ran to get the next one for me, he though ruefully. Now he was a murderer, and was being treated as such. In no time, he, like his victims, would be injected with liquid death and depart from this earth. Now, jailor and prisoner walked through the halls, the tapping of shoes once again the accompaniment to their silence.





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