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He’d learned to hate the sound of the alarm clock. It’s shrill, incessant screeching awakened him from all his dreams where he could escape reality. Always, it seemed, that the digital clock went off excessively early every morning.
Dragging himself out of bed, Felix slowly put on his suit that he wore nearly everyday for his career. Nothing fancy, just a plain black jacket, with plain black pants, plain black tie wrapped around his neck, full Windsor style, and a plain white shirt. It wasn’t like anybody would really see him on the job. The most they ever saw was his emerald eyes in the review mirror and his shaggy black hair. Still, he had to look at least somewhat respectable if he was driving around some of the most famous or important people in Campaire.
As he scrambled out the door, realizing he had pressed the snooze button several more times than intended, he grabbed a polished red apple from the fridge and the morning paper from his mailbox. The date on it read “Tuesday, June 9, 2029” scrawled across the top left corner in dull lettering.
Running the block all the way to the bus stop he was lucky he was in good physical condition. People who were in shape this day and age numbered less than a quarter of the world population. Although he may be a chauffeur his company forbid him from taking the limo home, therefore he was restricted to the time schedule of the bus operator. An old lady waited under the overhang by herself with a walker supporting her stance.
Something Felix feared was getting old. He couldn’t stand being that slow and helpless. To watch others run by him while he was stuck there with brittle creaking bones would make him cringe. Fortunately he didn’t have to worry about that yet.
Just as his pounding footsteps made it under the shelter the bus pulled around the corner, its engine rumbled in the early morning hours and disturbed the few birds that lived in the scarce trees.
Stopping with a jerk in front of the overhang, Felix gestured for the old lady to go ahead of him. Tediously she shuffled towards the door and up the steps, Felix behind her incase she fell backwards.
“Ticket please,” mumbled the gruff looking bus driver whose belt was much too small for his expanded belly.
“I think I forgot all my change at home,” quivered the old lady.
The man shrugged. “No money, no bus ride.”
Just as she began to turn around to leave, with all the passengers watching her with wide eyes Felix piped up, “I’ll pay for both of us.”
The old lady’s face wrinkled up even more as she smiled pleasantly and thankfully at Felix for his kindness. His friendly face smiled back as he pulled the few dollars he had in his pocket out for the bus driver.
Surprisingly, this early in the morning the seats were few and far between. There was one left and he left it for the lady. Standing in the isle he grabbed the support bar as the bus jolted back into the motion.
It didn’t take long to get into the heart of the city. Already it was bustling with morning energy as people walked to and from work. Felix looked up from the right window to the windshield. The bus wasn’t slowing down as it approached the red light. It was speeding up. Nobody else noticed as they were too engrossed either in their cellphones or the expanses of their own minds.
In the mirror he could see the slumped head of his bus driver passed out. As Felix rushed up the isle to try and control the rogue vehicle the last thing he saw was shattered glass as a transport smashed into the front of the bus before everything went black.
* * *
Desdemona had started working for the government as a Human’s Account Manager sorting the papers of those who’d been voted or sponsored to live after an accident. When she thought about it, she couldn’t believe it was only five years prior the government had released the new idea.
The world was a great deal overpopulated and there just weren’t enough resources to save everyone if there was a large accident. The government claimed that to save them all, some had to die – or something else stupid along those lines. When there was a large-scale accident, there would be a raffle and a random number selected for how many survivors there would be. Next, the town or city people would watch on TV as pictures of the injured were shown. Then the voting set in. People voted for who they wanted to live and those with the most votes got saved.
The injured could also be sponsored. If they didn’t catch enough votes somebody who had enough money could pay to get them fixed. Most of the time that didn’t happen. One thing the government didn’t tell those that get saved is that they’ll get “branded.” Not with a tattoo or anything of that manner, but with some sort of body modification. It could be a tail, ears, teeth, or eyes – possibly all of the above. It was so everybody could see that those were the people who were saved. Desdemona didn’t quite understand, yet she kept quiet to keep her job.
Campaire wasn’t her city. She’d planned to shop for new work clothes when she heard the screens in the mall cut from the infomercials to shattered glass strewn across the street and a crushed bus smoking in the background. A news reporter stood gesturing to the wreckage.
Desdemona gasped aloud. Her ice blue eyes grew wide. She turned around and rushed to the city hall. One thing her job enabled her was to know the common drill for when these things happened. Her blond hair flew widely as she ran; the blue tips flicked her in the face and sometimes caught her eyes, which made her squint.
Within no time she made it to the city hall. People were already milled around, their voices melted together into one unanimous drone. On the large screen at the front of the spacious room filled with row upon row of cushion chairs she watched images flash by of mutilated people. Crimson blood was everywhere like a river, streaming and steaming, never stopping.
Promptly, the lights dimmed and as the mayor went to the podium Desdemona seated herself in the front row, flattened the ruffles of her white blouse and pulled her black jacket a little closer around her. This moment always gave her the chills, when the mayors rolled through the names of the injured. All of them belonged to a person who’d be missed in the end. All of which had somebody that cared about them. An image of the matching face to the name would pop up on the screen. A picture was then shown of before the accident and after. Soon though the mayor had almost finished listing survivors, as there weren’t many.
“And Felix Scott,” the mayor summed it up as the last pictures drifted across the screen. A young man, no more than twenty-five, with emerald eyes and disheveled black hair adorned a face with a vibrant smile. Then a broken man on a stretcher, his hair matted with coagulated blood and stuck glass shimmered in all his cuts. A bone protruded from his right arm and a hole lay where his left ear should’ve been. It’d been shorn off leaving ragged flabs of skin behind. You couldn’t see a smile or emerald eyes anymore.
“Now for the raffle,” bellowed the mayor. Instantly people stopped discussing who they were going to vote for and watch mesmerized as the mayor shuffled papers around in a bucket. He could pull fifty and save all the people, or he could pull one, it was always a tense moment when the hand plunged into the fibrous sheets.
“Three,” his words dropped like bricks into the crowd. Only three out of at least twenty would live to see another day. That was approximately only 15% of them.
Anxiously Desdemona tapped her black boot on the ground. Eyes locked onto the touch screen pad they were given to vote on as it hovered over her vibrant red jeans in her shaking hands. Scrolling down she saw his name. Felix Scott. She tapped it with her finger, a small check appeared beside the name. With one vicious flick of her finger she was at the bottom of the list, which was in alphabetical order, and tapped the button to submit her vote.
Within minutes the voting finished and the three winners’ before pictures flashed onto the screen with unceremonious computerized confetti streaming down by the pixels. The names flashed between bright white and black on the sky blue background. Thomas Gregory who was a football player for the Campaire, Gloria Silver who was the fake sort of beautiful that came with plastic surgery and Jennifer Davis, a small young girl that was cute as a button.
“That’s it folks,” the mayor’s words echoed. Quickly the people murmured their disappointments, some even cried, as they left. Desdemona stood tall and straight as she loudly cleared her throat.
“I want to sponsor Felix Scott,” everyone in the room halted. Slowly, as if she was crazy and might attack them, their eyes raised towards her. Hardly anybody sponsored a person. The bills were unreal to save a person of that condition these days.
“Oh, umm, right this way. There’s some forms you have to have to fill out,” the mayor gestured to a door leading to another room. She already knew the steps however and had all the papers, IDs and cards she needed. Soon her pen was raced across the forms scribbling information onto one line after another.
* * *
Desdemona had taken Felix home after his surgery. Paper work accepted and the bill paid, they let her take the restored man home. For three days he’d slept in the spare bedroom. Not even once did he wake; not until this day that is. Desdemona had taken the next few days off work to ensure Felix got off on the right feet and didn’t wake up alone in a strange place.
Reading a large novel in her overstuffed charcoal-grey armchair she lifted her head from the engrossing paragraph as Felix groaned and rolled over.
“Where am I? Who are you?” panic stricken he scuttled over the bed and onto the floor. His eyes opened wide with fear. Felix could tell more than what he could see with his eyes was wrong and uncertainly he reached to his head. He knew what the government did to survivors.
Fingertips brushed his new ears. Conical, ebony wolf-like ones adorned his head. Shortly he realized a bunching under his shirt and fur grazed across his back. Tentatively his hands reached behind him and pulled out a bushy black tail that’d slid under his shirt.
Calmly Desdemona watched. If she freaked out, it would only fuel Felix’s fire of desperation and fear at what he’d become. Knowing sometimes those who survived couldn’t live with their new additions would take their own lives made her extra carful in her reactions. In her job she had heard suicidal survivors too many times.
After Felix’s eyes got a little smaller and his breathing relaxed, Desdemona spoke stably and surely, “I’m Desdemona. You were in a bus accident and didn’t get voted, so I sponsored you. You’ve been here for three days.”
“Three whole days?” his sentence quieted as he ran his tongue over his teeth. Teeth bared at Desdemona he tried to speak, “What did they do?”
“They gave you wolf ears and tail as you’ve discovered. They also said they enlarged you canines and made you molars sharper,” she slide off her chair, then cautiously approached Felix. His breathing quicken as she neared, “I need to tell you that I’m a rebel, which means I rob money from people who have it. I didn’t make the money myself to get you sponsored – I stole it. That’s what I do.” Desdemona had done this a few times before. It was better to get all the scary stuff over with once they awoke and drop all the bombshells at once. These consisted of their accident, enhancements and then her being a rebel.
“You’re a rebel? And now I’m part wolf?” the words rolled off his tongue gradually, almost like he couldn’t believe them unless he said them himself.
Desdemona knew for a fact that they’d always be hungry once they awoke, always. “There’s food on the ground level,” she announced without warning, changing the subject quickly.
Desdemona stood and offered Felix a hand. Graciously he accepted it and bounced up onto his feet. He was led to the kitchen as Desdemona pranced ahead and prepared a sandwich for him. Mouth watering, he only then realized how hungry he was.
“How many more have you rescued?” He questioned as he picked an obese green grape from a bowl in the center of the counter.
Desdemona glanced up at the ceiling, mouthed names, and then she looked back at him with blue eyes, “I think around ten. Each from a different city and paid for by a different store – if you get what I mean,” she smiled mischievously as she placed ham over the lettuce.
With a knife unnecessarily large, she progressed to cut the sandwich in half and pushed the plate toward Felix. Thankful, he picked it up and stuffed as much as he could at once into his mouth. Unknowingly his tail wagged slightly in his pleasure. Then, he flicked his new ears toward Desdemona and asked another question.
“When can I go home?” He was anxious to pretend this never happened and return to his plain job and plain suit.
Placing her hands on the counter, Desdemona inspected them and replied, “Anytime. I can drive you home tonight if you’d like.”
Fervently he nodded as his jaw moved rapidly to try and devour the sandwich.
* * *
Roughly a month passed since Felix’s surgery and he hadn’t spoken to Desdemona since. In his mind he contemplated seeing her to talk and now he was. She knew about accident survivors. How did they deal with the freaked-out stares onlookers gave?
Fist pounding on her door it resounded across the sun bleached porch.
Behind the door he heard a lock turn, “Felix!” Cried Desdemona surprised. She never thought he’d return but there he was. Embraced in a hug she invited him inside and offered him some tea as they sat at the oak dinning table.
Before Felix could bring up anything, another knock sounded on the door and Desdemona scurried over. Horrifyingly, the police stood on her doorstep. Their dominant eyes stared her down into submission. Wordlessly, two entered the house. Felix heard the door shut. Desdemona’s heart pounded in her chest. Today was the day she was going to be arrested. Since the day she started stealing to help the wounded she knew this would inevitably happen.
“We have reason to believe you’re a rebel and stole money, Desdemona Stone,” said a muscular man with a serious face and deep voice. “You’re under arrest until further notice,” Desdemona stood stock and silent still as they went behind her to put the gleaming metal handcuffs around her wrists.
Felix, with his improved hearing, knew exactly what was happening even if the police weren’t aware of his presence. He could stay hidden as they trucked Desdemona away to rot in prison like all the rebels or he could do something else.
Felix stepped into the front hall and spoke loudly without fear. “I stole the money – Desdemona had no part in anything. She’s just a women who happened to be friends with the wrong guy.”
Both the police and Desdemona were shocked. In a society like the one today, it was very rare for a person to stick their neck out for another individual. Survival of the selfish were words to live by those days.
Silence ensued as the police shifted towards Felix and carefully handcuffed him as if he’d actually try to bite them with his unusually sharp canines that gleamed as he smiled bittersweetly at Desdemona.
They both knew what would happen. Felix would be put in jail and most likely never released. For the greater good, individuals must be sacrificed. That was what the government had said. Yet they wouldn’t know he was arrested trying to help others.
Ducking to avoid hitting his head on the car he watched as Desdemona stumbled out
her house and watched trancelike as the car rumbled to a start and rolled away. Throat and eyes stung in her urge to cry she held them back. The man she had known only briefly had done something so indescribably helpful for her she didn’t how to react. Never before had anyone done such a deed like that. It was indeed bittersweet. Bitter because someone she saved was never going to get to reclaim their fresh start and sweet because now so many others would get to have a second chance.
It was the last time Felix and Desdemona saw each other, a fleeting glance out of a car window. The wolf-man could only think in his solitary days about who Desdemona might save next. He didn’t want others to end the same way his family did – unknown, uncared for and unsponsored. Whenever he saw an accident flash across the luminous television screen in his cell he knew she’d be there. Felix wondered if she ever told them about a man with wolf ears, a bushy tail and sharp teeth was the reason they got to live another day.
Desdemona was always curious as to how different life would be if she wasn’t helping these lost souls but searching for her own through prison bars. Getting stuck in jail would’ve been the devastating end of her. What she was meant to do was help others – right until the day she died.
Helping people is what they were both meant to do.