Blue awoke from a long afternoon nap with a blinding headache and the uneasy feeling that he had bounced high in his sleep. If that was true, he should not have been alive. If it wasnt true, what was that awful pain in his head and why was he so worried? Neither of those things were supposed to happen. He tottered to his bathroom in his tan cotton pajamas, brown leather slippers and white plastic tether strapped around his right ankle. The electronic device was a tremendous irritation which added to his overall sense of foreboding. On top of everything else, his nose was running. At least thats what he thought until he dabbed at his upper lip and saw the blood.
Hed dodged a bullet, all rightnot that it would matter if he couldnt down a green and amber capsule with the right medication in it in a hurry. Whatever was in the one he took that afternoon, wasnt it.
Forewarned by the wetness hed felt on his lip, he survived the shock of seeing his bloody face. He knew from experience that the blood leaking out of his eyes wasnt as bad as it looked, per see. But it did signal other problems that couldnt have been much worse.
He opened the medicine chest, ignoring the pain pills, and snatched a cylindrical medicine bottle off the shelf. Easy, he told himself, as he popped off the top, take it easy. He had used nearly a third of the capsules, all but the last of which had worked properly. Had he swallowed the only bad one in the lot or were there others? He shook one out onto his palm, laid it on the sink and reached for a razor blade.
He had to stop for a moment. The blood in his eyes, not to mention the pain behind them, was distorting his vision too much to proceed. He turned on the cold water tap and unrolled a foot of white toilet paper. Then he set down the medicine bottle and tended to his eyes with the cold, wet paper and a dry towel.
As soon as his eyes cleared enough to pick up the razor blade and cut into the capsule, he did. A clear watery liquid leaked out, instead of the pasty green gel it should have been. He tasted the clear liquid and concluded that it was what it looked like; water. Someone had extracted his medication and replaced it with water.
He cut open another one with the same result, cleared his eyes and sliced into a third, a fourth and a fifth, drawing water with each cut. He tore off another length of toilet paper, wet it, daubed his eyes and dried them. The medicine bottle was long and narrow. It was not so long and narrow that none of the bad capsules on the bottom were likely to have surfaced earlier or none of the good ones stacked on top would have gotten mixed in with the others.
This time, he held one of the capsules up to his best eye and examined it closely until he saw the tiny dimpled ring in one end where a syringe needle had been inserted and extracted and the hole had been heat-sealed. He held up each of the others to the light beside his mirror. All seven of them were clear. What kind of luck was it to survive an attack that should have killed him in his sleep only to learn that he was as good as gone anyway?
Blue stepped back and looked at the blood-stained face in the mirror, feeling the pain in his head more intensely, and seeing the face of a corpse a few minutes removed from the official flat line.
That realization alone could have killed him instantly. It would have if a lifetime of mental adjustments for his condition hadnt prepared him for the end. He had, in fact lived a decade longer than he expected to, a decade of medication and meditation and psychological tricks of every sort to avoid the highest highs and the lowest lows most people accepted as normal.
Whoever arranged for him to get the useless capsules had intended the first one to bring about his demise. By all rights, it should have. Who could have known that he needed Estelle Gidarbs wonder drug to suppress any form of excitation to which the blood vessels in his brain were as sensitive as dynamite to a burning fuse? Surviving the bounce in his sleep may have delayed the end. The next sudden noise, or emotional news, good or bad, could bring it home.
As calmly as he could, Blue tried placing a call to his ex, on his wristband phone only to be told by a recorded message from the Wayne County Sheriffs department that his allotted contacts with the outside had expired. Getting excited about it, would have been the last thing he ever did. Undoubtedly, someone wanted him to get excited, and knew enough about his medical condition to make lethal use of that knowledge.
Still, the question was who? Who could have known? Who would have wanted to badly enough? Who had the resources and the opportunity? The only times the medicine bottle was out of his reach were when he was arrested and when he went to court...Jack Fleetwood. Of, course.
Blue clasped his hands over his face, reeling with the pain behind his eyes.
The attorney general had done his deadly work wellthe fluky stay of execution notwithstanding. If he set foot outside the house, the tether would shoot enough volts of electricity into his body to rupture more than one weak blood vessel in his brain. He couldnt even open the door and shout for help. Unless a kind stranger happened to be walking close by with a spare helping of Bounce, it would have done no good anyway. He was trapped. Sooner rather than later, something was going to be set loose in that trap to devour him. Blue decided that the choice of what it would be should be his.
Funny how things work out, he thought, staggering out of his bathroom, and down the stairs to his den. Had the verdict gone against him, he would have done this anyway rather than submit to the Gidarb procedure. Had it not been for Dr. Gidarbs book, there would have been no trial since he would not have lived to challenge her. Blue didnt believe in church, but he believed in God. He believed that God would not have allowed him to survive under the circumstances he did without a good reason. How could he have lived without taking her on? And how could he and Kimberly have met and fallen in love so quickly if it hadnt been planned by powers greater than anyone on Earth?
The women in the white Royal, were less than five minutes away, as they sped north along the Clarence Leighton Freeway toward the West 6 Mile Road exit. They did not speak. They did not question the urgency of their mission despite the flimsiness of evidence that it was, indeed, urgent. They did not care that it was too late to clear their visit with the court. They could afford to pay the fine. They couldnt afford to be late.
When they arrived on the porch of his house, they knew before the unlocked door swung wide at Leah's touch, that Blue Monday was dead.
He knew it, too, but he didnt feel as bad about it as they did. He didnt feel bad at all. His headache was gone. His mind was clear.
His mind was clearly not the same thing as his expired brain.
Blue had been dead before. To be grammatically correct, one would have to say that he had been in a state of death. For death, as he was soon to rediscover, was a quantum holding tank for a state of consciousness that came and went like stages of a dream. It was where that primal form of energy he knew in life as mind, had resided until it found the right electro-chemical host to enter his former biological form. He did not know if it was the same for everyone before they found their consciousness confined to a living human organism that needed pain to survive and a brain to animate it. He did know that the limited extent to which Blue Monday's brain could draw energy from the mind of his primal self, born in the Big Bang, would no longer be an encumbrance. To his mind, that part of him which had been his consciousness, his immortal sense of self trapped within a mortal body, this was the beginning of an adventure he could experience to the fullest.
Some people in the world he now looked down on as an incorporeal being floating over the heads of his friends in his den, would have argued that he hadnt truly succumbed. They would have attributed his insights and visions to a final burst of hallucinogenic brain activity as of yet undetectable by modern science. Others would have argued that he was experiencing nothing until they found an explanation compatible with the scientific knowledge of their time and culture to explain it. An electroencephalogram would have pronounced him oblivious to all things for all time. Blue would not have trusted a machine to give him a final answer on that question which God intended to leave a mystery simply to make life interesting.
He watched Leah staring in shock at his contorted, bloody-faced, pajama-clad body in his recliner with the tether strapped to his ankle and the virtual reality visor over his eyes. Mercifully, she could not see his eyes or the blood that had escaped them. Andrea was standing beside her, simultaneously trying to comfort her and to call the police on her wristband transmitter.
Blue wondered with fading interest if his friends would figure out why he was wearing the VRV. He knew theyd find the capsules and insist on a time scan. His last thoughts, as someone he would recognize as a fragile, flesh-bound entity called Blue Monday, were of the last woman he loved on a planet called Earth, and of her husband who had set him free to explore the universe....
Leah was not so moved by the fact that Blue was dead, but by his appearance of having died in agony; by the contrast between this grotesque death mask and the unflappable face she knew. It looked like the tortured body of a stranger.
"Are you gonna be all right?" asked Andrea.
Leah nodded. "Yeah. Wed better call Dr. Hill."
"Want me to call?"
"No," said Leah. "Ill do it."
"Okay. I wanna get a look at the bathroom."
Andrea looked at the time display on her wristband T-window, then made a quick check of the downstairs half-bath. Seeing nothing unusual, she went back to the front room of the house and bounded up the stairs to the full bath. She stopped in the open doorway, seeing much of the story as it happened in the litter of green and amber capsules on the sink and the floor nearby. She gnashed her teeth and clenched her fists. "You fucked up Jack," she said out loud. "And Im gonna make damn sure you ride the gurney."
She waited until her rage subsided before starting back down. Leah was sitting on the concrete edge of a leafy plant bed looking up at Blue when Andreas reentered the den. Andrea stood next to her. "We were right about the pills," she said.
"You were right," said Leah. "I should have listened to you."
"I dont think it would have mattered. Did you make the call?"
"Yeah. She said shed be over. I told her hed be at Henry Ford by then, so she said shed meet us there."
"Okay," said Andrea, turning her attention back to Blue. "When most people open a window to see something in a VRV they dont bother to close it. Why do you suppose he closed his?"
"Privacy, I guess."
"...Whadaya suppose he was watching?"
Leah pointed her face at the blank T-window, where the program guide timer in the upper right-hand corner was set for three minutes. Then she looked on the carpet at a light pen below Blues dangling right hand. "All we have to do is light up the program guide before it resets itself and well see."
"I know," said Andrea.
"...How long do you think it'll be before the ambulance arrives?"
"Five or ten minutes," said Andrea.
"Lets wait outside," said Leah.
"Yeah," said Andrea, "Lets do that."
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison