AJ awoke late the next morning. Miranda was shaking him.
"We have about an hour," she said, " you want to get ready."
"Yea," AJ said, bracing his eyes against the harsh light.
He went and showered and then dressed. He was going through the normal motions. Miranda and Damien appeared when he had ten minutes left. They walked with him outside.
They slowly strode from the hatch to the fake town, and across the main street to the rise beyond. A crowd had already begun to gather, this one much smaller than the previous night.
As he approached, the crowd divided, allowing him to pass through. He shook outstretched hands and got pats on the back. He suddenly knew how death row inmates felt on that last walk. Quicker than he would hope, he arrived at the chair.
He turned to Damien who wrapped him up in a bear hug. He could feel the tears smearing on his cheek.
"No homo," Damien chuckled at him. They both laughed. As they separated, AJ held him at arm's length.
"Thank you," he said, "for everything. I couldn't have made it without you."
This made Damien's eyes burst with tears again.
"No," Damien said, "thank you. You saved me far more than I saved you."
Then AJ turned to Miranda and hugged her. Their hug lingered. AJ breathed in the smell of her hair and skin. In another life, in another world, who knows what may have been.
"I'm not going to say goodbye," Miranda said into his neck, "you did it. You're going to be fine. You've saved us all with this."
"You're fucking right I did," AJ chuckled, but his tears showed his concern.
"You got this," Miranda laughed, wiping away tears, "when you're done, come to find me in the Mess Hall."
"Of course," AJ answered.
With that, she and Damien walked away. AJ turned and aimed, before sitting in the chair.
Jed, who had given them some space, walked over. He clapped AJ on the shoulder and said, so only they could hear, "You're a brave man. But, you got this."
AJ looked up at him, "Thank you," he said, "but there's nothing to be worried about. I found the cure."
Jed smiled down at him, "I know. Just gotta get this test out of the way first."
Jed waved the doctor over. He had a large syringe in his hand.
"You ready?" the doctor asked.
"As I'll ever be," AJ responded.
Jed reached under the arm of the chair and produced a strap. He wrapped it around AJ's wrist and the secured it under the arm again.
"What's this for?" AJ asked.
"Just in case," Jed said, "the first few changed quick and got to some of our people before we could stop Them. We just want to be safe."
"Ahh," AJ said confidently, "won't be necessary."
"I know," Jed smiled at him, "but better safe than sorry."
Jed strapped his other arm, then both ankles. AJ could only imagine what a sight he looked now- strapped down to this red upholstered Victorian chair.
"Here we go," the doctor said, stepping in next to AJ.
"Vendi. Vidi. Vichi," AJ said, loud enough that the crowd could hear. Those that understood chuckled.
Then, without much fanfare, the doctor tapped the skin of his shoulder and in went the needle.
"Ouch," AJ exclaimed, "little gentler doc!"
"Sorry," the doctor apologized before quickly retreating from the chair. Jed stepped away too.
AJ sat like a specimen in a jar. Everyone stared at him. Minutes passed, Jed keeping his eyes on the pocket watch in his hand. AJ looked at his thighs, keeping his eyes down.
Finally, Jed broke the silence.
"Well," he called up to AJ and to the crowd, "It's been 10 minutes. How do you feel?"
"I feel fine," AJ said, raising his head.
A cheer went up from the crowd. Jed had a big smile on his face.
Jed motioned to some men and walked back up the rise, joined by three others. He re-holstered a pistol that AJ hadn't noticed before. They began unstrapping AJ. Soon after, the crowd joined them, circling around the chair.
AJ winced suddenly. A migraine from nowhere hit him like a brick. He took a deep breath and realized his heart was racing. His breathing picked up. He noticed, but the noise was drowned out by the cheers from the crowd.
He closed his eyes. The sun was so intense he couldn't handle it. He felt like his skin was on fire. He re-opened them, but a film of red now covered his view.
Jed was unstrapping the last arm strap. The other men were now watching him, not paying attention to AJ.
"Well," Jed said as the last strap came undone, "it seems you did it Dr. Kapour."
AJ could hear him, but couldn't see him. His vision had gone red. The headache was now banging inside his skull. His skin felt like it was melting off. He was overcome with a sensation to move, to do something, but what he didn't know. The confusion was the last thought he had.
He could no longer see the world, but for a few fleeting moments, he could hear it.
The surprise in Jed's voice when he said, "Dr. Kapour? AJ? Are you ok?"
The terror when he said, "Oh no. Run! Run!"
Then it was just the sounds of screams, clothing and skin tearing, and gunshots.
YOU ARE READING
The Chair: A Story of SurvivalScience Fiction
A legend - a Victorian-style chair with red upholstery and mahogany wood sitting on top of a small rise. But this is more than a chair: its a life preserver. In a world gone amuck, this chair means salvation; it means safety; it means a cure. But on...