Short Story: Transfer

They told me that I would feel better, but I knew that they were wrong. Watching the man who killed my wife get hooked into the glowing red and blue machine that would kill him wasn’t bringing me any satisfaction. There was no forgiveness on his face, no remorse. He knew what he had done, and his only frustration was that he had been caught.

“So you understand what will happen next, right?”

A warm, but slightly clammy hand rested on my shoulder, her index finger grazed my neck and sent a shiver down my spine. “Yes. I do.”

I looked at the nurse, she was a few inches shorter than me, wearing light blue medical scrubs. She stood with me, in the sterile and clinical room. We watched side by side as Samuel Jennings was strapped down. The metal clasps dug into his skin as the attendants pulled them tight. There was a disconnect between what was happening and what I felt. It was as though I was watching the entire situation unfold from outside of my body.

“Once they flip that switch, his life force will be drained before it is transferred to you.”

Her words didn’t feel comforting. My stomach twinged at the thought of having anything from a murder put into my body. “And you are sure nothing else will come with it?” I had read stories about organ recipients feeling changed by the organs they received, and starting to act or take interest in things from the donor’s life. It didn’t help that the Transfer was a relatively new technology with very little information to draw from.

“Like electricity, the life force you receive is neither good nor evil. It doesn’t contain anything that can harm you in any way. We’ve successfully performed this procedure over one hundred times at this facility alone.”

A small amount of the nurse’s perfume found its way into my nose, and while it wasn’t unpleasant, the scent provided me with an instant headache. “I could really use some fresh air.” I said hoping to escape the room. The walls were starting to close in, and I could feel beads of sweat beginning to appear all over my forehead.

“I’m sorry, but at this point, we require to you to remain here. I can close the privacy screen if you don’t want to see this next part.”

She had incorrectly assumed that I was worried about seeing Samuel die, but that was one thing I was looking forward to. “No, it’s not that.” I sat in the chair behind me. It looked like an upholstered version of the one Samuel was strapped into on the other side of the glass.

This was the new way to punish criminals, and when I first heard about it, the technology intrigued me. I always felt that prison was too kind to those sheltered within its walls, providing them with a place to live, food to eat, and a place to work out until they were released to menace society again. The Transfer had already started to solve that issue. I began to replay the marketing message in my mind once again, as the nurse tightened padded straps around my wrists.

The first time that I saw the commercial was on my laptop waiting for the next video to load on a streaming site. A young business professional stood in the middle of the screen, and reminded me a great deal of the legal commercials that were ever so popular just a few years ago. He stood on the screen with confidence and a swagger as he recited his lines with clarity and purpose. “Time is the most valuable asset in someone’s life. Currently, we take it away by locking away people that commit crimes, but how does that really benefit those that were wronged? The Transfer allows us to take time from the criminals and give it backed to the victims. No more locking someone away for years of their life, now we take years off their life, and provide it to those they’ve wronged.”

The legal system also increased minimum sentences on crimes so that the Transfer technology was adopted faster and more widely. Victims quickly stopped trying to push for prison sentences or financial compensation and switched to requesting a Transfer. Rob someone, and instead of around three years in prison, you could have ten years of your life stripped away, instantly going from twenty to thirty years of age, while extending the life of the person you robbed by the same amount of time.

“You are really being very brave. I know this must be hard.” She said as she attached wires and stickers all over my body.

While I was wearing a tight short sleeved shirt that they had provided me, and a pair of tight sweatpants, I felt very uncomfortable. I tried to focus on the nurse as she did her final checks. The bright lights above were like true white spotlights aimed down upon us. I could almost feel the heat resonating from the bulbs, despite hanging ten feet above. The nurse that had been helping me never introduced herself, but rudely, I hadn’t either.

“I’m not really brave. The court told me that they were going to sentence him to life in prison without parole. I didn’t think that was fair after what he did to my wife.” I was already compartmentalizing my feelings, as I didn’t feel the pang of guilt and anger that had become normal for me in trying to talk about it. “I sometimes feel like I’m the one killing this man, and if she would have wanted me to do this.”

The nurse shot me a look that I could only explain as longing. It was as though talking about my wife’s death and the punishment I was seeking was making her interested in me. Normally, I wouldn’t notice such things. It was my wife that made the first, second, and most subsequent moves in our relationship. Without her patience and understanding, I highly doubt anything would have come from our mutual interest in each other.

As she moved close, I got attacked again by the strong perfume that she was wearing, but she moved in close to my ear and whispered, “I understand. I think you are doing the right thing.” As she moved away, she quickly gave me a peck on the cheek.

I didn’t know how to deal with what was happening. For a moment I forget where I was and what I was going to do, but a small itch, right where she had kissed me, and the inability to scratch it due to being tied down quickly grounded me and was all the reminder that I needed.

A loud popping noise let me know that the microphone was enabled. “We are just about ready on this end, the male voice said.

“I’m all set here. We are doing great.” The nurse replied. Her positive tone seemed almost embarrassed, as though she felt that her peer could see through the one way glass and had witnessed the recent exchange.

“Do you have any questions before we begin? Is there anything else I can do for you?” The nurse bent over in front of me, her eyes at the same level as mine. Her scrubs fell loosely and it was easy to see that she was leaving an opening for me to check out her chest. I felt embarrassed for her, as I thought about what was about to happen.

“I’m ready. Let’s get this over with.” I couldn’t be pleasant. I didn’t want her to come on to me. The emotional scars of losing my wife were still fresh in my mind and in my heart. Her sympathy and potential interest in me was nothing more than a distraction, and not one that was appropriate.

The room echoed as another loud pop scratched out from the speakers. “Final check. Starting in five, four, three, two, one.”

The lights dimmed slightly, and Samuel Jennings, strapped in his chair tried to flail wildly. A bright yellow glow started to fill the cables hooked up to the various parts of his body, and slowly extended up towards the ceiling. There was rage and frustration in his eyes. He shook his fingers, his feet, and his head trying to escape his fate. There was almost an immediate effect, as his skin began to grow pale, his veins began to darken, and deep circles under his eyes appeared.

I knew this was the first time that anyone had gone so far as Transfer more than half a century of available life from one person to another. There were numerous studies on people taking most of what life someone had available, but I was going to be the first to drain a convicted criminal of all they had. Everyone else, even those that had suffered the loss of a family member couldn’t bring themselves to go all the way. The furthest anyone had pushed the system before was to age the convict to his or her eightieth birthday, leaving them frail, weak and without much life left to live.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was killing Samuel Jennings, and that his death would be on my hands, in my mind, and a weight on my heart, but I also couldn’t come to terms with what he did to my wife.

I spent half a year in counselling before deciding his fate, I knew that he would kill again if given a chance. Even an old man can operate a handgun, and I couldn’t take that chance. I had to remove him from the world so that no one else ever had to experience the pain and loss that was such a present companion in my life.

Even the light from the Transfer, its bright yellow glow, reminded me of her. It glittered, pulsed, and continued to expand up into the rafters, through the ceiling panels, and began its descent towards me. I felt justified. I felt like the light of her life was snuffed out too soon, and that in taking away his life, and extending my own, I could not only repent for the choice I made, but also use the time to tell her story.

I met my wife at a conference. I was speaking about project management, and was doing a very poor job at it. After I was done my presentation in front of thousands of people, she came up to me. Her shoulder length, dark brown hair and its few fly away strands started telling me her story before she even opened her mouth. It shone brightly and looked healthy. It was brushed to within an inch of its life, with a small amount of product to try to bind it all together, but even with all that apparent attention, it still rebelled from being perfect.

It was a whirlwind romance, and within a year of meeting, we were married. I took a job working remotely running projects for companies all over the world, and she opened my heart and mind to a world of possibilities. She was creative, artistic, patient, and friendly. Dragging me from the confines of my office, she was the light of my life, and added joy to all those she knew.

When the police contacted me, I knew what had happened before they had finished saying their names. Two officers stood at my door, and I knew that she was dead. My heart slowed to a crawl, their felt to be a near infinite expanse of time between each deafening beat. I felt as though the world had lost all colour, all meaning, and all hope.

Through counselling, I learned to harness my passions, and worked hard to take on her responsibilities and the roles she carried in the lives of those around her. I decided to live a life more like the one she lived, in hopes of bringing joy, patience, and friendship to others.

As the light poured through the cables finally touching my skin, I felt it immediately. An energy filled my body, and the world gained colours so bright, so saturated, it almost hurt to keep my eyes open. For a moment, as the last of the light traveled along the wires, I thought I saw her, my wife, smiling at me. I knew that what she wanted most was for me to be happy, and use the decades of extra life that I now had to remember her and honour her memory.

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