But then this little girl pulled on my finger
“Come down to the river with us!” the piggy squealed
I could’ve smashed her skull in like an eggshell
Snapped bones like breadsticks
But my human body was curious, and made me go with her
All the children of the town were there that day
Swimming, splashing, shrieking with laughter
They came to escape the heat and pesky parents
A naked boy ran up to me; “Have you come to play, miss?”
I almost smiled.
They were too innocent; I turned my back, leaving them to their happiness
They did not commit the crimes the town was guilty of
I could not smite these children
So I delighted myself as I tore the adults of that town to slivers
The King’s Justice.
My mother knows so many things
She knows how to make plants grow,
And how to soothe the ravage beast inside me
She knows how to cook for Kings,
And how to draw me out from my darkness
She knows how to dress in style,
And how to make me appear human in front of dinner guests.
But I am only just beginning to realize
That my mother does not know everything
I am only just beginning to decide
That it is time for me to live without her
Amber eyes stare outside
His ear twitching as birds hop across his garden
He dreams himself chasing them, catching the helpless ball of feathers in his mouth
Memory of his kittenish past
Of chasing pieces of string, of being taught by his momma cat how to hunt
How to stalk and lie in wait and strike like a furry streak of lightning
The pride and the reward
And the older memories, the deeper ones
Stitched into his DNA, hardwired into the very back of his mind
Passed down from generation to generation
Older than dinosaurs, back to the Queen of the Felines
When there were mighty hunters and fearsome predators
It is the primeval urge to hunt and pounce
To catch and kill
To feel hot blood run down your throat and the victory shivers
But his ear flicks at the sound of the front door
His humans have returned
Leaping down, the housecat runs out to meet them
He meows and he is nothing more: his past, his heritage; forgotten for now
Through the car window, the streets flash by. The houses tower skywards, leaning towards me with menace. They are identical to every other house I’ve ever seen.
In every year I’ve lived, I’ve made this journey twice. Once on my birthday and once six months later. I only see this town twice a year, but it never ever changes.
Today is my eighteenth birthday and it is a special occasion. This trip is unlike all of those before.
I have not changed – I am the same person I was yesterday. I am no wiser, no more mature, no better than the seventeen year old me.
There is only one distinction, and this is not visible. It is law.
As of 7:29 this morning, the exact minute of my birth so many years before, I finished being a child and became an adult.
If I were a Recipient, I would now be old enough to drink alcohol. With permission from the government, I would now be entitled to marry – travel – have children.
But that is not my life: I was not born as Recipient. I was born a Donor.
The car stops at a red light, the momentum pushing me into my seatbelt. My driver snorts, tapping his foot on the accelerator impatiently. I dislike this man. He stinks of greed and nerves. If he was allowed, I know that he would like to drive the car too fast, push it screaming down these grey streets. But he cannot risk my health by dangerous behaviour. I must be kept in perfect condition for the procedure. And he does not like me for this.
I turn my gaze away from his dripping skin and stare out the window. The houses in this street stand shoulder to shoulder, all the same ghastly shade of dead-flesh grey. They all have the same front door, the same curtains, the same windows in the same places. The only way you can tell them apart is the numbers on the doors.
Today is my eighteenth birthday and today I will undergo my first operation.
It’s nothing major; not my heart, lungs, or a whole limb. It’s my eyes.
To be precise, the lenses and corneas from both eyes are needed by a Recipient girl. Her name is Farida. I am the same blood and tissue type as her but more importantly, my eyes are the exact shade of blue that she desires to have.
She is thirteen years old and has decided that she looks unattractive in glasses. She wants to be pretty, and I am here to fulfil this wish.
I have been told, time and time again, how lucky I am. How lucky that I am wanted – how blessed I am, that my eyes are such a beautiful shade that they are desirable. How fortunate I am that I am popular enough to have another procedure scheduled, in six months time, for my kidneys.
I do not feel lucky.
And although this is my purpose in life, I am resentful of a thirteen year old girl called Farida. Why must she have what isn’t hers? Why does she feel the need to have different eyes anyway? Who taught her that taking someone’s vision – just so that you could be more pleased of what you see in the mirror – was morally right?
But blaming her is unfair. It is like shooting a private for a general’s war crimes.
She could not help being born as a Recipient, just as I couldn’t help being born as a Donor. It isn’t her fault that her whole life has revolved around superficial beauty and selfish desires, in the same way that my life has thrashed into me that I am nothing, that I have no self, that I have no worth except as a supply of material for Recipients to use as they wish.
Through the smeared glass of the car window, I watch a vast building as it swells above the endless sea of grey housing. Its massive, like a mountain dropped in the centre of this town. I climb out of the car, staring up. My neck aches at the height – surely it must rise all the way up into the clouds. The driver pushes my back, and we enter the hospital building.
Today is my eighteenth birthday, and today I will lose my eyesight to a thirteen year old girl called Farida.
I look into Julie’s face. Not just at it, but into it. Every pore, every freckle, every faint gossamer hair. And then the layers beneath them. The flesh and bones, the blood and brain, all the way down to the unknowable energy that swirls in her core, the life force, the soul, the fiery will that makes her more than meat, coursing through every cell and binding them together in millions to form her. Who is she, this girl? What is she?
She is everything. Her body contains the history of life, remembered in chemicals. Her mind contains the history of the universe, remembered in pain, in joy and sadness, hate and hope and bad habits, every thought of God, past-present-future, remembered, felt, and hoped for all at once.
‘I like writing,’ I say like a confession. ‘So… I guess I want to be a writer.’
Nora tilts her head. ‘Really? Do people still do that? I mean, is there still like… a book industry?’
‘No… not really. You’re right, it’s dumb even for a fantasy. Colonel Rosso says only about thirty percent of the world’s cities are still functioning, so unless the zombies are learning how to read… not a great time to get into the literacy arts.’
‘Shut the fuck up, Perry. People still read. Who cares if there’s an industry behind it? If everyone’s too busy building things and shooting things to bother feeding their souls, screw them. Just write it on a notepad and give it to me. I’ll read it.’
‘One book for just one person,’ Nora says, looking at me. ‘Could that ever be worth it?’
Julie answers for me. ‘At least his thoughts would get out of his head, right? At least someone would get to see them. I think it’d be beautiful. It’d be like owning a little piece of his brain.’