I – Your Ass is Mine

Officer Crowley drove his unmarked State Patrol vehicle south on the North Slope Highway. His thoughts were on the note Sue had neatly folded on the dining room table, before she left for her job at Harris General Hospital. His wife was an RN currently working the twelve to nine AM shift.  The note simply read, ‘Pat, I can’t take it any more. One of us is leaving this house. You decide who stays, who goes. I’m keeping the kids.’

He saw it coming but wasn’t ready when it landed.

Patrick had snatched the tablecloth off the table, landing the crystal fruit bowl, his hot coffee and a few dirty dishes on the floor. He looked down to see shards of glass, cereal bowl china and his coffee now staining the navy blue wall to wall. He picked up the note to read again, crumpled it, tossed it aside and shouted, ‘Fuck you and Ethel and the kids.’

He calmly poured another cup of brew, showered, dressed, looked at the mess he had made and closed the door behind him. Patrick drove to the station, signed out his cruiser and started his day as usual. One of his cruising partners accused him of stinkin’ thinkin’. Said he was always drudging shit up from the past.

Ethel, Susan’s mother didn’t like Patrick from the very start. She had called her repulsion of him her sixth sense and found every opportunity to berate him in front of his wife and children. Her favorite words for him were ‘Nut-job dodo.’

He often found his thoughts screening scenes from Vietnam. Often! When one rocket and mortar barrage started , he had made it into the underground bunker just before a rocket hit the outdoor shower dead on. All they were able to put in the body bag were tiny bits of flesh and bone that once belongs to PFC Walt Jones. Bad time to be taking a shower.    After awhile, when the 4th Infantry tanks would pass through piled high with body bags, it was just another day after day. Pat bounced from one job to another, never staying anywhere for longer than a year or two. He had been with the State Patrol for the past eleven years. It worked for him. He generally spent his shift alone in his cruiser, just him and his thoughts. Constantly viewing the charred parts of auto collision casualties only served to keep Pat’s nightmares and hallucinations vivid and alive. The shrink had put him on a bunch of meds including Prazosin, Risperidon, Wellbutrin and a more recent addition, Abilify. More than anything Crowley felt he performed like a walking, living zombie. He had little interest in being a father or husband. He was just trying his best to keep it all together.

At least now he wasn’t waking in the middle of the night finding his hands squeezing the life out of Sue’s thin neck. The gash from the sugar bowl thrown at Shawn’s head had only needed five stitches. Why did Sue have to make such a big deal about it? No one had died. With the kids now staying at Ethel’s for the summer, that wouldn’t be happening again, any time soon. Why couldn’t they just stay out of his way and leave him the fuck alone?

Patrick frowned to himself  ‘You are leaving me the fuck alone, aren’t you?’ he said aloud.

That’s when he saw the apple fly through the passenger side window of the car in front of him. It landed in the blackberry jungle just beyond the road shoulder .

‘Gotcha!’

He switched the flashers and siren on. The car in front didn’t slow down. Pat switched on the high beams. The driver eventually pulled over to the right shoulder and stopped. Pat stopped behind the culprit, left the flashers on and walked up to the driver’s window.

Crowley: ‘You know why I pulled you over, right?’

The young woman removed the iPod earphones from her ears. ‘What?’

Crowley: I said you know why I pulled you over, right?

Driver: Sir, I ain’t done shit. Why you stoppin’ me, huh?

Crowley: ‘Lets see your License and registration, . . . . . please.’

Driver: Here you go. I ain’t done nothin.

Crowley: ‘I saw you throw that apple core out the window and driving with those things in your ears? Tsk, tsk tsk.

Driver: Apple? What chu talkin’ about? I don’t even eat apples.

Crowley: OK. Car keys, hand them over. Stay in the car.

Driver: What the . . .

Crowley: I’m going to find that fucking apple and nail your ass, you lying sack of shit. Don’t you move.

Driver: Shit! Officer . . .

Crowley: Shut the fuck up. Give me the keys.

Driver: Hey man, this shit ain’t right.

Crowley removed his trooper hat, leaned in and gave the young woman a withering look. ‘Don’t go anywhere’.

He walked back and began to wade into the thick blackberry growth where he thought the apple had landed. The brambles cut his ankles and tugged at his slacks. He wished he had thought to wear his leather gloves and jacket. The nitrile gloves he donned, hopeful of bagging the tevidence for DNA testing were already cut and bloodied. He grimaced as the blood began to flow from his arms and ankles.

‘Where are you?’ he hissed.

Crowley glanced back to see her head twisted out the window in his direction.

Crowley: ‘Afraid now, huh bitch?’ he snarled.

He waded deeper into the berry thicket. The midday July sun was rising quickly and so was his anger. Then he saw the chewed apple out near the white line. Crowley grit his teeth and pushed through the tangled vines. At that moment a large crow swooped, grabbed the fruit and headed across the highway. Without hesitation, the officer whipped out his 9 mm and fired 10 times. One round passed through his prey’s neck and the bird plummeted. Crowley jammed the gun back into the holster and scooted across the highway, dodging oncoming and swerving traffic.  Just as he reached the other side, his eye caught the tail end of a coyote disappearing into the thicket, apple and all.

‘Shit! Shit! Shit!’ he screamed at the clear blue.

His blood pressure was about to go through the roof. He looked across and saw his flashing lights, the driver’s door still ajar. Her car? Gone!

He shouted at the moving traffic, ‘Doesn’t matter bitch. Your ass is mine.’

He snaked his bloodied hand into his pocket and pulled out her license and registration.  The name was the same on each piece of identification.

Patrick Crowley                                Patrick Crowley

He ripped her keys from his pocket. The key tag read Washington State Patrol Troopers Association.  Crowley lowered his hands. The keys and documents dropped beside him. He removed his hat, wiped his brow with the back of his hand, stared into the blinding sun, tried to take a breath and felt an explosion rock through the top of his head. His last image was of darkness.

II – Between Two Worlds 

Patrick Crowley can’t see a thing, as it’s pitch black around him. He is lying on his back but can’t feel the touch of any surface against his skin. There is a sensation of electrical current flowing where his body outline should be. This current of electrons pulses from within his body shape through it to an immeasurable distance away, then back again, over and over. Crowley listens to his thoughts say, ‘I’m dissolving. I’m dissolving. I am not a body. I am not a mind. I am not a heart. I am all and none. I am you. I am me. I am free.’.

Crowley tries to speak. Nothing happens.  He tries again and hears his voice shout, ‘I am free ‘, trailing off as an echo would, into nothingness.

III – Rich Beyond Rich 

 Dr. Robert Thorne, CEO of Life Source Pharmaceuticals, gently set the phone in its cradle and relaxed back in the chair.

Doctor: (with a long sigh) Finally . . .

Three days later at a very private and secluded location a board meeting takes place. Dr. Thorne, the head of the clandestine project  continues . . .

Doctor:  Mrs  . . .

Female: Please call me Susan.

Doctor: Susan, without your help this project would have never been possible. Because of your contribution, the rebirth of mankind is in the making. When you . . .

Susan: Doctor Thorne, let’s forego the formalities. I don’t give a shit about mankind. You men have got work to do. The drawn up paperwork is signed and in affect, correct?

Doctor: Correct.

Susan: When XP14 hits the market 10% of the worldwide net profits will be forwarded to my  Cayman account in perpetuity, correct?

Doctor: Correct.

Susan: Gentlemen, you are graciously welcome and thank you. I look forward to our long and profitable relationship. I will now leave you to your business.

The men stand and applaud as the sliding door silently closes behind Susan Crowley. Three board members sit on either side of the conference table. Doctor Thorne stands at the head, takes a sip of water, looks at each member and begins to speak.

Doctor: Gentlemen, Patrick Crowley, our Subject A experienced an acute myocardial infarction attack on July 12, 2009, and was pronounced deceased at the scene, by the paramedics. As you all know, Mrs. Crowley signed all legal rights over to us that day, upon the agreement we’d give her 10% of the profits if our work was successful. We first administered XP14 to Subject A at 0823 hours on July 13th, 2009. Exactly 3 years, 4 months, 23 days, 11 hours and 53 seconds later, Subject A spoke three words, “I am free”.

‘We have documented proof of his system regenerating entirely new physical and mental states, guided by our genetic inputs.  With the advances we’ve made in the drug, we expect Subjects B and C to regenerate in less than half the time.’

‘Gentlemen, we are rich beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. XP14 will change life as we define it on this planet. From this day forth Life Source Pharmaceuticals will determine who stays and who decays.’

The doctor raised his champagne glass, ‘Gentlemen, to life after death’.

We hear the ping of crystal.

*****