top of page
Darkened Version.jpg


    "You ever thought about how you wanna go?" She asked as she slid the capsule across the stainless steel table.

   The Chamber was cold, had to be. There was never any telling how long I'd be out, and any outside interference risked waking me and cutting the Transfer short. If the monitor detected any dangerous vital levels—including dehydration—I'd be pulled out, so this place had to be an icebox; sweat could end this. My body convulsed as I laid on the table and felt the cold of the metal emanate through my shoulder blades. I should have been used to this by now, a year of it should have made it all routine, but there was something different this time; we had minimal information on this guy. Middle-aged, single, no history of serious illness. Nothing more, not even so much as a note of location.
   "Nope, I hope it surprises me."
   "It's people like you that are gonna put us out of business one of these days."
   I scoffed and rotated the capsule on my fingertips. I considered turning down the assignment as the sound of Nora's footsteps and the cicking of the door lock echoed through the chamber. I grunted through my hesitance as I rolled the capsule over one last time, slid it under my tongue and felt the familiar fizz. It started with my jaw and spread across my body until I was pins and needles head-to-toe. I closed my eyes and drifted into the white.
   An alleyway. Perfect. Cars zipped by, twenty yards away, and I could hear the chattering of families through fire escape windows overhead. My back was against the brick side of a sketchy apartment complex as I sat and took in the scene. There was some sort of thick fluid underneath me; it had the iridescence of oil on water, but reeked of chemicals. I made a move to stand but an excruciating pain radiated from my shins up to my waist and froze me in place. I placed my hands on my left shin and felt the jolt again. Broken for sure. I considered my options; I could cry for help, drag myself to freedom, but the premium wasn't paid. I had to wait here, just let it happen. Twenty agonizing minutes I hunched against that wall before anything changed. A lanky man in slacks and a jet-black denim jacket turned into the alley and walked towards me with a stride that conveyed the sense that this was not a random encounter. He stopped ten feet to my right and a sinister grin wrapped his face as he cocked his head.
   "Shins, huh?" He cackled. "Never just handcuffs for him. Still have to thank him, I guess. Gotten sick of hunting you down."
   "W—wait, please," I stammered. "Can you tell me what he—I—did to deserve this?"
   "You screwin' with me?"
   "No, I—"
   "You think this is funny?" He said as he gripped me by the collar.
   "I'm sorry, he—I can't remember. I think something happened to my head."
   "Shut up, you know what you did. Unless..."
   "Nevermind. Just do it."
   "You paid for a Transfer, didn't you?"
   "Yeah—well, HE did," I huffed.
   "Coward," he said as he pushed me away. My skull met the brick wall and a low ringing filled my ears; I could barely make out the rest of his words. "You'll have to forgive me for this. Damn shame he isn't here to see this, but it has to happen."
   He shrugged, a half-grimace stretched across his face, as he reached into the left side of his coat and pulled out a revolver. He knelt over me, straddling my broken shins as he looked me in the eye. There was something captivating about his stare; two pools of deep-blue reflected my own image, but neither stood still long enough for me to get a good glimpse. I almost longed to linger in that moment, examining the person I'd become, but he gave me no option. He shook his head violently in disgust, leaned back and placed the barrel to the bridge of my nose.
   I came to in The Chamber with chills rippling through my body. Over time it became hard to distinguish the cold chills from the Transfer chills, but today it was clear: this was becoming too much for me. I sat up on the table and waited for Nora; she'd notice that I was up before long and we'd have the standard debrief and wellness check. I waited nearly twenty minutes—not a peep—before I stood to my feet. I had the typical wobbles; my legs felt like wet noodles and my head was on a contstant pivot. I clumsily crossed the room and slapped the door three times; there was no handle on the inside, we weren't allowed to leave before a check-up. I paced the room for the next ten minutes before Nora finally cracked the door.
   "Everything good in there?" She whispered.
   "I mean, all things considered," I groaned. "What was the hold-up?" She slowly stepped inside with a grim look on her face.
   "It's Julia," she said and my jaw hit the floor. "She had another close call."
   "Dammit. Look, let's get the assessment over with, I need to see her."
   "Just go, I'll cover." She said and I nodded.
   Lucy's Diner: crustiest little shack in town, I could never understand Julia's fixation with this place. The air felt like swimming through grease, and the clientele seemed just as likely to want to push your face in as greet you with a smile. I sat in the booth across from her, watching her scarf down her pancakes as I shuffled my rubbery scrambled eggs with my fork. She wasn't well; her eyes were sunken and a grimace was etched in her face like stone. Her hand trembled with every lift of the fork and I could hear her stomache pleading for more. Each time our eyes met, she frantically looked away; we both knew what was building, and we both knew she'd never hear a word of it.
   "What the hell did you get yourself into this time?" I finally cut the silence between us.
   "Don't worry about it. Just hanging out with some friends at the pier, nothing unusual."
   "Then why did you buy a Transfer?"
   "I didn't, Kev did. Said it never hurt to be sure."
   "Sure of what? They're good for one week, what was he expecting to happen? I don't like you hanging with him."
   "It's none of your business who I hang out with."
   "I'm you're brother, I—"
   "But not my keeper."
   "Listen, I'll leave it be," I said as I stood up from the table, "just sort yourself out. I'm sick of worrying about how much longer we'll have you."
   I woke with a killer headache the next day. 4:00AM, three hours before my first deadline. This one was a rager; my temples felt like they were closing in on me and a sharp ringing in my ears coerced me out of bed. No medications 24 hours prior to a Transfer. I had to suffer through this one, just water and breakfast. I hydrated—probably a little too much—while I flipped through the files for the day. An Elderly male, history of heart conditions, quick and to the point. A mid-twenties female, perfect health, parents concerned about a mountain climbing trip. Dammit.
   Nora was already waiting for me in the chamber when I arrived, looking unfazed as she sat on the table with her nose in the sunday comics. Fifty degrees in this place, knee-high dress, not the slightest shiver. She finished her reading with a brief exhale from the nose, crumpled the paper and tossed it in the trash before pushing off and onto her feet. She gave me an emotionless nod and I stepped to her. I always hated this part. I unfastened my robe and pulled the sides open and she pulled a stethoscope out of one of the table drawers. I recoiled as she put the cold metal to my chest, it was slowly warmed by my body heat as she navigated it around my heart. The slightest of smirks spread over her face as her eyes darted towards the floor for half of a second before they returned to mine.
   "Valentines' boxers, nice."
   "Yeah, that's what I get for dressing in the dark, damn headache."
   "We should have evaluated you."
   "Nah, it's just allergies. You've seen the pollen index, haven't you?"
   "Jesus, don't remind me. But hey, you're heading for Des Moines, maybe it's lower there. Could be nice."
   "Yeah, looking forward to breathing right while get the jab."
   We laughed half-heartedly.
   She tucked the stethoscope back into the drawer and pulled out the bundle of monitor straps. I dropped the robe to the ground as she untangled the mass. She handed me the headband to secure for myself and wrapped the remaining straps around my chest and arms before plugging in the wires. She always pulled them too tight—for "clarity of signal," she claimed—I could feel the blood begging for release from my hands. When she was satisfied with my lack of circulation, she waved for me to lay on the table. I fought through the chills and complied, wasting no time on second-guessing as I slipped the capsule under my tongue and drifted into the Transfer.
   I woke lying supine in a bed that felt like a cloud. A row of teary-eyed faces spread in a U before me while a fragile-looking woman at the center gripped a crumpled sheet of paper. She read something about my life—I couldn't make out what—and the crowd became inconsolable. She finished her speech, thrust the page into her pocket, fell into the shoulder of the man to her left and he wrapped her in a hug. The row abruptly shifted to my left as a doctor in scrubs and a surgical mask approached and delicately placed his hand in mine. He whispered his condolences and placed his forehead on mine; my eyes darted around the room, searching for an exit I couldn't even attempt to reach.
   He fumbled at a table behind my head and pulled a syringe and bottle in front of me. I felt sweat beading on my forehead as he turned the bottle and inserted the syringe, filling it hallway before he removed it and emptied it of air bubbles. He held it perfectly vertical as he gazed into my eyes for a moment with an oddly piercing stare; I would have almost sworn he was looking to the me inside for permission. I gave a nod, just in case, and he muttered something to the crowd. The group sighed collectively and everyone except for the speech-giver and her supporter left the room. She buried her face in his chest as the doctor rolled up my right sleeve and searched for a vein. After a few seconds of stuggle, he located one and pulled the skin taut with two fingers. He glanced over at our audience, who gave him hesitant nods, before pressing the tip of the needle to my skin. I felt a dull sting, then warmth  trickled slowly up my arm. Over the next five minutes, that warmth wrapped itself over the entirety of my body and I sank into a comfort nothing I've felt before could match. The audience became hazy as the world around me distorted and my thoughts became overwritten by an aimless stream of euphoric melodies. I closed my eyes and submitted to the beauty of the colors undulating before me.
   "Hey!" Nora shouted as she shoved my right shoulder. "You in there?" I opened my eyes and shot up on the table, sitting with my face inches from hers as she stared with concern.
   "Did I fail?"
   "No, you've been out of the Transfer for five minutes. Everything went well, but you wouldn't answer me. What the hell's going on?"
   "I'm fine, I'm sorry it's just, I—I don't know. It was beautiful."
   "C'mon, let's get you examined, then you go home and get some rest. I don't like whatever this is."
   "But my afternoon appointment."
   "It's been rescheduled, the trip was delayed by rain. I'm thinking about reassigning it, anyway."
   "Nora. Please don't. I'm okay, I promise."
   "Let's see what the computers say."
   3:30AM. Another headache, but I dreamt that night. The same colors I'd seen during the Transfer, but this time, somehow, with more form. Birds flew overhead as I sat picnicking with a wife, kids and dog; all things I'd sworn I'd never have. The whole scene was drenched in thousands of hues fighting one another to be seen. It was alarming, that euphoria seemed to be calling out for me.
   I texted Julia after breakfast.

 I’m sorry.


That outburst at lunch.
These Transfers have been
doing something to me.

"Don’t sweat it, I know you care,
but you have to let me live my


That’s all I’m trying to do.
Look, meet me for dinner later?

"Maybe tomorrow."

   Nora was waiting for me at the table, stethoscope in one hand, Transfer capsule in the other; nestled beside it was a Buffer pill this time.
   "Are you kidding me?"
   "I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, didn't want you worrying all night, but you have to fight it."
   "Dammit, Nora, seriously?"
   "They paid the premium. Are you sure you're up for it?"
   "Of course I am. But you know I like to prep for these."
   "Sorry. You should have seen yourself yesterday, though. I couldn't do it."
   "Just make this quick." I said, and she began the assessment.
   I was hanging from a sheer rock wall; a sea of trees stretched as far as the eye could see, five hundred feet or so below me. They said I couldn't pull this off. I heard from my left. I glanced up to see a sturdy man with a chest-length beard, in a neon yellow tanktop and skin-tight shorts, climbing ten feet above me. She told her family she was going alone. This is a steep one, I replied as I dug my right hook into the wall and pulled myself higher. For you, he replied with a laugh that felt almost sinister. I pulled myself up beside him on the wall and paused to look at him; he seemed to look right through me. I glanced to my right, wondering what he could have been staring at. There was nothing but trees and the gentle slope of the surrounding mountains as far as I could see from here. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my left ribs and my left hook was thrust from the wall. I grasped at the wall with it, narrowly managing to wedge it into the rock just before I would have lost grip entirely.
   "They told you not to trust me," he cackled.
   "You're a monster," I said through gritted teeth as I scrambled to gain elevation on him.
   "You already knew that." He slowly made his way towards me as I planted the anchor of my safety rope in the rock—this was all I had.
   "That's not enough," he said as he pulled his right hook from the wall and planted it just a few inches away from my left.
   He kicked at me again, missing my chest but tearing my shirt with his spikes. I swayed my body side to side, gaining momentum before I tore my left hook from the wall and swung towards him. I heaved at him with the hook, catching his right shoulder blade as he let out a painful wince and crimson flooded his back. He hung there for a moment, taking painful breaths as I fumbled for a grip with the hook. I watched him hang from his left hook and fumble at the pouch on his waist as I found a secure holding. He pulled out a dull-grey chunk of stone and held it high above his head. He let out a terrible wince as he he flung his arm forward. I watched the stone arc towards me, the grey covering my line of sight for a brief moment before all faded to black.
   "Good job," Nora said as she gently shook me awake.
   "What?" I questioned. "Her attacker. He knocked me unconsious."
   "Not quick enough. We checked the recording, that blow you dealt was enough. He lost consciousness shortly after you did, fell from the cliff face. Rescue services are on their way to her as we speak."
   "Shallow victory."
   "But victory still. Come on, let's get you checked out."
   I slept in, but woke with no headache, a welcome trade-off, all things considered. The dreams were more vivid this time. One stood out in particular: I was wandering an orchard—coated in the same vibrant colors as before—though the tree limbs were almost all lifeless. I walked for what felt like an hour, taking in the decay, before finally reaching one tree that bore fruit; it was completely grey, and a worn-out sign planted in the ground before it seemed intended to deter pickers. Nevertheless, I reached for the lowest hanging branch and plucked a pale white apple; as it tore from the stem, it turned crimson in my fingertips. I tore into its flesh with my teeth and the chunk evaporated in my mouth, coating my tongue with a tingling like white noise. I fell to my knees and watched the colors around me drain as I startled awake.

   "Readings are all good, lie down."
   "I didn't get the info on this one."
   "Neither did we. Came in late last night. We got a voicemail from a concerned woman, she left nothing but the biometric code."
   "So I'm supposed to just go in blind?"
   "We don't have much choice, everyone else is assigned for the day. We ran the code, found them in our system, but their profile is blank."
   "Ugh. I'll do what I can."
   "Thank you."
   I found myself behind the wheel—seemed like a midsized SUV— speeding down a four-lane highway. I was fixated on the road ahead of me; something told me not to slow down. I had no clue of this person's destination, but the roads were familiar—I remembered a nearby park I could hide from any danger. I kept the pedal on the floor as I darted between lanes dodging traffic. I approached a four-way stop; the light turned yellow with plenty of time to stop, but I couldn't bring myself to. I held the pedal down and watched as the light turned red, a good five seconds before I reached the intersection. Stop! A voice rang out from my right—too late. I looked over to see the passenger, now illuminated by headlights from my left.


bottom of page