Author : Carter Lee

Keith Samuels woke when the lights came on, and while it had been getting harder for the sallow-faced senior citizen to pull himself out of bed of late, this morning it proved impossible. It was only with supreme effort that he managed to turn on his side, allowing a slight respite from the huge weight that seemed to have settled onto his chest during the night. Having made that effort, Samuels found himself utterly spent, unable to hold onto consciousness for more than moments, and certainly never able to form coherent thoughts.

Like the flashes of an old camera bulb, scenes would appear with crystal clarity, only to fade and vanish. One of the screws, Gibson he thought, was peering into Samuels eyes while holding one hand to his forehead, the palm-flesh cool, soothing, then darkness. The feel and sound of men shifting, then lifting his bulky frame from steel bed to gurney, lights flashing by as it was rolled down the bare hallway, being moved again from gurney to hospital bed, fingers at his wrist, voices whispering ‘stroke’ and ‘weak heart’ and ‘just waiting’; These things flashed by like slides in front of his lolling, sagging consciousness. The last slide, right before his entire being unwove, was the feel of something being placed on his head…

Keith Samuels felt his eyes pop wide as painfully bright light bloomed before them. The weight had vanished from his chest, and he drew in a huge breath, involuntarily, and then expelled it as an ear-splitting shout. Samuels felt… amazing! It was like the slow accretion of years and aches had been stripped away from him, not just from his body, but from his mind as well. A sigh escaped from him, almost a moan, from the sybaritic pleasure of simply not feeling the pain that had formed the background of his physical existence for so long that he had forgotten that he could feel otherwise.

Samuels wanted to run, and leap, and shout, and never, never, never take the joy of being alive for granted again! For the first time in decades, he felt the thrill of sexual excitement roll through his body, just from the pure sensation he was experiencing.

He tried to stretch his limbs, wanting to extend them as far as he could, to move each joint and marvel at their perfect functioning… but he could barely move. Samuels began to struggle, pushing against whatever was holding his wrists and legs and chest, but he was held firm, and sudden fear began to well up, a scream, of terror this time, forming in his gut and building as it rose…

“Are you awake?”

The question boomed out from somewhere in front of him, somewhere behind the lights. The scream, fighting its way up his throat, dissipated before it reached his mouth, and exited his loose-hanging jaw as a shadow of itself, a mere confused whimper.

“Are you awake? Answer, please.”

“Y…yes…” Samuels said, in a reedy whisper.

“State your name.”

“My… I’m… Keith. Keith Samuels.”

“Keith Gordon Samuels?”

“Y… yes.” Samuels found himself nodding dumbly, or trying to, as his head seemed to be secured in place with a strap.

“Keith Gordon Samuels, inmate code SKG-118-2, you have been sentenced to six consecutive life sentences for 5 counts of murder in the first degree, 23 counts of attempted murder, 2 counts of committing acts of premeditated terror…” The voice droned on, and on, each new charge bringing a welter of memories and images into Samuels’ mind.

“You have finished your first life sentence, inmate SKG-118-2, with a total of 46 years added on to your sentence for bad behavior. You have had your memory matrix inserted into a clone of yourself to allow you to live out your next life sentence. Be advised, any attempts at self-termination, including any and all actions to cause anything but a natural death prior to your expected lifespan of 87 years, will result in the addition of an extra 25 years to your sentence for each attempt, successful or not. Do your understand?”

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