by Alli Kirkham
A bloodseller stood in front of the clinic, screaming. This was nothing unusual, you understand, just what bloodsellers do. He would wait until someone was coming out of the big, steel-colored glass doors and run, shrieking, when he was about three feet away from them when he would start spinning and waving his arms until the vials along his arms clinked together musically, making different tones depending on how full they were.
Almost everyone who came out glared at him in disgust, but I have to admit it looked like a lot of them could use a shot of hot O-neg. And his actions made me hesitate, which I appreciated; this was probably a decision I needed to think over a little more. From what I hear kidneys are a big deal and selling them can lead to some problems later in life.
Fuck it, I'm probably not going to live long enough to have to worry about it.
Inside those glass doors the clinic was less white than I expected. You always imagine these things with white walls and lots of chrome, you know? There were plenty of white walls, but also deep blue ones and big-ass paintings and lots of dark wood furniture with brass corners. Stuff that looked old-rich, the kind of rich you could get from hawking your goods. I liked it.
Across the huge entryway there was a big bar topped with a slab of marble a foot thick. The chick sitting behind it might have been carved from the same stuff except for her violently red hair and ultra-slick glasses. I couldn't see her eyes behind the lenses because they were busy reflecting her computer screen.
I cleared my throat as I approached her and she lit me up with a smile. "Good afternoon, sir, how can I be of service to you?"
I quickly stomped down all the nasty answers that wanted to fly out of my mouth - I was a businessman here, and if I wanted pretty girls to keep calling me sir I'd have to act like it. "I - uh - I'd been thinking entering into an arrangement with your clinic. And, uh, I was wondering what compensation I could expect."
She bared her teeth and practically purred at me. "Give me a moment, sir, to cover the desk and I'd be happy to discuss your options." She typed for a second then grabbed a folder from a hidden drawer and stood. A tall black girl with cheekbones like the prow of a ship and the tightest suit I've ever seen stalked over, quirked her lips at me, and took the chair. I'd been so distracted by the second girl that I was startled to find the redhead twining her arm in mine and tugging me over to an elevator. She punched the call button and asked me if I would like something to eat or drink. I stammered something about coffee.
We got out of the elevator and her swaying rump led me to a room with a panoramic window and a table made of wood but polished like glass. A silver coffee service sat near the end of the table the girl busied herself pouring into two porcelain cups as I collapsed into an incredibly comfortable leather chair. That, right there, was what I wanted from the clinic. A comfortable spot for my ass, hot coffee, and a nice view for the rest of my life. They could make it happen.
"Now, Mister - " she trailed off and let her voice hang. I waited for her to continue, then smacked myself in the forehead. "Tommy," I held my hand out to shake and she took it daintily, "Tommy F. Gunn."
"You may call me Janessa," she said smiling. She set the folder she had carried up on the table between our coffee cups; I think the words were facing me, but I couldn't be sure. I was never much of a reader. She seemed to understand my confusion, put her hand over the words and made sure I was looking her in the eye. "Now, Mr. Gunn, what sort of donation were you thinking of making? We accept a variety of tissue types as well as major organs, though - " I cut her off in a panic.
"You mean sale, right?" Janessa let out a tinkling little laugh and patted my hand.
"Of course, Mr. Gunn! We simply refer to it as a donation because we understand that nothing we give you could ever make up for your generosity in literally giving of yourself to your fellow man." My breathing started to slow down and my heart unstuck itself from my throat. "You will be compensated with our enormous gratitude for your gifts to the clinic, but we know nothing we could give you will replace what you have donated." I sighed and took a sip from my coffee (it was perfect and I'm pretty sure it was flooded with real cream, since it tasted richer than anything I'd ever put in my mouth before). When Janessa put it that way, I sounded downright princely - of all the things that men could make and do, they still couldn't grow organs outta nothing - they needed a starter, something that could save a thousand people, and that is what I was willing to so selflessly give them.
"Kidney," I said, "I wanna se- donate my kidney, and maybe some bone marrow or sperm or something?"
"Kidneys," she gushed at me, taking my hand in both of hers and squeezing her chest in a way that made it hard for me to hear her, "are in terribly short supply, and we are happy to accommodate you in any way that you would like for the donation. Bone marrow stocks are also low," she continued, smiling sweetly but getting a hard glint in her eye, "I think you're lacking some of the qualifications of our typical sperm donors, and it probably wouldn't be worth your time."
It took me a second to parse that and start feeling mulish, but when I did I extracted my hand. "Maybe the whole donation isn't worth my time. What kind of qualifications do you need in a sperm donor anyway?"
"A Ph.D., and no less than two-thirds of your original teeth," she said and trailed her thumb down the side of my face - suddenly her eyes widened. "Have I misjudged that, should I have called you Doctor instead of Mister? Oh how stupid of me!"
She seemed so sincere that I blushed and felt bad for making her feel bad. "No, no, I'm no doctor. But I do have all my teeth!"
Janessa brightened at this, and looked at my smile. "Wonderful!" she said, clapping, "that at least means that you're an excellent candidate for marrow donation!" I brightened a bit myself at the jiggles brought on by her clapping.
After that she got down to brass tacks with me and started talking numbers. The only problem was that I never had even as much a head for numbers as I did for letters. When she started to talk about compound interest rates and accrued wealth I started to get a little dizzy.
"I just wanna live a good life, you know? Have a house and good stuff in it? Can you help me figure that from your numbers?"
"Oh, of course," she said, and made a viewscreen pull down from the wall behind her. "The clinic is happy to make sure that you are well taken care of," the screen was flashing images of nice houses in nice neighborhoods, "and you could even increase your real-estate holdings after a year's rent had been collected if you were to - " the houses were flicking by faster and taking on tremendous proportions and Janessa's lovely voice was once more saying things that I didn't understand until she snagged my attention with the words "trade is, of course, always an option."
I put my hand on her wrist. "What kind of trade do you mean?"
She smiled widely at me. "We are aware that some things, like ballistic or laser enhancements, are difficult to afford."
My eyes nearly bugged out. "Janessa, please, show me the ballistics."
An hour later I felt like a kid in a candy store; I was bouncing off the walls from four cups of that wonderful coffee and Janessa was going over the list of mods I could have after my donation. They were going to make me into Superman and all I had to do was let them slice out an organ that I had a spare of anyway. I was going to have lasers coming out of my fingers, and was weighing the benefits of having lasers shoot out of my dick. This was the best day.
Finally the coffee got to be too much for me, and I asked for the pisser. Janessa directed me down the hallway and started printing off the fifth set of sixty page contracts that I had to pretend to read and sign. The bathroom was like everywhere else in the clinic, rich and stinking like money. An old man nodded to me when I walked in and began gathering towels. When I was done with the urinal he offered to wash my hands, then handed me a packet of mints to take away. I crammed three of them in my mouth and passed out before I made it back to my coffee cup.
I woke up in the big lobby. There was a burly dude in a real nice jacket behind the marble countertop. I walked over to him and asked for Janessa. My back hurt. My eyes hurt. I felt thirsty.
"Janessa is not available," the suit grunted. "I suggest you leave."
"I suggest you improve your attitude, cause this clinic is going to turn me into some seriously nuclear shit, and you don't wanna get on my bad side."
"The clinic is closed for today," he said, "why don't you try back tomorrow and we'll see where we stand?"
I mustered up my best glare (thinking how much better it would be with lasers backing it up) and walked to the steel-colored doors without saying another word. The doors were heavy and hurt to move. The sun was setting and bouncing off of them when I walked into the shit-stink and smog outside.
"BLOOD!" came a shriek nearby and I nearly jumped outta my skin as the bloodseller ran up to me. I wanted to sneer at him, but I caught my reflection in the door. I looked like I could use a shot of hot O-neg, just like the fuckers who left this morning. I sat down heavily on the steps and put my head in my hands. I couldn't remember anything after going to the bathroom. Not getting down stairs, not signing the last contract. I had no idea why they would boot me without getting the goods. I turned my head to look over my shoulder at the me-in-the-glass. I pulled up the back of my shirt and found a perfectly healed semicircular scar over where I generally knew my left kidney should have been. My hands shook as I held them out in front of me and concentrated hard. Not a single laser came out of any of my extremities.
Finally I just let my head fall and I cried. A quiet clinking interrupted me; the bloodseller had just put his arm around my shoulder. "You tried to take it in trade, didn't you?" I nodded. "You poor, dumb fucker." I wanted to be angry at this but I saw how true his words were and just went back to crying.
"Here's what happens now," he said, speaking through my sobs, "you try to do something in court and they come at you with four signed documents, three of them say that you understand that this is a donation and all compensation is voluntary. The fourth one says that you approve and consent to the procedure."
"But I didn't know," I wailed, "I can't read!"
He patted my shoulder. "I know, kid. But they've probably got video of some cute little broad explaining each one to you in big words that you didn't understand, then you saying 'I understand' before you sign each one. Sound about right?" And it was; I didn't want Janessa to think I was an idiot so I pretended like I had knew every word so she'd think maybe I did have that Ph.D. hidden somewhere.
"What blood type are you?" I shoved him away from me, making his vials rattle.
"Fuck you asshole," I shouted, "does it look like I wanna buy any blood?"
He laughed. "To be honest, yes. You're looking a little pale, bro." I groaned at him. "But mostly you look like you're a chump who's got more body parts than good sense, even missing whatever they took." I tried to stand up and found that I couldn't. He calmly detached one of his vials and attached it to my arm with a clean needle. I wasn't much up to struggling, really.
"So what blood type are you, 'cause I'm offering you a job." He looked serious, and at least he wasn't shrieking. I remembered this morning when he had made me pause. I should have talked to him.
"O-neg. I've got the good stuff." He clapped his hand on my shoulder.
"Excellent, bro. That means you only need one filter before you're good to go, like me," he held out his wrist and I saw that there was some complicated hardware attached to it. It was actually pretty cool-looking. "So here's my deal: I'll hook you up with a filter - for the first month, half your sales go to me to pay me back for the filter and I teach you the way the business works. Then you're a free agent or we can work together if you want."
"Man, someone already sold me a load of bullshit today. I don't need any more." He shook his head, sadly at me.
"Okay, I see you drive a hard bargain. On top of the filter and showing you the market, I also teach you to read." That stopped me. Reading would have been a useful skill today. Lasers could turn you into a pretty badass bodyguard, but reading meant you didn't give away a kidney to some jerkwad clinic.
I stuck out a hand, the bloodseller took it and we shook. Before I let go I leveled a shaky stare at him. "Deal, but you gotta teach me numbers too." This caused him to laugh again and slap my back.
So I guess the day wasn't a total loss. At least I got a nice cuppa coffee out of it.