By Jeffrey R. DeRego
I wake up to harsh fluorescent lights. My right arm is handcuffed to a hospital bed. The soft perpetual bleeping of machinery fills the room. I get to blink once before the pain in my arm nearly rockets me off the mattress. I sit up and grit my teeth. How long have I been out? Figures they’d cuff my injured arm.
Angry voices in the hallway take my mind of the pain for a second. There’s a woman outside the door, a small one, brown bobbed hair and wire frame glasses. She looks like a schoolteacher. “I told you, the papers from the Attorney General’s office should already be at InterCity HQ. For crying out loud, call then! I’ll wait —”
A nurse pushes a medicine cart through the commotion. The cop locks the door behind her.
She glances at the chart, then back over her shoulder. Her black hair is pulled into a tight ponytail under a too-large nurse’s hat. She looks like a kid in a Halloween costume.
I shake my head and stare at her for a second. “How old are you, 12?”
“Sixteen.” She winks. “Relax okay?” She puts her hand on my forehead as if she’s checking for a fever.
My body feels completely normal after two heartbeats.
“Who are you?”
“It’s stuffy in here.” She slides the window open. “Long drop. This is the sixth floor.”
The public defender lady is still outside arguing with the cops. When I look back the nurse has popped the handcuffs open with a key. She shoves a bundle of clothes from somewhere in the cart beneath the blankets. She notices that I’m watching the commotion outside the door. “Don’t worry about Miss Jennifer,” she says, “she could argue the devil out of his pitchfork.”
I wriggle into black sweatpants and a yellow tee shirt with a Team Shikaragaki Go! logo on it.
“Count to 120, then jump. Black limo two blocks north parked under a red maple tree.”
Suddenly, I see the car and the tree like a memory of a snapshot. “You’re Union?”
The nurse smiles then puts an index finger over her lips. “Start counting.”
I’m almost at 100 when the nurse accidentally bumps the cop at the door and he falls over. The public defender woman screams that he’s having a seizure. She glances in at me, and smiles as I drop out the window.
Jeffrey DeRego was born in the seaside city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, one time home to both Fredrick Douglass and Herman Melville. A graduate of New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, He now lives in Derry, New Hampshire, with his children Ian and Margaret and the memory of his beloved wife Cindy. His wildly popular Union Dues stories have appeared in audio format at Escape Pod, and Clonepod. His post award-winning post apocalyptic tales of Pleasant Hollow are available at Tales of The Zombie War. His novels, Escape Clause and Fleas, are available wherever books are sold.